Archive for December, 2009

in performance: boyz II men

boyz II men: wanya morris, sean stockman, nathan stockman

boyz II men: wanya morris, sean stockman, nathan stockman

“Do what you gotta do to get your money’s worth tonight,” said Sean Stockman early into Boyz II Men’s sold out performance at the Singletary Center for the Arts last night.

For patrons visibly versed in the group’s ‘90s-era pop-soul hits, all accounts were settled as soon the trio dug into the New Jack (but now decidedly old school) groove of the show opening Motownphilly. For those more discerning, and they were very much in the minority, the show seemed satisfying but incomplete.

On one hand, there was no denying the stylish, clean and very soulful vocal command of Stockman (the trio’s cleanest, most efficiently emotive singer), Nathan Morris (still in possession of a rugged R&B tenor) and Wanya Morris (no relation, but arguably the group’s strongest vocalist with a very obvious affinity for gospel). More than that, the chemistry between the trio members went way behind the perfunctory soul band moves and choreography that accented many of the tunes.

The show’s continual strength was revealed in how keenly one singer would link to another, often verse to verse within a song. An update of the Bonnie Raitt hit I Can’t Make You Love Me juggled leads between all three. The same held true for a pair of Four Tops classics (It’s the Same Old Song and Reach Out, I’ll be There). And even when one singer was purposely promoted to leader, as Wanya Morris was during the group’s 1994 megahit I’ll Make Love to You, all three served as audience ambassadors by handing out roses. That move, understandably, flooded the Singletary orchestra pit with eager and vocal females.

But here’s the down side: Boyz II Men performed its entire concert without a band. The three sang entirely to pre-recorded tracks and, in some instances, pre-recorded backing vocals. What a drag. All the lead vocals were real. But with nearly everything else canned, the performance had the uncomfortable, unavoidable feel of a big bucks karaoke show.

One fan said it best in the lobby after the show, referencing the concert’s filmed introduction that proudly (and correctly) declared Boys II Men as the the biggest selling R&B vocal combo of all time: “You would think the biggest R&B group could afford some musicians.”


US Fed News Service, Including US State News February 10, 2010 PENSACOLA, Fla., Feb. 9 — The U.S. Navy issued the following press release:

By Gary Nichols, Center for Information Dominance Public Affairs Navy Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (COOL) is one of several Navywide programs that helped launch the Navy into a lofty 17th place ranking in Training Magazine’s prestigious “Training Top 125” list for 2010 during an awards ceremony Feb. 1 at the San Diego Convention Center. in our site best buy mastercard

The “Training Top 125” is an annual list, which honors corporations and organizations that offer outstanding employer-sponsored workforce training and development.

This is the ninth time Training Magazine has produced its “Training Top 125” and the first time the Navy applied for and made the cut. In fact, this is the first time any military service has been included on the list.

“We get a significant number of newcomers that apply each year,” Training Magazine Editor-in-Chief Lorri Freifeld said, “but it’s unusual for an organization come in that high on the list.” That recognition helped the Navy join the ranks of prestigious, well-known and highly successful corporations that include Microsoft, Verizon, Best Buy, MasterCard, McDonald’s, Delta Airlines UPS and Home Depot.

“The Navy had really great training programs,” Freifeld said.

One of those programs is Navy COOL, which stood up at the Center for Information Dominance (CID) Corry Station in Pensacola, Fla., in 2006 and has become a widely sought-after program for both Sailors and civilians who are thinking of becoming Sailors.

Navy COOL is a centralized, Web-based hub that consolidates information from numerous sources at the federal, state and local levels on certifications, licenses, apprenticeships and growth opportunities that correspond with each Navy rating, job and occupation. go to website best buy mastercard

Navy COOL provides funding for Navy enlisted personnel to obtain civilian licenses and certifications that are closely aligned to Navy jobs or ratings.

“Credentialing within the Dept of Navy is a relatively new concept but is paying huge dividends for our Sailors who have used the program,” said Navy COOL Program Supervisor Sam Kelley.

“I am extremely proud of the outstanding work performed by our Navy COOL team,” CID Corry Station Commanding Officer Capt. Gary Edwards said. “They have done an absolutely great job of ensuring that each and every Sailor in the Navy can improve personally and professionally by having an opportunity to earn certifications.” Kelley said his team cross-linked every Navy specialty or rating with Department of Labor equivalent and ensured the Navy offered at least one civilian certification to each job within the Navy.

The end result of the pursuit of a civilian certification is that the Sailor’s individual professional knowledge and skill-set usually increases due to the extra preparation time required for certification examinations and ongoing maintenance of that certification.

“These additional skills may not necessarily be performed or taught in the Navy’s formal training pipeline,” Kelley said, “but are skills performed by the Sailors’ civilian counterparts. The real benefit to the Navy is having a Sailor with increased individual proficiency as a result of gaining and maintaining additional industry-recognized skills.” “We looked at a lot of factors both quantitatively and qualitatively,” Freifeld added. “The training the Navy conducts wasn’t just for fun or because it was nice to have. The training really helps the Navy strategically and it has demonstrable results.” For example, Navy COOL reports more than 2,800 Sailors have reenlisted, which have been directly attributed to them taking advantage of Navy COOL. According to Kelley, the return on investment or “cost avoidance,” since the Navy kept these Sailors instead of losing them to the civilian sector, to date has exceeded $280 million.

