Archive for June, 2010

critic's pick 130

On his third consecutive all-star album collaboration, Herbie Hancock reaches not so much for the stars as he does around the world. The Grammy winning jazz journeyman takes songs of affirmation – some obvious, some wonderfully unexpected – enlists a stable of international pop celebrities, places the graceful and immensely animated cool of his keyboard work (with emphasis on piano over electronics) in the driver’s seat and takes everything out for a hearty global spin.

How far reaching is Hancock’s treatise on cross-continental pop diplomacy? How about a reading of Bob Dylan’s social anthem The Times They Are a’ Changin’ that begins with a stoic vocal hush from Lisa Hannigan before the tempo takes on a livelier Celtic air. Cue the Chieftains, which briskly alter the musical atmosphere. But what’s that harp-like accent sprinkled over the summit? Why, it’s the angelic kora playing of Malian instrumental star Toumani Diabete.

From America to Ireland to West Africa in about eight minutes – that’s some serious globetrotting.

Sound wild? Then try this. Take the The Beatles’ psychedelic staple Tomorrow Never Knows and add in the vocal haze of Dave Mathews. But what’s that chugging string charge that sounds less like a blast of Brit-pop day-tripping and more like a backyard jam session? Hey, it’s banjoist/guitarist Danny Barnes, one of Americana music’s great unsung stylists getting a long overdue big league break.

And for a sound that is a little more continental, there is Matthew Moore’s Space Captain, a funky bit of carnival-style soul that Joe Cocker helped popularize four decades ago during his Mad Dogs and Englishmen days. Here, the homegrown soul sound comes from the first couple of inventive jam band music, Dereks Trucks and Susan Tedeschi. It’s an earthy, rootsy revision with a serious gospel underpinning that appropriately grabs the tune by the collar at several points.

The guest card occasionally gets a little crowded. A two-part reinvention of John Lennon’s Imagine, the album’s namesake tune, has to make room for vocal turns by India.Arie, Seal and Pink. That tends to squeeze an instrumental break by guitar great Jeff Beck out of the picture. His solo is clean and engaging, but a bit muted by all the company.

And where is Hancock during all of the ceremonies? Oh, he is very much in charge. One might be initially drawn to the guest stars, but listen to the way his piano work makes a lovely, dark lullaby out of Peter Gabriel’s Don’t Give It Up or the melodic warmth he weaves around James Morrison’s vocal turns on the Sam Cooke soul classic A Change is Gonna Come. What you hear is a piano voice every bit as worldly as the global journey The Imagine Project takes us on.

New York Police & Fire Widow’s and Children’s’ Benefit Fund to Host 26th Annual Gala on “10-13”, honoring Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO, Lloyd C. Blankfein.

Journal of Transportation October 22, 2011 New York Police & Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund Chairman, Stephen J. Dannhauser of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP and President, Kevin Parker of Deutsche Asset Management will host the charity’s 26th Annual Benefit Gala with a tribute to New York City’s fallen first responders on Thursday, October 13, 2011. The gala will be hosted at the Wade Thompson Drill Hall of the Park Avenue Armory in New York City.

This year’s Gala, marking the 10th Anniversary of “9-11,” will honor Lloyd Blankfein, Chairman and CEO of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., for his ongoing support of the Benefit Fund and NYC’s first responders. The gala will be hosted by Brian Williams, Anchor and Managing Editor of NBC Nightly News.

Kevin Parker, Global Head of Deutsche Bank’s Asset Management division and President of the charity said, “The safety our City’s Fire and Police personnel provide us is something we should never take for granted. The emergency radio call of ’10-13′, which is also the date of the Gala, indicates that a First Responder is in need of assistance. Let this date, on the 10th anniversary of 9-11 when so many of them gave their lives, be a reminder to all of us that our commitment to New York’s bravest and their families must not waiver.” “It’s a privilege to honor Lloyd,” said Stephen Dannhauser, Chairman of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP and Chairman of the charity’s Board of Directors. “The support that he and his colleagues at Goldman Sachs have shown to family members of New York’s finest and bravest heroes has been remarkable and has made a huge impact on their lives, providing help when and where it is most needed.” “All New Yorkers owe a great deal not only to the City’s first responders but to their families,” said Lloyd C. Blankfein, Chairman and CEO of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. “It is an honor for our firm to help support the New York Police & Fire Widows & Children’s Benefit Fund.” Special guests include Hockey Hall of Famer, former honoree and charity VP of Community Affairs, Mark Messier, NYC Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, and NYC Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano and Port Authority Police Superintendent Michael Fedorko, Donnie Wahlberg (Blue Bloods), Jim Cramer (Mad Money) and many of New York’s movers and shakers will be milling amongst the 1200 guests. go to site jim cramer mad money

Mark Messier said, “I chose to get involved with this charity, because like all Americans and New Yorkers, I was profoundly affected by September 11, 2001. The courage and selflessness that was shown by New York’s Bravest and Finest was an inspiration to me. I feel deeply compelled to honor and remember all first responders who put the safety of others before their own by helping the families they leave behind.” The event will also feature a performance by up and coming entertainer Duane McLaughlin, who will sing his new release “Ready to Live”.

Since its inception in 1985 by Daniel J. “Rusty” Staub, the Benefit Fund has distributed more than $123 million to the families of New York City Police and Fire Fighters who have been killed in the line of duty. Starting in 1987, the Benefit Fund provided 320 families with annual financial assistance. The commitment has since grown to nearly 700 families. With minimal overhead, the charity is able to give 95 cents of every dollar donated directly to the families who has suffered the loss of a loved one in the line of duty The Gala will include a live auction led by George McNeely of Christie’s. Notable items that are being donated this year include unique experience packages through the NYPD, FDNY and PAPD.

The cocktail reception begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by dinner and program at 7:30 p.m. Individual tickets begin at $1000. go to website jim cramer mad money

For tickets and sponsorship/ticket information, contact: Linda Giammona, 212.735.4505 or About The New York Police & Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund The Benefit Fund’s mission is to provide assistance to the families of New York City Police Officers, Fire Fighters, Port Authority Police and EMS Personnel who have been killed in the line of duty. The Benefit Fund gives financial assistance to grieving families immediately after they lose their loved one. Our goal is to raise enough funds to provide meaningful annual distributions to our beneficiaries for the remainder of their lives.

Since the Benefit Fund’s inception in 1985 by Daniel J. “Rusty” Staub, the our charity has distributed over $123 million to the families of fallen New York City Police and Fire personnel who have been killed in the line of duty. In 1987 we provided 320 families with annual financial assistance and by 2011 we have made the same commitment to nearly 700 families. Our need has certainly grown, but our mission remains pure: NEVER FORGET those that put the safety of others before their own.

heavy friction

the friction brothers: fred lonberg-holm, michael zerang and michael colligan.

friction brothers fred lonberg-holm, michael zerang, michael colligan.

Webster’s Dictionary contains multiple definitions for the word “friction.” Two, in particular, relate to the reactionary improvisational music of the group known as The Friction Brothers

The first: “The rubbing of one body against another.”

The second: “The clashing between two persons or parties of opposed views.”

One suggests harmony, the other represents conflict. That’s as good of a place as any to begin with the music of this unique Chicago trio. While “harmony” and “opposed views” don’t play into their music is any obvious manner, they certainly seem to feed the mind set the group adopts during a performance.

