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Archive for the ‘Dogs’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: GZA & The Soul Rebels-Tiny Desk Concert #738 (May 2, 2018). 

GZA is the latest rapper to come to the Tiny Desk with a live band.  He had a six piece brass band Manuel Perkins (Sousaphone), Julian Gosin (Trumpet), Marcus Hubbard (Trumpet), Erion Williams (Saxophone), Corey Peyton (Trombone), Paul Robertson (Trombone) and two percussionists Lumar LeBlanc and Derrick Moss.

It turns out that on a recent tour The Soul Rebels were actually the headlining band and GZA was a special guest:

This set was recorded when The Soul Rebels were in Washington, D.C. for a performance at the 9:30 Club that featured GZA and Talib Kweli. It was one of just a handful of live concerts GZA has done with the group.

I was surprised to hear than GZA (or frankly anyone from Wu-Tang Clan was “notoriously introverted.”  Also that “Most rap fans would name RZA as the head of the Wu-Tang Clan. But Wu purists know that GZA, or The Genius, is the crew’s unspoken elder statesman.”

Once they stepped behind the desk they got right down to business, opening with the sparkling “Living In The World Today,” from GZA’s 1995 solo album Liquid Swords. These 23-year old lyrics and metaphors felt timeless.

After the song he smiles, “That was cool.”

GZA continued his onslaught of poetic precision with another beauty from Liquid Swords, “Duel of the Iron Mic.” “I ain’t particular,” he spat, starting to break into a sweat behind the desk. “I bang like vehicular/Homicides on July 4th in Bed-Stuy.” At one point, GZA even channeled his cousin, the late great Ol’ Dirty Bastard, who provided the hook on the original version of the track.

By the third and final song at the Tiny Desk, driven by unbridled passion and his command of the room, GZA was soaked in sweat as they broke into the title track of Liquid Swords. The Soul Rebels perfectly recreated the track’s seamless horn hits while adding on a bit of their own flare. The cherry on top arrived when GZA used his final minutes to tell the story of how the hook originally came together. In RZA’s basement, smoking and drinking with fellow Wu lyricist Masta Killa, RZA was sold on a routine he, GZA and ODB used to perform as teens.

I don’t know GZA’s solo stuff.  I don’t really know his flow.  He sounds a bit old and a little rusty, but his delivery is strong (even when he “forgets his own verse” in “Liquid Swords”).   I love the way The Soul Rebels play the eight notes over and over in an almost menacing holding position.

And the tale he tells about the final song is pretty great.

 

[READ: April 10, 2018] “The Mastiff”

This is one of those stories (translated from the French by Linda Coverdale) that to me just seems endless despite its brevity.

The Master has never seen this thing before.

He releases the howling mastiff.

He follows the dog.

For the rest of the story. (more…)

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olymmpSOUNDTRACK: LOGAN RICHARDSON-Tiny Desk Concert #734 (April 23, 2018).

Logan Richardson is a jazz saxophonist.

I’ve been down on saxophones lately, but I do really like the sound he gets.  I’m a bit more impressed by the rest of his band, though.

Since I don’t know Richardson, I’ll let the blurb speak for me, with some of my comments.

Richardson ‘s latest project, Blues People,  … was derived from the early slave calls that inspired the earliest American jazz and blues musical traditions. Here at the Tiny Desk, the saxophonist revisits that history with four remarkable songs from the album, all performed with a hope that our country’s future will be less painful than its past.

“80’s Child” is a reflection on the decade Richardson was born. Its colorful melody complements the band’s energetic fusion groove. Continually pushing forward with momentum and anticipation, its 8/8 time signature moves seamlessly into 10/8 to create an intensity that is both focused and free.

I love the opening guitar work (by Igor Osypov) which sounds very un-jazzy to me–you could hear an alt-rock sound being built out of that.  While Igor is doing a simple but pretty guitar solo rhythm guitarist Justus West keeps the rhythm work with some interesting whammy bar bending.   About three minutes in, drummer Ryan Lee gets some great little improv moments.  I really enjoy the song even if I find myself tuning out the sax and listening to the guitar.

