Archive for November, 2009

in performance: matisyahu



Let’s face it folks, finding a spiritual, much less a musical, link between Brooklyn and Jerusalem on a Monday night in Lexington is one serious trick. Yet that was the sort of bridge that Hasidic reggae-rap star Matisyahu constructed last night at Buster’s.

Admittedly, to the much of the pop world, Matisyahu’s music is all about groove. And last night there was plenty of it thanks to a five member band that pumped up plump reggae and dub fabrics as a backdrop for Matisyahu’s vocals.

There were unquestionably hip hop references, as well. But the rhythms were saturated far more in reggae while the overall musical framework frequently shifted into jam band mode – as shown by an enticing instrumental workout that prefaced Ancient Lullaby. With the music, not the lyrics in the driver’s seat, Matisyahu, with Hasidic locks dangling from under a black yarmulke, simply bounced about the stage, enjoying the dense patterns of keyboards and guitars as much as his audience.

There were a few concessions to mainstream rap, such as freestyle rhymes and beat box jams mid way through the performance that were very pedestrian given the more overtly spiritual plains attained during King Without a Crown, One Day and Lord Raise Me Up.

In fact, the truly moving affirmations didn’t revolve around lyrics or reggae-fied narratives at all. When the band’s rhythms morphed into a fetching psychedelic blur, Matisyahu let loose with a wordless high tenor wail that was heavily accentuated by reverb. When that mix was allowed to reach a boil, it didn’t matter what particular faith or spiritual plain one embraced. The music’s rich ambience and obvious devotional dedication was now open to everyone.

things that go klang in the night

klang: jason adasiewicz, tim daisy, james falzone and jason roebke. photo by david sampson.

klang: jason adasiewicz, tim daisy, james falzone and jason roebke. photo by david sampson.

Who would you expect from a band called Klang?

A percussion ensemble? A bell ringers’ society? Personally, if faced with a blindfold test, the first image that would pop in my mind would be of Brian Johnson swinging from an enormous chime whenever AC/DC plays Hell’s Bells onstage. Now, that’s a klang for you.

No, the Klang heading to Lexington this week offers a cheerier though more challenging sound than any of those choices. The latest in a string of indie Chicago jazz ensembles to flow through town courtesy of the Outside the Spotlight Series, Klang is traditional in its makeup (a quartet built around the swing-savvy blend of clarinet and vibraphone) as well as in its repertoire (music inspired by Jimmy Giuffre and Benny Goodman). But expectations pretty well end there.

“A lot of my work tends to be outside of jazz,” said clarinetist James Falzone, who formed Klang in 2006. “It is influenced by jazz, but my music is also inspired by different world genres. Klang was a chance to go with a straight up jazz group. I mean, vibes and clarinet are one of the classic combinations in swing music and post bop jazz.”

Among the initial inspirations behind Klang was saxophonist/clarinetist Giuffre, a ‘40s and ‘50s era arranger for Woody Herman. Giuffre’s trio ensembles of the ‘50s and ‘60s made pioneering use of percussion when it made it use of it all. Many of his percussion-less groups also explored areas of free improvisation with an emphasis on quieter compositional colors that many critics have compared to chamber music.

“I was writing a lot of tunes for this group that explored what I call Giuffre-isms,” Falzone said. “I didn’t want Klang to be a tribute band. But the tunes took on things I associate with Giuffre’s work while at the same time serving as my own statements.

“One of the things Giuffre captured was this sense of space in his music by changing the role of the drummer in the ensemble. He wrote a lot of tunes where the drummer would not be the timekeeper, but a member of the counterpoint. There is a piece on our record (the independently issued Tea Music) called No Milk where drums never actually play with the rest of the ensemble. They just sort of play within the cracks.

“Of course, you need to have a sympathetic drummer for that.”

Luckily, Klang has one of the best. Playing drums and percussion in Klang is Tim Daisy, who has performed with numerous ensembles in Outside the Spotlight concerts here over the past seven years, the most prominent being The Vandermark 5. Bassist Jason Roebke (another OTS regular) and vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz complete the Klang lineup.

But the Giuffre inspiration represents only one area of influence for the band. The music of swing king Goodman – not coincidentally, a Chicago native – is also a guiding but somewhat unexpected force. Since the completion of Tea Music, Falzone has arranged – and, in some instances, written original works based on – Goodman’s small group compositions, especially 1939-41 sextet pieces featuring guitarist Charlie Christian.

“What I love about that music is the concentration on improvisation,” Falzone said. “That was really exciting stuff. You hear it Goodman’s trios, quartets and all of his larger small groups. We will probably be recording some of the Goodman material that I put together soon.

“It’s funny, though. A lot of clarinetists never touch Goodman because of how sacred that music is considered to be.”

While Goodman’s presence might not be obvious on Tea Music, some especially playful views of swing are. On Daisy’s Fickle, a brisk and decidedly cool groove struts before stopping dead in its tracks with punctuated, blues-like jabs. The groove then resumes before deflating entirely into improvisatory flourishes.

Later, on Falzone’s China Black, a loping clarinet melody has the aloofness of a Thelonious Monk tune. But it soon fades into squeals, percussive skirmishes and open-ended improvisation.

“Klang is still a slightly more accessible project than other improvisational groups here in Chicago,” Falzone said. “In a way, that’s largely because of the clarinet, which is a softer, somewhat more un-affronting instrument. Certainly, it can peel the paint off the walls when I’m screeching. But by and large, it’s a mellower instrument.

“Also, even when we’re exploring in our improvisations, I think people really respond to the energy and sense of community between the musicians. When we’re improvising in a freer or more open space, there is such a simpatico between the members of the ensemble. We’re listening to each other, we’re responding to each other and we’re, quite literally, engaged in a conversation.

“And I think that is when musicians are really at their best.”   

Klang performs at 8:30 tonight at Al’s Bar, 6th and Limestome. Admission is $5. Call  (859) 309-2901.

“an immersion of self”

matisyahu performs tonight at buster's.

matisyahu performs tonight at buster's.

