Archive for March, 2011

critic’s pick 167

To be a true innovator in any field, one has to first be fluent in the traditions and structures that form foundations within that field. Such is the case with Buddy Miller’s extraordinary new album The Majestic Silver Strings.

As a guitarist, songwriter and vocalist, Miller is nothing short of a country music scholar. The title alone to his 1995 debut album, Your Love and Other Lies, attests to how deep-seeded his devotion to the music is. But having established himself over the past 15 years as an all-around Americana MVP – from major contributions to Emmylou Harris’ post-Wrecking Ball music to his current role as co-producer and bandleader for Robert Plant – Miller has forged a keen ability to fully embrace country tradition while also bending it into new and wildly unexpected musical shapes.

That’s where The Majestic Silver Strings comes in. Miller has described it as a “country” album. And certainly the scope of its repertoire (tunes penned or popularized by Lefty Frizzell, Roger Miller, Stonewall Jackson and the like) and the roster of guest vocalists (Harris, Patty Griffin and Lee Ann Womack, among others) suggest a vintage country jamboree.

Not so fast. As the title implies, guitar is placed front and center on these sessions. As such, the quartet of stringmen receiving equal billing on the CD jacket – Miller, Bill Frisell, Marc Ribot and Greg Leisz – have long balanced a love of country tradition with insatiable desires to rethink the sound and context of that music.

Witness, for example, Silver Strings‘ urbanized overhaul of Roger Miller’s 1964 hit Dang Me. With vocals by Marc Anthony Thompson (aka song stylist Chocolate Genius) that emphasize the song’s dark (and often dismissed) lyrics and layers of cranky guitar from Ribot, the song transforms from a novel country yarn into a blast of ghetto-infused urgency.

Ditto for the century-old Freight Train. On Silver Strings, its sunny melody is deconstructed to become a four way street where the featured guitarists crash merrily into one another.

There are more traditionally traditional touches as well, like Harris’ angelic vocal take on the Jackson hit Why I’m Walkin’ and Miller’s honky tonk lead on the George Jones staple Why Baby Why.

In terms of extremes, though, Silver Strings lets Womack stray a few light years from her mainstream comfort zone on a Ribot ode to prescription stimulants called Meds while Miller and wife Julie close the album with a lovely spiritual requiem penned around a gorgeous Frisell melody titled God’s Wing’ed Horse.

The latter may sit close to traditional country/gospel contemplation. But Silver Strings is equally hip when its loose-limbed jam sessions move out of town. Way out of town.

in performance: emmylou harris/darrell scott

emmylou harris.

emmylou harris.

After she was regaled last night at the Opera House with a recitation of the honors and awards bestowed on her over the past 35 years, Emmylou Harris mentioned an overlooked milestone.

“I’m turning 64 in a few days.”

Exhibiting the radiant profile of a country-style Garbo, Harris was the featured guest for two back-to-back tapings of the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour devoted to exhibiting music from, and inspired by, Appalachia. The goal was to raise further awareness of mountaintop coal removal (MTR). A justifiably visible topic in recent years, it was presented last night by Harris, host Michael Johnathon and a lineup of guest artists and speakers led by the great London, Ky.-born songsmith Darrell Scott (currently on break from a year’s worth of roadwork with Robert Plant) not as an anti-coal campaign, but as an environmental and cultural wake-up call that addressed the obliteration of the Appalachian mountains as a cheap means of coal excavation.

To that end, Harris side-stepped self-promotion by ignoring completely music from Hard Bargain, a new album of mostly self-penned material that is due out next month. Instead, she fronted an industrious acoustic quartet dubbed the Red Dirt Boys that featured veteran bluegrass mandolinist/fiddler Rickie Simpkins. The foursome scoured Harris’ career for some not-always-obvious material that spoke to the evening’s Appalachian theme.

The results: two traditional rarities from her overlooked 1987 gospel album Angel Band (If I Be Lifted Up and a regal a capella trio version of Bright Morning Stars) balanced with two masterful country yarns off of 2008’s All I Intended to Be (Billy Joe Shaver’s Old Five and Dimers Like Me and a suitably harrowing reading of Merle Haggard’s Kern River).  

That made up roughly half of Harris’ set list. Remember, these were WoodSongs tapings, not concerts – although with a $40 ticket price, distinctions between the two became blurred, despite the evening’s worthy theme.

