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Archive for the ‘Vacation’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: BRIAN BLADE AND THE FELLOWSHIP BAND-“Landmarks” (Field Recordings, August 14, 2014).

Here’s yet another Field Recording at the Newport Jazz Festival [Chorale For Horns And iPad App, In The Pouring Rain].

The 2014 Festival must have been a rainy one, because some of the other Recordings seem wet as well.  The blurb explains

We had hoped to get the great drummer Brian Blade to give us a little private exhibition after his set at the Newport Jazz Festival this year. The weather, however, was proving much less generous than he and his band were. Early that morning, a steady all-day rain settled in over coastal Rhode Island, making it difficult to transport dry instruments anywhere. On top of that, a last-minute change to travel plans meant that Blade needed to get out of town quickly — to an airport over four hours away.

But he and the Fellowship Band — the group of guys Blade has been making music with for the better part of two decades or more — were game to figure out something for us. So we herded them into the shelter of a quiet tunnel in Fort Adams State Park.

Despite Blade being a drummer, they are unable to use drums or even bass.  So they decide to play a composition of the keyboardist.  Chris Thomas, the bassist, suggests that he could do an interpretive dance (but he does not).

As they get set up, Jon Cowherd starts tinkering on his iPad.  He gets a synth up and starts playing the opening to Van Halen;s “Jump” which gets everyone excited.  Then he starts playing a cool keyboard sound on the app and the two horns join in on the serene melody.

First Myron Walden starts playing the bass clarinet.  Then he is joined beautifully by Melvin Butler on soprano sax.  The song unfolds simply.  I love the way it just seems to grow and grow–slowly revealing more and more of itself.  But it’s over pretty quickly, with the notes fading in the tunnel.

So even though the featured performer, Brian Blades is not playing–and I still have never heard his drums, this was a nifty little piece.

[READ: April 17, 2016] “Land of the Living”

I had it in my head that Sam Shepard was a noir writer from the 1950s.

Well this story (and the surprising fact that the New Yorker published a second of his stories just a few weeks later) led to something entirely different.  This story is about a man who is going on vacation with his family.

It begins with a very funny exchange between the man and his wife,  She tells him, “It’s just amazing how friendly you become when you’re on Xanax”  And he agrees, “I feel this friendly person coming out in me and I wonder if maybe that’s my real nature.”

The family is currently waiting on a customs line in Cancun.  The heat is unbearable, especially since they have just come from Minnesota.

Their conversation is full of things that he says which she is surprised by: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JAZMINE SULLIVAN-“Stupid Girls” (Field Recordings, August 12, 2014).

NPR and Jazmine Sullivan were in New Orleans’for the Essence Music Festival.

I’m intrigued that this Field Recording [Jazmine Sullivan Fades A New Orleans Barber Shop] is the second one set in a barbershop (technically, this is the first one as I have been watching them in backwards order).

This barbershop, Claer-Vue, is just a few blocks from the Superdome, just off Canal Street. It has been in business since 1948.  It is a men’s barbership and I know that a barbershop is part of the culture but nearly every man waiting to get their hair cut has really short hair already–like closely buzzed.  Are they hanging out or do they get it cut daily?

I had never heard of Jazmine, but she was apparently known to at least some of the patrons

When she walked in, patrons and barbers alike were wary. But they knew who she was, from hit songs like “Bust Your Windows” and “Holding You Down (Goin’ in Circles).” And when she began to sing, wearing her powerhouse instrument lightly, everyone ceded her a floor that had been previously occupied by a heated debate about college football.

With just an acoustic guitar accompanying her, she sings her beautiful song.  Her voice is clear and pretty and devoid of all the trills and filigree of pop singers.

To a roomful of captivated men, she sang a brand new song, “Stupid Girls,” that warns women to be careful with their hearts.

You can see most of the men nodding along. Most are deferential, with side-eyed glances.   There’s polite applause ta the end, but Jazmine is pretty pleased with herself–as she should be.

