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Archive for the ‘Graphic Novel’ Category

 SOUNDTRACK: FRANCES CONE-Tiny Desk Concert #646 (September 8, 2017).

Frances Cone is a relatively new band (their second album is due out soon).

There’s keys, drums guitars and lots of harmonies.

Christina Cone sings primary vocals but Adam Melchor sings lovely hrmony vocals  The keys dominate on the first song “Unraveling” until the gentle acoustic guitarists add a nice texture.  What’s interesting is that once the acoustic guitars kick in, Andrew Doherty, on bass, gets to play a more prominent lead riff and also takes over on lead vocals while keys and guitar do the oohs an harmonies.  It really changes the texture of the song and when Christina takes leads back again, it’s really something else,

The song is simple but really catchy with a powerful chorus. and Christina’s occasional high notes are a very nice accent.

I really enjoy when a band gushes to be on Tiny Desk, and Christina seems really overcome with joy (so does Adam later).

I love the keyboard sound she chooses for “Arizona”–an old fashioned organ sound. She sings lead but he guys are right behind her with low harmonies and oohs as needed.  Andrew switches to lead guitar (with the keys handling the low end) which adds a whole new sound to their repertoire, and the chorus is really catchy with Christina’s soaring vocals.

before the final song, Adam says, “I was watching that Shia LaBeouf “Just Do It” video–don’t let your dreams be dreams–and that what this feel’s like.
Bob: “I wondered where you were going with that.”
Christina: “Are you referencing Shia LaBeouf right now?”

Adam switches from acoustic to electric and there’s some great buzzy bass sounds out of the keys.  The guys sings some gorgeous harmony vocals on this song.  I love that the spare use of guitars comes in with some neat harmony melody lines mid-verse.

There’s also a drummer who I haven’t mentioned–he did a lot of interesting sounds–sometimes using mallets but playing a rim shot with each stick, or using the mallets properly.

Christina Cone (keys, vocals); Andrew Doherty (electric bass, electric guitar, vocals); Adam Melchor (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals); Alex Baron (drums).

[READ: October 1, 2016] Ms Marvel: Last Days

This book collects books 16-19 of the Ms. Marvel series and kind of wraps up the story (sort of, there’s another series that has come out and starts with issue #1–so confusing!).  This book also includes a 2 issue crossover with Amazing Spider Man-7 & 8.

This book opens with yet another amazing crossover–Kamala gets to meet the original Ms Marvel, Carol Danvers (who is now Captain Marvel and, confusingly to me, is dressed in a strange suit with what looks like a mohawk).  Kamala is worried thay Carol will be mad that she copped the Ms Marvel name, but Carol is cool with it–Kamala has earned the title. (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: JIDENNA-Tiny Desk Concert #645 (September 5, 2017).

I had never heard of Jidenna despite all of his apparent hits.  I was rather turned off by the initial song, “Trampoline.”  The chorus of “Bounce Bounce Bounce like a trampoline” was dumb enough and the music was cheesy enough that I didn’t like this at all. Although the lyric “the lady ain’t a tramp just coz she bounce up and down like a trampoline” is at least female positive.

So who is this guy?

MC Jidenna is Nigerian-American: he rocks thrift-wear tailored to a T.  Jidenna and his band recently visited NPR to perform three reworked selections from The Chief–A tribute to his father, a Nigerian chief, the record is peppered with African rhythms and themes.  They excitedly explored every nook and cranny of the Tiny Desk in search of props, eventually settling on a toy, the magic microphone, a tambourine and a bottle of whiskey.

But then he said some eloquent words about NPR–“a beacon of light of information in this information age,” and I was impressed that it wasn’t just all bouncing asses.

For then he began”Long Live the Chief.”  This rap song has some great sounding rough guitars.  His delivery is sharp and fast and the lyrics are fantastic. But its the music that really won me over–the sound of the guitars, the unexpected rhythm and some great drumming.  It was like a 180 degree turn.

