Archive for September, 2010

confessions of a solo band man

randall bramblett. photo by jeff jeffares

randall bramblett. photo by jeff jeffares.

Randall Bramblett is what you call a band man.

Sure, his reputation as one of today’s foremost Southern songwriters and instrumentalists can be corroborated by any of the artists that have cut his songs (such as Bonnie Raitt) or employed his playing prowess on keyboards and saxophone (Steve Winwood, both in and out of Traffic).

But ask him what kind of musical environment provides the most natural fit for his vocal, instrumental and compositional strengths and he will readily point to the music he has made in a band context. For further proof, just look at any of his eight exemplary solo albums or the harder to find fusion and funk recordings he cut with the overlooked Southern band Sea Level in the late ‘70s.

“I’ve always been a band guy,” Bramblett said. “With a band, you just walk out onstage, play and then walk back to the dressing room. I guess I never really viewed myself as a solo artist.”

So why is Bramblett touring predominantly as a solo performer these days? Well, it’s partly out of necessity. Great recordings and a sterling critical reputation don’t always yield substantial financial rewards – especially in an economy where many established artists from all genres are struggling to make a living.

But it’s also an opportunity for a little of the literate Southern detail of his song’s storylines to shine through. There hasn’t been a Bramblett record where groove hasn’t been a key element. But the human storylines and keenly emotive character studies are just as important. So when he returns to play Natasha’s on Saturday as part of the Alltech Fortnight Festival, the setting will simply be Bramblett, a guitar, a keyboard and some of the most regal Southern compositions of this or any generation.

“If you really want to strip the songs down and listen to them as they were written, solo is the best way to do it. Now, playing solo can be vulnerable and lonely and all that stuff. But people also tend to listen more carefully at a solo show than at a band show, believe it or not.”

Admittedly, some of Bramblett’s records translate readily to a solo context. His new The Meantime album shifts the focus from band-oriented tunes to more introspective works performed primarily on piano or by a piano/bass/drums trio.

“I just followed the flow on that one,” he said “It felt so good to do a piano oriented record with an upright bass and drums with brushes. It’s just a quiet melodic record. And I needed that. I need to let myself be melodic. There are some romantic songs on there, too, which I normally don’t let myself do. It just felt like the right thing at this time in my career.”

While Bramblett’s previous records, particularly those on the New West label, took advantage of the hearty electric band he still fronts for some festival dates, they also contain quieter songs ripe with a lean and sometimes mysterious soulfulness that make for inviting additions to his solo shows. Among them: the beautifully despondent Disappearing Ink (from 2001′s No More Mr. Lucky) and the hopeful eulogy Where a Life Goes (from 2008′s Now It’s Tomorrow).

But the music that most involves Bramblett are the songs he has yet to write. Performing in solo or band contexts is fine. But his biggest creative impulses come from the ideas and rhythms that have yet to find their way into a composition.

“For me, the key to staying involved and interested is having new material. That’s the reward. Otherwise, you’re basically just presenting a show like you would a play. And the key to new material is just a question of paying attention. There is always plenty of material out there if you look for it, So I just pay attention and try to take the time to show up to write. That’s the heart of my musical life.”

Randall Bramblett performs at 8 p.m. Sept. 25 at Natasha’s Bistro, 112 Esplanade. Seth Walker opens. Tickets are $15 (advance), $17 (day of show). Call (859) 259-2754.

big shoes, little feat

little feat: gabe ford, kenny gradney, fred tackett, paul barrere, sam clayton and bill payne. photo by bill payne.

today's little feat: gabe ford, kenny gradney, fred tackett, paul barrere, sam clayton and bill payne. photo by bill payne.

Just over a month ago, Little Feat took the stage in the British village of Cropredy as a guest at the annual summer festival organized by the veteran British folk-rock ensemble Fairport Convention.

It was, in many ways, a cross-continental summit of like minded musical strategists. Fairport wrote the book on bringing British folk tradition into an electric age while Little Feat – long acknowledged by Fairport bassist Dave Pegg as a personal favorite – was the consummate Americana ensemble, a band able to merge rock ‘n’ roll, blues, funk, jazz, country, folk and various forms of narrative invention into one roaring, rocking beast.

