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Sneaky People: A Novel
Sneaky People: A Novel
by Thomas Berger
Edition: Paperback
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Minor Masterpiece From A Master Magician of 20th Century American Fiction, December 16, 2011
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This review is from: Sneaky People: A Novel (Paperback)
The publication of Thomas Berger's ¨Sneaky People¨ in Kindle Format is a welcome event, just as the snail's pace with which his catalog as a whole is being reissued is nothing short of criminal. After all, Berger is the author of such celebrated and stylistically diverse books as ¨Little Big Man,¨¨Arthur Rex,¨and the ¨Rheinhardt¨trilogy, not to mention the book being reviewed here, as well as¨Neighbors,¨¨The Feud,¨ and many more. Well, it is by no means a perfect world, as Berger would be the first to acknowlege. Spleen vented, let's move on to the book at hand.

¨Sneaky People¨ is one of several Berger novels, including ¨The Feud¨and ¨Neighbors,¨ which takes the reader on a Cook's Tour of of the mid-20th Century American middle class. He reveals his characters in all their mendacity, mediocrity, unintentional hilarity, and in many instances their tenderness and basic goodness. They are often as well-intentioned as others are reprehensible. That these redeeming qualities frequently are the products of their ignorance or misapprehensions about the world in which they live in no way diminishes them in Berger's view. In fact, their very dunderheadedness, as it were, contributes to our empathy for them. And the banality of the evil that inhabits the hearts of many of the characters is often as hilarious in the telling as it is horrifying in the contemplation.

Buddy Sandlor is the owner of a used car lot. In Berger's world, Buddy's profession alone would, in any just world, qualify him for the electric chair, or at least a long stretch in prison. Of course it doesn't, but Buddy, with his sharpster's misplaced self-confidence and dim-witted arrogance, does his level best to balance the scales of justice. With no more consideration, moral or practical, than he would give to fleecing a customer unfortunate enough to wander onto his car lot, Buddy decides to have his wife murdered so that he can marry his mistress. It's not that Buddy loves his somewhat dim but decent paramour. He simply decides that all things considered it's the best, and more importantly the easiest, way to stop his side dish from constantly nagging him about his promise to get a divorce. That in his hubris and basic lack of intelligence he gives the execution of this execution about as much thought as what he plans to have for lunch, leads to serious and extremely comic complications for Buddy and most of those who happen to cross his path.

On the other side of the moral universe we have Buddy's adolescent son, Buddy's mistress, and Buddy's wife. Each in his or her own way is just trying to get through life with no more pain than necessary. By turns innocent of the ways of the world, hardened but not hard, and, in the case of Buddy's wife, more shrewd than most suppose, they careen off Buddy's grand plan like bumper cars at a carnival. Some suffer less unpredictable redirection than others, but all are effected to varying degrees.

That Berger can render these three characters as multi-dimensional, with deep flaws and sometimes unflattering personalities, while at the same time allowing us to feel for them, is a tribute to his understanding that most people are some mixture of angel and schmuck. They are full of contradictions that can hurt like hell, but that can also, at least in a novel, be hilariously funny.

Highly recommended.

Beyond The Sun [2 CD Deluxe Edition]
Beyond The Sun [2 CD Deluxe Edition]
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64 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Chris Isaak Record That's Not Just "Another Great Chris Isaak Record", October 20, 2011
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First let me say that "Beyond the Sun" is a great album by Chris Isaak. And it is great in large part because it is not just "another Chris Isaak album." It is an album devoted to a music he loves, that he has in fact based his entire career on - rockabilly and early rock and roll. But it is also a deliberate departure from the songwriting formula that he has followed, with great success, for his entire professional life. We, and he, are better for the chances he takes here.

Like many reviewers, I am an enthusiastic fan of Chris Isaak. I first heard "Blue Hotel," from the album "Chris Isaak," while driving home from work. I bought the album the next day. I was hooked by the purity of Isaak's voice, his range, and the feeling he conveyed. The amazing guitar work of Calvin Wilsey (now unfortunately long gone from the band) perfectly complemented the brooding voice of Isaak. From the barely contained anger of "You Owe Me Some Kind Of Love," to the mixture of desolation and cynicism of "Lovers Game", Isaak displayed his mastery of a type of singing I thought had disappeared with Orbison and Elvis and Jerry Lee. It was a distinct style. It wasn't "Cathy's Clown" - to take nothing away from the Everly Brothers, or "I'm A Loser" - the Beatles had other ways of singing about broken hearts. And it sure wasn't the Stones or the Who.

