Archive for May, 2010

hank jones, 1918-2010

hank jones

hank jones

I got to see Hank Jones perform only once. It was on a late January evening at the Blue Note in New York. The pianist, then a spry 86 years of age, simply beamed in a trio setting with veteran bassist George Mraz and drummer Joe LaBarbera (an alumnus of the final trio led by another landmark pianist, Bill Evans). Whether it was through his light, lyrical touch on J.J. Johnson’s Lament or the electric smiles of appreciation he flashed to his bandmates and patrons, Jones was the embodiment of summer during the dead of winter.

But the warmest winter chills were saved for a beautifully patient reading of A Child is Born. The tune was a double sibling tribute. It was a signature composition by one brother (the celebrated bandleader/trumpeter Thad Jones) performed as a requiem, with help from an immensely respectful solo by LaBarbera, to another (the groundbreaking drummer Elvin Jones, who passed away eight months earlier).

Hank Jones died on Sunday at the age of 91. A remarkably versatile pianist, but never a stylistic showoff, Jones was pianist early in his career for greats like Ella Fitzgerald. His playing was largely exhibited on radio, television and, through the Broadway revue Ain’t Misbehavin’, stage.

But it was through a subtle, dynamic assortment of duo and trio albums beginning in the ‘90s that the  sage-like tone of Jones’ playing found its most proper home. His finest later recordings include a 1993 trio set of Thad Jones music featuring Elvin Jones and Mraz (Upon Reflection), a majestic duet album of spirituals with bassist Charlie Haden (Steal Away) and a playful 2007 duo concert outing with saxophonist Joe Lovano (Kids).

“Playing with Hank and having him show such confidence and his enthusiasm about my sound has always been amazing,” Lovano said prior to a Singletary Center for the Arts performance last winter. “It’s still amazing. We’re going to play a week at Birdland in May.”

That week was to have been next week. Lovano will go on with the gig with pianist Steve Kuhn as a replacement. But you can bet the soulful, understated and jubilant spirit of Jones will be shining all over New York and throughout the jazz world.

Strategists: Don’t cook the DB goose; ‘Bad defined benefit plan is better than a good DC plan’.(News)(defined contribution plan)(Barclays Global Investors – M. Barton Waring)(Ford Foundation – Laurence Siegel)

Pensions & Investments June 26, 2006 | Calio, Vince Byline: Vince Calio A defined contribution plan shouldn’t be used for retirement income, two leading investment strategists say.

M. Barton Waring, managing director of client strategy at Barclays Global Investors, San Francisco, and Laurence Siegel, director of investment strategy at the $10.7 billion Ford Foundation, New York, assert that defined benefit plans are more efficient at providing retirement savings than defined contribution plans. Their working paper, titled “Don’t Kill the Golden Goose,” is under consideration to be published by the Harvard Business Review.

The paper comes at a time when some of the largest and most established corporations increasingly are considering freezing – or already have frozen- defined benefit plans in favor of defined contribution plans. These include Verizon Communications Inc.; Northwest Airlines Corp.; UAL Corp.; International Business Machines Corp.; and Nissan North America.

Industry experts predict that many more corporations will freeze their defined benefit plans because of looming legislative pension reform that would implement stricter pension funding rules, as well as potential changes to the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s Statement 87 that would require companies to put the actual funding levels of their pension plans on to their balance sheets. site defined benefit plan

“We regrettably but reasonably conclude that few employees can ever expect a secure and prosperous retirement, with reasonable income replacement, using the defined contribution-plan structure alone,” Messrs. Waring and Siegel wrote in their paper. “We are kidding ourselves when we even speak the phrase `defined contribution retirement plan.’ They aren’t retirement plans at all, but modest savings plans.” Four reasons The paper lists four reasons defined benefit plans are more cost effective and efficient than defined contribution plans:

* In a defined benefit plan, mortality risk is shared by the overall participants. Put simply, when calculating liabilities, a corporation can determine the average life expectancy of participants. Those who die before the average age help pay the benefits for those who live beyond it. In a defined contribution plan, mortality risk is placed solely on the shoulders of the individual participant.

* It’s cheaper for a pension plan to buy annuities than it is for an individual to do so. go to site defined benefit plan

* Separate-account fees for pension plans are significantly less than fees from mutual funds typically offered in defined contribution plans.

* Assets in pension plans are overseen by skilled financial professionals, while individual defined contribution plan participants might not have the financial background to properly manage assets.

“When a DC plan replaces a DB plan, those (advantages) are gone,” said the authors in the paper.

Addressing expense Messrs. Siegel and Waring also try to debunk the statement that defined benefit plans will be too expensive to run if regulatory changes are made. The paper advocates that a corporation align at least some of its pension assets to its liabilities, and add a layer of alpha on top of that.

Additionally, if a pension plan is too expensive from an administrative standpoint and in terms of liabilities, the paper advises corporations to renegotiate the terms with participants, rather than simply kill the plan.

For example, if a corporation determines accrued pension benefits for workers by using a 2.5 multiplier times years of service, then the corporation could lower that to 1.5, according to the paper.

