Friday, December 26, 2008

Musicians should write about what they do

Seriously illuminating interview with the Ronald Reagan of jazz, Wynton Marsalis, here. The Bad Plus' blog Do the Math is an incredible repository of writings. Always inspiring reading, because it's journalism of the highest order written by a musician. I remember struggling as an undergrad with the seemingly irreconcilable problem of wanting to play jazz and write about it. I pretty much gave up on writing about it (and presumably, according to Wynton...). A quick look at the length of most of my blog posts will confirm that. So kudos to Ethan Iverson for taking the time to balance the scales. Musicians should write about what they do.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Powerful Story

My mom gave Sara and I a copy of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's powerful memoir Infidel a couple weeks ago. Sara tore through it and I'm about 3/4 of the way into it now. Generally favorable reviews at Metacritic. Fascinating account of Somali life and life in exile in Saudi Arabia, Kenya and the Netherlands. In a seemingly unlikely match, Ali is a now a fellow at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute. Amazing story and definitely recommended holiday reading.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Top Ten Heard, Read, Seen in 2008

Here they are folks. My Top 10 of 2008 heard, read, and seen. Of course many of the films, TV shows, and books weren't created this year. I just happened to encounter them in 2008. The concerts all happened in the last twelve months. Feels a little weird to be home on a Friday evening compiling these lists and not at the concert of Elliot Carter's music at Carnegie Hall going on RIGHT NOW, but I need a night off, yo! The photo included is from his Boston Symphony Orch at Carnegie Hall centenary celebration last night. Wish I could have been there. Had a gig. Can't do everything. So it goes in New York.

1. Messiaen Turangalila at Carnegie Hall Feb
2. Messiaen organ concerts at St Thomas Church Oct/Nov
3. Elliot Carter Focus Festival concerts at Juilliard Jan
4. Smith/Abrams/Lewis AACM event May
5. Angelique Kidjo private party at ABC furniture Nov
6. AACM mini-fest at the Kitchen Oct
7. Gagaku Winds at Japan Society Oct
8. Cecil Taylor/Tony Oxley at the Village Vanguard Nov
9. The Engines at Union Hall Jan
10. Aram Shelton’s Arrive at Zebulon Aug

1. “Power Stronger than Itself” George E. Lewis
2. “A Fine Balance” Rohinton Mistry
3. “Leviathan” Paul Auster
4. “King Suckerman” George Pelecanos
5. “Bridge of Sighs” Richard Russo
6. “The Rest is Noise” Alex Ross
7. “Oracle Nights” Paul Auster
8. “The Big Blowdown” George Pelecanos
9. “Single and Single” John Le Carre
10. “The Road to Wellness” T.C. Boyle

1. The Wire season 5
2. State of Play
3. Foyle’s War season 5
4. The Shield season 5
5. The Shield season 6
6. Flight of the Conchords season 1
7. Foyles War season 6
8. Prime Suspect season 1
9. John Adams
10. Prime Suspect season 2

1. The Fall
2. Ashes of Time Redux
3. Persepolis
4. Days of Heaven
5. Eastern Promises
6. The Counterfeiters
7. War Dance
8. Molaade
9. Tai Chi Master
10. Step Brothers

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Canada Day this Wednesday 12/3 Friday 12/5


If any are free this Wednesday or Friday night, please come on down to
Canada Day's final two gigs of 2008 in preparation for a Clean Feed
recording December 6.

This band has played regularly for a year and a half and the material is
sounding great.