The style adopted in "Chris Isaak" and the albums that came before and after it, is one of real teen angst, a style of songwriting that first flowered in rockabilly and the earliest rock and roll. It shows up repeatedly in many of the records by artists associated with Sun Records. These songs weren't just about poor guys who got dumped by their best girl, or were so dizzy over some prom queen that they lost control of their car and flew off the road and up to heaven. The new songs were complex and full of contradiction; at their best they had a depth and expressivenes that knocked the Bobby Rydell's, Bobby Vee's, and Fabian's right out of the box and off the radio. Who wanted to hear "Blue Velvet" when you could listen to "Heartbreak Hotel," "Any Way You Want Me," or "Running Scared"? Those songs convinced you with their lyrics and their passionate singing that their protagonists were as confused, co-dependent, and self-pitying as you and the guy who sat next to you in homeroom were. Those songs said no one has ever felt as bad as I do. They were self-absorbed, like most real adolescents are, and they didn't pretend to have all the answers. Even hard-boiled rockers like "Great Balls of Fire" were light years away from "Go Away, Little Girl." The first lines say it all - "You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain, too much love drives a man insane, you broke my will, what a thrill, goodness gracious, great balls of fire!" That's pretty powerful stuff, even without the not-so-subtle innuendo of the title.

Chris Isaak's genius has always been in his ability to capture that sound - the wailing pain and intensity that were so much a part of the birth of rock and roll. On album after album, he never fails to concoct convincing variations on his introspective "forever blue" rock persona. I remember a joke he told about himself between songs at a show - he's standing outside the venue between sets, and a man walking by stops, looks at him closely, then says "Hey, aren't you the guy who sings all those `sissy' songs?" Isaak replies, after a beat, "they're not sissy, they're sensitive."

Issak has the retro, sensitive "blue" rockabilly song down pat, from "Wicked Game" to "Funeral in the Rain" to "Speak of the Devil." Even a "light" tune like "Don't Leave Me On My Own," with its gently rolling rhythm and up-beat hooky melody is not immune - if the girl who ditched him will come back, "I'll fix the place up." Offering to clean his apartment in a pathetic attempt to win back his girl.

It is precisely because "Beyond the Sun" is filled with songs that are rockabilly classics but aren't classic "Chris Isaak" songs, that this record so satisfying. Several reviewers have noted that he is at his best on this album singing lesser-known tunes, particularly rave-ups like "Miss Pearl" or "Dixie Fried." I think that's because those songs are the ones that take him farthest away from his own songwriting style. They are songs that he obviously loves, but generally doesn't attempt. They come out sounding fresh, energized, and rocking.

Isaak also says in the liner notes that he tried to stay away from rote "covers" of the iconic tunes that everyone knows. And that approach generally works. On "It's Now or Never," Elvis' great homage to Mario Lanza, Isaak doesn't try to out-bombast the King. He pulls back a little, and his version of the song shines a new light on an old chestnut without being self-consciously different.

We can thank Chris Isaak for loving a music that was "uncool," so much so that he has devoted his career to it and written a great many songs that are very cool along the way. And we can thank him for taking a deliberate step away from the relative comfort of his own particular songwriting style this time around and giving us an album devoted to exploring some of the other styles that make up what we call early rock and roll, or rockabilly. Highly recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 24, 2011 10:51 AM PDT

Nica's Dream: The Life and Legend of the Jazz Baroness
Nica's Dream: The Life and Legend of the Jazz Baroness
by David Kastin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $22.73
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Nica's Dream" Falls Short of the Mark, July 25, 2011
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As an avid fan of 1950s jazz, I had read about "the Jazz Baronness," Pannonica de Koenigswarter, an heir to the Rothschild fortune, in numerous articles and books about the people who populated the New York jazz scene in those days. When I read about the publication of "Nica's Dream," the first book-length biography devoted this patron of modern jazz, I downloaded the book to my Kindle and looked forward to a great read. Having finished it yesterday, I have to say I was disappointed. I was expecting a great biography, but I settled for an interesting series of vignettes about the world's hippest patron of the arts and those musicians with whom her life intersected.

