Archive for February, 2011

grammy postmortem 2011

esperannza spalding arriving at last night's grammy awards in los angeles.

esperanza spalding arriving at the grammy awards ceremony last night in los angeles. ap photo by chris pizzello.

The moment brought back the memory of when Herbie Hancock skunked Kanye West for Album of the Year at the 2008 Grammy Awards. It was sweet and, quite frankly shocking.

Last night, the Grammys just about trumped that when another jazz artist – this one a young lion unknown to much of the pop mainstream – won Best New Artist. In a field that boasted teen pop star Justin Bieber, charttopping rapper Drake, folk renegades Mumford & Sons and alternative pop newcomers Florence and the Machine, the winner turned out to be jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding.

Admittedly, the Best New Artist category carries a pretty horrid legacy. Let’s not forget that past winners include the Starland Vocal Band. And though Spalding may be a new artist, she has actually cut five albums – three of her own (including the wonderful 2010 soul-jazz gem Chamber Music Society) and two as a member of saxophonist Joe Lovano’s Us Five quintet (including the outstanding 2011 Charlie Parker themed Bird Songs).

But for once, let’s not get distracted by the Grammys’ bewildering and inconsistent nomination process and look the seriously bright side. Honestly, now. A jazz stylist winning Best New Artist? That’s cool. But a bassist taking the award? Even wilder. Add in Spalding’s acceptance speech, which was concise, literate and gracious (qualities generally lacking at the Grammys) and you had the makings of a genuine class act.

Almost as surprising was watching Arcade Fire beat out Lady Gaga, Eminem, Katy Perry and Lady Antebellum for Album of the Year (for The Suburbs).

Singer/frontman Win Butler also cut to the chase, or else simply expressed honest surprise, with the opening of his acceptance speech: “What the hell?”

The band tore through a blinding version of Month of May, complete with cyclists wearing helmet cams whipping around the stage, just prior to winning the award. Then, in a Grammy first, the band was afforded a victory lap by closing the broadcast with, ironically, Ready to Start.

The rest of the night? Surprisingly entertaining in terms of performances, actually. Cee Lo Green sang that ultra-fun pop-soul kiss-off song with the title you can’t say on TV backed by a band of puppets. That was a major blast. But what was the deal with having Gwyneth Paltrow as a duet partner? Or was she a puppet, too.

But Lady Gaga in an egg? The five diva salute to Aretha Franklin (with Christina Aguilera actually remembering the lyrics)? The Justin Bieber/Usher tag team match? No thank you very much.

The geezers had a good night, though. Bob Dylan upheld his unofficial title as folk angel of death by croaking his way though a magnificently ragged Maggie’s Farm in hootenanny fashion with Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers.

And there was Mick Jagger, still a tireless performance fireball, who turned the ceremony’s most maudlin moment – the memorial salute to artists who died over the past year – into a king size celebration honoring soul music giant Solomon Burke by leading a massively brassy Everybody Needs Somebody to Love. The only person in the audience caught on camera not smiling was Eminem. But then it’s his job not to.

yonder stands the string band

yonder mountain string band: dave johnston, ben kaufmann, jeff austin and adam aijala.

yonder mountain string band: dave johnston, ben kaufmann, jeff austin and adam aijala.

Look at the name – shoot, take a glance at the group itself – and you might think you have the Yonder Mountain String Band pegged.

But appearances and, especially, instrumentation don’t add up to the obvious for this long-running Colorado troupe. Surface indicators may suggest bluegrass. So does the musical makeup of guitar, banjo, string bass and mandolin. And, for the record, bluegrass certainly has its say within the songs. But the bottom line at Yonder Mountain is that strings aren’t always the thing.

“I don’t think what we do really has that much to do with the instrumentation,” said Yonder Mountain guitarist Adam Aijala. “You can do whatever you want with whatever instruments as long as the music you’re making and putting out matters.

“We would never have had the same kind of success we’ve enjoyed if we stuck to our guns and said, ‘By God, we’re going to be a traditional bluegrass band.’ A lot of our success has come from taking risks, like playing a Pink Floyd tune or something by The Beatles one minute and then following it with maybe some hardcore Jimmy Martin bluegrass. The instrumentation doesn’t matter. It’s what you’re doing with it.”

For over 12 years, Yonder Mountain has used bluegrass instrumentation as a sort of introductory tongue for communicating with jam band audiences through extensive, improvisation-savvy sets. Sometimes the intensely, almost physically rhythmic music borrows from rock, funk and reggae forms. In other instances, it adheres to more obvious bluegrass tradition.

The repertoire is just as diverse. Yonder Mountain is equally at home with an original hybrid tune (like, say, Honestly, from the band’s recent album The Show) as it is with designing string band colors for a groove-savvy cover of Talking Heads’ Girlfriend Is Better.

Through incessant touring that has continually trumped a level of radio airplay that has been meager at best, Yonder Mountain has watched a cultish-sized fanbase that barely filled the defunct Lynagh’s Music Club (the last venue the band performed a full Lexington concert in) swell to one that regularly packs Colorado’s prestigious Red Rock Ampitheatre.

The band’s music has grown, too. But then again, there has always been room enough for a high profile guest to sit in.

“With the majority of our shows, it’s just the four of us,” said mandolinist Jeff Austin. “But when there is the chance to play with guys like (progressive string stylists) Darol Anger or Danny Barnes or Andy Hall, we can’t help but get psyched. To tell these guys to tear into something and then watch them do it? Forget it.

“There are the four of us, obviously. But there is also this cool pocket that exists in the music. I remember when we first formed, I was going, ‘Man, should we get a fiddle player or a dobro player? Is our sound going to be enough? And it was totally enough. But there is still that space in the music that lets us invite any number of great musicians to come up and become friends with us. It’s a pretty cool thing.”

One such pal dominates The Show. Helping out on 6 of the album’s14 songs is Pete Thomas, long time musical sidekick of Elvis Costello. He’s also a drummer, which creates another whole dynamic within the band’s string sound.

“You know, in the back of my mind, I’m saying, ‘I’m just glad I can do this,'” said banjoist Dave Johnston (bassist Ben Kaufmann completes the lineup). “I feel lucky to be in this situation with this particular group of guys. It’s a big accomplishment, too. We have kept the same personnel together for 12 years. We’re entering a realm of bands where that is unheard of. That’s especially true in bluegrass, where everyone is a hired gun.

“That extends to our crew, also. We’ve maintained this kind of core family.”

Among the family members is former Lexingtonian Ben Hines, a sound engineer that worked at Lynagh’s before being hired away as touring sound man for the band over a decade ago.

“I don’t know where we would be without Ben,” Austin said. “We played a festival last year and our decibel level shot higher than levels by Widespread Panic and Umphrey’s McGee. People were going, ‘Oh, there’s a little four piece bluegrass band. How cute that is.’ And then this jet engine comes out of the speaker that is louder than some the loudest rock bands. That was pretty cool.”

Yonder Mountain String Band performs at 8:30 tonight at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester St. Tickets are $20. Call (859) 368-8871.

Subaru Legacy Outpoints Ford Fusion in Consumer Reports’ Tests of All-Wheel-Drive Family Sedans.

Energy Weekly News November 20, 2009 The redesigned Subaru Legacy outpointed the freshened Ford Fusion in Consumer Reports’ latest tests of family sedans with all-wheel drive. Also included in the sedans test was the freshened Toyota Camry, which is only available in front-wheel-drive. The Legacy 6-cylinder outscored the Camry V6, but the four-cylinder Camry outpointed the four cylinder Legacy.