Wednesday, December 3rd 2008 @ Monkeytown
Canada Day at Monkeytown
Admission: $5, $10 minimum
Showtime: 8:00pm

Friday December 5th 2008 @ Cornelia Street Café
Canada Day at Cornelia St Cafe
Admission: $10
Showtimes: 9pm, 10:30pm


Harris Eisenstadt's Canada Day

Nate Wooley (trumpet)
Matt Bauder (tenor saxophone)
Chris Dingman (vibraphone)
Eivind Opsvik (bass)
Harris Eisenstadt (drums, compositions)


"Eisenstadt's Canada Day is a striking blend of spacious groove and textural
intimacy." - Time Out New York

"He's perpetually building new ensembles to suit the variety of music he
hears in his head — that's what composers do. That music is just abstract
enough to fall on the avant side of the tracks, but there are usually
cohesive threads and kinetic triggers guiding the action. This quintet with
vibes, reeds, and brass up front should suit his not-so-hidden yen for
textural splendor." Village Voice

Friday, November 14, 2008

Angelique Live... around the corner

Amazing New York moment: played for a sabar class the other night at Djoniba in Union Square with a bunch of Senegalese guys as I often do when I'm in town and can get over there. One particular badass dropped in for a few minutes, played his ass off, and left. I wondered why he ran out, but things are mercurial over there so I didn't think much about it. I saw him at the end of class downstairs and it turned out he was playing around the corner with Angelique Kidjo at a $15,000 couch-kinda furniture store called ABC Furniture. She was playing for a donor's private party. They were already playing so my friend couldn't spirit us in, but another friend randomly showed up just as Sara and I were going to leave who happened to be on the list for the night. He got us in and there we were, listening to Angelique in a fancy furniture store with 200 or so ritzie folks, eating tuna tartare hors d'oeuvres... Only in NYC?

RIP Miriam Makeba and Mitch Mitchell

The world lost two great artists this week, Miriam Makeba

and Mitch Mitchell.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Prime Time

Watched the fourth season of Prime Suspect this weekend. Couple 2-hour episodes. Synopses here for anyone not up on the excellent British police drama. Go Helen Mirren! Mirren has said in interviews that her character Detective Chief Superintendent Jane Tennyson is not someone she particularly would like to pal around with, but you've got to give it to Tennyson, she gets results. She's job-obsessed, relationship-challenged, and so good at what she does that her superiors can't help but promote her after each success, despite their usual efforts to stymie her investigations. Each season is 2-4 two hour episodes, and bravo again to British television for their quality-over-quantity paradigm that seems to escape most American television programs.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Two Elders, Playing

This isn't a photo from last night, but its pretty much how things looked at night 3 of the second run of Cecil Taylor and Tony Oxley Duo at the Village Vanguard. I sat right up near Tony's drums during the first night, and amazingly enough had a hard time hearing Cecil! Never had that happen before. Due to a modest turnout the club let first set customers stay for the second, which was great. I sat in the back of the room at the bar, and the balance was much better. Bravo to Cecil for the rhapsodic moments that populated both sets. And bravo to Oxley for never being swept under the carpet by Taylor. He more than held his own, and while the music wasn't life-changing, it was definitely life-affirming.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Ashes of Time Redux!!!!

If ever there was a film that NEEDED to be seen on the biggest screen possible, this is it. The same over-indulgence that you'll find in Wong Kar-Wai's head-scratching narrative and saccharine score is also his greatest asset visually. I blogged about another visual stunner recently, The Fall. But I unfortunately saw that one on the small screen. It held up though I knew it would have been infinitely better on the big screen. Not sure "...Redux" would work on the small screen at all. The colors, the long, luscious lingering shots... it was like watching a 10,000 photograph slide show. I felt like a deer who found the headlights and refused to budge. FWIW, Wai keeps it to an (admirably) brisk 90 minutes. See it in a theater. Trust me.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Seven Moments of Substance

A "transformational figure" indeed.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Austere Music

Blew threw Paul Auster's The Music of Chance. NYTimes reviewer Michiko Kakutani's nails it by describing this quick, tense read "as a chilling little story that's entertaining and provocative, resonant without being overly derivative." Auster simultaneously presents an existential wasteland and a riveting what-happens-next narrative. No small feat.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Welcome to The Fall

Serious love/hate at Metacritic for Tarsem Singh's The Fall. We loved it! What an incredible oft-improvised-apparently performance by 5 year-old Catinca Untaru. Singh's audacious use of 24 countries and no CGI apparently places the film in the lineage of other visual jawdroppers/fables like Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and The Princess Bride. See it for yourself. You probably won't have a lukewarm reaction.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Glorious Bodies