But I love these lines:

Ridin’ for my niggas gettin’ locked up in the slammer
Elders saying everything’s a nail to a hammer
And niggas can’t spell but we know our Instagrammar
Well done’s better than well said
I read niggas well, a nigga well read
Really I ain’t met nobody smarter
That’s why I got admitted but I still rejected Harvard
I’m the fresh prince, in a school where they couldn’t read
Mama put me in a school with the Kennedys
When I met Bill Clinton I was seventeen
But dead presidents is all my niggas need
Dining with the governor’s daughter
And her father say I remind him of Obama
I’m the chief diplomat, every day
And I’m black and white, Janelle Monae

And then in another 180 degree turn (but not full circle, more like 180 degrees in the opposite direction) came “Bambi.”  This is a gentle lullaby–a sweet song to a lost a love.

The women among the tribe
They will be jealous of this lullaby
I’ll drink alone in my hotel and cry
‘Cause now they know you are love of my life

It sounds like a sweet reggae song or a proper doo-wop 50s song.  he seems to have a Jamaican accent (or is that a Nigerian accent?) as he sings the chorus “Bahm-bee.”

I really can’t get over the diversity of these three songs.  And by the end, his charm really impressed me (although i still don’t like “Trampoline.”

[READ: October 1, 2016] Ms Marvel: Crushed

This book collects books 12-15 of the Ms. Marvel series and includes a bonus of S.H.I.E.L.D. #2.

There’s yet another crossover moment in this book because we start book 12 in the Kingdom of Asgard where Loki, who is apparently a good guy now? is punished for his bad idea and is sent to earth to help out Ms Marvel.

I love how Loki flairs to blend in on earth and is called a hipster viking dude.  This first story is light-hearted because Kamala’s friend Bruno admits out loud (but Kamala does not hear) that he is crazy about her.  He even asks her to the dance but in such a lame way that she thinks he is joking.

Loki overhears this and decides to write her a love letter instead.  It is over the top and outrageous and Kamala thinks it is from a crazy stalker.  But she is still curious to see who it is so she goes to the Valentine’s Day dance. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JASON ISBELL-Tiny Desk Concert #644 (August 28, 2017).

Everybody seems to love Jason Isbell.  I’d heard the songs that people liked and I didn’t really think all that much of them.

This Tiny Desk Concert made Isbell sound much more country than I’d realized (I didn’t know he was with the Drive-By Truckers, either).

I was a little resistant initially, but the first song “Chaos and Clothes” really won me over with the words and melody.  By the end of the song when the fiddle and violin are in full swing and the bassist is playing a cool bass line on that weird tiny fake-looking bass guitar the song really takes off.

But it was Isbell’s playful and funny side that made me rally enjoy him and his band.

He asks the drummer how he is dong and then comments on the hat that they wished they could have worn (they point to tiny top hats).

Isbell says, “Abraham Lincoln had a tiny head, it turns out.  Where’s you’re novel about that, George Saunders.”

Then he jokes about the bass guitar: “that’s’ why you need the hat,  your bass is so small.  Abe Lincoln played a tiny bass.

When they finally get going, the second song “Molotov” has a false start-“I spent so much time on that word and then I said the wrong one.”  The violinist says its alright she didn’t do the best either.  I love the dramatic melody and delightful swing to this song.  It’s really good.

They have a lengthy amusing discussion about babies’ defense mechanisms. The whole banter section between the second and third song is really funny.  Jason leans into his guitarist who jumps and says “thank you.”  This makes Isbell laugh, “if you scare Sadler, he says ‘thank you.'”  Sadler says it’s a defense mechanism from when he was a baby.  Isbell looks at him: “Why would you have o defend yourself when you were a baby?” They talk about baby defense mechanisms and Isbell determines that saying thank you is a good idea: if you were going to kill someone and they said thank you, you’d pause–wondering if you fell into their trap.

He jokes, “we shouldn’t have taken all that acid before Tiny Desk.”

There’s a lot of laughter and then Amanda worries that she has boogers.  It’s quite light-hearted (she doesn’t, by the way).