On the cover of his third and newest studio album Light, we see a sunwashed photo of Matisyahu looking nothing short of tranquil.

Gone is the black suit and wide-brimmed hat – traditional garb of the Hasidic Jewish faith he long ago adopted but still very much embraces. But a full five years have passed since Matisyahu was introduced as an almost impossible pop creation – a Hasid who rapped about life and faith over dancehall reggae and dub grooves. Back then, it was difficult to view the young artist as anything other than a novelty. But in 2009, the look and the sound of Matisyahu have become more, well, enlightened.

“What I do is the result of a process, an organic process, which is reflective of what, I think, most musicians and artists go through when they are creating any type of work,” Matisyahu said in a recent phone interview.

“For me, Light is really a reflection of life experience, of life process and all that comes along with that – artistically, musically, spiritually. It’s about all of these different aspects. It’s a full on expression, an immersion of self.”

The album is also something of a sonic and stylistic expansion. Fans that simply go for the groove in Matisyahu’s music will find a deeper pool to wade through on Light. The dub-style accents become more rugged and expansive on For You while Darkness Into Light shifts percolating rhymes that race by with the speed of a Manhattan cab ride into a groove saturated with guitar crunch.

The biggest departure, perhaps, is the album closing Silence, an affirming but sobering meditation surrounded not by dancehall beats but by the acoustic guitar ambience of Trevor Hall, who will share the concert bill when Matisyahu makes his Lexington debut tonight at Buster’s.

“These styles, these sounds, come from the musical inspiration leading up to the record,” Matisyahu said. “The inspiration is what you feed off of, it’s what I was influenced by as a teenager who was developing and wanting to be a singer, a rapper, whatever you want to call it. More importantly, that inspiration was about finding my place in it all, about finding different ways to express yourself and not limiting yourself to just one thing.”

Early inspirations for the West Pennsylvania youth born Matthew Miller were the forefathers of two jam generations – Bob Marley and Phish.

“Early on, the first Phish concert I went to when I was 16 years old had a major effect on me. It was the first time I ate LSD. It was a completely immersive experience – just the typical stuff you hear of in terms of experiencing life on a whole new plain of existence.

“But Bob Marley was really a leader for me. His music directed me to the path of wanting to discover my own spiritual tradition, my own heritage and the need to draw upon that.”

Reconciliation and eventually acceptance of a traditional Jewish upbringing went almost hand in hand with a Deadhead like existence spent following Phish on the road. Interests in reggae and rap began to flourish just before joining the Carlebach Shul, a Manhattan synagogue where music was encouraged. When studies led to him to the Lubavitch Hasidic sect, Matthew Miller became Matisyahu.

“So I began performing my music in the Jewish world,” he said. “For example, I would get up at a table, do a rap and a rabbi would hear it and invite to play at his Hanukkah party within the community. So there was definitely a certain amount of support I received that served to sort of springboard my career.

“I’m sure there were probably lots of people… well, I’m certain there were lots of people… that were not supportive. But I never paid much attention to that.”

A debut Matisyahu album, Shake Off the Dust… Arise was released in 1994. But it was the subsequent concert recording Live at Stubb’s that introduced the world to the serious dancehall energy of tunes like King Without a Crown and Chop ‘Em Down.

The songs and performances were still fueled by faith. But the album’s recording locale underscored just how far reaching Matisyahu’s appeal had become. After all, Stubb’s wasn’t a synagogue, but a famed Austin, Tx. barbeque and beer joint.

“It felt great,” Matisyahu said of the acceptance brought on by Live at Stubb’s. “This was my dream. So, obviously, it was an amazing feeling. I had personally gone through this process of becoming religious prior to that and gave up a lot. I was taking a chance by jumping into a new lifestyle by kind of divorcing myself from mainstream culture. And I was doing it all with the belief that if I would make these sacrifices and if I would, in a sense, dedicate myself to God, then God would help me make my dreams come true.

“So it was sort of full circle for me. I felt very blessed. And I still feel very blessed to be able to make music.”

Matisyahu and Trevor Hall perform at 9 tonight at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester St. Tickets are $25. Call (859) 368-8871.

in performance: jean-luc ponty

jean-luc ponty.

jean-luc ponty.

It was easy last night at the Singletary Center for the Arts to overlook the technical and instinctual command within Jean-Luc Ponty’s musicianship when compositions were presented as such accessible, melodic delicacies.

But there instances – several of them, in fact – where the landmark French violinist briefly climbed on board the ostinato express to dish out a few dizzying runs on the strings. That at least reminded the audience of exactly the sort of unassuming musical force it was dealing with.

When compared to the mighty fusion music Ponty was known for the late ‘70s and ‘80s, the performance seemed almost delicate. There were no synthesizers and sequencers, just a grand piano and Kurtsweil keyboard at the hands of longtime Ponty bandmate William Lecomte. There were no MIDI systems or echo effects to alter the violin’s natural voice and, as has been the case with Ponty’s bands for the past decade, no guitars.

So with the extra weight gone, the 1 ¾ hour performance flew by with an often effortless lyrical grace. Older, more anthemic and sometimes darker works like Cosmic Messenger, The Struggle of the Turtle to the Sea and especially the show opening Demagomania bore unexpectedly warm but still highly electric casts while newer pieces like On My Way To Bombay and the encore selection To and Fro revealed a pop friendly bounce.

Even tunes that called for the most musical might often sounded playful at the core, as in a medley that matched the 2007 composition Celtic Steps with the 1982 piece it was adapted from, Jig. Here, Ponty’s playing was suitably spry but also open enough to give bassist Baron Browne room to beef up the folky groove.

As fun as all this electricity was, the performance’s highlights came when Ponty largely cut himself loose from amplification. With Lecomte on piano, the violinist performed an almost shy sounding ballad called Last Memories of Her that possessed chamber style finesse.

But the killer was the unaccompanied violin melody of 1983’s Nostalgia and 2007’s Desert Crossing. The former, a tune first recorded with a massively computerized keyboard arrangement, revealed attractive ostinatos in this solo acoustic setting that shot into warp speed on the latter work. From a technical standpoint, this was a stunner – a medley with a temperament that seemed ready to implode before Ponty brought the whole daredevil act to a conclusion with a brief swing flourish.