The other half peeled back the years to Harris’ fine country albums of the ‘70s – specifically, her hit 1975 version of the Louvin Brothers’ If I Could Only Win Your Love, a flexibly folky version of Utah Phillips’ Green Rolling Hills (a highlight from 1977’s Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town), a beautifully reflective delivery of the gospel favorite Green Pastures and, of course, the still-majestic title tune to 1978’s Blue Kentucky Girl.

darrell scott

darrell scott

Scott was afforded only two tunes, but they were both beauts performed with a contained, folk-fortified drama: You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive (a song for a very different coal generation that spoke with honest urgency to the current one) and the wonderful real-life meditation A Crooked Road (“and only when I look back, I see the straight and narrow”).

The rest of the evening was mostly given over to more literal discussions on MTR. Some of the talk was insightful. Some was repetitive. All of it came from the heart. It was mighty subject matter, to be sure. But the performances of Harris and Scott were mightier. As important as the MTR dialogue was, its persuasive power would have been unquestionably greater had the evening’s two key performers been allowed to raise their voices more often.

joe morello (1928-2011)

joe morello, circa 1965.

joe morello, circa 1965.

The magic of the music created by the Dave Brubeck Quartet will always be its sheer sense of fun. Sure, the group’s abandonment of traditional time signatures triggered its mischievous swing. But giddiness went deep with this group. It wasn’t a case of mere cleverness. The vintage music the Brubeck group created during its seminal years (1957-1967) with its most profound line-up – pianist Brubeck, alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, bassist Eugene Wright and drummer Joe Morello – can largely be attributed to one ageless factor: group chemistry.

Whether it was with landmark studio albums like 1959’s Time Out, storied concert collections like 1963’s The Dave Brubeck Quartet at Carnegie Hall or sleeper recordings like 1967’s Bravo! Brubeck! (which augments Morello’s swing with the light Latin percussion of Rabito Agueros), the music of Brubeck’s band was fueled by the animation of four musicians having the times of their lives.

Precision, risk-taking and intuition all played major roles, too. But the quartet always sounded crisply in sync, even in the craziest of time signatures. The sense of cool they summoned couldn’t help but put a smile on your face.

Saturday marked the passing of Morello. He was 82 and had spent much of his post-Brubeck career as an educator. According to an obituary in Sunday’s New York Times, his students included longstanding Bruce Springsteen drummer Max Weinberg. Still, nearly 45 years on, the Brubeck Quartet continues to define Morello’s career and legacy. The music it made that so gloriously deconstructed time remains, itself, utterly timeless.

Recommended listening: the 2009 triple-disc edition of Time Out. It celebrates the landmark album’s 50th anniversary by augmenting it with a DVD documentary and, best of all, a bonus disc of recordings from the 1961, 1963 and 1964 Newport Jazz Festivals. That should widen your smile a bit.

Men killed in Phelan car crash identified

San Bernardino County Sun (San Bernardino, CA) October 12, 2010 | Melissa Pinion-Whitt The San Bernardino County Coroner’s Department today identified two men killed in a head-on crash on Highway 138 in Phelan. here 2003 ford focus

The California Highway Patrol said Joseph Raymond Griffin, 78, of Phelan was driving a 2007 Kia east on the 138 east of Highway 2 at 9:25 a.m. Monday when he crossed into oncoming traffic. Witnesses said Griffin was driving about 100 mph.

Michael Sturgeon, 54, of Anaheim, who was driving a 2003 Ford Focus west on the 138, tried to dodge Griffin’s vehicle, but was sideswiped by it. The Kia also sideswiped a second vehicle that was traveling behind the Ford Focus, but that driver survived the crash. go to site 2003 ford focus

Griffin died at the scene and Sturgeon was pronounced dead at Loma Linda University Medical Center.

Melissa Pinion-Whitt

10 more reasons to love emmylou harris

emmylou harris, photo by jack spencer.

emmylou harris, photo by jack spencer.

After some 35-plus years of recordings, fans of Emmylou Harris have come up with numerous reasons to explain why the music fashioned by the Americana matriarch remains so engaging.

It might be the ‘70s country songs fortified with the inspiration of mentor Gram Parsons. Perhaps it is the stately bluegrass she created with her Nash Ramblers band. Other considerations include the popular trio tunes cut with Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt and the less genre-specific (but more atmospheric) recordings that opened up after the Grammy winning success of her Wrecking Ball album.

Luckily, preparation for Harris’ Lexington return on Monday for two WoodSongs tapings offered an occasion to approach her extensive career from a perhaps less obvious angle.

With a rainy Saturday afternoon at my disposal and a hearty pile of Harris albums released since 1975 by the stereo, I looked to design a list of the singer’s overlooked triumphs. In short, the mission was to compile a list of 10 great Harris songs that weren’t massive hits and only sporadically (if ever) held a place in her concert repertoire.

