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Archive for the ‘Lunch’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: STEVE GUNN-Tiny Desk Concert #299 (August 31, 2013).

Steve Gunn is a fascinating guitar player:

his work mostly stems from a bushy, overgrown definition of what we often call “Americana,” with a healthy understanding of the La Monte Young drone.

Grateful Dead and J.J. Cale certainly reside in the rubber-band bounce of “Old Strange,” a song that keeps the groove mellow, but will suddenly pop with water-drop elasticity. “The Lurker” comes from a much longer solo guitar version that originally sounded like one of Roy Harper’s acoustic epics, but with Gunn’s trio, it becomes a back-porch barn-burner.

For this concert, Gunn and his band play two 9-minutes songs.  They center around his guitar work which yes, has a drone, but the main focus are the Americana riffs that he plays with precision.

“Old Strange” opens with a lengthy guitar passage that shifts after 2 and a half minutes to a slow folky kind of style.  The song seems like it will be an instrumental but 3 and a half minutes in he begins singing. His voice is deep and he sings a kind of narrative story.  It’s quite mesmerizing.   “The Lurker” is a slower, more mellow jam.

[READ: September 3, 2016]: Beatrice

I have read a couple of books from Dixon through McSweeney’s.  I didn’t know much about him then and I still don’t, but I recalled liking his stuff pretty well.  And this book was short so I thought I’d give it a look.

This book is told in a fascinating style–a kind of stream of consciousness in the mind of the main character, but through really close third person.

The book details the encounter of the main character Professor Philip Seidel (there’s a joke about this name, as Seidel means mug) and a woman named Beatrice.  Beatrice was a student of his some 25 years earlier.  She has stopped at his house to deliver some food in condolence for the recent passing of his wife.  She knows about this because she is now a professor where he taught her, although he had retired a few years back.

She brought some food and also wanted to tell him that he was her favorite teacher back then.  She had studied German and wasn’t allowed to take fiction courses until she completed her requirements.  She loved his teaching method and loved how encouraging he had always been.  She has clearly been keeping tabs on him–she has read some interviews he gave–and she definitely knows a lot about his life.

When she leaves he briefly wonders if maybe she’s interested in him now that the are older.  But he puts that out of his mind. (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: MIRAMAR-Tiny Desk Concert #593 (January 27, 2017).

Miramar is from Richmond Virginia, but they play beautiful bolero music.

When the members of Richmond, Virginia’s Miramar first heard the music of Puerto Rican composer Sylvia Rexach, they were intrigued that she wasn’t as well-known as other popular bolero writers. So they came up with an album’s worth of her songs to cover, and have been wowing audiences across the country with their exquisite renditions of her songs.

When they pulled into NPR to play behind Bob Boilen’s desk, Miramar’s members made time stop with a performance that swept us off our feet, ably backed by friends of theirs from Richmond who played gorgeous string arrangements behind the band. So turn the lights down low, clear out the living-room carpet and find your dance partner for this one.

What is it about bolero music?

Some say you have to have loved and lost to appreciate the beauty of the bolero. Since its inception in Cuba in the early 20th century, the music has been designed for thoughtful and emotional consideration of the joys and pains that come with loving someone so intensely, it becomes like a religion to adore that special someone (an actual bolero lyric).

They play four songs: “Sin Ti” (without You) opens with some great Spanish guitar and shakers (which sound like water).  The song slowly builds and then the two singers come in.  Rei Alvaresz and Laura Ann Singh sing beautifully together.

The rest of the band includes: Marlysse Simmons Argandoña (piano, organ); Hector Barez (percussion); James Farmer (bass) and Sebastian Cruz (guitar).

“Estatua” (Statue) is faster and more upbeat.  The large string section is put to full use here. (With strings provided by Ellen Riccio (violin); Treesa Gild (violin); Kimberly Ryan (viola) and Schuyler Slack (cello)).  I love when she is singing “te creo” and he is singing low vocals underneath her.  The strings add wonderful drama to this mournful yet beautiful song.

“Urgancia” (Urgency) has some very cool organ sounds—very retro 60s swinging (almost soap opera)–sound.  But in addition there’s beautiful guitar and their great vocals as well.   The first three songs were all originals

“Tus Pasos”  (Your Footsteps) is by Sylvia Rexach–the inspiration for everything they’ve done.  It is a sweet, romantic, old-fashioned sounding love song.