The bluegrass flavored New Country – a signature tune for Ponty, although he seldom plays it anymore – was served as a finale. Maybe the lure of playing bluegrass fusion in the Bluegrass (this was, after all, Ponty’s Lexington debut) explained why he dusted off the song. No matter. It was a suitable coda for a program that nicely balanced instrumental muscle, stylistic cunning and a simple sense of musical good spirits.

velvet elvis lives

velvet elvis: scott stoess, dan trisko, skerri mcgee, jeff yurkowski. photo by herald-leader staff photographer mark cornelison.

velvet elvis: scott stoess, dan trisko, sherri mcgee and jeff yurkowski. photo by herald-leader staff photographer mark cornelison.

It was, in short, Dan Trisko’s turn. Each time Velvet Elvis reunited, it was for a benefit to be determined by one of its four principal members.

“When we had our first reunion in 1998, we said, ‘Everybody gets one turn at this,'” Trisko said. “And I had never taken a turn.”

So the latest reassembly of the storied Lexington rock band that briefly flirted with national prominence in the late ‘80s was organized as a family affair. The beneficiary will be Trisko’s sister-in-law, West Coast visual artist Sue Trisko, who has been undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatments after being diagnosed with lung cancer last May.

“When I heard about her I thought this is the most obvious thing to do,” Trisko said. “She is married to my hippie renegade brother who quit high school, went out to California and got a record deal. He caused such an uproar in the family over the choices he made that I thought, ‘Boy, I better not do that.'”

But the younger Trisko did do that, although he signed a record contract 20 years later without leaving home. After establishing a solid regional fan base with a pair of independent recordings, Velvet Elvis – guitarist Trisko, drummer Sherri McGee, keyboardist Jeff Yurkowski and bassist Scott Stoess – teamed with producer Mitch Easter (of the band Let’s  Active and co-producer of, among other projects, R.E.M.’s Murmur and Reckoning albums) and signed with Enigma Records.

In 1988 came a self-titled album and concert bills with national acts big (UB40) and small (The Bears). Though critically well-received, the national buzz was brief. McGee left in the summer of 1989. The band folded officially in late 1990.

“When people ask me, ‘Why didn’t Velvet Elvis succeed?’ I say, ‘We didn’t catch the wave.'”

Velvet Elvis’ Saturday reunion/benefit at Cosmic Charlie’s, its first in over six years, will also mark the one-night-only re-teaming of four other Lexington bands – Two Small Bodies, Rebel Without a Cause, VelJetta and No Excuse. Their members make up the majority of the local music community as it existed two decades ago.

 “I was embarrassed to even ask these other bands,” Trisko said. “Seriously. ‘Hey would you do this for free as a favor for me and my sister-in-law who you don’t even know?’ And everyone just instantly said yes. It was great. There wasn’t even hesitation.

“I think it’s incredibly generous for everyone to help out on this.”

Velvet Elvis performs at 9:30 tonight at Cosmic Charlie’s, 388 Woodland Ave. Admission is $10. Call (859) 309-9499.

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an unplanned icon

jean-luc ponty.

jean-luc ponty.

It would seem almost demeaning to refer to the career of perhaps the most influential jazz violinist of his generation as accidental. But the word the landmark French instrumentalist Jean-Luc Ponty continually uses to describe the musical paths he has followed for over 45 years is “unplanned.”

His switch from a classically reared youth to an adulthood of jazz? That wasn’t in the cards. The adventures in amplifying music for rock-like settings on a string of top selling albums for Atlantic Records in the ‘70s and ‘80s? Ponty didn’t see that coming, either. A collaborative project with East African musicians and an eventual return to acoustic jazz once his electric popularity was established? Who would have thought?

Such avenues, it turns out, have simply been part of a creative drive that has long fueled the recording and performance careers of Ponty, who performs his first-ever Lexington concert on Saturday at the Singletary Center for the Arts.

“That’s the excitement of being able to create,” Ponty, 67, said in an early morning phone interview recently from Paris.  “From the time I got a recording contract with Atlantic in 1975 and was really able to put my composing skills to work, I have considered myself first a bandleader/composer using myself and my violin abilities as simply voices in the band. It was never about putting me in front of the band. Being a voice in that sound was always more important.”

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The classical youth: Born in Avranches, France, Ponty graduated at age 17 from the esteemed Conservatorie National Superieur de Musique de Paris with its highest honors before joining the equally championed Parisian symphony, Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux.

“My dream was to become a classical conductor. But I discovered jazz – bebop, specifically – in the early ‘60s in Paris. People there showed such a passion for this music that I eventually left classical music to become a jazz musician. So, already, one of the first steps in my career was unplanned.”

Initially, though, Ponty didn’t approach jazz through the violin, but by playing clarinet. He was taught to play the instrument by his father while Ponty’s mother instructed him on piano.

“There was a band of non professional musicians at a university in Paris that played in a swing style like Benny Goodman. It played at parties there at the university and began looking for a clarinetist. I knew nothing about jazz at that point. I had heard of Louis Armstrong and New Orleans music, but that was all. But they hired me because I could improvise immediately at the audition.

“They said, ‘OK. You know nothing about jazz, but you have a good ear. So we will hire you.’ And they taught me all of the jazz standards of the time. They taught me to shut up when the other guy was soloing and wait for my turn. That’s when I started buying records and discovering how jazz has evolved since Benny Goodman. I discovered Miles Davis and John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk

“That’s how everything started.”

+ + + + + +

In Grappelli’s footsteps: France already had claim to the previous generation’s greatest jazz violinist, Stephane Grappelli. But by the mid ‘60s, Grappelli’s career had quieted. Realizing that a more defining musical voice awaited him on violin than clarinet, Ponty switched to strings.

“It came to his Stephane’s ears that there was the crazy young violinist jamming in clubs and playing what was then modern jazz. So he was intrigued.”

