critic's pick 134

Let’s preface what we’re about to explore here by saying that this won’t be for everyone. On the table is a 5-CD boxed set of avant garde jazz – a veritable killing field of potent, abstract improvisations where melody has been all but banished.

Sounds like some serious summertime fun, doesn’t it?

But there is a reason for discussing music that might send even devout jazz fans for the Excedrin and casual fans for the door. And it’s not the fact that the leader of these recordings is Peter Brotzmann, an uncompromising leader of the Eurorpean jazz avant garde for more than four decades.

For the past eight years, Brotzmann and at least eight of the players making up his Tentet + 1 brigade have been regular visitors to Lexington thanks to the ongoing Outside the Spotlight Series. The Tentet, in fact, unofficially inaugurated the series eight summers ago at the University of Kentucky’s Memorial Hall. Brotzmann himself has played here twice already this year while four of the Tentet players have performed locally, in various groups, within the last six weeks. Obviously, Lexington has found a connection to this dissonant, demanding and, at times, confrontational music.

So here we have a mountain of it. Five discs of performances cut over three nights for the Nasjonal Jazzscene in Norway last year. Two detail the Tentet specifically with huge ensemble exchanges that are pure thunder. Such interplay sounds rich and almost violent at times, forming a torrent of brutal intensity that seems destined to implode on itself. Then the band gets crafty. On the fifth disc, a fascinating dialogue between Jeb Bishop and cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm develops. Then Brotzmann, along with sax giants Ken Vandermark and Mats Gustafsson, brings the music back to the boiling point.

But 3 Nights in Oslo also offers three discs that break the music down into splinter groups. Among the highlights: a brilliant saxophone duet of bluesy, boppish and percussive beauty by Vandermark and Joe McPhee; the sax trio Sonore (Brotzmann, Vandermark and Gustafsson), which builds the music from a playful hush to spacious improvisational collisions; and the wild interplay of Survival Unit III (McPhee, Lonberg-Holm and drummer Michael Zerang) which similarly explores textures that patiently build into a rhythmic storm.

Of course, 3 Nights in Oslo has no designs on mass appeal. But for fans that have helped champion this music in Lexington over the past eight years, it’s something of a vindication. It’s a feast of a recording, an overview of the excitement created when you’re willing to engage in music that adapts without compromise to the moment.

Experts Suggest Motive Is Tied To Crafts Store; Others See Coincidence in Proximity Of Michaels to Sites of Shootings

The Washington Post October 16, 2002 | Serge F. Kovaleski and Margot Williams That first night, before the death toll began to mount and authorities realized a sniper was roaming the Washington region, customers and workers at a Michaels crafts store in Aspen Hill were startled by a loud crack. For a moment, they figured a bulb must have blown in a lighted sign over checkout lane No. 5.

In fact, a .223-caliber rifle bullet had pierced the front window of the store, in the 13800 block of Georgia Avenue, leaving a nickel- size hole in the glass a few feet above eye level. It was 5:20 p.m. on Oct. 2 — about 45 minutes before the first of 11 shooting victims now attributed to the sniper fell dead in a supermarket parking lot two miles away. The bullet at Michaels ripped a hole in the checkout sign, buzzed through the store and stopped near a display of autumnal decorations, injuring no one. website fitzgerald auto mall

“I was in the parking lot,” said a man who lives nearby. “I heard what sounded like a gunshot. But I didn’t see anything.” Two days later, the sniper’s eighth victim was wounded outside a Michaels at the Spotsylvania Mall as she loaded packages into her minivan. Then Monday night, the gunman’s 11th victim, and the ninth person to be slain, was cut down outside a Home Depot store at the Seven Corners Shopping Center in Fairfax County. On the opposite side of the complex, on an upper level, about 100 yards away, is a Michaels.

In all, 12 shooting incidents have been linked by police to the sniper — six in Montgomery County, two in Spotsylvania County and one each in Northwest Washington and Prince George’s, Prince William and Fairfax counties. Nine of the incidents occurred within three miles of Michaels stores. In six cases, the distance was a mile or less.

Some outside experts say the proximity of Michaels stores to many of the attacks could be a clue to the sniper’s motives and should not be ignored as investigators try to discern a pattern to the shootings and build a profile of the killer.

However, other experts discount the significance of the locations of some of the stores in relation to where the attacks occurred, saying that any connection is most likely coincidental.

One thing is certain, though: Police have been trying to determine whether the locations of Michaels stores are a factor in the sniper’s attack pattern.