[READ: July 6, 2016] Lunch Lady and the Field Trip Fiasco

I’ve been really enjoying the way the events of the previous books lead to the follow-up.  So you actually should read these in order, which is more fun anyway.

Our opener shows masked men robbing a grocery store–Lunch Lady is able to stop them with fizzy soda.

But the plot of this book is the field trip that was foreshadowed in the previous one.  The Breakfast Bunch is excited to go, except that Hector forgot to get his permission slip signed.  So Dee (who is increasingly more sarcastic as the books go on) forges the signature–who will know?

Lunch Lady and Betty are bored because everyone is going to the field trip–there’s no lunch today.  But when Mrs Palonski learns that her chaperone can’t come she reluctantly agrees to let Lunch Lady come along.  (Betty tells her to go and have fun even though she sighs when she’s left all alone).  Of course Mrs Paloski is worried that Lunch Lady never stops talking (which proves to be an ironic worry). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BADBADNOTGOOD-Tiny Desk Concert #592 (January 23, 2017).

I’m amused at how kinda dorky all of these guys look–except for the drummer who looks “cool.”  Why is that amusing?  Because of this blurb:

BADBADNOTGOOD made a name for itself by reworking songs from the likes of Nas and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, eventually catching the attention of Odd Future leader Tyler, the Creator. The masses took notice in 2015 when the group produced an entire LP for Ghostface Killah, Sour Soul. BADBADNOTGOOD has been called a hip-hop ensemble, but its foundation is clearly jazz, which provides a gateway to countless genres. On IV, the group allows that gateway to widen, adding soul and funk to the repertoire.

And they are all only in their 20s!

They play three songs from IV.  This first “And That, Too.” is a very jazzy song.  I love the complex piano melody that’s getting thrown around–syncopation and almost chaos, but always staying true to the great rhythm laid down by the bass and gentle drums.  I also happen to love the flute solo that rides over the top of everything–it provides a great 19070s jazz vibe.  The flute switch es to alt sax, and instrument that I think is kinda cheesy–I’d have rather it stayed with flute.  But his solo is pretty great–meandering and intense.

Introducing “In Your Eyes” the drummer says that he was fortunate enough to go to high school with a sax player who he didn’t know would have a voice that would blow him away … “later in my life” (ha).  Charlotte Day Wilson’s voice is deep and sultry although I don’t particularly like it–it feels too forced or something?  But she does sound much older than she looks.  Which is shame because I think the music of the song is pretty great.  The flutist has switched to guitar for this song (that’s a talented dude).

Before introducing the final song the drummer says “My 2017 is feeling pretty good so let’s keep it going.”  The fact that this was recorded sometime around the inauguration trump feels incredibly tone deaf.  But whatever.  “Cashmere” (“which only slightly veered from the studio version”) is a ten-minute song that opens with a very cool high bass note section and lots of piano.  The guitarist switches to yet another sax (four instruments in three songs).   The middle of the song is just the bass notes and a  lengthy piano solo.  i also like how the song seems to be over but that bass line picks up one more time.

I was surprisingly delighted with this Tony Desk Concert.

[READ: July 4, 2016] Lunch Lady and the Bake Sale Bandit

As Book 5 opens, Lunch Lady foils some safe robbers (in a very funny way).  I really enjoy how every book starts out with an intro comic showing off Lunch Lady’s mad skills.

Then it switches over to a school bus.  The Breakfast Bunch is trying to get on board–they don’t usually ride the bus–but the driver, Brenda, is pretty awful. To them and to everyone.  She drives like a maniac and yells at everyone.  She’s nice to the principal bit once he tells her his news, she can’t even pretend to be nice to him.

The news is that there is going to be a bake sale.  And if it goes well, the students will get a field trip and… Brenda will be the bus driver!

Gah! “How she despises children.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DEREK GRIPPER-Tiny Desk Concert #586 (December 16, 2016).

There are so many amazing musicians in the world that it’s impossible to have heard of all of them.  So it’s no surprise I haven’t heard of Derek Gripper, but at the same time, he is so mesmerizing I’m surprised that I haven’t heard of him before.