These aren’t the sorts of works that are likely to appear on the set list for WoodSongs. Expect her performance to be devoted mostly to music from her forthcoming Hard Bargain album, due out in late April. But these songs remain vital additions to a remarkable Americana career that continues to evolve and impress.

Here are the treasures that were rediscovered:

1. Queen of the Silver Dollar (from Pieces of the Sky, 1975) – A regal portrait of Harris and the mid ‘70s lineup of her Hot Band in all its honky tonk glory. Written by Shel Silverstein.

2. When I Stop Dreaming (from Luxury Liner, 1976) – Still one of Harris’ most achingly beautiful traditional country music performances. Written by the Louvin Brothers.

3. Gold Watch and Chain (from Roses in the Snow, 1980) – An acoustic departure into pre-bluegrass country with Kentucky’s own Ricky Skaggs as a duet partner. Written by A.P. Carter.

4. Golden Cradle (from Light of the Stable, 1980) – A haunting yet graceful Yuletide meditation set to a stark guitar and vocal arrangement. A traditional Irish carol.

5. The Last Cheater’s Waltz (from Cimarron, 1981) – Few Harris recordings dress country heartbreak with more majestic, orchestral longing. Written by Sonny Throckmorton.

6. If You Were a Bluebird (from Bluebird, 1989) – Harris’ vocal entrance on a cushion of mandolins makes for one of country music’s great sleeper moments. Written by Butch Hancock.

7. Crescent City (from Cowgirl’s Prayer, 1993) – Harris heads to New Orleans for a lovely and lively Cajun accented celebration. Written by Lucinda Williams.

8. May This Be Love (from Wrecking Ball, 1995) – A radical (for Harris) guitar-saturated trio summit with Daniel Lanois and U2’s Larry Mullen, Jr. Written by Jimi Hendrix.

9. Dimming of the Day (from Portraits, 1996) – A gorgeous folk lament that surfaced as a rarity on the Portraits box set anthology. Written by Richard Thompson.

10. Sailing Round the Room (from All I Intended to Be, 2008) – An unintended requiem that offered a final recorded collaboration with the late Kate McGarrigle. Written by Emmylou Harris and Kate and Anna McGarrigle.

Emmylou Harris performs at 7 p.m. March 14 at the Lexington Opera House for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. Also on the bill will be Darrell Scott, John Adams and Molly Andrews. The performance is sold out.

Richard Grasso (CEO NY Stock Exchange). E197 (PAR161780) here ny stock exchange

Magnum Photos January 1, 1999 | Richard Kalvar

Magnum Photos 01-01-1999

Richard Grasso (CEO NY Stock Exchange). E197

caucasian race white european people person white race human being population race people white people agreement conference international conference economy international economy public finance western europe swiss geographical europe grisons switzerland continent davos european switzerland. davos. world economic forum. annual meeting 1999. richard grasso (ceo ny stock exchange). e197 this web site ny stock exchange

Richard Kalvar

in performance: the dead kenny g’s with freekbass

the dead kenny g's, minus wigs: mike dillon, skerik and brad houser.

the dead kenny g's, minus wigs: mike dillon, skerik and brad houser.

Honestly, now. What’s not to love about a band called The Dead Kenny Gs? The name alone suggests a sense of fantastical hope for today’s pop world. But throw in the fact the three band members – all road-tested vets in jam band and progressive jazz circles – took the stage donning blood spattered white shirts (well, red ink and paint embellished shirts, if you insist on the truth) and curly cue wigs and you had a ideal send up of a certain mock-jazz celebrity.

The thing is, though, The Dead Kenny Gs are no joke when the music gets rolling. During the first of two hour-plus sets last night at Cosmic Charlie’s, the trio put the lighter, more fanciful jazz cool of their recordings on hold in favor of more monstrous workouts that shifted from avant-funk grooves to punk-fortified blasts to sinewy jams augmented by guest bassist/funk stylist Freekbass.

The meat of the trio jams had the Gs doing instrumental double time. Tenor saxophonist Skerik blew coarse clusters of notes heavily embellished by pedal effects that mimicked guitar sounds. That gave the set’s heavier tunes a metal-inspired drive. But he also countered the mayhem with Rhodes piano-style punctuation on a small, portable keyboard. Bassist Brad Houser amped up grooves with fuzzy effects and countered the rhythms with blasts on baritone sax. Finally, drummer Mike Dillon laid down all kinds of sharp, thunderous and exact beats, yet colored the set sporadically on vibraphone and tabla.

