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Archive for the ‘Suicide’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: COLDPLAY-Tiny Desk Concert #956 (March 9, 2020).

Once, long ago, a Tiny Desk Concert was for a quiet, presumably up and coming band to play a short show for an internet audience.

Then there was Lizzo and Taylor Swift and now Coldplay (I’m actually not sure if Coldplay or Taylor Swift is actually bigger).  But what makes it fun when a huge band does this is that they have an opportunity to do something very different.

For this Tiny Concert, Coldplay was reduced to just singer (and keyboardist) Chris Martin and guitarist Jonny Buckland (bassist Guy Berryman and drummer Will Champion were “hiding under the desk” because it was so tiny.  But Coldplay was also expanded with the addition of the For Love Choir: Denise Green; Shaneka Hamilton; Dorian Holley; Stephen Mackey; Lamarcus Eldridge; Lawrence Young; Surrenity Xyz; Tiffany Smith and Mabvuto Carpenter.

Watching Martin at the keys, with the For Love Choir behind him and Coldplay guitarist Jonny Buckland at his side, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the happiest day of his life. Laughing, bouncing to the music and playing off the crowd, Martin and company gave one of the most jubilant, uplifting and memorable performances we’ve ever had at the Tiny Desk.

I’m not sure it’s the most memorable, but it is certainly fun watching Chris Martin (who the rest of the time seems very serious) laugh and smile and joke his way through the set (while being musically spot on).

It’s a bit unfortunate, to me, that Coldplay did this show after their newest album, Everyday Life, from which I haven’t heard a thing (which is crazy since most of their other stuff is so overplayed).

The first song, “Cry Cry Cry” features the choir, but to me the “Cry Cry” of the chorus sounds so much like Janis Joplin “Cry Baby” I can’t get past it.

I also had to laugh that the crowd was responsive to this song (and the other two songs from the new album), but they went berserk for “Viva La Vida.”  And as as he plays those notes and starts singing it becomes really clear that this is Coldplay.  I didn’t really notice Buckland on the first song, but he adds some nice guitar moments to this one.  Everyone lives the choir for these songs, but I feel like their backing lines are not right for the verses.  Their oohs and ahhs are nice though and the end “woah oh ohs” are really splendid with all of those voices.

Martin jokes that he was happy to step inside the internet to be on the Tiny Desk and to see that Bob is a real person.  Then he shouts out everyone in the choir without looking (I didn’t realize they’d been playing together for a while, otherwise I was really impressed that he could remember that many names so easily).

The choir is prominent on “Broken” and Martin joked that, “In a very real way, they’ve Photoshopped our songs to be much better than they actually are.”

As the song fades out he starts playing the opening to Prince’s “1999.”  How unexpected.  Each of the singers in the choir takes a line or two and everyone is really into it.  It sounds great.

They end with “Champion Of The World.”  Martin says that after releasing the new album, they stayed in semi-hibernation.  But this Tiny Desk is pure and wonderful and makes us remember that this is why we do what we do,

Even if they only played one song I would have wanted them to play, it’s still a very positive and joy-filled show.

[READ: March 29, 2020] “Here and There”

McCann has written a novel called Apeirogon which is a fictionalized account of the lives of Bassam Aramin, a Palestinian and Rami Elhanan, an Israeli.  Aramin’s ten-year-old daughter, Abir, was killed by an Israeli soldier.  Elhana’s 13-year old daughter, Smadar, was killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber.

This excerpt only looks at Rami’s story.

Smadar had her grandfather’s watch on her wrist when she was killed.  It was still running.  She made sure to wind that watch every night lest it signal that her other grandfather Yitzak had died during the night too.

Smadar and her grandfather were buried side by side under a grove of knotted carob trees. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BJ THE CHICAGO KID-Tiny Desk Concert #906 (November 6, 2019).

At first I thought I might enjoy this Tiny Desk Concert because the first song “East Side High 2012 & Forever” was kind of soulful.  There’s some great guitar work from Jairus “Jmo” Mozee and some grooving bass from Joe Cleveland.   The song ends after a bout a minute and a half.

And I really liked the bass line that started the next song, “Good Luv’n.”  Although I didn’t like BJ’s singing style as much on this one.