[READ: September 14, 2018] “Cecilia Awakened”

Tessa Hadley continues to make wonderful stories where nothing seems to happen, but there is a lot going on internally.

Like the way this one starts:

Cecilia awakened from her childhood while she was on holiday in Italy, the summer she turned fifteen.  It was not a sexual awakening, or not exactly–rather, an intellectual or imaginative one.

Cecilia is described as an odd child, but one who fit in perfectly with the oddity of her parents.  Her father worked at a university library and her mother, Angela, wrote historical novels.  Most of all they both loved the past.  When they had Cecilia–late in their lives–they did not feel any need to conform to society any more than they already did.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: LAWRENCE BROWNLEE AND JASON MORAN-“There’s A Man Going ‘Round Taking Names” (Field Recordings, February 17, 2016). 

I know of Brownlee from a Tiny Desk Concert.  But this is a whole other order of magnitude.  He and pianist Jason Moran are playing a spiritual about death in an active crypt.

Brownlee’s voice is powerful and soaring, but full of anguish.  And Moran’s piano is so intense, especially at the end.  He plays the melody but he allows for a lot of overtones and echo to nearly overpower the music.

At the very end, he plays some high notes by literally chopping at the keys like a karate chop–powerful, sharp and dissonant.

Here’s the blurb for more context:

Opera singer Lawrence Brownlee is known for portraying kings and princes. But lately he’s been thinking about real people: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Freddie Gray, to name a few.

He’s been thinking about the Black Lives Matter movement and an old spiritual called “There’s a Man Going ‘Round Taking Names.” Decades ago, singers like Paul Robeson and Lead Belly recorded it. Brownlee, with jazz pianist Jason Moran, revives the old song to tell a new story for the 21st century.

“Jason and I chose this song because we felt it accurately captures a growing sentiment that’s in society today,” Brownlee says. “So many senseless deaths of young African-American men.”

A crypt, they thought, would be an appropriate setting to perform their version of the song. So we took our cameras and microphones — and a lovely piano — deep into the active crypt below the historic Church of the Intercession in Harlem. The 1915 structure at 155th Street and Broadway is a New York City landmark and a dramatic setting for occasional concerts, including a December 2015 recital by Brownlee.

“I know that the ashes of the parishioners of this church are here in this crypt,” Brownlee explains. “You can feel the weight of death, you can feel the sting. It adequately captures the atmosphere, the somber mood that we are trying to capture with this song.”

In this arrangement, an already solemn song becomes even more dark and agitated.

“What [Jason] has done with the piano part has made it build, and you feel the unrest, the turmoil, the tension that is underneath,” Brownlee says. “This is something that is painful and difficult to deal with.”

Woah.

[READ: January 31, 2018] “Self-Portrait with Beach”

This is the story of an older couple who have been together for a while.

They go to the beach, she removes her top and asks “Is the body the house for the soul or are body and soul and one and inseparable.?”  He looks at her and says, “Your body is my soul.”

She laughs that his soul is bound for decay but he continues, ‘Nothing of you will decay as long as I am alive.”

Out of nowhere a man in white comes and offers his homemade beverages.  He says they have unique powers. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: PHISH-Live Bait Vol. 13 [Baker’s Dozen Edition] (2017).

Live Bait 13 was a special release to tie in with the Baker’s Dozen shows at Madison Square Garden.  It’s a little strange that 11 of the 13 songs are from MSG and not all of them, but whatever.  The MSG recordings date from 1994-2016, and the additional two songs are a relativity recent song from Chicago and a 1993 track from Pittsburgh.

The set starts with a 14 minute “The Wedge” (7/20/14 FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island, Chicago, IL).  It seems to be a little stiff and almost “formal” to start with although by around 9 minutes it loosens up and gets funky with some cool drum breaks.  By 11 minutes it turns into a loos jam of chords that sounds familiar like an other song, but I can’t place it.