Beyond that, attitude ran the show. I’m Your Manager, I’m Your Pimp was all rabid, punk-funk fun. Black Death sported staccato sax and drum fury with a mad, Zappa-esque flair. And a set closing jam with Freakbass employed a rubbery bass ostinato as a melodic device that played off of Skerik to produce a psychedelic variation of vintage James Brown funk.

Admittedly, it would have been nice to hear Dillon expound more on the vibes and have the trio explore more of the ensemble dynamics that spark its new Operation Long Leash album. But the punk, metal and funk extremes were obviously preferred last night in bringing these wigged out Dead G-men to performance life.

electric morning

jim james (center, x 2) and the rest of my morning jacket. photo by dany clinch.

jim james (at center, times two) with the rest of my morning jacket. photo by danny clinch.

Morning indeed becomes electric today. At 10 a.m. tickets for one of the most anticipated shows of the spring – the first Lexington headlining performance by My Morning Jacket – will go on sale through all TicketMaster outlets and locations. The Louisville-bred crew will perform at the University of Kentucky’s Memorial Coliseum at 7 p.m. on Sunday, April 17.

Tickets will be $45 and $50.

While My Morning Jacket has become one of the country’s most celebrated alterative bands in recent years, it has almost always managed to bypass Lexington as a concert stop. While frontman Jim James played here (under his Yim Yames alias) last summer as part of a mountaintop coal removal awareness concert with Daniel Martin Moore and Ben Sollee, My Morning Jacket only has one previous Lexington show to its credit: a January 2002 date at the long-defunct Lynagh’s Music Club when it opened for Ohio rockers Howlin Maggie.

For trivia buffs, that show had a paid attendance of 228 and boasted a cover charge of $6.

The Memorial Coliseum concert will coincide, sort of, with the issue of the band’s new Circuital album. The record doesn’t have an official release date as of yet, but it will be arriving soon. My Morning Jacket will be offering some free concert  music leading up to Circuital, too. Specifically, it will share a series of live songs from its October 2010 engagement at New York’s Terminal 5 when it performed each of its studio albums in its entirety on successive nights.

Already available at www.mymorningjacket.com is Butch Cassidy from the Oct. 18 performance of the band’s debut album The Tennessee Fire. Up next (on March 14) is a to-be-announced song from At Dawn. Music from It Still Moves, Z and Evil Urges will follow on successive Mondays with a track from Circuital completing the download run on April 12.

Do we interpret from this that Circuital will be out the Tuesday before the Memorial Coliseum show? Stay tuned.

For more ticket info on the April 17 concert, call (800) 745-3000 or go to www.ticketmaster.com.

TAKE THE LONG WAY ROUTES: Officials urge using freeways, not side streets, to get past 405 Freeway closure

Daily News (Los Angeles, CA) July 13, 2011 If transit officials have any advice for motorists over the “Carmageddon” weekend it is this: Go long!

Southern California motorists, who prize clever shortcuts over side streets and along canyon roads, should temporarily downshift to staid freeway travel from Friday night through Monday morning.

Officials say motorists may have to travel longer distances, but in the end will reach their destination sooner. This will be especially true for San Fernando Valley drivers trying to get over the hill and others trying to get into the Valley from the Los Angeles basin. go to site 405 freeway closure

“It’s a longer distance, but it’ll be a lot shorter in time travel than getting off the freeway and getting on those side streets,” said Chris Rider, spokesman for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation. “It’s going to be far less frustrating for people than when they’re in traffic that doesn’t move.” With the San Diego (405) Freeway to be closed for 53 hours between the Ventura (101) and Santa Monica (10) freeways, those trying to get to the Harbor Area or LAX will find their traditional route blocked.

They are being urged instead to take the 101 to the Harbor (110) or 10 Freeway, or the Ronald Reagan (118) Freeway to the Golden State (5) Freeway to the Long Beach (710) Freeway.

Those trying to get to the Westside can take the 101 or Foothill (210) Freeway to the 10 Freeway.

For example, someone trying to get from Sherman Oaks to Westwood – normally a 17-minute trip, sans traffic – is advised to detour around the mess by taking the 101 south through the Cahuenga Pass, transitioning to the 110 south, then the 10 west.

The detour could double the traveling time, but it should still be quicker than being stuck on crowded side streets, officials said.

For motorists trying to get out of the West Valley, Metro officials suggest taking Topanga Canyon Boulevard to Pacific Coast Highway.

But the DOT has shied away from advising people to use canyon roads – such as Topanga Canyon, Las Virgenes, Decker Canyon and Kanan roads – to avoid creating traffic jams in residential neighborhoods.