“You can make it so that a defined benefit plan costs whatever you want it to,” Mr. Waring said in an interview. “If it costs too much, it doesn’t mean you have to terminate it. You can renegotiate the terms of the plan. A bad defined benefit plan is always better than a good defined contribution plan – there’s room to control cost.” `A bit harsh’ Jan Jacobson, director of retirement policy for the American Benefits Council, a Washington industry trade group that studies retirement issues, said that while the paper made some good points, “it was a bit harsh on defined contribution plans.” She added the paper doesn’t take into account the “developing innovations” to DC plans. “For example, in commenting on the `mortality risk’ that Mr. Waring and Mr. Siegel talk about, some plans already do offer annuity platforms with institutional pricing. These developments are just going to accelerate,” Ms. Jacobson said.

She cited automatic enrollment in lifecycle funds and institutional pricing of fees as other innovations.

“Yes, these innovations are available, but nobody’s using them,” said Mr. Siegel in an interview. “In Australia, there is a 9% mandatory contribution in private defined contribution plans (by both employer and employee). Only in the U.S. is the mandatory contribution exactly 0.00%.” CAPTION(S):

Siegel * Waring * Jan Jacobson said the paper does not take into account the innovations some DC plans have made.

Calio, Vince

ronnie james dio, 1942-2010

ronnie james dio

ronnie james dio

Onstage, from the ‘70s through the last year’s tour with the Black Sabbath spinoff band Heaven and Hell, Ronnie James Dio was metal music royalty. He possessed a voice that could cut wire and a stage presence that more than matched the musical bravado of whatever band he happened to the fronting – be it Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, the post-Ozzy era Sabbath or his own long running Dio.

But that wasn’t what I admired most about Dio, who died yesterday of stomach cancer at age 67. His offstage reputation as a fan-friendly gentleman was renowned. Onstage, he could snarl and scream and play into his music’s darkest revelations. Offstage, he took the trust he established with his fans to heart.

For decades, I heard stories from record label publicists and concert producers about how refreshingly easy he was to work with. From fans, I heard how he never refused face time by going out of his way to oblige requests for an autograph and to have his photo taken with them.

I found that out personally when I interviewed Dio in 1997 before an April concert at A1A. With his career, by own admission, in a slump, Dio was articulate, open and polite in a thoroughly honest way. And that honesty stemmed over into how he related to his audience and his music.

“What has always kept me going is being a people person.” Dio told me. “I’ve always been very affected by the people who have been affected by me. My parents taught me long ago that you should never get too full of yourself.”

Those lessons were enforced during his time with guitarist Blackmore, who was notorious for being as dismissive of his fans as Dio was embracing.

“I couldn’t stand watching the faces of people who had waited for this man in the snow and cold for hours just to get an autograph only to have him drive away in a limousine. That was something I told myself that I would never, ever do.”

In a metal music world where image is often everything, Dio was a class act with an everyman earthiness that was nothing short of golden.

ECONOMY WATCH.(BUSINESS)

The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI) June 30, 2009 Byline: State Journal staff, wire services COMMODITIES: Gold fell 30 cents Monday to settle at $940.70 an ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange. September silver fell 18.1 cents to $13.9750 an ounce. September copper increased 1.7 cents to $2.3260 a pound. September wheat futures fell 5.25 cents to $5.5775 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade. Corn for September delivery shed 7.25 cents to $3.845 a bushel. August soybeans lost 6 cents to $11.22 a bushel.

BEST places to work Four Wisconsin firms ranked Four small- and medium-sized Wisconsin companies were among those named the “Best Companies to Work for in America” in rankings issued Monday by the Great Place to Work Institute of San Francisco and the Society for Human Resource Management of New Orleans. go to web site oasis day spa

Among the best medium-sized companies were Acuity (ranked No. 2) a Sheboygan insurance company; and 4imprint (10) an Oshkosh distributor of promotional items.

Badger Mining Corp. of Berlin, a silica sand mining company, was the nation’s top-ranked small company. Kahler Slater (22), a design firm with offices in Milwaukee and Madison, made the list for the sixth consecutive year.

The companies were evaluated based on relationships among employees, between employees and management and between employees and their jobs/company. Large firms were not part of this particular study.

SMALL BUSINESS AWARDS Local honors announced A chief executive and 10 local companies are recipients of the 2009 Dane County Small Business Awards. Laurie Benson, chief executive of Inacom Information Systems, 3001 W. Beltline, received the Small Business Advocate Award.

The Skin Care Source, 845 E. Johnson St., a therapeutic skin care business owned by Monique Minkens, received the Emerging Business Award, which is presented to businesses less than three years old.

The awards, sponsored by eight companies and non-profit groups, recognize for-profit, successful companies that maintain a responsible and rewarding workplace environment and give back to the community through contributions or volunteerism.

Other businesses honored were Aberdean Consulting, 595 Science Drive; the Murphy Insurance Group of Waunakee; MCV Salon & Spa of Sun Prairie; Sustainable Engineering Group, 431 Charmany Drive; Filament Marketing, 301 S. Blount St.; Next Generation Clinical Research of Oregon; Healthy Homes of Mount Horeb, Andy Garcia Productions, 2987 Yarmouth Greenway Drive; and Cquensys, 525 Junction Road.

BRIEFLY Associated Banc-Corp of Green Bay, parent company of Associated Bank, said Monday it expects a provision for loan losses of $145 million to $160 million and net charge-offs of $60 million to $70 million during the second quarter ending today, which could trigger an overall quarterly loss. this web site oasis day spa

Oasis Day Spa , 8016 Watts Road, at the Princeton Club, has acquired Pure Massage , 515 Junction Road, for an undisclosed price. The Junction Road location was closed and 10 former Pure Massage employees now work at the Watts Road location, said Oasis owner Lori Heffernon.