I also didn’t realize that he was playing a huge medley of songs:

BJ the Chicago Kid took the roughly 15 minutes we generally allot for a Tiny Desk performance as a challenge. The 34-year old R&B mainstay used his moment at the desk to fit in as many of his most cherished songs as possible — Nine songs in 17 minutes to be exact.

I also had no idea that he was famous or had had a lengthy career.

To get the job done, BJ jumped around his 10-year discography, weaving deep cuts and covers from his early Pineapple Now-Laters days with contemporary cuts like “Church” off his major label debut, In My Mind, to heartfelt odes from his latest project, 1123. 

Both most of these songs fell into that sexy R&B singing style with vaguely (or explicitly vulgar lyrics).  “Aiight” has some nice twinkling keys from Delvin Brumfield.

“Church” has these fascinating lyrics: “she want to drink, do drugs, and have sex tonight, but I got church in the morning.”  I really like the addition of the violin from Peter Lee John on these songs–it definitely adds a new sound to R&B.

During “Love Inside” he tells Tony “Rico” Nichols on the drums:  “Rico take me away.”

“Turnin’ Me Up” is musically the most interesting song, and I like the way the chords swell as it takes him to his happy place.

“Get Away” features some sampled backing vocals and this is more of a rapping style song.  This song is especially vulgar (when we fucking, when I’m freakin you) which I find weird in this style of seduction song, but which apparently no one else does.

“Can’t Wait” is a slow broody number about how much he hates waiting for love.  Then comes “Too Good”

I liked about half of this set, although I feel like most of these songs blended into each other as one long 17 minute song.

[READ: February 15, 2020] “The Red Dot”

I really enjoyed the conversational nature of this story.  The telling and retelling of it adds an extra layer of puzzlement to it.  Plus phrases like this are fun:

Now do you want to hear the weird part? she said.  Yes, give me the weird part, I said.

The narrator talks about listening to Anna talking about a man named Karl–a casual acquaintance for both of them.

Karl owned a restaurant called Gist Mill, “where you go to get the gist of good food”.  Karl was skinny and used to run along the river.  Anna assumed running as his way of dealing with his divorce–his wife left him for a guy who designed toothpaste tubes.

When Karl finished his run, he would sit by the river, close his eyes and meditate.  When he opened his eyes, everything was clear.  But on this one instance that he told Anna about, he saw a red dot on the river.  The dot was getting closer. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THOR HARRIS & JOYFUL NOISE PLAYERS-Is Adam Ok? (2020).

I have been aware of Thor Harris for years.  He’s played in bands that I like and he’s played with musicians I like.

He’s an amazing all-around musician, even if his first/main instrument is drums/percussion.

Thor is also a craftsman–making his own instruments and all manner of other things.

So, when Joyful Noise Records announced that he was their artist in residence this year, I definitely wanted to see what he would come up with.

And so, he has created a 6 LP box set.  And by created, I mean he created the boxes (not the record sleeves, I don’t think) by hand and hand colored each one.  he also drew the album covers.

The first album in the collection (according to the list on the back) is this one, Is Adam OK.

The basis for this recording is this:

When musicians are working on a “song” or a specific “piece”, they are using a certain part of their conscious brains. But before the super narcissistic band leader shows up and takes the reins, they will often hang out making stream-of-consciousnesses music that is often more interesting than the conscripted “songs”.

I really enjoyed this observation about virtuosos and about himself

Interesting things happen when a musician is playing out of her comfort zone. This can be achieved by playing an instrument that you don’t usually play or by playing out of your usual genre. If you hand a guy an electric guitar and he grew up on rock and roll, the outcome is somewhat predictable at this point, mimicry of 50 years of rock and blues players. This is why virtuosos are boring to watch after a few minutes of amazement. I cannot count the number of times I’ve been asked to “play dumber” when recording drum tracks. I spent much of my youth learning hot drum licks, then my early 20s learning not to ever do them.

The first song, “Is Adam OK?” is a 22 minute improv piece.

On “Is Adam OK?” I sat at the piano prepared with sweaters across the strings. Virtuoso, multi-instrumentalist, super-freak Greg Saunier sat beside me at the piano and off into the abyss we wandered for 22 minutes.