On its self-titled debut recording made up of three improvisations recorded during a 2006 concert at Elastic in Chicago (a second release is due this summer), the music works off of strings, metal and manipulation. The expected music from cello, piano and drums never arrives, however. Instead we hear sounds that scrap, crash, whirr, whine and, well, sort of sizzle in a very literal way.

The personnel of The Friction Brothers, which perform Tuesday at Gumbo Ya-Ya as part of the Outside the Spotlight Series, brings two familiar champions of the Chicago improvised music scene back to Lexington, along with one very distinctive newcomer.

First up in the lineup is Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello, who will be making his third local outing is just over six months. He having played here last December with Aram Shelton’s Fast Citizens and in February as part of a duo with German free jazz patriarch Peter Brotzmann.

Next we have drummer Michael Zerang, who has performed twice in Lexington with Brotzmann’s Chicago Tentet (which also includes Lonberg-Holm). His instrumental credits with The Friction Brothers are listed simply as percussion and “piano insides.”

Finally, we have Michael Colligan. He is credited as playing dry ice. That translates into heating metal objects, then quick-chilling them on a block of dry ice so that that the utensils audibly vibrate.

Combine that with Lonberg-Holm’s self-described “anti-cello” outbursts and Zerang’s percussive anarchy and you have music created from the rubbing of combined objects and the unexpected clashes that often result.

The Friction Brothers perform at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Gumbo Ya Ya in the Bar Lexington complex, 367 East Main, as part of the Outside the Spotlight Series. Admission is $5.

alone down a crooked road

darrell scott. photo by rodney bursiel.

darrell scott. photo by rodney bursiel.

For an artist whose songs and musicianship have been so in demand by a legion of fellow performers, Darrell Scott sure enjoys keeping to himself on his newest album.

Look back at the career of the acclaimed, Kentucky-born Scott and you will discover a player that has lent his considerable instrumental talents to tours and performances by such stylistically diverse players as Joan Baez, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Bill Frisell and Steve Earle. The predominantly country roster of acts that have cut Scott’s songs include Brad Paisley, the Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill and fellow Kentuckian Patty Loveless.

In July, Scott will take to the road for what is perhaps his highest profile collaboration yet as a member of an all-star Americana band assembled to backup on ex-Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant.

But for now, Scott is the ultimate solo act. His new A Crooked Road album is a spacious, 20 song/two disc set. He wrote or co-wrote all of the music, produced the record, played every note of every song and even shot the scrapbook of self-portrait photos on the inside of the CD sleeve.

“I always wanted to make a record where I played everything,” said Scott, who performs Monday for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. “It’s just funny that it’s taken this long to do it.

“The idea goes back to when I was 16 and I got my first four-track reel-to-reel recorder. I would spend hours, days, weeks just mesmerized by the idea of overdubbing to myself. That’s where I got the recording bug.

“As far as the writing goes, these songs are pretty well what I want to say at this time in my life. I’ve turned 50 but still have that ju-ju in me. The songs and music are still passing through me.”

There is an intimacy and sparseness to many of the tunes on A Crooked Road, although that shouldn’t suggest in any way that the album is an emotionally muted work. The Day Before Thanksgiving is a tale of self-described “low grade desperation” that recalls vintage Earle music. When the Spirit Meets the Bone is a modern day serenade for strings or, depending on one’s viewpoint, a serenade of modern strings that employs acoustic, electric, pedal steel and bass guitars. Two piano ballads, the Bruce Hornsby-style Open Door and the starker, family-themed A Father’s Song further stretch A Crooked Road‘s lyrical, literary and emotional boundaries.

“Everything contributes to the process,” Scott said. “I bring in every tool that I possibly have at any given time. The arranger, the player, the singer, the harmonizer, the lead guitarist, the background this or that – these are the tools in my toolbox.

“But the most important part of the songwriting process is the inspiration. Without that, songs are just of clever stuff on paper. Songs have to have heart, soul and the whole human expression.”

Those are also tools Scott will also have at the ready when he begins touring with Plant in a band that includes fellow Americana greats Patty Griffin, Buddy Miller, Byron House and Marco Giovano. The ensemble has already recorded an album, Band of Joy, which is due out in September. The July dates make up merely the first leg of a tour that will continue this fall.

“The word I would use to describe the whole collaboration is ‘organic’ – both musically and how the whole project came to be.

“We started off getting the core band together with Robert with the only intention being, ‘Let’s see what happens.’ There were no expectations. But after about 15 minutes of playing together, Robert and Buddy suggested we get to our microphones and start recording instead of just rehearsing and running songs.

“My sense is that the album we made feels really good. I know Robert is proud of it. So we’re taking the album band on the road to play these songs. But we’re also retooling some Zeppelin stuff and adding some songs that are kind of in-between all that. We’ll even be playing some stuff that pre-dates Zeppelin.”

Though bound for Zeppelin-ville, Scott’s crooked road began in Kentucky. He was born in London and grew up briefly in Knox County before his parents went north in search of employment.

“They went to see what work was available in Dearborn (Mich.) at the car factories and to the Chicago area to the steel mills. They were chasing economics as poor people do.

“My parents were the picture of tobacco farming, coal mining people, so I am definitely a son of Kentucky. The only way I could be more so would be if I still lived there.”

Darrell Scott performs with Evie Ladin at 7 p.m. Monday at the Kentucky Theatre, 214 East Main, for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. Admission is $10. Call (859) 252-8888.

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pete quaife, 1942-2010

the kinks, circa 1967. clockwise from top: ray davies, mick avory, dave davies, pete quaife.

the kinks in younger days, circa 1967. clockwise from top: ray davies, mick avory, dave davies and pete quaife.

Pete Quaife’s turn in the pop spotlight lasted a mere five years. But what a riotous time that was. He was the founding bassist of The Kinks, far and the away the most underappreciated of the ‘60s British Invasion front line pop brigades.

Quaife died on Wednesday at the age 66.

During his Kinks tenure, which ended in 1969, Quaife helped retool American R&B into ensemble rock and pop. The American inclinations were obvious in the guitar dominate hits You Really Got Me and All Day and All of the Night. But the combination of singer/frontman Ray Davies’ quintessentially British storylines with the versatile guitar immediacy of sibling guitarist Dave Davies soon forged a more distinctive path for the band, resulting in keenly produced singles like Sunny Afternoon, Tired of Waiting for You, Dedicated Follower of Fashion and the milestones Days and Waterloo Sunset.

Quaife left The Kinks roughly a year before the band’s career was commercially rekindled with Lola. But he remained long enough to record the finest of its ‘60s albums, 1968’s The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society.

In rock and pop history, his name is perhaps a footnote. But slip on Village Green or the record’s two masterful predecessors, 1966’s Face to Face and 1967’s Something Else, and Quaife is revealed as a vital co-architect in one of British pop’s most essential sounds.

fred anderson, 1929-2010

fred anderson. photo by jim newberry.

fred anderson. photo by jim newberry.

In A Power Stronger Than Itself, George E. Lewis’ exhilarating 2008 book on Chicago’s AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians), saxophonist Fred Anderson is described as “a hero to the younger generation, a symbol of the combination of personal tenacity, historical continuity and radical musical integrity.”

