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Reviews Written by
James A. Vedda RSS Feed (Alexandria, VA USA)
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The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World
The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World
by Lincoln P. Paine
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $27.93
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Impressive in scope and detail, May 26, 2014
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Lincoln Paine has laid out the broad sweep of human history as told from a seafaring perspective. This works well, since maritime activities encompass so much of human migration, trade, and conflict. The evolution of shipbuilding is discussed in numerous places throughout the narrative – in some cases, in substantial detail.
Although great naval battles throughout history are mentioned, they are not a primary focus so readers looking for naval warfare stories should look elsewhere. Nor does Paine spend much time on famous maritime disasters, which others have written about in abundance. For example, the Lusitania and Titanic each get a couple of brief mentions, but the author leaves detailed treatment of those stories to others.
No book about such a large subject can be truly comprehensive, but Paine does a nice job of painting the big picture. Most of that picture is about civilization’s seafaring experience from the earliest tribal excursions to the end of the age of sail. The emergence of steamships in the early 19th century doesn’t appear until after page 500.
For those who like to do their reading on the move, I suggest choosing the electronic version of the book. At 600 pages of narrative and over 100 pages of notes and bibliography, it’s a bit large and heavy for convenient commuter reading.


Life In The Bubble
Life In The Bubble
Price: $14.99
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly modern big band, May 20, 2014
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This review is from: Life In The Bubble (Audio CD)
It’s all here: the variety and superb execution that we’ve come to expect from Gordon Goodwin and the gang. The album is a sampler of jazz/funk, blues, Latin, and straight-ahead jazz, loaded with intricate ensemble playing and excellent solos.
A few examples: Wayne Bergeron is on top of the trumpet section, as always, and is featured on “Years of Therapy” in which he starts out classical style on piccolo trumpet and then cuts loose when he switches to his regular horn. Andy Martin returns on trombone, soloing on the hard-driving “Why Can’t We Have Nice Things?” Eric Marienthal offers alto sax solos on a ballad called “The Passage” and on a hip recreation of the theme from “Get Smart.” Guitarist Andrew Synowiec leads the way on the blues shuffle “Synolicks.”
As talented as the soloists are, the real treat comes from Goodwin’s arrangements. His jazz standard for this album is “On Green Dolphin Street,” which he molds into a new-sounding tune that shows off the band. He also wrote a tribute to Count Basie & Sammy Nestico with a title that asks the question, “Does This Chart Make Me Look Phat?” And just to be different, he has the band backing up vocalist Judith Hill in the high-intensity pop tune “Party Rockers.”
The CD includes a very informative insert so you can read the liner notes while you’re digging the tracks – the next best thing to being there in the studio.
Keep ‘em coming, Gordon.


Trombones
Trombones
Price: $4.45

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Straight ahead jazz with interesting instrumentation, February 17, 2014
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This review is from: Trombones (MP3 Music)
Frank Wess, an early star of the jazz flute, is backed up by four trombones and rhythm, which initially seems like an odd mix. But it’s done with a light, breezy touch that lets it swing without getting too heavy. In addition to Wess on flute, the trombonists get generous solo space and all the soloists do nice work. In fact, it comes across more as a trombone album than a flute album.
Since MP3 tracks don’t come with liner notes, I looked up the sidemen for this session. On trombone there’s Jimmy Cleveland, Henry Coker, Bill Hughes, and Benny Powell. (That much can be gleaned from the cover art.) The rhythm section is Ronnell Bright on piano, Freddy Green on guitar, Eddie Jones on bass, and Kenny Clarke on drums.
This 1956 album is not in stereo and includes just 33 minutes of music. Although that doesn’t meet modern expectations, it’s well worth it if you like swinging 1950s jazz from some great talents of the era.