The Legacy 3.6R received an “Excellent” overall road test score of 83, outpointing the Fusion which received a “Very Good” 76. CR’s engineers say that both the Legacy and the Fusion make good, fuel-efficient alternatives for drivers who want extra traction in slippery conditions but would rather not drive an SUV. The freshened Camry received an Excellent road test score of 84.

CR also tested two versions of the Mazda3. Among small sedans, the freshened Mazda3 received a Very Good road test score of 74.

“With its redesign, the Legacy goes from a decent but small family sedan to one in the top of its class,” said Rik Paul, automotive editor for Consumer Reports.

Relatedly, Consumer Reports also released reliability findings from its latest Car Reliability Survey. The survey found that front-wheel drive versions of the Fusion have reliability that is better than that of the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, two models that many consider to be paradigms of reliability. The all-wheel-drive version’s reliability is just average, because of problems with its drive system.

Prices ranged from $22,850 for the Toyota Camry LE to $30,094 for the Subaru Legacy 3.6R. All the cars in this test group are Recommended. CR only Recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR’s Annual Auto Survey of its more than seven million print and Web subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.

Full tests and ratings of the family sedans test group appear in the December issue of Consumer Reports, which goes on sale November 3. The reports are also available to subscribers of www.ConsumerReports.org. Updated daily, ConsumerReports.org is the go-to site for the latest auto reviews, product news, blogs on breaking news and car buying information. go to site ford fusion 2013

The redesigned Subaru Legacy is now significantly roomier and quieter, with an impressive ride and responsive handling. The Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited, ($30,094, Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price as tested), is powered by a 240-hp, 3.6-liter 6-cylinder engine that delivers strong performance and gets 22 mpg overall in CR’s own fuel economy tests. The continuously variable transmission in four-cylinder versions is smooth and pleasant in leisurely driving, but when merging or climbing hills, it keeps the engine revving high. That version attained a commendable 25 mpg overall. Braking is Very Good. Although the plastics are hard, the Legacy’s interior is attractive, with tight fits and well-finished edges. Folding down the 60/40 split rear seatbacks expands the already good-sized trunk. here ford fusion 2013

Overall, the 2010 Fusion is refined and agile, and the AWD version doesn’t drive any differently. But it loses 2 mpg in fuel economy compared with the front-wheel-drive. The ride is steady and calm, with good isolation and handling is responsive. The Ford Fusion SEL AWD ($29,425 MSRP), is powered by a 240-hp, 3.0-liter V6 engine that delivers responsive performance and gets 20 mpg overall, but the AWD Fusion takes almost a second longer to reach 60 mph. Braking is Very Good. The interior is well finished. The trunk is nicely finished and holds four large suitcases and a small duffel. The rear seat folds 60/40.

A freshening for 2010 helped the Camry improve its standing as one of CR’s top-rated family sedans. It has a comfortable ride and a quiet, spacious cabin. Handling is sound, but the Camry is not particularly agile or fun to drive. The Toyota Camry LE, ($22,850 MSRP), is powered by a 169-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers decent acceleration and above-average fuel economy at 26 mpg overall. The new six-speed automatic transmission shifts very smoothly. Braking is Very Good. Most of the interior materials are nicely finished, including a soft-touch dashboard. Folding down the 60/40-split rear seat-backs expands the good sized trunk.

The Mazda3 has been freshened for 2010 and is distinguished by agile handling and a nice interior that’s laid out well. The interior has been upgraded, but the rear seat remains tight and road noise is pronounced. The car is fun to drive, remaining composed while hustling around corners. CR tested both five-speed manual and five-speed automatic transmission versions of the Mazda3. Stability control is standard except for the two base trimlines of the sedan. The Mazda3 i Touring with automatic transmission ($19,070 MSRP) is powered by a 148-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers good performance and 30 mpg overall. The five-speed-automatic transmission shifts quickly and smoothly. Braking was Good. The trunk, while not huge, is tall and well-shaped.

With more than 7 million print and online subscribers, Consumer Reports is one of the most trusted sources for information and advice on consumer products and services. It conducts the most comprehensive auto-test program of any U.S. publication or Web site and owns and operates a 327-acre Auto Test Center in Connecticut. The organization’s auto experts have decades of experience in driving, testing, and reporting on cars. To subscribe, consumers can call 1-800-234-1645 or visit www.ConsumerReports.org.

in performance: ethnic heritage ensemble

ethnic heritage ensemble: kahil el'zabar, corey wilkes and ernest khabeer dawkins.

ethnic heritage ensemble. from left: kahil el'zabar, corey wilkes and ernest khabeer dawkins.

During one of few spoken interludes of last night’s generous two-set performance by the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble at the Lyric Theatre, group founder and percussionist Kahil El’Zabar half-jokingly referenced a Down Beat-sponsored all-star concert he participated in several years ago at Harlem’s fame Apollo Theatre. Fronting the EHE’s usual but distinctive lineup of two horns and percussion, concert emcee Bill Cosby greeted El’Zabar by asking, ‘Where’s your band?’

The same question may have been on the minds of unsuspecting patrons at the Lyric. But for over 2 ½ hours, El’Zabar, along with trumpeter Corey Wilkes and alto/tenor saxophonist Ernest Khabeer Dawkins, designed music that was so rhythmically complete that one seldom sensed the lack of chordal support provided by piano and, especially, bass.

El’Zabar often filled in the bass chair on the African thumb piano known as the kalimba. For some tunes, including a performance-opening trio version of the Miles Davis standard All Blues, the instrument unlocked a mantra-like lyricism over trumpet and sax solos that mirrored the music’s inherent sense of contemplation.

But twice during the evening’s second set, El’Zabar let the kalimba set an ambient course for subsequent solos by Wilkes (on muted trumpet) and Dawkins before switching to subdued, bass-like patterns that gave the music – colored by percussion from beaded bracelets El’zabar attached to his ankles – a more literate pulse.

The mingling of West African influences and jazz colors (from free-form exchanges to brief, boppish runs) piloted the performance. And there were many instances where the music turned playful, as during an introductory second set version of Salt Peanuts that engaged the audience in call-and-response choruses. A short encore segment even slapped fragments of Jean Pierre and When the Saints Go Marching In – truly tunes that serve as ambassadors of alternate jazz universes – into the same neighborhood jam.

But it was during those passages when the music became as light and cerebral as the mood that the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble’s mingling of opposing jazz worlds visited a musical terrain entirely of its own wondrous design.

United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office Publishes Application for Trademark “SumSort” to Stuart Barber for Maths Game, Educational Maths Games Organisation Services see here cool maths games

US Fed News Service, Including US State News April 28, 2010 SOUTH WALES, United Kingdom, April 27 — Stuart Barber, Hertfordshire, has filed the trademark “SumSort” (customer’s reference: sumsort application) on March 9 for maths game and also to provide educational maths games Organisation services. see here cool maths games

The trademark application (serial number: 2541283; journal number: 6832) was published on April 23.

The description of the mark registered is: “A Maths Game.

Organisation of educational maths games and maths workshops and competitions.”

in performance: daniel martin moore

daniel martin moore. photo by michael wilson.

daniel martin moore. photo by michael wilson.

“Does anybody have a tambourine?” asked Daniel Martin Moore as he brought a concert of almost ethereal lightness to a conclusion last night at Natasha’s. “We left ours in the car.”

In a way, it was a very telling omission/confession for a concert designed around the spiritually inclined material of the Northern Kentucky songsmith’s new In the Cool of the Day album. Yes, the most portable and percussive instrument in gospel music was left behind. But so were numerous conventions stemming from the churchy Appalachian inspirations that seemed to drive the performance.