Perhaps just as impressive is the high pass rate of 96 to 98 percent for voluntary licenses and certifications among Sailors, compared to the national average pass rate of 75 to 80 percent.

“This tells us the program is exceeding all expectations,” Kelley added. “This program is a definite win for the Sailor, the Navy and the civilian Department of Labor workforce.”

in performance: aram shelton’s fast citizens

It took, by Aram Shelton’s account, a drive of over 11 hours through fog, rockslides and the remnants of yesterday’s massive winter storm for the Fast Citizens to make it from Columbia, South Carolina to Lexington. That meant the Chicago jazz sextet didn’t settle into the comfortable confines of Gumbo Ya Ya at Bar Lexington to start its performance last night until nearly 9 p.m. – about 90 minutes late.

Forgive me for sounding selfish here, but one group’s grief became a music critic’s good fortune. That meant as soon as Boy II Men wrapped up its encore at the Singletary Center, I was in the car and downtown just as the Fast Citizens dug into the show-opening The Twenty Seven.

If the band was at all frazzled by the journey, it didn’t show in the performance. The ensemble and improvisational skills of all six players seemed especially alert, exploring intriguing musical dynamics in an abundance of solo, duo, trio and full band combinations. And then there were the compositions, most of which came from the band’s new Two Cities album, that displayed an animated group charge while leaving ample room, at times, for swing and lyricism to happily implode.

A Two Cities tune called VRC #9 managed to do both. With Shelton on clarinet, the band offered tight single note jabs after the tune’s more punctuated opening made very engaging use of silence and space.

Operating with a slightly different breakdown was Wontkins, a brief romp that squared the band off into two trios (clarinet, sax and cornet in one; cello, bass and drums in the other) before the whole tune, in just under two minutes, dissolved into dissonance.

There were loads of other delights, as well, from cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm’s typically inventive solo cello intro to Big News to the Pharoah Sanders-like mysticism in Looking that allowed all six members to solo independently and simultaneously to the peppery groove that bassist Anton Hatwich and drummer Marc Riordan established under Josh Berman’s cornet lead on Western Promenade.

Just as the clock struck 11, the band wrapped up the mantra-like frenzy of In Cycles and called it a night. “After eleven and half hours on the road, we’re done.” Shelton announced. We can only hope the band found the gig worth the road time. The audience most assuredly did.

life in the fast citizen lane

aram shelton. photo by jen dunn.

aram shelton. photo by jen dunn.

The nearly clichéd axiom of “follow the leader” has long been an accepted band practice in jazz, even though the music almost always depends on the improvisatory input of each player. But imagine the creative possibilities if, on each successive recording and tour, a band could rotate the role of leader?

That’s the working game plan for Fast Citizens, the Chicago jazz collective that helps the Outside the Spotlight Series of improvisational and free jazz concerts celebrate its seventh anniversary Saturday at Gumbo Ya Ya in the new Bar Lexington complex on East Main.

At its last Lexington performance, the band was known as Keefe Jackson’s Fast Citizens after its tenor saxophonist and bass clarinetist. Similarly, the music performed at the since-defunct Icehouse following the release of a 2006 Delmark recording titled Ready Everyday spotlighted a roster of expert improvisers, all of whom have been regular OTS guests over the years – alto saxophonist Aram Shelton, cornet player Josh Berman, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, bassist Anton Hatwich and drummer Frank Rosaly.

The lineup is the same on the fine new Two Cities album. But the band name now reflects its newest leader: Aram Shelton’s Fast Citizens.

“We were talking around the time that we did that last tour about how we all contribute to the group, all the musicians in the band,” Shelton said. “So we decided to try this idea of rotating the leader chair. That person would write the majority of the music for the album. Other members could still contribute. But the leader would also be the point person for getting the word out about the music, arranging concerts, things like that.”

There remains on Two Cities a spaciousness that made Ready Everyday so appealing. But one of Shelton’s desires on the recording – named for the fact that he relocated several years ago to Oakland, Calif. but retains strong artistic ties with his Chicago mates – was to take advantage of the various instrumental combinations within the band.

Two Cities‘ title tune, for instance, quickly trims down to explore harmony and improvisational exchanges between alto sax, cello and drums. The entire band later pumps up shards of swing behind a potent tenor sax charge from Jackson before conversations between drums and cornet bring about the tune’s bright ensemble finish.

“I made it a point on different songs to put these pairings in there so that I could hear these three people together or those two people together. These were maybe pairings I didn’t hear as much when it was Keefe’s group or on tunes Keefe had written for the first album. So that was something I focused on, that different kind of dynamic.”