Tom Clary, a spokesman for the Texas-based retail chain, which has 24 stores in the Washington area, said yesterday that “the police have been in contact with us” concerning the shootings. And he said company officials are “doing everything we can to assist” authorities in identifying the sniper.

Investigators have been interviewing employees of at least two Michaels stores — on Georgia Avenue and in Spotsylvania — about whether any disgruntled employees or irate customers might have wanted to exact revenge against the business.

But Clary said he believes that “the connection between Michaels stores and all of this is coincidental” and that investigators have not “shared with us any evidence that suggests that Michaels stores are part of a pattern or are being targeted specifically.” Indeed, several of the sniper’s attacks have been carried out in well-traveled commercial areas saturated with popular retail chains and restaurants.

Radio Shack, for instance: go to web site fitzgerald auto mall

The sniper’s Oct. 3 slaying of a cabdriver at an Aspen Hill gas station occurred about three-quarters of a mile from the Michaels in the 13800 block of Georgia Avenue. Even closer is a Radio Shack, at the same intersection where the cabbie died.

Another attack that day, near the Fitzgerald Auto Mall in White Flint, took place less than two miles from a Michaels on Rockville Pike — but less than a half mile from a Radio Shack in White Flint. And last Wednesday night’s sniper shooting at a gas station near Manassas, which occurred a little more than a mile from a Michaels, was also close to a Radio Shack, which was just over two miles away.

Michael Welner, a forensic psychiatrist at New York University School of Medicine, said he believes there could be a link between the shootings and Michaels because the sniper’s initial attack might have been at the Georgia Avenue store.

“Characteristically, people who are multiple shooters carry out their first shooting at a place that is closest to whatever emotional issue they have,” Welner said. “I would be more skeptical of a connection if Michaels was not so closely associated with his first attack.” He added, “As a forensic psychiatrist, you always look at the place and setting of the first shooting in terms of establishing the sensitive emotional connection between a multiple shooter’s fantasy of going out and shooting a number of people and his ultimate decision to go out and do it.” Eric W. Hickey, a professor of criminal psychology at California State University at Fresno and author of “Serial Murderers and Their Victims,” also said the Michaels question is important to consider.

“The victims are random, but there is always a methodology to this madness,” Hickey said.

“There always has to be reasons for how [serial killers] operate. If we can’t find the reason in the victims, then we look at other possibilities.” He said: “We don’t want to discount the victims yet, but we have to ask such questions as, ‘Have all of them recently gone to a Michaels? Or has [the sniper] seen them walking by the store? . . . Is the Michaels a catalyst for him shooting people?’ We don’t know. Maybe not. But it is amazing what sets some people off.” If Michaels “is a common denominator in many of the shootings, then Michaels is a lead we cannot ignore,” Hickey said.

James Alan Fox, a professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University in Boston, is less open to the possibility that Michaels stores are a factor in sniper shootings.

“I don’t think there is necessarily a connection,” he said, adding: “It does not appear to be a very fruitful avenue. But since they don’t have a lot of avenues, they may as well explore this one.” Other law enforcement specialists, such as William Hennessy, a former D.C. police homicide captain, also doubt there is a Michaels connection.

“It’s an unconventional case,” said Hennessy. “He’s not targeting specific victims” or locations. Hennessy said he believes that if there is a discernible pattern to the shootings, it is their proximity to major roadways — one reason the sniper has only struck once in the District.

“There are a lot of traffic lights” in the District, Hennessy noted.

Although the only sniper attack in the District occurred more than a week ago — near the Montgomery border, far from downtown — police in the city remain on high alert. The department opened its Joint Operations Command Center, where officers can sit round-the-clock watching video feeds from surveillance and traffic cameras monitoring downtown streets and suburban roads in Maryland and Virginia.

SWAT team officers have been stationed in areas near the Maryland- District line. Police said officers have been positioned on or near bridges leading into the city from Virginia, ready to seal off the routes if necessary.

Experts said other potential patterns that investigators likely are looking at include the fact that the sniper has not shot at anyone after 9:20 p.m. or before 7:41 a.m.

In each of the sniper’s attacks, he has fired just one bullet, striking all of his victims in the upper part of the body.

As the manhunt for the gunman goes on, Michaels stores have reacted much like other retailers in the Washington area — they are still open for business, though some of the Michaels have taken their sidewalk merchandise inside, said spokesman Clary.

“We are concerned about the people who have been shot and we have reacted to that,” he said.

Williams is a staff researcher. Staff writer Raymond McCaffrey contributed to this report.

Serge F. Kovaleski and Margot Williams

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