However, in preparation for the crush expected on PCH, Caltrans has removed K-rails from the southbound stretch between Temescal Canyon Road and Chautauqua Boulevard to open up that side of the road to two lanes. The K-rails were in place for a runoff diversion project.

PCH will be opened up to three lanes until Tuesday morning.

Other winding and narrow north-to-south connectors such as Beverly Glen Boulevard, Benedict Canyon Drive, Coldwater Canyon Drive, Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Cahuenga Boulevard also could be jammed.

Some Valley residents say they’ll be heading in the opposite direction to avoid the chaos. “I’m going to go north, since the south will be closed. I’ll use the 101 north and probably go to Ventura County or Ojai,” said Marcy Cohen, 59, of Reseda. “I usually go south toward Santa Monica or Manhattan Beach, but this weekend I’m going to go north because I don’t want to hassle with traffic.” Motorists who must brave the streets during the weekend are encouraged to dial 511 to check traffic conditions.

“I usually use Sepulveda if there’s a lot of traffic, but this weekend I’m going to avoid traffic by staying at home,” said Mona Kaddoura, 21, of Northridge.

The 405 closure between the 10 and 101 freeways is expected to begin gradually from about 7 p.m. Friday as workers begin demolishing the Mulholland Drive Bridge overpass to widen the carpool lane. The freeway is expected to be reopened by 6 a.m. Monday, with contractors facing stiff financial penalties for missing that deadline. this web site 405 freeway closure

cj.lin@dailynews.com 818-713-3738 PARK AT YOUR OWN RISK The following surface streets will be limited to through traffic and parking will be prohibited during Carmageddon, with parked vehicles being cited and impounded beginning at 12:01 a.m. Saturday:

South side of Ventura Boulevard between Balboa Boulevard and Sherman Oaks Avenue.

North side of Ventura Boulevard between Noble Avenue and Sepulveda Boulevard.

Both sides of Sepulveda Boulevard between Greenleaf Street and Valley Vista Boulevard.

West side of Sepulveda Boulevard between Valley Vista Boulevard and the 405 Freeway.

East side of Sepulveda Boulevard between Moraga Drive and Ovada Place.

Public transit options Public transit agencies are beefing up service this weekend to offer Angelenos an alternative to traveling around the Southland.

Metrolink will add service on the Antelope Valley Line and also will operate the Ventura County Line, which typically doesn’t run on the weekend.

Amtrak will offer half-price fares this weekend to passengers traveling between Union Station and Bob Hope Airport in Burbank.

Metro will add 61 buses and 32 rail cars during the weekend closure, and also will offer free rides on the Red Line subway and on 26 bus lines.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is offering a host of alternatives, with details available at www.metro.net/projects/I- 405.

in performance: anat cohen quartet

anat cohen. photo by todd chalfant.

anat cohen. photo by todd chalfant.

“Alright guys, follow me,” announced Anat Cohen last night at the onset of a bright and swinging two-set performance at Berea College’s Phelps Stokes Chapel. The remark was essentially a good natured command, a shout-out to the mighty jazz muses before the clarinetist’s full quartet set the evening’s spry mood in motion with Fat Waller’s Jitterbug Waltz. But her words could have just as easily been instructions for a student saturated audience that wound up playing a vital participatory roll in the concert.

Following the lead of Cohen, who often marched and moved to the music (especially when one of her quartet members was soloing), several audience couples of varied generational backgrounds got on their feet and danced. It didn’t matter if the repertoire was set on boppish swing, Brazilian bossa nova or, in one unexpected instance, a feisty drum solo by Rudy Royston. Even those still seated got in on the latter by cheering the Texas/Colorado percussionist on with rock star-like devotion.

Cohen ate it all up. As a performer, she smiled constantly with an abundant cheer that was equally reflected in her playing. You could sense the joy in the gliding ballad lyricism and keen whispery tone of The Purple Piece, the bluesy ambience of The Wedding (a piece by South African jazz scholar Abdullah Ibrahim, although Cohen played it with a decidedly New Orleans accent on tenor saxophone) and the mix of circular, swing-savvy themes and Eastern European folk accents on Lullaby of the Leaves.

The latter was one of two works (After You’ve Gone being the other) pulled from Cohen’s recent Clarinetwork, a concert album devoted mostly to music popularized by Benny Goodman. Curiously, Goodman’s effortlessly airy tone surfaced more directly during The Roses Do Not Speak. Granted, limber Brazilian melodies propelled the tune. But Cohen’s light and sublimely animated tone shot straight from the corners of the swing era that Goodman called home.