Only Rosaly will be absent from the current Fast Citizens tour. Having just performed in Lexington last weekend with saxophonist Dave Rempis, Rosaly will be touring the Northeast this weekend with cellist Daniel Levin. Chicago drummer Marc Riordan will take his place.

“I get to give my viewpoint of the band this time. Next time, maybe Josh or Fred will be the leader and they will have a very different viewpoint. So it’s a good thing. I just hope we can move along a bit faster now than one album every three years.”

Aram Shelton’s Fast Citizens performs at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 19 at Gumbo Ya Ya at Bar Lexington, 367 E. Main. Admission is $5.

boyz club

boyz II men: nathan morris, sean stockman, wayna morris. photo by randee st. nicholas.

boyz II men. from left: nathan morris, sean stockman, wayna morris. photo by randee st. nicholas.

The name isn’t an accident.

When Boyz II Men began a hitmaking career 18 years ago, its four members were still in their late teens. As singles like End of the Road, On Bended Knee and I’ll Make Love To You hit the top of the pop and R&B charts, singers Shawn Stockman, Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris (no relation) and Michael McCary were entering their early ‘20s.

That means the Philadelphia born and bred artists met as school age friends, grew up very much in the public eye and became stars that went on to sell 20 million copies of their first two albums at roughly the same time they became old enough to enter a nightclub.

Today, with the team of Stockman, Morris and Morris in their late 30s (McCary departed the group in 2003), life remains sweet. No, they don’t top the charts like they used to. But their recordings remain consistent sellers, as witnessed by the Top 30 status attained by the 2007 covers album Motown: Hitsville USA. Similarly, the group is still a top selling concert act, as reflected by the fact that only a handful of tickets remain for Boy II Men’s Saturday performance at the Singletary Center for the Arts.

But for Stockman, being part of Boyz II Men as he approaches middle age carries a deeper reward. He can still sing to the world and then still go to the supermarket.

“I think we’re in a place I believe a lot of artists would envy,” Stockman said in a phone interview last week from New York. “We’re able to have the best of both worlds. We’re still able to physically perform at the level that we need to. As far as that’s concerned, nothing has changed. But the thing now is that after we perform to 5, 10 or 20,000 people wherever in the world, we can go home, raise our kids, be husbands and enjoy life. We can go the store and buy milk and eggs.

“Seriously. So much of our world is based around TMZ, Youtube and all these gossip websites – all of which we as a group, and me, personally, do not get into. So it’s nice to know we can live our lives in the midst of all that garbage. We live the highs and enjoy the mellows.”

Boys will be Boyz: Like their sound, the members of Boyz II Men hail from Philadelphia – a city as earnestly devoted to soul music as Detroit or Memphis. But when Stockman was a child, Philadelphia was just starting to receive its proper due as a soul and R&B metropolis thanks to, among other things, a sound forged in the city by the songwriting and production team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.

“We were fortunate to have that type of music and that type of history at our disposal while we were growing up,” Stockman said. “If that music wasn’t on the radio, then our parents were playing it at home. You couldn’t help but be influenced by that sound and by Gamble and Huff. It was just something that was in our blood.”

But by the time the five founding members of Boy II Men got together (singer Marc Nelson departed prior to the group’s first recordings), pop, soul and R&B were undergoing a major stylistic shift. Hip hop began to take hold. So did sampled sounds that became integral to the music’s beat and rhythm. Boyz II Men were singers at heart, focusing on rich and often romantic harmonizing. But the sounds that surrounded them were changing rapidly into a sample savvy sound called New Jack Swing.

“All those things helped shape who we are and helped shape music everywhere,” Stockman said. “Being musicians, we couldn’t help but listen to what was going on and to what, at the time, was hot. It was New Jack Swing. It was hip hop. It was R&B, gospel, pop and rock. It was a rich time for music. And we tried our best to scoop it all up.”

Hit Men: Though Philly bred, Boyz II Men signed to Motown. Its debut album, Cooleyhighharmony, sold over 14 million copies. 1994’s II topped the 16 million mark. The follow-ups Evolution (from 1997) and Nathan Michael Shawn Wayna (released in 2000 after Motown was absorbed by Universal Records) paled in comparison but still managed to go multi-platinum.

Today, the trio version of Boyz II Men is spreading the love with a just released covers album aptly titled Love and an especially high profile side project for Stockman.

Love is an ambitious project that features interpretations of pop hits both obvious (the 1972 Spinners pop-soul hit Could It Be I’m Falling in Love) and unexpected (the 1998 Goo Goo Dolls power ballad Iris). It teams the trio with producer Randy Jackson of American Idol fame, although Jackson’s career stems back to a brief membership in Journey during the mid ‘80s and, before that, an extensive career as a bass guitarist on jazz and funk albums. Jackson also produced Motown: Hitsville USA.

“Randy’s cool,” Stockman said. “We’ve known him for some time. His history and our history – it’s just a perfect fit. He understood what we wanted and what we needed to do to bring this album to life.”