It should have been – and, in many ways, was – a watershed moment for Little Feat. But it was also immensely bittersweet. The day before the Cropredy show, the band’s drummer and co-founder, Richie Hayward, succumbed to a year long battle with liver disease.

“Richie loved England,” remarked Little Feat keyboardist Bill Payne. “And there, at Cropredy, there were 20,000-plus people that were being real supportive of our Little Feat family. So it was a real, real good night for us. They treated us in grand fashion.”

To understand the soulful matrix that makes up Little Feat’s music, you need to know a little bit about the band behind it. Payne, however, insists it’s the other way around, that one needs to grasp the depth of its music before acknowledging the players involved. Either way, Little Feat has always been a tight unit.

Even though it formed as a quartet with Payne, Hayward, bassist Roy Estrada and songwriter/guitarist Lowell George, the Little Feat we know today was born with its career defining 1973 album Dixie Chicken, a funky mix of slide guitar-savvy rock, barrelhouse blues, earthy funk and some of the most deliciously Southern fried music ever created by a band out of Los Angeles. Dixie Chicken saw the departure of Estrada but the addition of co-guitarist/vocalist Paul Barrere, bassist Kenny Gradney and percussionist Sam Clayton.

And so went the steps of Little Feat, a sextet driven by almost every rootsy musical impulse it could dig into. George died of a heart attack in 1979 causing Little Feat to splinter for nearly a decade. During that time, a scrapbook-style album titled Hoy Hoy was released. The record contained one of Payne’s finest compositions, Gringo, which sounded like a cross between Gaucho-era Steely Dan and jazz fusion stalwart Weather Report. The song was also underscored with a typically acerbic Little Feat view of humankind (“two or three weeks in Mexico and you think you’ve seen it all”).

Today, Payne says a song like Gringo is reflective of the various stylistic possibilities Little Feat has been able to offer him.

“Little Feat has always been a repository for all of these sounds that we – myself, in particular – have been influenced by over the years. I mean, you would have to be in 10 bands to play the wide vocabulary that Little Feat incorporates on any given album – and sometimes, in any given tune.

“That’s one of the reasons we have maintained such an intense interest in keeping this band going. This experience is not easily matched.

“I’ve worked with James Taylor, Bob Seger, Jackson Browne, Stevie Nicks, Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris and on and on and on. And I’ve loved working with every one of them. It has been an absolute honor. But in terms of comparing that to what I can do in Little Feat? There’s no contest. I would never have been able to play a song like Gringo with any of those artists. That’s not even the style of music they would write to begin with.”

Little Feat reunited in 1988 with its entire surviving lineup intact, plus two new recruits – guitarist Fred Tackett, whose affiliation with the band actually stems back to session work on Dixie Chicken, and singer Craig Fuller. The latter stayed until 1993 and was replaced by Shaun Murphy, a background singer on several previous Feat recordings. She departed last year.

That translates into a roster that retained all of the members that had signed on in 1973, save for George. At least, that was true until Hayward’s health began to decline. When Hayward bowed out of the band last year for medical treatment, he was replaced by his drum tech, Gabe Ford.

“Part of the reason we have all continued to do this is just the sound of Little Feat,” Payne said. “And Richie was a huge part of that.

“We’re not holding on to the edge of the pool here. We’re swimming in the deep end. And if you get out in front of an audience and don’t have something to deliver, especially at this stage, and given our history as a band, we wouldn’t have lasted the year. We would have played a gig or two and said, ‘You know what? Nice idea, but it doesn’t fly.’ And our fans would have, for sure, weighed in. But that’s not the case.

“Of course, just because a guy like Gabe can be a drum tech doesn’t mean he can fill the shoes of one of the best drummers on the planet. But things have worked out so well. Gabe has given us a really strong, new energy. He’s given us a new commitment to performing – and also to enjoying – the music.”

Little Feat performs 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short. Tickets are $35 and $43. Call (859) 233-3535, (800) 745-3000. The concert, which kicks off the Alltech Fortnight Festival, is a benefit for the Music Institute of Lexington, which provides scholarships for low income families in Central Kentucky.

critic's pick 142

“How come you bother with this old heart at all?” asks Leonard Cohen near the halfway point of Songs from the Road, his third CD/DVD concert compilation in 16 months.

