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Archive for the ‘Matt Phelan’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BOMBINO-Tiny Desk Concert #301 (September 7, 2013).

So who or what is Bombino you, like me, are probably asking.  Well:

Omara “Bombino” Moctar is a Tuareg guitarist, born in Niger.  There’s something alluring and charming about Bombino, whose childlike face belies his fierce, hypnotic guitar playing. The familiarity in his music stems from the blues, a common thread between American music and Africa for obvious reasons. Bombino grew up on the music of Jimi Hendrix, whose sound keeps getting sent back and forth from America to Africa and back again.

Bombino plays three songs.  They’re all pretty lengthy with a lot of guitar playing.  But none are instrumental.  However, I certainly have no idea what he’s singing.  In addition to Bombino, there; a rhythm guitarist, a bassist and two drummers–one playing a djembe I believe and one playing that drum that you thump with your fist–I can’t find the name of it.

  • “Tamiditine” has a Western sounding melody
  • “Her Tenere” opens with a lengthy guitar solo–and o course his guitar has that distinctive tinny guitar sound  This one is really catchy.  I assume he is singing real words, but it just sounds like “deh deh deh.”
  • “Imuhar” feels a bit more Nigerian, than Western–it’s interesting to hear the distinction in scales there.  Overall this has a long jamming quality to it.

Before listening to the Tiny Desk Concerts, I’d never listened to music like this and I’m grateful for the exposure to it.

[READ: January 24, 2017 ] Snow White

Matt Phelan continues to make great graphic novels.  This one is an adaptation of Snow White.  I assumed it would be a fairly straightforward telling of the fairy tale, but Phelan changes the setting of the story and makes the whole thing far more “real,” which is a neat trick.

Phelan has moved the setting of the story from the forest to the glamour of 1920s Manhattan.  It is just before the Depression and the city is hopping!  Bright lights, (for a black and white book anyway), dancing and money everywhere.

And amid this, a young girl is born.  Samantha White is a few years old in 1918.  As she runs through central park her mother calls to her: Samantha…Snow!  The girl responds to this name, but as she turns around, her mother cough up blood into a handkerchief (virtually the only color in the book). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DONNY McCASLIN-Tiny Desk Concert #589 (January 9, 2017).

Donny McCaslin’s band was responsible for the jazzy music that propelled David Bowie’s final album.  As the Tiny Desk blurb says:

David Bowie had long wanted to make a record with a jazz band, and on Jan. 8 of last year, he realized his dream with the release of Blackstar. Two days later, he was gone. Donny McCaslin’s band helped him make that record, and now, a year later, we pay tribute to Bowie and Blackstar by bringing McCaslin’s band

As a bandleader and sax player, [McCaslin’s] put out a dozen albums, the most recent of which is Beyond Now, with musicians Tim Lefebvre on bass, drummer Mark Guiliana and keyboardist Jason Lindner.

Beyond Now was recorded after Blackstar, features a few Bowie covers and stretches the band’s own usual boundaries. For this Tiny Desk concert, you can hear an extraordinary group playing extraordinary music — including an instrumental version of “Lazarus,” from Blackstar.

The band plays three pieces.  “Shake Loose” is 7 and a half minutes.  The music is great behind the sax—dramatic and interesting.  I think I just don’t care for the sound of saxophones as much these days, because I love the bass thumping and the great sounds from the keys but the soloing doesn’t excite me.  I love in the middle of the song that there are really cool spacey sound on the keys.   And the whole middle section where it’s the keys playing weirdo stuff and the drums keeping a groovy jazz beat–that’s awesome.

So I may be the only person in America who has not heard the whole of Blackstar.  I actually don’t even really like the one song I did hear (I don’t care for the jazzy parts).  So I can’t compare this six-minute instrumental version to the original of “Lazarus.”  I love that the keyboard is playing a very convincing grungy guitar sound.  I’m not sure if the sax is doing a vocal line or just playing around, but I love the music for this song a lot.

“Glory” is about the glory of the creation of the beautiful world that we live in “that will hopefully be intact as we move forward.”  This is an 11 minute song with all kinds of great swirling keyboard sounds.  I really like this song—the bass and keys together are great.  And either I’ve grown more used to the sax or its mixed a little lower, but it works so much better with the music.  About three minutes in there’s a lengthy trippy mid-70s Pink Floyd echoing synth solo.  Which is pretty cool.  So overall, I really enjoyed this set.  And maybe I need to go give Blackstar a listen.

[READ: March 25, 2016] Around

I really enjoyed Phelan’s Bluffton.  The story was interesting and I really enjoyed Phelan’s artwork–subtle with delicate coloring and very thin, expressive lines.

This book also contains Phelan’ wonderful artwork and the story (or stories) are also really interesting.  For this is a book about three remarkable journeys around the world.

Phelan gives a fictionalized (but accurate) history of the adventures of Thomas Stevens (Wheelman in 1884), Nellie Bly (Girl Reporter 1889) and Joshua Slocum (Mariner 1895).

I hadn’t heard of the two men and I found their stories quiet fascinating.  I knew of Bly’s journey but I didn’t know all of the details and I found it equally interesting. (more…)

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 bluffSOUNDTRACK: SONDRE LERCHE-Tiny Desk Concert #33 (November 2, 2009).

lercheSondre Lerche is a Norwegian singer songwriter.  For some reason, without knowing anything about him, I pictured him as someone totally different–perhaps a French woman?  So I was quite surprised to hear him play these great folky songs.

“Hearbeat Radio” is a catchy love song, with a great melody and many chord changes.  I mention this because after the second song, “Good Luck” Bob Boilen also mentions the “handful” of chords in that song.  And there are a lot, which really makes for an interesting melody.  And indeed, Lerche is a very good guitarist, throwing interesting chords all over the place (although in his banter he complains that he puts too many chords in the songs).

Speaking of banter, Lerche is quite funny, introducing the first song by complaining about radio (but not you guys).  And also that a reviewer felt the second song was funny, even thought he thought it was depressing.

The final song, “Easy to Persuade” is a fast-moving, multi-chord song with a fun chorus.  It completes the set very nicely.

I have enjoyed this Tiny Desk Concert many times, and am interested to hear more by him.

[READ: February 13, 2014] Bluffton

I want to call this book Bluffington for some reason, but that’s my fault.  Because Bluffton is the name of the (actual) location where the book is set, so I just need to deal with it.

The subtitle of the book was not readily visible when I read it, so I didn’t know it was about Buster Keaton (sorry for the spoiler).  It quickly became apparent that that’s who it was about though.  But what I really liked about the story was that it wasn’t about Keaton per se, it was about a boy who knew Keaton during the summers and how this enigmatic performer impacted his life.

This story is a delightful graphic novel, drawn in very delicate colors (like the cover).  Set in the summer of 1908, in Muskegon, Michigan, young Henry is pretty excited to learn that a troupe of vaudevillians is coming to stay for the summer in the artists’ colony at Bluffton.  The whole town is aware of them–how could they not be when a zebra and an elephant got off the train with them?  But Henry is more interested in a boy named Buster.  He’s Henry’s age, and although he’s a star of the show, Buster is far more interested in paying baseball.  And Henry is more than happy to do that too. (more…)

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