There’s another false start for “Last of My Kind.”  He pauses the song and then invites an audience member up on “stage” to play.  He says that when he was younger he always imagined that this would happen to him–that someone would have once just asked him to come up and play.

The final song is really good, with a lot of great details in the words, and Ashwin, “a guest in the building who got more than he’d likely expected from his visit to NPR headquarters,” makes good use of his special performance.

His band is The 400 Unit: Sadler Vaden (guitar); Amanda Shires (fiddle, backing vocals); Jimbo Hart (bass); Derry deBorja (keyboards); Chad Gamble (drums); Ashwin Wadekar (guitar on “Last of My Kind”).

[READ: March 15, 2015] Ms Marvel: Generation Why

This book collects issues 6-11 of the Ms. Marvel series. I really enjoyed the first collection a lot, but I hadn’t seen any of the follow ups.  So I was pretty excited to see that my library had gotten all of the published volumes.

In addition to having a great story line about a Pakistani-American teenager who received superpowers, Ms Marvel has a lot of fun with inside-Marvel jokes (which I know some people get tired of, but which I like and which I think works very well here).  Ms Marvel is Kamala Khan.  She is a huge fan of the Marvel Universe (which of course is real), and she had taken the name of Ms Marvel in honor of Carol Danvers, the first Ms Marvel.

Jacob Wyatt drew books 6 & 7 and Adrian Alphona did 8-11.

The book opens with Kamala’s parents–god-fearing Muslims, sending her to Sheikh Abdullah.  She is obviously concerned with talking to this religious leader. Her new career as Ms Marvel has kept her from doing most of the things she should be doing as a decent Muslim girl. But the Sheikh is surprisingly cool.  She doesn’t reveal her secret but he senses that she is doing good and perhaps she just needs the help of someone–a teacher?  She heads downtown where suddenly there is a sinkhole in the ground.  As Ms Marvel, she jumps in and discovers gigantic crocodiles.  The person who has carted these gigantic creatures proves to be a human-cockatiel hybrid who IS NOT A BIRD.  He is bad guy named The Inventor.  And just as things start to get really intense, a teacher of sorts comes to help out–Wolverine!  It cracks me up that she takes a selfie with him. (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Clinton’s Tavern Toronto ON (October 20, 1990).

From the Rheostatics Live website:

Very good sounding show though a bit hot in places. I had to stitch it together from 2 tapes and a messed up order but I think I got it right. Interesting that back in 1990, before even Melville was recorded, they were playing such a large selection of songs from Whale Music and even Introducing Happiness plus a bunch of songs that didn’t end up on any album such as Fluffy, Seems Like, Woodstuck, Memorial Day etc. One of the only times they played all three Joey related songs in succession. Louis Melville guests as well as Jim Hughes of 13 Engines. I don’t believe this is the full show as they talk about to going into Edmund Fitzgerald but the tape ends.

I had planned to post about these Rheostatics live shows in order, but I’d somehow missed this one.  Interestingly though, they play a bunch of songs that they would not record for several years–some of them are early incarnations of songs, too.

As the Daves introduce the band, the phrase one fell swoop comes up.  And Bidini says that they are One Fell Swoop.  Then Clark says we are One Swell Poop.   Bidini continues: The Holmgren Brotehrs, Dave and Dave.  That’s Frosty Flake on bass and Ken “The Rat” Linseman on the rat pedal.  I gather that Bidini has a mustache (there’s a Freddy Mercury joke later in the show), but he says “The mods called me a rich kid on the street because of his mustache.  They called me dude too.  Which isn’t modish or contemporary.

After some noise and static Dave says the first song was supposed to start with a technological flourish of some kind.  It’s “Jesus Was Once a Teenager Too” [Introducing Happiness] and it is sung by Dave and Dave (!)  It sounds so strange and there’s no middle section at all.  Midway through they call out Lewis Melville from Guelph Ontario to play the guitar.