The “Run Like An Antelope” is from 1993 (7/18/93 I.C. Light Amphitheater, Pittsburgh, PA) and it opens fun with woodblocks and a dramatically dissonant chord.  Trey launches into Led Zep’s “Heartbreaker” riff while the band keeps going.  The middle slows down and gets noisy before ending.

The rest of the tracks are from Madison Square Garden.

“Tube” (12/29/97) starts off quite angular and harsh but grows funky with a cool keyboard sound and solo from Page.   Moving back to (12/30/95) they play a spirited “It’s Ice” which segues into a rather mellow “Kung.”  Most of the nonsense from “Kung” is spoken, including the runaway gold cart marathon. But then they start screaming “Stand up!  STAND UP!”

I love that “It’s Ice” has the kind of vocals that are done in something of a round or a fugue.  It’s followed by “Piper” (12/30/11) that also has that kind of vocals in the round.  Its a nice pairing.  This version is pretty grooving and eventually gets really rocking.  Although the last five minutes are trippy and chill.

There’s a surprise (to me) “Icculus” from 2013. (12/31/13).  Trey has a lot of fun with the story of the helping friendly book.  He talks about how when they first started playing they had a message to impart.

Some of you are not getting the message and it’s pissing us off.  We’re here tonight in the middle of Madison Square Garden to give to the fucking message!  I’m looking around and I’m thinking a lot of you haven’t read the fucking book.  Up next is the fun segue of “Mike’s Song > Swept Away > Steep > Weekapaug Groove” from 1996 (10/22/96) is a large 20 minute block. There’s a good jam that lasts almost ten minutes before “Swept Away” comes in quietly for a minute. It stays quiet through “Sleep” until they launch onto the “Groove.”

The next song is from 2016 (12/30/16) , I think the most recent Live Bait.  “Light” sounds “mature” until the jam plays on for a while and its drifts all over the place until Fish pulls it back around 16 minutes to a wholly unexpected “Party Time.”

I love this version of “Carini” (12/28/98).  It is dark and angular with a really dark and moody jam.  At 8 minutes its gets kind of trippy but by 12 Page takes it into a dark place with synth sounds> Wolfman’s Brother (12/28/98 Madison Square Garden, New York, NY) 37:23

Ghost (12/31/10( is groovy with a half time solo while “Tweezer” (12/30/94) is fast and peppy for nearly the whole 20 minutes. The “Ebenezer” part comes at around 4 minutes with a lot of prolonged nonsense after the word.  “You Enjoy Myself (12/4/09) is a full 20 minutes as well and they seem to stretch it out with the second part coming at 3 minutes and the lyrics starting around 6 minutes in  there’s some great solos by Page and Trey as well.  There’s a funky watery bass solo around 17 minutes before the final vocal jam which is mostly a series of rising and falling yells until they grow quiet by the end.

“No Men In No Man’s Land” is a newer song and they play it nice–stretching it out with a grooving sound and jam.  By 10 minutes it chills down, but it picks up again by 11:30.  At 15 minutes it gets angular and dark and around 20 minutes they start the countdown to Auld Lang Syne.  They come out of ALS with a wonderful “Blaze On,” a fun welcome to the new year.

Nothing could prepare anyone for Phish playing a no repeat 13 night series, but this was certainly a fun reminder of the great shows they’ve played at MSG.

[READ: February 7, 2018] “August”

This story is a slice of life at a lake in August.

The family went to the lake for five seasons over he years.

The narrator says he primary memory is of his father reading intently.  He could read for hours without moving.  Sometimes he would pick up a drink and there was the possibility that he would not drink it before getting to the bottom of the page and then simply put it down, forgotten.

His mother would not read until she picked up a book and then would read intently for a couple of days and then seem to just give up.

It was the second season that his father shot the dog.  Yup, its one of those stories, but not as bad as all that. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FRÉDÉRIC YONNET-Tiny Desk Concert (July 9, 2018).