For the show opening combination of All Ye Tenderhearted (a Moore original) and Dark Road (a spiritual he augmented with lyrics of his own), the performing congregation was a six piece ensemble enraptured more by ambient folk and country than anything remotely gospel (traditional or contemporary). Banjo and mandolin colored the music, but the primary components were the delicious reverb of former Over the Rhine guitarist Ric Hordinski and the contemplative, whispery tone of Moore’s singing.

This was music better suited for a monastery than a church – or a bar, for that matter. The luxurious quiet Moore’s sextet regularly conjured had a chatty bar and restaurant crowd to contend with. But the music still won out, from the starker themes of displacement in Flyrock Blues (one of the tunes from Moore’s 2010 Dear Companion album with Ben Sollee that pointedly addressed the environmental disruption triggered by mountaintop coal removal) to several tunes featuring banjoist Joan Shelley (a folk stylist Moore is currently producing an album for in Louisville).

Still, the performance spoke loudest when quiet was most allowed to prevail. For the Jean Ritchie-penned title tune to In the Cool of the Day, a song that already balanced spiritual contentment with very earthly responsibility, the music was pared down to only Moore’s meditative singing and the piano support of Daniel Joseph Dorff. Gone were the expected mountain music accents. Instead, In the Cool of the Day was performed as if it was part of a séance, a slice of uneasy and almost ghostly serenity for a community that seems to have shut the door on its own salvation.

WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY TONY FRATTO WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY TONY FRATTO HOLDS WHITE HOUSE NEWS BRIEFING

Washington Transcript Service August 26, 2008

Washington Transcript Service 08-26-2008 WHITE HOUSE NEWS BRIEFING, CRAWFORD, TEXAS AUGUST 26, 2008 SPEAKER: WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY TONY FRATTO [*] FRATTO: Good afternoon, everyone. Sorry for the delay.

I’ll just give you a quick update on something, and then we’ll get into a little bit of news of the — news of the day. And then I’ll be ready for any questions you have.

The president this morning had his — had his normal briefings and was out on the ranch working on some brush, brush-clearing and trail-building.

He obviously had a number of calls with senior officials back in Washington.

Also, to update you on a call he had yesterday with Governor Crist of Florida, he called to talk about the damage caused by Tropical Storm Fay, I think now Tropical Depression Fay, and the flooding, the severe weather and flooding taking place in Florida. We, obviously, have a major disaster declaration out there for Florida.

Additionally, FEMA Administrator Paulison called Florida officials this morning to inform them that individual assistance has been added to the major disaster declaration. Administrator Paulison and the Small Business Administration Acting Administrator Sandy Baruah are in Florida today to talk with state and local officials and visit the state’s logistics center.

Federal officials are also keeping an eye on the progression of Hurricane Gustav. A number of you have asked today — and I’ve seen the reporting — with respect to the Russian decision on their part, the very unfortunate decision to attempt to recognize the independence of two regions in Georgia.

You’ve heard Secretary Rice on this, this morning. I’d certainly refer you to her comments. And I can tell you that you can expect a statement to be issued from the president later this afternoon.

Clearly, the actions by Russia stand in contradiction to existing U.N. Security Council resolutions, and the spirit of the U.N. Security Council, and the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country of Georgia.

Georgia’s territorial integrity is contained in a number of U.N.

Security Council resolutions. And those resolutions recognize that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are part of — are part of Georgia.

The Russian decision yesterday also violates the cease-fire agreement that President Sarkozy brought to President Medvedev for his signature. He signed it. And this is clearly another violation of the agreement. That agreement speaks to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia.

So it is a — it is a serious issue, but I think, as Secretary Rice made clear, this is not an act that will be recognized by the U.N.

Security Council. It will be dead on arrival at the U.N. Security Council.

And this is another case, as a reminder to the world, of Russia committing to one thing and doing another. And so it leads all of us, the international community, to question Russia’s commitment to its word.

And I think that’s what you’re hearing from certain world leaders out there today.

The NATO secretary general issued a statement this morning.

Chancellor Merkel has issued a statement. The French, on behalf of the E.U., as they sit as the E.U. president, have just released a statement.

And so it is fairly universal condemnation of the actions taken by Russia.

So, as I said, you’ll hear or you’ll read a statement by the president at some point this afternoon.

And with that, I’ll be happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: The president yesterday called specifically for Russia’s leadership not to recognize the independence of these regions and swiftly just the opposite happened. So does the president have no influence left with Russia’s direction?

FRATTO: Look, Russia is making — I would say a number of irrational decisions. And this is not about the United States and Russia;

this is about Europe and the international community and Russia and the choices Russia is making that affect its place in the world.

And so far we’ve seen a series of unfortunate decisions by the Russians that only serve to further isolate them. And we hope that they hear the loud voices from the international community and understand that it’s not in their long-term interest to take these kinds of actions.

QUESTION: Tony, what does it mean to be dead on arrival (OFF- MIKE) FRATTO: Any effort to try to sanction this at the U.N., I think you would see very swift and clear message from the United States, if not the other members of the U.N. Security Council, that there will be no recognition of Russia’s act.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) or face unspecified consequences didn’t really seem to work. When will the U.S. start to outline what those — some of those consequences will be? web site act question of the day

FRATTO: I think there’s time for that. As I said yesterday, we are still focused on supporting Georgia, getting humanitarian assistance into Georgia. We’ve had scores of C-17 and C-130 flights delivering humanitarian assistance into Georgia. We have ships unloading, you know, many pallets of humanitarian assistance to Georgia.

We’ll continue to do that. We’ll continue to support them through the G-7, especially with the G-7 finance ministers and with the international financial institutions, to ensure that Georgia’s economy remains on track. It was — one of the shining stars of that region was the Georgian economy, before the conflict broke out, and other ways that we can continue to support Georgia in the short term.

In the medium and longer term, we will — you know, as we’ve said, we’re reviewing our relationship with Russia. Europe is reviewing its relationship with Russia. Russia still has some choices to make.

Our long-term goal is that we want to see Russia return to at least the commitments that it had in the past to be integrated into global institutions, especially rules-based institutions, like the WTO and other organizations around the world.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) Medvedev, in an interview with the BBC, accused the U.S. of re-arming Georgia.

FRATTO: That’s ridiculous.

QUESTION: Those are clearly…

FRATTO: He asked about — he asked about Medvedev’s comments regarding the nature of our humanitarian aid shipments. I can assure you that these are purely humanitarian aid shipments that are going into Georgia and nothing else.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) QUESTION: Tony, the president we know puts great store in his personal relationships with foreign leaders. And yet today’s action by the Kremlin came a day after he personally appealed for Russia not to do what it exactly went ahead and did. So does he view the Kremlin as thumbing its nose at his appeals?

FRATTO: I think — I think the Kremlin can speak for itself on what their intentions were. I can tell you this was not just the American president calling on Russia not to take this very damaging step. It was the leaders in Europe and the European Union, NATO and other leaders around the world who called on Russia not to take this step.

Again, this is a damaging step for Russia, and this is a result of choices that the Russians are making, and they’re very unfortunate choices.

QUESTION: And the statement by President Bush will be written, right, not on camera?

FRATTO: Yes, that’s right.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) asking about that, that interview, that Medvedev also indicated that the ships would — U.S. ships headed to Poti would not be allowed to dock there because he says they’re carrying weapons.

Are you…

(CROSSTALK) FRATTO: Again…

QUESTION: … happen if the Russians stop one of our…

(CROSSTALK) FRATTO: Well, once again, the Russians have made a commitment to allow humanitarian shipments into Poti. Now, there’s a question as to whether Russian forces should even be in Poti — actually, I would say there’s no question that we also call on Russian forces to pull out of Poti.