Ponty and Grappelli played and recorded together sporadically in the ‘60s and early ‘70s. But as Ponty’s own jazz voice evolved, so did the need for amplification. Once electricity for his music was discovered, attention came pouring in from outside of jazz circles.

In quick succession came an alliance with composer/guitarist Frank Zappa, a guest role on one of Elton John’s finest albums (1972’s Honky Chateau), a violin chair in John McLaughlin’s second Mahavishnu Orchestra and a move from Paris to Los Angeles.

Lexington violinist Zach Brock, who now lives and works in New York, performs with, among other ensembles, a Mahavishnu tribute band aptly titled the Mahavishnu Project. The group has several times performed, in its entirety, the 1975 Mahavishnu/Ponty album Visions of the Emerald Beyond.

“That gave me a chance to play Jean-Luc’s awesome, unbelievable baritone intro on violin with wah-wah pedal for the first tune (Eternity’s Breath),” Brock said. “It’s one of the scariest things ever played.

“Jean-Luc is simply the living legend, the pioneer king of jazz violin. Period. So many things on the violin would have just never happened if it wasn’t for the path he was forging.”

+ + + + + +

Atlantic, Africa and beyond: With the release of 1975’s Upon the Wings of Music, Ponty began a string of albums for the Atlantic label that would come to define his journeys into amplified fusion music. Some efforts were densely layered, rock-ish recordings (1978’s Cosmic Messenger). Others were largely one man band works with computerized synthesizer arrangements serving as backdrops for the still organic sound of Ponty’s violin melodies (1983’s Open Mind). And, in one sublime case, an album (1976’s Imaginary Voyage) yielded a hoedown-like hit called New Country. In recent decades, new generation string stylists Mark O’ Connor and Bowling Green native/Kentucky Music Hall of Fame inductee Sam Bush have cut their own versions of New Country. Bush’s 2006 recording even featured Ponty as a guest instrumentalist.

“I just think Jean-Luc is the most influential jazz-rock violin player ever,” Bush said following a taping of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour earlier this week where he performed New Country. “He’s a generous guy, a wonderful musician. His timing is beautiful. His intonation is great. I have only good things to say about Jean-Luc.”

“Even though I had more musical adventures after the Atlantic albums, they still form the base of who I am as a composer,” Ponty said. “I had gone though all these experiences of classical music, jazz and progressive rock. So I wanted to create my own music where I could incorporate all these elements. On these albums, I felt like someone who travels musically.

“Then I moved on to that project with the East African musicians (1992’s Tchokola, cut after Ponty jumped labels from Atlantic to Epic) and the Rite of Strings (an acoustic trio featuring fellow fusion stars Stanley Clarke and Al DiMeola which released a self-titled album in 1995). These projects kept me alert as a musician.”

Ponty’s most recent recording, The Acatama Experience, finds him playing largely acoustically. But his current touring band – a streamlined ensemble featuring keyboardist William Lecomte,  drummer Damien Schmitt (both from France) and bassist Baron Browne (a Georgia native) – is versed in Ponty compositions dating back to his 1977 album Enigmatic Ocean.

“I can only be thankful for this musical life I’ve had,” Ponty said. “It went beyond what I could have hoped for.

“You know, I really didn’t expect to have this much fun.”

Jean-Luc Ponty and His Band perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Singletary Center for the Arts. Tickets are $25, $28 and $32. Call (859) 257-4929.

Hybrids not ready for Le Mans.(Auto)

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL) April 16, 2011 Byline: Bloomberg News Audi AG and PSA Peugeot Citroen are vying to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a hybrid motor, a feat that might boost the use of the more fuel-efficient cars.

The two teams have won 10 of the last 11 editions of the race, and are working on a part-electric engine that recoups energy from braking to reduce re-fuelling stops. It’s proving difficult: Peugeot said this week it abandoned plans to run a 908 Hybrid4 in an official test at the circuit southwest of Paris, citing reliability problems. Audi won’t be ready until next year’s race at the earliest.

They’re dueling for a landmark moment in motor sports that would boost the image of hybrid cars and their brand, according to former U.K. Science Minister Paul Drayson, who has twice raced at Le Mans. The event, sponsored by Swiss watchmaker Rolex Group and glorified in a 1971 movie starring Steve McQueen, draws as many as 200,000 fans.

“It would be a big deal if a hybrid wins,” Drayson said. It’s “a good platform for convincing people a low-carbon future doesn’t have to be boring,” he said.

The 24 Hours of Le Mans was first staged in 1923 near the French town of the same name as a durability test for carmakers, including Bugatti, said Quentin Spurring, who’s writing a history of the event. Drivers take turns to cover the most distance in 24 hours on an 8.5-mile circuit. Audi won with a podium sweep last year, 12 months after Peugeot snapped its five-year winning streak.

Organizer Automobile Club de l’Ouest will start allowing hybrids in the top class at this year’s June 11-12 race after consulting Audi, Peugeot and other carmakers who might enter in the future, including Toyota Motor Corp., two people familiar with the situation said.

Cars can reuse braking energy from the front or back wheels.

Peugeot, whose 908 Hybrid4 stores the recaptured energy in batteries, won’t trial it in the April 24 test, having already ruled out entering it in this year’s race. “The car wasn’t sufficiently mature to run” reliably, Bruno Famin, Peugeot Sport’s technical director, said. this web site 2007 porsche 911 gt3

Making a hybrid engine for a 24-hour race poses more problems than for other series because there’s more risk of overheating and parts breaking, Paul Andrews, founder of Lancaster, England-based Oaktec, which develops Honda Motor Co. hybrids for rallying. website 2007 porsche 911 gt3

“It’s doable but it’s going to be a long process” of research and development, Andrews said.

‘Performance-Killing’ Audi is grappling with issues after 18 months of designing and testing hybrid parts, Wolfgang Ullrich, head of Audi’s motor sport unit, said. “Weight is so intensely performance-killing that it makes it really difficult,” Ullrich said.