As one of the AACM’s founders, Anderson was all of that. As a musician and improviser, he was tireless. Inspired by the likes of Charlie Parker but driven to collaborate during the ‘60s with such daring stylists as Joseph Jarman, he came from a generation that bowed to jazz tradition. Throughout the music he created over the last 40 years, including his most extreme avant garde excursions, Anderson never lost sight of that tradition. That’s why his saxophone tone remained so lustrous, lyrical and contemplative even as some of his compositions grew more abstract.

To those in Chicago, his AACM legacy is almost equaled by his founding of the jazz club known as the Velvet Lounge, a venue Anderson named for the complimentary descriptions so often pinned to his playing. Founded in 1982, Anderson did everything, as a recent Associated Press story outlined it, “from collecting the $10 cover charge to jamming onstage to taking out the garbage” at the club.

Anderson died Thursday in Chicago at the age of 81. He had suffered a severe heart attack on June 14.

Near as we can tell, Anderson never played in Lexington. But his disciples have. Among them are drummer Hamid Drake and bassist Josh Abrams. Both teamed with Anderson on one of his finest and most accessible recordings, 2007’s From the River to the Ocean. Any number of live recordings made at the Velvet Lounge also come recommended. But the open, meditative and often percussive allure of River, not to mention its representation Anderson’s Coltrane-like sway on saxophone and the album’s tribute tune to another AACM innovator, Kentucky-born trumpeter Malachi Thompson (For Brother Thompson), make the recording a defining work in a career that embraced deep jazz tradition as well as the music’s boundless sense of possibility.

No Sleighs, but Plenty of Bargains; Last-Minute Christmas Shoppers Wheel and Deal at Auto Auction

The Washington Post December 25, 1994 | Sari Horwitz The pink ’82 Escort pulled up to the auction block and about 15 men swarmed around. They flung the doors open and flipped up the hood as all heads dropped to peer inside.

“Who will give me $600?” called out an auctioneer wearing an elf’s hat. “$575? … $550 … $525?” When he got down to $275, a hand shot up. The two-door Ford with 74,000 miles on the odometer and a University of Maryland bumper sticker was sold to Keith Strother, 20, of College Park, who turned to his mother.

“Merry Christmas!” he said, beaming.

And so it went – car after jeep after truck after car – for hours yesterday at the Capital Auto Auction in the old Trailways bus garage in Northeast Washington, across from the main post office. More than 100 shoppers willing to brave the rain and a little uncertainty about what exactly they were going to be buying crowded into the cavernous warehouse packed with cheap Christmas wheels.

The auction has been running every Saturday since 1988, but the largest number of cars donated and sold comes during the Christmas season until New Year’s Eve. Some are auctioned for their owners. Some are auctioned for the benefit of the Salvation Army, and those willing to turn over their clunkers get a tax deduction. web site capital auto auction

There were 266 vehicles for sale yesterday, including a 1987 Toyota Camry, a 1989 Ford Taurus and a 1994 Toyota King Cab pickup truck with only 8,000 miles and a full factory warranty.

“We usually don’t have this kind of inventory, but everyone wants to donate a car to take advantage of the tax break,” said auction vice president and general manager Gordy Zaritsky, also wearing an elf cap. An additional 500 vehicles are waiting to be picked up from donors, he said. capital auto auction

Zaritsky said 20 percent of the cars are in good condition, 20 percent are salvaged for parts or scrap metal and the remaining 60 percent need some work. Those 60 percent are what he calls “fixer uppers.” Buyers usually include some who need transportation, some backyard mechanics and a few dealers such as Bob Alston of Expert Auto, who buys 15 to 20 cars a week this way.

“What you see is what you get,” Alston said. “It’s not misleading.” “I want to buy an inexpensive car and avoid a lot of the hassle of a car dealer,” said Wayl Osman, 27, of Silver Spring. Osman, a security officer, bought a blue 1977 Honda Civic yesterday for $130 to use for his part-time pizza delivery work.

There are good deals to be had, but auction officials said there are some lemons too. Buyers show up at the auction about three hours before it starts to inspect the vehicles, hoping to spot mechanical and safety defects.

The cars are sold under different “lights” – green, indicating that the car is mechanically sound, or red, meaning the seller is unwilling to vouch for the vehicle’s mechanical condition. Some need to be pushed to the auction block; others have smoke spewing from the exhaust pipes. All sales are final.

Buyers pay $200 for a bidding number to prevent anyone walking in to bid just to push the price up.

The Strother family bought in bulk yesterday.

Keith, a student at Virginia Union University in Richmond, bought his first car – a blue 1983 Chevrolet Cavalier for $375. Sure, it needed paint and new rims, and the upholstery on the seats was kind of torn up. But, hey, the radio worked and the engine sounded – okay.

Then, he bought the pink Ford Escort for his mother, who has been without a car for six months since her last one was totaled in an accident.

“No more taking groceries from Giant on the subway,” said his mother, Toni, a clerk for the U.S. Department of Commerce.

“Man, we are so happy,” said her husband, Carl, a bus driver, after the purchases. “We bought two cars, and we didn’t spend a lot of money.” Sari Horwitz

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summer album of the week: 06/26/10

frank zappa and the mothers of invention: one size fits all (released june 1975)

frank zappa: one size fits all (released june 1975)

From the moment Inca Roads bursts forth with its outer space synths and chant-like marimbas, One Size Fits All is established as the most inviting recording Frank Zappa ever put his name to. With heavy prog and fusion tendencies driven by keyboardist George Duke, soon-to-be Genesis drummer Chester Thompson and, of course, Zappa’s guitarwork, One Size Fits All boasts an often warm and playful musical profile. Where else can you have Johnny “Guitar” Watson cutting up on such a majestic (and intricate) rock opus as Andy or Zappa himself coloring the social snapshot Po-jama People with wary reserve before unleashing a guitar solo that could quietly shatter concrete? Plenty of Zappa recordings were more revolutionary. But few, if any, packed such instrumental might and pure, unabashed joy as One Size Fits All.

roky’s return

roky erickson

roky erickson

One of the great near-casualties of pop music past, behind Brian Wilson and Peter Green, is Texas guitarist and song stylist Roky Erickson.

One-time chieftain of the late ‘60s Lone Star psychedelic outfit The 13th Floor Elevators, Erickson spent much of the band’s succeeding years receiving treatment for paranoid schizophrenia, some of it involuntarily. Entangled in financial, legal and health issues for decades and only sporadically making new music in the process, Erickson edged back into performance mode with concert sets at the Austin City Limits and Coachella festivals beginning in 2005.

His first album of new songs in nearly 15 years, a powerfully redemptive work cut with the Austin indie band Okkervil River titled True Love Cast Out All Evil, was issued in April. Now comes the most improbable part of the story. Erickson is actually on tour again and performing tonight at Headliners Music Hall, 1386 Lexington Rd. in Louisville (8 p.m., $15).

Phantom Family Halo, Montag and Bad Blood round out the bill. Call (502) 584-8088.

in performance: jeff beck

jeff beck. photo by ross halfin.

jeff beck. photo by ross halfin.

The first thing that astonishes you about watching Jeff Beck in performance is the sheer, physical zeal he exhibits. Throughout his 90 minute performance last night at the PNC Pavilion in Cincinnati, the veteran guitarist – who turns 66 today – dug into compositions ranging from rugged fusion and funk jams to pop covers to keenly orchestrated epics – with the exuberance of a kid that has just learned his first lick on the instrument.