It’s an undisputed territory. It’s part of — it’s part of an undisputed area of Georgia, unlike the two specific regions. So we’d prefer that they pull out of Poti.

But at any rate, as part of the cease-fire agreement, they have agreed to allow all humanitarian aid shipments to enter Georgia. And, again, they should live up to that commitment.

QUESTION: Is there any thought being given to somebody going to Moscow and talking directly with the Russian leaders?

FRATTO: I don’t have any — any plans for that at this time that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: And why wouldn’t somebody be doing that?

FRATTO: That would be a decision for the president and the senior advisers to make. And I just — I have nothing on that right now.

But there’s — there’s nothing ambiguous about Russia’s obligations here. They have obligations to the cease-fire agreement, which they signed very publicly. They have obligations to the public comments they made to live up to those — to those commitments in the cease-fire agreement.

Russia is a permanent five member of the U.N. Security Council, so they have an obligation to live up to their U.N. Security Council resolutions, resolutions which were passed with Russian support.

So the Russians know their obligations. And I don’t know that it requires anyone to go to Russia to inform them of it.

QUESTION: The Russian president also said that, if NATO (OFF- MIKE) cooperation, quote, “nothing terrible would happen to us.” I mean, we talked a lot about consequences in the last week. There’s not a lot of specifics. If it’s not a United States problem, if it is a larger, global, European problem, as well, what can really be done? here act question of the day

FRATTO: I can’t emphasize it enough, actually. I mean, a lot of damage has already been inflicted on Russia. And it comes in many forms.

Clearly, it’s in international politics and diplomatic activity. That is a cost.

There are economic costs that Russia has already suffered, not just because of, by the way, this — the recent conflict in Georgia, but because of a series of actions they’ve taken over a number of years that include authoritative, you know, heavy-handed, authoritative measures against commercial activity in Russia.

There is a risk premium to doing business in Russia. And you can go out and talk to international bankers and global companies and, you know, ask them about it. I think they’d — some of them would be happy to talk about it.

So there are costs. And, you know, they’re already in place.

And I think there’s evidence that they’re being — that they’re being felt in Russia. And that’s the nature of the world.

When you heard, you know, President Bush and Secretary Rice talk about the fact that, you know, we’re in the 21st century and it’s a very different world, you can’t go out and see the fruits of, you know, military conquest and take those kinds of disproportionate responses to international conflicts, it’s part of what they meant.

We are a much more interconnected world. And there are costs to countries who choose to go outside of what are the traditional norms — now traditional norms for the relations between states.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) frustrated (OFF-MIKE) essentially a country that doesn’t seem to care?

FRATTO: No, I think — I think the world is frustrated, but we’re not frustrated in our — in our support for Georgia. As we’ve said, there is — you know, Russia made a decision. They made a tactical decision.

They may have seen some tactical gain in their military success, but it is a long-term strategic failure.

It’s a long-term strategic failure for the reputation of Russia and even in their strategic relationship with countries on their borders.

There’s absolutely no question that there is unified support for a democratic and free Georgia and for the success of that — of that country.

And we stand with them. The European Union stands with Georgia.

And that’s going to continue to be the case. So if that was the ultimate aim of Russia, they have clearly failed in that.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) FRATTO: We’re going to stick with Georgia and Russia, and then we can come back to it when — one more, OK.

QUESTION: Given what’s come out of North Korea just overnight about putting on hold their dismantlement, how does the Georgia conflict and the communications with Moscow complicate that effort?

FRATTO: Secretary Rice addressed this. Russia will do what is in its interest. And it is not in Russia’s interests to have a nuclear-armed nation on its border on the Korean peninsula. We have — I’m not aware of any degradation of our cooperation with respect to the six-party talks.

But with respect to North Korea’s announcement today, we’ve been — we’ve been very clear with North Korea that there will be action for action. And they have linked this to — they have linked their action to not being taken off the state sponsor of terrorism list.

The other members of the six-party have made it clear — of the six parties have made it clear that we will — the United States will not take North Korea off the state sponsor of terrorism list until we have a protocol in place to verify the dismantling and accounting for Korea’s nuclear program.

So that’s not a new demand. That’s a longstanding demand. It’s not just a U.S. demand; it’s a demand by the other five members of the six-party talks.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) FRATTO: Wait, I’m sorry. Still on Russia?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) can you explain what you meant by Russia’s actions are irrational? In what way are they irrational?

FRATTO: Well, they’re clearly not in Russia’s long-term interest to be integrated into Europe and to be a force of peace and good relations on its borders and in that neighborhood. Chancellor Merkel used those kinds of words, as did the secretary general of NATO this morning. So that’s irrational.

On this, also?

QUESTION: Has the president given Vice President Cheney any new instructions today or yesterday…

FRATTO: Nothing — nothing specific that I can — that I can relate.

QUESTION: … as a result of the overnight developments?

FRATTO: Nothing specific that I can — that I can relate that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) have the Russians indicated that they’ll — they’re going to allow these ships to dock at Poti, the Navy ships to dock at Poti, other than their agreement of the…

(CROSSTALK) FRATTO: I haven’t heard that they will — that they will not allow them. That’s not something that I’ve heard, except from your question.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) reports that a Sudanese plan was hijacked shortly after takeoff from Darfur and has now landed in Libya. Are you aware of those reports (OFF-MIKE) FRATTO: I’m sorry. I’m really just aware of the reports, but I don’t — I don’t have any — any facts that I can — that I can speak to.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) FRATTO: I’m not sure. But let me see what I can find out, and I’ll come back to you.

OK, anything else? Thank you.

END

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cool day ahead

daniel martin moore performing last month at cd central. herald-leader staff photo by rich copley.

daniel martin moore playing at cd central. herald-leader staff photo by rich copley.

The ambience surrounding the small corner stage last weekend at CD Central was something of a happy accident.

With a modest sound system on the fritz, Daniel Martin Moore and a pair of pals that helped create his new In the Cool of the Day album, had to play essentially without electricity. Enough amplification was summoned to power up Daniel Joseph Dorff’s portable keyboard. Otherwise, there were no microphones to aid the singing, mandolins and guitars.

“You might want to gather in as close as you can,” Moore told the in store crowd. “This is going to be pretty quiet.”

For anyone familiar with the music the Northern Kentucky songsmith has created on a series of albums for the acclaimed Seattle indie rock label Sub Pop, quiet is the norm. Moore’s folk reflect a contemplative quality while his hushed singing revels in calm. On his recordings, Moore almost seems to be singing to himself even though the topical scope of his songs possess a vitality that demands an audience.

“I’m glad that comes across,” Moore said a few hours prior to the CD Central gig. “I try to use and stand by musicians that are pretty quick with the material. But they are also close personal friends of mine, which really helps. When you’re working with people you love and trust, everybody wants to make the music something special.

“I think that’s the environment I’ll always work in. There’s something about starting a project that is close to your heart with people who are also close to your heart. If you do it right, all of that love and friendship will become a part of what you’re doing.”

The occasion for the CD Central appearance and a full concert performance tonight at Natasha’s is In the Cool of the Day. It’s an album of spirituals. A few of them, such as the welcoming All Ye Tenderhearted and the piano/organ dominate O My Soul are originals. Others, including a blues-hued Closer Walk With Thee and a New Orleans jazz saturated In the Garden are songs Moore grew up with.

Such familiarity with spiritual standards was the impetus for In the Cool of the Day. Moore, who resides in Cold Springs, initially intended to record the songs privately for his family, most of which reside in and around Elizabethtown. It was essentially an extension of the working philosophy that guides Moore’s music. Having favored making music with friends, he was now designing a record for his family.