The musicians are Thor Harris – piano, xylophone, bass drum; Greg Saunier – piano, vibraphone, bass drum; Jasamine White-Gluz – organ; Sima Cunningham – vocals; Macie Stewart – vocals; Adam Harding – vocals, field recordings, toilet flushing; C.J. Boyd – bass guitar, vocals; Daniel Smith – vocals; Kid Millions – seed husks

The piece starts with repeated piano motif. You can hear the “mistakes” as they hit the “wrong” note or go out of time, but that’s sort of the point of this piece.  Around seven minutes, the vocalists start singing like the middle of Pink Floyd’s “Atom Heart Mother.”  I rather like when, around 8 minutes, the percussion comes in and then the bass drum at 10 minutes adds a whole new layer of texture.  By 21 minutes the piece has circled back to the quiet opening with just piano and xylophone.  And it all ends with a flushing toilet

The second track, “Kindest Regards Mr Mapfumo” is 11 minutes long and feels a little less improvised.

I started “Kindest Regards Mr Mapfumo” hoping for a Steve Reich kind of 12/8 piece, but ended up with a Thomas Mapfumo kind of 12/8. A pleasant misstep. The driving instrument is an electric tongue drum that I built. I will soon put instructions for building one yourself on Instagram. I ran it thru an Old Blood chorus/delay/distortion pedal.

Thor Harris – electric tongue drum, Casio organ, marimba; Sarah “Goat” Gautier – organ; Jasamine White-Gluz – guitar; C.J. Boyd – double bass; Sima Cunningham – vocals; Macie Stewart – vocals; Marina Tadic – vocals, güiro; Adam Harding – vocals, Mellotron, guitar, güiro

The tongue drum sounds like a modifed (loud) jaw harp–a cool vibrating sound.  OHMME add some unusual vocals to the song and then a double bass comes in to ground it somewhat.  Around half way through you can totally get lost on all of the various waves of sound that wash over the tongue drum, which feels aboriginal by this point.

The vocals around the 8 minute mark are just lovely–intertwining “do do dos” that flow around almost like an Esquivel space-age-bachelor-pad vocal line.

The third song “Grief Comes in Waves” is 9 minutes and is much more creepy.

On “Grief Comes in Waves”, Andy Stack, Monk Parker and I played layer upon layer of sax and clarinet in 7 minute slabs. We added some other bits and bobs, then sent them to others to have their way with them. Jad Fair, Ohmme, and Adam added things I never would have thought of.

Thor Harris – clarinet, kalimba, organ Andy Stack – alto saxophone, marimba Monk Parker – baritone saxophone, marimba Jad Fair – vocals Sima Cunningham – vocals Macie Stewart – vocals Adam Harding – vocals

The kalmiba and marimba make for some lovely echoing sounds , but its the repeated clarinet and saxophone rumbles and blasts combining with the low organ that create a field of tension.  The vocals are more keening than singing and help to build the air of discomfort.  There’s even  growling sound which could be a human voice or an instrument.

However around half way through, OHMME start singing some syncopated notes and it adds a feeling of hopefulness, somehow.  But the feeling of despair returns by the end, effectively demonstrating the waves of grief.

This is not easy listening, but then, one shouldn’t expect that from Thor Harris.

[READ: February 24, 2020] An Ocean of Despair

This is a short, illustrated story by Thor Harris.  Although I guess it’s not really a story so much as a telling of a low point in his life.

He says in 1992 he left Austin for San Francisco.  He hoped to recover his “Self-esteem and love for life.”  But instead he became terrified of social interaction.  It became so bad he woke up with tunnel vision.  He also began having panic attacks which made it hard for him to work.

He felt suicide would be an escape from the misery, an act of mercy.

In a moment of clarity he called his older sister.  She always made him feel like he was okay.  She brought him back to Texas, told him about depression (the disease) and thought that he might be able to get treatment. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: SHARON VAN ETTEN-“Radio Cure” (from WILCOvered, UNCUT Magazine November 2019).