Early on, during a monstrous version of Led Boots, Beck turned silent beats dictated by the tune’s crisp punctuation into room for call-and-response action with the audience. As a dressing for the thick, crunchy grooves of Big Block, he let his fingers fly with an alertness and articulation that would smoke a young Eddie Van Halen. And at the conclusion of the show closing Nessun Dorma, the guitarist fell to his knees James Brown-style, succumbing, briefly, to the composition’s dramatic crescendo.

Through it all, though, Beck beamed. Maybe it was because Narada Michael Walden, the fusion ace-turned-famed ‘80s pop producer, was in the drum chair. Despite a history with Beck that extends back nearly 35 years, this summer is the first time the two have toured together. Such an alliance was underscored by the beefy show-opening snippet of Eternity’s Breath, a tune that dates back to Walden’s mid ’70s days with the second Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Rhonda Smith dutifully handled funk heavy directives on bass (and vocals, for an anthemic take on the Muddy Waters’ staple Rollin’ and Tumblin’) while the band’s ace-in-the-hole, keyboardist Jason Rebello, proved a vital utility man, supplying subtle keyboard support to Women of Ireland, gospels turns during People Get Ready and soul-savvy support for the 2000 Beck original Dirty Mind.

Picking a highlight from Beck’s bag of giddy guitar fun was tough. Lullaby-like readings of Corpus Christi Carol and Somewhere Over the Rainbow as well as the deep pocket guitar funk (and the resulting fusion rolls) of You Never Know came close. But my vote goes to Beck’s Grammy winning instrumental interpretation of The Beatles’ A Day in the Life. It typlified the mix of regal guitar tone, whammy bar intensity and playful gusto that keeps this guitar elder sounding forever young.

critic’s pick 129

Wow. Who saw this one coming? On Cha Cha Cha, Canadian songsmith Fred Eaglesmith takes a stylistic turn into the Twilight Zone by turning on the twang and reverb, giving a nod to rhumba and tango accents (as the album title so dutifully suggests) and enhancing the entire record in shadowy, noir-style atmospherics. One is prompted on first listen to see if David Lynch produced the record.

Not that any of this is a bad thing. It’s just a bit of a surprise, even from an artist as dependably crafty as Eaglesmith. At heart, Cha Cha Cha is a certifiable, summertime blast. The exotic percussive effects, the audibly humid ambience and the ultra-cool support of a vocal duo known as The Fabulous Ginn Sisters transform Eaglesmith from a keen Americana songwriter – probably the most authentically Texan-style scribe from the Great White North – into the sort of hipster that recalls such roots-savvy surrealists as Dan Hicks and the Hit Licks.

But that’s a mere suggestion of what Eaglesmith is up here. Cha Cha Cha is far darker than anything Hicks has ever attempted. There is restlessness, loss and unsettled reflection in many of the album’s 10 songs.

The opening Careless and Tricks set the mood with choruses repeated like single line chants (“I think you’re careless with my love” on the former and “You’re playing tricks on me” during the latter) as the Ginns, in full Hot Licks mode, echo the sentiments like a distant choir of sirens. Under it all is groove – inescapable, sweaty rhythms that seem trapped somewhere between Cuba and outer space. Yes, there’s plenty of cha cha cha in Cha Cha Cha, but it’s decidedly non-purist stuff. This is dance music for seriously doomed romantics.

The album isn’t fully devoted to lost soul reveries, however. I Would is pure pop optimism with a hazy drive, more cutie pie-gone-wrong singing from the Ginns and Eaglesmith’s scratchy, barely decipherable vocal grumble. And does the tune ever rock. This is one to crank up in the car and then some this summer.

What drives Cha Cha Cha as much as it is stylistic whimsy, though, is Eaglesmith’s gorgeously open and rough-cut production. The entire record sports a purposely unfinished sound that enhances its raw emotive colors. But there is also room for chessy keyboard effects, wiry guitar tremolo and dense percussive fabrics. Such a combo gives these songs a character that even Eaglesmith’s masterful live shows don’t always capture.

But it’s best not to get too mired in the hows and whys of a record like Cha Cha Cha. Instead, just give it a spin, preferably around dusk, and watch the summer haze garner a darker and groove-hearty glow.

blows, boleros and beck

jeff beck

jeff beck. photo by ross halfin.

The first tune that hit me was Beck’s Bolero.

It was broadcast over WHAS radio in Louisville after midnight one evening back in the early ‘70s, roughly four years after it was recorded. I didn’t know what a bolero was back then. I had never heard of Maurice Ravel, the composer whose famed work the tune was modeled after. I was similarly unfamiliar with the guitarist the music was credited to – an ex-Yardbird by the name of Jeff Beck. I remember the DJ who played it, though. Dave McCree. No one else on Kentucky airwaves would have touched a song like that back then. It was instrumental, for crying out loud.

But there it was – drums with a militaristic stutter, a furious acoustic rhythm and a majestically punctuated guitar line that morphed into outward psychedelia. It was unlike anything I had ever heard.

Where did Beck figure into this, though? The song wasn’t even written by him. It was penned by Jimmy Page. Everybody knew who he was, although Beck’s Bolero didn’t sound like anything he had going on in Led Zeppelin, either.

So it was with a smile of fond remembrance that I noticed Beck’s Bolero leading off a fine 2008 CD/DVD project by Beck titled Live at Ronnie Scott’s. By that time, I felt I had shared a lifetime with his music.

There were Beck’s two brilliant jazz fusion adventures – the 1975 George Martin-produced Blow By Blow and its 1976 followup Wired – that opened Beck’s music up to a new generation over two consecutive summers. Next up was the comparatively subtle There and Back from 1980 and the far crunchier Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop from 1989. A quick-witted tribute to Gene Vincent-style rockabilly called Crazy Legs proved a suitable diversion in 1995 before a trio of albums (1999’s Who Else!, 2001’s You Had It Coming and 2003’s Jeff) modernized Beck’s meaty guitar tone with splashes of techno.

But for the kickoff of Live at Ronnie Scott’s, we were back at the beginning with Beck’s Bolero. That the guitarist used the tune to dive into covers of two vintage fusion jams – the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Eternity’s Breath and Billy Cobham’s Stratus – suggested a wily sense of nostalgia. With Beck, though, music is never retro. It might be revisited. It might even be reinvented. But it is never a trophy piece or a reflection of past glories. With Beck, music employs tradition as a means of progression.

I witnessed that up close the first time I saw the guitarist in concert. It was the summer of 1976 and Wired was the rage among the fusion fanbase. A performance at Louisville Gardens (then Convention Center) paired Beck with a band led by former Mahavishnu keyboardist/future Miami Vice hitmaker Jan Hammer.

On Scatterbrain, a centerpiece tune from Blow by Blow, a blues jam that sounded like it could have emerged from the Beck’s Bolero days settled into a summery haze before it erupted into car chase-like arpeggios that gave the tune a dizzying, dramatic flair.

Then on the Wired workout Blue Wind, Beck and Hammer toyed with the song’s thematic riff and weaved it in and out of blues and boogie patterns before detouring into the concert’s only pre-Blow by Blow moment – the bone rattling guitar riff to The Yardbirds’ Train Kept a Rollin’.

