Wednesday, August 29, 2007

It's the Bloody Moon

The Blood Moon showed it hunter face to parts of the world this past Tuesday. For those of us on the east coast, as well as Europe and Africa, we pretty much missed it. Those in Eastern Australia had the best view, as the eclipse occurred at 8 PM in clear skies.

Here are some amazing pictures of the moon from around the world, courtesy of For more info on this amazing phenomenon, go here or here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Two nights of very different music

Sunday Night:

Happy Birthday Mingus- Celebrating 85: Music of Love & Protest

Mingus Big Band & Mingus Orchestra with Gunther Schuller, Conductor
Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Damrosh Park Bandshell, 8 PM, Free

Mingus Big Band:
Saxes: Ronnie Cuber, Wayne Escoffrey, Abraham Burton, Vincent Herring, Jaleel Shaw
Trumpets: Ryan Kisor, Kenny Rampton, Lew Soloff
Trombones: Ku-umba Frank Lacy, Early McIntyre, Andy Hunter,*
Drums: Jonathon Blake
Bass: Boris Kozlov
Piano: George Colligan

*the name of the bass trombonist/tuba was left off the program and I regret I did not catch it during the acknowledgements

Mingus Orchestra
Alto Sax/Flute: Craig Handy
Tenor Sax: Wayne Escoffrey
Bass Clarinet: Douglas Yates
Bassoon: Michael Rabinowitz
French Horn: John Clarke
Trumpet: Kenny Rampton
Trombone: Ku-umba Frank Lacy
Guitar: Jack Wilkins
Bass: Boris Kozlov
Drums: Donald Edwards
Conductor: Gunther Schuller

Sunday night was a beautiful night for outdoor music. Cool and breezy, the sun set gracefully behind the concert shell, which Nadje pointed out, looked with it’s white arc as if it had been removed from the Sydney Opera House and sent north. Sue Mingus emceed the evening.

Contrary to the billing, the Mingus Orchestra played first. Most impressive was Gunther Schuller’s plaid jacket- cool in the 70s, still cool today. Actually, it was very exciting to watch him conduct. I am not too familiar with Mingus’s works for chamber orchestra, but after hearing the 5 or so tunes that they played, three from his acclaimed “Epitaph” (arrangments made of, course, by Schuller) I am most definitley going to check them out.

Highlight: Douglas Yates’s bad ass bass clarinet solo on Pithecanthropus Erectus.

After a short pause and set change, the big band came on. They picked up where the orchestra left off with more excerpts from “Epitaph” before kicking it up with my favorite of the evening, “Freedom.” Ku-umbra Frank Lacy outdid himself on the vocals and while up to this point the concert had been enjoyable, a new energy rippled through the audience during this tune. The set ended with the equally charged “Song with Orange.” Solos by Wayne Escoffrey, Jaleel Shaw and Vincent Herring made me happy.

Highlight: The grayhairs dancing in the audience to “Song with Orange.”


Monday Night

Dharmashakti in Heavan

Integral Yoga Institute, 6th Floor, 7 PM, $20

Deian McBryde (Dharmashakti)- voice
David Freeman- percussion
Nadje Noordhuis- trumpet
Christian Pincock- electronics & valve trombone
Ursel Schlicht- keyboard
Adam Simmons- tenor sax, flute, & shakuhachi

Attendance to this show began as simple friend support. Nadje was playing therefore I was attending. However it only took a few chants for me to be fully engaged in this very out, but very enjoyable evening.

Until last night, I was a Kirtan virgin. I didn’t know it, in fact I had never heard the term Kirtan. In fact, I thought I was attending passively a concert of free jazz, not participating in the chanting of Sanskrit. I must say, chanting was a hell of a lot more fun than listening to free jazz for what turned out to be almost 2 and a half hours!

The kirtan was held in a yoga studio in what is technically the West Village (W. 13 St) but may as well still be Chelsea. I arrived early and was herded to the rooftop garden to wait, which I found even more relaxing than the Nag Champa burning in the gift store. Like any good jazz show, this one started a good 20 minutes late. It took another 20 minutes after the first “om shanti” for me to finally be able to look at Nad without laughing.

Overall, I was very much enjoyed the evening of Sanskrit and jazz. Deian did a magnificent job weaving between audience participation with chants and instructional listening (watch the recorder as it is held in front of the person creating the idea for the group improvisation). There were enough solos to satiate my snobby jazzer taste and there was even a tune in which Adam conducted the entire room in a group improvisation (this was quite interesting!). I thought the horn arrangements were great and won’t lie and say I didn’t feel a sense of connection and energy as the entire room engaged in singing (myself included). If nothing else- it was great ear training (when there is a drone going, it’s a constant game of what interval is this?).