The November 2019 issue of UNCUT magazine had a cover story about Wilco.  It included a 17 track CD of bands covering Wilco (called WILcovered or WILCOvered).  I really enjoyed this collection and knew most of the artists on it already, so I’m going through the songs one at a time.

Sharon Van Etten continues down her more ambient and mellow style with this cover of “Radio Cure.”

She plays everything–keys and piano–hushed and echoed while her voice soars around the song.  About a third of the way in, the drums kick in, giving it a but of oomph.

I really like the original of this song and I don’t quite like the direction she went with this cover.

[READ: February 17, 2020] “With the Beatles”

I have realized that I really enjoy reading Murakami’s words.  I don’t always understand what’s happening.  I don’t often understand why one part of a story is put with another part. And often when I’m done I’m not entirely sure what happened.  But I really enjoy the journey.

This was one where some parts seemed mysteriously tucked into the story.  It kind of all works thematically, but it’s still a bit disjointed.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading the whole thing.

The narrator starts by saying that he doesn’t mind getting older, it’s seeing other people who have gotten older that is so weird.  Really it forces him to admit that his youthful dreams are gone.

He will never forget a girl (a woman who used to be a girl) whom he didn’t actually know.  It was 1964 and this girl was hurrying down the hallway of their school, skirt aflutter, clutching the LP of With the Beatles–the original British version.  Their black and white faces were facing out as she ran.  He has turned this memory into a beautiful moment–he thinks he remembers the way she smelled even (if that is possible).  The moment was thrilling.

But he never saw her again in two more years at school.

He has met many women over the yeas and always tried to recreate that moment to no avail. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MOLLY SARLÉ-Tiny Desk Concert #897 (October 4, 2019).

Molly Sarlé was recently on a Tiny Desk Concert with Mountain Man (who I heard but didn’t really see at Newport Folk Festival).

During the Mounatin Man songs, Molly tends to have the high harmonies.  In this session, she doesn’t sing especially high–although her voice is quite delicate.  It’s hard to believe she was a back up vocalist for Feist, not because her voice isn’t lovely–it is!–but because she doesn’t seem to be a very powerful singer.

The first Mountain Man album came out in 2010.  The second Mountain man album came out in 2018.  This is Molly’s first solo album.  During the intervening years, she did a number of things (like sing backup for Feist), but was apparently never sure if music was her calling.  And yet her songs are personal and powerful.

The songs Molly Sarlé performed at the Tiny Desk are all from her debut solo album, Karaoke Angel. These songs aren’t frivolous–at the heart of Molly Sarlé’s songs are stories. Sometimes they feel like dreamy inner thoughts loosely connected.

She opens with “Human,” a song I knew from a different Mountain Man show on NPR (Tiny Desk Family Hour).

 It may simply be a breakup song; but its wisdom is in recognizing our individual flaws, being OK with them and even finding pleasure in being imperfect beings.

Although interestingly at the Family Hour, she said it’s about how “unfortunately easy it is to talk to god like he’s a man.”

The song is fairly simple–a pretty melody and a steady one-two snare/hi-hat (Austin Vaughn).  In the Family Hour, the song was just her and her gently strummed guitar with backing harmonies.  It’s really lovely.  This version has an absolutely wonderful bass line (from Brian Betancourt) that runs through it.  It doesn’t detract form the beautiful simplicity of the song, it adds a nice counterbalance and I can’t really tell which version I like better.

Bob also says, “She’s a captivating performer who sings as much with her eyes as she does her voice.”  That is so very true.  She looks out at the audience throughout the song, with a possibly inquisitive look.  He blue eyes piercing through the lovely melody.

It’s weird just how funny Molly is–she seems fairly serious, and her delivery is quite slow, and yet she has a  great (or wicked) sense of humor.

Before “Karaoke Angel” she starts looking at the tchotchkes on the shelves.  She

began her fascination with the multitude of objects shelved behind the Tiny Desk back when she sang with Mountain Man earlier this year. This time, with her own band, those objects left by others inspired a tale of a sweaty towel, an old lover and more.

The item, labeled “Betty’s Boob Sweat” leads to a funny story of dating a ember of Feist’s band and the sad aftermath when she could feel somewhat jealous of a sweat rag.