Three-and-a-half decades later, such stylistic range and mischief remain earmarks of Beck’s music. Such cunning is plentiful on Live at Ronnie Scott’s during a time-tripping medley that matches Goodbye Pork Pie Hat (the Charles Mingus jazz staple initially re-imagined by Beck as a galvanizing electric blues on Wired) and Brush with the Blues (an equally crafty original from Who Else!). The album also boasted a respectful but seriously rocking treatment of the Beatles’ A Day in the Life (which won Beck his fifth Grammy earlier this year) and the sumptuously bittersweet whammy-bar finale, Where Were You.

That variety carries over into Beck’s current recording and touring projects. His first studio album in seven years, Emotion & Commotion covers rewired versions of two tunes from Jeff Buckley’s Grace album (Corpus Christi Carol and Lilac Wine), a keenly paced instrumental spotlighting current Beck keyboardist Jason Rebello (Never Alone), two rockish joyrides with singer Joss Stone (including a cover of the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins classic I Put a Spell on You) and a reading of Over the Rainbow that is as quiet and emotively hair-raising as Where Were You.

That finally brings us to this week, when Beck will perform at the PNC Pavilion in Cincinnati. Coming only two weeks after a pair of high profile tribute concerts to the pioneering guitarist Les Paul held at New York’s Iridium Jazz Club (where Paul was in residency during the final years of his performance life), the Cincy show looks to be a forceful mesh of past and present.

For his current tour, Beck has recruited Narada Michael Walden as drummer. Though known mostly as one of the foremost pop producers of the 1980s, Walden was a hardcore fusion drummer during the ‘70s having played in the Mahavishnu Orchestra and, soon after that band’s final split, on Wired. But the performance focus will be on new music from Emotion & Commotion, which Walden had nothing to do with.

A paradox? A contradiction? Another bit of artistic reinvention? The Cincy concert is likely to reflect all of that and more as it further expands the rock and fusion vocabulary of a guitar hero that first embraced a generation with a bolero.

Jeff Beck with Alana Grace perform at 8 p.m. June 23 at PNC Pavilion at Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati. Tickets: $39.40, $59.65, $81.20. Call (800) 745-3000.

2006 Foodie Awards.

The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, FL) December 3, 2006 Byline: Scott Joseph Dec. 3–African/Soul/Caribbean Readers’ choice: Jiko Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge 407-939-3463 Critic’s choice: Johnson’s Diner 595 W. Church St., Orlando 407-841-0717 Somehow Bahama Breeze, which has been your perennial favorite, fell off the radar this year. Instead, your award will go to the South African stylings of this upscale restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. I’m going with the soul interpretation of the category and once again giving the nod to Johnson’s, which moved to spacious new digs this year.

American Readers’ choice: Seasons 52 463 E. Altamonte Drive, Altamonte Springs; 407-767-1252; Critic’s choice: Houston’s 215 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park 407-740-4005; This year, we asked voters to be site specific when nominating a chain restaurant. Seasons 52 is a recurrent favorite in a number of categories, but for this one the Altamonte Springs location won out over the original on Restaurant Row. (Both still do a nice job, truth be told.) I’m sticking with Houston’s for my chain American. And there still is only one location in Central Florida. Perhaps that’s part of what I like about it — it seems like a one-of-a-kind. American (nonchain) Readers’ choice: Hue 629 E. Central Blvd., Orlando 407-849-1800; Critic’s choice: Luma on Park 290 Park Ave. S., Winter Park 407-599-4111 Hue was your choice last year, too. I’m casting my vote for Luma more as recognition for the sea change the restaurant underwent following its disappointing initial opening. Now, under the direction of executive chef Brandon McGlamery, it’s a restaurant to rival some of the old-time favorites. Barbecue Readers’ choice: Smokey Bones Bbq 3400 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando 407-894-1511; Critic’s choice: Brothers and Sisters Bbq 1201 S. Vineland Road, Winter Garden 407-905-6912 This category was much more hotly contested than in years past. Several of you made the trip to Winter Garden to try out my choice and agreed with me that it’s among the best. But too many went with the familiar. It’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out next year if Darden executives go through with rumored plans to move beyond a barbecue theme. An interesting note: Wildside, a past choice of mine, wasn’t even on the radar with readers this year.

Best chain Readers’ choice: Seasons 52 463 E. Altamonte Drive, Altamonte Springs 407-767-1252 Critic’s choice: Shula’s Steak House Walt Disney World Dolphin, Lake Buena Vista 407-934-1362; Just a few years ago, Seasons 52 didn’t qualify for this category. But the latest Darden project now has locations throughout Florida and has moved into Georgia. Tomorrow, the world. Continuing the same fine quality is now the challenge. I’ll admit my choice is a bit unconventional; one doesn’t usually think of high-end steakhouses as chains, but the fact is that just about all of them are part of a bigger corporate family. So why didn’t I choose Morton’s, my choice for best steak this year? Because in this category it’s important to consider all aspects of the dining experience, including atmosphere and service, in addition to the food. Shula’s did a good job in all areas, even if its steak was bested by Morton’s this time out. Next year, there will be at least a half-dozen chains new to the area competing for this award. Best restaurant to eat at the bar Readers’ choice: Seasons 52 Critic’s choice: Beluga 460 N. Orlando Ave., Winter Park 407-644-2962 Sometimes eating at the bar at Seasons 52 is your only option if you don’t want to wait an hour or two. Luckily, it’s a big, circular bar and there’s usually entertainment. Plus, you’re within pouring distance of the bartenders and their terrific array of wines. Beluga, the Winter Park Village seafooder, has bar seating indoors and out, and entertainment is also offered. Others voted for Bonefish Grill, Kres Chophouse, Emeril’s and Smokey Bones. Breakfast Readers’ choice: First Watch Plaza Venezia, 7500 Sand Lake Road, Orlando; 407-363-5622 Critic’s choice: All American Cafe 1817 S. Ferncreek Ave., Orlando 407-897-2213 First and still Watching, you like the morning meals at this exemplary chain. For me, I’ll take the down-home, unpretentious All American, a small neighborhood cafe with full omelets, terrific biscuits and gravy and lighter-than-air pancakes. And real butter to smear on them. That counts for a lot. I almost went with a chain, too — Peach Valley Cafe does a nice job with breakfast.

