Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: REV SEKOU AND THE SEAL BREAKERS-Tiny Desk Concert #765 (July 10, 2018).

I was not at all interested in a preacher and his church band, but wow these guys rock.

Rev Sekou says that the Seal Breakers are from Brooklyn but he’s from Arkansas.  I didn’t like the way he started the show by talking about his grandparents who worked from can’t see morning to can’t see night and then they’d go to the juke joints and then to church on Sunday.  I thought it was going to be rather preachy (he is Pentecostal) but no,

Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekoum this author, activist, intellectual, pastor and singer tosses off his large-brimmed, black hat, shakes his dreadlocks and demands freedom with these words: “We want freedom and we want it now!”

Do you wanna get free?  He sounds like Richie Havens at Woodstock–gravelly voice but with a preacher intonation.  The song has got some gospel flow but with a roaring distorted electric guitar.   It’s got a big catchy chorus and a wailing guitar solo.

Resist!  Resist when they tell you what you can and can’t do.

Before the second song, he says he went to Charlottesville to organize against the white supremacist march but they couldn’t leave the church because of the Nazis.

When he went outside, he watched Heather Heyer take her last breath.  He says this is an anthem for Charlottesville called “Bury Me.”

he recalled the horrors of the white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Va. last summer. He said he spent weeks in preparation, organizing clergy for what he says was “the largest gathering of white supremacists in modern history,” then watching the activist “Heather Heyer take her last breath” after she was struck by a car that plowed into a crowd of marchers. The song “Bury Me” is a bluesy anthem to freedom that honors those who have died in that struggle for racial equality and freedom. In his free-form preamble to the touching ballad, Rev. Sekou works himself into a passionate frenzy, before airing his intense indignation for President Trump.

Bury me in the struggle for freedom…say my name.  He powerfully sings the names of people who have died in racially motivated hatred.  There’s power in the name.

The songs with a chorus of “This Little Light of Mine, I’m gonna let it shine,”

The Rev. says they need to leave that one, “I’m Pentecostal, I can go 2-3 hours, but I don’t think Brother Bob wants us in here that long.”

The  end with “The Devil Finds Work” which opens with bluesy piano.

After two minutes it becomes a big clapfest as suddenly The Saints Go Marching In.  They swing, and Rev. Sekou and we pray that you get free and he walks off while the band finishes.

Osagyefo Sekou (Vocals), William Gamble (Keys), Reggie Parker (Bass), Cory Simpson (Guitar), James Robinson Jr. (Drums), Gil Defay (Trumpet), Chris McBride (Saxophone), Brianna Turner (Background Vocals), Rasul A Salaam (Background Vocals), Craig Williams (Percussions)

[READ: January 25, 2018] “Company Towns”

This is an excerpt from “Work and Industry in the Northern Midwest.”

I’m not really sure what to make of these three short stories about work.  I found them rather comical because each supposedly normal business event ended in some kind of peculiar death.

The Whitefish Bay Merchant and Traders Bank
In 1947 the narrator traveled from Interlakken Switzerland to Whitefish Bay, Michigan to check on a bank that his father had acquired in a set of financial trades).  The bank had become extremely profitable and his father wanted to know why.  He flew to the states, stopped for two weeks in New York and another week in Cleveland before getting to Michigan.  The employees were quite jovial–in fact the guy who picked him up shared a flask with him–they were both drunk by the time they got home.  They also had a very formal, fancy diner.  The bank made its money because of an ambitious cook.  He helped to innovate the short line cooking process–a way to cook for 100 men quickly.  He was aided by a chef who ensured they used quality food.   The bosses didn’t think the employees needed this kind of delicious food, but when they saw how much it improved morale and didn’t cost that much they were on board.  And the bank, in addition to giving them a loan, took a 20 percent stake in the firm and they made a ton of money.