I think that my disappointment with the book has less to do with the writing or presentation of the subject by the author than it does with the subject matter itself. The problem for the author was finding a way to write a biography of a person whose historical importance depended almost entirely on her relationships with the musicians she knew, rather than her own individual achievements. 'Nica was undeniably a great patron of an art form which then, as now, was looked on with suspicion if not outright derision by the public at large. That she was a devoted friend to many of the most important jazz musicians of her time is undeniable. But it proves awkward in the extreme to tell her story without having to substantially tell the story of those individual musicians, often in great detail.

Sometimes the stories of 'Nica's adventures with musicians like Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, Charlie Parker, and scores of others are engaging and entertaining, and the book is generally quite readable. But what was intended to be a biography of Pannonica de Koenigswarter devolves into a series of short sketches about the lives of those she helped out and befriended in the rough-and-tumble world of jazz in 1950s New York. 'Nica herself comes across as a likable and devoted friend to the many musicians encountered in the book. But is hard to sustain a book length biography of a person whose adult life can be more or less summed up by saying that she was a rich heiress who chose to immerse herself in the world of modern jazz at its inception and generously gave her time and money to help further the careers of the artists she encountered.

The book is particularly awkward because it spends most of its time detailing 'Nica's relationship with one musician in particular - Thelonious Monk. Having read the excellent biography of Monk by Robin Kelley only a few months ago, "Nica's Dream" seemed more like a lengthy appendix to Monk's biography than a biography of de Koenigswarter that could stand on its own.

I wanted to like the book. There are some genuinely interesting episodes and adventures as well as touching anecdotes that demonstrate her genuine affection and esteem for the many great musicians she befriended. But it is that very episodic quality, which continues throughout the book, that ultimately makes it an interesting read rather than a great one.

I think any author would have had difficulty with the organizational problems inherent in telling 'Nica's story. There are only so many ways you can tell the reader that she was a Rothschild, that she drove a Bentley at breakneck speeds with a long cigarette holder clenched between her teeth like a distaff Franklin Roosevelt, helping musicians get to gigs or get out of trouble, and was a decent and caring human being. In this case, it is enough to make for an interesting and sometimes engaging read. But it's not enough to sustain a great biography.

Spirit of Django
Spirit of Django
Price: $14.99
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Schneeberger's Loving and Delightful Tribute to The Master of the Swing Guitar, April 13, 2011
This review is from: Spirit of Django (Audio CD)
"Spirit of Django" by Diknu Schneeberger is a wonderful album. Even if you have never heard of Django Reinhardt, it's hard to imagine anyone who would not be delighted by this music. Discovering this album was like having a Christmas present arrive in April - an unexpected and most welcome surprise. Those who know Reinhardt's music will be doubly pleased with this recording.

"Spirit" is a loving and respectful homage to Reinhardt, and Schneeberger is fully equal to the task of emulating the master. I know that some who have not heard this recording will doubt that claim. But I have been listening to and enjoying Reinhardt's music for 40 years now, and I think I am right. In the early 1980s a fine guitarist named Bireli Lagrene was believed to be so capable of playing like Django that he was seriously regarded by some as the literal reincarnation of Reinhardt (I am not making this up). Having seen and listened to Lagrene, both on recordings and live, during the time those claims were being made, I can say with confidence that as good as Lagrene's playing was, Schneeberger's "Spirit of Django' trumps Lagrene in every respect.

Like Reinhardt, Schneeberger is incredibly comfortable with his instrument. Reinhardt could play at breakneck tempos and still have time to shape his notes with such care and creativity that each became a perfect sound in a string of perfect sounds. Schneeberger has that same ability, using an almost unimaginable quickness of hand to have the time to shape each note to get exactly the sound he intends.

Which is not to say that Schneeberger's genius is equal to that of Reinhardt. After all, Django Reinhardt was sui generis, sounding like no one else who had ever played before. Schneeberger, however, has so brilliantly captured the style and techniques used by Reinhardt that he has created in "Spirit of Django" a recording that is a small miracle in its own right.