Caught the second of six Saturdays of Olivier Messiaen's organ music yesterday afternoon. My old boss when I interned at Knitting Factory eleven years ago Steve Smith reviews the first concert here. What incredible music, played with equal parts stoic calm and religious fervor by organist John Scott. I can't make the next one but I will be back in November. I won't say that I had a Christian epiphany or anything like that ('cause thats just not how I roll), but listening to the fourth movement of "Les Corps Glorieux," "Combat de la Mort et de la Vie," (check the Youtube link included in this post) definitely induced some religulous ecstasy.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sho nuff

What a beautiful concert last night of traditional and new music for gagaku winds at the Japan Society around the corner from the UN. Amazing to hear such virtuosi sho, ryuteki and hichiriki players. Much thanks to my friend flutist Kaoru Watanabe who hooked up a... um... more affordable ticket. What a treat! There were three premieres plus a couple other pieces by contemporary composers, but for me the highlights were the five traditional pieces they played.

Happy Belated Birthday, Thelonious

Meant to do this yesterday, but the day got away. Happy birthday Monk! The man would be 91.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Amina, seriously

An elegant evening of music last night at the kitchen. Personal highlights included an epic piano duo (duel? no... wrong word) between Amina Claudine Myers and Muhal Richard Abrams, and a gorgeous, lush, tonal (?!?) piece for string quintet and voice by Roscoe Mitchell. Looking forward to the second of these evenings Saturday when Sara plays contrabassoon on George Lewis' piece.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Foolish, in Brooklyn

Surprisingly mixed reviews here for Paul Auster's engrossing read "The Brooklyn Follies." Maybe its our Slope-adjacent zip code, but from page one's evocations of early90s pre-millions-of-dollars Prospect Park-facing brownstones, I was sucked in and am zooming on through. Nice to finally read Auster, who everybody always lauds and maybe thats why I hadn't got to him yet. But I'll read more of him; he's a fantastic storyteller.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Canada Day vid#2 - "And When to Come Back"

"And When To Come Back" by Canada Day ( w/ Nate Wooley, Matt Bauder, Chris Dingman, Eivind Opsvik), Le Grand Dakar, Brooklyn, June 2008 (thanks to Chris Lazinski for filming and Eivind for camera loanage).

Friday, September 26, 2008

Guewel Release and Canada Day Vid#1

Guewel is out on Clean Feed!

Thanks to Hank Shteamer for the thoughtful CD review/ release gig preview in Time Out New York here.

Also, a vid (thanks Chris Lazinski) of "Every Day is Canada Day" by my band Canada Day (Nate Wooley, Matt Bauder, Chris DIngman, Eivind Opsvik) from a gig in June. We record for Clean Feed in December.

Friday, September 12, 2008

It's not The Wire, but it is The Shield

What can I say? Is it just post-partum from The Wire that makes me feel lukewarm about season 6 of The Shield so far? Its entertaining, make no mistake. I guess its nostalgia from living in LA for six years, because it's nice to see the streets of "Farmington," the fabricated LA neighborhood that's really some kind of conglomerate of Boyle Heights, Lincoln Heights, downtown LA, Echo Park, Glassell Park, and a dozen other east side neighborhoods, in action. The hand-held camera-work is riveting, the storylines complex and fairly virtuosic. The acting is mixed, some of the writing is great and some is so-so. Not that it'll stop me from making my way thru the season. Is there anyone out there who can really say they prefer it to The Wire? No way....

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What the F-ck did I do?

So long, The Wire. Just finished Season 5. It hurts me to know that there are no more episodes out there. Drag. The greatest television series I have ever watched, I'd say. Typically sardonic journalistic IM back-and-forth on whether Season 5 flopped (no way!) and general life with (and now without) the show here.