The narrator asked to meet these men but both had recently died.  One from drinking something he shouldn’t have and the other was involved in a shooting– the details are what makes the deaths amusing, if not really funny. (more…)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: HALF MOON RUN-Live at Massey Hall (December 1, 2016).

I hadn’t heard of Half Moon Run before this show.  They are a Canadian band who put out their second album a year or so before this show.

So it’s pretty impressive to have gotten a gig at Massey Hall and to have the crowd be that crazy about you after just two records.

There’s a lot to like about the music–great moody sounds, and spectacular drumming, but there’s also something really “pretty” about the singer that makes me wonder if they are too commercial.  Or if I should even care.

The band consists of four guys and they each play a multitude of instruments.  Devon Portielje is lead vocalist.  He plays guitar and on one particular song a smashing drum. Conner Molander plays keys mostly but also guitar and he sings too.  Dylan Phillips is the drummer but he also plays keys and Isaac Symonds plays percussion as well as mandolin guitar and keys.

I love the old-sounding keyboards of “21 Gun Salute.”  There’s a latter-period Radiohead vibe on this song with the eerie backing vocals and the ringing guitar.  I’m not sure if the guitar solo actually works with the song, though.

“Call Me in the Afternoon” starts with Portielje taking of his shirt (to whoops of course).  He has an undershirt on at least.  Rather than playing the guitar, he plays a small drum and throws the sticks into the audience.  There’s some nice harmonies on this song but again, it’s the drums that are very cool.  I also like the unexpected bass line that runs through the song.

“Everybody Wants” is from the newer album.  It introduces a resonator guitar which brings a whole new sound ( I thought it was a banjo at first).  This is a ballad but it builds slowly over the song with great backing vocals–soaring notes–and then it takes off at the end with some more tremendous drums (I love that one of the drummers (can’t tell them apart) is playing one-handed while paying keys with the other).

“Give Up” is an older song which also has a Radiohead kind of feel in the guitar/piano pattern.  It’s a slower moodier song and the strings come out for this song.  String are provided by Quatuor Esca:  Sarah Martineau, Camille Paquette-Roy, Edith Firzgerald, Amelie Lamontagne.

“Consider Yourself” opens with thumping drums and feedback before shifting to an almost gothy-dancey keyboard melody.  It’s cool and even moodier when the piano is added but the chorus is big and brash with a big noisy ending.  It’s a pretty great song and sounds quite different from their other ones.  It’s on the second album where I guess they diversified their sound more.

“She Wants to Know” opens with staccato note and voices and “Full Circle” has a nice interplay of acoustic guitar and electric lead with more of those thumping drums and the audience is right there to sing the chorus–it was their first single.

It’s interesting that the majority of this show is songs from their first album.  Is that editing or did they just want to play their earlier stuff?

I’m going to have to check out their studio recordings to see what they sound like.

[READ: January 25, 2018] “Credit Gone Away”

This is an excerpt from the novel Broken Glass, translated by Helen Stevenson.

This excerpt is listed as a monologue and it is just that–a full-page and a half of unbroken text.  I found it more than a little confusing because it seems to be a tirade against a bar. And I assume the bar is called Credit Gone Away (at least something is called that–it’s a weird name for a bar).  The Church people opposed the bar right away.  Saying it would be the end of Sunday mass, slippery slope until everyone is gong straight to Hell

Then the weekend and bank holiday cuckolds waded in saying that it was Credit Gone Away’s fault that their wives no longer cooked for them.   And another group of complaints from ex-alcoholics. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: FROM THE TOP-Tiny Desk Concert #758 (June 22, 2018).

From the Top is a radio show (and podcast) which showcases young, talented classical musicians.

For over 20 years, From the Top (distributed by NPR) has built an impressive platform to celebrate the music, lives and stories of youngsters playing classical music. That’s right. Young people in this country love classical music.  We invited three talented From the Top musicians to the Tiny Desk. No squeaky violins here. These kids are terrific players.

