Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Review of Tidings of Comfort and Joy by Skafish

Now, i am no Christmas album aficionado, but having worked in record stores for 13 years or so in my younger days, i certainly heard my fill of holiday music. Most of it was, and is, horrible. But hearing Skafish's 2006 release Tidings of Comfort and Joy was refreshing, as well as both comforting and joyful.

Alternately titled A Jazz Piano Trio Christmas, Skafish has put together one of the most original, brilliantly arranged, and beautifully played Christmas albums ever. Supported by session musicians Lawrence Kohut on basses, and Tom Hipskind on drums, Skafish takes you on a Christmas music journey via the A-train, with musical nods to many great Jazz giants, while also inflecting his piano parts with strikingly inventive chord forms and shimmering glissandos.

Recorded at Chicago Recording Company, and produced by Skafish himself, the sound quality is superb, every instrument captured in perfect proportion and clarity. It is very easy on the ears indeed, and allows one to concentrate totally on the music.

Each track begins with an original introduction before launching in to a traditional melody, and then proceeds with variations and improvisations. This approach gives the music a serious and introspective feel that one doesn't usually associate with modern interpretations of Christmas other words, this ain't no Kenny G Christmas! Far from it. For me, this album has joined Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas as being the two most interesting, listenable, and original holiday music albums ever recorded.

Well done Jim Skafish. I hope the world will hear more of your great music from the past, and i hope you make some more great music in the future.

The Evil of the World is Ignorance

Bush must go.

What a Wonderful World This Can Be is a blog book by Bertha Stoller-Fields.

It's blatant hope mixed with a fatalist reality.
It's scary.
It makes me want to do something.
I just haven't figured out what, yet.

What Would Al Do?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Ethynol and all

I have been thinking about getting a vehicle with better fuel economy, and hopefully one better for the ecology too. I do a fair amount of driving for my job so it makes sense. I want to wait until i find just the right car because i can't afford to make the wrong choice, as it were.

The other week i was at a gas station and the young man next to me pumping gas was very friendly and we started a casual conversation which eventually turned in topic to rising gas prices. He told me about a guy he knew who had a car with an ethynol burning engine. I believe he said the guy built the engine himself. And he said his friend got all of his "fuel" from fast food restaurants with which he had made a deal to remove some of their waste for them. It seems when they were all done making french fries and chicken nuggets, this guy would take huge vats of oil (corn oil, i guess) off their hands, thus getting all of his fuel for free while saving them the trouble of otherwise disposing of it.

I didn't know whether this was a tall tale or not, but seeing as there are so many fast food restaurants, it sure would make sense to market such an engine, if indeed it is feasable. Perhaps McDonald's will help start a new industry: a new automobile line with engines that run completely on ethynol, a line of gas stations -complete with mini-markets and McDonald's- to sell the new fuel, and a few factories throughout the nation (world?) to distribute french fry grease to the stations after, i would guess, a certain amount of filtering. The engines probably couldn't tolerate the french fry and chicken nugget sediment in the oil.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Hugo Largo at The Roxy in Los Angeles 1989

Mimi Goese with knife

Adam Peacock and Mimi

Hahn Rowe

Mimi and Timothy Sommer

Adam and Mimi


These photos were all taken by Angela Kwan.
Check out the fansite for Hugo Largo.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Obama O-bombed-a on MySpace

I stumbled on this piece by a Florida Journalism graduate student while roaming the blogoshere:

"Below is my correspondence with the Barack Obama campaign from my account. I saw a story on CNN about how Obama took over Joe Anthony's Obama MySpace page. Initially, it was a move so that the candidate could control the information posted. As CNN reported it, the two parties couldn't agree on compensating Anthony for his work and the campaign officially took over the site. I've got some GRAVE concerns about this move and Freedom of Speech. "


Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Japanese Rock

I became interested in Japanese popular music around 1985 or so when i worked at a record store and was the import buyer. I was routinely exposed to album release pitches (mostly by mail) from representatives of distributors and labels. So reading about these various groups i started to form an interest.

Also around this time i was listening to Art Rock a lot, and Henry Cow guitarist Fred Frith was producing a lot of Japanese bands. Other Western artists were getting involved in the Japanese scene too. XTCs Andy Partridge, Thomas Dolby, Robin Scott (the guy behind the smash hit "Pop Music"), Adrian Belew, the list goes on. So whenever i'd see a familiar name on a Japanese release, my interest was further piqued.

One of the first Japanese artists/bands i bought records by was Yellow Magic Orchestra (or YMO). They were regarded in Japan as being as big as The Beatles were in England. They just never were able to catch on in America. Musically they were at the forefront of the New Wave explosion. Their techno sound was accompanied by techno song titles, and an all encompassing techno sensiblity.

Tenko is an out-there avante garde singer. Her voice is more expression than musicality. Wailing, screaming, chanting, and growling was her modus operandi. But i connected with it in the same way that i later connected with the work of Yoko Ono, although Yoko was more song-oriented.

Hajime Tachibana made a brilliant record called "Hm" in 1983. Completely instrumental, it's essentially a saxophone quartet rock album. It features lush arrangements and very catchy melodies and riffs. It is also a world away musically from his band The Plastics. They were comparable to Devo, or perhaps better The B52s, with quirky songs and jerky rhythms. I wish i had been able to buy more records by Hajime Tachibana, but he didn't get American distribution and the imports were priced out of my wage, even with an employee discount. Besides i had so many competing interests that other things won out.

My favorite Japanese band is Sadistic Mika Band. I just noticed one of their records in a used record store which i frequented in the 80's, and oddly enough i remembered that Brian Eno is wearing a Sadistics sweatshirt in a photo from the album Mainstream by Quiet Sun. So with only that and the cover to recommend it i picked it up and was blown away by it. It was their self-titled debut album. Luckily i went back to the same record store and found two more by them, Hot! Menu! and Black Ship.

I discovered Shonen Knife about a year before they started becoming known in America, which was thanks to Portland and Seattle area bands who sort of adopted them for the US. I was amittedly as attracted to their cuteness as i was their sound and songs, but i still own almost all their CDs (and some vinyl too) so it wasn't all about the cuteness.

I also became a fan of a Japanese easy listening singer relatively unknown outside Japan. Her name is Yumi Matsutoya, but was better known as Yuming. I have only ever owned a 60 minute cassette that i dubbed from another cassette that my friend had at the time. It was a collection of Yuming's early work, roughly 1972-1975. I have since burned a CD of it (in case the tape bites the big one), but i still can't find her CDs, let alone vinyl, at any affordable prices.

I just became aware (via my friend Bob) that Julian Cope is releasing a book about Japanese Rock called Japrocksampler. He had a similar book about German Rock called Krautrocksampler.