Dave Chappelle introduced his friend Frédéric Yonnet as “an unlikely talent from an unlikely place, Normandy France.  He plays an instrument I didn’t even know I liked.  Fred, give them a sample of how we became friends [plays a glorious harmonica melody].”

Fred has toured with all the greats Stevie Wonder, Prince (and more, see below).  With the Band With No Name welcome Frédéric Yonnet.

The blurb fills in

Harmonicist Frédéric Yonnet has played with Stevie Wonder, Erykah Badu, John Mayer, Ed Sheeran … even Prince. But his biggest fan and supporter is Dave Chappelle, who worked with the Normandy native on Dave Chappelle’s Juke Joint, a series of intimate parties featuring Yonnet, his Band With No Name, and an all-star cast of unannounced special guests.

That’s how the comedian came to introduce Yonnet (pronounced YAH-nay) at his Tiny Desk concert. From the moment the NPR staff first heard his pocket-sized harmonica, you could feel the electricity in the room. There are virtually no limitations to this instrument in the hands of Yonnet, who is famous for his ability to play chromatic notes on a diatonic harmonica.

During Chappelle’s introduction, he told the crowd about how Yonnet met Wonder at the Grammys and eventually was asked to hop on the Songs In the Key of Life tour. “He’s so good at playing harmonica that another man good at harmonica [Wonder] hired him,” Chappelle has been known to say.

They play three songs.

Yonnet began the show with a mélange of reggae, hip-hop and New Orleans funk, and his Band With No Name were right in the pocket with original funky numbers “Four20” and “FRéEDlosophy,” both of which will appear on his upcoming album, Reed My Lips.

“Four20” starts with strange harmonica riff and then the band come in with an incredibly funky jam (with Christopher Bynum on drums), Dennis Turner on bass).  Yonnet plays some incredible soloing over this really jam from full mouthed harmonica to incredibly dextrous (or whatever that word is for your mouth) single notes the likes of which I’ve never heard on a harmonica before.   Midway through he slows things down points to saxophonist Matthew Rippetoe and says “solo?” which he proceeds to rip out.

After the sing he introduces Kailen “our mascot.”

“FRéEDlosophy” requires some participation from the audience (which includes Chapelle dancing up a storm).  There’s a great heavy riff that propels the song forward as well as some really rocking guitar.  Yonnet moves pretty much nonstop and his playing is really wonderful.

Chappelle’s desire to hear some of that “Mississippi Delta blues” prompted an improvised tune, “No Smokin’ Blues,” which gave guitarist Robbie McDonald, saxophonist Matthew Rippetoe, trumpet player Joe Herrera and keyboardist Daryl Hunt a chance to shine.

Dave encourages them to “Jam it out a bit” blues.  Start with the blues, you can take it anywhere, play yourself out.  But Dave wants “Mississippi Delta blues… sweltering heat I don’t get paid enough blues.”

Yannet obliges.  He puts down the mic (no idea if it’s the same harmonica) and proceed to play a pretty classic blues.  There’s solos from all of the above (McDonald’s is pretty stormin’)

[READ: July 9, 2018] “Under the Wave”

This is a terrifying story.  Well, the first section is terrifying and the rest is the uncomfortable aftermath.

It’s the complete lack of details that make it so terrifying.  A woman and her husband and son are separated by a wave.  That’s all we know.  It must have been huge.  Earthquake?  Tsunami?  Hurricane?  No details are given.  She is asleep and then she is alone.

She walked to the city center where a warehouse was set up and people were huddled.  Food was given out, cots were prepared.  And she sat, for two days, unloving.  Then she saw a girl, a feral girl, crawling through the warehouse sneaking people’s food.

When the girl got to her, she grabbed the girl’s wrist and held her. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE BAND’S VISIT-Tiny Desk Concert #745 (May 21, 2018).

After nearly 800 Tiny Desk concerts, The Band’s Visit is the first Broadway musical ever to play the series.