Richardson notes, “The desk is tiny but it’s mighty.  I have a tiny saxophone that I forgot to bring.”

The next groove, “The Settlement,” maintains a similar tone and features DeAndre Manning slapping on his funky bass.

This song feels more jazzy to me–prominent sax with jazz guitar chords.  But I do love the jazz/prog rock section with the slap bass and the guitars following suit.  I definitely tune out the sax to listen to the great riffage from the strings

While the band is ringing out the last notes of the song, Richardson introduces the next

The song gently segues into the only vocal piece, “Black Brown & Yellow,” a lovely reminder that racial diversity is something to celebrate.

They do a short chant of “Black, brown and yellow is beautiful.”  It’s a pretty, almost sensuous song sung first by West and then joined by everyone else.

I love that I am now quoting someone quoting some else about this last song:

“Anthem (To Human Justice)” ends with brilliance best described by my colleague Nate Chinen, “By design, too, Richardson’s alto saxophone often functions more like a lead vocalist than as a virtuoso solo instrument. He’s a good conduit for soaring, plaintive melody…. And however the band surges or thrashes around him, there’s a feeling of urgent communion in this music.”

The backing music is once again excellent and interesting, with cool time changes a nifty guitar solo (while the second guitar is doing some other cool stuff too) and some great bass work.  I really like the way the whole band jams it out at the end–the band sounds great and Logan’s sax is right there with them soloing the whole time.

I feel like this is jazz for people who don’t like jazz.

[READ: March 17, 2018] Olympians 10

I’m still not sure how many books O’Connor has planned for this series, although in his introduction he talks about saving his favorite books for the end, so I assume there are at least two more (although 12 seems reasonable).

Here’s the summary of the man himself:

George O’Connor is a massive geek and Greek scholar.  He has done lots of research for these books, including going to Greece and visiting sites and antiquities as well as comparing all manner of ancient stories to compile the most interesting pieces. He explains that since these stories were orally passed down, they were modified over the years.  He doesn’t change the myths, he merely picks the story lines that are most interesting to him.  And then he adds a lot of humorous modern touches (and dialogue) which keep it from being at all stuffy.

O Connor’s drawing style is also inspired by superhero comics, so his stories are presented in a way that seems much more like a super hero than a classical hero, which is also kind of fun.

Each book ends with an author’s note which is hugely informative and gives plenty of context.  It also has a bibliography, but more importantly, it has a list of notes about certain panels.  Do not skip these notes!  In addition to providing a lot of insight into the myths of the characters themselves, there are a lot of funny comments like “Greeks raced in the nude (point and laugh)” which really bring new depths to the stories. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING CRIMSON-The Elements Of King Crimson – 2017 Tour Box (2017).

The (so far) final Tour Box (although the band is still touring in 2018) is notable for having what might be the definitive collection of live “Lark’s Tongue in Aspic” recordings–Parts I to IV (and more) from different eras.

But that’s disc two.  Disc one continues with the sampling of the band’s career.

Disc 1 opens with “Wind.”  Although each “Wind” extract seems a tad different.  This one is all talking, no wind.”   (extract)  talking no wind.

Next comes an a capella first verse of “21st Century Schizoid Man.”  It’s just Greg Lake singing really loud before seguing into the rest of the song, this time from 2015.  It’s a great version.

Continuing like the other boxes, there’s an instrumental edit of “In The Wake Of Poseidon,” which is quite lovely.

This disc has a number of Mel Collins flute improvs taken from various Lark’s Tongue recordings in 2016.  Each one is wonderful and I could listen to his flute all day.

Another recording of “Peace,” this time with in a rehearsal that ends with Jakko cracking up because of something that Gavin has done (with lots of bad words bleeped out).

It’s followed by a stellar recording of “Cirkus” from 2016.  This is the first time played since 1972 and it sounds much more intense and complex than the version on the previous box.

It’s followed by an abridged instrumental recording of “Islands” and a 2015 live recording of “Easy Money” (complete with sound effects–I loved hearing this live the first time.

“Suitable Grounds For The Blues” is a 2015 rehearsals that ends when someone calmly says “It was Harrison, sir.  He made me laugh, sir.  He did the drum fill out of Hawaii 5-0 twice.