Live in Living Comfort
Live in Living Comfort
Price: $19.24
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You’ll want to learn trombone (or practice more if you already play), February 13, 2014
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This review is from: Live in Living Comfort (Audio CD)
This 2003 live performance features the energetic and articulate playing we’ve come to expect from Bill Watrous. He’s backed up by Hammond B3 organ (Craig Kastelnik), guitar (Tom Kozic), and drums (Bill Goodwin). On two tracks he’s joined by trombonist Rob Stoneback, who is the album’s producer. Organ trio backup is a departure for Watrous, but he’s recorded with big band, full orchestra, and all manner of smaller groups so this shouldn’t seem surprising.
The selections include six jazz standards and one blues tune credited to Watrous, totaling almost an hour and a quarter of music. Nice assortment, superb execution, and great solos from the entire group. This is the way trombone should sound in a quartet setting. Grab it before it disappears!


Be Bop Big Band
Be Bop Big Band
Price: $8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Hot and fresh from the West Coast, January 3, 2014
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This review is from: Be Bop Big Band (MP3 Music)
Multiple forms brilliance are on display in this 1999 album. The exciting choice of material, the wonderful arrangements, and the variety of exceptional soloists make this a must-have for anyone interested in contemporary big band music.
Carl Saunders is a superb jazz trumpeter who uses the full range of the horn and makes it sound easy. But it’s not all about him: you’ll also hear from trumpeters Ron Stout, Bob Summers, and Bobby Shew; trombonists Andy Martin and Bob McChesney; saxophonists Lanny Morgan, Doug Webb, and Jerry Pinter; and Christian Jacob on piano. This long album – 12 tracks lasting over 77 minutes – allows plenty of time for long solos, but these don’t get in the way of the great ensemble playing.
The CD has three jazz songbook tunes (Emily, Autumn in New York, and Love Dance) and the rest are originals. I couldn’t begin to pick favorites – all the tracks are keepers. The liner notes, an important element of one’s jazz education, are substantial, providing a nice introduction to the music and some of the players. Okay, stop reading this and add this CD to your collection.


Artie Shaw's Jazz Technic, Bk 2: Fourteen Clarinet Etudes
Artie Shaw's Jazz Technic, Bk 2: Fourteen Clarinet Etudes
by Artie Shaw
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.95
45 used & new from $4.05

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The old lessons are still valid – and fun, December 29, 2013
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The 14 clarinet etudes in this book are an excellent workout for the intermediate to advanced player. Don’t skip this one just because Artie Shaw dates back to the big band era. He still has a lot to teach ambitious clarinetists who have been inspired by more recent artists like Eddie Daniels and Paquito D’Rivera.
The etudes are written in a variety of keys and tempos. The most important lessons, I believe, are in melodic phrasing and in using the full range of the instrument. These pieces routinely use the extreme registers. Be prepared to play phrases that reach as high as the second B above the staff. But don’t let that scare you – the etudes are fun to play. I spend some time with them each time I practice.


Fire and Light: How the Enlightenment Transformed Our World
Fire and Light: How the Enlightenment Transformed Our World
by James MacGregor Burns
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.85
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Recognizing the importance and complexity of the Enlightenment, December 29, 2013
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In this slice of history for the general reader, Professor Burns gives us the kind of engaging text that we all wish we’d had in history classes. The complicated evolution of the Enlightenment across a couple of centuries is traced in chapters that alternate among Britain, France, and the United States. We see the transition from feudal and autocratic societies to the emergence of representative democracies coping with the Industrial Revolution.
The first two chapters cover Enlightenment philosophers. This may cause some readers to wonder if this is really a history book, but anyone who has ever taken a philosophy course in college will recognize that Burns’ style is light and breezy compared to their old textbooks. Readers will be rewarded by the historical storytelling in the remaining chapters, and will recognize that the philosophical discussion is important background for what follows.
Knowing the depth of Burns’ prior work, I was looking forward to the “here’s what I think” section at the end of the book, including his view of what the Enlightenment era experience teaches us that’s relevant to the challenges we face today. That discussion filled just the last five pages of the book, and I had hoped for more from the master.
I had the privilege of spending a little time with Professor Burns when he visited the university where I was teaching in the 1989-90 academic year. From that experience, I concluded that the phrase “a gentleman and a scholar” was created to describe him. I hope I’m as productive as he is when I’m in my 90s.


