Jack Bruce, RIP!

Bassist Jack Bruce has passed on at the age of 71 of liver disease. No one lives forever, but he will always be best known for his power trio Cream with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker. I was fortunate enough to catch their reunion tour in 2005 at Madison Square Garden. I was blown away by Jack's bass playing and his strong vocals throughout. And this was a man who had survived liver cancer and a liver transplant just a few short years earlier. Certainly his legendary power trio was a tough act to follow, but Bruce has many albums in his discography both before and after his classic rock trio; not only with British blues bands such as Alexis Korner’s Blues Inc., the Graham Bond Organisation, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, and Manfred Mann, but a robust solo career, too. And in 1994, in an effort to recreate the energy and excitement of Cream, he, Ginger Baker, and Gary Moore toured and released the excellent BBM album. The world has lost yet another rock icon.

Unearthed Gems from Leon Fleisher's Past

An American-born pianist, Fleisher was a child prodigy who studied with Artur Schnabel. In 1950 he moved to Europe to pursue his career, which paid off when he won the Queen Elisabeth Piano Competition of Belgium in 1952. In this time, there was an abundance of radio orchestras, and the young Fleisher was a popular guest soloist. Released earlier this year -- I've been meaning to review them for months -- the recordings here are examples.

The participants' credentials in the Beethoven, recorded in 1960, are excellent. Fleisher studied with Schnabel, who studied with Theodor Leschetizky, who studied with Carl Czerny, who studied with Beethoven; Cluytens recorded all the Beethoven Symphonies with the Berlin Philharmonic starting in 1957, that organization's first recorded Beethoven cycle -- consider how much respect this implies for a Belgian-born French conductor to have beaten Karajan himself to the punch in this repertoire. Read more »

Wish You Were Here

Sign Language: A Painter's Notebook  (Three Rooms Press, 2014)  pays homage to the lost art of urban outdoor sign painting, in photos, drawings and words. A mashup of angular skylines, unusual people and unique pockets of the world’s greatest city, woven with poems detailing the danger, fear, and freedom in soaring heights. The author/photographer creates an immersion into a rarified world of danger and beauty, that raises the sense of the importance of moments, and blurs the boundary between public and private space

Although John Paul's new book, Sign Language is largely a collection of poems, it is important to keep in mind from the outset that John Paul is primarily a painter. A painter of lush narrative canvases, portrait sketches, and genre scenes, as well as a painter of billboards and movie scenery, and with language, he is a limner of a life lived in New York City. Few painters have the range that Paul has, and fewer still possess the economy of language combined with the rich visual textures that give his poetry the feel of a documentary. One is tempted to compare his work to Dos Passos, or maybe Ferlinghetti, while at the same time the cinematic drama and pathos of Hertzog comes to mind. Read more »

Song of the Month: Glen Campbell - "I'm Not Gonna Miss You"

"I'm Not Gonna Miss You" is the last song Glen recorded in the studio before being forced to retire from the music business due to his well-documented slide into  Alzheimer's. The lyrics reflect all of the pain and suffering so many feel when dealing with this brutal disease. Written specifically for his new documentary I'll Be Me, go see it; you will not easily forget it or Glen's much-deserved legacy as one of the giants of the music industry, country or otherwise. It opens in New York on October 24th and then nationally soon after. This video features some of the moments from the film which captures his unforgettable farewell tour with his family and friends in tow -- both on stage and off.

John Coltrane's Latest Offering

The question is not whether this album is good. It's freakin' John Coltrane, of course it's good (though my expectation of your agreement with that assumes that you appreciate him in free-jazz mode). It's a matter of setting up your expectations properly and prioritizing. So, although this is "the first official release struck from the original master tapes," as opposed to dingy-sounding bootlegs, you still have to be prepared for sub-par sound. This concert was recorded by the Temple radio station, apparently using one microphone up front, so the horns dominate -- though even they come and go. 