Stockman is also following Jackson into the world of TV talent show judging. On Monday, Stockman made his debut as one of the judges – along with Ben Folds and Nicole Scherzinger of Pussycat Dolls for NBC’s The Sing Off, an American Idol-like competition for a capella groups.

“That’s turning out to be a lot of fun because, for me, it’s different but the same,” Stockman said. “It’s similar to the music I’m used to, which is a capella singing. We’ve got some great kids and great talent on the show. But I think people will also be pleasantly surprised at how a cappela singing can be entertaining and skillful at the same time.”

Back to the future: One of the bigger projects in the big picture for Boyz II Men is a possible 2011 reunion with McCary to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Cooleyhighharmony. Those plans are still at the drawing board stages, however. McCary departed Boy II Men not out of conflicts with his bandmates but because of worsening back problems due to scoliosis.

“That pretty much took him out of the game completely,” Stockman said. “Hopefully he is able to get back – at least, for this particular project. We’ve been talking a lot about it. But we have to make sure he is prepared mentally and physically to handle the touring, the performances, the interviews, all of that. Hopefully, it will all work out.”

With or without McCary’s return, the Boyz II Men trio still views performing – and music, in general – as more than a mere occupation. It remains a nourishing means of artistic expression as well as the most fun a pack of friends from Philly can still have.

“Our music is what keeps us alive in a lot of ways – not just monetarily, but physically, emotionally and spiritually. It is still incredibly important to us and very much a part of who we are.”

Boyz II Men perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Singletary Center for the Arts. Tickets are $30, $35 and $40. Call (859) 257-4929.


trans-siberian orchestra performs tonight at rupp arena. photo by lewsi lee.

trans-siberian orchestra plays tonight at rupp arena. photo by lewis lee.

Paul O’Neill didn’t sense exactly how mighty the electric splendor of his Trans-Siberian Orchestra was until the lights went down one night.

Well, actually, two nights.

The first came in 2005 when the massive prog rock, hard rock, classically inspired ensemble with all its massive bells, whistles, light shows and pyrotechnics played the Meadowlands, the longstanding arena located just outside O’Neill’s native New York City. The stage was set, the amped-up metal-esque holiday music was cued and flames shot into the air with the kind of stupefying vigor that would make Kiss blush. And then the power went out.

“About 15 minutes into the show, the stage goes dark,” recounted O’Neill in a recent phone interview. “The production manager comes running over and goes, ‘Paul, we just blew the circuit breaker for the Meadowlands. I thought, ‘Really? Cool.’ It was one of the high points of my life.”

“After that, we started carrying a tractor trailer full of generators for the arenas that needed the extra juice. So then we played Jackson, Miss. and someone from the venue goes, ‘State of the art building, guys. We don’t need your generators.’ So, half hour into the show, the stage goes dark. The production manager comes running up to me. I go, ‘I know, I know. We blew the circuit breaker for the building.’ He goes, ‘No. We blew the circuit breaker for Jackson.’ Well, it wasn’t for the whole city. Just a quarter of a grid.’

A quarter of a grid? What kind of band is capable of knocking out an entire section of a city’s power transmission network? Well, if you have ever seen the Trans-Siberian Orchestra boot up onstage, you would know.

Onstage, TSO is a truly electric spectacle. While the orchestra’s charm is rooted in three recordings of platinum-selling, Christmas themed rock operas, the music translates during performance into mammoth light shows and an arsenal of lasers and flames illuminating the stage as a legion of rock musicians, string players and two dozen vocalists bring O’Neill’s songs to life.

Over the top? Are you kidding? TSO brings new meaning to the term.

paul o'neill. photo by james mirchen.

paul o'neill. photo by james minchen.

“We honestly spend more on pyro than every rock band in the world combined,” O’Neill said. “The beams on our lasers are thicker and have a more saturated color than any other rock band because there are only 10 of these kinds of laser machines in the world. And we’ve got all 10 of them.”

As a result, O’Neill has proven if there is anything a pop/rock/metal/classical/prog audience enjoys better than Christmas, it is Christmas with pomp and flash. Over the past decade, the total attendance for TSO’s seasonal tours has shot from a mere 15,000 (when the band played a short run of theatres) to a 2008 tally of over 1.2 million.

Similarly, two TSO productions have toured simultaneously every November and December since 2000 with O’Neill traveling back and forth between the ensembles in a mostly administrative capacity. He sometimes plays with the TSO troupe that visits New York.

“Never in our wildest imaginations did we ever think we would become as big as this.”

TSO began to take shape in 1996 when O’Neill, who handled management and production work for bands like Aerosmith and Scorpions while writing music for the Florida metal band Savatage, outlined a vision for a new kind of Christmas music.

“Warner Brothers first approached me in ’96 and said, ‘Instead of writing and producing for other bands, why don’t you start your own band?’ So I said, ‘OK, but only if I could do something completely different.’ I told them I wanted a full progressive rock band, a full hard rock band, a full symphony and 24 lead singers.

The response he received was simple, direct and concise: “Why?”