The show opens with four men in powder blue uniforms (the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra–Garo Yellin-cello; Sam Sadigursky-clarinet; Harvey Valdes-oud; Ossama Farouk-darbouka) playing “Soraya,” a lively instrumental.

From the first note strummed on the oud, Yazbek’s nominated score transports the Tiny Desk to the Middle East with traditional instrumentation and melodies, and weaves in beautiful theatrical ballads.

The Band’s Visit insists that it’s OK, even essential, to get “stuck” with strangers who have different perspectives. It serves as a poignant reminder that our common connection to music can rise above the noise of intolerance

The composer David Yazbek comes out to explain the scene:

The story of The Band’s Visit,  told the Tiny Desk audience, “is about hope and faith and silence and music.” It tells the tale of Egyptian musicians stranded in a small Israeli village. The townspeople have no choice but to take them in. Eventually, the love of music allows the characters to see past their differences and form an unlikely bond in a single night. The musical was adapted from the 2007 film and has been nominated for 11 Tony Awards.

He introduces Katrina Lenk (nominated for a Tony Award).  For this song, she is reminiscing about her childhood growing up in the middle of nowhere in Israel.  The main cultural delight was through her mothers radio and TV via Arabic music and movie stars like Umm Kulthum and Omar Sharif.

“Omar Sharif” is a beautiful song with a wonderful really compelling melody.  It’s noy musical-like at all.  It is very passionate with one big moment but never over the top.  Her accent as she sings is wonderful.  I love the lyric

honey in my ears / spice in my mouth

The song features Andrea Grody on piano and Alexandra Eckhart on bass.

Although it’s a Broadway smash hit, it lacks the opulent, bring-down-the-house song and dance numbers. It’s a more intimate show with some universal messages that fit the up, close and personal space of the Tiny Desk.

Dina interacts with Tewfiq the leader of the orchestra, “the swarthy, handsome Tony Award nominated Tony Shaloub.”

She asks him to sing something and he offers an Arabic poem (a capella).

Yazbek’s poem Itgara’a, translated here from Arabic and sung a cappella by Tony Shalhoub, sums up the show’s philosophy:

When you drink, drink deeply / Drink deeply of the moonlight / drink deeply of the dark / of the loneliness / of the joy.
You will never drain the moonlight / you can never end the dark. /  In your eyes, the flash of joy / in your mouth, the sweet shock of honey.
You are the joy / you are the loneliness. / Drink deep.

It’s followed by a wild and fun instrumental “Haj-Butrus” with pizzicato violin, some wild oud work and an amazing darbouka solo.

For the final song he tells us about a character.  The telephone guy.  He’s off at the side of the stage at a pay phone waiting for it to ring–for… days? weeks?  He’s waiting for his girlfriend to call.  The last song is a culmination of everyone yearning for human connection and something deeper.

“Answer Me” features “telephone guy” who is Adam Kantor.  Kristen Sieh (who plays Iris) representing the cast of thousands and George Abud who plays Camal (and the violin solo earlier) plays some oud in this song.

Kantor has a lovely high voice.  After a brief instrumental break, Lenk sings and then with the backing players as a chorus Shaloub joins in as well.  Although of all of the songs played, this is my least favorite.

The crew from the show, which opened last November at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, descended on NPR at 8:30 a.m. — seven musicians, five actors, a wardrobe department, a make-up artist, a publicist, a music director, the composer and even a vlogger. We started early so they could hustle back to Manhattan for a 7 p.m. curtain.

The musical sounds wonderful and I’d like to hear the rest of the soundtrack.

[READ: July 7, 2016] “The Midnight Zone”

I found this story to be mostly good but there was something that didn’t resonate with me.  The whole story is told in a very detached, first-person style.

The story opens with a family staying in an old hunting camp.  They are told that a Florida panther was seen in the camp a few days earlier, but things were pretty quiet for them.