Just finished T.C. Boyle's the Road to Welville. Jane Smiley's insightful review is here. I must admit, Boyle's dazzling virtuosity actually slowed me down at times. His story of early 20th century health nuts is superbly researched and both hilarious and sad. I do admire that Boyle never settles for simple protagonist-antagonist paradigms. His ensemble cast all have positive and negative attributes, and his command of language is staggering. Its just that you get the feeling that he's kind of showing off that incredible prowess sometimes. Recommended reading nonetheless. Having said that, though its been awhile (I read it in undergrad in 1994), I'd recommend starting with his wonderful collection Greasy Lake and Other Stories.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Counterfeiters

An interesting review here about the wonderful Austrian film The Counterfeiters. My folks had mentioned it to me a few months ago, I think I put it in the ol' Netflix cue, forgot about it, and it showed up in the mail last week. The Times review rightly points out the difficulties directors face in making Holocaust films: they "either try to take the full, horrible measure of the subject, at the risk of overwhelming or alienating a modern audience, or else, in trying to make the story bearable, they subvert its truth." The opening and closing post-camps scenes in Monte Carlo reminded me for just an instant of Life is Beautiful, the Benigni WWII farce from a few years ago, but that is a far more glaring and problematic example of subverting reality and horror. The Counterfeiters is a much humbler film, and its greatest asset in the end is probably its remarkable lead actor, the incredibly-named Karl Markovics.

Monday, August 11, 2008

War Dance

An interesting range of reviews here for the recent doc War Dance by fellow Colby alum Andrea Nix Fine and her partner Sean Fine. Beautifully shot, though many reviews rightly take issue with the Hollywood-esque depiction of some of the landscapes. Critics complain that these kind of slickified montages at least partly airbrush some reality out of the picture. I'm just glad the film was made, as it illuminates the Acholi's plight at the hands of the INSANE LRA. Well worth watching, regardless. Sara feels like the montages gave her a chance to reflect on the unbelievable stories these children went through and allows the viewer to see how beautiful northern Uganda is. She makes good points. One thing we both took issue was that the deleted scenes were poignant and should have been part of the regular feature. Glad we watched them.

Reminded me at times of the fascinating but too-glossy National Geographic Africa DVD set.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Single and Single; not Singular, but not bad at all

An interesting take on Single and Single here. I don't entirely disagree with the assessment that this may not be Le Carre's strongest showing, but as I've blogged about here and here, I'm a sucker for post cold war Le Carre. I've never had much luck actually getting through his classics (Tinker Tailor et al), and I'm not quite sure why. There seem to be endless "well it's not bad but it's not Smiley" reviews for anything written after the mid90s, but what can I say. Anyways, recommended.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Playlist for a Rainy Sunday

3 blog posts in a day, 4 in 2 days. Haven't blogged this much since Senegal Spring 07.

Playlist for a rainy Sunday in Brooklyn hanging with Sara and Jason Mears... selections from the following CDs:

1) The Four Bags "The Four Bags"
2) Mike McGinnis and Between Green "Tangents"
3) Chris Heenan/Michael Vorfeld "Half Cloud, Half Plain"
4) Jordan McLean "Piano Music and Song Trio"
5) Pascal Gallois "Kurtag - Schoeller - Boulez"
6) Peggy Lee Band "New Code"
7) Rhodri Davies "TREM"
8) Kraig Grady "The Creation of the Worlds"
9) The Lost Trio "Boxcar Samovar"
10) Team Up "Team Up"
11) Atomic/School Days "Nuclear Assembly Hall"
12) Paul Smoker "Duocity in Brass and Wood"
13) Carl Ludwig Hubsch "Tuba Solo"

One for the Time Capsule

Pretty mixed reviews here, but I laughed out loud through much of Step Brothers, whereas I was forced to turn this lemon off almost immediately.