Buffet Readers’ choice: New King Buffet 2157 E. Semoran Blvd., Apopka 407-814-9116 Critic’s choice: Boma — Flavors of Africa Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Lake Buena Vista; 407-939-3463; This is the second year you’ve voted for New King as your go-to glutfest. This year I’m choosing Boma, the African-style walkabout food court at Animal Kingdom Lodge. King seems to be the common thread, as in king-size waistbands. Others voted for the New England clambake at Cape May Cafe and Crazy Buffet, to which I’ll add no comment. Burger Readers’ choice: The Tap Room at Dubsdread 549 W. Par St., Orlando 407-650-0100 Critic’s choice: Johnny’s Fillin’ Station 2631 S Ferncreek Ave, Orlando 407-894-6900 As usual, the best burger race was a hotly contested one. And I believe this is the first year that the readers’ choice was not from a chain restaurant. You went with the patty from the Tap Room, and I agree that it’s worthy. Still, I’m going back to Johnny’s Fillin’ Station this year. Also making a good showing was newcomer Five Guys Famous Burger and Fries, which if you’re going to go with a chain is the one to choose. Chinese Readers’ choice: P.F. Chang’s 436 N. Orlando Ave., Winter Park 407-622-0188; Critic’s choice: Ming’s Bistro 1212 Woodward St., Orlando 407-898-9672 You went back to your past favorite in this category, although between you and me, it really belongs in the American category, but I’m not going to argue. For me, I’m throwing my vote to the new Ming’s Bistro, which took up residence in the Asian district around Mills Avenue and Colonial Drive. Ming’s serves authentic Chinese dishes and traditional dim sum, available every day, not just weekends. Other vote-getters from readers included New King Buffet, Kim Wu and Eastern Pearl, which was my choice last year. Cuban Readers’ choice: Black Bean Deli 325 S. Orlando Ave., Winter Park 407-628-0294 Critic’s choice: Mambo 4579 13th St., St. Cloud; 407- 891-7022 Your choice was my choice last year, and you’ll get no argument from me that Black Bean serves wonderful Cuban food. But Mambo, which I’ve only recently discovered, takes the food up a notch and elevates the usual Cuban favorites to something special. And you get to sit down to eat. Deli Readers’ choice: Toojay’s 715 N. Alafaya Trail, Orlando 407-249-9475; Critic’s choice: Cavallari 1954 W. State Road 426, Oviedo 407-365-8000 Deli is a bit of a vague designation, so it isn’t surprising that nominations were all over the carving board on this one. In the end, readers decided to define a deli as a full-service restaurant with traditional Jewish cuisine. For me, it’s a great place to get a terrific sandwich or maybe some sliced meats and prepared foods to take home and cook. We may break out a new category for best sandwich next year. What do you think?

Dessert Readers’ choice: The Dessert Lady 4792 S. Kirkman Road, Orlando 407-822-9919 Critic’s choice: Costa del Sol 12200 Menta St., Orlando. 407-240-2095 This year we asked you to name a specific dessert along with the name of the desserter. The Dessert Lady, with a nod to her carrot cake, was your overwhelming choice. Patty Schmidt was my choice last year, and I’m certain that I enjoyed several of her creations this year (the Dessert Lady supplies many area restaurants). But I just couldn’t get the creme caramel from Costa del Sol out of my head. Early-bird dinner Readers’ choice: Straub’s Fine Seafood 5101 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando; 407-273-9330 Critic’s choice: Palma Maria 1015 E. Semoran Blvd., Casselberry; 407-339-2856 A carbon copy of last year’s results. The choices seem to be fewer this year. Maybe early-bird dinners are going the way of, well, carbon copies. And just before I get old enough to enjoy them. As far as reader votes, nothing even came close to Straub’s.

French Readers’ choice: Le Coq au Vin 4800 S. Orange Ave., Orlando; 407-851-6980 Critic’s choice: Le Coq au Vin Isn’t it great that Darden hasn’t developed a French concept. Le Rouge Escargot, perhaps? Even if there were a chain in the running, it would meet its Waterloo with Le Coq au Vin. Nothing else was even close, although some readers wanted to recognize Chez Vincent, Chefs de France, Cafe de France and Paris-Bistro, all fine restaurants in a tough category.

German/East European Readers’ choice: Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe 205 E. 1st St., Sanford; 407-321-2204 Critic’s choice: Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe Hey, look — we agree on another one. And just like in the French category, this one wasn’t even close. Willow Tree Cafe is not a very pretty place — in fact none of the local restaurants specializing in Eastern European food is exactly elegant — but the food is good enough to make your heart go oom-pah-pah.

Greek Readers’ choice: Greek Flame Taverna 1560 Semoran Blvd., Winter Park 407-678-2388 Critic’s choice: Mayerion Mykonos 2401 W. State Road 434, Longwood 407-788-9095 This is the second year in a row that you’ve chosen the Flame as your favorite, and in another run-away vote. My choice — another multiple-year winner — was your second favorite. Other votes went to Cypriana, Athena Cafe and old-timer Olympia. One to watch: The Greek Corner on Orange Avenue in Orlando’s Antique Row is showing signs of improvement. Ice cream Readers’ choice: Lita’s Divine Creamery 1541 International Parkway, Lake Mary 407-333-3536 Critic’s choice: Lita’s Divine Creamery Lita’s left the competition cold, taking far more votes than any of the others, which included Marble Slab, Il Gelatone and Cold Stone Creamery, which took the reader award last year. Indian Readers’ choice: Memories of India 7625 Turkey Lake Road, Orlando 407-370-3277 Critic’s choice: Memories of India We both chose Memories last year — remember? — and it’s still doing good enough for us. It’s interesting that all votes for MOI were for the original location in Bay Hill Plaza. The newer location in Lake Mary, which offers a somewhat different dining experience, went unnoticed. Something to consider in the next year: Can the quality at the original keep up if the owners are focusing attention on the Lake Mary restaurant? We’ll see. Italian (chain) Readers’ choice: Carraba’s 1001 Sand Lake Road, Orlando 407-888-2727 Are you sitting down? For the first time in the history of the Foodies, a restaurant other than Olive Garden has taken the prize in this category. And the votes for the Sand Lake Road Carrabba’s were nearly 3-to-1 over the Olive Garden with the most votes. Other restaurants you considered were Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Buca di Beppo and Timpano. This is a category I leave entirely up to you. Italian (nonchain) Readers’ choice: Circosta’s 2960 W. State Road 426, Oviedo 407-699-7499 Critic’s choice: Terramia Winebar e Trattoria 1185 S. Spring Center Blvd., Altamonte Springs 407-774-8466 Another upset by a newcomer. It’s so new that I haven’t even been to it yet. (I’ll correct that soon with a full review in my Table Matters column.) Last year you chose Bravissimo on Shine Avenue, and that cute little neighborhood trattoria still got several votes this year. Il Pescatore, Stefano’s, Pizzeria Valdiano and Mama Della’s at Portofino Bay also were big in this popular category. Also well-represented was Enzo’s on the Lake, which lost its namesake owner a couple of months ago. Japanese Readers’ choice: Tie: website animal kingdom lodge

Amura 950 Market Promenade Ave., Lake Mary; 407-936-6001 Kobe 468 W. State Road 436, Altamonte Springs 407-862-2888 Critic’s choice: Hanamizuki 8255 International Drive, Orlando; 407-363-7200 Ties are rare in Foodie World. Your top choices offer disparate dining experiences, but both have loyal customers. My selection takes me back to Hanamizuki, where authentic cuisine is offered in a delightfully nontourist environment. Other favorites among readers included Fuji Sushi, Benihana and Ichiban. Kids menu Readers’ choice: The Kitchen Hard Rock Hotel, 5800 Universal Blvd., Orlando 407-503-2431 Critic’s choice: Boma — Flavors of Africa Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Lake Buena Vista 407-939-3463; Red Lobster has been your etched-in-stone favorite in the category for years, but this time it barely registered on the vote meter. I’m not sure why you chose Hard Rock’s oddly themed Kitchen, whose kids menu has the usual suspects of chicken tenders and cheese pizzas, but those of you with kids know better than I. But I always think about my friends who say they like to expose their children to new tastes, so I’m sticking with Boma. And let’s challenge some of the area’s ethnic eateries to come up with better fare for the kids before next year’s Foodies.