While Cohen and her continually bright clarinet/tenor sax tone were the obvious focal points of the performance, pianist Bruce Barth was a frequent scene stealer. Though he regularly dispatched numerous inspirations – a touch of Bill Evans on Lullaby of the Leaves, a bit of Ibrahim’s playful syncopation during The Wedding – Barth proved a player of great originality and ingenuity.

Case in point: the long, textured piano solo he used as a prelude for the show-closing Wilsonian Alto. When Cohen entered, the tune transformed into fractured bits of Brazilian bop. But when Barth was alone at the piano, the music exhibited a wonderfully restless lyricism. The solo wasn’t so much a suggestion of the playfulness to come, but a complete musical proclamation full of Monk-like mischief and rich, compositional cunning.

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sister act

scissor sisters: babydaddy, ana matronic, jake shears and del marquis.

scissor sisters: babydaddy, ana matronic, jake shears and del marquis.

It is perhaps less of a ­homecoming than a reintroduction. Either way, playing Louisville this weekend on a bill with Lady Gaga will give former Lexingtonian Scott Hoffman the chance to show pop fans in and around his former home exactly what his music is about.

Admittedly, such illumination should hardly seem necessary. Hoffman, 34, is better known to global pop audiences as Babydaddy, and his group, Scissor Sisters, has been an international sensation for close to eight years. Still, Scissor Sisters went through enough of an unintended hiatus before the release of its third album, Night Work, that a bit of a refresher course seems in order. And playing close to home on a bill with such an immensely visible star as Lady Gaga will give Hoffman and his Scissor Sisters pals a grand platform to play catch-up.

“It’s going to be great,” ­Hoffman said. “And it’s going to be ­especially great to come back on this level. I think we’ve only played Lexington once, back at The Dame (in December 2004). I don’t think we’ve played Kentucky at all since then, so it will be great to be back with this kind of show.”

The performance at The Dame caught Scissors Sisters just as the band’s popularity, stirred from its 2004 self-titled debut album, had spread to the United States. Although based in New York (as is Lady Gaga), the band had created a feverish fan base in the United ­Kingdom thanks to one of the great hybrid hits of its day, a disco-drenched cover of Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb. An appearance on Saturday Night Live preceded the show at The Dame by less than a week.

The fervor broadened when a ­follow-up album, Ta-Dah, was released in 2006. Boasting ­contributions by Elton John and longtime David Bowie guitarist Carlos Alomar, the record became an immediate No. 1 hit in England and Ireland, yielding a chart-topping single (I Don‘t Feel Like Dancin’) and what arguably stands as the group’s finest party-savvy creation, Land of a Thousand Words.

That is when things got a bit dicey. The group – especially Hoffman and vocalist Jake Shears, who write nearly all of the band’s music – spent 18 months writing and recording material for a third album, only to shelve the project. During that time, Scissor Sisters drummer Paddy Boom quietly (and, from all reports, amicably) left the group.

“People keep referring to that period as ‘time off,'” Hoffman said. “But it definitely wasn’t time off, especially not for me and Jake. We were working daily making music.

“It was sort of a blessing and a curse making the third record. Along with our success, we had earned the freedom to do whatever we wanted. But then again, it was also a case of ‘OK, what is it that we want and what do people expect of us to come back at them with?’

“We knew what would kill our career was to come back with a third album that sounded like the other two. It might have turned out to be commercially ­successful at the time, but doing that wasn’t going to give us a future. We needed to reinvent. We needed to rediscover what it was that we loved about what we do.”

Co-produced by Stuart Price and sporting a 1979 Robert ­Mapplethorpe photo of dancer ­Peter Reed’s butt as cover art, Night Work tightened the band’s overall sound and further blurred the distinction between dance-pop and harder rock influences. The vocal sparring between Shears and Ana Matronic was left largely intact.

“It sounds like such a cliché, but when we go on the road now, we feel like we’re a force to be ­reckoned with,” Hoffman said. “We feel more together than we ever have as a band. We have a whole history of music now that can choose from and play, so we feel very confident. And that is really all you can ask for.

“So playing in Kentucky with Lady Gaga will be a great way to, hopefully, introduce what we do to new fans. Of course, this is her tour. But the shows feel like a New York City party has descended on the rest of the country. To bring that vibe to Kentucky will really be fun.”

Lady Gaga and Scissor Sisters perform at 8 p.m. March 12 at the KFC Yum! Center, 1 Arena Plaza, in Louisville. Tickets are $89 and $180. Call (800) 745-3000.