“These are some of my favorite songs from over the years,” Martin said. “They are my mother’s favorites and my grandparents’ favorites – songs that we have all known for most of our lives. The album was never intended as a proper record, but a fun project I would probably give to my family for Christmas or something. As a proper record, it was kind of an accident.

“But the melodies are so spectacular in some of these songs that it felt OK to kind of push them a little bit and try something different with them. Then I started thinking about making it an album I would release.”

That’s also when Moore decided to augment the music with a few spiritually themed works of his own. But he is hard pressed to explain the inspirations behind the latter. Martin seldom analyzes the muse for any of his songs.

“I’m not sure about the genesis of any of them,” he said. “I don’t ask questions. I just take what I’m given and move on. I’m not really sure how or from where any of these songs come from.

“I know people who write out pages and pages and pages every day they work on songs to get ideas for a lyric. I’ve just never been able to do that.”

One song that didn’t come from Moore’s muse is In the Cool of the Day‘s title tune. Written by Kentucky mountain music matriarch Jean Ritchie, it speaks not only from a spiritually inclined perspective but a topical one.

Long critical of Kentucky’s coal mining practices, the song In the Cool of the Day speaks of the stewardship to the earth mankind is responsible for. Such sentiment also fuels the 2010 album Dear Companion Moore cut with Lexington/Louisville cellist and songwriter Ben Sollee. It addresses and reflects upon the environmental concerns raised over mountaintop coal removal (MTR) practices.

“There are a lot of things we do that keep MTR happening,” Moore said. “One of them is an almost societal disconnect from the true meaning of nature. But that’s a personal thing, too. Everybody has to make up their own mind about what’s going on in the world. But thinking about MTR in the context of stewardship really weighs heavily on my mind.

“I’m willing to say surface strip mining was at the forefront of Jean Ritchie’s writing of In the Cool of the Day. It’s about the world and our place in it. That’s a theme that runs through a lot of her music.

“I can only hope that my record will at least encourage some internal dialogue and maybe spark a similar train of thought.”

Daniel Martin Moore performs at 9 p.m. Feb. 10 at Natasha’s Bistro, 112 Esplanade. Admission is $8. Call (859) 259-2754.

“STUDENT DEBT BOMB” ALERT: DURBIN, HARKIN, INTRODUCE BILL TO ENSURE STUDENTS ARE NOT MISLED ON LOAN OPTIONS FEDERAL STUDENT LOANS HAVE FIXED INTEREST RATES, MANAGEABLE REPAYMENT OPTIONS AND SEVERAL CONSUMER PROTECTIONS THAT PRIVATE STUDENT LOANS LACK.

States News Service March 29, 2012 WASHINGTON — The following information was released by Illinois Senator Richard J. Durbin:

Noting that two-thirds of private student loan borrowers were not aware of the dramatic difference between federal student loans and risky, higher-interest, private student loans, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) today introduced a bill that would require schools to counsel students before they sign on to expensive, even unnecessary, private student loan debt and inform them if they have any untapped federal loan eligibility. In many instances students have not applied for federal aid before they apply for private student loans or have not exhausted their federal aid options.

The Know Before You Owe Act of 2012 would also require the prospective borrower’s school to confirm the student’s enrollment status, cost of attendance and estimated federal financial aid assistance before the private student loan is approved. here citi student loans

“There is no doubt that federal loans are a better deal for American students and families,” said Durbin. “However, with many for-profit colleges pressuring students into private student loans, many students and their families are not informed of the difference. Private student loans with higher interest rates, less flexibility and few consumer protections can burden students from graduation to the grave, ruining their credit and stopping them from borrowing for a home. The Know Before You Owe Act which I am introducing today with Chairman Harkin would empower students and their families to exhaust their federal financial aid options, which are designed to be more reasonable before being forced into private loans.” “With student loan debt at a record level, we must empower students to make informed decisions about how they finance their education, especially when it comes to the risks of private loans, which can sink students into financial quicksand and are not dischargeable in bankruptcy,” said Harkin. “This bill will help lower default rates and curb unnecessary debt by educating students about their federal financial aid options before they turn to private student loans. As we continue to work to improve college affordability and address the student debt that burdens America’s middle class families, we must start by ensuring that students exhaust their federal aid options.” There are several stark differences between private student loans and federal student loans. Federal student loans have fixed interest rates and offer an array of consumer protections and favorable terms, including deferment and forbearance in times of economic hardship, as well as manageable repayment options, such as the Income-Based Repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness programs. In contrast, private student loans, which resemble credit cards rather than financial aid, often have uncapped variable interest rates (which spiked as high as 18% in recent years), hefty origination fees, few, if any, consumer protections, and are ineligible for federal forgiveness, cancellation or repayment programs. go to site citi student loans

Specifically, the Know Before You Owe Act of 2012 would require private lenders to:

Certify with the borrower’s school that the student is enrolled and the amount the student is eligible to borrow before issuing a private loan;

Provide the borrower with quarterly updates on their loans, including accrued but unpaid interest and capitalized interest; and Report information to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about their student loans.

The Durbin-Harkin bill would require institutions of higher education to:

Inform students about their federal financial aid availability and eligibility; their ability to select a private lender of their choice; the impact of a private loan on their eligibility for other forms of financial aid; and their right to accept, reject or cancel a private loan as allowed under current law; and Inform students about the terms and conditions of federal and private student loans.

The Know Before You Owe Act of 2012 is supported by several education, student, and consumer organizations, including: American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers , American Association of State Colleges and Universities , American Federation of Teachers, American Medical School Association, Campus Progress Action , Consumer Action , D?mos, Education Trust , National Association for College Admission Counselors, National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, National Consumer Law Center, National Consumers League, National Council of La Raza, The Institute for College Access and Success, U.S. Public Interest Research Group and United States Student Association.

that heathen rock 'n' roll

the band of heathens:

the band of heathens: colin brooks, seth whitney, john chipman, gordy quist and ed jurdi. photo by cassandra weyandt.

By all measure, it was the start of an especially active winter weekend in Lexington.

Everything began with a fresh coat of snow – about five inches worth. Then in the waning hours of the afternoon, the University of Kentucky Wildcats dismantled Vanderbilt at Rupp Arena with LeBron James in the crowd. The evening even saw one of the premiere jazz men of the day, Joe Lovano, blasting out the bop at the Singletary Center for Arts.

For a cold, grey Saturday in late January of 2010, Lexington was hopping.

But there was one final celebration left before the clock clicked into Sunday. Down in the distillery district, The Band of Heathens introduced itself to the city at Buster’s. Talk about the end of a (literally) cool day.

As the pride of Austin, Tx., the Heathens were coming off a fruitful second half to 2009. The band had taped installments of two famed TV concert series (the hometown-based Austin City Limits on a split with bill with Elvis Costello and Germany’s Rockpalast), released an extraordinary new album (One Foot in the Ether) and was nominated for an emerging artist award from the Americana Music Association.

In short, it was about time Lexington caught up with the Heathens. The band returns this week, just over a year later, to fortify its Kentucky fanbase a little more

“It continues to be a good time for us,” said Colin Brooks, one the band’s three primary songwriters. “We’re seeing this bigger kind of middle class growth of musicians – the ones that aren’t completely starving but also aren’t rolling in these literal piles of money. There’s this middle ground now where you know you’re not going to make a million dollars. But you may well earn a comfortable living by doing what you really love to do and doing it on your own terms.

“Now we may not be approaching middle class income yet. I don’t even know what that is. But we’re certainly making a living with this and that’s a beautiful thing.”