Korean Readers’ choice: Korea House 977 W. State Road 434, Longwood 407-767-5918 Critic’s choice: Korean Kitchen 3255 W. Colonial Drive, Orlando. 407-295-8522 Your assignment for the following year is to get out and discover Korean cooking. This is by far the category with the fewest ballots cast. Your choice took more than 80 percent of the vote for a decisive victory. My winner is a new discovery for me, one I told you about earlier this year. Besides offering an authentic Korean dining experience, including some rather unusual wines, the family-run Korean Kitchen makes diners feel as though they’re dining in someone’s home. But Korea House, the area’s oldest Korean restaurant, is still a fine and deserving choice. Late-night meal Readers’ choice: Kres Chophouse 17 W. Church St., Orlando 407-447-7950 Critic’s choice: Midnight Blue 900 E. Washington St., Orlando. 407-999-9012 You want to know how far Central Florida has evolved? Denny’s received only four votes this year. Kres was your grand slam winner this year; I chose Jephanie Foster’s new Thornton Park restaurant, whose name gives a clue to its closing time. Latin American/Puerto Rican Readers’ choice: Latin Quarter Universal’s CityWalk 407-363-5922 Critic’s choice: Mi Viejo San Juan 7229 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando 407-382-6579 Once again you have selected the pan-Latin cuisine of CityWalk’s Latin Quarter as your representative on this category. I’m going with the Puerto Rico specific food of Mi Viejo San Juan. Latin Quarter can be a lot of fun, and live music adds a certain allure. But try to get out and explore some of the mom-and-pop cafes that have been opening with increasing regularity. Mexican Readers’ choice: Taquitos Jalisco 1041 S. Dillard St., Winter Garden 407-654-0363 Critic’s choice: Los Primos 1 W. Silver Star Road, Ocoee 407-905-0224 With your votes this year, you’re starting to show an understanding of the differences between authentic Mexican cuisine and Tex-Mex. Besides Taquitos Jalisco, you also showed support for Beto’s, El Potro and Garibaldi’s. There also were several votes for Chipotle, which means we still have some people who don’t quite get it. I had named Los Primos my favorite a few years ago, and I’m happy to return the award to Ocoee. Middle Eastern Readers’ choice: Cedar’s 7732 Sand Lake Road, Orlando 407-351-6000 Critic’s choice: Cedar’s This one was a cut-and-paste from last year’s results. But watch for Cedar’s to get more competition from Bosphorus, the Turkish restaurant in Winter Park, which took a number of the votes away from Cedar’s this year. Ali Baba was another favorite. Outdoor dining Readers’ choice: Press 101 7600 Dr. Phillips Blvd., Orlando 407-351-2101 Critic’s choice: Hot Olives 463 W. New England Ave., Winter Park 407-629-1030 I would be dubious of the validity of your selection if I hadn’t visited Press 101 on a balmy night and witnessed for myself the crowds of diners enjoying the outdoor patio. Never mind that it offers no better view than a parking lot, people just enjoy being outside there. I usually prefer a view myself, but this year I’m choosing Hot Olives, which has an outdoor effect even if you’re confined to an inside table. Maybe next year we’ll add a companion category for best doggie dining. Pizza (chain) Readers’ choice: American Pie Pizza Co. Varous locations, including: 2912 Edgewater Drive, Orlando 407-648-8835 Critic’s choice: American Pie Pizza Co. A double upset for this new entry, a home-grown pizza company with a terrific pie. It bested all the giant corporation pizza joints but had stiff competition from Giovanni’s, Mellow Mushroom and California Pizza Kitchen. Pizza (nonchain) Readers’ choice: Pizzeria Valdiano 510 N. Orlando Ave., Winter Park 407-628-5333 4886 New Broad St., Orlando 407-895-0025 Critic’s choice: Stefano’s Trattoria 1425 Tuskawilla Road, Winter Springs. 407-659-0101 With only two locations, Valdiano still qualifies as a nonchain restaurant. Although most people don’t go to Stefano’s specifically for the pizza, I thought it was Foodie-worthy when I dined at the new location this year. N.Y.P.D. was another favorite of readers, as were Anthony’s, Circosta’s and Alfonso’s. Place to dine alone Readers’ choice: Panera Bread 296 E. Michigan St., Orlando; 407-481-9880 Critic’s choice: Roy’s 7760 W. Sand Lake Road (at Dr. Phillips Boulevard), Orlando 407-352-4844 This is another ditto’d category from last year. Readers like the casual living-room seating at Panera where they can pretend to be absorbed in a book. At Roy’s you can sit at the large communal table in the bar area or sit at the counter overlooking the kitchen. Either way you don’t have to worry about not having anyone to talk to because you wouldn’t be able to hear them anyway. Place to spend a lot of money Readers’ choice: Victoria & Albert’s Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Lake Buena Vista 407-939-3463; Critic’s choice: Norman’s Ritz-Carlton 4000 Central Florida Parkway, Orlando 407-393-4333; Vickie & Al just barely beat out the Venetian Room. How expensive is Disney’s top dining room? If you don’t have a credit card to hold your reservation, you’re not allowed to dine there. My choice was one of the fewest vote-getters this year. But when you consider that others named the Melting Pot, Sam Snead’s and Cafe Tu Tu Tango, you begin to understand that “a lot of money” has different meanings for different people. Power lunch spot Readers’ choice: Press 101 7600 Dr. Phillips Blvd., Orlando 407-351-2101 Critic’s choice: Hue 629 E. Central Blvd., Orlando 407-849-1800 I recently reviewed Press 101 and liked it a lot. But I think if I wanted to do some business dealing I would choose someplace with a bit more substance than sandwiches. But then my original choice for this category was Adair’s, which closed a couple of months ago, so what do I know about business? Go to Hue any weekday lunchtime and you’ll see lots of suits and Blackberries. Romantic dinner Readers’ choice: The Venetian Room Caribe Royale 8101 World Center Drive, Orlando 407-238-8000; Critic’s choice: Manuel’s on the 28th 390 N. Orange Ave., Orlando 407-246-6580 This year, you clearly went with elegance and high-end dining to convey a romantic atmosphere. The Venetian Room won with a commanding lead. Victoria & Albert’s came in a distant second; my choice was third. This category had one of the highest vote counts of the Foodies. Can you feel the love? Wine list Readers’ choice: The Venetian Room Caribe Royale 8101 World Center Drive, Orlando 407-238-8000; Critic’s choice: Seasons 52 7700 Sand Lake Road, Orlando 407-354-5212 Because the classic definition of romance is a loaf of bread, a jug of wine and thou, it stands to reason that your choice for best romantic dinner would also have the best wine list. How’s the bread there? Seasons 52 was your second choice, with the Sand Lake location getting the most ballots. Seafood Readers’ choice: Lee & Rick’s 5621 Old Winter Garden Road, Orlando 407-293-3587 Critic’s choice: FishBones 7005 County Road 46A, Lake Mary 407-581-3474 Another amazing upset! You didn’t choose Red Lobster! The Crimson Crustacean has dominated this spot every year. But even if you add up all the votes for all the Red Lobster locations they don’t beat Lee & Rick’s, one of Orlando’s oldest eateries. My choice is site specific. The differences between the Lake Mary and Sand Lake Road FishBones are numerous. The Lake Mary dining district’s restaurant is splashy and elegant and serves some of the freshest and finest seafood around. Lee & Rick’s and FishBones are about as different as they can be, but they’re both worthy winners as far as I’m concerned. Secluded spot Readers’ choice: The Venetian Room Caribe Royale 8101 World Center Drive, Orlando 407-238-8000; Critic’s choice: Journeys 1831 W. State Road 434, Longwood 407-629-2221 Both of these choices are three-peats. The Venetian Room, which is a multiple Foodie winner this year, is hidden well within the Caribe Royale hotel, which itself is off a path that is not usually beaten by locals. Journeys continues to do well without the sort of high visibility, walk-by traffic that many other restaurants rely upon. Black Hammock Fish Camp, Blue Dahlia and Jinja Bar and Bistro also had votes, but my favorite entry was “nice try, but I’m not giving you any of my secluded spots.” Steakhouse (family) Readers’ choice: Outback Steakhouse 1927 Aloma Ave., Winter Park 407-679-1050 Critic’s choice: Outback Steakhouse This is a duplicate of last year’s results. At that time, I said that Outback was just barely holding on to my vote. There was a slight improvement this year, but I still think they need to do a better job. And I’m surprised that no one else even comes close to offering as good a steak for a fair price. I thought this might be the year Smokey Bones made a move for steak-lovers. One of the rumors floating around is that the floundering chain will move away from barbecue and focus on steaks. But if the steak I sampled recently is any indication, the company needs to learn a lot about meat first. Steakhouse (high-end) Readers’ choice: Ruth’s Chris Steak House 610 N. Orlando Ave., Winter Park 407-622-2444 7501 Sand Lake Road, Orlando 407- 226-3900 Critic’s choice: Morton’s the Steakhouse 7600 Dr. Phillips Blvd., Orlando 407-248-3485 Ruth’s Chris beat out Del Frisco’s by only one vote. You also liked Kres Chophouse, Fleming’s and, amazingly enough, Pearl Steakhouse. I was certain my vote would go once again to Shula’s Steak House, and indeed when I revisited this year I found the steaks to be every bit as good as they have been in the past. So was the atmosphere and service, which combined one year to earn Shula’s my best restaurant overall Foodie. But before I committed I thought I would give Morton’s another try. As good as the steak was at Shula’s it was that much better at Morton’s. Ruth’s always has been a third or fourth choice in my steakhouse book, but we’ll see how things are when the Lake Mary-based company opens a new flagship restaurant next year. Sunday brunch Readers’ choice: La Coquina Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Resort 1 Grand Cypress Blvd., Orlando 407-239-1234 Critic’s choice: La Coquina Still a sumptuous spread, and easily the most expensive brunch in town. But this year it had some heavy competition from Midnight Blue, Hue and Dexter’s, representing a variety of brunch styles. Sushi Readers’ choice: Amura 7788 Sand Lake Road, Orlando 407-370-0007 Critic’s choice: Fuji Sushi 1449 Lee Road, Winter Park 407-645-1299 Each year, it seems, there is one category that causes more angst than others, at least as far as I’m concerned. Not finding my previous choice to be worthy this year, I set out to find a suitable replacement and ended up eating more nigirizushi and California rolls than one person really should. I finally settled on Fuji in Winter Park. The surroundings aren’t what you’d call attractive, but the sushi was fresh, properly prepared — not hastily, as with so many others — and the rolls were impressively large. It’s interesting to note that while you chose Amura for both Japanese and sushi, you selected different locations in each category. Other top choices were Ichiban, Nagoya, Seito and Orchid Court at the Royal Pacific Resort. Most curious vote in this category went to Red Lobster, which makes me wonder if someone’s cod came out a little undercooked. Takeout Readers’ choice: American Pie Pizza Co. Critic’s choice: Cafe Laura 1875 County Road 419, Oviedo 407-977-0010 This one had some odd votes this year, including several for the Dessert Lady. I went with the wonderful food of Laura Lewis. And even though I love the pastries of the Dessert Lady, I think I might drive all the way to Oviedo just to have one of Lewis’ brownies. Tex-Mex Readers’ choice: Amigos 740 Alafaya Trail, Orlando 407-823-7138 Critic’s choice: Amigos Amigos is a perfect example of Tex-Mex cuisine, which takes many of the ingredients found in classic Mexican food and gives them a Lone Star twist. And the folks behind Amigos are good Texan stock, so at least that side of Tex-Mex is well-represented. Thai Readers’ choice: Thai House 2117 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando 407-898-0820 Critic’s choice: Royal Thai 1202 N. Semoran Blvd., Orlando 407-275-0776 Thai House was your favorite last year, as well. I’m returning to Royal Thai after a few years with other favorites. It has been my observation that too many Thai restaurants are starting to slack off, and they just don’t try hard enough to keep putting out wonderful Thai dishes. Royal Thai, however, has had a steady consistency of quality. Other contenders in this category were Tasty Thai, Soong Thai, Napasorn and Red Bamboo, which was the critic’s choice last year. animal kingdom lodge