TOP ARMY NCO PROMOTES ‘COMPLETE FITNESS’ TO SOLDIERS.

States News Service June 7, 2010 SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii — The following information was released by the U.S. Army-Asia Pacific:

By Spc. Jesus J. Aranda, 25th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office Sergeant Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston, the Army’s senior noncommissioned officer, visited with Soldiers, leaders, and family members serving here, June 3.

As part of a three-day tour of the military bases on-island, Preston visited many places to speak with Soldiers, including Tripler Army Medical Center, Fort Shafter and the U.S. Army Hawaii Noncommissioned Officer Academy. go to website global assessment tool

During his tour of Schofield Barracks, Preston talked about the Army’s plan for the continued complete fitness and well-being of Soldiers, and stressed the importance of mental fitness for today’s Soldier in presentations to noncommissioned officers and junior enlisted.

“We’ve focused for decades on physical fitness to prepare for combat and now we’re focusing on the mental side,” said Preston.

“The stigma against getting help with mental health lies on both Soldiers and leaders,” said Preston. “We’ve done a lot to educate the leaders on this, now we’re working to eliminate the stigma on the Soldier’s side.” Preston assured Soldiers there is no shame in seeking mental health if needed and there would be no negative impact on the careers of those who employ methods to maintain mental fitness. According to Preston, the challenges Soldiers face after deployment, such as mental health concerns, can be remedied through use of the Army programs for mental and physical fitness. site global assessment tool

“Our leaders want to build strength and resiliency before problems surface and we do that with the Army Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program,” said Preston.

The Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program focuses on strengthening five separate, yet related, dimensions of a Soldier’s health to provide a “complete” fitness level: physical, social, emotional, spiritual, and family.

A key component of CSF is the Global Assessment Tool, or GAT, which is used to help identify any deficiencies in a Soldier’s five dimensions of mental health prior to and after deployment.

“The Army wants every servicemember and family member to take the Global Assessment Tool once a year so they can determine what their weaknesses and strengths are on the five dimension of fitness so they can improve themselves,” Preston said. “The GAT helps you see yourself and over time show you the changes in yourself.” Equally important to the complete fitness of Soldiers, according to Preston, is educating leaders about the importance of resiliency.

“A master resilience trainer is a subject matter expert who helps servicemembers change how they look at problems and challenges,” said Preston.

“The Army offers a master resiliency training course — a ten day course — which teaches senior noncommissioned officers the resiliency principles to come back and teach other noncommissioned officers and Soldiers,” he continued.

With the continued effort of Army leaders on the many aspects of Soldiers’ health, Preston hopes the complete fitness of Soldiers will continue to improve, despite the conditions in which they may serve.

“We want a Soldier to come back stronger having faced adversity in combat and we want to do the same thing with the other aspects of fitness,” Preston said.

from tel aviv to the nba

anat cohen. photo by osnat rom.

anat cohen. photo by osnat rom.

The itinerary of Anat Cohen offers a glimpse into a fruitful jazz career that swings and moves almost as briskly as her music does.

So far this year, the Israeli-born clarinetist and saxophonist has performed in France and Italy along with gigs in almost every major jazz or jazz-related venue in her adopted home of New York City. Prior to her Thursday concert at Berea College with her quartet (which includes the industrious pianist Bruce Barth), Cohen will play as part of a new big band project assembled by the celebrated trumpeter Nicholas Payton at Lincoln Center and the Mingus Orchestra in one New York’s most monstrously hip jazz joints, The Jazz Standard.

But on the afternoon of our phone conversation, Cohen finds herself in the unlikely jazz metropolis of Portland, Oregon. There, she is teaching several clinics before heading to a festival gig with her brothers, trumpeter Avishai Cohen and soprano saxophonist Yuvai Cohen. After that she will board a red eye flight to New York and head directly into rehearsals with Payton’s band.

Dizzying? Yeah, a little. But we’re leaving out a Portland moment Cohen eagerly describes as her “coolest gig ever” – namely, playing the National Anthem on solo clarinet prior to a nationally televised basketball game between the Portland Trailblazers and the Los Angeles Lakers.

“I have to say that standing in the middle of a basketball court playing solo clarinet with 20,000 people around me was so much fun,” Cohen said. “But there was no illusion. I knew they were not there to hear me. It wasn’t about that. It was just so special to be part of that moment.

“There was this incredible tension. Everybody always finds it in that moment toward the end of The Star Spangled Banner when people start screaming. I was like a little kid.”

Ironically, the immediacy of such a seemingly non-jazz moment is at the heart of what drew Cohen to jazz in the first place.