“I wanted a band that could do anything, a band that could take the best of all the great acts that I worshipped – bands like Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Queen – and have a marriage of classical and rock. I wanted to give a third dimension to the music.”

And so came three holiday albums – Christmas Eve and Other Stories (1996), The Christmas Attic (1998) and The Lost Christmas Eve (2004) along with a non seasonal recording, Beethoven’s Last Night (2000). TSO’s first new album in five years, another non-seasonal themed recording called Night Castle, was released in October. Night Castle will be featured prominently in the second half of TSO’s current touring show, which plays Rupp Arena on Thursday.

The new album, along with all of Beethoven’s Last Night, will hit the stage again in the spring when TSO takes its non-Christmas music on an international tour.

But for now, O’Neill is happy to let the Christmas spirit dominate TSO’s touring repertoire. While it may sport a thunderous, electric profile onstage, O’Neill’s fondness for the season is rooted in an appreciation that only a true New Yorker could summon.

“One of my earliest childhood memories was coming home one Christmas Eve when it was snowing and hearing the screaming of brakes as one Yellow Checker Cab slammed into the back on another. The drivers got out. Being a kid, I thought there was going to be a fight. Instead, the first driver said, ‘This is totally my fault. Let me pay for this.’ The other driver went, ‘Put your money away. Don’t worry about it.’ They laughed and drove their separate ways.

“Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been to New York City. But on any other day? Blood on the streets, my friend. So I learned at an early age there was something magic about Christmas Eve.”

Trans-Siberian Orchestra performs at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 17 at Rupp Arena. Tickets are $27-$57. Call (859) 233-3535, (800) 745-3000.

Death as a Side Effect.(Book review)

ForeWord December 17, 2010 | Rigby, Karen Ana MarA-a Shua (author); DEATH AS A SIDE EFFECT; University of Nebraska Press (Fiction: Literary) $35.00 ISBN: 9780803228078 Byline: Karen Rigby “No one can humiliate you like your parents. No one else in the world has that tremendous power: the same power we have over our own children.” So declares Ernesto, the antihero in Ana MarA-a Shua’s latest novel, whose relationship with his father is marked by as much petulance, impassioned, well-articulated animosity, and resignation as that found in Kafka’s Letter to His Father. Death as a Side Effect similarly portrays a narrator wrestling with an imposing personality as well as with himself, revealing the psychological games that have characterized their encounters for decades.

Selected by the Congreso de La Lengua EspaA[+ or -]ola as one of the one hundred best Latin American novels published in the last quarter-century, Shua’s novel pits Ernesto’s cruel, pragmatic, yet honest desire for his father’s death against daily events in a society in which travel must be conducted by armored taxis, and where the threat of convalescent homes, the rise of tell-all documentaries, the Suicide Channel, and attacks by professional thieves are commonplace. Though the premise is simple — beginning with a reflection on SeA[+ or -]or Kollody’s tumor and slowly navigating toward Ernesto’s realization that his father is not only surviving, but recovering from surgery — it is further enriched by secondary characters such as a transgendered television personality; a “genius” filmmaker whose project is constantly under revision; and the absent lover to whom the entire work is addressed, among others. Shua forgoes campiness in favor of a more shaded approach, combining humor with gravitas, and allowing absurdities to flourish alongside the problems of a family fractured by its own dysfunctional habits. in our site nexium side effects here nexium side effects

Readers familiar with Shua’s earlier microfiction will recognize some of her hallmarks: hints of eroticism; gentle stabs at masochistic characters (exemplified by Ernesto’s sister, Cora, who has never untangled herself from the household and whose pleasures in life are seemingly few); settings that are firmly grounded in reality even as they are subtly altered to seem otherworldly; and the enticing, dark sensibility that allows serious events to vault off the page, such as the institutionalized care of an aging pater familias serving as fodder for a staged kidnapping, or the aftermath of a home invasion leading to a girlfriend’s affair. All plot twists aside, however, Shua’s finest moments occur when she portrays individuals confronting the spectre of death in their own very personal ways, or as a son’s initial resentment ultimately dissolves when he discovers an epistolary — and far more enduring — means of escape.

Rigby, Karen

blue christmas

miles davis' kind of blue

miles davis' kind of blue (1959)

Imagine a resolution placed before the United States House of Representatives that passes without a single dissenting vote. Picture a resolution that, as far as we can tell, involved no lobbying – at least not the big money kind that regularly pulls strings when would-be laws hang in the balance.

What single cause could rally a sharply partisan Congress to act as one on a cause that didn’t involve bailouts, taxes, war, health care, social security, abortion or any of the seemingly insolvable issues facing our country?

Well, try this one – jazz.

In a measure sponsored by Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, the House voted unanimously yesterday, 409-0, to honor Miles Davis’ immortal Kind of Blue album as the year of the recording’s 50th anniversary draws to a close.

The resolution – H.Res.894, if you want to be specific – cites how Kind of Blue and the musicians who made it (Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and the only surviving player from the recording sessions, Jimmy Cobb) “made musical history and changed the artistic landscape of this country and, in some ways, the world.”