“The Great Deceiver” from 1974 sounds tremendous and I hope this means they might be busting it out for the 2018/19 tour.

“Asbury Park” is a live recording. It’s a fast and rollicking instrumental edited down to fit nicely with a terrific 2016 recording of “One More Red Nightmare.”

There’s a 2015 rehearsal of “Meltdown” and then a jump to an alternate (instrumental) mix of  “Thela Hun Ginjeet.”  I normally love these instrumental mixes, but i find that this song really uses the words wonderfully and I miss them.

The only other track from this era is a 1982 recording of “Heartbeat” which is insanely catchy and I can;t believe wasn’t a hit.  The disc ends with a 2008 performance of 1984’s “Sleepless” which sounds really 80s (the bass in particular) even though it was recorded in 2008.  I’ve often thought that Adrian Belew makes King Crimson sound like The Talking Heads, and that seems to be true with this song.

The disc ends with the intermission and photography announcement from 2016 concerts.

Disc 2 is the Lark’s Tongue disc, but it doesn’t start with it.  It opens with 2004’s “Form No. 1” with strings guitars and a Tony Levin groove.  Then there’s a version of “THRAK ” from the Thrak sessions.

The disc has several tracks called “Keep That One Nick” which are some early recordings and dialogue.  Each one is about 4 minutes long of guitars or drums or the whole band recording primarily parts of LTIA.

When the series starts, we’ve got a

2015 recording of “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part I” followed by a
1974 recording of “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part II.”

after a Nick recording of percussion (in which the drums sound like child’s toys and like Bruford is hitting everything in the studio, they continue the series with a

1984 recording of “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part III.”  This is my least favorite Part–I can;t get over how much I’m disliking the 1980s recordings, especially since  Discipline is one of my favorite KC albums.

after a recording jam of Part II (keep that one, Nick) there’s a

1999 recording of “Larks’ IV ConstruKction” where you can see the connection to the LTIA series in this song.  Then comes a

2003 recording of “Larks’ Tongues In Aspic Part IV” which sounds great once again.

It’s followed by a 2016 recording of “Level Five” which is sort of an unofficial Part 5 to LTIA.

Presumably these are Fripp’s favorite versions of the series. So there.

The disc and set ends with a radio advert for the Larks’ Tongues In Aspic album because who even knew they made radio adverts for albums.  It’s a great piece of history.

I imagine there will be a 2018 box, as the band has taken a few months off and is getting ready to start touring Europe and Japan through the end of the year.  And who knows, one more trip back to the U.S. in 2019?  Yea, I’d be ready to see them once more time by then.

[READ: February 1, 2017] Multiple Choice

I have really enjoyed Zambra’s stories a lot.  As with most of Zambra’s work, this one was translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell and I thought it was terrific.

As it turns out almost half of this book has been previously published: “Reading Comprehension: Text No. 1” (New Yorker, July 6 & 13, 2015) and “Reading Comprehension: Text No. 3” (Harper’s, July 2016).  In total, there are three Reading Comprehension texts in the book, as well as a few other types of “test questions.”

The original of this book was called Facsímil, and it uses “the structure and questions of the Chilean Academic Aptitude Test as its organizing principle. Called both a work of parody and poetry, Multiple Choice examines the role of the education system and standardized testing in promoting compliance to authoritarian rule.”

Since this book is set up like test there are 5 parts to work through.  (more…)

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CV1_TNY_06_08_15_09.inddSOUNDTRACKLUCY DACUS-“Historians” NPR’S SOUTH X LULLABY (March 21, 2018).

I’m looking forward to seeing Lucy Dacus live in a few weeks.  Her music is often spare but grows very intense.  For this particular song it is just her and her guitarist who is creating textures and sounds as Lucy sings clearly and starkly.  She plays the (almost) title track from her new album Historian.

The idea behind our South X Lullaby series was to offer intimate moments with musicians as an antidote to the commotion and deluge that is the SXSW music festival. When we met Lucy Dacus for her Lullaby and found out she’d perform “Historians,” a most somber song from her deeply personal and triumphant album Historian, it felt just right. It’s a song of reflection, the story of two intertwined partners and the way they document one another’s lives and preserve each other’s memories.