After telling this story she ends with this amusing non-sequitur:  “No one should have to see their ex-boyfriend’s sweat rag on an other woman’s clutch.  Life is painful and this song is called Karaoke Angel.”

Molly plays the main guitar chords (so gently) while Adam Brisbin plays a quiet wavery slide guitar part.  The song sways gently and Molly’s voice is just beautiful–unadorned and clear and very pure sounding.

For all the quietness of the song, the lyrics are pretty amusing too:

I walked into a bar and gave my heart away to the first stranger I met who could remember my name.
I got up on the stage and sang at the top of my lungs Its so easy so easy to fall in love.

Each subsequent verse is about a man in the bar

Mike walked over / he was picking up what I was putting down / he said honey I am only gonna disappoint you somehow / oh Mike quit talking to me like you’re saying something I didn’t already know / I can tell by the beauty / of the furrow in your brow / you’ve been anointed by disappointment / and it might even be something you like.

Before the final song “Almost Free,” Molly tells the shockingly sad origin of the song, but has to laugh, because what else can you do

Molly cleared her throat and said this song is “about my dad wanting to talk to me about committing suicide — and it turns out writing a song about your dad talking to you about wanting to commit suicide is a great way to shift the conversation, because now we just talk about this song.” Molly Sarlé laughed a bit about the absurdity and truth of it all and, with what I sense as holding back a tear, sang a powerful, personal song in an awkward, open office space.

It starts out with just Molly strumming her guitar and singing.  It seems so stark and exposed, that when the rest of the band comes in and the song almost rocks a bit (sounding like a jam band song) that it’s comes as a relief.

This is a quietly powerful Tiny Desk and really shows off how beautiful Molly’s voice is.

[READ: Summer 2019 and October 29, 2019] The Helios Disaster

This is a weird book, to be sure.  It was written by the then wife (now ex-wife) of Karl Ove Knausgaard.  But it is absolutely nothing like his books.  Linda has her own style and perspective that makes these authors miles apart.  This book was translated from the Norwegian by Rachel Willson-Broyles.

It opens like this:

I am born of a father.  I split his head.  … You are my father, I tell him with my eyes.  My father.  The person in front of me, standing in the blood on the floor, is my father. …The blood sinks into the worn wooden floor and I think, his eyes are green like mine.

How at my birth, do I know that?  That my eyes are green like the sea.

He looks at me.  At my shining armour.  He lifts his hand.  Touches my cheek with it.  And I lift my hand and close it around his.  I want nothing but to stand like this with my father and feel his warmth, listen to the beating of his heart.  I have a father.  I am my father’s daughter.  These words ring through me like bells in that instant.

Then he screams.

His scream tears everything apart.  I will never again be close to him.

She removes her armor, puts down her lance and flees the building.  The neighbor, Greta, says she will help the girl, while the police come and investigate the commotion.  When Greta asks the girl what she wants, the girl says she wants to go to her father.  But Greta says that Conrad doesn’t have any children.

What is going on? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: “BE MORE CHILL” Tiny Desk Concert #862 (July 1, 2019).

Be More Chill is a musical based on the YA novel by Ned Vizzini.  I hadn’t heard of the musical, but this Tiny Desk Concert makes me wish I had seen it [it closed August 11] (or that they make a movie out of it).  Or at least I’ll read the book now.

This performance was done on the night after the Tonys [June 9] where it went 0 for 1.

winding down a disappointing awards season. Even its big Tonys moment — a skit in which host James Corden parodied the musical’s breakout song, “Michael in the Bathroom” — passed by without anyone bothering to name the source material.

But you wouldn’t have known it the next morning, as the Be More Chill crew — composer Joe Iconis, all but three members of the principal cast and a handful of musicians, each of whom held a key role in shaping the musical’s sound — bused from New York to NPR’s D.C. headquarters.

Their arrival was a genuine event: For our Sesame Street Tiny Desk concert earlier this summer, we’d encouraged our coworkers to bring their young children, but this time around, we asked for their teenagers — the young theater enthusiasts in their lives, and anyone else they knew who’d fallen under the spell of Be More Chill and its pair of prolifically streamed cast albums.