They play they crazy noisy staccato intro to “When Winter Comes” [Melville] and the song rocks out.  At the end Bidini says it is three songs rolled into one: Big Bear’s Birthday, When Winter Comes and Victoria.  They play “Northern Wish” [Melville] and “Woodstuck.”  Dave introduces “Seems Like” as written about a guy Martin met in Dublin who told the band they had no vision.  It includes the line:  “a sentimental flower child bawls me out for lacking vision…fuck you, dude.”

Then they introduce a song “about a great hockey player gone bad its called “Beer” [Would eventually be “Beerbash” on Whale Music].

Bidini says they are really the tragedy corner here–that was depressing so is this one (“Soul Glue”) [Whale Music] Tim says, “I thought you meant we were sucking.”  There’s no Benjamin Hayward in the lyrics.  And during the part about the police, someone chants “911 is a joke.”

Clark gives a bizarro story as an introduction to “Ditch Pigs”: he and Martin got into fisticuffs punch up in the Rockies.  They stole policeman’s peanut butter and smeared it on each other and then fell into a ditch.  None of that is true, someone points out.

Marty’s got a case of the bombastic flu–the four week flu.  And so they play “Martin’s First Day of School” [never released] although they claim it is from their forthcoming album Rheostatics Cut Their Head Off and Go Swimming or form their triple CD retrospective Smelling a Dog on a Sunny Day.

They play “Memorial Day” which is also kind of a downer [never recorded].  And then a fun introduction to “Who” [Whale Music]:

Just back from Neil Young’s ranch in Topanga Canyon Mr Jim Hughes of 13 Engines.   Then comes “Chanson les Ruelles” [Melville], “Sickening Song” [Whale Music] with lots of accordion that segues into “What’s Going On” [also Whale Music] with a nice solo at the end by Martin.

This leads into “Fluffy,” the only time it’s available live here.  Martin hits some absurd high notes–I wonder if they ever intended to record it.  Dave introduces a song called “Dealin at the 7-11” which would of course be Legal Age Life at Variety Store [Whale].  Then comes two songs from Melville: “Christopher” and “Horses.”  “Horses” starts acoustic ad kind of slow, but it gets really loud with some interesting guitar solo sounds and a few changed lines.

Clark says after a minute (my-noot) break they will be back momentarily.

When they come back Dave Bidini congratulates the Cincinnati Reds for winning the world series “Big Bad Jose Canceco arriving there on the hook, you got what you deserve, you big asshole.”  Yipes.  Clark diffuses this but apologizing to all hockey fans for the baseball season hanging on so long.  Long live hockey!  Death to the fat mans’ sport.  They Clark explains that they have challenged the Leafs to a fun game against their Rock and Roll Hacker Jets: Dave Tim and Dave on the front line and Rick “whomp um” Wamsley in goal.

Someone shouts that Judy quit her job.  They seem excited and then when martin sings “Record Body Count” he sings–“Judy pulled herself to her feet.”  Then they play “Joey 2” and “Joey 3.”  It’s followed by great versions of Saskatchewan” & “Dope Fiends.”

There’s a fun green sprouts theme (with someone singing loudly and out of key) and then a surprising “Rain Rain Rain” [Whale] described as a quiet version with Clark cracking up at the end for unknown reasons.  There’ s cool version of “Aliens” [Melville].   And then one of the last versions of “Good on the Uptake.”  It’s really long with some hearty jamming.

We find out that it is almost 1AM, and then there’s a nice version of “Lyin’s Wrong” [Melville].  Dave gasps and says “Martin transformed into a gay librarian right before my eyes.”  It’s clear that they are planning to play more songs.  Indeed it seems like they have many more songs to go.  Bidini says he’d love to play Edmund Fitzgerald tonight and then the tape cuts off.

For such an old tape, the sound quality is quite good and the song selection is really fascinating since they had barely released any of the songs.

[READ: August 17, 2016] “A Sigh and a Salute”

This is the second essay about an artist that Spiegelman had written for Harper’s in 2016.  I wonder if it will become a regular thing?