With simple but compelling swirls of sound, Dacus begins singing clearly with a bit of softness on the edges of her words.  It’s fascinating to watch her face illuminated by the video around her (the same video that Stella Donnelly performed in front of).

The song is warm despite the sadness inherent in it.

The setting for this performance, by Lucy Dacus and guitarist Jacob Blizard, is an interactive art installation by the multidisciplinary Israeli artist Ronen Sharabani that’s part of the SXSW Art Program. This work, titled “Conductors and Resistance,” explores human-machine interaction in our ever-evolving technological world. The images projected behind Lucy and Jacob are two coffee cups, one empty and one that’s been almost drained, both tangled in and tugged at by a complex series of wires, representing what I think is human communication and miscommunication.  This is just one of three walls onto which images are projected in this installation — you can see another wall behind Stella Donnelly in her South X Lullaby video.

[READ: April 13, 2016] “The Magic Mountain”

Back in June of 2009, The New Yorker had their annual summer fiction issue.  Included in that issue were three short essays under the heading of “Summer Reading.”  I knew all three authors, so I decided to include them here.

This essay was about Aleksander Hemon’s childhood in Sarajevo.

He says that (not unlike Angell) his family had a cabin on the mountain called Jahorina.  His family would spend winter breaks there skiing and partying.  His parents thought it was heaven up there.  But he and his sister hated to go there in the summer. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BETSAYDA MACHADO Y PARRANDA EL CLAVO-Tiny Desk Concert #707 (February 16, 2018).

How can you not love a band that is decked out in wonderful colors and whose only instruments are percussion?

I love the first song, “Santa Rosa.”  The chorus is super catchy and when they raise the note in the chorus on the “Oh! Santa Rosa” the song just soars.  Although Betsayda Machado sings most of the songs, this one opens with one of the men (in yellow) singing and I really like his voice, too.  I could even figure out the gist of the words.

And the percussion?  Two floor drums, 2 hands drums, shakers and that friction drum.  So cool.

So who are these folks?

The roots of the music of Betsayda Machado y Parranda El Clavo extend to the Venezuelan slave trade, and while the vocals are in Spanish and not an African dialect, the instruments the group plays date back more than 500 years.

The large bamboo cylinders, the djembe-like drums and the large friction drum together create a symphony of interlocking polyrhythms that was unlike anything I’d heard. Machado’s vocals soar over the unrelenting rhythms, and when she harmonizes with the other singers, it creates a choir-like display of African call-and-response vocals.

When discussing African-influenced music from the southern hemisphere, we often focus on countries like Brazil and Cuba, places where the folk music eventually made its way into popular music. Afro-Venezuelan culture and music is rarely featured or even acknowledged outside of the country. As you’ll see in this video, that should change once music fans take in the beauty of Machado’s voice and the power of her historical message.

“Alaé Alaó” is much more somber, but the percussion is incredible–three men playing bamboo sticks against bricks–the details of what they do are fascinating.  The song starts to pick up with bongos and other hand drums as the guy starts singing again.  During the middle of the song one of the women goes out dancing on the main floor with some of the crew.  This can only lead to more dancing.

“Sentimiento”  The guy in yellow sings the beginning of the song and then Betsayda comes in.  The friction drum is back along with all the shakers and percussion.  I love the way they all stop perfectly at the end.

The band includes: Betsayda Machado, Nereida Machado, Youse Cardozo, Blanca Castilo, Adrian “Ote” Gomez, Jose Gomez, Oscar Ruiz.

[READ: November 20, 2017] Science Comics: Dogs

I have enjoyed every Science Comic that has come out, but this might have been my favorite.

In addition to being about a great topic: dogs, it was also updated with a ton of new information that I had no awareness of.  On top of that there’s a ton of scientific information about genetics, evolution and natural selection.  To top it off, it’s narrated by an adorable pup named Rudy who loves a tennis ball.

Once Rudy drags his owner to the dog park, Rudy can tell us all about dogs.