After all, his current performance globetrotting amounts to something of a victory lap for a career that is now over four decades old.

We’ve already seen one concert document from the tour, last year’s regal Live in London. That recording swiftly answered why anyone should care about Cohen in the 21st century by underscoring the political, personal and even spiritual lust of his songs with an orchestral finesse. Cohen, of course, sang with little more than a bullfrog croon. But his reserved, sage-like vocal presence transformed songs that were like forgotten ghosts into emancipated spirits.

An archival concert document, Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970, was released last fall to provide some historical perspective. Now, with the tour continuing, Cohen, who turns 76 today, has come up with Songs from the Road, an epilogue to his unexpected concert career renaissance.

The 12 song encore-like live album is pulled from concerts that span over a year (from October 2008 to November 2009) and cover roughly half of the planet, from a rapturous Lover Lover Lover performed in a Tel Aviv stadium to a suitably haunting but redemptive Hallelujah unleashed in the California deserts for the Coachella festival.

Such a succession of live albums would have seemed purely redundant had they come from most any other artist. And indeed, the few songs reprised from Live in London on Songs from the Road (Bird on the Wire, Suzanne, Hallelujah and Closing Time) aren’t remarkably different. They mostly serve as bonus bits of familiarity in a set list comprised of comparative obscurities.

The 1984 gem Heart With No Companion, for instance, slides in like low tide with light percussion, pedal steel and mandolin to underscore the warm but weary salutations offered by Cohen’s airy groan of a voice (“I greet you from the other side of sorrow and despair”).

From a deeper but seemingly less forgotten recess of Cohen’s past (judging by the applause that ushers in the song) comes an arid but beguiling reading of 1969′s The Partisan. And from the pantheon of Cohen’s greatest works comes 1971′s Famous Blue Raincoat, performed as a wintry gypsy waltz full of scorched desperation and jazzy wonder.

The latter work is alone reason enough to pick up Songs from the Road. It’s a postcard from doomsday, another love note from that land of sorrow and despair that makes the warmth and light of the world it seeks all the more luminous.

Contract Notice: U.S. Army Seeks Removal, Replacing Services (South Carolina)

US Fed News Service, Including US State News September 3, 2009 FORT JACKSON, S.C., Sept. 3 — The U.S. Army under a modified solicitation said it was soliciting services for Removing and replacing dishwasher. see here fort jackson sc

The NAICS code for this requirement is 811310 with the size standard of $7 million. This acquisition is a 100 percent small business set-aside.

Bids are invited till Sept. 18. go to web site fort jackson sc

For more information: Client Services, Sourcing Agent, 1.877.9FEDBID, clientservices@fedbid.com, at U.S. Army, 4340 Magruder Ave., Fort Jackson, SC 29207.

the voices of sierra leone

sierra leone's refugee all stars perform tonight at EKU.

sierra leone's refugee all stars.

It remains a testament to the human spirit that some of the world’s most joyous music has been born out of its greatest hardships.

Six years ago, a team of esteemed musicians that included singer and songwriter Reuben Koroma, fled from their African homeland of Sierra Leone. The West African nation was ravaged by civil war and poverty, causing Koroma and his compatriots to flee to nearby Guinea.

At the height of their displacement, the musicians banded together creating music that not only echoed their fertile artistic heritage, but also vibrant reggae influences. Enter American and Canadian film crews that, through a documentary, introduced the world to the group that became known as Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars. A fine debut recording, Living Like a Refugee, followed in 2006.

The group’s second and newest album, Rise & Shine, brings Koroma and the All-Stars back to a calmer Sierra Leone – specifically, its capital city of Freetown. It also bumps up the reggae inspiration and throws in some decidedly American touches – namely sessions cut in New Orleans. The entire recording was produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos.

Admittedly, several themes on Rise & Shine reflect directly and indirectly upon Sierra Leone’s troubled past, be it Tamagbondorsu (The Rich Mock the Poor), Gbrr Mani (Trouble) or even the worries of global warming ignited in the wake of warfare on Global Threat.

But listen to the music, especially the rhythms that percolate around it, and you can’t help but be swept up into the All Stars’ ceaseless sense of celebration. The album opening Muloma (Let Us Be United) moves to a light, patient groove built around guitar, percussion and vocal chants. Living Stone is all bright, brassy reggae. Watching All Your Eyes combines the two for a reggae-fied worldbeat groove performed with a campfire-like intimacy.