Gruyere, Switzerland-based Hope Racing is risking a hybrid in the top class. Its 40-kilo system that reuses energy from braking will cut gasoline consumption by 3 to 5 percent, allowing it to make “two or three” fewer pit stops, team director Benoit Morand said.

It’s unlikely to win the race because the team has fewer resources, Morand said, adding its $6.5 million budget may be about six times less than the biggest teams. Audi and Peugeot officials declined to disclose costs.

Carmakers are speeding up development of electric and hybrid systems as governments crack down on greenhouse gases. Peugeot unveiled the first diesel-electric car, a version of its 3008 crossover hatchback, last year. Audi is putting a hybrid Q5 SUV on sale this year. Toyota makes the Prius, the best-selling vehicle in the class.

Dan Akerson, General Motors Co. chief executive officer, told reporters at a briefing in Washington last December that the Prius is a “geek mobile,” and that he “wouldn’t be caught dead” in one, according to The Associated Press.

‘Mainstream, Cool’ “The image of hybrids is that they are niche,” Mike Tyndall, an automotive analyst at Barclays Capital in London. “The efforts of both Peugeot and Audi at Le Mans are to demonstrate that they are becoming mainstream, or even cool.” In 2006, Audi became the first winner with a diesel-powered car, helping to change its perception as “dirty and noisy” to “quiet, efficient and fast,” according to Drayson.

“The next big thing is electric hybrids” at Le Mans, Spurring said. “All the carmakers are looking at it,” adding Toyota won a 24-hour race in Tokachi, Japan using a hybrid sports car in 2007. Porsche AG followed in another endurance event at Nurburg, Germany last year.

Sports Car Flop A hybrid has flopped in the Le Mans sports car category before. In 1998, James Weaver failed to qualify a Panoz Q9 after batteries stacked on the passenger’s seat were rendered useless by a broken shaft, Weaver said.

“I was lumbering around with this huge battery and no extra power,” Weaver said, adding the car missed the cutoff to qualify by 10 seconds.

Peugeot is likely to be extra cautious about introducing a hybrid after last year’s event, Spurring said: all three of its diesel cars suffered engine or mechanical failure. Television pictures showed team officials with tears in their eyes as they watched on video monitors.

–Editors: Christopher Elser, Peter-Joseph Hegarty To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Duff in Madrid at To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Elser at VOW GR CN 7203 JP CN UG FP CN

the top 10 reasons to go see jean-luc ponty

In anticipation of Saturday’s performance by Jean-Luc Ponty at the Singletary Center for for the Arts, as well as a preface to a detailed interview we will feature here on Friday that was conducted recently with the jazz violin giant by phone from Paris, we offer this primer. Here we have, in chronological order, 10 albums spanning 40 years that detail the emotive depth, stylistic invention and sheer fun that make up the music of Jean-Luc Ponty.

+ Sunday Walk (1967) – Though not officially his debut recording, this expressive quartet session was widely viewed as Ponty’s international introduction. The band included pianist Wolfgang Dauner, who still performs duo concerts with Ponty.

+ King Kong (1969) – A wonderfully animated record devoted almost exclusively to the compositions of Frank Zappa that shifts from the wistful quartet reading of Idiot Bastard Son to the 20 minute Music for Electric Violin and Low Budget Orchestra.

+ New Violin Summit (1971) – A long out-of-print concert recording that lands Ponty squarely in fusion territory. Having Dauner, guitarist Terje Rypdal and prog rock hero Robert Wyatt on drums as a rhythm section enhances the electric spirit.

+ Visions of the Emerald Beynold (1975) – The final Mahavishnu Orchestra collaboration featuring Ponty and guitarist John McLaughlin. Hearing the two musically butt heads on Eternity’s Breath, Part 2 remains a beautifully fearsome experience.

+ Imaginary Voyage (1976) – A watershed fusion recording, Imaginary Voyage sported expansive compositions (the four part title tune), a solo violin work drenched in echo effects (Wandering on the Milky Way) and even a bluegrass/bop hit (New Country).

+ Cosmic Messenger (1978) – Arguably the finest and most popular of Ponty’s Atlantic albums, Cosmic Messenger was a tighter but denser exercise with layers of keyboards and guitars augmenting Ponty’s increasingly otherworldly violin sound.

+ Individual Choice (1983) – The first of two largely unaccompanied albums where Ponty created compositions dominated as much by synthesizers as violin. Among the very few guests: bass guitarist and future American Idol judge Randy Jackson.

+ Tchokola (1991) – A career changing album that unplugged Ponty from computers and sequencers in favor of grooves from Senegal, Cameroon and Nigeria. The album’s heavily West African cast is still reflected in Ponty’s live performances today.

+ The Rite of Strings (1995) – A summit featuring three of fusion music’s foremost celebs (Ponty, bassist Stanley Clarke and guitarist Al DiMeola) playing in an entirely acoustic setting. A 1975 Ponty fusion classic, Renaissance, becomes a perfect fit for the sessions.

+ The Acatama Experience (2007) – While guitar pals Allan Holdsworth and Philip Catherine make cameos, Acatama de-emphasizes guitar and electric playing for a gentler but no less absorbing sound. The unplugged solo piece Desert Crossing is a mind-blower.

Jean-Luc Ponty and His Band perform at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14 at the Singletary Center for the Arts. Tickets: $25, $28 and $32. Call (859) 257-4929.


Post-Tribune (IN) April 6, 2007 THIS ELECTRONIC VERSION MAY DIFFER SLIGHTLY FROM PRINTED VERSION Alex’s Cafe Rating: HHH Price range: $ The fish buffet reels hungry diners in to Alex’s Cafe, housed in a converted schoolhouse in Hobart. Walleye, perch, shrimp and rainbow trout are among the featured fish on the buffet table, as are pierogi, Bourbon Street chicken, cevapi and more. Try to leave room for dessert.

7305 Grand Blvd., Hobart Phone: 942-2300 Fiesta Palace Rating: HHH Price range: $ A small restaurant inside a big building, Fiesta Palace has a small menu, but the food is big in taste and size. Tacos, burritos and Carne Asada, typical Mexican fare, are on the menu, as are some not-so-typical items such as the appetizer Queso Panela. Come with a hearty appetite, because portions are large.