This essay is about Si Lewen, an artist of whom I’ve never heard.  It is actually from the introduction to Parade: An Artist’s Odyssey.

Spiegelman says he has one of Si Lewen’s “Ghosts” hanging in his studio.  Lewen began the series of Ghosts in 2008 and has made over 200.

Spiegelman gives Lewen’s complex history: Born in Poland in 1918, his family moved to Berlin as World War I ended.  They were trying to escape Polish antisemitism and found the German version. When Hitler became Chancellor, Si Lewen aged 14, decided to leave Germany.  He and his brother left the family behind and went to Paris.  There was some luck on his side.  Si’s uncle in America had organized a fund-raiser for Admiral Byrd’s expedition to the South Pole.  Byrd’s brother, a Senator, arranged for Si’s entire family to get Visas in America in 1935.  But even America wasn’t great for Si.  In 1936, while sitting in Central Park after visiting the Met, a policeman upon hearing his accent grabbed him, rowed him out to the island in the center of the lake, bludgeoned and robbed him.  What the holy fuck? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PENGUIN CAFE-Tiny Desk Concert #627 (June 16, 2017).

I recently found out about Penguin Cafe from a piece on All Songs Considered.  I learned that Penguin Cafe Orchestra was responsible for some cool/unusual classical/pop recordings back in he 1970s and 1980s.  And it’s likely that if you listened to NPR back then, you heard some of their music.:

The music of Penguin Cafe is like no other. Its origins date back to the early ’70s, within fever dreams Simon Jeffes had that were brought on by food poisoning. In those dreams he imagined a dispassionate world “where everyone lived in big concrete blocks and spent their lives looking into screens. In one room, there was a couple making love lovelessly. In another there was a musician sat at a vast array of equipment, but with headphones on, so there was no actual music in the room.” Eerily accurate.

But he also imagined a place, the Penguin Cafe, where folks could gather, for pleasure, cheer and music. He wanted to hear what that music would sound like, and so created the Penguin Cafe Orchestra. I was always a huge fan of that original music; listeners of NPR may have heard it often in-between news stories during the many years I directed All Things Considered.

But Penguin Cafe Orchestra is no more.

While Simon Jeffes died in 1997, his son Arthur has been creating new music infused with his father’s original inspiration. He calls his group, simply, Penguin Cafe. You can hear Brazilian sounds in the rhythms, classical and minimalism in the strings, Asia in its harmonium, African sounds in the kalimbas. But honestly, it’s none of these; it’s a universal dream state.

If you’re looking to explore further be sure the listen to Penguin Cafe’s recent album The Imperfect Sea, which nods to Kraftwerk, Simian Mobile Disco and Franz Schubert. It’s none of these.

The band has a lot of strings: Oli Langford (violin) Clementine Brown (violin) Vincent Greene (viola) Andy Waterworth (double bass).  There’s also a ukulele (Des Murphy) which you can’t hear too often, but it is notable on the final song.

“Wheels Within Wheels” is cover of a song by Simian Mobile Disco.  It is nearly five minutes long with slow, building strings and a simple melody that seems to be never ending as it remains the same while the backing chords change.  In addition to the strings, there’s a guy (Neil Codling) playing a dulcitone on top of the real piano (he’s holding his hand up by the end).  And the percussionist (Darren Berry) seems to have a wooden plank to play on.  He uses mallets on the wood to get quite a deep sound.  It’s a really fun piece.

“Protection” has a catchy piano motif (played by Arthur with outstretched arm on the dulcitone) in 7/8 time.  But everyone else plays in 4/4, so the motif changes every time.  After a few bars, it switches to the real piano and the strings are really lovely while that’s going on.  The ducitone player has switched to a large ukulele and the percussion consists of drums sticks on the piece of wood–fast clicking sounds.