All the performers seem to be having a great time (especially Lauren Marchus who is a treat to watch).

From the moment they arrived for their Tiny Desk debut, the cast and crew of the Broadway musical Be More Chill radiated kind exuberance. They posed for selfies behind the desk, shared stories from the previous night’s Tony Awards and clowned around with cast member Jason SweetTooth Williams, who’d torn a muscle in his leg 48 hours earlier and used a wheelchair to get from the charter bus to the desk and back

Joe Iconis wrote the music and plays piano. He also introduces the story of an avergae kid named Jeremy.  But there’s a thing called a squip, a supercomputer inside of a pill which tells you how to behave.  The story is how Jeremy now navigates high school.

Iconis also explains that this isn’t a show where people play instruments (like Once), but everyone in the cast CAN play an instrument, so they decided to rearrange the songs for the Tiny Desk.  In the show, the music is

set to wiry, hard-driving synth-rock music.  The show has been a true cult phenomenon, with an intense online following and one of the youngest audiences Broadway has ever seen.

So rather, for this show, there is acoustic guitar, upright bass, melodica and even a washboard.

The blurb is one of the longest and most detailed of any Tiny Desk Concerts as it provides a lot of context for the songs.

In the run-up to “The Pants Song,” Jeremy’s recently divorced dad (played by Williams), who’s been embarrassing his son by moping around the house in a bathrobe, senses that Jeremy is in trouble. So he enlists Jeremy’s newly estranged best friend Michael (played by George Salazar) to step up and intervene. As lighthearted as it is, the song conveys a powerful message about loyalty, parenthood, friendship, forgiveness and advocacy, all wrapped up in a simple mantra: “When you love somebody, you put your pants on for them.”

It is funny and really catchy and features the show’s musical director Emily Marshall on melodica, Charlie Rosen who did the orchestration on upright bass, Gerard Canonico who plays Rick on guitar and Tiffany Mann who plays Jenna Rolan with a tasty backing vocal part.

Britton Smith  washboard

A Guy That I’d Kind Of Be Into” is a showcase for Jeremy’s crush, an oddball theater kid named Christine, who’s played on Broadway by Stephanie Hsu. But Hsu couldn’t make the Tiny Desk, so she’s replaced here by the charming Lauren Marcus, who normally plays Brooke Lohst onstage. It’s a sweet song about the early flowering of romantic interest, but it’s also a wise and insightful nod to the way declarations of young love can be so guarded and tentative that they seem, by design, almost nonexistent.

This song is catchy and very funny.  It’s a wonderfully endearing song.  I can’t comment on Hsu, but Lauren Marcus is terrific.  She plays ukulele and is so visibly emotive.  She totally makes the song come alive.  Britton Smith who plays Jake also does vocals [he played washboard in the previous song].  There’s backing vocals from Emily Marshall and Will Roland who plays Jeremy.

“A Guy That I’d Kind Of Be Into” holds its emotions at arm’s length, but “Michael in the Bathroom” is an atomic bomb of teenage feelings — not to mention one of the most broadly relatable songs from any genre in recent years. The backstory is simple enough: Michael, having been abandoned by his best friend, shows up at “the biggest party of the fall,” only to sequester himself in the bathroom and practically dissolve under the weight of his alienation, self-doubt, betrayal and regret. How George Salazar didn’t get nominated for a Tony will have to remain a mystery, because his performance — like the song itself, which feels like a true standard — will be talked about for years.

George Salazar is really fantastic in this performance.  He is funny and nervous and mad and scare and his voice is terrific.  I love the little Whitney Houston musical quote.  Emily Marshall adds xylophone to the melody.

Before the finale, Iconis says that after Vizzini killed himself, Iconis was able to complete this finale in Ned’s memory.    He then notes that this is the first time they’ve done this arrangement so it could be a total train wreck.  But it isn’t.

Finally, “Voices in My Head” closes Be More Chill — and this Tiny Desk concert — with a rousing celebration of Jeremy’s return from the brink. Played by Will Roland, Jeremy seizes center stage here, taking mental inventory (“might still have voices in my head / but now they’re just the normal kind”) as the other cast members pipe up with their own commentary on his life. Above all, it’s wonderfully rousing, building to a buoyant finale.

