Archive for August, 2011

critic's pick 192

Last fall – the weekend before Thanksgiving, to be exact – two generations of prog, fusion, Eastern, jazz and jam minded players convened in Raleigh, North Carolina for a summit called the New Universe Music Festival. The event was the brainchild of the indie label Abstract Logix, which has been blurring the boundaries (and age restrictions) regulating various musical genres for years. Its music has been primarily introduced through recordings. On these two November nights, however, such sounds were allowed to bump heads onstage. Through an engaging double-disc live album, Abstract Logix Live! The New Universe Music Festival 2010, those performances now become part of the label’s recorded mission.

Among the elder participants: pioneering guitarist and Mahavishnu Orchestra founder John McLaughlin, past and present Return to Forever drummer Lenny White and the landmark Indian percussionist (and one-time McLaughlin bandmate) Zakir Hussain. From the younger camp come Widespread Panic guitarist Jimmy Herring, Indian drummer and film score composer Ranjit Barot and the extraordinary Oregon-born guitarist Wayne Krantz (whose has collaborated with Steely Dan and Billy Cobham, among many others).

The music ranges from suitably eccentric – as in the busy funk and fusion passages that mingle between Barot and synth-happy Tribal Tech keyboardist Scott Kinsey on Sometimes I… – to the elegantly cool Very Sad, where Austrian guitarist Alex Machacek nicely channels the spaciousness and tone of one of the Abstract Logix stable’s most obvious influences, British prog and fusion stylist Allan Holdsworth.

Given the prominence of guitar heroes on New Universe Music Festival and the frequent Eastern underpinnings within their music, it seems only natural that the spirit of George Harrison would pay a visit. On a cover of the late Beatle’s Sgt. Pepper classic Within You, Without You, Herring opens with contemplative atmospherics respectful of Harrison’s original before building to a fusion boil with longtime drumming pal Jeff Sipe.

Krantz opens the second disc with a limber trio excursion titled Why that features the rubbery support of veteran six-string bassist Anthony Jackson while White revisits Gazelle, a tireless fusion romp he first recorded over 40 years ago alongside the tune’s composer, Joe Henderson.

McLaughlin’s 4th Dimension band, augmented by Hussain, brings the party home. On Recovery, they set up a concise electric bounce that relies as much on Cameroonian bassist Etienne M’Bappe and drummer Gary Husband as the two featured soloists. But the 21 minute Mother Tongues fully unleashes Hussain’s rigorous tabla rhythms and a surprisingly playful guitar lead from McLaughlin.

It’s a merry confluence of styles, sounds and ethnic strategies. And like the bulk of New Universe Music Festival, the resulting music is best appreciated for its improvisational ingenuity. In short, dig these glorious instrumental live performances for what they are rather than for where they came from.

GROW INTO THE GARDEN; SPECIAL ADVERTISEMENT FEATURE; Turn that precious oudoor space into a sleek retreat…(Features)

Daily Mail (London) August 14, 2010 AS GARDENS evolve into stylish outdoor rooms, this is a good time of year to think ‘outside the shed’ and introduce some ultrastylish new features to make the most of that precious patch of outdoor space.

Sails that act as sunblinds while looking more like overhead sculptures, decadent day beds in the latest all-weather PU rattan and log cabins that can be dressed up as twinkly retreats for entertaining — these are some of the latest ideas for creating a relaxing retreat in the garden, which can be home to so much more than the proverbial shed.

Creating a sleek outdoor sanctuary will extend an al fresco lifestyle well into autumn.

And with August sales on now, it’s a great time to dream up grand designs as everything from patio heaters to pergolas and play frames are at up to half price, with ample time to get your project installed and put to use over the months to come.

From shed to sauna ONCE they were just somewhere to store the tools or bikes — and a refuge for a generation of dads. website monkey tower defence 4

But now the shed has morphed into a stylish log cabin often fully equipped with modern furnishings, heating and electricity — to be put to innovative use as a sauna, cinema room, gym, guest room, play room or warm and cosy double glazed home office.

A cabin can also be dressed up to look magical in the evening with LED lighting, a sound system and storm lanterns leading to it for al fresco entertaining. And it can add value as well as extra space to your home.

Check out the many variations available from Dunster House (, from guest rooms and offices to gazebos, saunas and camping cocoons.