Raj Ambay, M.D., D.D.S.

, of Madison has been elected to the American Medical Association board of trustees.

Dr. Robert Dempsey , chair of the department of neurological surgery at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, has been named president of the Society of Neurological Surgeons.

TICKET PARTNERSHIP: Frontier Airlines Holdings is announcing a new ticketing partnership with Midwest Airlines. The two carriers have been targeted for acquisition by Republic Airways Holdings. The agreement announced Monday will allow Denver-based Frontier to sell tickets to customers who want to travel to cities served by Midwest. And Midwest will be allowed to sell tickets to Frontier Airlines and subsidiary Lynx Aviation destinations. Republic Airways wants to purchase Milwaukee-based Midwest for $31 million in cash and debt. It also is bidding $109 million to take Frontier Airlines out of bankruptcy.

enter stick men

stick men: michael bernier, pat mastellotto and tony levin. photo by dion ogust.

stick men. from left: michael bernier, pat mastelotto and tony levin. photo by dion ogust.

Time usually doesn’t get away from Tony Levin. One of today’s most versed and visible bass guitarists as well as a pioneer of the multi-tasking string instrument known as the Chapman Stick, he has helped keep time and groove for some of the foremost names in contemporary music.

Among those he has recorded with: John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Pink Floyd, Dire Straits, Paul Simon, Lou Reed, Warren Zevon, James Taylor, Tom Waits, Richard Thompson, T Bone Burnett and dozens of others. And that goes without mentioning the two acts he has enjoyed his most longstanding artistic relationships with: Peter Gabriel (since 1976) and King Crimson (since 1981).

But the realization that much of the past decade has afforded him the space to focus more on his own music – by way of five solo albums and the forthcoming debut disc of his new trio Stick Men – took Levin by surprise in a recent phone interview.

“I can guarantee you one thing,” said Levin, who performs with Stick Men on Tuesday at the Southgate House in Newport. “None of this was planned. There was never a thought of, ‘OK, now I’m going to do more solo albums and work in more projects.’ Always in my career, I’ve been lucky. But another big factor is that Peter Gabriel and Robert Fripp, our King Crimson leader, don’t like to tour as much as they used to. Most of the troops, meaning the guys in the band, want to tour as much, or more, than before. Certainly I’m that way.

“So consequently, I have more time and more musical energy now to do other things. And so I do them.”

Levin’s reputation extends beyond strictly musical boundaries, however. Just ask some of the artists that have collaborated with him over the years.

“I don’t know a better player in the world than Tony,” said guitarist, Kentucky native and longtime King Crimson colleague Adrian Belew by email last week. “Best bassist or whatever… he’s so far beyond that. But as a lifelong friend, the thing I cherish the most is Tony Levin the person. He is a messenger sent to earth to show the rest of us what a person can be.”

“Tony is the most musical person I know,” added guitarist Paul Richards of the California Guitar Trio, which has toured and recorded extensively with Levin. “Every time I hear him play, there is always something that catches my ear and touches my heart. Often when we are performing together, his playing is so good that I become drawn in to the point where I have to be careful not to lose my attention on my own playing.”

tony levin on the chapman stick. photo by pierre-emile bertona.

tony levin bowing on the chapman stick. photo by pierre-emile bertona.

Stick Men teams Levin with bandmates familiar (Pat Mastelotto, King Crimson’s drummer since 1994) and new (fellow Chapman Stick player Michael Bernier) to promote an instrument that he has become synonymous with. For over three decades, Levin has explored the musical possibilities of the Chapman Stick, where strings are tapped instead of plucked to create myriad sounds, from bass foundations to strong guitar and keyboard-like melodies.

“In the last five years, I’ve had a kind of reawakening to the possibilities of the Stick,” Levin said. “Those possibilities partly come from meeting Michael and hearing what he did, partly from doing my Stick Man album (a 2007 Levin record featuring Mastelotto that set the stage for Stick Men) and partly because life is like that. A musical life is like that if you don’t settle into this feeling that you’ve done everything there is and you’re not going to explore anything new. If you keep an open mind, there’s always more.”

Stick Men’s debut album, Soup, explores the Stick’s range through a selection of original compositions with deep prog rock overtones. One of the record’s most striking pieces is Bernier’s Fugue, which echoes the inspirations of mentoring guitarist Allan Holdsworth. But the showpiece is unquestionably Levin’s adaptation of four movements from Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite.

“I’m a guy who likes challenges in all ways, in my life and in my music,” Levin said. “But, boy, did I bite off a lot on that one. We’ve been playing it live for quite awhile and the piece has become quite satisfying, as challenges do when you somehow get through them… even if you don’t master them.”

With no work on the horizon with Gabriel (who is currently touring with an orchestra) and King Crimson (which hasn’t performed live since 2008), Levin plans to make Stick Men something of a priority in a musical life that continues to thrive on variety and challenge. But the Stick man from Stick Men also has his eyes and ears tuned to his next artistic adventure.

“If I’m lucky, I’ll get to work everything in,” he said. “But if I’m very lucky, there will also be new things that I don’t even know about today that I’ll be doing.”

Stick Men featuring Tony Levin, Pat Mastelotto and Michael Bernier perform at 8 p.m. May 18 at the Southgate House, 24 East 3rd St. in Newport. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 day of show. Call (859) 431-2201.

in performance: dan bern

dan bern. photo by todd adamson.

dan bern. photo by todd adamson.