For Brooks, becoming a Heathen meant viewing the musically fertile Austin scene as “a destination.” Having spent his youth in Michigan and Ohio, several Austin artists became almost unconscious inspirations.

“Some of the very first things I listened to when I got serious about guitar were Stevie Ray Vaughan records,” Brooks said, “And I remember hearing Townes Van Zandt songs when I was very young and being completely enamored with them even though I didn’t know who Townes was at the time.

“So slowly the case was being built for moving to Austin. It was becoming a magnet. All of us in the band have similar stories.”

Indeed they did. As Brooks was plotting a move to Texas, so were songsmiths Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist, who relocated to Austin to take up a Wednesday night residency at the downtown club Momo’s. In somewhat fortuitous fashion, Brooks was also part of the mid-week showcases. The three artists were booked to play as solo acts. But an alliance as The Band of Heathens was knocking at the door.

“We were kicking around doing sideman work and doing whatever it took to pay the bills – you know, pounding nails, cutting grass, slinging hash. But when we found ourselves at the same club on Wednesdays and started singing together, everything took on a life of its own. We were like a bullet out of a gun.”

A string of independent concert recordings – in particular, 2006’s Live from Momo’s – chronicled some of that initial loose energy. But it took One Foot in the Ether to present a fully realized, roots-driven assemblage of original songs

L.A. County Blues sounds just weathered enough in its boozy harmonies to recall the sort of neo-country charm that flowed generously out of Austin decades earlier. Miss Ohio, though, emphasizes songcraft by underscoring everyday moral dilemmas (“she wants to do right, just not right now”) with a pining guitar line that gives such subtle unrest a Texas sized emotional jolt.

The Band of Heathens will take a further step out of the ether this spring with the release of a new album, Top Hat Crown and the Clapmaster’s Son. A preview song from the record, Free Again, which uses last year’s BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as a catalyst for ongoing societal collapse, was made available as a free download on the band’s website as far back as last summer.

“We just keep finding more and more people,” Brooks said. “And more and more people keep finding us.  Given the kinds of jobs we have, you can’t ask for much more than that.”

The Band of Heathens performs with Hannah Rector at 9 p.m. Feb. 10 at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester St. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 day-of-show. Call (859) 368-8871.

Edible Arrangements Rings in Holiday Season With Opening of First Beijing Store.

Marketing Weekly News December 31, 2011 Edible Arrangements, the pioneer and leader in hand-sculpted, fresh-fruit arrangements, has expanded its international presence to China with the opening of its first store in Beijing located at the new Galleria Shopping Center, ShuguangXili Jia5#, Chaoyang District. To celebrate this momentous occasion and unveil the brand in China, Master Franchisees Jianyi “Jack” Wang and Zhigang Liu hosted a grand opening ceremony on December 8th( )with over 250 people on hand. here edible arrangements coupon code

“It was an honor to be present for the grand opening ceremony that Jack and Liu have been diligently planning to properly introduce the Chinese community to the Edible Arrangements brand,” said Tariq Farid, CEO and Founder, Edible Arrangements, Inc. “Their experience, coupled with their passion for our healthy, fresh fruit products, has made them great ambassadors and we are eager for their other locations to open over the next several years. Growing our international presence has been a focal point for the brand, and opening in one of the world’s most populous cities and fastest growing major economies marks a significant milestone for us.” Earlier this year Wang and Zhigang signed a Master Franchise Agreement to develop 40 stores throughout China over the next five years. Their second location in Beijing is slated to open within the next few months.

Natives of China, Wang and Zhigang have extensive experience in the wholesale fruit industry. Zhigang is owner and Wang is Vice President of Top Chef, a company that grows cherries and produces cherry fillings for a chain of bakeries and others in the food industry. Wang first learned of the Edible Arrangements concept in 2009 when visiting Syracuse, New York.

“We are thrilled to be part of an internationally growing brand, and are excited to have opened our doors in time for the 2011 holiday season,” said Wang. “The gift giving industry in China is growing fast, and we have a new holiday to celebrate about every month. We strongly believe our fresh fruit arrangements will provide a healthier, unique alternative. Fruit has a universal appeal and we see tremendous opportunity for success and growth in China in the years to come.” Since Edible Arrangements’ founding 12 years ago, the fresh fruit retailer has grown to 1,098 locations in 15 countries worldwide. Edible Arrangements has earned countless accolades from the franchise industry since its inception, including its ranking as first in its category by Entrepreneur Magazine’s Annual “Franchise 500” Ranking for the past five consecutive years and the winner of the ICSC’s 2010 Hot Retailer Award. In addition, the company has also ranked for seven consecutive years in Inc. Magazine’s top 5,000 fastest growing privately-held companies, ranked ninth on Forbes “2011 Top Franchises to Start for the Money” and was recently named one of Inc’s “10 Promising Franchises for 2011.” Individuals seeking to own and operate an individual Edible Arrangements franchise should possess the ability to invest approximately $148,000 to $286,000. Multi-unit store development plans and financing options are also available for qualified applicants. Edible Arrangements offers its franchisees comprehensive corporate and onsite training, unparalleled technology, daily store support and national brand recognition marketing programs. go to website edible arrangements coupon code

critic’s pick 162

In the thirty seconds or so of silence that follows a jagged funk reading of Plastic Fantastic Lover, Grace Slick starts mingling with the crowd. Small talk. Loose talk. Silly talk. She seems to be having quite the large time chatting and laughing with the patrons around her. In fact, Slick is so engaged that the band behind her – the Jefferson Airplane in all its ragged, psychedelic glory – nearly takes off without her. As Slick modestly cavorts, the Airplane slips into to the bolero-like bass patterns and neo-Western guitar melodies that coalesce into White Rabbit. It’s as if her bandmates are saying, “No hurry, Grace. This is only our biggest hit.”

Such is one of the many delights on a new archival collection by the Airplane titled Return to the Matrix. It’s a gloriously imperfect and beautifully blemished chronicle of a band just short of its peak.

Recorded in the dead of winter that followed the Summer of Love (February 1, 1968), Matrix presents a complete concert portrait of the Airplane at its loopiest. Still sporting four different lead vocalists, each with a markedly different performance persona, the concert came a mere six weeks after the band’s undeniably trippiest album, After Bathing at Baxter’s, was released. Add in the unavoidable history of the venue (it had informally introduced the Airplane to San Francisco and the world two years earlier) and you have a psychedelic time piece that is just short of epic.

Throughout Matrix, the band sounds sloppy but exultant. Watch Her Ride, for instance, rides a wave of wistful pop fancy even though the harmonies that sit alongside rhythm guitarist Paul Kantner are a bit of a train wreck. But after the collision we have Plastic Fantastic Lover, a social sendup of television that remains the closest thing the Airplane ever cut to a funk tune. Singer Marty Balin, guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady have a field day with the groove, too.

As usual with Airplane concert albums, Kaukonen steals the show. His vocals are as winding and distinctive and his fretwork. He is also a crafty song stylist, who turns the Leiber and Stoller classic Kansas City into a  blues-rock dirge and the instrumental original Ice Cream Phoenix into wily jam shuffle.

The Airplane has issued far tighter and far cleaner live records. Among them is 1969’s Bless Its Little Pointed Head, which was built around shows held roughly six months after the Matrix concert. But the brilliant, unadulterated mono sound on this newly unearthed delight offers a time machine performance that, warts and hall, reaffirms the Airplane’s place among ‘60s psychedelic royalty.

