(For all back issues go to the Archive)
Part 1. Quaran Burning Story: This Is How The Media Embarrass Themselves
The story of how one lone idiot, pimping an 18th-century brand of community terrorism, held the media hostage and forced some of this nation's most powerful people to their knees to fitfully beg an end to his wackdoodlery is an extraordinary one. It's a modern media retelling of Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying,” in which a gang of Islamaphobes, cast in the role of Addie Bundren, bamboozle the media into carrying their coffin full of malevolence on a journey of pure debasement. –Jason Linkins, The Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/09/10/this-is-how-the-media-wor_n_712229.html
Part 2. The Party of 9/11 Becomes the 9/11 Party
So Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck are “commemorating” 9/11 with an event in Anchorage, Alaska, tickets to which range from $65 to $115 per person, with a $200 VIP ticket that includes a “meet and greet” with Beck. And oh, yes, attendees can choose to sit in an alcohol-free “dry section” or whoop it up with big beers in a “wet section.” Bad enough that the Republicans almost unanimously voted against extending health benefits to the 9/11 rescue workers; this Palin-led farce is but one more example of right wing lunacy, as well as another show of utter contempt for the victims, dead and alive, of the September 11 attacks. Clearly no bar is too low for these demagogues, whether it be Rudy “noun-verb-9/11” Guiliani (thank you, Joe Biden), Palin, Beck and—who else?—Newt Gingrich, now exploiting 9/11 in a fear-mongering infomercial. Maybe it’s time to revisit the immediate aftermath of the attacks for a reality check. I worked as a volunteer at Ground Zero for some five months, beginning September 13, 2001. What happened down there was no beer bash, and it begs remembrance for what it was: a place where 3,000 citizens from 10 different countries were murdered by zealots who had twisted their religion into something unrecognizable to most of its billions of adherents. Which sounds like something that’s going on in certain corners of the Christian world right now. This link will take you to a piece I penned for a corporate newsletter in January 2002, “Ground Zero: An Exercise In Humanity.” I’ll let it speak for itself. –David McGee
COVER STORY: IMANI WINDS ON SOLID GROUND, IN UNKNOWN LANDS—By David McGee
Terra Incognita, the new album from the adventurous and unpredictable wind quintet IMANI WINDS, is the most formidable challenge the New York City-based virtuosos have yet tackled, the triumph of its mating of precision playing to profound, nuanced emotional engagement representing the group’s finest hour on record. A true leap forward, Terra Incognita is comprised of three compositions, commissioned by Imani Winds, by Jason Moran, Paquito D’Rivera and Wayne Shorter, ‘jazz masters’ all, as group founder VALERIE COLEMAN notes. In our exclusive three-part cover story, the centerpiece is TheBluegrassSpecial.com Interview with Ms. Coleman, who provides the inside story on the making of Terra Incognita and what it all means for and to Imani Winds.
September 8 marked the 169th birthday of Czech composer ANTONIN DVORAK. Though many celebrations are scheduled for next year to coincide with the composer’s 170th birthday, we thought the occasion of an Imani Winds cover a splendid opportunity to honor the adventurous work Dvorak created during his three years in America, when he embraced the music of black and Native Americans in a pioneering way in the classical realm, much as Imani Winds has done in its time by plumbing its members’ African-American and Latin American heritages in expanding the wind quintet repertoire. So happy 169th, Antonin! A special treat for our readers: a five-part YouTube video of the New York Philharmonic performing Dvorak’s masterpiece, Symphony No. 9, “From the New World.”
LISSY WALKER: HOW SWEET IT IS
LISSY WALKER is a jazz singer, but her wide-ranging musical interests set her apart from your average chanteuse. An actress and singer for most of her life, Walker brings the tools of those trades to bear on her impressive debut album, Life Is Sweet, on which the dramatic sensibility of her jazz vocals is informed by nuances of folk, pop, and country. A first look at a singer with the potential to advance and expand the Great American Songbook (Ray Davies fits right in with Irving Berlin on her debut album).
EDEN BRENT: PORN’S LOSS, MUSIC’S GAIN
By David McGee
Claiming she lacks the discipline to be a jazz musician or a porn star, Mississippi blues diva EDEN BRENT has done in her alternative pursuit pounding a piano and belting/caressing blues barnburners and ballads, especially on her strong new album, Ain’t Got No Troubles. She’s also busy carrying on the legacy of the musical mentor she spent 17 years learning from, Delta blues piano great Abie ‘Boogaloo’ Ames (shown above with Ms. Brent). ‘I’ve got a bachelor’s degree in music from North Texas, but I’ve got a Ph.D. in Boogaloo,’ Ms. Brent quips in our feature, which goes on to explain exactly how she’s applied Boogaloo’s lessons in pursuit of her own vision.