What do you say when a veteran Los Angeles songwriter playing in town for the first time offers songs that tumble somewhere between literate, uneasy reflection and aloof, at times smug parody?

How do you further assess a performance when said L.A. scribe asks the crowd in somewhat incredulous fashion, ‘Why is basketball a religion in Kentucky?’ followed by ‘Is Pitino still coach?’  Doesn’t exactly make you want to roll out the welcome mat.

Such was the game plan Dan Bern unfurled last night at Natasha’s Bistro by way of a Lexington debut that was largely at the mercy of songs that always seemed to be testing the barometer of how serious they wanted to be.

On the plus side were tunes like Osama in Obamaland, an outrageous but imaginative tale on the Americanization of Osama Bin Laden, tracing his outlaw steps from digs in Hoboken to the Texas ranch of a certain ex-President. It was guaranteed to offend.

Ditto for Tiger Woods, a wildly (and purposely) chauvinistic rant of self-infatuation penned in the ‘90s. Make no mistake about the tune. It’s not about the famed golfer, but a Godzilla-sized male ego. Well, then again…

There were also some darker, more wistful moments like Jail and God Said No. But they were offset by instances where Bern portrayed himself as a sort of comic Dylan, right down to the vocal whine and failed irony of Jerusalem and Rollerblades. As comic songs, intentional or not, they cheapened the depth of Bern’s more realized works. On the flip side, tunes like Breathe and Raining in Madrid played to the sort of overwrought folky stigma other Bern songs seem to poke fun at.

Finally, there was the misfired basketball banter, as when Bern joked about how he thought John Calipari and Rick Pitino were actually the same person. For the record, Bern made if offstage last night with his scalp intact. Come to think of it, though, he wore a bandana on his head for the whole show, so maybe…

A footnote: Athens, Ga. Americana songwriter Bill Mallonee, who was to have been part of last night’s concert, cancelled due to “unforseen circumstances.” The Natasha’s staff said they are working to book a future performance with Mallonee on his own for the near future. Pittsburgh folk singer Anne Feeney opened in Mallonee’s place.

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in performance: pat metheny

pat methency and his orchestrion gear. photo by jimmy katz.

pat metheny and his orchestrion gear. photo by jimmy katz.

Pat Metheny told a near capacity crowd at Cincinnati’s Taft Theatre last night that he is often approached with two questions when it comes to the new one-man-band Orchestrion project he is currently touring.

The first: “Have you lost your mind?”

The second: “How does it all work?”

The guitarist made a point of skirting the first query. He promised a detailed answer for the second, but never delivered. That may well stand as the 2¼  hour performance’s only failing. But one could hardly fault Metheny. A good musician, much like a magician, never reveals his tricks. And last night, he had a bounty of them.

After opening the evening with a brief medley of acoustic tunes, a workout on the reverb-soaked harp guitar and a spry revisit on hollow-body electric guitar to one of his first recorded compositions as a bandleader, 1975’s Unity Village, a stage curtain was raised revealing the monstrous array of mutated instruments that make up Orchestrion. There were stacks of percussion devices, a pair of grand pianos, a marimba and vibraphone, two branches of robotic synthesized instruments and the evening’s most wondrous creation, an organ-like mechanism that used glass jars of various sizes and volume in place of pipes.

How were they played? Who knows? Metheny’s hands never left the guitar. But for the better part of the program, the instruments were triggered by solenoid computerization, various foot pedals and, in all likelihood, some guitar trickery. In terms of simple theatricality, it was a mindblowing sight – dozens upon dozens of instruments robotically playing themselves. It was like Dr. Seuss meeting Tim Burton.

They chirped, rang, sang and provided often luxurious backdrops for Metheny’s melodies and spotless guitar tone. While the otherworldly instrumentation ignited all of the five extended compositions from the Orchestrion album (although their running order was scrambled from the one on the record), it sounded truly regal on the light, samba-like sway of the 1992 Secret Story centerpiece Antonia. The breakneck strut of Stranger in Town (from 1994’s We Live Here), which remarkably streamlined all the makeshift orchestration, was served as an encore.

Self-indulgent? Absolutely. Could an actual band have created such appealing musical textures with less fuss and a comparative creative drive? Very likely. But as a sheer technical feat, there was no denying the arresting yet playful sense of invention surrounding the concert.

Had you shut your eyes, the music would have still seemed richly organic and melodic. But half the fun of this grand musical lab experiment was watching Metheny command a small symphony of seemingly disembodied instruments while keeping the show’s focus squarely on the guitar. What a strange, fascinating and thoroughly distinctive performance.

it's man man, man

man man: pow pow (chris powell), sergei sogay (chris shar), chang wang (billy dufala), honus honus (ryan kattner), critter crat (russell higbee). photo by michael perisco.

man man: pow pow (chris powell), sergei sogay (chris shar, who has left the band), chang wang (billy dufala), honus honus (ryan kattner), critter crat (russell higbee). photo by michael perisco.

Quick. Slip on an album by Philadelphia’s Man Man – 2007’s Rabbit Habits is preferred, but any of the band’s three studio records will do. Now, describe what you hear.

Maybe some of these tags might apply: tensely animated, frantically rhythmic or playful in a Halloween parade sort of way.