Reinhardt enthusiasts will recognize several of the tunes on the album. In addition to "Minor Swing" and a version of "Tiger Rag" that closely resembles Django's own 1935 recording of that tunr, there are standards from the period including "Viper's Dream" and "I'll See You in My Dreams."

"Spirit of Django" is the next best thing to having the master himself return to life and play in a modern recording studio. The acoustic guitar was one of the instruments that suffered most from the limitations of sound recording before the advent of high fidelity tape technology in the late 1940's. Schneeberger gives us back all of the subtle overtones and dynamics lost in the guitar music recorded in the '20s and '30s. Every swing jazz guitar enthusiast owes a small debt of gratitude for this gift from Diknu Schneeberger.

Very highly recommended.

Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything
Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything
by Joshua Foer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.67
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75 of 88 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A "Memorable" Book That Underestimates Its Readers, March 9, 2011
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Joshua Foer's "Moonwalking With Einstein" is a good book, but it will leave some readers thinking about how much better it could have been. In "Moonwalking," Foer tries to have it both ways: to write a serious book about an important subject, memory, while at the same time writing an accessible bestseller (which it no doubt will be). He does this by hooking his excellent writing about the science, history, and cultural significance of memory into the tale of his competition in the 2006 U.S. Memory Championship competition, complete with idiosyncratic competitors, many of whom apparently have neither the time, inclination, or in some cases the basic hygiene required to earn a living other than by hawking "memory secrets" with all the dignity of late night TV pitchmen.

Don't get me wrong. Overall, "Moonwalking" is a thoroughly enjoyable read. Foer has a breezy writing style, and is at times delightfully funny. But it is that same entertaining, shaggy-dog style that ends up contrasting so glaringly with his sometimes profound and always though-provoking sections that tell the serious story of memory and its devaluation in the 20th Century.

Foer's writing on the importance of memory in societies before the development of writing is excellent. The ability of such cultures to pass down knowledge and their own history from generation to generation depended on the development of techniques that allowed individuals to memorize astounding amounts of information. Foer recounts the discovery of the 2,500 year old mnemonic technique known as the "memory palace," by which Simonides of Ceos supposedly recalled the exact location of the victims of the collapse of a banquet hall in which he was speaking in order to guide grief-stricken relatives to the bodies of their loved ones.

In fact the passage of knowledge through writing was disparaged by such men as Socrates, who believed that witten words "could never be anything more than a cue for memory - a way of calling to mind information already in one's head," and that "writing would lead the culture down a treacherous path toward intellectual and moral decay, because even while the quantity of knowledge available to people might increase, they themselves would come to resemble empty vessels." In the 21st Century, when two-thirds of American teens don't have a clue as to when the Civil War began, and one-fifth don't know who the United States fought against in World War II, Socrates' predictions seem prescient rather than merely a quaint longing for the good old days.

Foer reveals some remarkable facts about the evolution of our attitudes toward the written word. The use of punctuation and word spacing was tried out in the 2nd Century A.D., but was ultimately abandoned for 900 years. Until Guttenberg and the invention of moveable type, books were largely regarded as aids to memory rather as primary sources of information in themselves.

Foer also does an excellent job of describing the ways in which the increasing availability of written sources has created a world in which, if one reads at all, one reads extensively rather than intensively. Breadth of knowledge replaces depth of knowledge. Lack of a foundational memory pool inside our brains results in a reduced capacity for critical thinking. Comparing what we learn with what we know, integrating new material with previously acquired and remembered material to gain new insight and understanding about the world, is sacrificed at the alter of Google and instant but unconnected, and largely uunretained, knowledge.

Likewise, Foer's exploration of the neuroscience of memory, including the stories the astonishing abilities of so-called savants, is both insightful and even touching.

It is when he tries to interweave his own experiences as he first reports on and later enters the U.S. Memory Championship competition that Foer stumbles. Foer seems to be working overtime to engage the reader in the story. To his credit, he at least partially succeeds in making a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Some episodes are even laugh out loud funny. But the raw material weighs him down. Unlike recent accounts of other potentially snooze-worthy contests such as crossword puzzle competitions and spelling-bees, his compatriots in the rarified world of super-memory often come across as unlikable or just plain dull. There is no one root for except the obvious candidate, the author himself.