The purely symbolic resolution goes on to urge the government to “to take all appropriate steps” to promote and preserve jazz music.

Maybe the vote was a brief vacation from health care woes or just some last minute incidental business before adjourning for the holidays. And, yes, the resolution is little more than a token nod from a governing body that probably knows little and cares less about one of America’s most lasting and pervasive indigenous art forms.

But it was still a cool move – a Christmas card, if you will – for Congress to honor Kind of Blue.

Now, anyone for A Love Supreme?

critic’s picks 102

We leave the last word on holiday music this year to the ladies – specifically, veteran jazz composer Carla Bley and pop fairy Godmother Tori Amos. As artistically eccentric as they are stylistically distinctive, both seem unlikely candidates for Yuletide albums. Yet each adds a refreshing and stately stamp on seasonal serenades.

carla's christmas carols

carla's christmas carols

Carla’s Christmas Carols is a wonderful surprise. While there are hints here of the playfulness and invention of her large ensemble music, the album sets nine familiar carols and two originals to arrangements executed by Bley (on piano and celeste), longtime electric bass foil Steve Swallow and the Partyka Brass Quintet.

As a result, much of Carla’s Christmas Carols possesses an old-world street corner feel. By setting Ring Christmas Bells to horns, the carol is somehow demystified. Yet none of its wintry fancy is lost. Similarly, the album-closing Joy to the World (one of two tunes recorded at a Berlin concert last year) is taken as a lovingly slow pace to sound cheery without the usual seasonal sentimentalism.

The real delights emerge in Bley’s own Jesus Maria (a longtime concert staple of, among others, guitarist Leo Kottke). Here the deceptively simple and lean melody is given over to the royal hush of the brass quintet. Every crease of the tune’s warm, wobbly lyricism is enhanced. Bley’s elegant piano solo also serves an appropriate ice cap.

Finally, there is a spry Bley original called Hell’s Bells which is a feast of decadent swing that is every bit as joyful and warm as the warhorse carols.

midwinter graces

midwinter graces

Amos’ Midwinter Graces is stately and reverential, as well. She invests much of the album with an almost icy regality, as on the hymn Emmanuel. This is when Midwinter Graces is at its best. It forgoes ooey-gooey sentimentalism and cuts very much to the spiritual tone of the season with varying levels of orchestral support.

Of course, Amos still can’t shake the muse of Kate Bush from her music. The famed Brit’s pouty diva vocal flair is in full force here on What Child Nowell, a brassy revision of Coventry Carol and even her own Snow Angel. But that has become such an elemental influence on Amos’ music that it’s hard to fault her for it. Besides, channeling Bush as she tosses Star of Wonder to the Casbah only enhances the tune’s inherent Eastern intrigue.

Seasonal formalities subside, however, on Pink and Glitter, an odd little seasonal come-on crooned to a slow-swinging big band arrangement. It sports a refreshing Ella Fitzgerald-esque attitude that brings Amos and all her wintry fascination in from the cold.

in performance: dave rempis/frank rosaly duo

frank rosaly (left) and dave rempis.

frank rosaly (left) and dave rempis.

There was no build-up, no gradual acceleration to the spark and energy behind last night’s duo performance by saxophonist Dave Rempis and drummer Frank Rosaly at Al’s Bar. The drive was as instantaneous as flicking on a light switch.

From the moment the first of three untitled improvisations got underway, the pair began building a bridge to musical bedlam. It was an undertaking that utilized conversational dynamics even when the two seemed to be at musical odds with each another. And while the performance intensity regularly shifted from a deep hush to a pensive boil, the players’ resourcefulness never sagged.

Rempis seemed to set the tempo and the temperament for much of the 65 minute set. But it was also intriguing to hear how he would play off of (instead of along with) Rosaly’s percussive ideas. During the first improv, for instance, Rempis let the tone of his tenor sax drop to better match the deep rumbles Rosaly was conjuring. But throughout the evening, the two also let their instruments roam outside of expected comfort zones.

Rempis made tenor sax runs squeal with an alto-like sharpness while an alto solo break during the first improv often adopted a tenor-like growl. Curiously, when he took to baritone sax at the onset of the second improv, Rempis established an appropriately beefy tone that still managed to capture a serene sense of jazz cool.

Rosaly, meanwhile, seemed to relish the music’s sense of rhythmic surprise. He designed rambunctious patterns by playing a hi-hat cymbal crowned with a cowbell with his hands as well as by tossing shotgun-like jabs to augment several playful blues ideas developed by Rempis during the second improv.

Things hit a hearty peak during the set’s final improv, where Rempis, on alto, would play in circular patterns around Rosaly’s fractured percussive fills. Each time around, sax and drums would up the intensity until, during a final pass, the two all but sliced the groove in two. That brought the torrential playing back to the blues before everything started beautifully building to a boil all over again.

The usual chatty bar crowd at Al’s made its presence felt, too, but only in the instances where the music subsided enough for the outside world to bang at the door. Thankfully, those episodes were brief.