The Bounties of Halifax

Caught an episode of Trailer Park Boys in the hotel room while in Halifax playing at the Atlantic Jazz Fest last week (lovely gig, btw, thank you jazzeast). Hadn't seen it in some years and it still cracked us up. We watched a couple old episodes last night just to see how the early seasons held up over time, and in small doses, Ricky, Julian, Bubbles, et al are pretty hilarious. There are few half hour comedy shows I could watch episode after episode, and this might not be one of them, but it comes pretty close. Anyone recommend a half hour funny that you could watch more than 4 episodes of in a row, I'd be interested to hear. Ricky's hairdo hasn't changed, Julian still has a rum and coke in hand at all times, and Bubbles' accent and glasses are thick as ever. If you've never seen it, take TPB for a spin, and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bridge of Sighs

I was lucky to be an English Major, Music Minor at Colby College from 1994-98. I had some great fiction and poetry teachers during that time, but unfortunately Richard Russo had just stopped teaching the year before I got to Maine.

I've enjoyed his books in the past, and 100 pages or so into Bridge of Sighs I can recommend this one too. Not sure if its quite as nonchalantly epic as Empire Falls or as unputdownable as Nobody's Fool, but it has drawn me in right away. Another beautiful depiction of a smal northeast town and the people whose lives spiral in and out of it.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

In Bruges

I must admit, I quite enjoyed In Bruges. Not an earth-shattering film, but a clever narrative with strong performances and beautiful cinematography of a fairytale town. Recommended.

Friday, July 11, 2008


What a fantastic movie! The drawings are beautiful, the narrative is excellent, and its sheer uniqueness made me think of another wonderful recent animated film.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Fine Balance

About two thirds into A Fine Balance, and its picking up steam as it goes. Mistry's exposition is slow and lush, and it becomes clear that his characters' back stories are a sort of literary history of 20th century India. An engrossing and lyrical book.

"You see, you cannot draw lines and compartments, and refuse to budge beyond them. You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair." He paused, considering what he had just said. "In the end, it's all a question of balance." - p.228-229

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

One Likes One's BBC

Just started the excellent BBC miniseries State of Play. Riveting so far...

Bravo to casting director Wendy Brazington, who included some of my favourite British actors, including Bill Nighy and Kelly MacDonald, both fantastic in the small but wonderful film The Girl in the Cafe, and Polly Walker, who played the wicked Atia of the Julii on the also-undersung HBO drama Rome, which I've blogged about before (Feb 3/07).

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Monday, June 2, 2008

New site, finally

New site up. Still a work in progress. Feedback most welcome.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tony, Warren, fun in Detroit

Just back from a great time playing the 3rd Annual Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music in Detroit at the wonderful Bohemian House. Sara and I really appreciated the warm response we got playing a Saris set. Wonderful folks to hang with all around. Particularly loved hanging with Warren Smith. Such a wealth of fascinating insights, information, and great humour. What a gentleman! Check this killing video with him, Tony, Don Alias, Larry Young, Ted Dunbar and Junie Booth.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Took part in an enjoyable and thought-provoking workshop given by Henry Threadgill last night at the Jazz Gallery. Very inspiring guy to be around. His ideas about art, self-propulsion, collectivity, form, rhythm, etc left me with lots to think about. While giving him a ride home his words re: artists paying their bills in advance so they can have unfettered time to create, "to daydream, to look at leaves, at sticks..." were particularly poignant. Thanks Henry.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

RIP Jimmy Giuffre

Sad news that Jimmy Giuffre has passed. Singular composer and improviser. Very inspiring approach to form and to open space. Hopefully some footage will surface of his great early 60s trio with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow. In the meantime, the above is pretty lovely.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Music Reading

This just came in the mail. Can't wait to get to it... Congrads George!

Meantime, been enjoying this blogger's book.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Guewel - Love letter to Africa, vol.2

its been a year since I returned from West Africa. Sheesh! Where'd the time go? Just recorded my 7th as a leader for Clean Feed entitled Guewel, and its been about a year in the making.

The band includes Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet, flugelhorn), Nate Wooley (trumpet), Mark Taylor (french horn), and Josh Sinton (bari sax), and from last Friday's rehearsal through Saturday night gig and Sunday morning (?!?) recording, it all came together smashingly! Thanks fellas...