Vegetarian Readers’ choice: Ruby Juice 101 W. First St., Sanford 407-322-4992 Critic’s choice: The Lotus Cafe 521 S. Park Ave., Winter Park 407-456-3234 This is the second eatery in this year’s list of winners that I have never been to. Seeing as how it specializes in smoothies, I’m not surprised that it has slipped my notice. But congratulations to the Ruby Juice supporters for getting out the vote. My Foodie goes to a new resident on Park Avenue. For the past several years, I have given the veggie Foodie to Woodlands, a meatless Indian restaurant on Orange Blossom Trail. And the food is still quite good there. But I like Lotus this year because it offers more than just a single cuisine, changing the specials daily to offer a variety. And, Indian food is offered once a week, so it’s a logical choice. Vietnamese Readers’ choice: Lac Viet 2021 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando 407-228-4000 Critic’s choice: Lac Viet Congratulations. You went out and tried something new. I can’t remember a year when Little Saigon wasn’t the winner in this category. But it seems you have discovered what I did earlier this year: that Little Saigon has lost a bit of its previous luster. Lac Viet offers authentic Vietnamese cuisine in a charming atmosphere. All winners should take note here: You can’t just rest on your laurels; we demand continued excellence.

Best overall restaurant Readers’ choice: Seasons 52 Critic’s choice: Le Coq au Vin Several readers sided with me in recognizing the continued excellence of Le Coq au Vin. Louis and Magdalena Perrotte and staff, whose restaurant has won the French category hands-down each year, graciously serve some of the finest food Central Florida has to offer. This year, I want to recognize their efforts with the Critic’s Choice award for best restaurant. Seasons wins your vote again this year, but not by a huge margin. The Venetian Room, California Grill, Blue Bistro, Hue, Jiko and K Restaurant were some of the other worthy names mentioned. An argument could be made for any one of them, and it’s a wonderful thing that each year this and other categories get harder and harder to decide. Central Florida’s dining scene has improved greatly just in the past nine years of Foodie Awards. You can see that in the list of winners here. As we enter the campaign for next year’s Foodies, we can expect new and wonderful restaurants to challenge the best, and force them to keep the quality up. We demand excellence now.

Scott Joseph can be reached at 407-420-5514 or Read his past reviews at

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.

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