Sure, the flight is a little rocky at times on Matrix. But the trip is a blast.

hibernation time

The Musical Box is heading north for a brief winter hibernation over the next few days. But we will return on Tuesday. Coming attractions include a Critic’s Pick that takes us back to the ‘60s, a table discussion with members of the Yonder Mountain String Band and a chat with Jayhawk Mark Olson. See you in a few.

who's mcgee?

umphrey's mcgee: brendan bayliss, joel cummins, jake cinninger, andy farag, ryan stasik and kris myers. photo by chad smith.

umphrey's mcgee. brendan bayliss, joel cummins, jake cinninger, andy farag, ryan stasik and kris myers. photo by chad smith.

When your entire career soars along with little by way of prolonged breaks, you perfect the ability of mixing business with pleasure.

Take Umphrey’s McGee, for instance. The Chicago band recently celebrated 13 years of finding common ground between jam band-style accessibility, prog rock-level instrumentation and a sense of songcraft devoted to generous doses of pop. But prior to another busy year of touring, along with final studio sessions for its next album, the band headed to Mexico. It took along a pair of compadre groove troupes (Disco Biscuits and Sound Tribe Sector 9) and played a mini festival along the white sands of the Mayan Riviera some 20 miles south of Cancun.

It was technically work, mind you. But the scenery sure beat Chicago this time of year.

“While we were there, I think it was -2 degrees in Chicago,” said Umphrey’s McGee co-guitarist, co-founder and co-vocalist Brendan Bayliss. “The stage was set up 20 feet from the ocean. It was ridiculous.”

A listen to the recordings of those Mexico shows (you can find them on umlive.net, along with a library full of legally downloadable performances by the band) certifies a level of invention most jam bands don’t even aspire to. Highlights include a Spanish interpretation of the concert favorite In the Kitchen and a playful but unanticipated cover of Snoop Dogg’s Ain’t No Fun.

But the real fun came on the festival’s final evening with 12 ½ minutes of All Things Ninja. It’s one of Umphrey’s McGee’s earliest works but has mutated over the years into a soundscape of abstract ambience, chunky guitar dialogue and jazzy interludes propelled by Rhodes piano. In essence, it’s an old tune turned new again.

“There was this band out of Cincinnati called Ray’s Music Exchange that we used to open for,” Bayliss said. “I remember being so impressed by them that I went home one night and tried to write something evil and dark, something with a lot of dissonance that embraced the same kind of music they were doing. Really, we just wanted to have a piece of music for the next time we played with them that they would like.

“We’ve put that song down so many times that when we pick it up again, we always do something different with it.”

Before All Things Ninja, and before the band’s 1998 debut album (curiously titled Greatest Hits Vol. III), Bayliss and future Umphrey’s McGee bandmates Joel Cummins (keyboards) and Ryan Stasik (bass) were students at Notre Dame. Bayliss was studying English and philosophy, or, as he terms them “deep thoughts about unemployment.”

“I was a senior in college when the band started. We did shows for fun and beer money – well, that and the fact there was nothing else going on in South Bend, Indiana.”

In subsequent years, Umphrey’s McGee (eventually expanded to a sextet with percussionist Andy Farag, drummer Kris Myers and second guitarist Jake Cinninger) became a jam band logistically more than artistically. A devout internet following helped spread the word of concerts loaded with lengthy improvisational instrumentation. But the sounds, styles and inspirations that went into that music were removed from what then-new generation jam bands like Phish were generating in the late ‘90s.

“First for me when I was about 14 or 15 was The Beatles’ songwriting,” Bayliss said. “The second big inspiration was (Led) Zeppelin. Jimmy Page practically taught me how to play guitar. I remember getting into Guns N’ Roses at the time, too. Then once I got really serious, I started getting into jazz and people like Stanley Jordan (known for pioneering a style of playing multiple melodies simultaneously). That’s when I discovered a whole different world of playing.”

The explorations didn’t stop there. On Umphrey’s McGee’s most recent album, 2009’s Mantis, we hear multiple musical worlds colliding. The mingling of guitar and keyboards suggests Peter Gabriel-era Genesis. The times guitar goes it alone to crank things up hints at present day prog champs like Porcupine Tree. But there is still that generous pop spirit. In some instances, the melodies move and melt in a way that bring the psychedelic work of The Beatles to mind while the vocals reflect an arsenal of unexpected inspirations, most notably Joe Jackson.

“It’s the most involved and finished recording we’ve made,” Bayliss said. “Usually, we haven’t been able to set aside more than 10 days to finish a record. This was the first time we didn’t have a deadline. But I think we’re going to head in a simpler direction on this next one. We got out our progressive outfit and hat for Mantis. Now we’re going to simplify. We never like doing the same thing back to back.”

Umphrey’s McGee with Orchard Lounge perform at 8:30 p.m. Feb. 3 at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester. Tickets are $17.50 in advance, $20 day of show. Call (859) 368-8871.

Santa Monica’s greatest moment.(includes a Santa Monica travel planner)(Southern California’s premier beach town)

Sunset July 1, 1999 | Jaffe, Matthew Southern California’s premier beach town has never been more exciting – don’t miss it Interstate 10 ends its 3,000-mile cross-continental journey as it sweeps through a tunnel, reaches the beach, and morphs into Pacific Coast Highway at Santa Monica.

Up the coast, a line of mountains drops down to the Pacific, following and accentuating the curving shoreline. A broad beach spreads out before meeting the rolling surf, while out on the restored 1908 Santa Monica Pier, a Ferris wheel spins laggardly above the break.

Santa Monica may be at the end of the road. But it is here that a peculiarly American journey also rolls on. Embodying the region’s timeless beach allure, its diversity, and its growing glamour and sophistication, Santa Monica has become Southern California’s destination of the moment.

In 1875, orator and newspaperman Colonel Tom Fitch declared, “We will sell a southern horizon, rimmed with a choice collection of purple mountains, carved in castles and turrets and domes; we will sell a frostless, bracing yet unlanguid air, braided in and out with sunshine and odored with the breath of flowers.” And they did. Santa Monica was incorporated in 1887, and it developed into a major tourist destination. Crowds thronged a beachfront lined with honky-tonk attractions, while roller coasters and turreted ballrooms formed its skyline. But by 1976, the last of the great seaside attractions, Pacific Ocean Park, had been torn down. go to web site santa monica zip code

Ruth Seymour, general manager at public radio station KCRW (89.9 FM), arrived in Santa Monica in 1973 and remembers the way the town was then. “This was a sleepy little seaside village,” she says, “with politics to the right of Genghis Khan.” Within a few years, Santa Monica again underwent a transformation, when artistic types and progressive-minded seniors shifted local politics significantly. And now you could drop $2,000 on an oceanfront hotel suite, then go out for dinner and order up a $20 plate of purple asparagus at Capo, one of the best of the city’s new restaurants.

While there is concern that Santa Monica will lose its edge and become some kind of high-end Pleasantville-by-the-Sea, Seymour believes that the city’s funky beach-town soul will endure.

“You lose something and gain something else,” she says. “But you can’t go backward. It’s still attracting artists, but now they’re people in the kind of arts that pay big, big dividends.” Actually, Santa Monica is attracting just about everyone. And on some nights, they all seem to descend on the Third Street Promenade. Once a moribund pedestrian mall, Third Street was reborn in the early 1990s as a retail and entertainment center.

The Promenade has evolved from a local destination into a major regional attraction, as well as a national model for urban rebirth.

If it is in some ways a contrived place, the Promenade is made real by the people who come here, whether the residents who visit its twice-weekly farmers’ market (one of the West’s best) or the nightly infusion of newcomers, who marvel that such a scene could exist in Southern California. You know, where no one ever walks.