It is too bad that the author, who tells so many important stories that have great relevance in this age of hyper-information, chose not stick to those stories. But we are lucky that Joshua Foer has given us as much as he has in "Moonwalking With Einstein." Without the hook of his shoot-out at the memory corral, this timely and informative book might have gone largely unread by anyone.
Comment Comments (11) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 8, 2011 6:10 PM PDT

Pleyel Jazz Concert 2
Pleyel Jazz Concert 2
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Gerry Mulligan Quartet Pleyel Concerts Vol. 2 - More of Post-Bop Jazz at its Best, November 30, 2010
This review is from: Pleyel Jazz Concert 2 (Audio CD)
"Gerry Mulligan Quartet-Pleyel Concert Vol. 2," recorded in 1954 in Paris, is as terrific as the first volume, and that is saying a lot. Some of tunes that appear on Vol. 1 are found in different versions on this volume, but the quality of the playing is so high that you can take delight in multiple versions of "Laura" or "The Nearness of You." These concert recordings by Mulligan's legendary "pianoless quartet," featuring Bob Brookmeyer on valve trombone in place of trumpeter Chet Baker, are near-perfect examples of what made Gerry Mulligan such an exciting artist. The sound of the Quartet, and Mulligan's approach to the music, sets it apart from the rest of the post-bebop herd in the early 50's that was struggling to find its own voice in the wake of the bebop revolution begun by Parker, Gillespie, Monk, etc. during and after World War II.

With this band, Mulligan continued to develop the immensely creative ideas he explored with Gil Evans and Miles Davis on the seminal "Birth of the Cool" sessions of 1948-9. Unlike the under-rehearsed "ensemble intro, individual solos, ensemble outro" blowing sessions that typified small-group jazz throughout the 50's, Mulligan's Quartet used carefully crafted arrangements that included the extensive use of counterpoint, yet left plenty of room for improvisation. More relaxed and swinging than the more self-consciously "intellectual" approach of John Lewis and the Modern Jazz Quartet, Mulligan created a post-bop style that was challenging, exciting, and unlike any other in jazz.

The Pleyel concerts, captured on Vol. 1 and this disc, display Mulligan's unique approach in all its glory. From the first bars of the opening cut on this disc, "The Lady is a Tramp," with Mulligan coming out swinging the melody on top of a slow, somber, repeated four-note intro by Brookmeyer, you can hear what makes this music so memorable. Mulligan and Brookmeyer play under, around, and with each other in a combination of ensemble, solo, and counterpoint that is brisk, daring, and completely engaging. On "Laura," Mulligan introduces the theme while Brookmeyer plays a tender obbligato. Brookmeyer then takes a stately solo while Mulligan improvises his own soft obbligato in return. The effect throughout is marvelous.

The album maintains this same level of quality and sophistication throughout. "Five Brothers" swings at mid-tempo like a mother, propelled by Mulligan's endlessly inventive improvisation balanced against the stately playing of Brookmeyer. Even a warhorse like "Moonlight in Vermont" sounds new as Mulligan and Brookmeyer trade inventive solos and gently support one another, borrowing freshly-minted licks to pick up where the other left off.

Mulligan's distinctive baritone playing, which emphasizes use of the higher register of the instrument, coupled with the impeccable taste of Brookmeyers valve trombone, makes the Gerry Mulligan Quartet immediately identifiable. And both men can blow like mad. Even at lightning tempos their solos are true improvisations, always surprising yet seemingly inevitable. And the absence of a piano is a plus, adding to the distinctiveness of the Quartet's sound.

I can't think of any higher praise than to say that this music, played before attentive and appreciative audiences in Paris in 1954, sounds just as fresh as it did when it was first recorded. The recorded sound is terrific as well.

Highly recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 2, 2013 7:42 AM PDT

Playel Jazz Concert 1
Playel Jazz Concert 1
19 used & new from $1.95

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Gerry Mulligan Quartet Pleyel Concerts Vol. 1 - Post-Bop Jazz at its Best, November 30, 2010
This review is from: Playel Jazz Concert 1 (Audio CD)
"Gerry Mulligan Quartet-Pleyel Concert Vol. 1," recorded in 1954 in Paris, is a gem of an album. This concert by Mulligan's legendary "pianoless quartet," featuring Bob Brookmeyer on valve trombone in place of trumpeter Chet Baker, is a near-perfect example of what made Mulligan so exciting. The sound of the Quartet, and his approach to the music, sets it apart from the rest of the post-bebop herd struggling to find its way in the aftermath of the revolution begun by Parker, Gillespie, Monk, etc. during and after World War II.