MARVIN SAPP: ‘My focus is to live a holy and righteous life and to be a light at all times’
By Gerald Bonner, GOSPELflava.com
The gospel superstar’s new album, Here I Am, looks to be following the same pattern as his previous blockbuster, Thirsty, a #1 gospel album, a crossover smash, and the prelude to Sapp winning all seven categories in which he was nominated for the 2009 Stellar Awards. Gerald Bonner’s informed piece explains why the artist is indeed a light to others.
BORDER CROSSINGS: THE MUSIC OF CHINA'S NOMADS
Reviving Traditional Music in Xinjiang Province
A Special Report by Anne-Laure Py
From EurasiaNet.org reporter ANNE-LAURE PY comes “The Music of China’s Nomads: Reviving Traditional Music in Xinjiang Province.” This comprehensive piece investigates “a cultural struggle” erupting in the remote Xinjiang Province pitting local ethnic groups striving to defend their distinct traits, especially the Uighurs, in the face of Beijing’s efforts to promote cultural unity. Ms. Py leaves no stone unturned in explaining how a nomadic group of musicians is working daily to preserve the traditional music of their region—she goes into the historical background of the music’s source (and shatters some myths about it, too), examines the unusual instruments the musicians employ in creating their compelling music (such as the Sybyzghy, for instance), and interviews musical scholars for a broader perspective on what is actually occurring in the Province. In addition, her report is supplemented by an eight-part video shot in the various areas of Xinjiang Province that she explored, and documenting how the nomads are “trying to revive traditional culture and ethnic music following the devastation of the Cultural Revolution.” It’s an awesome piece.
M*A*S*H: ‘The Best American War Comedy Since Sound Came In’
Celebrating Robert Altman’s 1970 Film Classic
Robert Altman was the 18th choice for director, and producer Ingo Preminger said if he'd seen his previous film, That Cold Day in the Park, starring Sandy Dennis as a female sexual predator, Altman never would have been hired. Look what happened.
I SING OF, IF NOT ALONG WITH, MITCH—By David McGee
Thank you, MITCH MILLER. Thank you for it all.
Plus, RICHARD SEVERO’s informed obituary of ‘the man who invented pop music.’
The Gods of Noon
By Christopher Hill
Experiencing Egypt’s Pyramids in person, our correspondent comes to understand the ancient, looming structures as ‘a sort of shorthand for the Absolute. Like walking on the moon or a night with Scarlett Johansen.’
7 IMPOSSIBLE THINGS BEFORE BREAKFAST—by JULES
Being about a delightful piece on a notable new entry in kids’ lit, Bink & Gollie, by KATE DICAMILLO and ALLISON MCGHEE, illustrated by TONY FUCILE. Publishers Weekly described Bink & Gollie as “Pippi Longstocking meets The Big Bang Theory.” You’ll want to check out what Jules has to say about it, and take a look at her Kicks of the month while you’re at it.
THE BLOGGING FARMER: Eggs-actly
By Alex Tiller
Our Blogging Farmer was intending to take on cattle ranching vs. farming this month—and then the big egg scare of 2010 broke out. ‘Could this all have been avoided—and would you, as a consumer, have been willing to pay an extra penny per dozen (that's .01c, folks) to have stopped it from happening?’ Tiller asks, and then proceeds to answer his own questions.
TALKING ANIMALS—By Duncan Strauss
This month Duncan Strauss interviews ALAN RABINOWITZ, one of the most interesting humans on the planet, whose inspiring story includes his lifelong battle to overcome a stuttering condition, which has not stopped him from doing all he can to preserve the world’s big cats via his Panthera organization. And while all this is going on, he’s also been recently diagnosed with chronic lymphatic leukemia. Rabinowitz is a most remarkable man, and we look forward to continuing to spotlight his work. With Duncan’s overview of Rabinowitz’s appearance on his show, we also provide a link to the Talking Animals site so you can listen to the entire, fascinating interview.
In Gospel News & Notes this month: the Southern Gospel Music Association (SGMA) is awarding of its 2010 James D. Vaughan "Impact Award" to DOLLY PARTON. And from The Black Gospel Blog, BOB MAROVICH offers his monthly gospel album picks, Debbie Orange Sings Church Live and the Mighty Sincere Voices’ Sing, Sing In Glory.