As part of one of the most musically rich and diverse autumns the region has experienced in ages, the All Stars will perform a free concert tonight at Eastern Kentucky University’s Brock Auditorium.

Sierra Leone‘s Refugee All Stars perform at 7 tonight at Brock Auditorium of Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond. The concert is free. Call (859) 622-7356.

in performance: sharon jones and the dap kings

sharon jones. photo by steven dewall.

sharon jones. photo by steven dewall.

It took about 15 minutes last night at Buster’s for Sharon Jones to climb aboard the Soul Train. During an intensely physical version of When I Come Home, the Brooklyn soul music queen turned her 95 minute concert, as well as the high powered R&B charge of her eight member band the Dap Kings (ably aided by a pair of tambourine shaking back-up singers dubbed the Dapettes) into a sort of groove locomotive.

With the Dap Kings’ sleek three man horn team, Jones demonstrated all the vintage moves that accompanied the soul sounds she grew up with. “Next stop, The Boogaloo,” Jones shouted. Then came The Pony. Then The Funky Chicken, The Mashed Potato, The Swim and so forth. Cap it all with a vocal command that was every bit as arresting as the show’s very visible energy and a call-and-response round with the crowd that won the latter’s involvement with the fun and you had a program full of vintage soul might but served with an undeniable immediacy.

Such was the design of this thoroughly engaging performance. Jones would interact with the crowd (like pulling an eager male fan onto the stage for Give It Back), unleash the kind of volcanic physicality that sparked the When I Come Home dance party and, finally, cool the proceedings with sleek orchestral soul serenades like I Learned the Hard Way (colored by sax, flute and regal Dapettes harmonies).

The bright, brassy sound never retreated. Even when Jones was left onstage with only guitarist/emcee Binky Griptite and the Dapettes for the doo-woppish Mama Don’t Like My Man, the groove was as full as when Jones packed the full Dap King punch for Money, a tune that paralleled meager cash flow to a lover’s rejection (“When you’re needed, you’re nowhere around”).

Sure, the whole design of such a presentation was rooted in long ago soul revues. But the fabulous Ms. Jones – introduced no less last night as “the most brilliant star in the Daptone soul universe” – revealed few thoughts of yesterday in her music. The might and urgency she brought to the concert ignited out of an R&B flame that was very much of the moment. And last night, those moments and flames burned with equal brilliance.

HELP ECONOMY, LEGALIZE POT.(Opinion)

Albany Times Union (Albany, NY) July 27, 2009 One of the most challenging problems in America today is our failing economy. We are in debt and in a recession that is causing problems for many people. It is of the utmost importance that we start finding solutions, and fast. Although the concept is quite controversial, the legalization of marijuana might be a giant step out of this economic crisis. here legalization of cannabis

In February, a California assemblyman introduced a bill that would legalize possession, cultivation, transportation, sale, purchase and use of marijuana for people 21 and older.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would veto such a bill, and marijuana is still only being sold in California for medicinal purposes. But Schwarzenegger and other officials should consider the positive effects of legalizing cannabis.

If taxed, it could bring in billions of dollars that America desperately needs.

I am not advocating smoking marijuana, and I’m not saying it doesn’t have negative health effects. But smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol also have negative effects, and both are legal in the United States. Potentially, this could be discussed on a federal level, and then it could really make a difference. web site legalization of cannabis

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and I believe that the legalization of cannabis could help the country greatly. The ends would justify the means.

Kelly Moak Nassau

dapper soul

sharon jones

sharon jones

On a recently aired rerun of Law & Order, a young detective tells Lt. Anita Van Buren, played by the great E. Espatha Merkerson, of plans to pursue a case in a manner that was “old school.”

Van Buren replies with an almost motherly wariness. “Old school? You mean, you’re going to do it right.”

Sharon Jones let out a hearty laugh when the scene was conveyed to her. She marvels when terms like “old school” or “retro” are tossed about to describe the soul sounds she creates with her celebrated band, the Dap Kings.