With this band, Mulligan continued to develop the creative ideas that he explored with Gil Evans and Miles Davis on the seminal "Birth of the Cool" sessions of 1948-9. Unlike the "ensemble intro, individual solos, ensemble out" under-rehearsed blowing sessions that typified small-group jazz throughout the 1950s, Mulligan's Quartet used carefully crafted arrangements that included the extensive use of counterpoint. More relaxed and swinging than the somewhat self-consciously "intellectual" approach of John Lewis and the Modern Jazz Quartet, Mulligan created a post-bop style that was challenging, exciting, and unlike any other in jazz.

The Pleyel concerts, captured on this Vol. 1 and a Vol. 2 disc, display Mulligan's unique approach at its finest. From the first moments of the opening cut, "Bernie's Tune," we can hear what makes this music so memorable. The sound of Mulligan's brisk foot tapping sets the tempo of the music to follow, then his baritone sax and Brookmeyer's trombone play a brief ensemble intro, followed by a few bars of counterpoint improv between the two, followed by a repeat of the intro ensemble. Mulligan then launches into a terrific solo, followed by Brookmeyer. But instead of laying out as Brookmeyer solos, Mulligan plays a soft obbligato beneath the trombone. At just over five minutes playing time, the Quartet's performance is delightfully sophisticated, and unforgettable.

The rest of the album maintains the quality and thoughtfulness of the first track. Whether it's the midtempo "Walkin' Shoes" with its irresistible swinging counterpoint, Mulligan and Brooke Meyer trading leads and obbligatos, or the tender interplay between the two on "The Nearness of You," each track is a delight.

Mulligan's distinctive baritone playing, which emphasizes use of the higher register of the instrument, coupled with the impeccable taste of Brookmeyer's valve trombone, makes the Gerry Mulligan Quartet immediately identifiable. And both men can improvise like mad. Even at lightning tempos their solos are true improvisations, always surprising yet seemingly inevitable. And the absence of a piano is a plus, adding to the distinctiveness of the Quartet's sound.

I can think of no higher praise than to say that this music, played before an attentive and appreciative audience in Paris, sounds just as fresh as it did when it was recorded over 55 years ago. And by the way, the recorded live sound is terrific.

Very highly recommended.

Blues-Ette (Bonus Tracks)
Blues-Ette (Bonus Tracks)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Album By A Great Musician, Plus Unreleased Tracks and Alternate Takes, November 30, 2010
Curtis Fuller was one of the greatest trombone players of the 1950s. He made a sizable number of recordings, many of which included members, current and former, of the well-known "Jazztet," including saxophonist Benny Golson and Art Farmer. Fuller and the other players on Blues-ette were solid, creative musicians who played a somewhat lighter, blues-based version of the hard bop school associated with Sonny Rollins, J.J. Johnson, Hank Mobley, and John Coltrane.

As time passed the number of recordings by players like Fuller still in print dwindled down to a precious few. It wasn't until the advent of MP3 technology and the widespread use of downloads as an economical and efficient way to acquire recordings that record companies began rereleasing the back catalogs of players who had been nearly forgotten.

But even before the explosion of re-issues in the last few years, there was always at least one Curtis Fuller album that could be found in any record store with a decent sized jazz section. That album was and is "Blues--ette." It has stayed in print, with occasional exceptions, because it is Curtis Fuller's greatest recording, and one of the finest jazz recordings of the 1950's.

From the first riff of "Five Spot After Dark" you can tell that the band is well rehearsed, inventive, and deeply swinging. An old chestnut like "Undecided" becomes the perfect vehicle for the short staccato lines that characterize Fuller's approach to the trombone. The phrasing of Fuller and Golson is wonderfully matched to the material.

From start to finish, "Blues-ette" never disappoints; it should be in the catalog of any serious jazz collector. This edition is the most complete version available, with the added bonus of alternate takes of "Five Spot After Dark" and "Love Your Spell is Everywhere" as well as three new tunes that never made it on the record as originally released.