Jim Henson: The Biography
Jim Henson: The Biography
by Brian Jay Jones
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $25.85
100 used & new from $2.77

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A welcome opportunity to get to know a quiet genius, September 21, 2013
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I've enjoyed Jim Henson's creative output for decades, but prior to reading this biography I had not investigated the inside story of this phenomenon or the circumstances of his sudden, early death. This book fills that gap superbly. By the end, I felt saddened by the premature loss of his genius, but enriched by a better appreciation for a man who became a household name while still remaining a mystery to the public.
As with many biographies that begin with the subject's childhood, the story starts out rather slowly. Henson's youth wasn't anything special given the time and the places where he grew up. The author tries to make it interesting, even tracing relatives back to the mid-19th century. (A little too much material from an ancestry website, perhaps?) But once Henson reaches college and gets his first TV job, the story picks up a frenetic pace that endures to the end of the book, reflecting the motivated, high-energy character that was Jim Henson.
A love of TV and its possibilities (not necessarily involving puppets) was the initial motivating factor. In a quote from 1970, Henson remarks, "Family, school, and television are the most important factors in raising children. Of these, television has the least sense of responsibility." He strove to change that with his work on Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, and various special storytelling projects. He also explored new avenues for pure entertainment with The Muppet Show and several movies.
The book appears to be extremely well researched. It satisfies on a variety of levels, for example: a look inside the life of a man who achieved international fame, a perspective on the evolution of television, and a lesson in coping with the ups and downs of the unforgiving entertainment business. A very worthwhile read - 500 pages will go faster than you think.


D'Addario Reserve Bb Clarinet Mouthpiece, X10
D'Addario Reserve Bb Clarinet Mouthpiece, X10
Price: $104.09
17 used & new from $65.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's as good as they claim, May 28, 2013
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I've been using this mouthpiece for about four months, and it has given new life to my clarinet sound. I could hear it and feel it immediately, and others noticed the difference as well. Perhaps most notably, one of those who noticed the improved sound was a colleague who had been a clarinet instructor at a university conservatory for over 30 years.
I'm primarily a saxophonist, but I've been doubling on clarinet for over 40 years. I like an open mouthpiece, so I chose the Medium Open Facing (1.10 mm). Combined with a Rovner strap ligature, I get a nice full sound and good intonation in all registers. My clarinet feels better than ever.


Louis Agassiz: Creator of American Science
Louis Agassiz: Creator of American Science
by Christoph Irmscher
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $24.89
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Creative, quirky, influential 19th century scientist, March 6, 2013
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Louis Agassiz can be seen as the Carl Sagan of the mid-19th century: A scientist whose name was familiar to all, who was respected by his peers, and who frequently produced high-profile publications for general audiences. The Swiss immigrant to the U.S. became a popularizer of science and a pioneer in the way graduate studies and scientific sample collection are conducted at universities. Irmscher describes him as "inspiring, passionate, often caring, and wonderfully adept at convincing people to open their pockets and pay for his dreams."
But throughout the book, I found myself asking: Would I like this guy? Irmscher also describes him as "grandiose, narcissistic, exploitative, and manifestly unfair." He was the archetype of the professor who demands extraordinary efforts from his graduate students, then gives them no recognition and little or no compensation. He treated his first wife poorly and abandoned her when he moved to America. And he was a racist.
The author devotes a 50-page chapter to Agassiz's racism. Some readers may find this a bit much, and feel that at times it strays too far from the main character. Others may find this to be the strongest part of the book.
The last two chapters are at least as much about Agassiz's second wife Elizabeth as they are about Agassiz. This is appropriate because she also became a popular science writer in later years, and it is her publications and private letters that provide the greatest insights into Agassiz during the last years of his life.
Agassiz's fascination with glaciers, his obsession with sample collecting, his battle against Darwinism, and his feuds with colleagues and students are all covered in this interesting narrative. Casual readers may find some of it to be too detailed (for example, descriptions of how the illustrations were created for Agassiz's books), but avid students of the history of science (and scientists) will thoroughly enjoy it.


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