At the end of the day in Santa Monica, heavy surf rolls onto the beach as offshore winds peel back a veil of spray from each wave’s curl before it crashes ashore. Daylight dimming, the red, green, and gold neon starburst of the Ferris wheel lights up. The sun descends on a collision course with the wheel and then passes through its gaudy spokes before disappearing behind the seaward-sloping ridge, 20 miles distant.

Trying to capture the beach and the light and the sunsets of Santa Monica is inevitable, yet somehow doomed to failure. In one 1931 pamphlet, an anonymous writer said of the view, ‘Artists have pictured it, photographers have illustrated it, and poets have written of its marvelous glory, but no adequate description or reproduction has yet been produced. It is beyond human ability to portray.” No matter. As one shop owner says unsentimentally of Santa Monica in 1999: “It ain’t the ’50s here anymore. But it’s still good.” Santa Monica travel planner It has become a pattern. When asked where to Stay in Southern California, I always say Santa Monica; it’s the perfect summer destination. With the end of “June gloom,” you can expect clear, comfortable conditions. Improvements to Palisades Park and the beachfront should be done by the end of July.

If you stay near the beach, you won’t even need the car, although boutique-lined Montana Avenue and art-enclave Bergamot Station, with its 5 acres of galleries (see Best of the West, June, page 16), are also a must for any Santa Monica visitor.

Santa Monica is 7 miles north of L.A. International Airport on Pacific Coast Hwy. (State 1). For more information, contact the Santa Monica Convention & Visitors Bureau; (310) 319-6263 or www.santamonica. Com. Area code is 310 unless noted.

* Third Street Promenade and downtown The success of the jammed and jumping Promenade has spilled over onto nearby streets. Parking garages fill up quickly on weekend nights, so arrive early and settle in for the show. Or catch the farmers’ market (9-2 Wed, 8:30-1 Sat).

Dining Blueberry, Hip, homey, and hoppin’ breakfast and lunch spot. 510 Santa Monica Blvd.; 394-7766. santamonicazipcode.net santa monica zip code

Border Grill, The loud and colorful landmark updates Mexican and Central American dishes; try the green corn tamales or skirt steak. 1445 Fourth St.; 451-1655.

Remi. The Promenade is crowded with Italian food; with its Venetian specialties, this is the standout. 1451 Third St. Promenade; 393-6545.

* Ocean Avenue Running along the bluff-front, with Palisades Park and Pacific views, Ocean Avenue has developed a restaurant row and is lined with a number of hotel choices.

Dining Capo. Rustic and understated yet elegant, with large selection of pasta and grilled specialties. 1810 Ocean; 394-5550.

Chez Jay, Legendary hangout notable for its atmosphere and always interesting crowd. 1657 Ocean; 395-1741.

ZenZero. Topflight Pacific-Asian New Waver in an attractive minimalist setting. 1535 Ocean; 451-4455.

Lodging Hotel Oceana. Gorgeous and colorful spot is a modern take on classic beach style. From $290; (800) 777-0758.

Hotel Shangri-La. Miami Beach-style moderne with ocean views at a reasonable price. From $130; (800) 345-7829.

Don’t miss Palisades Park. Linear blufftop park is undergoing major improvements. Feeling like Europe with California sunsets, it’s hard to beat, although the homeless agree. Hidden away in the senior center on Ocean, Camera Obscura (458-8644) is one of the best free attractions in town.

* Waterfront The Santa Monica waterfront is posher and nicer than ever. The bike path has been upgraded, new hotels including Le Merigot Beach Hotel and Casa del Mar are opening this summer, and legendary Muscle Beach is on its way back.

Dining Lavande. Provencal-style in Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel with ocean views. 1700 Ocean; 576-3181.

One Pico. Open airy room in Shutters on the Beach (see below) with impressive beach views and terrific food, including a simple but memorable puree of Roma tomato soup. 1 Pico Blvd.; 587-1717. Lodging Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. Large beachfront hotel has new Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa. From $245; (800) 235-6397.

Shutters on the Beach. Stylish and understated, Shutters offers a high level of service with just the right level of beachy casual. Pedals Cafe is a good eatery. Best views look north toward pier and Malibu. From $330; (800) 334-9000.

Don’t miss Santa Monica Pier. The renovated 1908 pier has a small amusement park, a vintage carousel, and the UCLA Ocean Discovery Center (393-6149). The stairs at the far end of the pier offer a terrific perch for sunsets. The Thursday Twilight Dance Series during summer is Santa Monica at its best, with acts from reggae to country.

South Bay Bicycle Trail. Still the way to experience the beach, with several rental shacks for bikes and in-line skates along the way. Best in mornings before the wind and crowds pick up.

* Main Street The definitive Santa Monica street. Funky and artistic with fewer tourists than the Promenade, it’s great for strolling and hanging out.

Dining Amici Mare. Italian newcomer with seafood emphasis, notable for a delicious fish soup. 2424 Main; 314-2119.

Chinois on Main. Wolfgang Puck’s pioneering fusion restaurant. 2709 Main; 392-9025.

Rockenwagner. Great breads, grilled meats, and crab souffle at Main Street mainstay. 2435 Main,’ 399-6504.

Don’t miss California Heritage Museum. Small museum in the house of Santa Monica founder John Percival Jones emphasizes decorative arts. The exhibit Monterey Furniture-California Spanish Revival continues into January. $3; 11-4 Wed-Sun. 2612 Main; 392-8537.

Edgemar. Frank O. Gehry design houses stores, a restaurant, and a cafe. 2435 Main.

Jaffe, Matthew

critic’s pick 161

By now, word on The Decemeberists’ The King is Dead is out. One of the first major pop releases of 2011, it became the Portland, Ore. band’s first chartopping hit and remains one of the winter’ swiftest sellers.

That seems curious in a way, as The King is Dead sounds like a distant, deconstructed cousin of singer/songwriter Colin Meloy’s past work. But that was almost inevitable after the prog-ish fancy of 2009’s The Hazards of Love.

To say The King is Dead is some sort of return to a simpler sound, though, also misses the mark. Meloy’s music has never been simple. In fact, The Hazards of Love simply marked the point where the complexity of The Decemberist’s music caught up with the often impenetrable nature of his storylines.

Instead, The King is Dead is simply a lighter record. Gone are the massive organ leads and huge percussion grooves that made The Hazards of Love and the preceding The Crane Wife sound less like the work of an indie pop prodigy Malloy clearly was on the band’s earliest records and more like 1973-era Jethro Tull. Also exiled are the stories of forest witches and bouts with bloodthirsty villainy in the belly of a whale.

The King is Dead instead presents us with 10 heavily acoustic, heavily countrified songs that clock in at the old fashioned album length of 40 minutes. It’s the sound of the wintry Decemberists on a summery holiday.

The single Down by the Water, with guest Gillian Welch’s harmony vocals placed front and center and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck (an Oregonian for years) playing a guitar melody that sounds like it was yanked straight out of Fall on Me, offered a pre-Christmas preview of the album. The song remains the centerpiece of The King is Dead, soaring with Neil Young-friendly harmonica blasts, modest orchestral doses of accordion and the bold Meloy/Welch harmonies. That Meloy packs the chorus with some dazzling lyrical hooks just points further to a pop prowess that extends beyond The Decemberists’ more familiar and epic sound.

The mood then slides into the country reverie All Arise! with its chirpy colors of fiddle, piano and banjo before June Hymn opens The King is Dead out to into a summer splendor that is as grand thematically as it is musically.

There are shades of The Decemberists of old in the war-themed This is Why We Fight that brings on the dark electricity and percussive might of The Hazards of Love near the album’s end. But by this point, the lighter Decemberists sound has taken hold. By the time wartime hits, The King is Dead is already celebrating a new musical monarchy. Long live the King, indeed.

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