The 38-year-old started on violin at age 6, then wound up with one of the few classical-guitar professors in his native South Africa. But touring the world playing the music of the great dead white men was not all that appealing (though Gripper still loves to play Bach). Then he heard a record by the Malian kora player Toumani Diabate. He decided that that’s what he wanted to do: not play the kora itself, but play kora music on the guitar.

Of course, the kora has 21 strings, each tuned to a fixed note. The nylon-stringed guitar Gripper plays has six. But by using unusual tunings and fretting the strings up and down the neck with his left hand, he can pretty much hit all of the kora’s notes.

The remarkable thing is, he figured all of this out — and recorded two acclaimed albums — just by listening to CDs and checking out music online. Gripper painstakingly transcribed what he heard onto a kind of notation called tablature — similar to the music written for the Renaissance vihuela, which was also an inspiration. Earlier this year, Gripper finally made it to Mali, where his efforts received the blessing of Toumani Diabate himself; the two even jammed together.

That’s an amazing story but it’s nothing compared to the quality of his music.  It really does sound like he’s playing, if not the kora exactly, then certainly an instrument with more than 6 strings.

He plays four songs, three are traditional pieces which he has arranged for guitar and the fourth is an original piece.

Hearing the opening notes of “Tuth Jara” (Trad. Arr. Derek Gripper) and you know that you’re not listening to a typical guitar–the trills and runs sound so West African.   And once you get past the mesmerizing nature of his fingers. The melody is really pretty too.

“Joni” is an original piece about a love affair with a singer–the way he tells the story is delightful.  I love that part of the song is him actually down tuning one of the strings for a bit and then tuning it back up (all while playing everything else).  I also really like that he makes relatively quiet humming/singing noises while he’s playing.

He says he was inspired by Diabate who turned the kora into a solo instrument–which is much easier than traveling with a  band.  And then he illustrates how he plays kora music on his guitar–a bassline, the accompaniment and the melody–all on the guitar all by himself.  That’s his introduction to “Jarabi” (Trad. Arr. Derek Gripper).  And during the incredible playing out comes a beautiful, catchy and fun melody line.  All too soon, it’s over.

But since he has some time, they encourage him to play one more–“they’d be happier!” if he did.  So he ends with “Duga” (Trad. Arr. Derek Gripper) which he describes as a conversation between ngoni and kora.  The kora wins because he knows more about kora.   And like so many of his pieces, it is over way too soon.

[READ: June 13, 2016] Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown

As Book 4 opens, Lunch Lady is seen in a two-page spread wielding her fish-stick-nunchucks.

Then we see that everyone is heading off to summer camp.   The kids have been looking forward to summer camp since they were little and they are finally old enough. Sadly Milmoe the bully will be there too.

And, unbeknownst to Lunch Lady and Betty, they are working at the same camps as the kids.  Lunch Lady has worked there before and she knows everyone, she gives us the lowdown on the counselors like Scotty who has always been the most popular and Ben, the new guy, who is pretty foxy himself.

The counselors are super excited when the kids show up, although Dee is a little blasé about it.  And then they run into Lunch Lady. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: EDDIE PALMIERI-Tiny Desk Concert #558 (August 19, 2016).

Eddie Palmieri is a jazz legend although I’m not exactly sure if I’ve heard of him or not (his name sounds familiar, but..).

But the blurb fills me in:

Eddie Palmieri is that once-in-a-lifetime musician, bandleader, composer and arranger. An icon for both modern and Latin jazz, he continues to break tradition and innovate within many musical styles, including salsa, fusion, Latin funk and more.

He is, indeed, a magnificent player.  A few minutes into “Iraida” you can hear him start to growl (I actually thought it was a buzzing on the piano at first).  I love watching him slide his fingers slow up the keys at the end of he song and then play a deep low note to end it.

He has an amusing introduction to “The Persian Scale.”  This next composition is called The Persian Scale and it’s quite an interesting composition….  It has a cool, interesting riff with staccato and counterpoint.  And he lays fast and loud (with grunts), although it does slow down.  Eventually, for such a wild opening. the song mellows out by the end with some very pretty, delicate trills.

“La Libertad” is uptempo and he says “if you want to dance, do it.”  He plays a brief intro and then when the melody kicks in on the low notes, it’s pretty great.  In the middle, he starts playing a very typical Latin American melody on the bass notes (is that a mambo?) and when an audience member starts clapping along (a rather complex pattern), he smiles and say very good.

