ANNIVERSARIES: Dinah Washington Born 90 Years Ago

Dinah Washington (8/29/24-12/14/63) was one of the last great examples of female blues singers regularly working in a jazz band context. Many aficionados would say that she was surpassed in this style only by Bessie Smith. First Issue: The Dinah Washington Story, the two-CD set that proudly features the commemorative stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service in 1993 to mark the 30th anniversary of her premature death at age 39 (from an overdose of alcohol and diet pills), offers the finest overview of Washington's artistry, ranging from her first records under her own name in 1943 to her classic material for the Verve, Mercury, EmArcy, and Wing labels from 1946 through 1961 (with at least one item from every year in that span), missing only her last two years, when she was on Roulette. Read more »

The Original Basement Tapes!

Much has been made of Columbia's epic failure to release the Americana juggernaut The Basement Tapes -- Bob Dylan and The Band's prodigious output of music recorded in Woodstock, NY in 1967. Well, that is all about to change in early November as that label's Legacy imprint finally gets it right. Read more »

Starred Up: A Return to Oz

There’s nothing like a family reunion, especially when it takes place in a British penitentiary

And for new inmate Eric Love (Jack O’Connell), who last recalls being with his pop, Neville (Ben Mendelsohn), when he was a five year old, it should be especially poignant. After all there he was old bouncing upon dadda’s knee, a knee that’s been doing hard time ever since. Read more »

Quote of the Week: Stephen Colbert

"Thankfully, dreams can change. If we'd all stuck with our first dream, the world would be overrun with cowboys and princesses."

Stephen Colbert (born 13 May 1964), American Emmy-award winning television host, political satirist, writer, comedian, and actor.

Song of the Day: First Aid Kit - "Master Pretender"

Loyal readers know my profound affection for Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit. Here's a wonderful live acoustic take on a tune from their latest long player Stay Gold (Sony Records). Catch them live.

ANNIVERSARIES: William "Count" Basie Born 110 Years Ago

Born on August 21, 1904 in Red Bank, New Jersey, William James Basie was taught piano by his mother. At age 20 he moved to Harlem, center of the jazz piano world at that time, and soon began touring with various groups. He first gained fame in Bennie Moten's band, based in Kansas City; when Moten died in 1935, Basie formed his own group incorporating many Moten men.

Columbia Records producer/A&R man John Hammond heard Basie's band on the radio and made the first recordings of the band in 1936, but it was when Basie started recording for Decca in 1937 that he made his most classic records. The three-CD set The Complete Decca Recordings is the crucial documentation of what may have been the hardest-swinging big band, and additionally shows why Lester Young became an icon of the tenor saxophone. Each of the three discs in this set is devoted to one year of the period 1937-39, after Basie and his band had moved to New York City. Read more »

Song of the Day: Joseph Arthur - "Robin"

Singer-songwriter Joseph Arthur shares his poignant and heartfelt tribute to Robin Williams. Please listen and share. As Robin once said, "No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world."

Clamour of Cabaret

A Clamour of Cabaret: A Volume of Vaudeville Varietals
Dysfunctional Theatre Company
UNDER St. Marks, 94 St. Marks Place
Through August 16

The Dysfunctional Theatre Company's mission statement explains that the group considers the underperformed plays and twisted classics, which they present to be dysfunctional to show that "dysfunction isn’t a product of 21st or even 20th century life [but] a product of the human condition." A Clamour of Cabaret, hosted by bottle-wielding and genially bickering hosts F. Scott Fitzgerald (Rob Brown) and Edna St. Vincent Millay (Jennifer Gill), demonstrates the dysfunction within the narratives and other characteristic bits that leap to the nostalgic mind at the mention of "vaudeville" and "cabaret" performances, but it does so delightfully.

As characters struggle for control over the production -- the late arrival of Fitzgerald and Millay leads La Diva Chiara Tarabotti (Nicole Lee Aiossa, a dominant comic presence whenever she is on stage) to think that she will be hosting, the lighting and sound director (Justin Plowman) steps onto the stage to fill in as straight man for a rapidly collapsing take on "Who’s on First?" -- the show runs the gamut through song, dance, and light comedy, but each episode subverts the expectations built around the genre. Read more »

Dusty Wright - "29 Palms"

This is an unreleased bonus track for my solo album If We Never... It's a cover from former Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant's 1993 Fate of Nations album. Cellist Matt Goeke lends his melodic playing throughout. Buy it today!

George Romero: The Master of Socially Conscious Horror

Few filmmakers can be said to be as prolific and influential as George Romero. An icon of the zombie film genre, Romero’s love of horror traces back to his youth, and watching classic monster films such as Frankenstein and Dracula. Romero’s love of these films set him on a path to not only create horror films himself, but to change and redefine the genre for decades to come. Read more »

Frans Brüggen R.I.P. October 30, 1934 – August 13, 2014

Frans Brüggen, who died today at age 79, co-founded the Dutch period-performance collective ensemble The Orchestra of the 18th Century in 1981 and continued to lead it even after he had to do so while seated. He was quoted in 2008 as saying that he planned to conduct until he dropped dead, and he did. And before his conducting career, he arguably did more to return the recorder (AKA flûte à bec, flauto dolce, Blockflöte) to prominence than anybody else in the 20th century. Brüggen's talents and intellectual devotion to period performance were recognized early; at age 21, he was appointed professor at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. He was one of the pioneers of "early music"/"period performance," a giant in his field, and his prolific recording career enriched the world immeasurably. Here are a few samples of his virtuosity. Read more »

Quote of the Week: Lady Gaga

"When you make music or write or create, it's really your job to have mind-blowing, irresponsible, condomless sex with whatever idea it is you're writing about at the time."

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta AKA Lady Gaga (born March 28, 1986), American singer and fashion icon

Bring Me The Puppet Head of...!

Puppet Titus Andronicus
The Puppet Shakespeare Players, directed by Ryan Rinkel

If you like your Elizabethan revenge tragedy filtered through a mixture of Avenue Q and a Robot Chicken episode, then you can probably stop reading right here and go buy tickets to Puppet Titus Andronicus. This raucous reimagining of William Shakespeare's already over-the-top blood-soaked drama renders Muppet-on-Muppet mutilation and familial cannibalism more fun (and funny) than it probably has any right to be. The cast takes the Bard's early commercial hit, a play that begins with a religious sacrifice, runs through several deaths and a rape, and ends with a series of rapid-fire onstage murders that ostensibly tie up all of the loose ends--and which later, for reasons not understood by this reviewer, fell into critical disfavor for a couple of hundred years--and cloaks it in felt and silly string, combining the original text, scripted jokes, and improvisation. Read more »

A Gallery Ramble under Darkening Clouds

Elizabeth: Trawling around today's Chelsea galleries recently made David and I mindful of the days when we would wander the streets of SOHO looking at art in some pretty great galleries. After the sun set, there were no Comme des Garçons or Cookshop to light the way home, but thin bedraggled men filling dumpsters with compacted shredded rags from the remaining sweatshops that dotted the area south of Houston Street. Frankly most of what was below Houston in the late 1970s and 80s was pretty creepy, outside of a few old standbys. Still, if you were there for the art, music or dancing, its edginess was exciting and romantic. It was also affordable to take a cab out of there -- if you could find one. 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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