6220 Broadway, Merrillville Phone: 887-3377 Amarillo Roadhouse Rating: HHH Price range: $ The promise of all-you-can-eat shrimp and buckets of free peanuts lure you into Amarillo Roadhouse in Schererville. Hefty servings of steak, chicken, seafood, sandwiches and more bring you back to this family-friendly restaurant. The baked sweet potato is a special treat.

1924 Indianapolis Blvd., Schererville Phone: 322-1142 Mia Cucina Rating: HHH Price range: $$ Located at Aberdeen in Valparaiso, this restaurant offers a variety of chicken and pork items and sandwiches, with pasta having the widest selection. Servings are generous and delicious, and be sure to leave room for dessert. Appetizers range from the basic bruschetta to the more unique tomato fondue.

210 Aberdeen Drive, Valparaiso Phone: 548-3300 Joey’s Seafood & Grill Rating: HHHH Price range: $$ Seafood says it all for Joey’s, as it’s offered in so many ways. Fish and chips, shrimp any way you want it, ocean fish, lobster and more seafood highlights the menu. Portions are healthy and entrees come with warm corn muffins and two sides. here carne asada marinade

936 Joliet St., Dyer Phone: 322-9595 Three Floyds Brewing Co. & Brewpub Rating: HHH1/2 Price range: $ While beer is a major draw to this location, the food is also good enough to make a return trip worthwhile. From half-pound sirloin burgers to brick-oven pizza, steaks to fish and chips, portions are hearty and cooked to order. Several unique sandwiches are offered too, so there’s lots of choice, all done well. Service is friendly and attentive.

9750 Indiana Parkway, Munster Phone: 922-4425 Northside Tap Rating: HHH1/2 Price range: $ This former restaurant, bar and hotel now only offers food and libations, but what it does is done well. Bar food is the theme, with burgers, sandwiches and munchies — like cheese sticks, onion rings and chicken tenders — the main attractions. Hot wings are popular, as is the Italian beef sandwich. Portions are huge and you order at the bar.

712 Calumet Ave., Valparaiso Phone: 465-0885 Baker’s House Bakery, Cafe and Catering Rating: HHHH Price range: $ This tiny house serves as cafe, bakery, caterer and gourmet food shop. Cafe offerings include sandwiches like pulled pork, turkey, tuna, chicken and more, to soups like broccoli cheddar. Breakfast foods are also abundant, with bagels, muffins, Danish, doughnuts and quiche. Many foods are available to take home as well.

6004 Miller Ave., Gary (Miller) Phone: 938-9931 Maxine’s Rating: HHHH Price range: $$$ Although billed as continental cuisine, the menu leans toward the Italian part of the continent. Pasta selections abound, with sauces ranging from olive oil to marinara to pesto. There are also entrees of steak, pork and seafood if pasta’s not your dish. All was well prepared and service was prompt and courteous.

521 Franklin St., Michigan City Phone: 872-4500 TJ’s Steakhouse Rating: HHH Price range: $$$$ This chic and intimate hideaway compares well to some of the best steakhouses in Chicago. While appe-tizers like escargot, blue point oysters and crab cakes are excellent, the steak entrees are expertly prepared. And the soup is divine.

777 Resorts Blvd., East Chicago Phone: 378-3330 El Salto Rating: HHHH Price range: $ One of three El Salto locations in Northwest Indiana, this newest site offers superb Mexican fare in the old Munster town hall building. Variety is the key here, with 30 combination plates, lots of dinner specials, house specials, special combinations and fajitas. Food is well presented, well served and well timed.

805 Ridge Road, Munster Phone: 836-0600 Dish Rating: HHHH Price range: $$$ Though located in a strip mall, this restaurant offers far more than standard fare. Daily specials are offered and can include such varied offerings as angel hair pasta, risotto, ribeye or mahi mahi. Menu entrees include steaks, pasta and seafood. Food and service are all first rate. here carne asada marinade

3907 N. Calumet Ave., Valparaiso Phone: 465-9221 Chuck & Irene’s Rating: HH1/2 Price range: $ This eatery is more bar than restaurant and serves up fare typically found at bars, including a long list of sandwiches — burgers, hot dogs, ham, sausage, etc. The daily menu features a couple of steak and taco choices. There are also daily specials, as well.

6110 Kennedy Ave., Hammond Phone: 844-9812 Bogie’s Restaurant and Bar Rating: HH1/2 Price range: $ The menu here features a long list of sandwiches, from Italian beef to British chicken, as well as burgers, pasta dishes and “homemade” favorites. Service is great and the food is fair.

391 W. U.S. 6, Valparaiso Phone: 764-1154 Naughty Grapes Rating: HHH1/2 Price range: $$ While the menu here is limited, what’s on it is done well. Entree offerings included Mediterranean chicken pasta, filet mignon, shrimp scampi, black-pepper seared salmon and sauteed tilapia. Seating is also limited in the main dining area, but a piano bar is available as well.

513 N. Main St., Crown Point Phone: 661-9002 Gentleman Tom’s Hideaway Rating: HHH Price range: $ This nearly hidden hideaway offers entrees like steaks, pork chops, ham, chicken and surf and turf, but only Wednesday through Saturday nights. On Tuesdays, it’s all-you-can-eat pizza for $3. Not just a slice or two of pizza, but a full 12-inch pie starts you off for a full night of eating.

5830 W. County Road 1250N, DeMotte Phone: 987-5186 El Charro Rating: HHHH Price range: $ Authentic Mexican dishes highlight the extensive menu here. Steak, chicken, pork and beef combination plates share space with shrimp and fish selections. Combination plates are served with rice and beans, and tortilla chips and salsa hit the table when you sit down.

5031 E. 81st Ave. (U.S. 30), Hobart Phone: 947-1737 Great Wall Buffet Rating: HHHH Price range: $ A wide variety of Szechuan, Hunan, Cantonese and Mandarin cuisine graces the buffet tables at this low-key eatery. All the food is hot, freshly prepared and tasty. Items range from egg drop soup to seafood to American fare.