This is a fun piano concert with lots of variety and different styles and he handles them all with much skill.

[READ: June 11, 2016] Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute

I learned about Lunch Lady from the Comics Squad books which Krosoczka and the Holms’ edited.

Since I enjoyed the Lunch Lady mini comic, I decided it was time to read the real thing–Tabby also loved them (she’s a big fan of Babymouse as well).

Despite the fact that the title of the book kind of gives away the plot of the story, I suspect that the plot wasn’t really the main point. Rather, it was all meant to be good fun that Lunch Lady turns out to be a crime fighter complete with her own assistant who comes up with awesome gadgets. (more…)

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luchSOUNDTRACK: CRISTINA PATO-Tiny Desk Concert #305 (September 21, 2013).

patoI didn’t know who Cristina Pato was or what instrument she played.  So when the show started (without visuals), I assumed she was the accordionist (because the show starts with some wild accordion music).  But in fact, Pato is playing the bagpipe.  Pato’s instrument is the gaita, a Galician bagpipe, and her roots lie in traditional Galician music — though she also boasts graduate degrees in classical piano, music theory and electronic composition.

I love the sound she band gets together with the funky staccato accordion notes and the wild racing pipes.  They are very jazzy and very idiosyncratic.  Her percussionist uses several different types of drums—the ubiquitous box drum and a hand held drum as well as various shakers and other sound makers.

They play three songs.  It’s interesting how much of the first song is taken up without the bagpipes—there’s lenghy sections where the accordion has the floor and she is just happily dancing around.  And the accordionist is amazing.  he plays all kinds of different styles and gets an amazing range of sounds out of that one instrument. He wails!  Of course I see now that the song is actually written by the accordionist: “Victor Prieto: ‘Mundos Celtas.'”  So it’s no wonder that she is happy to sit back and let him shine.  (Prieto , like Pato, is a native of the town of Orense in Galicia).  While he is playing, she whoops and hollers to get everyone pumped.  But once she gets her instruments going she is a nonstop blur of fingers and wild notes.  I particularly like that she has a section where the note is slightly flat and she continues to slowly raise it until it gets in pitch.  I also love–due to the nature of the bag pipes–that she can scream and whoops while still pressing air out of the bags.  And at the end of the song, she is just wild with fast notes.  It’s a very intense piece.

The second piece “Traditional/Cristina Pato: “Alalá Re-rooted” starts with her singing.  She is unmiked so you can’t really hear her, but I don’t really enjoy her singing as much as her playing so it’s okay.  I do love the interesting sounds the percussionist Shane Shanahan (Shanahan is American, but is also a longtime member (with Pato) of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble) is making.  Overall, this is a fairly dissonant piece—with her sounding almost like a free jazz players (but on pipes rather than sax).  I do love near the end where she almost seems to get a harmonic overtone on the pipe.  It’s a great moment—but fairly weird how the song just sort of fades away before seguing into the final song.

Victor Prieto & Emilio Solla: “Muñeira For Cristina” this song seems to be all about percussion with lots of drumming and a very noisy tambourine that Pato plays.  She gets the crowd clapping along and then  when she and Prieto play the same awesome riff together,it sounds great.  I love watching her shake the finger part while she’s playing it, to get a cool almost whammy bar sound out of it.  The song totally rocks and the whole set with the unlikely combo of accordion and bagpipe is startlingly wonderful.

[READ: April 20, 2016] Comics Squad: Lunch!

I really enjoyed the first Comics Squad book and I was delighted that a second one came out.  I just recently saw that a third one is coming out the summer–I love that it is called Detention and is coming out on Independence Day.

Like the first collection, this one is edited by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Babymouse/Squish) and Jarrett J.  Krosoczka (Lunch Lady).

But the rest of the line up is quite different this time around, which is cool–allowing other artists to shine.  This time there are stories from Cece Bell (El Deafo) ; Jason Shiga (a great indie artist who does some kid-friendly and some decidedly not kid friendly books) ; Cecil Castelucci & Sara Varon ; Jeffrey Brown and Nathan Hale (his own series of historical stories).

Like the previous book, the Holms and Krosoczka sprinkle the book with comments and interstitials from Babymouse and Lunch Lady. (more…)

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