States News Service August 26, 2011 WASHINGTON, DC — The following information was released by The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration:

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood today announced the appointment of 29 members to the new Marine Transportation System National Advisory Council (MTSNAC), established to advise the Department on matters relating to marine transportation.

“Shifting some of our freight from the highways to open inland waterways is a fuel-efficient, cost-effective way to move goods and reduce roadway congestion,” said Secretary LaHood. “The recommendations developed by the Marine Transportation System National Advisory Council will help us increase transportation efficiency, improve the environment and grow the economy.” The Department will task the MTSNAC with developing recommendations on establishing new marine highway services and port infrastructure development, among other issues.

“The experience brought to bear by this diverse panel is impressive,” said Maritime Administrator David Matsuda. “These maritime experts have a lot to contribute. I look forward to their advice as we tackle the industry’s most pressing challenges.” In creating the MTSNAC, the Department sought members with exemplary experience in serving on other government and industry maritime advisory panels. Members were nominated through a full and open process published in the Federal Register. website traverse city mi

The new members are:

* Sarah Dunham, Director, Transportation and Climate Division, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC * John Parrott, President, Totem Ocean Trailer Express, Inc., Federal Way, WA * Craig Philip, President and CEO, Ingram Barge Lines, Nashville, TN * Thomas B. Crowley, Jr., President and CEO, Crowley Maritime Corp., Oakland, CA * John Kaltenstein, Marine Program Manager, Friends of the Earth, San Francisco, CA * David Moseley, Assistant Secretary, Washington State Department of Transportation, Ferries Division, Seattle, WA * Genevieve Boehm Clifton, Manager, Office of Maritime Resources, New Jersey Department of Transportation, Trenton, NJ * Alice Cheng, President, Cheng Solutions, LLC, Brooklyn, NY * Jeffrey Platt, Chief Operating Officer, Tidewater Marine, New Orleans, Louisiana * Fred Harris, President, NASSCO, General Dynamics, San Diego, CA * Jerry A. Bridges, Executive Director, Virginia Port Authority, Norfolk, VA * Timothy L. Byrd, Director, Global Logistics, E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company, Inc., Wilmington, DE * Michelle Noble, International Trade Operations Leader for North America, Proctor and Gamble, Cincinnati, OH * Faye Stewart, President, Faye Stewart Transportation Services LLC, Glendale, AZ * Judith A. Druskovich, Great Lakes Maritime Academy, Traverse City, MI * Omar Benjamin, Executive Director, Port of Oakland, Oakland, CA * James Lyons, Director and CEO, Alabama State Port Authority, Mobile, AL * Adolph Ojard, Executive Director, Port of Duluth, Duluth Seaway Port Authority, Duluth, MN * James R. (Randy) Richardson, Executive Director, Port of Memphis, Memphis, TN * John Baker, President of the Great lakes District Council, International Longshoremen’s Association, Cleveland, OH * Mark Locker, Administrator, Office of Maritime and Freight Mobility, Ohio Department of Transportation, Columbus, OH * Ron Mitchum, Executive Director, Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments, Charleston, SC * Gary Gallegos, Executive Director, San Diego Association of Governments, San Diego, CA * Augustin Tellez, Executive Vice President, Seafarers International Union of North America, Camp Springs, MD * Thomas J. Simmers, President and CEO, Ceres Terminals, Inc., East Brunswick, NJ * Rick Larrabee, Director, Port Commerce Department, Port of New York/New Jersey, New York, NY * Joseph M. Mabry, Executive Vice President of Logistics and Distribution, Lowe’s Companies, Inc., Mooresville, NC * Mark Barker, President, Interlake Steamship Company, Richfield, OH * Margaret Vaughan, Representative, U.S. Exporters Competitive Maritime Council, Houston, TX traverse city mi

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current listening 12/11

Amazingly, it’s been nearly seven months since we’ve had a Current Listening session at The Musical Box. So let’s see what what’s been on the stereo during the off hours of late:

booker t and the mg's: in the christmas spirit

booker t & the mgs:in the christmas spirit

+ Booker T. and the MGs: In the Christmas Spirit (1966) – My favorite rediscovered holiday album. The sleek B3 soul sound Booker T. Jones sets these seasonal staples to remains hip 33 years after this recording was first issued. But a renewed listen reveals how regally quiet the album is. Tempered by the MGs’ expert R&B reserve, Christmas Spirit is a supreme holiday chill pill.

the jethro tull christmas album

the jethro tull christmas album

+ Jethro Tull: The Jethro Tull Christmas Album (2009/2003) – A new import edition Tull’s fine 2003 holiday album sports a bonus concert disc called Christmas at St. Bride’s. This rustic acoustic sampler of Tull’s more Dickensian tunes – along with holiday readings, choirs and carols – was recorded in a Fleet Street church and serves as a benefit for the homeless. A genuinely intimate expression of the season.