In a way, though, such descriptions are unavoidable. Jones’ music possesses the vocal clarity, orchestral precision and regal emotive finesse that recalls soul and R&B music as it existed in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. But such a sound is anything but a museum piece to the Georgia born, Brooklyn-bred Jones. She is simply piloting today with the Dap Kings the same soul inspirations she has known all her life.

“I know it seems strange, but I’m not retro,” Jones said. “I’m 54 years old. I’m a soul singer. I was born in ’56. In ’66, when I was 10, soul music was way out there. James Brown and everyone were out there jamming with these great soul songs. So I’ve got all of that in me.

“I watched the artists on The Ed Sullivan Show. And I grew up on AM radio, so I listened to everything – country music, rock, soul, R&B. Everybody listened to everything. So we knew this stuff. That’s who we are.

“Now, the guys in the band are very young. When I met them, the drummer was, like, 16. They were going around collecting these old 45s and albums. That was their thing. But they also happened to be musicians who really loved the sound of the music they were collecting. For them, it was like, ‘Wow, this is what they did in those days. They were so cool.’ So here are these guys playing just like they played back in the day. And here I am singing like that. And you know why? Because I am from ‘back in the day.’”

Like so many of the great soul music stylists, Jones’ career can be traced back to the gospel songs she sang in church as a youth. But she was just as aware of the growing influence of landmark artists like James Brown.

“I learned so much just watching all these artists like Aretha (Franklin), James Brown, and Otis Redding. I learned from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, too. They got their stuff from over here. As a little girl, I sang this stuff and danced around to this music. Now I’m singing it. I’m not singing no pop or hip hop. I’m sticking to what is in my range and up my alley, and that’s soul.”

Though she started singing with soul and funk groups back in the ‘70s and regularly worked in studios as a back-up vocalist, it took awhile for Jones’ own career to materialize.

“Coming up over the years, people kept telling me, especially in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, that I didn’t have the look. I would go into the studios and they would just turn me down. So I stuck to my gospel singing, because that was so close to R&B.”

That led to a seemingly radical career shift, from would-be singing star to work as a corrections officer on Rykers Island and, later, as an armored car guard for Wells Fargo Bank. It was a time that almost hopelessly removed Jones from the art of making music. But it kept her well in tune with real life.

“It helped me a lot just in being able to relate to people,” Jones said. “In corrections, I learned never to show fear. People always ask me to compare that work to my music. I really can’t. But they are both parts of life. I just always wanted to help people, to be there for someone. If I couldn’t help them through music, then maybe I could through some other job.”

Enter a Brooklyn soul music enterprise that eventually became Daptone Records, fronted by music entrepreneur Gabriel “Bosco Mann” Roth and saxophonist Neil Sugarman. The two also formed the nucleus of an orchestral style soul band called the Dap Kings. Daptone’s first release teamed the ensemble with Jones. The title of the 2001 recording said it all: Dap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.

While fan bases began to develop among indie-pop audiences, Jones and the Dap Kings also enjoyed separate successes after the release of their breakthrough third album, 2007′s 100 Days 100 Nights. Jones wound up with soundtrack work, as well as an acting role, in the Denzel Washington/Forest Whitaker film The Great Debaters while The Dap Kings gave a serious soul boost to the career of British pop-soul train wreck Amy Winehouse.

Now with an extraordinary fourth album, aptly titled I Learned the Hard Way, Jones and the Dap Kings have cemented their stature as a new generation soul voice. It might seem old school on the surface with songs like The Game Gets Old, She Ain’t a Child No More and the album’s majestic title tune. But the music boasts a clarity and immediacy that are anything but retro.

“Soul music ain’t something you can count off every few measures as you go,” Jones said. “Oh no. You’ve got to feel it. It all comes from the heart. And that’s what you hear when we’re onstage – that presence, that happiness, that spirit. You’re feeling what we’re feeling.”

Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings with Orgone perform at 9 tonight at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester St. Tickets are $22 and $25.

in performance: california guitar trio

bert lams of the california guitar trio.

bert lams of the california guitar trio.

Early into a typically exquisite California Guitar Trio performance last night at Natasha’s, Paul Richards attempted to answer the question that has regularly been put to the ensemble since it formed nearly two decades ago The poser: how does an alliance of guitarists from Utah, Japan and Belgium get to become the California Guitar Trio? The answer, much like the group’s music, was a surprise – by meeting in England to study with King Crimson founder Robert Fripp. California was merely where the band formed.

paul richards.

paul richards.