Dunster House also supply special Rapidpad foundations requiring minimal digging, making the cabin much quicker to erect than laying a concrete base.

Sail through summer KEEPING the conservatory cool in summer, or creating an outdoor area that provides some welcome shade doesn’t just mean blinds or pergolas. see here monkey tower defence 4

A lightweight tensile sail can provide a contemporary and visually stunning feature, like a floating sculpture overhead.

Tensile sails are used in many famous architectural spaces, such as Sadler’s Wells, to create a focal point, diffuse light and remove solar glare.

But these cutting edge architectural tools adapt equally well to the home, providing conservatory shades or canopies to go over a patio or walkway, creating a transition space between home and garden, while providing protection from the sun and rain — look at Year-round sanctuary FROM decadent day beds to corner groups – the latest weather resistant modular rattan garden furniture can turn a garden haven into a super sleek sanctuary.

The buzzword is PU rattan, which you can leave out all year in all weathers without fading or splitting. Instead it retains a stylish look that has the knack of making you feel like you’re sitting by a swish 5-star hotel pool in the South of France.

The UV-resistant rattan is easy to wipe down, smoother and softer to the touch than traditional wicker and stays cool even in hot weather, with a strong rust resistant frame.

Comfy cushions are showerproof with washable covers, but are best kept undercover when not in use.

A good source is Showhouse Furniture (, suppliers of stylish PU rattan furniture sets to consumers and leading hotels such as The Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales, where the Ryder Cup is being held in October.

PM’s garden party IN THE run up to the General Election, Dunster House were delighted to see their Monkey Tower climbing frame sitting proud as punch behind Prime Minister David Cameron, in pictures taken in his garden.

He’s a busy man, but if he did find time to assemble the Monkey Tower himself for his family, he would have found it a doddle using the simple instructions and assembly kit provided – and to dismantle it to move it to his new Downing Street address (

Climbing frames come in all kinds of fun combinations, with monkey bars, swings, towers, climbing ladders, fireman’s poles, scramble nets and wave slides. Kids love them and they provide an easy way to ensure they get plenty of exercise.

And like most of the latest ideas for transforming the garden, you may get one now at a particularly good price.


Garden designs: Create a home office in a log cabin or erect tensile sails (inset) as an innovative focal point

summer album of the week 08/27/11

john hiatt: slow turning (released august 1988)

Issued a year after the heroic Bring the Family, the album that finally defined John Hiatt’s songwriting and performance work after a solo career that sagged for nearly 15 years, Slow Turning rolled up the songsmith’s musical sleeves. It enlisted his then-road band (led by the masterful bayou guitarist Sonny Landreth) and offered a fistful of tunes that sounded liberated next to Family’s more obvious domestic leanings. In the years to come, artists like Emmylou Harris and Buddy Guy would cover Slow Turning tunes. But none would match the wily electric cunning Hiatt brought to his own extraordinary songs.

Research on Headache and Migraine Detailed by S.K. Piebes and Co-Authors.

Pediatrics Week May 7, 2011 “Recurrent headaches significantly affect health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in adults; the impact of headache on HRQOL among adolescents is unknown, and the psychometric properties of headache-specific outcomes instruments have not been adequately studied in this population. To evaluate the psychometric properties of the Headache Impact Test (HIT-6) and Pediatric Migraine Disability Assessment (PedMIDAS) in healthy adolescent athletes. Descriptive survey,” researchers in Mesa, United States report. web site at still university

“High school athletic training facilities during the fall sports season. 177 high school athletes (89 males and 88 females). A survey consisting of a demographic and concussion-history questionnaire, a graded symptom scale, the HIT-6, and the PedMIDAS. Internal consistency (alpha), test retest reliability (r(s)), Bland-Altman analyses, and the Mann-Whitney U test were used to evaluate psychometric properties and age and gender differences. The HIT-6 and PedMIDAS item and total scores. Test-retest reliability for the HIT-6 total score was r(s)=.72, and reliability of individual items ranged from r(s)=.52 to .67. The test-retest reliability for the PedMIDAS total score was r(s)=.61, and reliability of individual items ranged from r(s)=.23 to .62. Both scales demonstrated acceptable internal consistency: HIT-6 alpha=.89-.90 and PedMIDAS alpha=.71-.75. The authors found moderate test-retest reliability for the HIT-6 and the PedMIDAS in a healthy adolescent athlete population,” wrote S.K. Piebes and colleagues. go to site at still university

The researchers concluded: “Research on the applicability and utility of the HIT-6 and PedMIDAS in concussed adolescents is warranted.” Piebes and colleagues published their study in the Journal of Sport Rehabilitation (Measurement Properties of Headache-Specific Outcomes Scales in Adolescent Athletes. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, 2011;20(1 Sp. Iss.):129-142).

