Saturday, March 29, 2008

Music Notes for January-March 2008

Really, I should be paying attention to the new disc by Pat Metheny's trio and my discovery of the his drummer's first album as a leader, but first I have to get to some rock business.

I have to voice my displeasure at the inclusion of Madonna in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I've been upset before to see performers that I didn't really like, but I could always chalk up many of those choices to a difference in taste or I could say that groups like The Sex Pistols and The Ramones had some sort of influence on rock music. But Madonna? Come on! This is a woman whose entire career is not really about music, but about attention. She gets attention by being shocking and is not shocking in an attempt to create good music.

Of course, I must admit that part of my problem with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is sour grapes. Not one progressive rock group or performer has been inducted, a prejudice that should indicate to fans of good music just what the business is really about. See the list for yourself.

Speaking of progressive rock, I just browsed the website for Kansas and found some interesting news. First, they are touring and playing with local symphony orchestras again. Too bad they don't have dates set up for Dallas. Second, four members of the band (Ehart, Williams, Ragsdale and Greer) are collaborating on what looks to be an cool little project called Native Windows. The samples sound cool, though I wonder how hard core fans are going to take the music. I dig it.

Related to Kansas, I found a couple tunes released as an EP by Steve Walsh. Very cool tunes. Too few, but a nice sample from a good songwriter/performer who never sounds old. Hopefully, iTunes will post my short review soon.

And speaking of iTunes, my journey there recently brought me a single version of "Dust in the Wind" performed by former Kansas mate, John Elephante. No rendition is going to match the original, but the song itself is so good that I've hardly ever heard a bad interpretation. This one is keyboard and lead guitar (instead of violin) driven. Perhaps a little heavy on the background vocals, but I enjoy it nonetheless. I'm glad to see Elephante doing something worthwhile. I loved his stuff with Mastedon, was not too thrilled with the first couple solo outings, but he can grow on one.

Okay, now on to jazz. Pat Metheny's latest releases include a trio project titled Day Trip and a rerelease of his magnificent Secret Story. Any reader of this blog knows that I am smitten with Metheny work, finding room in my collection for pretty much anything he has worked on (yes, including ZTFS). I admit, however, that Day Trip is having to grow on me. I enjoy listening to it quite a bit, but it hasn't knocked my socks off the way the other trio albums have. I can't place my finger on why. I can say that one of the things that makes this stand out above the other trio discs is the virtuosity of all the band mates and how all three seem to have plenty of room to play and show their chops without losing the whole trio feel. Christian McBride and Antonio Sanchez are terrific, as always. Unlike Trio 99>00, this project really gets the most out of the talents of each performer. More on Sanchez' own disc later.

Secret Story is one of my all time favorite albums. I've never done a desert island disc thing here, but this is definately one that would be on that list. This new re-mastered version is really nice, sounding great. But the highlight is the addition of a disc including five songs that did not come with the original. These are all terrific tunes, a must for anyone. I also recommend listening to Metheny's podcast discussing this re-release.

I have been impressed with Antonio Sanchez ever since I saw him with Metheny's group during the Speaking of Now tour. This is a really young guy playing like he's been around since Max Roach. I had not noticed until Day Trip came out that he released a project as a leader last year. Migration is some really good jazz. It sounds much different from the Metheny material, though Pat shows up on a couple tracks, but that isn't really a problem. There are some great musicians here: Chick Corea, Chris Potter, David Sanchez, and Scott Colley, as well as the aformentioned guitar hero. Sanchez composed most of the tracks, but we do have one song by Metheny, one by Corea and nice renditions of Joe Henderson's "Inner Urge" and Miles Davis's classic "Solar." "Arena (Sand)" is probably my favorite tune on the disc, but they are all really good. Don't know why this album hasn't gotten more notice or more press. It is jazz that should appeal to the contemporary listener as well as the purist.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Pinewood Derby 2008

Here are a couple videos from after the Pinewood Derby. Max is in his basketball uniform because he came straight from a game. His is the cool black one in the middle in both races.

Bookmarks for January/February 2008

Below are not really reviews, but some of the notes I took reading a couple books earlier this year. With eight classes of papers to grade, I haven't have much time for other writing, but I got tired of waiting to do it and also of having nothing posted here for sometime.

Ever the Fallen by David J. Thompson --winner of Nerve Cowboy chapbook contest.
--lots of poems that seem to come from daydreams about literary figures.
--humor that is dry, almost angry.
--lots of hope for "getting laid."
--no pretension; why poetry like this isn't provided and presented more often surprises me.
Some of this is not great art, but it isn't because of language or subject matter, but because they do not seem to say anything beyond the surface. But maybe that isn't fair to say. Of course, I don't expect a "message" or even insight. Maybe these poems, like Seinfeld, leave us with observations that need no comment. Maybe nothing needs to be said, and therein lies the art.
The Branch Will Not Break by James Wright (1963)
--called a
"Groundbreaking Book" on
--mostly Ohio setting
--neither hope nor despair --lots of horses in this book-don't know why, but the horses seem to be content where ever--little joy, little sadness; strong, constant waiting.
Yet he was beautiful, he was the snowfall

Turned to white stallions still

Under dark elm trees

("Two Poems About President Harding")

gallop terribly against each other's bodies

Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio")
-- some political poems lose me because I am unfamiliar with the context-the loss is mine, not the poet's.

I also took some time to read one of my favorite books, The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. I cannot recommend this powerful, funny, and insightful little novel more highly. I would not say it is the most neglected of Lewis' oeuvre, but it is one of the most neglected books of the previous century. The satire is too difficult for some, but the fact that we live in a generation increasing unable to read satire should not dissuade good readers. Lewis' Christianity is apparent, but this is not a book only for believers. Further, it does not preach, but most readers learn something of themselves in experiencing the book. This is why I return to it every few years.