This refresher course in CGT history became especially curious last night when you considered how some of its most dynamic music doesn’t really hail from any of those locales. Sure, Hideyo Moriya’s deft surf leads on Walk Don’t Run summoned images of West Coast waves and the always poignant The Marsh remains a post card-perfect remembrance of rural England. But at its boldest, the performance shot the trio and its audience right into outer space.

For the title tune to its soon-to-be-released Andromeda album, Moriya and co-guitarists Richards (the Utah rep) and Bert Lams (the Belgian) each took turns at applying electric washes over a trio sound delivered exclusively on acoustic guitars. The echoing effects and pseudo-rockish wails enforced a powerfully (and pleasantly) prog-ish undertow in the band’s musical matrix.

Similarly, an extended visit to Pink Floyd’s Echoes (which became the title tune to a preceding CGT album of cover material) went straight for the cosmos with Richards piloting some fine slide-induced psychedelia while Lams tackled a tasty blues variation that gave this interstellar trip some earthy grounding.

hideyo moriya.

hideyo moriya.

Other similarly exciting Andromeda tunes brought the journey back home. Portland Rain worked off a bass-like melody from Moriya while Chacarera provided Middle Eastern spins on Argentine lyricism. Best of all was the show opening Cathedral Peak, a work with a warm, chiming guitar refrain that blended neo-surf playfulness with more cinematic, Fripp-fashioned guitar runs.

Then there were the near traditional CGT moments – the audience sing-a-long on the Queen classic Bohemian Rhapsody, the vintage pop orchestral drama of Classical Gas and a newer favorite, The William Tell Overture, which was done as a warp-speed string music joyride.

In the end, though, the show was still about three guys playing three acoustic guitars offering masterful technique and boundless artistic cunning. And that made for quite a ride.

the night the guitars ruled the earth

the california guitar trio: hideyo moriya, paul richards and bert lams.

the california guitar trio: hideyo moriya, paul richards and bert lams.

Normally, when an evening featuring the musical invention of the California Guitar Trio rolls around, we cut to the chase and simply say, “Go.”

After all, the CGT is one of those ensembles that can all but guarantee a great time for its audience. As instrumentalists, the players – Paul Richards, Bert Lams and Hideyo Moriya – are nothing short of virtuosos. As composers, they conjure all kinds of imaginative and progressive soundscapes. Its upcoming Andromeda album, in fact, will be its first recording to focus exclusively on original works. And as for sheer stylistic invention, the CGT has proved it can interpret almost anything for its musical makeup of three acoustic guitars – be it movie themes, Japanese folk tunes, classical works, prog rock classics and, yes, even Free Bird. Wrap all of that up in an ensemble  performance persona that is as inviting as it is unassuming and toss in one of Lexington’s finest guitar dynamos, Ben Lacy, as opening act and the CGT’s performance tonight at Natasha’s Bistro, 112 Esplanade (8 p.m., $20) becomes something of a no-brainer as a recommendation.

larry coryell.

larry coryell.

But… and you probably sensed a ‘but’ was coming… guitar enthusiasts will face some picking and choosing tonight. While the CGT sets up shop at Natasha’s, the veteran jazz guitarist Larry Coryell will perform a free 8 p.m. concert at Berea College’s Phelps-Stokes Chapel.

Coryell has been a vital, creative jazz force for over 40 years, exploring avenues of electric innovation (with his landmark ‘70s fusion band The Eleventh House), acoustic daring (his remarkable late ‘70s solo albums as well as collaborations with the great French guitarist Philip Catherine), traditional styles (his concerts regularly dip into the compositions of Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and other iconic artists) and world music.

The latter will take the spotlight at the Berea concert. Coryell will perform as part of the East-meets-West ensemble Bombay Jazz that also includes George Brooks on saxophone, Vijay Ghate on the percussive tabla and Ronu Majumdar on the bamboo flute known as the bansuri. Fasten your seat belts for this one,

critic’s pick 141

The first two songs on Robert Plant’s quietly exhilarating new Band of Joy album represent an intriguing continental shift.