Now get a load of Man Man in concert, an experience that makes the records seem positively timid. There’s the war paint, the uniforms that seem to resemble off-kilter tennis outfits or the propensity for its members to, quite literally, run amok.

Wrap all of that up and the word that most commonly pops up to describe the recording and performance adventures of Man Man is “experimental.” But you also have to measure in the brass and cartoon-like mallet percussion (which recalls a darker version of Danny Elfman’s great carnival pop collective Oingo Boingo), the grunts and chants that often pass for vocals (which sound like a slightly tempered variation of Captain Beefheart) and the curious balance of lyrical pop convention and complete melodic anarchy.

This helps form at least an outline of the delicious discord that goes into Man Man music.

But then again, for a summation of the band’s sound that is fit for this quick-hit world, let’s check in with Ryan Kattner, better known as Man Man keyboardist, vocalist and frontman Honus Honus. He referred to the new music the band is set to record for its upcoming fourth album as being like “a cupcake with hooks inside.”

“We all come from different backgrounds, so there’s a lot of butting of heads in our band when it comes to making new music. I’ll bring in a skeleton of a song and then we’ll fight tooth and nail over it. Sometimes that song might see the light of day. Sometimes the song might get thrown in a shallow grave in the back yard.”

A favorite of Lexington audiences for years (the band played at Buster’s, quite appropriately, last Halloween), Man Man stands at something of a crossroads as it approaches work on its fourth album. Rabbit Habits helped bolster its national following, but Kattner insisted it was “very difficult” to make. This time the band is preparing itself by fine tuning new material before recording sessions commence. Still, he says the new songs are “hard to wrap my head around.”

“Really, what this whole tour we’re about to do is about is playing the new material. We want to take the songs out and see if they have legs.”

And do they?

“Oh, yeah. They’re kicking people.”

“For some reason I wanted to write a kind of mellow sounding record this time. The thing is, though, nothing in my personal life has been mellow at all. So I’ve ended up on the opposite end of that.

“I played some of these tunes off of my dad’s opinion. I do that a lot. We had been demo-ing the songs all winter because we wanted to be as prepared as we could before we head into the studio. So I sent my father the demos. After I sent him one of the songs I’m really excited about, he called me up said he just needed to hear the tone of my voice to make sure everything was OK. He was like, ‘Son, like the song. Was a little worried. Glad you’re alright.’

“My dad is pretty honest about stuff. But when my father comes out to our shows, he gets kind of tense because he hates seeing me climb on stuff. He was down at the front of the stage for a show recently and I just knew that I had to climb the scaffolding. It’s not something I do all the time. But I had to climb up to the spotlight and point it on myself so he could see me.”

How is it that Man Man’s songs are open enough for such instinct to take over like that? How can the music still move and thrive when its chieftain is literally climbing the wall?

“Well, there’s definitely space in these songs that we sense when we put them together,” Kattner said. “They’re constructed around a kind of song structure that I’ve managed to cobble together over the years.

“Believe it or not, I still don’t personally know how to write a song. I know there’s the textbook way – you know, verse/chorus, verse/chorus, soaring guitar solo, anthemic chorus. But I’ve never been very happy with that. I’m more likely to say, ‘Let’s just do a verse and a jam.’ The songs are still structured. But there is also room for us to have fun and mess around.”

“Then again, we could put out this new record and everyone might hate it. I always feel like what we do could be over tomorrow, so we don’t take anything for granted. We’ve been fortunate to this point to have people stumble across what we do and then support us – or totally hate us. Either way, the response strikes a fire in us.”

Man Man performs at 8 p.m. May 13 at Cosmic Charlie’s, 388 Woodland Ave. Tickets are $12. Call (859) 309-9499.

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critic's pick 123

The transformation of Josh Rouse from a Midwestern-bred indie pop stylist working out of Nashville to a songwriter living on the shores of Valencia incorporating Spanish, American and, increasingly, other international accents as colors for his music remains, at the least, curious. But understanding such continental shifts certainly makes the journey to his new El Turista album – and the light, exotic and undeniably summery mood that pervades it – into a smooth flight.

On paper, the pieces of El Turista don’t seem to fit. Bossa nova tunes that echo with the sunny, whispery grace of masters like Joao Gilberto sung in Spanish instead of Portuguese? Cuban and Afro-Cuban works revised with the same Valencian grace?

And what of Rouse’s own songwriting? Can a Midwestern soul thrive within such exotica?

The bottom line with El Turista is that the obvious questions don’t matter. When Rouse sings (in English, this time) of sleeping in dandelion fields and strolling alongside oceans in Lemon Tree over a light Cuban groove ushered in on piano but enhanced with flutes, strings and percussion, the attitude is set.

“It’s a long walk home, but I have found my beat,” Rouse sings. Indeed he has. For the duration of the song’s three and a half minute length (Lemon Tree could have run twice that without growing stagnant), the subtle beat rules.

The feel is similarly chic on the Spanish-sung Mesie Julian. The song comes from the ‘60s repertoire of the famed Cuban singer-pianist Bola de Nieve, but on El Turista it emits sunny bossa nova cool from the Gilberto school along with a faintly retro American halo (mostly through use of Rhodes-style keyboards and Hammond organ by longtime Rouse ally Brad Jones). We’re not sure why Rouse and Jones give themselves songwriting credits along with the tune’s original composer, Cuban pianist Armando Orefiche. Unless one is versed enough in Spanish to detect modifications in the lyrics, we’ll never know.