From the Top alum Derek Wang is our good-natured emcee, in addition to serving as a sensitive accompanist for two of the pieces.

The first piece is played by 12-year-old violinist Kaia Selden–sparks fly (and bow hairs, too) when  she tears into

  • Henryk Wieniawski: “Scherzo-Tarantelle, Op. 16”

A bouncy piano opens up this amazingly fast violin piece.  Selden plays with fire and passion as her fingers fly over the fretboard for these incredibly fast notes and runs.  It’s stunning how composed and confident she is.

She explains that the song is a tarantel, a kind of dance, named after when you are bitten by a tarantula–you have to dance really fast and crazy to get the venom out of your system.

Up next is cellist Noah Lee who uncovers fascinating new sounds on his instrument

  • Mark Summer: “Julie-O”

The piece opens with plucked notes and strummed chords.  He pays what sounds like rock riffs and then after a minute or so he picks up the bow and begins playing the instrument conventionally–with some quick runs and cool sounds.  Then he adds new sounds–slapping the strings with just his left hand and then using his right percussively.  There’s some more plucking notes and full chords before ending with more bowed music.  It’s a mesmerizing solo piece.

The third musician is Javier Morales-Martinez who makes his velvety clarinet sing in elegant music:

  • Francis Poulenc: “Clarinet Sonata, II. Romanza”  The

The juxtaposition of piano and clarinet is quite lovely and Javier greats some amazing sounds out of the instrument,.

Javier says that when he was 7 or 8 he used to play music with his dad from Mexico.  He was later introduced to classical music and has been playing it ever since.

It’s an inspirational set from amazing young musicians.

[READ: February 9, 2016] “The Flower”

Erdrich had a short piece in the previous issue of the New Yorker, and here she gets a full short story.

I was really surprised to find this story set in 1839 in Ojibwe country (although I see that Erdrich has written extensively about Okibwe country, so that’s my bad, clearly).

The story is a fairly simple one.  There is an older Ojibwe woman, Mink, who is wailing and carrying on, demanding the trader’s milk –a mixture of raw distilled spirits, rum, red pepper and tobacco–from Mackinnon.  It was driving Mackinnon crazy, but Mink was from a family of healers and could not be denied.

The other man in the tent was Mackinnon’s clerk, Wolfred Roverts who was trying his best to get the sound out of his ears. Wolfred aged 17 was from Portsmouth New Hampshire.  He missed his home terribly but there was no life for him back there. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: ZAKI IBRAHIM-Live at Massey Hall (March 27, 2015).

I had never heard of Zaki Ibrahim before this and from the pictures, I rather thought she would be kind of an opera singer.  She is pretty much everything but.

Born in British Columbia to a father from South Africa and a mother from the United Kingdom, Ibrahim spent her childhood as what she describes as a “citizen of the world”, living at different times in Canada.

This show starts out differently than the others–no interview just her getting her make up done and warming up with her backing singers.

Then she comes out to the theater and sings…in French!  I believe it is the song “Lost in You” (for some reason they don’t show the names of the songs for her).  It’s moody and quite lovely.  After some vocals scatting big drums propel the song half way through to really rock out.

She talks about feeling vulnerable on stage and how important that is for the energy exchange between fans and artist.

The next song is on piano with quiet drums, the singers repeat “I Just Need You Here.”

After this song, the band plays around with some sounds, manipulating it with gadgets and slides and whatnot and there are some vocals by Waleed Abdulhamid.  While that is going on, she comes out in  new outfit and as “Something in the Water” starts she is playing the theremin! and an electronic drum pad.  They seem to be singing “We Fly Home.”

It’s great that these Massey Hall shows have picked so many good artists to showcase.

[READ: June 2, 2018] “Anyone Can Milk a Rubber Glove”

This issue of the New Yorker had a section entitled “Parenting.”  Five authors tell a story about their own parents.  Since each author had a very different upbringing the comparison and contrasting of the stories is really interesting.