And whoever was recording it didn't get every minute; he missed the very beginning, and with just one machine at his disposal, missed the end of "Leo" when he had to change tape reels. So allowances must be made, and if you don't already have all the other Coltrane albums on Impulse!, they are more of a priority. Read more »

Steve's Review Roundup for October

Aphex Twin: Syro (Warp)

Though the length of Richard D. James's absence from the electronic scene has been overstated by people who neglect his less famous aliases, it HAS been almost a decade since we got new music from him, and yes, the release of Syro is a welcome surprise. It is less abrasive (by my tastes, at least) than the aggressive beats found on his previous Aphex Twin album, Drukqs (I'm thinking of the blast-beat assault of 'drill-n-bass' tracks such as "Omgyiya Switch 7"); like Drukqs, Syro offers a wide variety of styles, but the whiplash factor is absent; there are no juxtapositions of frenetic computerized beats and beatless ambient piano pieces here.  Read more »

Song of the Week: David Bowie - "Sue (Or In A Season of Crime)"

As David Bowie and Tony Visconti continue work on a new album, the enigmatic rocker will release a career-spanning greatest hits package entitled Nothing Has Changed due out before Christmas featuring two new songs, the one above and "Tis A Pity She's A Whore," both recorded this past summer. Is "Sue (Or In A Season of Crime)" , a collaboration with jazz arranger Maria Schneider's big band, the track were Bowie finally gets his Anthony Newley meets Gil Evans meets drum-n-bass on? You decide...

Oh, Those One-Percenters

That Poor Dream
Directed by Jess Chayes
Presented by The Assembly at the New Ohio Theatre
154 Christopher St., New York, NY
October 4th - 26th, 2014

That Poor Dream was written and developed collectively by the members of the Assembly Theater Project, which describes its goals as creating performances that both "address the complexities of our ever-changing world" and ground artists and audience alike in “a profound sense of community;” the play transposes Charles Dickens's novel Great Expectations onto the social topography of current-day New York City. The play recontextualizes the social and economic rise and fall of the original, Dickensian Pip in a world of penthouse apartments and $1,000 omelets, a move that highlights that while the world may be "ever-changing," the class systems of Victorian England and the twenty-first century United States remain closer and more rigidly exploitative than we like to tell ourselves.  Indeed, the Metro-North train that serves as the play’s setting (and most of the set) could be seen as a metaphor for, among other ways of looking at the course of a life, the determinism of a society in which, Pip's heretofore secret benefactor Magwitch tells us, one can be only either a shepherd or a sheep.   Read more »

Quote of the Week: Stan Lee

"There is only one who is all powerful, and his greatest weapon is love." Silver Surfer

Stan Lee (born December 28, 1922) is an American comic book writer, editor, publisher, media producer, television host, actor, voice actor, and former president and chairman of Marvel Comics (now in its 75th year). He and Jack Kirby created the lasting legacy of the Silver Surfer, born in 1965. In honor of NY ComicCon 2014.

NY ComicCon 2014!

It's time once again for NY ComicCon...

Check out my pals Mr. Gray and Richard Kind (the Mayor in the new hit TV show Gotham) in action. And don't forget to watch Mr. Gray getting grilled by David Lynch in the episode Getting Lynched!

Matthew Shipp, State-of-the-Art Jazz Pianist

Those who keep up with the more avant-garde end of the jazz spectrum have long known that Matthew Shipp is one of the great pianists, but he's reached a higher level of creativity this decade, most recently displayed in his two releases this year, the new solo album I've Been to Many Places and the trio album The Root of Things. Read more »

Cover Song of the Month: Arborea - "Bad Moon Rising"

Okay, so I admit that for me cover songs are nearly impossible to best. Huge props to the indie folk duo Arborea's pastoral and haunting take on '60s rock icon Creedence Clearwater Revival's hit single -- "Bad Moon Rising" -- as they remolded it in their own image. Perfect fare for a movie soundtrack. Buy it today on iTunes and Amazon!

Poetic License in Public Spaces

Siah Armajani: The Tomb Series
Alexander Gray Associates
September 4 - October 18, 2014

Iranian-born Siah Armajani, inarguably one of the finest sculptors in America to have emerged out of minimal and conceptual art, the main aesthetic strategies of the late 1960s, creates deeply affective rigorous and ruminative work. It appears to be at once elementarily simple and tautly complex. Read more »

Little Q+A: Margaret Roleke + Bradley Rubenstein

Margaret Roleke's life has been spent in New York or the surrounding tri-state area except for three years living in London and two studying in Ohio. Her many trips to Europe, Asia, Central America, and South America have informed her practice. Roleke's art has been exhibited widely in the tri-state area, and also in several international shows. In the last year her work was seen at Scope Miami, Cutlog in New York, Fountain Art Fair in New York, and in several group exhibits in Connecticut, Harlem, and Brooklyn. Read more »

LP One-Take - "Night Like This"

Singer-songwriter LP performs a riveting solo acoustic version of her hit "Night Like This" recorded in NYC at the studio formerly known as The Hit Factory. One-Takes are live performances by artists you know, should know, or will know soon enough. Thanks to Warner Brothers and LP for the rights of usage.

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