The big modification, though, comes late on El Turista, when Rouse sings in English over a jazzy, breezy strain of guitar and percussion. The words reflect subtle wonder (“Where do you come from, where do you go, what you been doin’?”) until the song reveals itself as the folk/country staple Cotton Eyed Joe. But ol’ Joe has hung up his clogging shoes on this one. He’s now a beachcomber on the sunny shores of Spain, in keeping with the rest of El Turista‘s keenly relaxed feel.

So don’t concern yourself too much with the questions surrounding Rouse’s globetrotting musical matrix. Summer is at hand, and a cool evening listen to El Turista will help make grilling burgers in the backyard seem as luxuriant as a night on the Mediterranean coast.

Wrestlemania 23: Belts, bulging biceps — and big bucks.

The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, FL) April 1, 2007 Byline: Mark Schlueb Apr. 1–DETROIT — Don Campagna is sitting on a stool in a sports bar a couple of blocks from Ford Field, where Wrestlemania 23 will be held today. He’s trying to explain why he would take a week off from his job with a minor-league hockey team, spend $2,000 on a “platinum” ticket package and travel 550 miles from his home in Albany, N.Y., to watch muscle-bound wrestlers body slam each other in the Motor City. His explanation about fan access and obscure rivalries may be a good one, but it’s hard to follow; the glint from the 10-inch-wide, leather-and-gold-plated souvenir championship belt he’s wearing is distracting. Whatever the reason, one thing is certain: When Wrestlemania 24 comes to Orlando next year, Campagna — and 60,000 or 70,000 other die-hard wrestling fanatics — will be here. “You can expect an awesome spectacle unlike anything Orlando has ever seen,” Campagna said. “I can’t wait. With an outdoor venue at the Citrus Bowl, it’s going to be huge.” It’s no mystery why Orlando’s hospitality industry was excited by the announcement two weeks ago that professional wrestling’s showcase event was coming to town in 2008. If guys like Campagna are willing to shell out big bucks to go to Detroit, a city known for its cold weather, they’ll be plenty eager to empty their wallets in Orlando. site detroit lions tickets

The Central Florida Sports Commission, which persuaded World Wrestling Entertainment to come to Orlando, predicts the event will dump $25 million into the region’s economy. Sports Commission President John Saboor said the impact will be “historic.” “It will quite likely transform our community for the week that it’s here,” he said. “This is a very, very devoted fan base.” Judging by the Wrestlemania fans filling hotels and bars in downtown Detroit in the past week, Saboor has a gift for understatement. There’s William Bawn, for instance. At a pre-Wrestlemania event at a mall Wednesday — part of five days of fan hoopla leading up to the main event — the 24-year-old carpenter decided that getting wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s name spray-painted on his forehead wasn’t quite enough to show his dedication. So he muscled his son’s baby stroller up to the tattoo artist and unbuttoned the boy’s jumper. Until the ink wears off in about a week, 2-month-old Damien’s belly will bear the name “Batista.” (For the uneducated, Batista is the ring name of David Bautista, the world champion who lives in Tampa.) The baby branding triggered a heartwarming sense of nostalgia in Damien’s mom, Nicole O’Brien. “When I was his age, every Sunday, Mom would take my brothers and me and put us in her bed and we’d watch wrestling,” she said wistfully. Wrestling is apparently wildly popular among infants. At another fan event, Melissa Desalliers of Windsor, Ontario, thrust her baby into the arms of wrestler Johnny Nitro, who had just finished talking about his aspiration to one day fight atop scaffolding suspended over a tank of leopard sharks.

“Every time wrestling’s on, she’s watching it,” Desalliers said of 4-month-old Marissa. “Half of it’s fake, but I just love it. I cried when Rey Mysterio got hurt — I literally cried.” About 70,000 people will watch Wrestlemania today at Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions. Tickets, which sold out, range in price from $30 nosebleeds to $700 seats on the floor near the ring. Many fans paid much more for packages that include their hotel, as well as tickets to the main event and entry to limited-access events such as Saturday’s WWE Hall of Fame induction ceremony. (Platinum-ticket holders such as Campagna even get to keep their folding chairs, which, as any fan knows, can easily be used to pummel an opponent.) Tickets have been bought by residents of all 50 states and 23 countries, according to WWE officials. Others will pay $50 to watch the pay-per-view broadcast. Many Detroit hotels are booked solid. Matt Jones, marketing director for the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center, said that on a typical March night, hotel occupancy would stand at about 40 percent. Now it’s sold out. go to website detroit lions tickets

“We expect guests from all parts of the globe. There’s a following in Japan and Europe,” said Jones, who added there had not yet been any folding-chair brawls among guests. It’s big money, but it’s a far cry from the Disney-style family entertainment found at Central Florida theme parks. The WWE melds professional sports with soap opera, complete with complex story lines that inspire fierce fan loyalty.

At today’s Wrestlemania, wrestlers representing Donald Trump and WWE Chairman Vince McMahon will face off in what is billed as the Battle of the Billionaires, with the losing rich guy getting his head shaved. That kind of drama is hard to imagine in any other sport; Magic fans aren’t likely to see team owner Rich DeVos in a slap-fest anytime soon.