One slight inconsistency blocked some of my happy-peace-energy. Deian welcomed the audience with smiles and patience as we responded on the wrong beats and wrong pitches to his undoubtedly deliberately thought out arrangements. But he did not treat the band with the same warmth. You could sense a perfectionist need for control as he communicated sans smiles with the band members. This definitely did not jive with the love yourself and the world vibe he so successfully created with the music.

Note to self: Stage presence is of equal importance, if not more important than the music. Alternatively, love your band members and don’t be afraid to let the music escape your grasp and develop into its own, uncontrolled entity.

Highlight: When Deian asked who in the audience passionately loved free jazz and a few people actually raised their hands!!

Two consecutive nights of completely different music; this is why I love NY.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Road Trippin'

My friends make fun of me.

I LOVE mix tapes, or as it is these days, mix CDs.

Yes, I am one of those people that feels a well crafted mix tape makes the perfect gift! From the early days of “Lawnmower Tapes I-IV” (made for the 2 years back in the Hubert, NC days when it was my chore to cut the grass of our 3 acre rental farmhouse with the very cool riding lawnmower), to the annual Christmas compilations (this year will make the 7th), to my favorite driving mixes, currently up to “Driving VII: To the MHR,” I love my mixes, especially the driving mixes. There is something magical to about creating the perfectly transitioning flow of music to match the mood of the intended drive.

I could easily go off on a tangent about the correct way to make a mix tape/CD, but everyone’s seen High Fidelity by now and should already know that the first 3 songs are like the thesis statement, allowing the listener to have a basic idea of what’s to come, you should never have the same artist twice in a row unless you are trying to prove a point of some sort, or it is part of a format to be followed for the entire mix, mixing genres is risky but can be extremely rewarding, and the transition from one song to the next is of utmost importance, otherwise you may as well be listening to the radio!

Sorry, tangent unsuccessfully avoided.

Driving mixes are my favorites because I love the escape a road trip offers, especially when accompanied by the perfect music. As road trips are seldom random, they almost always have instigation. Therein lies the beauty of the mix tape/CD (Okay lets be honest; no one makes mix tapes anymore. While having 2 sides can provide a poignant tool for the compiling, it’s just plain impractical to spend so much time recording in real time, or even slightly sped up dubbing. In fact, I really shouldn’t even be making mix CDs. If I were truly up with technology, I would be making Driving Playlists for my iPod and iPod car adapter. Nonetheless, I have no iPod so back to the dated CDs). The mix CD offers the accompaniment for the purpose of the drive.

Let’s take, for instance, the aforementioned “Driving VII: To the MHR.”

This mix was created for my short drive from Fayetteville, NC to Wilmington, NC, driven just a few weeks ago. I was leaving the marching band camp where it was my job to run saxophone sectionals for the annoying can’t get out of your head “West Side Story,” to attend the Manor House Reunion. The MHR is an annual meeting of spiritually connected sisters, no-pants parties, and otherwise general debauchery. I would go into further detail, but want to keep this at least PG in the case of possible younger readers. The gist is that every year Heidi, Amy, Redding, and I, former college roommates occupying the cutest little house on Manor Dr., meet yearly to emote, drink, and overall, be completely and utterly comfortable (a luxury not always available in this judgmental society of ours).

Giddy with anticipation for our trad margarita first night, I compiled a mix of laid back Motown, Pop, and Funk tunes, skillfully (I may add) weaving between artists of yesteryear and today, all designed to get me in the MHR mind frame. The first three songs are as followed:

“Put Your Records On” by Corrine Bailey Rae
“Lovely Day” by Billy Withers
“Tell Me What We’re Gonna Do Now” by Joss Stone

My drive from Fayetteville to Wilmington that Friday, watching the sun set, windows open through the country on route 87 (no interstates for me if I can help it!), iced coffee in hand, tunes blaring uninterrupted due to lack of cell signal (I meant it when I said country) gave me the first (in a really long time) real hour and half of deep, unrelenting, intense, desperately needed, peace. Or did I mean happiness? They were one and the same to me that evening.

That, to me, is the magic of road trips and driving mixes.