“My challenge, wherever I go to play to jazz, is to communicate this experience of creating something in the moment” Cohen said. “It really doesn’t matter what music we’re playing. The intention is to create something special and share it and communicate with you, the audience. We want everyone to come out of our shows saying, ‘These people, they mean what they play.'”

Growing up in Tel Aviv, jazz was not plentiful for Cohen and her brothers. She learned clarinet initially before playing in a Dixieland group and big band at the Jaffa Conservatory as a teen. That introduced her to the tenor saxophone.

“That’s how I got into jazz. It was more by playing it than hearing it. Then people started giving us recordings. Finally, a record store opened that just sold jazz. Then it was like, ‘Hey, check this out’ and ‘Here, listen to this.'”

Among the first jazz masters to click profoundly with Cohen was the great New Orleans clarinetist Sidney Bechet.

“There was this fire, this passion in his playing,” she said. “Bechet recorded in an era when people really needed to play with a full sound just in order to be heard in a band. There was something so strong and powerful about his playing. People who play with that kind of passion, those are the musicians I am attracted to.”

Cohen relocated to the United States in 1996 to attend the famed Berklee College of Music in Boston. From there she began forging a name for her music in New York’s numerous jazz haunts whole broadening her artistic profile back in Boston by playing Brazilian, Argentine, Afro-Cuban and klezmer music.

Today, Cohen is very much the jazz entrepreneur. Her newest recording, Clarinetwork (a celebration of Benny Goodman music recorded at New York’s Village Vanguard), is the latest in a series of fine albums on her own Anzic label. Cohen’s music has earned some impressive accolades of late, as well, including honors as Clarinetist of the Year in a 2010 readers poll conducted by the longstanding jazz magazine DownBeat.

“I’m grateful for the recognition and I’m grateful to be in all of these wonderful situations that allow me to grow. But this music is part of an endless journey for me. It’s a journey where I constantly play with people that make me want to get better by inspiring me to dive into new territories. So the recognition is incredible. But I also feel it hasn’t changed my journey.”

The Anat Cohen Quartet performs at 8 p.m. March 10 at Phelps Stokes Chapel of Berea College. Admission is free. Call (859) 985-3000.

critic's pick 166

“The kids have a new take, a new take on faith,” sings Michael Stipe with world weary dignity on R.E.M.’s new Collapse Into Now. As usual, Stipe is a bit pokerfaced in the confession, as there is no telling whether or not the “kids,” be they ambassadors of a new pop revolution or elders from the one the Georgia band rose to stardom in, will take to this newest R.E.M. sound.

Adding to the query is the song the lyric hails from, Oh My Heart. It is ushered in with funereal horns, propelled by mandolins (suggestive, just barely, of 1991’s Out of Time album) and wrapped in an acoustic ambience that is truly chilling.

But Oh My Heart represents only half of what emerges on this merrily schizo album. It opens with two rocking dervishes – Discoverer and All the Best – that would not have been out of place on 2008’s Accelerate. But even these electric piledrivers possess a different might.

The sound of Accelerate was brash and immediate. Collapse Into Now is sleeker, though not necessarily slicker. For example, the opening of Discoverer sounds less like an Accelerate-like rampage and more like an Eastern-inspired, Byrds-like riff that seems to echo for miles.

There is one solid continuation from Accelerate, however – namely, the drum sound. Accelerate was the first studio album in its post-Bill Berry history where R.E.M. restored drums to a rightful place in its music. And, Lord knows, they have got the guy in Bill Rieflin to bring back the beat.

On the new album, Rieflin plays a key role with Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist/harmony singer Mike Mills and longtime auxiliary member Scott McCaughey in beefing up lighter moments like the dark, folky Uberlin (which could pass as a Losing My Religion sequel) and the pop centerpiece Every Day Is Yours to Win, which harkens back to the lush reserve of 1998’s Up album. Ditto for the piano ballad Walk It Back.

But anyone fearing Collapse is a retreat to the soft-focus sound of Up and its successors (2001’s Reveal and 2004’s Behind the Sun) can rest easy. Unduly maligned as those records were, the lighter fare on Collapse has a far more organic and vastly less electronic sound. And it doesn’t dominate the album, either. By the time Buck cranks up the guitar for the hook-happy Mine Smell Like Honey with Mills hollering in the distance with those wonderful high harmonies, it’s back to rock ‘n’ roll.

Finally, there is the psychedelic, spoken word mash-up Blue with a vocal cameo by the ever-stately Patti Smith. The song bleeds back into Discoverer, making Collapse Into Now a song cycle that fascinates by literally picking up where it left off.

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