Still, WWE reported $415.3 million in revenue last year and has built a massive fan base in part by routinely making its stars available for autographs, usually for much longer than pro athletes from other sports. And fans seem to be everywhere. For days, Detroit hotels and restaurants have been awash in WWE loyalists, easily identifiable by their black T-shirts, autograph books and replica championship belts.

Even Mayor Buddy Dyer was reportedly giddy to meet with McMahon at WWE headquarters last fall when he made the pitch for Orlando. Of course, a few years ago, Dyer left a news conference announcing his own candidacy to go hog hunting. “It’s almost like magic,” said Michael Harvey, trying to explain the allure of pro wrestling. “They’re like superheroes, like cartoons come to life. People think it’s lower class, but I’ve seen a range of ethnicities and classes. When you’re by the water cooler, nobody wants to admit it.” Harvey, a 29-year-old child-support enforcement worker from Kansas City, Mo., took a week off and paid more than $1,600 to go to Detroit with his mother. “Our fans are passionate,” said Carl DeMarco, president of WWE Canada. “They live, breathe and sleep WWE, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” And next year, they’re going to bring that passion to Orlando. Along with a bunch of big, shiny championship belts. Mark Schlueb can be reached at mschlueb@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5417.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.

current listening 05/08/10

+ The Holmes Brothers: Feed My Soul (2010) – Another expert blend of vintage R&B, sleek contemporary blues and subtle gospel drive from the Virginia-bred Holmes trio. Gospel remains the driving force, although when the group takes on The Beatles’ I’ll Be Back, pop desolation becomes soul jubilation. Kentucky’s own Joan Osborne produced Feed My Soul, but the album’s resolute feel, underscored by the gospel reflection Take Me Away, is an act of pure, brotherly love.

+ On Fillmore: Extended Vacation (2009) – The latest and most accessible outing by the duo of Glenn Kotche and Darin Gray boasts a cover photo of a tropical sunset that appears to be taking place underwater. The music’s lovingly ambient chill factor reflects the view. Percussionist (and University of Kentucky alum) Kotche sets the pace with abundant, cool chatter while acoustic bassist Gray sets the otherworldly sounds within a woody, organic frame.

+ Don Cherry: Complete Communion (1965) – Cherry’s first official album as a leader after rattling the world of jazz harmony with Ornette Coleman’s groundbreaking late ‘50s quartet, Communion is often viewed as an avant-garde milestone. But listening to this 2000 Blue Note reissue finds the album’s two extended suites to be quite approachable,  especially when the cornetist mixes things up with bassist Henry Grimes. To today’s ears, Communion sounds full of open, boppish intrigue.

+ Tony Levin: Waters of Eden (2000) – A May 18 date in Newport by his band Stick Men prompted a renewed listen to this decade-old instrumental gem of an album. As a studio musician with miles of credits and long running alliances with Peter Gabriel and King Crimson, Levin has long been a forceful player. Here, his composing skills surge with elements of chamber and world music along with good old prog rock. Ten years on, Eden is still a wondrous listen.

+ Graham Parker: The Mona Lisa’s Sister (1988) – The first in a series of great but forgotten albums by the great British post-punk songsmith. Parker’s songs always balance a level of venom with a surprisingly sunny sense of pop-soul tradition. Thus the twitch that ignites the single Get Started (Start a Fire) is all finger-popping cool while the celebrity postscript offered on Success is countered by doo-wop harmonies that seem to stretch to infinity.

rocking against crohn’s

rocking out against crohn's disease on saturday at the green lantern are (back row) brian moore, matt renfroe and dick brinegar; (front row) moses naedele, coralee and matt patterson.

rocking out against crohn's disease on saturday at the green lantern are (back row) brian moore, matt renfroe, dick brinegar; (front row) moses naedele, coralee, matt patterson. photo by mark ashley

There is no question that the friendships we favorably maintain help guide the course of our lives. Seldom is that underscored more than when a friendship is unintentionally severed.

Last November, Matt Patterson, a mainstay member of the Lexington music scene, lost a longtime pal and college era roommate, Dan Garrett, to complications from Crohn’s Disease. Garrett was 47.

Two other college friends will honor Garrett this summer by running a half-marathon through the wine country of California and, in the process, raising a prospective $8,000 to benefit the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America

“Well, I’m not much of a runner,” Patterson said. “But I thought I could get some bands together here and perhaps make a little bit of money to donate to that challenge. We could do that, perhaps raise a little bit of awareness and have some fun, as well.”

So on Saturday, Patterson is gathering two Lexington bands he is actively involved with – the longrunning country/roots brigade The Yonders and the ‘60s psychedelic cover band Between Clark and Hilldale – along with fellow local-ites Coralee and the Townies, Gnarly Love and Frank Rocket – for a benefit called Rock Out Against Crohn’s at The Green Lantern, 497 West Third. 

“Dan was pretty private about what was going on,” Patterson said. “The last few months of his life, he did not want to speak with any of his old friends. We weren’t really able to find out that much about what was going on. But his death really hit us. Something like that puts perspective on things.”

Crohn’s Disease isn’t exactly the sort of malady that regularly becomes the focus of benefit events big or small. It is a chronic, inflammatory condition without a known cause or cure that attacks the gastrointestinal tract. An estimated half-million people in North America suffer from it.

“I don’t know what to expect as far as how much money we will raise. So depending on what we make, there’s a possibility we may also give a certain amount directly to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. But the idea here is me pulling my weight in asking some friends to come along, play some music and have some fun for a good cause. We’ll see what happens from there.”