He explains that all dogs are from the species lupus, and yet look at how different all of the breeds are.  So Rudy rushed back to 25000 BP (before present). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: NICK HAKIM-Tiny Desk Concert #706 (February 14, 2018).

I thought the name Nick Hakim sounded familiar, but I had forgotten it was from an NPR SXSW Lullaby in which Hakim was draped in fairy lights.

In this Tiny Desk, his music seems much more jazzy.  He has an abundance of instruments, as well.  Two guitars (him and a lead guitarist) and a keyboardist who also has a piano at hand.  It lends itself to a lot of different sounds.

“Cuffed” has a slinky bass line and I like that the lead guitar makes a sound like rim shots almost.  I really enjoyed that the same guitar later plays a muted guitar solo.  Even the keyboard solo is a little trippy and wobbly.

As the blurb says, the music of Nick Hakim occupies a space and time that is faintly out of this world. The guitars and machinery that make up his music feel slightly askew, as though someone slowed down the tape machine every once in a while. His raspy voice feels drenched in a cavernous space.

Hakim’s songs seem very personal (“exploring the quietude of inner thoughts”), like this couplet:

she taught me to make love with patience not just thinking about myself/
to really feel the other person, oh my love, what would I do without you

“Needy Bees” slows things down to piano and a jazzy guitar with mellow lyrics like “let me live inside of your mind.”  And as the blurb notes, the music feels warm and spacious.  Again weird and wobbly guitar solo comes out of the middle of the song.

I find the way he sings “Roller Skates” to be comically restrained.  I imagine it could come across as really passionate but it seems odd the way he holds back some of his opening vocal sounds.   The sprinkling piano and cool bass breakdown in the middle of the song are terrific.

I didn’t like him at first but by the end I was getting into it.

[READ: November 15, 2017] “Bad Dog”

Not only does the dog die in this story, it is horrifically killed.

I gave away that ending, something I am loathe to do.  But you can probably  thank me for not having to read that particular piece of horror.

Having gotten that out of the way, I have to admit that this story was really compelling and craftily written.

At first I wasn’t so sure what was going on.  A lot of names are tossed out with little context.  But it soon becomes apparent that the narrator’s daughter Abby (now 31) and her husband Tim own a dog which they adopted from Tim’s friend who was moving.  They adopted it because they assumed they would not be having children.  But now they do.  A girl named Rose. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: VICENTE GARCÍA-Tiny Desk Concert #701 (February 2, 2018).

Singer-songwriter Vicente García plays a delicate acoustic guitar and has a pretty crooning voice.

The blurb says that he

is still relatively under the radar, but performances like the one he gave at the Tiny Desk are starting to turn some heads.

García’s music isn’t dominated by his native Dominican Republic, but you can hear it in every note. His poetic lyrics are like short stories, sung by a voice both plaintive and evocative, yet always distinct.

“San Rafael” is quite a pretty song echoing the beauty of San Rafael.

Before “A La Mar” (the title of second album which means ‘to the sea’) he introduces [unclear] Vasquez from Dominican Republic on percussion and Ricardo Muñoz from Bogota on the keys.  There’s a neat moment where he plays a harmonic on the guitar in a rather unusual way.  The delicate percussion really adds a lot, as does the bass line plays on the keys.

“Dulcito e Coco” opens with a lovely guitar melody and a close up of the fascinating percussion box that Vazquez is playing–a purple, strangely-shaped box that seems to get different sounds where you strike it.  The song stays quiet throughout although it does get a bit bigger by the end.

 

[READ: November 13, 2017] Silly Rhymes for Belligerent Children

I was so excited to see Trace Beaulieu in person.  Ans even though this book is available everywhere, it was especially neat to buy it from the man himself and get him to autograph it.

It is subtitled A Yucky Big Book of Rainy Day Fun for Belligerent Children & Odd Adults with Nothing Better to Do.  The illustrations are by Len Peralta who apparently has not done anything else I’ve read even though his work looks so familiar and is really good.

So what is this?

Well the title is pretty accurate.  Trace has concocted snarky funny poems.  Most of them are pretty short (and in this format are often two or three lines per page) and accompanied by an illustration). (more…)

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