nine horses:snow borne system

nine horses:snow borne system

+ Nine Horses: Snow Borne System (2007) – While it is easy to admire the more static fringe encircling his new Manafon album, David Sylvian offers a vastly warmer and more accessible listen on this 2007 outing. Though credited to the trio Nine Horses, this is a Sylvian record all the way, from the slight, whispery tone of the vocals to the rich and darkly atmospheric décor.

frank zappa:one size fits all

frank zappa:one size fits all

+ Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention: One Size Fits All (1975) – Quite possibly the most approachable recording Zappa ever made. The playing – jazz-like in its complexity but with rock, pop, prog and even soul overtones – is the kicker, from the cosmic interludes during Inca Roads and Andy to the monster guitar breaks during Po-Jama People. But the canine zen of Evelyn, A Modified Dog steals the show.

ralph towner:diary

ralph towner:diary

+ Ralph Towner: Diary (1973) – The debut solo album from guitarist Towner sounds like it could have been recorded yesterday. Its ideas are still remarkably fresh, from the mix of folk, chamber and improvisational devices to the one-man-band makeup on several tunes with overdubs of piano and percussion. A Washington state native, Towner fills Diary with wintry European impressionism.

2007 PROPERTY TAX HOMESTEAD FILING PERIOD SET TILL MARCH 1, 2007 go to web site gwinnett county tax commissioner

US Fed News Service, Including US State News July 10, 2006 Gwinnett County issued the following press release:

Property owners may file for a 2007 homestead exemption from now through March 1, 2007. Homestead exemptions can offer tax savings to property owners who own and occupy a property as of January 1 st of the tax year for which the exemption is filed.

Property owners who already receive an exemption and had no ownership changes to their deed do not need to reapply. They will continue to receive their current exemption on property taxes.

The Gwinnett County Tax Commissioner co llects property taxes for the cities of Berkeley Lake, Dacula, Grayson, Lawrenceville, Lilburn, Snellville, and Sugar Hill. Property owners residing in these cities’ limits and who apply for a county exemption will also receive applicable city exemptions to which they may be entitled. in our site gwinnett county tax commissioner

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the sax and drums show

drummer frank rosaly (left) and saxphonist dave rempis perform a duo concert at al's on saturday.

drummer frank rosaly (left) and saxophonist dave rempis perform a duo concert at al's on saturday.

Saxophone and drums – they have long been complimentary instruments when traveling avenues of blues, soul and jazz. But usually such explorations bring along some support. Often another lead voice or rhythmic device figures into the music. And certainly there is bass to harness the groove and melody.

Well, imagine what would happen if sax and drums snuck off to the bandstand and left everyone else at home. That’s the idea two vanguard artists of the current Chicago improvisational music scene, Dave Rempis and Frank Rosaly, are running with on a soon-to-be-released album titled Cyrillic and a two-week, 12 city tour that concludes Saturday with a performance at Al’s Bar.

The show is part of the ongoing Outside the Spotlight Series.

Admittedly, sax and drum duos aren’t all that rare. There have been masterful examples in the past – the most critically lauded being John Coltrane and Rashied Ali on the groundbreaking 1967 recording Interstellar Space. Other strong examples include a decades-old partnership between British saxophonist John Surman and landmark American drummer Jack DeJohnette (exquisitely displayed on the 2003 ECM album Free and Equal), the teaming of Memphis-born journeyman Charles Lloyd and the late hard bop/free jazz stylist Billy Higgins (chronicled on 2004’s spiritually inclined Which Way is East) and the Chicago-based pairing of Ken Vandermark and Tim Daisy that played in Lexington at an Outside the Spotlight concert in 2008.

Cyrillic isn’t so much a successor to those projects as simply an addition. Rempis, in fact, has played in sax/drum duo situations with Daisy before in Kentucky. But like all great improvised projects, the duo’s instrumental makeup plays less a role in the resulting music than the conversational sense established between the players. Such a spirit definitely fuels the fire between Rempis and Rosaly, who also collaborate in Rempis’ Percussion Quartet, The Outskirts with Norwegian bassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten as well as a quintet led by Haker Flaten.

Though Rempis and Rosaly have performed sporadically as a duo since 2004 and worked together in various band settings for nearly a decade, Cyrillic represents their first recording as a two man unit.

The album’s vocabulary is vast. The album-opening Antiphony allows Rempis to explore the spaces in and around Rosaly’s drum chatter. The music intensifies and dissipates throughout, but the dialogue firmly established at the onset of the tune remains vibrant. The tenor sax and percussion skirmishes open out further on Don’t Trade Here while the album’s centerpiece, a 15 minute excursion called How to Cross When Bridges Are Out, begins initially with subtle, playful exchanges before building to a full volcanic boil.

Though the album won’t officially be released until January, it will be available at the Al’s performance. That’s all the more reason to welcome these longtime Outside the Spotlight pals back to town on Saturday.

The Dave Rempis/Frank Rosaly Duo performs at 8 p.m. Dec. 12 at Al’s Bar, 6th and Limestone. Admission is $5. Call (859) 252-9104. The North Carolina “lush cabaret and Balkan ruckus” duo The Mezmer Society will perform after Rempis/Rosaly.

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