For additional information, contact S.K. Piebes, AT Still University, Athlet Training Program, Mesa, AZ 85206, United States.

Publisher contact information for the Journal of Sport Rehabilitation is: Human Kinetics Publ Inc., 1607 N Market St., PO Box 5076, Champaign, IL 61820-2200, USA.

in performance: tower of power

baritone saxophonist stephen doc kupka

“I know, I know,” barked saxophonist Emilio Castillo to a section of seated patrons at last night’s hotwired performance by Tower of Power at Buster’s. “You thought this was some smooth jazz show. Well, there ain’t no Kenny G here tonight, folks.”

Indeed not. Bolstered by an electric front line of five horn men (which included band founder/leader Castillo on tenor sax), a riotously tight four man rhythm section and a vocalist, Larry Braggs, full of tireless soul stamina, TOP blasted through a 100 minute set ripe with deep pocket grooves, sterling R&B finesse and the kind of layered, percolating old-school funk that kept the music in frenetic motion.

The performance opened with the beefy title tune to the 1978 TOP album We Came to Play. And that the members did. The horn team (two trumpeters and three sax men) quickly established the show’s mood with rapid, brassy jabs as well as lusher, less frantic orchestration that has collectively been the band’s calling card for its 43 year history. And certainly, the numerous muscular solos of tenor saxophonist Tom Politzer, the funky honks from longstanding TOP baritone sax ace Stephen Doc Kupka and rapid fire dashes of flugelhorn and trumpet from Adolfo Acosta fueled such vintage fare as 1972’s Down to the Nightclub and 1973’s Get Yo’ Feet Back on the Ground as well comparatively newer workouts that included 1995’s Souled Out and 1997’s So I Got to Groove.

vocalist larry braggs

But what backed up the horns, while perhaps not as outwardly visible, was no less arresting. In the midst of the instrumental Walkin’ Up Hip Street, the horn section exited the stage, allowing the band to break itself down to the lean organ trio of keyboardist Roger Smith, recent guitar recruit Jerry Cortez and veteran drummer David Garibaldi. With Smith’s vibrant Hammond organ solo leading the way, the resulting jam offered an altogether different but equally vital groove.

Braggs covered all the r&b/funk bases with ease, from a cover of the Billy Paul soul staple Me and Mrs. Jones that gathered steam with each successive verse to an encore reading of TOP’s breakthrough hit You’re Still a Young Man that brought the singer, the brass and the rhythm section to a summery, soulful boil.

still on top

tower of power. top row: larry braggs, david garibaldi, roger smith, francis rocco prestia, mark harper (replaced by jerry cortez). bottom row: adolfo acosta, mike bogart (replaced by sal cracchiolo), stephen doc kupka, tom politzer, emilio castillo. photo by rob shanahan.

Just a quick heads-up here about one of the summer’s last great concert events, and, quite possibly one of its most overlooked ones.

Tonight marks the return of Tower of Power, the brass-fortified Bay Area brigade that has kept soul, funk and R&B tradition alive for over 43 years. The brass section, still with founding saxophonists Emilio Castillo and Stephen Doc Kupka in charge, remains the signature stamp upon TOP’s long running soul sound. Over the years, those horns have also bolstered classic recordings by Santana (the 1971 hit Everybody’s Everything) and Little Feat (1978’s Waiting for Columbus concert album) as well as the mid ‘80s hits of Huey Lewis and the Lewis, among others. But TOP’s rhythm section – again manned by two more longstanding members, bassist Francis Rocco Prestia and drummer David Garibaldi – gives the music a scorching stop-on-a-dime clarity.

TOP continues to record today with Larry Braggs as its lead vocalist. But the band’s first three albums remain its defining work: 1970’s East Bay Grease (which contains the funk barnstormer Knock Yourself Out and extraordinary jazz-soul ballad Sparkling in the Sand), 1972’s Bump City (which features the band’s signature soul hit You’re Still a Young Man) and 1973’s Tower of Power (bolstered by the R&B nugget So Very Hard to Go and the band’s best brass attack hit What is Hip?).