“Ricercar” is an old renaissance Italian term.  At the beginning of a fugue you embed a theme that is expounded on later.  This song opens the album and few themes come back later in the album.  Jeffes plays a quiet melody on the dulcitone.  About half way through the song he opens the piano and seems to be dampening the strings with his hand while playing the notes.  The percussion includes a shaker and the mallets on the wood once again.  It’s upbeat and catchy and a lot of fun.

This is a really enjoyable show–classical music for people who like to have fun as well.  As far as the original band goes, if you’ve heard anything by Penguin Cafe Orchestra, it’s probably this piece: “Music for a Found Harmonium.”

[READ: June 24, 2016] Amulet: The Stonekeeper

I have really enjoyed Kibuishi’s Explorer collections, so it seemed sensible to try out his Amulet as well.  And what a great, interesting and unusual story it is.

Although I must admit I was pretty shocked by the fact that the main characters Emily and Navin are in a car accident in the prologue and their father is killed.  What a way to start!

After the death of their father, the family (Emily, Navin and their mom) move out to an old country estate to get some perspective on things.  As they begin to clean up the old house, they go into a room of inventions by their ancestor Silas Charnon.  The story is that Charnon went missing one day and was never heard from again. While Emily is looking over some books, a creepy ghost creatures hovers behind her.

Navin and Emily look around (they don’t see the ghost) and soon, Emily puts her hand on a hand-shaped plate and a necklace–an amulet–is revealed.  Emily puts it on and when Navin complains, she says he can wear it tomorrow.  But that night the amulet speaks to her.  It tells her to stay with her family and keep the safe–they are in danger. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ANTONIO LIZANA-Tiny Desk #614 (April 28, 2017).

I am fascinated by Lizana, but more for his voice than anything else.  Lizana’s singing voice/style sounds a lot like the lead singer of Gipsy Kings (musicians from Arles and Montpellier in the south of France, who perform in the Spanish language with an Andalusian accent).  Lizana is from Spain, but he has that same strained and fascinating delivery.  The blurb here hints that maybe that is just the style of flamenco:

In many ways, the traditions of flamenco and jazz could not be further apart, but in the hands of a few Spanish jazz musicians, these two worlds commingle and find common ground. Antonio Lizana is one such musician, both a saxophonist and vocalist with one foot firmly planted in each tradition. As a vocalist he has mastered the Moorish, note-bending improvisations that make flamenco singing so beguiling, while the fluidity of ideas he expresses as a saxophonist place him in the time-honored tradition of composing while playing.

Indeed, between jazz-like saxophone, Lizana sings flamenco vocals.  For these three songs, Lizana and Jonatan Pacheco (percussion) and Andreas Arnold (guitar) play quite a mix and it works very well.  The band is also quite multicultural as well as Andreas is from Germany and Jonatan is from Spain (and he plays a mean box drum).

“Airegría” is about 6 minutes long.  It begins with hims singing over the percussion.  It after a minute and a half that the guitar comes in and not until almost 2 and a half minutes before the sax comes in.  The guitar is kind of staccato while the sax is pretty fluid.

Introducing the band he says, “We’re very happy to be here playing.  We have today on the stage or on the desk…”

“Déjate Sentir” more conventionally jazzy sax but the main melody comes from his kind of scat singing.  Ad I find tat when the guitar kicks in I prefer him singing to guitar rather than playing the sax–I suppose traditional flamenco over jazz. But I can appreciate the sax too–especially when it seems to push aside the flamenco style for a bit.

“Viento De La Mar” is a smoother song with some pretty guitar and light jazzy sax.  My favorite moments comes in the middle with the chiming percussion and the big ending.

[READ: June 24, 2016] Big Bad Ironclad

How cool is this series?  It is so cool that this is the official author bio:

The spy Nathan Hale was executed in 1776.  The author Nathan Hale was born in 1976.

Nathan Hale is the author/illustrator’s real name and he uses the spy Nathan Hale as the narrator of his stories about history (or in this case the future–for the spy, that is).

The book begins on September 22, 1776 as Nathan Hale is about to be hung for treason.  The British soldier in charge of the execution is cross, but the executioner himself is kind of giddy because Hale is going to tell another tale.