Much good music, and some of a more dubious nature, has been reissued by Collector’s Choice from the vaults of Philadelphia’s ‘50s and early ‘60s CAMEO-PARKWAY labels. Remember Me, Baby: Cameo Parkway Vocal Groups spotlights some gifted but lesser known group harmony aggregates on the label, some of which deserved more than they achieved in the marketplace but live again on this disc. Individual artist entries spotlight a wonderful collection of THE ORLONS; a mixed-bag of BOBBY RYDELL; a true oddity in a collection of western songs sung by CLINT EASTWOOD; a woeful, cringe-inducing set of CHUBBY CHECKER monstrosities; and a most interesting retrospective of prototypical late ‘60s mainstream rock from TERRY KNIGHT & THE PACK, the forerunner of Grand Funk Railroad.
A tribute to ABBEY LINCOLN
‘I Made My Life Mine’—an appreciaton of Abbey Lincoln, who was one of a kind—as was always her goal.
*GEORGE DAVID WEISS—A tribute to the man who wrote ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love,’ “Oh What a Wonderful World’ and ‘Lullaby of Birdland’ and a was a tireless advocate of songwriters’ rights as president of the Songwriters Guild of America. A sidebar piece, ‘Stories Behind the Songs,’ includes video performances of these classic tunes as well as Frank Sinatra’s original recordings of Weiss’s ‘Oh What It Seemed To Be’ from 1946.
COMMON STRINGS, Somewhere In Glory—Somewhere In Glory could hardly be a more dramatic turn away from the traditional and especially the progressive secular bluegrass Common Strings advanced on its debut, but there is no news to indicate they won’t go back from whence they started. For the moment, this new work can be enjoyed as a spiritual statement of purpose, of a sort, and somewhere down the line, many more long players from now, how it fits into a larger body of work will be apparent.
STEVE GULLEY & TIM STAFFORD, Dogwood Winter—One of 2010’s finest releases is a dream pairing of acclaimed bluegrass veterans Steve Gulley and Tim Stafford. The bottom line is, as Gulley said in a statement to the press, “the songs themselves.” Dogwood Winter may be oddly named for a late spring-early summer release (it surfaced this past May), but the title, the title song and the desolate cover photo—a lone dogwood tree blooming in the midst of a deep snowfall—prove an apt metaphor for a batch of tunes as deeply reflective as these, performed with singer-songwriter intimacy and subtly accompanied by pickers who know about atmospherics.
TIM O’BRIEN, Chicken & Egg— This is Tim O’Brien at the apex of his art; you think he cannot possibly top his previous album, and he does. Somewhere John Hartford is smiling, along with the rest of us.
ROSEHILL, White Lines and Stars—Rosehill—Mitch McBain and Blake Myers, out of Texas—come forth with the imprimatur of one Radney Foster, himself a Lone Star lad who knows a thing or two about what makes a song work and when it’s real. Foster and his studio co-conspirator Jay Clementi co-produced White Lines and Stars, and both contribute their songwriting artistry to several of the tunes. The upshot? McBain and Myers got it going on, and White Lines and Stars looks like the frontrunner for country debut of the year.
AL CASTIGLIA, Keepin On—Those who have been following Al Castiglia since the release of his debut CD (Burn) in 2002 know he’s been on an upward path since then, and are likely to be unsurprised by the depth of his artistry—vocally, instrumentally, and as a writer—he exhibits on Keepin On. Even so, this new long player is a bold step forward for him, and an indisputable sign that he’s ready to join the pantheon of contemporary blues men. To those new to Castiglia’s work, Keepin On is a memorable introduction.
PETER PARCEK, The Mathematics of Love—Let’s face it, when Buddy Guy tells you “you’re as bad as Eric Clapton,” and Pinetop Perkins makes you his touring bandleader, you’re flat dealin’ some blues. The Mathematics of Love is his national debut, and it brims with the multitude of influences the gifted Parcek has absorbed and transformed into a personal voice. It’s a bonafide coming out for a solo artist who has found his voice, irrefutably, indubitably and provocatively.
PETE SEEGER, Tomorrow’s Children—An album of songs featuring Pete Seeger, some younger friends, and some really younger friends—fourth graders from a school in Pete’s home bases of Beacon, NY—promoting the idea of responsible stewardship of the environment and energy-efficient solutions to the energy crisis: this is the climate change deniers’ worst nightmare in the form not of a scholarly Al Gore treatise but a multi-generational, common sense appeal to take care of the world around us, because its health is intrinsic to our own. Tomorrow is today. It starts here.
ABBEY LINCOLN—musical performances through the years, and In Her Own Words, plus a nice scene from her 1968 film, For Love of Ivy, in which she co-starred with SIDNEY POITIER, who co-wrote the script.
And to send you on your way, a tender moment from Dvorak, via LUCIA POPP, ‘Song Of the Moon.’ Remember love.