TOP performs at 8:30 tonight at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom, 899 Manchester St.. Ben Lacy and Bob Bryant will open. Tickets are $30. For more info, call (859) 368-8871 or go to

critic's picks 191

On a pair of two new concert recordings, two masterful Americana stylists representing successive generations take different routes through and around the music that has defined their careers over the decades.

On Ramble at the Ryman, the great Levon Helm takes the famed Midnight Ramble jam sessions he has popularized in his Woodstock, NY barn studio to the cathedral of country music, Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. And in keeping with Ramble tradition, several Music City-and-more luminaries join in to give the performance a stately party atmosphere.

But for Not So Loud, from Missouri road warriors The Bottle Rockets, the mood is even looser – lighter, even – in an all acoustic outing that sacrifices none of the band’s barroom edge.

Of course, just having Helm around for Ramble at the Ryman, given his ongoing battles over the past 15 years with throat cancer, is cause for celebration. And to be sure, that mighty Arkansas wail Helm used to such expert effect in the late ‘60s and ‘70s with The Band presents itself here with a worn and raspy tone. But his singing is nonetheless sagely, soulful and highly serviceable.

From the onset of the 1975 Band gem Ophelia, with its celebratory brass arrangement, the spirit of fun surrounding Ramble at the Ryman is undeniable, as is the ensemble drive fortified by daughter Amy Helm and drummer Tony Leone (of the fine new generation Americana troupe Ollabelle) and veteran guitarist Larry Campbell. Their contributions help propel the Chuck Berry rock and soul of Back to Memphis and the luscious Cajun waltz of The Band’s Evangeline (the latter with Sheryl Crow sitting in).

While the Band nuggets are a blast, the highlights are three tunes pulled from Helm’s Grammy winning 2007 album Dirt Farmer. From that lot, the show stealer is the quietly righteous Wide River to Cross. Helm leaves the vocal lead to the song’s co-composer, Buddy Miller. But the ensuing country mingling of brass and fiddle proves Ramble at the Ryman still rocks even when the tempo and temperaments are chilled.

Not So Loud may seem like a curve ball, especially at this stage in the nearly two decade old career of The Bottle Rockets. After all, this is a band that once positioned itself to be a ‘90s Midwestern graduate from the Lynyrd Skynyrd school of Southern rock mischief. But the album lets the country-folk foundations of Brian Henneman’s songs modestly rock out, starting with an intriguing clawhammer banjo reading of Early in the Morning. The fun sails right through to the rugged country sweep of Turn for the Worse and the crisply bittersweet Kerosene.

In its own way, the music is still very electric in terms of vitality. It’s just that the songs ignite with a slower yet even more deliberate flame than before.

John Cotter, 48 Editor at New York Daily News

The Boston Globe (Boston, MA) October 26, 1991 | Associated Press NEW YORK — John Cotter, recently named managing editor of the New York Daily News, died yesterday at his home in Darien, Conn., apparently of a heart attack. He was 48. go to web site new york dailys

His appointment as managing editor of the News was announced last weekend, and he was to begin work there officially on Monday.

Mr. Cotter was hired away from the New York Post, which he joined in 1989 and served as metropolitan editor. Before that, he had served as metropolitan editor of New York Newsday and as enterprise editor at The Associated Press. here new york dailys

Born in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Mr. Cotter graduated from Scranton University and began his newspaper career at the Harrisburg Patriot in Pennsylvania.

He went to work for The Associated Press in Pittsburgh in 1968 and was transferred to the Philadelphia bureau in 1970. Later that year he was sent to New York, where he worked on the main national news desk and eventually became the news service’s enterprise editor. He later worked for Reuters.

Associated Press

in performance: bert lams and tom greisgraber

bert lams and tom griesgraber. photo by oscar afsahi.

Certainly what makes the music of Bert Lams and Tom Griesgraber so intriguing is the atmospheric – almost impressionistic – ambience they create on 6-string acoustic guitar, Chapman stick and a healthy arsenal of pedal effects. But what enhanced that sense of invention last night at Frankfort’s Coffeehouse Café was one of the oldest but most trusted embellishments in the world of art and commerce – location, location, location.

