Night Music: Jeremy and the Satyrs, “Mean Black Snake”

When I was in college, my friend Robin lived in an apartment in the village. Her neighbor was a guy named Jeremy Steig, one of those guys about whom there is a lot to know.

Jeremy’s father, the New Yorker cartoonist William Steig, is famously known at this point as the creator of Shrek. (Jeremy played the Pied Piper in the movie Shrek Forever After, Wikipedia tells us.)

Jeremy had a motorcycle accident long before I met him, which left him half paralyzed. He had to teach himself again as an adult how to play the flute, and uses a special mouthpiece in order to play.

In 1968 he formed Jeremy and the Satyrs, an early jazz-rock fusion band, with the bassist Eddie Gomez, the pianist Warren Bernhardt and others that made the eponymous record Mean Black Snake is from.

He later made a number of jazz albums, and one of his songs was used as a sample in the Beastie Boys single, Slap Shot (I know this from Wikipedia, too).

He was, when I met him a hyper man, constantly up and down, in and out of his, Robin’s and other apartments, working on ideas musical and artsy (he drew the cover art of the album), as well as taking care of the details of life. He was dramatic that way, but also a generous man, inclusive, engaged, funny, helpful, even if sometimes troublesome. It seemed, if I recall, that like a Satyr he was always horny, too, and talked about everything always.

At this time, in the late 70s, Jeremy had a girlfriend (Diana?) who was a belly dancer, and we went to shows in disco ballrooms in the Village, Jeremy and Eddie Gomez and a drummer or a machine backing up the belly dance with wild free-form jazz that sometimes morphed into a disco groove. It was nutty stuff, Jeremy passed his flute through a series of pedals that added delays and echo and looping, but it was not pretentious or hifalutin. Like Jeremy, the music was affable and soulful and handmade, very likable if you value more the exploration and the courage to do that in public than some preformed idea of what things should be.

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