Will Roland really impresses with his singing–especially at the end when his voice really soars. The whole cast chimes in in sequence: Jason SweetTooth Williams, Gerard Canonico, Tiffany Mann, Lauren Marcus, Britton Smith.

I really enjoyed this and am very curious to hear what the original soundtrack is like.

[READ: July 1, 2019] “Son of Friedman”

This is an interesting story of a father, a son and fame.

George was once a famous actor.  He could pick his own scripts and lived fairly large.  He had divorced twice.  He was meeting his old friend William.  He and William worked together on many projects, although William’s star never really sank like George’s did.

While they are sitting in the restaurant, George is aware that people are checking out William–but ignoring him.

When George’s son Benji was born, George asked William to be the boy’s godfather.  And he was a great godfather–he celebrated Benji and spoiled the boy.   George and William hadn’t been in touch much in the last decade because of their mismatched celebrity.

But Benji brought them together–somewhat inadvertently. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MAGOS HERRERA AND BROOKLYN RIDER-Tiny Desk Concert #849 (May 15, 2019).

Brooklyn Rider was on a Tiny Desk nearly a decade ago.  My main take away was how poorly it was lit.  I enjoyed them for their multicultural take on classical music.  For this Tiny Desk, they team up with Mexican singer Magos Herrera (whom I’ve never heard of).

When the intrepid string quartet known as Brooklyn Rider first visited the Tiny Desk nine years ago, no one knew what the musicians might play. They’re as likely to trot out an Asian folk tune as they are a string quartet by Beethoven, or one of their own compositions.

For this visit though, we knew exactly what was on tap. The band, fronted by the smoky-voiced Magos Herrera and backed by percussionist Mathias Kunzli, performed three songs from the album Dreamers, a collection steeped in Latin American traditions.

The versatile Mexican singer, who has never sounded more expressive, notes that these songs emerge from struggle.

She says, “Although there is a lot of light and usually I don’t sing that early, my heart is warm and expanding.”

The first song, Gilberto Gil’s bossa nova-inspired “Eu vim da Bahia” is “a tribute to his home state. He released it in 1965 as Brazil’s military dictatorship took charge.”  I love that between the heart-felt words, there is a gorgeous instrumental passage from the quartet (Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen: violins; Nicholas Cords: viola; Michael Nicolas: cello).

She says the songs transcend dark times with the values of their words.  Gil wrote the tune a year before the dictatorship was installed in Brazil

The atmospheric, flamenco-tinged “La Aurora de Nueva York,” composed by Vicente Amigo, has lyrics from a poem written by Federico García Lorca, the Spanish poet who wrote it while he was in residence in New York in the 1920s.  She says “A Poet in New York is my favorite book” and this poem is the most iconic poem from the book.  Her voice is smoky and impassioned.  There’s some wonderful pizzicato from the quartet.  There’s some lovely solo moments from the violins and some spectacular percussion sounds from Mathias Kunzli.

García Lorca, who fell to assassins during the Spanish Civil War in 1936.

The final track “Balderrama,” by the Argentine folk legend Gustavo Leguizamón, ruminates on a café which served as a safe haven for artists to talk about their work.

One of the members of Brooklyn Rider says that when they talked about this project, they wondered which songs to do.  Which would best represent beauty in the face of difficult circumstances–an antidote to cynicism.  What is most precious and beautiful to a culture.

This song and all of them certainly do that.

[READ: May 16, 2019] “The Presentation on Egypt”

I have enjoyed everything I’ve read by Bordas.  And I really enjoyed this one.  A story would have to be good if the apparent main character has your name and–before committing suicide–has to pull the plug on a brain-dead man with your son’s name.  [That was painful to read].

The story opens with Paul telling the wife of the brain-dead man that he is completely brain-dead.  Unlike on TV, he wasn’t going to magically snap out of it.  When the wife finally agreed to pull the plug and the main died, Paul went home, had a cigarette, and hanged himself.

Paul had a wife and a daughter (if either one had my wife or daughter’s name, I would have had to give Bordas a call).  Paul hanged himself in the laundry room, perhaps knowing that his daughter would never go in there. (more…)

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