The Café seats perhaps 50 or 60 patrons, tops. As such, performances there can’t help but possess the air of a house concert. Save for a few patrons that last night wanted to engage in a technical Q and A with Griesgraber between songs, the audience readily accepted the sort of active listening requirements such a setting demanded. Needless to say, so did the artists.

Griesgraber continually expanded not only the vocabulary of sounds the stick creates by tapping notes out on its strings, but also the placement of those sounds.

On Don’t Look Back, he shifted from bass colors to rich harmonic chords that played beautifully off of Lams’ guitarwork, which impressively mixed classical and minimalist references with healthy doses of improvisation. Later on Search and Destroy, the stick effects intensified instrumental dynamics in response to dazzling guitar arpeggios. And on a set-closing revision of Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower, Griesgraber was a virtual one man band of harmonic, orchestral and improvisational invention.

Lams’ guitarwork was no less arresting. His classical and contemporary accents triggered plaintive country melodies (during the new Prairie Suite and the middle section of the road-tested California Guitar Trio piece Train to Lamy),  rugged, amplified slide leads (on another new work identified only as New Piece No. 2) and delicate, emotive lyricism (the CGT favorite The Marsh).

Courageous and inviting instrumental music in an ideal performance setting… what more could you ask for on a gorgeous August evening?

summer album of the week 08/20/11


cream: wheels of fire (released august 1968)

Disraeli Gears is viewed as the masterwork of the all-star British rock trio known as Cream. But on the double-album followup Wheels of Fire, released a year later, their music positively boiled over. One record was filled with studio gems ranging from landmark hits (White Room) to blues variations (Sitting on Top of the World) to originals that pulled all kinds of psychedelic chamber-style punches (Deserted Cities of the Heart). The second disc of Fillmore West live recordings sported blues jams (Spoonful, Crossroads) full of ragged instinct and raw psychedelic fury. A volcano of an album.

in performance: return to forever IV/zappa plays zappa

return to forever IV: jean-luc ponty, lenny white, chick corea, stanley clarke and frank gambale. composite photo by c. taylor crothers, kimberly wright and miles standish pettengill III.

After walking onstage to a hero’s welcome last night at Cincinnati’s PNC Pavilion, the five members making up the newest lineup of jazz fusion juggernaut Return to Forever assembled in a very workmanlike formation.

Keyboardist/founder/de facto frontman Chick Corea and mainstay drummer Lenny White were as opposite ends of the stage facing each other with bassist Stanley Clarke standing in the middle, nearly shoulder-to-shoulder with the band’s two new recruits – violinist Jean-Luc Ponty and guitarist Frank Gambale.

This was a telling design, to a point. It was especially appropriate for Corea, who almost never took his eyes off of his fellow players. At age 70, his performance gift isn’t so much an obvious instrumental prowess, but a boundless sense of playfulness. While the band’s setlist tends to stay fixed from night to night, Corea gave the impression that his every musical move – whether it was the dramatic flourish of acoustic piano that roared under White’s Sorceress or the moog solos he assembled for the celebratory encore version of Clarke’s School Days – was dictated by a cue from his bandmates.

The tight formation also played out for the show-opening Medieval Overture (from what is arguably RTF’s finest album, 1976’s rock-savvy Romantic Warrior). Solos were held in check while the tricky rhythmic turns were taken at a deliciously (and deliberately) breakneck pace. In short, RTF was out to establish quickly that its new lineup operates as a proper band as opposed to an assemblage of honored fusion vets. Mission accomplished.

Of course, as the 90 minute program progressed, each member was given ample room to roam. Clarke’s dizzying, finger-popping electric bass turns were audience favorites, but Ponty’s often elegant turns on violin (especially during the lovely acoustic reading of his 1975 piece Renaissance) proved a refreshing new voice for the band to play with while Gambale colored much of the more electric material with a solid rockish underpinning that was, like much of this immensely enjoyable performance, refreshingly free of flash.

dweezil zappa.

Sharing last night’s bill was Zappa Plays Zappa, an ensemble led by guitarist Dweezil Zappa devoted exclusively to the non-classical repertoire of his late father/composer/guitarist Frank Zappa. Lest anyone dismiss this as just another tribute band, the younger Zappa and his group made it clear just how versed it was not only in the technical demands of his father’s compositions (Mr. Green Genes) but also in the sense of pop tradition that surrounds them (the doo-wop-ish What’s the Ugliest Part of Your Body?) and the sense of performance animation necessary to bring it all to life (the horror movie send-up Cheepnis).