“we had lunch, then the elder boy tried to make a fire by rubbing sticks together, his little brother attending solemnly….  Then dinner, singing songs, a bath in the galvanized-steel horse trough…and that was it for the day.”

The father/husband gets a call that he has to return home for an emergency.  He said he’d be back in two days.  And so it was just the wife and her two (very) young sons. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: FIRST AID KIT-Stay Gold (2014).

This album was also produced by Mike Mogis, who did The Lion’s Roar.  And with each new album, the “duo” of Klara and Johanna Söderberg grows bigger and bigger.  This album adds a full string section as well as a mellotron, vibraphone and lap dulcimer (these last three all thanks to Mogis.

“My Silver Lining” is an incredibly catchy, swinging song.  In addition to the cool strings and the lovely oooh melody, it’s that big bold “Woah oh” that really sells the song.  I also love the whispered vocals at the end the “try to keep on keeping on” is really cool and a very different sound for them.

“Master Pretender” has some interesting instrumentation–a bass clarinet in the first verse, fiddles and pedal steel in the second verse and striking lap dulcimer in the chorus.  It’s also the first instance of them cursing I think, “I always thought that you’d be here / But shit gets fucked up and people just disappear.”

“Stay Gold” a beautiful chorus sets this song apart, the melody is really great.  “Cedar Lane” is a slower song that focuses on the sisters’ harmonies in the beginning but the chorus inspires with those soaring falsetto notes.  But the biggest and best surprise of this song comes nearly 4 minutes in when the song shifts to an intense refrain of “how could I break away from you?”

“Shattered & Hollow” is a slower, more mellow song with an interesting percussion.  “The Bell” has some unexpected melody lines but soaring vocals, but it all coalesces wonderfully in the last minute “Can you hear the bell?” in great harmony.

“Waitress Song” is so wonderfully down to earth (if not depressing):

I could move to a small town / And become a waitress / Say my name was Stacy / And I was figuring things out / See, my baby, he left me / And I don’t feel like staying here tonight

I also love the way they sing this line in the folky style of the song despite referencing a very different type of song:

I remember the music / From the down stair’s bar: Girls, they just want to have fun

The way the ending of this song redeems itself with the cool lap steel and their ooohs as well as an uplifting ending makes this a surprisingly powerful track:

I could drive out to the ocean / And just stare in awe / I could walk across the beaches / And sleep under the stars / Our love would seem trivial and obscure / Now and never feel lost anymore

“Fleeting One” This song moves along really nicely with some amazing high notes in harmony.  “Heaven Knows” is their by-now familiar autoharp song.  Except that it also combines the rocking elements of the previous albums’ “King of the World” a shuffling guitar, stomping drums and great good fun. And while the last album had them shout FIRE! in the middle of Conor Oberst’s verse, this time they up the ante further by slowing things down and sing

Tell me what’s your story / do you think it’ll ever sell / and what’ll you do if it comes down to it / and it all goes…. STRAIGHT TO HELL!

“A Long Time Ago” ends the album as a dramatic piano ballad.  It sounds really quite different for them.

So this album builds on everything they’ve been working on, adding more and more sounds and getting their voices to sound somehow even better.

[READ: January 30, 2018] “The Boundary”

This story is from the point of view of a young girl whose family looks after a small cottage.  The cottage is in the Italian countryside.  Her family is not Italian (they are from very far away), and when they moved to Italy they first lived in the city.  The countryside is about as alien to them as they can imagine  And they don’t especially like it.

Every Saturday a new family comes to stay in the cottage.  And those people love the countryside, can’t stop talking about how great it is.

The girl who looks after the cottage is familiar with the routine.

There’s usually four of them–two parents two kids. The girl shows them around, shows them the mouse poison and tells them to kill the flies at night because their buzzing will wake them up in the morning.

As the guests settle in, she pretends to ignore them, but she always watches–especially when they leave the screen doors open.  Since the cottage is so close, she can hear everything the family says. (more…)

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