5920 U.S. 6, Portage Phone: 763-7776 Popolano’s Edibles & Spirits Rating: HHHH Price range: $$ Tucked into a renovated, two-story home in Chesterton, this restaurant boasts mainly Italian food. Pizza, pastas and sandwiches highlight the entrees, with everything tasty and filling. A wide variety of martinis is also available for those in search of a tasty cocktail as well.

222 S. Calumet Road, Chesterton Phone: 926-5552 Akropolis Rating: HHH1/2 Price range: $$ Expect a culinary trip to the Greek isles during a visit here. Hot and cold appetizers start the meal, with choices ranging from octopus to saganaki (flaming cheese). Entrees include authentic Greek dishes like gyros, dolmades and spanakotiropita, as well as seafood and pasta.

275 Joliet St., Dyer Phone: 864-1889

relishing the road

dierks bentley.

dierks bentley.

It’s officially home stretch time for Dierks Bentley.

The country star’s Saturday show at Rupp Arena will be among his last handful of concert dates this year. Then comes three months off the road to record a new album. Three months. For an artist like Bentley, that’s an eternity. But considering he has spent nearly all of 2009 touring – whether it was in lands as far abroad as Australia or in arenas all across the United States as an opening act for Brad Paisley – any kind of break would seem luxurious.

Bentley, however, isn’t complaining. In fact, the prospect of a year’s worth of live performances coming to a close for the singer seems almost bittersweet.

“As soon as this tour ends, we’re going to be off the road for awhile,” Bentley said. “So we’re milking as much as we can out of these last few dates as far as hanging out with each other, checking out the cities we’re playing in and, of course, rocking the shows hard. We’re going to miss it when it’s all over. But we still have a few shows left, thank goodness.”

Doesn’t exactly sound like a road weary warrior, does it? But then Bentley has plenty of reasons to be enjoying his working life these days. Feel That Fire, his fourth album (excluding a 2008 greatest hits collection titled Every Mile a Memory) has already chalked up two No. 1 country hits – the leisurely electric title tune and the bluegrass-soaked roadhouse rocker Sideways. A third, a traditionally flavored ballad titled I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes, is poised to reach the Top 10.

“I’m biased,” Bentley said when asked for an estimation of how well Feel That Fire stands up for him after a solid year of roadwork. “I would say it’s one my top 4 favorites of the albums I’ve made.”

Of course, much of Bentley’s year has been spent alongside an artist who reaped even greater fortunes. But he said the dynamics of a performance didn’t change greatly when he played opening sets on Paisley’s American Saturday Night Tour.

“It’s not our show at all when we’re out with Brad,” Bentley said. “It’s our show for the hour we’re onstage. After that – and before, really, too – it’s all belongs to Brad. And we’re respectful and appreciative of that. We go out for the hour we get and pretend we’re playing on our stage. We go at those shows as hard as we can with our greatest hits and make sure people are pumped up for Brad.

“It’s little bit different than what we do on our own. With Brad there are maybe less dynamics and more of a punch, whereas our headlining shows are a little more rounded. Of course, keeping the energy level high is always a primary goal. But we also try to look for cool, more spontaneous moments, too.”

As an opening act and as a headliner, Bentley is no stranger to Lexington. Since his self-titled Capitol Nashville debut album was released in the summer of 2003, the Phoenix-raised singer has opened dates at Rupp for Kenny Chesney (twice, in fact) and Montgomery Gentry before headlining his own concert there in 2006. But a more curious Bentley show took place in 2004 just down the road from Rupp. That was when he became one of the only country celebs to play the now demolished West Main location of The Dame.

“I like the variety,” he said. “I’m not afraid to go anywhere. I think I’m one of the few guys in Nashville to play The Dame. I remember that show well. I know Kenny played there too on his tour, but that’s about it.

“I mean, I love playing different types of venues. I don’t want to get locked into playing just one type of place. You’ve got to change things up. Playing different types of venues and different size rooms is cool.”

To make good on those words, Bentley said is he considering a short tour of small halls after his winter performing hiatus ends, much in the same way Chesney annually prefaces his arena and stadium tours with a short run of club shows (like the one that brought him to The Dame in March 2008).

“We’ve got plans to go out and play bars for a month – you know, you go out there, lose money and have fun.

“I love playing the big rooms. I love the feel of 7,000 people all singing together. A kind of magic is created in that. But at heart, I’m one of the last few honky tonkers in Nashville. I moved there with just a guitar and practically grew up playing all those barrooms. I still like playing those places, too

“I’m talking about when people are spilling tequila right there on your boots when you’re onstage. That’s a good thing.”

Dierks Bentley and Gloriana will perform at 8 p.m. Nov. 14 at Rupp Arena. Tickets are  $28.50. Call: (859) 233-3535, (800) 745-3000.

big brass

the dirty dozen brass band: gregory davis, roger lewis, julius mckee,

the dirty dozen brass band: gregory davis, roger lewis, julius mckee, kevin harris, revert andrews, efrem towns.

Over the last two decades, which encompasses just over half of its lifespan, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band has played nearly every music club and corner in Lexington.

In the early ‘90s, when word on the ensemble’s mix of traditional New Orleans brass band music and jazz accents began to spread thanks to such extraordinary Columbia recordings as The New Orleans Album and Open Up: Whatcha Gonna Do For the Rest of You Life, the Dirty Dozen made concert stops at the long-since-demolished Breeding’s and the University of Kentucky’s Memorial Hall.

As the decade drew to a close with more progressive minded Mammoth albums like Ears to the Wall and the John Medeski-produced Buck Jump, the band could be counted for an annual visit (at least ) at the defunct Lynagh’s Music Club.

With the opening of The Dame in 2003 came the first of two brilliant records – the indie live album We Got Robbed and the back-to-basics Funeral for a Friend. That’s when it seemed like six months didn’t go by without a Dirty Dozen Dame date.