Most of all, it was great just to hear a band of top flight musicians a generation removed from the elder Zappa keeping alive such a distinctive and demanding catalogue of songs. One can only imagine father Frank would be cracking a sardonic smile if he caught son Dweezil last night spreading a fluid but agitated guitar run over the rhythmic social ooze that was Po-Jama People. Like father like son, indeed.

strict tiempo

the members of tiempo libre and their secret radio.

the members of tiempo libre and their secret radio.

Jorge Gomez didn’t just name the newest album by Tiempo Libre My Secret Radio on a whim. There is a back story to the title that enforces the entire sense of musical exploration surrounding the Grammy-nominated Cuban music ensemble that performs at this weekend’s Picnic with the Pops performances with the Lexington Philharmonic.

It stems back to the days when keyboardist, arranger, vocalist and Tiempo Libre music director Gomez was thirsting, as were his bandmates, for sounds emanating from outside his Havana homeland. Artistically reared in Russian-inspired conservatories, Gomez was versed in classical music as well as immensely rhythmic Afro-Cuban grooves. But across the waters on the shorelines of Miami lived a vastly different music.

American songs and styles were forbidden on Cuban airwaves, however. So Gomez was left to his own devices – or, more specifically, a device. He jury-rigged a homemade radio and snuck a listen to the joyous but subversive music from the United States.

“We had to invent our own radio and antenna, really,” Gomez said. “We went to the roof and had to wait until 1 a.m. to listen to even some of the music coming from Miami. We would spend the whole night recording the music onto cassettes.

“We heard everything, from (jazz star) Chick Corea to (jazz-pop vocalist) Al Jarreau to (R&B favorites) Chaka Khan and Earth, Wind & Fire. The next day, we took that music back to our neighborhoods and had a big party. This wasn’t just music for us. It was a whole new door to the world.”

Having relocated to Miami in 2000, Gomez had fashioned Tiempo Libre into one of the most established Cuban music groups currently working outside of Cuba. Though its music regularly touches upon its classical background and a wealth of Afro-Cuban inspirations, the band’s performance specialty is the Cuban style known as timba.

A harmonic hybrid that touches of elements of mambo and jazz, timba also reaches out to contemporary influences of funk and rock that fall outside of Cuban tradition. Timba is often viewed by some as an extension of salsa. But Gomez says there is one key difference between the two.

“Salsa is for the dancer,” he said. “Timba is for the musician who loves to dance. It’s more sophisticated. If you go to a timba concert, you have two possibilities before you. You can hear the music or you can dance the music. But I guess you can also do both.”

Tiempo Libre’s classical heritage remains very active as the band advances timba music to the masses. The ensemble’s Grammy nominated 2009 album, Bach in Havana, is an artful reimagining of Bach sonatas, preludes and fugues within settings of danzon, son and, of course, timba.

Bach in Havana is, basically, the story of our lives in Cuba,” Gomez said. “In Cuba, to be a musician, you have to pass classical training, a style of training that comes, really, from Russia. It’s not like here in America, where you pay a private teacher and learn piano. Cuban training was very formal.

“Training at the conservatory meant playing classical music from 8 in the morning to 6 at night. But then we would go back to our neighborhoods and start playing Cuban music – the timba, the cha cha cha, the danzons – all these great Afro-Cuban rhythms. So our lives were a mix of these two worlds.”

Bach in Havana also gave Gomez and Tiempo Libre the opportunity to record, on three tunes, with Paquito D’Rivera. A Cuban expatriate acknowledged as one of the world’s most stylistically daring alto saxophonists, D’Rivera is also an alumnus of the groundbreaking timba-inspired Cuban jazz ensemble Irakere.

“Paquito is amazing,” Gomez said. “He is a genius. But he is also a very, very good person. To play with him… I mean, it’s crazy. He is one of the great musicians in the world – him and (fellow celebrated Irakere alumni) Arturo Sandoval and Chucho Valdes. We grew up listening to their music. We were like students.”

Gomez hopes to follow in D’Rivera’s footsteps in so far as becoming a musical ambassador from his homeland to a steadily mounting North American fanbase.