The bands at Saturday’s Rock Out Against Crohn’s benefit are set to perform 45 minute sets each. Here is the tentative running order: The Yonders (8:30 p.m.), Gnarly Love (9:30 p.m.), Frank Rocket (10:30 p.m.), Coralee and the Townies (11:30 p.m.) and Between Clark and Hilldale (12:30 a.m.).

“I was thinking of what would Dan have wanted his show to be like,” Patterson said. “He liked all types of music. But I think he would really dig this lineup.”

the seether you know

seether: guitarist troy mclawhorn, bassist dale stewart, vocalist shaun morgan and drummer john humphrey. photo by douglas sonders.

seether: guitarist troy mclawhorn, bassist dale stewart, vocalist shaun morgan and drummer john humphrey. photo by douglas sonders.

It’s not exactly the pathway to stardom most bands would predict or even choose.

You start your creative journey in the unlikely rock ‘n’ roll terrain of South Africa. A move to the United States ensues when a record contract is sealed. Enter a hard-earned fanbase, commercial breakthroughs and a soap opera-like offstage life. An unlikely cover tune that becomes an equally improbable hit follows. That brings you to recording sessions in the here and now with one of the world’s most esteemed producers.

It has, in short, been quite a ride for Seether, a band whose music falls outside specific hard rock genres of metal and grunge while still packing a powerful electric wallop. We last heard the quartet on local soil just over a year ago as an opening band at Rupp Arena for Nickelback. Seether will bring the guitar crunch of four consecutive gold-selling albums, along with such visible radio hits as Fake It and Broken, back to Rupp to headline the multi-act Z-Fest on Sunday.

“We just consider ourselves a rock band,” said Seether bassist Dale Stewart. “I don’t know if one really could label us because we kind of do a little bit of everything. We’ve made really heavy albums. We’ve made some acoustic albums. Some of the music is real heavy. Some of it is quite slow. And then there’s some middle-of-the-road stuff. We would probably need a couple of labels to successfully describe it all.”

Stewart and lead singer Shaun Morgan formed Seether under the name Saron Gas (the later Seether moniker came from the name of a single by the Chicago band Veruca Salt) in a suburb of Johannesburg during the late ‘90s. As aspiring artists, their ears were tuned more to the sounds of America than those of their homeland.

“Growing up in South Africa wasn’t a whole lot different, I guess, than growing up in an American suburb,” Stewart said. “We lived just down the road from the school. We had the church on the corner and a little grocery store nearby. I go to suburbs in the States now and there’s not that much difference.

“There were obvious differences culturally that I’m sure influenced us subliminally. But Shaun and I grew up on American and British bands. We were always a South African band that didn’t quite sound South African. A lot of people didn’t like us because we didn’t have that typical South African band sound. But things paid off.”

A move to the United States and a record contract with the Wind Up label came in 2002 along with tours alongside acts like Evanescence. As a result, a heavily acoustic ballad called Broken was reworked as a duet between Morgan and Evanescence singer Amy Lee. Add in an increasingly public romance between the singers, and Seether became something of a sensation onstage and off.

A trip to the Top 10 was next, courtesy of the 2005 album Karma and Effect. It chalked up three radio singles including the charttopping Remedy. But a perhaps inevitable crash was on the way. By 2006, the Morgan-Lee hookup was history, Seether lost its guitarist (Pat Callahan) and Morgan was in rehab confronting alcohol addiction.

None this exactly derailed the band. 2007’s Finding Beauty In Negative Spaces did exactly that by balancing angst and release with hits like Fake It (which pretty much owned modern rock radio airwaves that fall) and Rise Above This.

“There was certainly a lot of turmoil going on as we went into Finding Beauty,” Stewart said. “But turmoil can spawn good songs. It’s inspiring… but also a bit of a double edged sword.”

Then came a real curiosity. With a followup to Finding Beauty still in early stages of development, Seether was invited by iTunes to record a song for a 2009 Valentine’s Day compilation. The band answered with an amped up but still torchy version of the ‘80s Wham! hit Careless Whisper. The rendition was added to subsequent pressings of Finding Beauty and became another Seether radio smash.

“Management approached us and said ‘You could do something serious or something kind of funny.’ And immediately Shaun and I said, ‘Let’s do Careless Whisper.’ We’ve had a kind of running joke with the song for awhile which made us both think of it at the same time. So we just decided to do it. It’s actually a great song with a great melody. But we decided to beef it up.

“I can’t help but think of all the kids born pre-1985 who think Careless Whisper is actually one of our songs.

Seether’s next act is just now unfolding. The band is near completion on a new album overseen by producer Brendan O’Brien, whose credits include Pearl Jam, Rage Against the Machine, AC/DC, Stone Temple Pilots and the last four Bruce Springsteen albums.

“We work pretty well with Brendan,” Stewart said. “We’re a band that likes to get in there and get the job done. We don’t mess around too much. Brendan is the same. He’s a real no-nonsense guy with a great work ethnic.

“With Brendan, we get in the studio, work real hard and just immerse ourselves in the songs. We go home at the end of the day and feel we have accomplished a lot. And that’s pretty cool.”

Z Fest featuring Seether, Five Finger Death Punch, Hellyeah, Drowning Pool and Lacuna Coil starts at 6 p.m. May 9 at Rupp Arena. Tickets: $39.75. Call (859) 233-3535 or (800) 745-3000.

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