This album is a treasure. It is also a great place for those who are stocked up on Miles, Coltrane, Rollins, etc., to begin to explore the great "second tier" of players who populated what is often described as the greatest decade in jazz history.

Highly recommended.

World of
World of

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Coupe Cloue - Another of the Best Bands You've Never Heard, August 23, 2010
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This review is from: World of (Audio CD)
Jean Gesner Henri, nicknamed Coupé Cloue, was the long-time front man and inspiration of this exceptional band of musicians from Haiti. Although their recordings have been consistently excellent, with musicianship and arrangements of the highest quality, very few people outside of Haiti and West Africa are even aware of the band's existence. Coupé Cloue the man was born in 1925, and died in 1998, barely a month after he stopped performing.

But Coupé Cloue, the man and the band, were very much alive from the 1970s through the 1990s. Although only a few CD's are available outside of Haiti, and those few spend long periods out of print before inevitably resurfacing years later, it is no exaggeration to say that the band has had few peers in the realm of Caribbean music. Playing Haitian "compas" in a style heavily influenced by bands from the Dominican Republic as well as West African Soukous, Coupé Cloue has a guitar-rich, multilayered sound that has the loose feel of a jam session in Port-au-Prince - that is until you notice how meticulously each tune has been arranged. Coupé Cloue the bandleader was famous, some would say notorious, for his insistence on rehearsals, and on getting the precise sound he wanted from his band.

And what a sound it is. Beautiful and intricate guitar lines are layered upon one another in a West African/Caribbean mix that is unmistakable. The music comes across as loose and relaxed, but the playing is nothing short of virtuosic, and the arrangements are in fact as tight as a wedding ring on a fat man's finger.

Like that of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and West Africa, the music's foundation is "call and response." In the sweet-sounding, light French patois that is Haitian speech, the lead singer sings the melody solo to introduce the tune, then repeats a simple refrain which is answered back by a chorus of voices from the band, much like a Cuban son montuno. Layered under, over, and around the voices, multiple guitar lines spin out a seemingly inexhaustible supply of rich melody and harmony, punctuated by long improvised solos that can take your breath away. Listen to "Kilibol," or "Louloune." These medium to up-tempo tunes delight the listener with their deceptively simple "party at the beach" themes, while the guitars dare the listener to pay close attention and be amazed.

Whether you take advantage of the bargain price of the MP3 download offered here, or purchase any of the offerings elsewhere on Amazon and other sites, you won't be disappointed. I have been listening to "Maximum Compas From Haiti," for example, for 20 years and I never tire of it. Thanks to the MP3 revolution, there are now several Coupé Cloue recordings available for download, many at a bargain price, while the CD versions of the same albums remain out of print. Get it while the getting is good. It's hard to go wrong with Coupé Cloue.

Do You Want Power
Do You Want Power
20 used & new from $5.15

5.0 out of 5 stars Sharp, Spare, Garage Power Punk That Gets It Right, April 5, 2010
This review is from: Do You Want Power (Audio CD)
From the opening bars of "Red in Tooth and Claw," with its powerful fuzz bass riff supporting a deceptively delicate lead guitar line, to the slow sing-song lyric accompanied by simple piano and 'cello lines on the album-ender "Keep Me in Flowers," "Do You Want Power" is truly "all killer, no filler." It is punchy, minimal, hooky post-punk power pop of a high order.

"I Can't Be True" is a high point; loud, razor sharp bass and drums support a repeated three note lead guitar line, topped off by fierce lyrics sung by Lindsay "Coco" Hames. The repeated chorus "I can't be true" comes across as a declaration of freedom rather than a confession. And the hook-filled, infectious tunes just keep coming, one after another. "Take it With You" hits like a hurricane with bass, drums, and guitar pared down to the bare essentials to support an equally spare, catchy Hames vocal that is slightly echoed. Then comes the country-inflected, acoustic, mid-tempo weeper "Loves Lies Bleeding." It's like a taste of something cool and refreshing before the rock returns full-force in "Modern Game," with the chorus shouted out: "Big cheater, big cheater, It's a b-tch to see you."

A lot of thought and craft went into the making of "Do You Want Power, the Ettes third album. In this case the production brings a sharp shine to the songs, adding to and unifying the record rather than weighing it down.

The third time's the charm for the Ettes. Highly recommended.

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