Of course there is the very significant added bonus of listening to the mix again. In fact, we girls listened to “Driving VII: To the MHR” a couple times over the course of our reunion as we traveled to the beach, celebrated Redding’s belated 30th, and primped ourselves for our annual night(s) out. And now, as I listen to it while typing, a bit of the country breeze and paling sky lightens within my soul.

There is magic in road trips.

My August road trip was not glamorous and only counted 2 new driving mixes, 2 states, and 4 towns (I also visited Jeanne and her backyard fawn down in J-ville) -pretty much only covered the I-95 corridor of NC and VA (with the slight spin off to the coast). But it certainly repaired my soul. (That and the week following in Fred-Vegas, mooching lovingly off my parents.) I aspire to an Elizabethtown worthy road trip one day, but this little bi-state trip satiated my need so that I was even able to Amtrak it back to NY happily.

My friend Heather knew of my trip and offered an excerpt to accompany the contemplative thought processes that are an inevitable side effect of long hours alone in a car. It’s from a book called “Through Painted Deserts” by Donald Miller, which now resides on my bookshelf, bumped up to next in line, after finishing Kerouac’s classic “On The Road” which I finally started after a brief digression to “The Nanny Diaries” (sometimes I just really love chick-lit).

I’ll conclude this epic ode to the mix tape (CD) and its integral coupling with the every so often desperately needed time honored traditional road trip with Heather’s very thoughtful and perfectly appropriate excerpt:

It's a living book, this life; it folds out in a million settings, cast with a billion beautiful characters, and it is almost over for you. It doesn't matter how old you are; it is coming to a close quickly, and soon the credits will roll and all your friends will fold out of your funeral and drive back to their homes in cold and still and silence. And they will make a fire and pour some wine and think about how you once were...and feel a kind of sickness at the idea that you never again will be.

So soon you will be in that part of the book where you are holding the bulk of the pages in your left hand, and only a thin wisp of the story in your right. You will know by the page count, not by the narrative, that the Author is wrapping things up. You begin to mourn its ending, and want to pace yourself toward its closure, knowing the last lines will speak of something beautiful, of the end of something long and earned, and you hope the thing closes out like last breaths, like whispers about how much and who the characters have come to love, and how authentic the sentiments feel when they have earned a hundred pages of qualification.

And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you, about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn't it?

It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out.

I want to repeat one word for you: Leave.

Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn't it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don't worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Accordian Universe

This picture graced the cover of today's Washington Post. I admit to instant intrigue.

Apparantley, Alexandria, VA, is the host of this year's 60th Annual Coupe Mondiale, the "world cup of accordian competitions for younger players:"
Imagine a universe exactly like ours in every way but for a lone
exception: There is only one type of music. Accordion music.
This week, such parallel universes have collided.

"The soundtrack of life is full of accordions," says Faithe
Deffner, the U.S. delegate to, and vice president of, the Confederation of International Accordionists, which stages the Coupe Mondiale every year. "People don't see accordions very much, but they're always in commercials, television, movies."

More than 1,000 accordionists have descended upon Alexandria to join with their musical kin at the week-long festival. There's an international competition in which 70 musicians under age
32 compete in six categories (winners will perform at 6 tonight at the Kennedy Center) and a domestic competition of 300 players.


In popular culture, the accordion is often maligned. Frank
Busso, 64, of New York, has played the instrument since age 7. He earned a master's degree in business but found playing and teaching the accordion lucrative enough that he never used the degree.

"The good appearances of the accordion are in the background," Busso laments. Nobody notices the accordion player in "Scent of a Woman" as Al Pacino, intoxicated by Gabrielle Anwar's perfume, sweeps her off her feet to tango. Nobody notices when the super-spies of "True Lies," Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis, are dancing to accordion music. They do remember Urkel.

"Steve Urkel," Busso says with a groan. "He didn't do much
for the accordion." Busso's referring to the uber-nerd from the '90s TV show "Family Matters," with his oversize glasses, suspenders hiking his pants well over his bellybutton, and his incompetent accordion playing. Sadly, the accordion got lumped in with the rest of it.


And so it is at the Coupe Mondiale. The accordion as uniter of
families, as breadwinner, as instrument of seduction, as the varsity letter's superior.
The article goes on to highlight several competitors, one who claims: "Without the accordion, I'd just be another drummer or something."

Read the full article here.

Friday, August 17, 2007

In Loving Memory

MAX ROACH 1924-2007

Darcy has already compiled a fantastic list of tributes and obituaries. I guide you there for further reading.