Guewel means musician(s) in Wolof (the major language/ethnic group of Senegal). The compositions combine arrangements of Sabar (traditional Wolof drumming) and M’balax (Senegalese pop music), with improvised extrapolations on the written materals. The horn blend came out great. Baritone saxophone's range and fullness balanced the (mostly) cornet/trumpet/horn blend wonderfully. Mixing next week, then will send it off to Portugal for Clean Feed to master. Will be out in September so keep an eye out! More about Guewel in future posts, no doubt.

Never done a sequel project before. Volume 1 in my love-letters-to-Africa series came out on CIMP in 2003, Jalolu. That recording was inspired by and dedicated to Brikama, Gambia, after spending two months there in 02-03. Who knows when vol. 3 will appear, but I will say this: There are more Africa-inspired projects in me, that's for sure.

Time Out New York's preview read:

"In his Guewel project, drummer-composer Harris Eisenstadt mixes his avant-jazz expertise with an extensive knowledge of funky, intricate African music. Fortunately his bandmates—saxist Josh Sinton, plus brassmen Taylor Ho Bynum, Nate Wooley and Mark Taylor—can shift convincingly between boisterous and abstract modes."

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Foyled again

Apologies for the long silence. Been quite busy and not finding the time to write much prose.

Consumptive delights of late:

Sara and I have been getting into Foyle's War. Talk about understated. Michael Kitchen as Foyle is fantastic. His facial expressions, mannerisms, and overall reflective nature remind me of a decade-older version of one of my favourite British actors who I had the great fortune to work with in a touring one-man version of Macbeth from 2004-06, Stephen Dillane. Check Foyle out. Masterful British drama, unhurried quality-over-quantity mystery-laden narratives.

Seasons 4 and 5 of The Shield blew me away, with Glenn Close (4) and Forest Whitaker (5) as respective guest stars. Though I love Forest, particularly in the understated Jarmusch masterpiece Ghost Dog, Close is the stronger of the two featured guests, going for a simmering, you've-come-a-long-way-since-boiling-rabbits-baby police captain.

Nearly read the entire published oeuvre of George Pelecanos.
Best known for writing/producing HBO's seminal The Wire, Pelecanos dozen plus books have kept me engrossed throughout 2008 so far. In keeping with the quality-over-quantity theme, I appreciate Pelecanos' brevity. Each book is around 300 pages, none have broken the 400-mark. Characters and narratives appear and return throughout the books, and its just been a treat to watch Pelecanos' prose get more and more airtight with each outing. If I had to pick, I think my favorites are probably the Derek Strange/Terry Quinn salt-and-pepper private detective team, but then again maybe the Dimitri Karras/Marcus Clay combo is the one. Hard to pick. An embarassment of riches in Pelecanos' work, thats for sure. Anyone have any suggestions who I should take up next?

Friday, February 29, 2008

Days of Heaven

Finally saw Terrence Malick's 1978 masterpiece Days of Heaven.

Strange irony somehow that it comes after seeing No Country For Old Men and There Will be Blood, two Westerns that owe a significant debt to Mallick's painterly film.

Of the many reviews out there, I like Roger Ebert's essay here.

See it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Messiaen's Turangalila... Wow!

Heard/saw an incredible rendition of Messiaen's Turangalila Symphonie at Carnegie Hall last Friday. Alex Ross blogs about it here. The ten-part, 75-minute piece features a dizzyingly virtuosic piano part, a haunting low-end fanfare that returns periodically and gave me goose bumps each time I heard it, and the eerie Ondes Martenot. Unfortunately, I had a hard time hearing the Ondes during particularly boisterous moments, of which there were many. That's about my only complaint, though. What a treat to hear Turangalila live!

Very informative demo video of how the incredible Ondes Martenot works here.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Elliot Carter Focus Festival Concerts

Went on Tuesday January 29 and again last night, Friday February 1 to hear the Focus Festival centenary celebration of the American composer Elliot Carter. There were about 150 people each night at the absolute most in a hall that looked like it holds 600 at least. Unbelievable! Or, unfortunately, believable. Speaks to the reality of new music audiences in America, I suppose. But come on, why isn’t Elliot Carter’s 99-yr old smiling face on the cover of the Time Out New York this past week to promote these concerts? Wouldn’t that have helped fill those seats? Strange, though, as the first night (with Boulez conducting) was sold out and tonight (the last night) with James Levine conducting is also sold out. Those are the two nights that one had to secure tickets in advance for. All the other nights are free. Were the weeknights somehow perceived as less important because there’s no ticket price or advance commitment required? Or is it because there’s no celebrity conductor?