“That’s our goal, to bring the Cuban music all around the United States. I mean, we transport our souls into another dimension when we are onstage. We just let it go with the music. So, yes, ambassadors of our culture… that’s what we are.”

Picnic with the Pops featuring the Lexington Philharmonic and Tiempo Libre takes place 8:30 p.m. Aug. 19 and 20 at The Meadow at Keene Barn, Keeneland, 4201 Versailles Rd.

Tickets are $15 (individual) and $200-$400 (tables). Call (859) 233-3535 or go to

lenny white forever

lenny white

lenny white

Lenny White knows them all by heart – specifically, the swipes and gripes by jazz traditionalists that view the electric rock, prog and funk leanings of fusion music as stylistic sellouts.

He weathered such criticisms over three decades ago when the band he co-piloted, the popular quartet version of fusion mainstay Return to Forever, began playing larger and larger venues alongside the fellow jazz-rockers of Weather Report, the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters to what was then a new jazz generation.

Never mind how all of these bands have serious jazz roots that their growing fanbase quickly traced first to their one common source, Miles Davis, and then further to the music Davis made with John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Never mind how those young listeners discovered an entire jazz history in the process. No, to the traditionalists, the thought of hard electric jazz playing off of rockish impulses bordered on heresy.

But as a new Return to Forever ensemble – titled, accordingly, Return to Forever IV – takes flight this summer, White sees a certain vindication for himself, his fusion brethren and especially the music they popularized and pioneered.

“It’s funny, really,” White said by phone from Marseilles, France, during the European swing of a world tour that brings Return to Forever IV to Cincinnati on Thursday. “There were a lot of the jazz purists back then who thought what we were doing was destroying jazz music, that what we were doing was taking away from its tradition. It always seemed the complete opposite to me. I think we were bringing people toward the music.

“When you think about it, all of the seminal jazz-rock bands – Return to Forever, Mahavishnu, Tony Williams’ Lifetime, the Headhunters – all had representatives that played with Miles on Bitches Brew (Davis’ 1969 cornerstone fusion album). That’s where the germ of this music really started. Miles had delved into explorations of electric music before that. But Bitches Brew was the galvanizing point. That’s when people started going, ‘OK, this is something new. Let’s see where this goes.’”

Return to Forever surfaced in 1972 by ways of an album of the same name by keyboardist and Davis alumnus Chick Corea, who has remained an honored jazz journeyman in and out of fusion circles ever since. White joined him and bassist Stanley Clarke for a quartet Return to Forever band in 1973, first with guitarist Bill Connors and then with replacement Al DiMeola that lasted through 1976. A larger but short lived brass fortified RTF band that excluded White and DiMeola followed, although the band split seemingly for good in 1978.

“There was always a healthy competition in those days,” White said of the ‘70s era that yielded the popular RTF albums Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy (1973), Where Have I Known You Before (1974), No Mystery (1975) and Romantic Warrior (1976). “And anytime there is this striving to be the best you can be, to be as good or better than the other guys, the music rises to a whole new level. The bar gets raised. It was a great time, man. The music was like a war cry.”

Aside from a short-lived quartet reunion with DiMeola in 1983, RTF remained dormant until 2008 when it toured extensively during the summer months. RTF IV proceeds this year without DiMeola but with guitarist Frank Gambale (who performed throughout the ‘80s in Corea’s Elektric Band) and violinist Jean Luc-Ponty (whose ties with Corea, Clark and White extend back several decades) in his place.

“The situation was Al had started working with his World Sinfonia band this year,” White said of how RTF IV came to be. “He felt that was what he wanted to do. Plus, Chick, Stanley and myself had done a trio tour (chronicled on the recent Forever album along with studio sessions featuring Ponty and Connors). We were playing jazz standards. Al doesn’t do that. So when we got back together to look at this version of Return to Forever, there were a lot of different considerations. But the feeling was kind of mutual that Al wanted to do something else and we wanted to try a different direction.

“But I’m telling you, man, the way this new lineup is playing is unbelievable. Jean Luc told me at breakfast the other morning how much he enjoys sitting back and watching us play. ‘And I’m on the bandstand with you guys.’

“So I think everybody is having fun. And that’s what’s really, really important.”

Return to Forever IV with Zappa Plays Zappa perform at 8 p.m. Aug 18 at the PNC Pavilion of Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati. Tickets are $34-$71.50. Call (513) 232-6220 or (800) 745-3000 or go to

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