Then in 2006 came a night at the big house – a Rupp Arena performance with jam band fave Widespread Panic a mere six weeks after the release of What’s Going On, a Dirty Dozen take on the classic Marvin Gaye album that served as a requiem for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Retrace those funky footsteps and you get a sense of just how chummy the Dirty Dozen and Lexington have become over the years.

“Lexington is one of my favorite cities on the planet,” said Dirty Dozen baritone saxophonist and co-founding member Roger Lewis. “I mean that. I love playing there.”

On Wednesday, the band returns to town to play yet another venue. Actually, it’s a new version of a room it has performed in many times – Cosmic Charlie’s, which now occupies the old Lynagh’s Music Club. And a celebration is being planned. The concert will be part of a tour commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Dirty Dozen’s debut album, My Feet Can’t Fail Me Now.

Lewis doesn’t make much fuss over the milestone. When the Dirty Dozen formed in 1976, a point when working gigs for brass bands in New Orleans grew scarce, he knew that with some serious hard work, both on the road and in the studio, there was no reason the then-young group couldn’t roar into the next century.

“When we put this band together, I knew that if we practiced and kept practicing, we would have a successful project on our hands. So we did. Then we started trying out these different types of music like bebop and mixing it in with the traditional brass band sound. And that made for a different sounding band. Nobody was doing anything like that at the time.

“A lot of people were saying, ‘Man, that’s not going to work. You’ll never get that band off the ground.’ But in my mind, I always knew it would work.”

In sticking to its stylistic guns, the Dirty Dozen possessed a fearsome compositional giant in trumpeter Gregory Davis along with a huge ensemble sound that never lost sight of its roots.

Among Davis’ greatest works is a 15 minute suite for the 1991 Open Up album titled The Lost Souls of Southern Louisiana. From the funereal beginnings to its funky finale of percussion and sousaphone to the brilliant shades of jazz and blues that fill the spaces in between, The Lost Souls remains a benchmark work for the band.

“Yeah, that’s a beautiful piece,” Lewis said. “Gregory Davis wrote a suite that was totally different from anything we had recorded.”

As far as interpretive works go, 2004’s Funeral for a Friend, remains a triumph. Designed as a suite of spirituals for the actual street funeral of one of the band’s own – brass man Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen – the album wound its way luxuriously from the solemnity of Just a Closer Walk With Thee to the serious testifying of Jesus on the Mainline to what might just be the funkiest blues reading of John the Revelator ever heard by human ears.

“That’s a beautiful album,” Lewis remarked. “What I really like about Funeral for a Friend is that it captures the feel of a real New Orleans funeral even though we cut it in a studio.”

The Dirty Dozen also knows how to compile a guest list. Among the disparate greats to appear on its recordings are Dizzy Gillespie, Elvis Costello, Norah Jones, Branford Marsalis, Dr. John, Chuck D. and Bettye LaVette.

But the band also sounds commanding in the sparest of settings. After an especially exhausting set at The Dame several years back, Lewis and trumpeter Efrem Towns ended the evening with a hushed but profoundly soulful duet of St. James Infirmary that quickly silenced a room full of revelers.

“When you’re playing with musicians that are open minded, you can play almost anything,” Lewis said. “At the same time, if we weren’t such a tight band, these people wouldn’t want to play on our records and wouldn’t be asking us to play on their records.

“When you’ve got a tight horn section… man, people just want a piece of that.”

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band performs at 9 p.m. Nov. 11 at Cosmic Charlie’s, 388 Woodland Ave. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Call: (859) 309-9499.


critic’s pick 97

Though operating within differing musical temperaments, Gov’t Mule and Los Lobos have maintained devout jam band and Americana followings over the years. But their new albums, which embrace styles that define their ensemble sound while cautiously expanding upon them, enforce the fact that both bands are best enjoyed when tags and demographic concerns are ignored.

gov't mule: by a thread

gov't mule: by a thread

Gov’t Mule’s By a Thread starts, quite unexpectedly, with a sweaty Southern blues groove ripe with a thick, almost oppressive bass riff and chant-like percussion that makes the tune less like the design of group chieftain Warren Haynes and more like early ‘70s ZZ Top. Later, Scenes from a Troubled Mind offers the same sweaty sentiments by way of guitar hooks born from the blues but filtered through the learned ranks of early ‘70s British boogie merchants (Savoy Brown and Exile on Main St.-era Rolling Stones come to mind). And how about the chiming Haynes guitar lick that bounces around Railroad Boy? It sounds for all the world like the darker ‘70s twilight of The Byrds.

Everything Mule-a-holics have come to love about the band – the beefy but unhurried jams, Haynes’ blues-fortified guitarwork and storylines that find (or at least search) for the sun behind solid skies of grey – are everywhere on By a Thread. But the treats come when Haynes, drummer Matt Abts and company shuffle the deck with the churchy, acoustic rooted reflection Gordon James. Beautifully accented by the bowed bass of the newest Mule, Jorgen Carlsson, the tune is both fortifying and faithful. In short, if Gov’t Mule is hanging onto this world by thread, it remains a rock solid one.

los lobos goes disney
los lobos goes disney

The title to the new Los Lobos Goes Disney sums up the fun you’re in for. The record is as giddy and celebratory as By a Thread is gritty and dark. The veteran East Los Angeles band is new neither to Disney songs (it covered The Jungle Book‘s I Wan’na Be Like You for Hal Willner’s neo-nightmarish Stay Awake in 1989) or children’s music (1995’s Mexican folk-savvy Papa’s Dream). Los Lobos Goes Disney simply swings open the doors and invites everyone to the festivities, from the album opening, warp-speed reading of Snow White’s Heigh-Ho, which sounds like 1971-era Santana in full Latin rock fury, to the closing instrumental, surf-style medley of When You Wish Upon a Star and It’s a Small World, where Los Lobos sounds more like Los Straitjackets.

There are some sentimental surprises, too, such as David Hidalgo’s quiet and moving version of Randy Newman’s I Will Go Sailing No More (from Toy Story). But when Cesar Rosas lets loose Cruella De Vil as a blues rhumba, Los Lobos Goes Disney goes deliciously into party mode.

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