After some amusing introductions, designed to antagonize the solider, Hale settles in to tell the story of the iron ships (iron doesn’t float!).

And thus he begins the story of the Merrimack and the Monitor.  The year is 1861 and Abraham Lincoln has just been elected.

Hale uses some very funny narrative devices to get some of the salient battle points across, like General Scott’s anaconda plan–surround the enemy and squeeze.  But how can they do that with only four, yes four, ships?

The North’s man in charge was Gideon Welles, nicknamed Father Neptune.  Stephen Mallory is in charge of the confederate navy–the executioner dubs him “sharkface.”  And in the most amusing nod to comics, Gustavus Fox (Foxy) is rendered as a fox (he’s a cute li’l fox). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: DANILO BRITO-Tiny Desk Concert #618 (May 12, 2017).

This is a pretty great  introduction to the music of Danilo Brito:

After four chords, the notes start to fly — Danilo Brito and his four collaborators, three Brazilians and one American, are off like jackrabbits in front of a hound, having hustled their instruments to the Tiny Desk at the end of a North American tour.

Brito plays the mandolin, and boy how his finger fly.

Brito a 32-year-old mandolin player, made his first record when he was a teenager, plays a type of music called choro (pronounced “shore-oo”).  It’s said that choro started in the streets and back yards and made its way to the concert hall. Brazilian musicians of all genres have drawn on choro, from popular composer Antonio Carlos Jobim to Heitor Villa Lobos, one of the giants of Latin American classical music. Its literal translation from the Portuguese is “to cry,” but in Brito’s dextrous hands a better translation may be “crying out to be heard.”

They play five songs.  “Sussuarana” is just full of amazing finger work.  The pace is breakneck and exhausting.  How does he do it?.  There are two guitars (Carlos Moura (7-string guitar) and Guilherme Girardi (guitar)) playing chords and the mandolin zipping all over the place.  In the background, Lucas Arantes plays a small guitar called the cavaquinho and Brian Rice (the American) keeps the beat on the pandeiro.

Between songs he has a translator explain that they are playing “a little bit of Brazilian instrumental music.”  He says this style of music started around 1860, mixing jazz and classical and African music.”

“Lamentos” is a much sadder song (as you might imagine), but it is gorgeous.  For “Tica” Arantes and Rice step aside.  “Tica” is his own composition.  It is a waltz in two tempos.  There’s some wonderful lead lines that run up and down the instrument.  It’s fascinating that while his lines are still fast the rest of the musicians are at a slower pace.  There’s a lovely middle section of delicate guitar, but once it ends they take off again.

The next song is “Melodia Sentimental” it sounds like the soundtrack of a weepy romance film–heart string tugging.

Brito and his colleagues play their arrangement of Villa Lobos’ “Melodia Sentimental,” originally written for voice and orchestra.  What you’re actually hearing is a kind of formal Rodas de Choro, the circles of players who developed this music more than a century ago and have carried it on to the present.

Only — in the backyards, they don’t wear suits and ties.

The final song “Pega Ratão” is also an original piece.  It is short and never stops.  It is great watching his fingers fly.

[READ: June 12, 2016] One Dead Spy

How cool is this series?  It is so cool that this is the official author bio:

The spy Nathan Hale was executed in 1776.  The author Nathan Hale was born in 1976.

Nathan Hale is the author/illustrator’s real name and he uses the spy Nathan Hale as the narrator of his stories about history (or in this case the future–for the spy, that is).

This is the first book in the series so it begins with the historical Nathan being brought up to the gallows.  The people are all there to watch a hanging, but they are disappointed that the guy to be hung is a spy, not the arsonist.  And then Hale is brought up to the British soldier and the executioner (who looks at Hale and say “This is awkward”).

Hale mutters his famous last words: I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.  And as that happens a The Big Huge Book of American History comes down and swallows Hale and then lets him back out because he just “made history.” (more…)

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