I agree with most of Alan Kozinn’s NY Times review of the Tuesday concert. The highlight for me was actually two readings of the Asko Concerto, written for the eponymous Dutch ensemble in 2000. The boisterous bassoon solo at the end of a piece full of subgroups-within-larger-groups, duos-alongside-trios, was a particular highlight. And to actually hear a piece twice on the same program wsa quite welcome. The second time around (and low attendance numbers) gave me a chance to move closer and hear with more detail the many layers going on in the piece. I was there with Sara and Reuben Radding, who blogs about the Focus festival here. They both really dug Tempo e Tempi, a 1999 piece for soprano, two winds and two strings. The vocalist, Jennifer Zetlan, did a fantastic job seemingly grabbing pitches out of the air. The ultimate highlight, though, came at the end of the program when Elliott Carter stood up from his second row seat. He was given a rousing standing ovation from a surprised audience who (mostly, I think) didn’t realize he was there. We were about four rows away from him.

Last night there were two major highlights for me. Fragments I, the second of the three short string quartets played at the beginning of the first set, consisted entirely of natural and artificial harmonics and was devastatingly beautiful. Despite having to cup my ears to really hear the piece (I must have looked pretty silly), it was sublime. The last piece in the program, Brass Quintet (1974), was the other highlight. Gorgeous fanfares, pedals, muted lines ensemble and solo passages, bass trombone instead of tuba, and just a treat to hear some brass in the room! Peter Jay Sharp Theater is lovely but somehow the sound is a little muted. Even with amplification, the central role the harpsichord played in Sonata for Flute, Oboe, Cello and Harspichord (1952) was difficult to hear from the sixth row!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Viva Cheri Oteri

Cheri Oteri is totally hilarious. Sara and I have been cracking up watching her SNL Best of DVD for the last few days. Some memorable quotes here.

On-line reviews seem to have mixed feelings about the quality of skits selected. This was the case with the Will Ferrell compilation as well, and probably is for all of them. More importantly, great to have a female comedian lauded.

One of our favourite Oteri characters, Colette Reardon, is pictured above.

Monday, January 21, 2008

George Pelecanos

Noted jazz critic Howard Mandel recently lent me some George Pelecanos novels. Burning through them and glad they're around.

Never been a devoted crime/mystery reader. Just kept hearing about Pelecanos' books and knew of him as an important producer and writer for The Wire.

Great outtakes interview with Pelecanos here.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Viggo, Chappelle et al

Viggo Mortensen's performance in Eastern Promises gathers steam as the film moves on. Literally. It peaks in an extended, bloody fight scene in a Finsbury Park steam bath with two Chechens. I enjoyed Mortensen in A History of Violence. I was nervous for a few mintues in this one, but in the end was even more convinced. And the London sets and lighting are wonderful. Dig the way the camera lovingly goes over opulent Russian celebratory meals, from preparation in the kitchen to presentation on banquet tables in one of the film's main locations, the inside of a Russian mob restaurant.

On the topic of good shooting locations, props to the scouts who found the Bed-Stuy block for Dave Chappelle's Block Party. Jill Scott and Erykah Badu singing together, Chappelle's hand selected marching band from Dayton, Ohio, etc... Chappelle shows himself to be a great bringer-together of people. Fun way to spend some bread if you have plenty, thats for sure. Movie was a little long, though.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


They just keep coming, those holiday rec's. Saw There Will be Blood around 2am January 1. Quite a way to bring in the New Year. Daniel Day-Lewis is smouldering. Paul Dano is eerie. PT Anderson solidifies his standing amongst elite filmmakers. No Country for Old Men laments our loss of collective innocence. There Will be Blood snarls at innocence.