With brittle, bowing bass strings as a catalyst, he transforms Los Lobos’ Angel Dance into a dark bit of British folk-dance mischief. The interpretation sounds centuries old, if not otherworldly entirely. But when he shifts to House of Cards, a forgotten 1978 tune by the patriarch of British folk-rock troubadours, Richard Thompson, the feel becomes altogether American. Sounding every bit as ancient as Angel Dance, the song seems fit for a congregational church service. But the rural glow is unmistakable.

Thus we have the newest stylistic turn in the continually evolving career of the singer who once shook the world as frontman for Led Zeppelin. He’s also the artist who undoubtedly shunned what had to have been a ridiculous fortune to tour again with his Zep mates a few years ago in favor of exploring Americana folk, rock and soul with bluegrass-pop princess Alison Krauss. The move stymied, even infuriated, the Zeppelin faithful, but went on to win Plant and Krauss six Grammy Awards for their 2007 album Raising Sand.

Band of Joy is both an extension and a detour from that triumph. A follow-up to Raising Sand was reportedly underway but wound up being scrapped by both artists. That sent Plant to Americana kingpin Buddy Miller, co-guitarist for the Raising Sand tour. With Miller as co-producer, Plant, resurrected the name of his pre-Zeppelin group Band of Joy and designed an album that retains Raising Sand‘s spooky, rootsy charm but shifts the folk compass halfway between Appalachia and England.

What results is a sound that seems initially more singular than the music on Raising Sand. With Krauss gone, Plant enlists the esteemed songsmith Patty Griffin. But she remains largely in the background on Band of Joy as one of the voices that balance out Plant’s incantatory version of Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down. Griffin slips into the passenger seat, though, for the breathy moans that play off of Miller’s creepy electric guitar ambience during luscious reworkings of two Low tunes, Silver Rider and Monkey.

And then there are the surprises, like the dry banjo lead of Darrell Scott that transforms the pre-bluegrass staple Cindy, I’ll Marry You Someday into a beguiling dirge. Similarly, Barbara Lynn’s You Can’t Buy Me Love emerges as a blast of jagged, funky, fuzzy, big beat rock ‘n’ roll.

Some may mourn Krauss’ absence on Band of Joy the same way the rock legions still pine for the return of Led Zeppelin. But on this fine new recording, Plant remains ever the rock journeyman following the lure of songs that seldom remain the same.

jeb bishop, circa 2009

jeb bishop. photo by fred lonberg-holm.

jeb bishop. photo by fred lonberg-holm.

There’s a deceptively straightforward bit of swing on Jeb Bishop’s new album, 2009, that cuts to the meat of his playing. Titled The Elliptical Blues, it struts about with brassy animation, lyrical color and brilliant tone. Of course, Bishop is a trombonist, so immediately that color and tone bear a sense of distinction. And as the title implies, the music summons an arching blues melody set heartily in motion. Bishop’s very industrious rhythm section of drummer Frank Rosaly and bassist Jason Roebke keep the music in orbit,  especially when it runs with the groove near the tune’s conclusion.

You can’t help but accept the trombone in such a trio setting almost from the moment 2009 kicks into gear with the sleek lyrical charge of 900. Bishop creates a voice that is conversational, intuitive and learned. You quickly come to view it as the same means of fluid musical expression one would expect from trumpet or saxophone. If anything, its reach, in Bishop’s hands, is deeper while the emotive spell it casts is warmer.

Given Bishop’s pedigree as part of Chicago’s vast stable of extraordinary improvising musicians and the more abstract adventures he has embarked on locally over the past eight years with the Peter Brotzmann Chicago Tentet, the Vandermark 5 (prior to his exit from the band in 2004) and, most recently, a December 2007 concert with the quartet Engines, a tune like The Elliptical Blues might almost seem reserved.

The entire charm of 2009, though, is its ability to balance crafty instrumental play with wily improvisational sensibility and appealing melodic phrasing. You hear in the playful percussive exchanges with Rosaly on Dusk, the lovely hush in the trio turns of Before and After and the beefy interplay that erupts on the album-closing The Lateness of the Hour.