Jeanette Winterson describes milking a rubber glove: fill it with warm water, put your index finger and thumb two inches above the teat. The other three fingers squeeze the udder firmly but placidly–it’s like playing the recorder.

Why would anyone do this?  Well she did it for training how to milk a goat.  She was nine or ten when they got the goat.  The goat was named Gracie Fields (after a war-time music hall star).  The war had been over for twenty-five years but her parents still talked about it.

Her mother was deeply religious and read the Bible front to back and started over again.  S also liked singing and believed the goat milked better is you sang to her.  The songs had to be the right kind of downer hymns because goats don’t like to be too cheerful. Unlike sheep, goats are thinkers, but goats are going to Hell while sheep are going with Jesus.

Jeanette’s first time milking Gracie didn’t go very well.  Even with her mother singing “Have You Any Room for Jesus?”

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: PARTNER-Tiny Desk Concert #744 (May 18, 2018).

I know of Partner from the All Songs Considered podcast.  Their song “Everybody Knows” (about being high) is pop-punk catchy and really funny.

That’s the only song I knew from them, but I assumed this Tiny Desk would be of a rollicking hilarious similar vein.

Imagine my surprise to hear them do pretty much everything but pop-punk.  There’s a theme song, a country song, a song for Céline Dion and a song that makes the lead singer cry:

This is one of the sweetest, funniest and most endearing Tiny Desk performances I’ve seen. From the moment they began playing, it was clear best friends Lucy Niles and Josée Caron, who perform as the Canadian rock band Partner, were there to leave their mark and have a whole lot of fun doing it.

Known for their sense of humor, joyful spirit and screaming riff rock, Partner opened their Tiny Desk not with their guitars plugged in, but with kazoos and a goofy little piano piece they dubbed the “Tiny Desk Theme.” Dressed like she was in an ugly sweater contest, Caron bounced along behind the keys with a beaming smile while the group (including drummer Brendan Allison, Kevin Brasier on keys and Daniel Legere on guitar) sang, “It’s the best Tiny Desk!”

The theme song is but a minute long and will hopefully be used for every future Tiny Desk endeavor.  It comes complete with bopping piano, kazoo and cowbell.

The impish left turns didn’t stop there. Immediately following the makeshift theme, Caron peeled off her sweater (revealing a Tegan and Sara T-shirt) and grabbed an acoustic guitar as the band broke into “Tell You Off” its first-ever country song, a track they’d premiered at a live show just days earlier.

Lucy Niles picks up the bass and plays a simple riff.  The rest of the band joins in (with Legere playing a very country guitar solo).

They could barely contain their laughter while singing “Tell You Off,” a boom-chicka story song about giving a good tongue-lashing to anyone who gets in your way:

“I heard what you said about my dog / that he shit on your lawn / well that’s not my fault / say it to my face or I’ll be pissed off / I’ll come over to your house and tell you off.

The third song is the one that Caron hope Céline Dion will sing.  She says it was inspired by a poem that her boss wrote.  “It’s a bad ass poem about going to down to hell to face your greatest fears and to reclaim a peaceful life for yourself.  The life that you deserve.”

In addition to playing a great rocking solo, Caron sings the final verse in French (for Céline to sample).

Partner closed out its set with a surprisingly emotional version of “Creature In The Sun,” a reflection on appreciating the gift of just being alive.

Caron plays a cool intro riff with a guitar slide.  And the song is the most rocking of the bunch.  And then

About halfway through the song, Caron took a moment to tell the audience why it was so special to them. Choking back tears, she said she wrote it about freeing the mind of desire. “It’s a very healing place… And you can just experience the fullness of life. I just wanted to… remind everyone that that stuff is right there with you all the time.”

It’s surprisingly emotional and Caron is clearly embarrassed at her emotional outpouring, but the audience is receptive and she still manages to play that great slide guitar apart tat the end.

And, to break some of the emotional tension the drummer hits a nice cowbell sound at the end.