Bishop has stepped away from his more furious touring demands in recent years. Aside from the Engines date and a 2004 Vandermark 5 outing, he hasn’t played Lexington since a 2002 date at the University of Kentucky with his trio. That changes tonight, when Bishop, Roebke and Rosaly bring 2009 into 2010 with a performance at Bar Lexington. Consider this one a must see mid-week jazz treat.

The Jeb Bishop Trio performs at 8 tonight at Bar Lexington, 373 E. Main. Doors open at 7. Admission is $5. For information, call (859) 523-7694.

Jones International. U. – Founder – Interview

The Cavuto Business Report (Fox News Network) March 10, 1999 | Neil Cavuto, Karen Gibbs 00-00-0000 THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NEIL CAVUTO, THE CAVUTO BUSINESS REPORT: Forget about raising your hand or walking to campus because college classes are available online with the click of a mouse. Jones International University has now become the first Internet only school accredited to grant college degrees, again, over the Internet. The virtual university hopes to fill a niche the traditional brick and mortar schools cannot.

Joining us now to explain how all of this will work, Glenn Jones, the founder of JIU and the CEO of Jones International. Good to see you.

GLENN JONES, JIU FOUNDER: Thank you. It’s good to be here, Neil.

CAVUTO: So I can get a degree over the Internet? here jones international university

JONES: Absolutely. Jones International University is the university of the web and our motto is wherever you are, we are. And it’s just been accredited by the North Central Accrediting Association, which is the same accrediting organization that accredits Notre Dame, the University of Illinois, the University of Colorado, the University of Chicago, etc.

So it’s a very important day for us and for higher education at large.

CAVUTO: Where do you get your professors?

JONES: Well, we have some of our own but our professors typically come from other universities because they can be anyplace in the globe, as the students can be anyplace in the globe. Our content is prepared by professors from places like Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, many other, the University of Colorado, for instance. So it’s very high quality education and that’s what the accreditation is all about.

CAVUTO: I was asking you during the break here, but let’s say you get to be very, very successful and a lot of these Stanford and UCLA professors start doing very well with this. Who’s to stop Stanford and UCLA to say no, guys, you can’t moonlight and do this?

JONES: Well, nothing, I guess. But this is really not a displacement.

It’s not a replacement technology. It’s an augmentation technology. When you look at the…

CAVUTO: Yeah, but I can take a course at Stanford with Professor Brown, let’s say, and spend upwards of $1,000 a credit hour. I’m getting in for 700 bucks a credit hour with you. Stanford’s eventually going to say I don’t think so, right?

JONES: Yeah, but the reality is that in America alone there are over 100 million adults that want to do something to further their education and there are only 15 million seats in all the universities in America so that, you know, these, you know, this vast really market is waiting, you know, for more efficient use of facilities to a certain extent, I think, and technology is the answer. jonesinternationaluniversitynow.net jones international university

CAVUTO: So the cost, Mr. Jones, would be let’s say, of trying to get a degree, would be somewhere between what a public college education would cost you and a private, right? Somewhere in that middle ground?

JONES: No, actually it’s about one half what it would cost to go to a state supported university and about one fourth of what it would cost to go to a private university.

CAVUTO: Well, because I’m getting quibbling figures on just how much that jibes with state funded institutions, that if you use that $700 figure, there are many state institutions that are substantially below that.

JONES: Yeah, I’m taking the averages, sure.

CAVUTO: OK, OK. Who benefits?

JONES: Well, everybody benefits, basically. You know, it is, for instance, if you’re a company and you have a global workforce, this is a great way to train your workforce because they don’t have to take time off to go someplace physically because their bedroom, their living room, their kitchen, their workplace, even, or their recreational vehicle, you know, can be their classroom.

CAVUTO: Right.

CAVUTO: You know, when you made a niche in cable and expanded and sold that off at a big profit and looking at you, you were always ahead of the curve. Do you sense that now you could be the father of online education?

JONES: Well, this is a vast global market. I mean in China, for instance, they have five million higher adult students in colleges and they’ re trying to get to 80 million. So it’s a global market. It’s huge.

CAVUTO: Best of luck to you, Mr. Jones. This should have been around when I was a kid. It would have made things a lot easier for me. Glenn Jones, the CEO of Jones International. Thanks again.

JONES: Thank you.

END

Neil Cavuto, Karen Gibbs

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