This is a very surprising set, and one that I imagine is unique in their live performances.

[READ: May 21, 2018] “The Long Black Line”

This is the story of Jesuit Priesthood, circa 1954, and a man trying to join.

Finn is described this way: “priests were still thought to be holy, and Finn…Well…”

When Finn is close to completing his term of study one of the Brothers, Brother Reilly who is manuductor (he who leads by the hand) seems to think poorly of Finn.  Reilly wrote in his diary that Finn seemed self-important.  And then Brother Reilly went to confess these thoughts.  Brother Reilly’s superiors felt that Reilly was not suited to the role of manuductor and therefore it was useful for him to be given the task.

Father Superior told them: “feelings are always to be distrusted.  The good Jesuit may feel excited or depressed, but–remember–he never shows it.  He is never singular. He disappears into the long black line [of priests]….  If you feel sad, smile.  If you feel elated, exercise self-restraint.  If you dislike someone, pray for him.” (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: DESTROYER-Live at Massey Hall (July 10, 2014).

Destroyer is Daniel Behar (who is also part of New Pornographers and other bands).  Usually, Behar is surrounded by a lot of other people when he plays.  His music tends toward the symphonic.

But for this show (his first time at Massey Hall), it is just him with his acoustic guitar.

In the introduction he says that he gave up playing the guitar a long time ago, but he couldn’t just do a set with him signing a capella so….  He observes that he’s been playing with an 8 piece band–they solo forever and I’m barely singing anymore.  So this is quite something.

He seriously downplays the show saying he doesn’t even really like “guy with guitar” music, he’s more into Sinatra or the Stones.  “This is an anti-advertisement for the show I’m about to play.”

He plays songs from throughout his catalog.

“Foam Hands” is not that different, although I do prefer the recorded version.  In this version, though, I like the way he plays the end chords loudly and dramatically and the way the song abruptly.

“Chinatown” is a much bigger song on record with backing vocals and a rather cheesy sax throughout.  So I like this version better.

He introduces “Streets on Fire” this way: “Here’s a song I wrote 20 years ago.  Showing off because lots of you couldn’t write songs twenty years ago because you didn’t know how to say anything.  Couldn’t play guitar.  Didn’t know the chords didn’t know words.  Pathetic.

The song is from his debut when it was just him and a guitar.  This version sounds 100 times better.

“European Oils”  I love this song from Rubies and I especially love the orchestration of it.  So while I enjoy this stripped down version I’ll take the record.

The original of “Your Blood” is a romping fun song (also from Rubies).  This is slowed down but still nice.  And of course I enjoy that my daughter is mentioned; “Tabitha takes another step.”

“Savage Night at the Opera” has a great bass sound in the original, although this stripped down is very nice.

“Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Sea of Tears)” is a quiet song (the original has drums and piano but’s not that different from what’s here).  It’s quite pretty as is the whole set.  A real treat for fans of Destroyer.

[READ: May 3, 2018] “The Boarder”

This story was translated from the Yiddish by the author.  Singer died in 1991, so I’m not sure if this is a recently found story or an old one that has just been published..

This is a simple story about a pious man and a non-believer.

Reb Berish is the pious man.  He eats only twice a day; he prays for many hours a day.  He had recently retired from his business in fabric remains and had little to do.  Over the last forty years, his wife had died, his son had died and his daughter had married a gentile in California.

He didn’t want to live alone so he took in a border, Morris Melnik. Melnik paid $15 a month, but that wasn’t the point.  Berish was taking pity on the man who had literally nothing left in his life–no family, no job, no God.  Melnik was a heretic; a nonbeliever.

He mocked Berish for praying “to the God who made Hitler and gave him the strength to kill six million Jews.  Or perhaps to the God who created Stalin and let him liquidate another ten million victims.”

It sounds like the premise for a sitcom, but this story does not do that. (more…)

Read Full Post »

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…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »