Archive for June, 2009

update: today’s show…

June 29, 2009

logo-mini2…is postponed due to insurmountable equipment problems this afternoon at the Radiator. (I guess some music’s just too hot for your average studio setup.)

And since I’ll be out of town next week at the Montreal Jazz Festival, no show next Monday either. Lots of live music between now and then, though, so watch for music updates here and listen for the next “World of Music” in its regular time (3-5pm) on Monday, July 13th.

We hope!

like a refugee

June 27, 2009

Ashade Pearce, lead guitar

Ashade Pearce, lead guitar

“You left your country to seek refuge, in another man’s land…you will be confronted by strange dialects, you will be fed unusual diets…you’ve got to sleep in a tarpaulin house, which is so hard…you’ve to sleep on a tarpaulin mat, which is so cold…living like a refugee… “

I first heard those lyrics a couple of years ago – a snowy afternoon, if I remember right – on St. Patrick’s Day during the annual Green Mountain Film Festival.

I knew I should have been focusing less on the lyrics and more on the visuals of the film that day. But it’s that kind of music.

The Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars‘ story is widely known now, as the individuals who make up the group fled their country’s brutal civil war in the ’90s and came together to make music in a neighboring Guinea refugee camp. That’s where Woodstock, VT native Zach Niles caught up with them. A fan of African music, Zach and a partner went to Africa to create a film about the role of music in West African refugee camps. He made the Refugee All Stars film in 2005, and has  continued his involvement with the group since then as their manager.

The lineup has varied a little from the original six members, most recently with the unexpected death last March of bassist Idrissa Mallam Bangura. In their common mission and experience, though, they remain constant: messages of peace, happiness, and unity still rest firmly at the heart of their music.

Today’s blue skies and sunlit afternoon countered those first snowy film festival memories of  the Refugees, as they lit up the Green at Dartmouth College and launched the “eMotion” Arts Festival.

A most fortuitous omen  for a positive, creative, artistically inspirational summer ahead!

rachmaninoff rediscovered

June 24, 2009


Heard recently on NPR: music producer Tom Manoff’s review of the new 24 Preludes recording, by pianist Steven Osborne.

(Note to self: get this. Soon!)

sunday: four ‘f’s and a ‘u’

June 22, 2009
Cumbancha World Music

Cumbancha World Music, pre-party

The phrase “world class party” takes on a  whole new dimension of meaning, when you’re talking about a party at the Cumbancha headquarters.

By definition, “cumbancha” means ‘party’ – and that’s about all you need to know to get the scope of yesterday’s gathering.

The occasion? There were actually a few reasons, all of which contributed to the “Four F” theme of the day’s event: Father’s Day, the First day of summer; Fête de la Musique (the international day of music); and,…the fortieth birthday of Cumbancha founder Jacob Edgar. Any one of those excuses occasions (or none at all, actually) would have been reason enough, but with that many great vibes in the air it just had to happen.

It still surprises folks sometimes – even some who live in Vermont, and love world music – to learn that the quiet barn sitting there in the Charlotte countryside is Cumbancha’s offices. The label’s recordings have won top international acclaim and awards, and the artists it represents are from places as far away as Israel, Ivory Coast, Cuba, Peru, and…far beyond. I can tell you that your initial ‘quiet, pastoral’ impression of the place would be turned right around to be inside the place on any given Friday afternoon; hundreds of envelopes being stuffed and mailed, phonecalls often taking place in several different languages, and website and database and library work all being done at the same time. It takes a lot of work to be known on seven continents.

Movement of the People: the Fela Kuti Tribute project

Movement of the People: the Fela Kuti Tribute project (part of the archive in the background)

And the archive! Along with the business office, the barn also houses the combined recording library with Putumayo World Music of thousands of CDs from around the world. I’ve been volunteering and working part-time there for a couple of years now. I  haven’t looked for an ethnic recording yet that I haven’t been able to find, whether it’s from the Seychelles or Comoros Islands; Mali or New Zealand or Nicaragua or anywhere else . Everyone’s in there – it’s amazing.

Jake Shimabukuro

Jake Shimabukuro

So consider that this vast global cultural archive, floor to ceiling lining the interior walls of the barn, served as the backdrop for yesterday’s party: as Vermont’s own Movement of the People: Fela Kuti Tribute band laid down the funky Afrobeat groove for the afternoon, the international potluck table along one wall offered everything from Moroccan cous cous to steamed Bratwurst, to Greek salad and a lot of other colorful dishes I’d have to research to be able to identify, much less pronounce. Best just to try it all and not worry about what to call it. Good plan.

Jake playing an original, koto-inspired work:

Jake playing his original, koto-inspired work "Sakura"

How to follow up an afternoon like that?

The only answer I could come up with was: ukulele concert. So that’s what the evening held, as the four “f”s of the afternoon’s party were followed by the “u” of the evening’s show.

Jake Shimabukuro played at Higher Ground for a couple of hours last night in a charming and energetic set that happily included a generous amount of originals, and – of course – the George Harrison song that made Jake and his fearless ukulele an instant YouTube hit a couple of years ago…While My Guitar Gently Weeps. (Haven’t seen it yet? Over 3 million others have, and this is why. It is extraordinary.)

The ukulele sang sweetly like a koto, in Shimabukuro’s gently cherry blossom-flavored original Sakura, and it twanged along just as flatly in his bluegrassy Orange World. (That’s what happens when a young artist goes on tour with veterans like Bela Fleck and the Flecktones – it has a certain effect.) Shimabukuro has a keen ear for the characteristics that make instruments like the koto or the banjo unique, and his ability to adapt those voices to the ukulele is uncanny.

His technique and artistry on the instrument are unassailable. Likewise with his stage presence: warm and personal, creating a comfortable  environment for the intimate experience of a solo ukulele concert. The original compositions Shimabukuro played were somewhat less successful. Spirited, inspired (a word he uses often, and with good reason) and undoubtedly earnest in their intent,  the repetitive, often mono-dynamic, ‘call and response’ style characterizing many of them leaves some room for maturing and development.

It’s good he has something left to learn in the long career that surely lies ahead. As a 32-year old performer now he’s already done more as a musician than many do in a lifetime.

playlist #76 (6/22/2009)-new jazz & world tunes

June 22, 2009
World of Music
Pgm #76 – 6/22/09 – featuring Mamane Barka and his ancient instrument, the 5-string harp called the “biram”
Listen online Mondays 3-5pm EDT at The Radiator
Nas with Youssou N’Dour & Neneh Cherry: Wake Up (It’s Africa Calling) / Open Remix / – (download) – (USA / SENEGAL)
Mamane Barka: Wo Kuru / Introducing Mamane Barka / World Music Network INTRO 114 – (NIGER) *NEW*
Ojos de Brujos: Sultanas de Merkaillo / Techarí / Diquela Records 5 – (SPAIN)
Lenny Bruce: Psycopathia Sexuales / Burlesque / Glab!! Records 2 – (USA)
Allen Toussaint: St. James Infirmary / The Bright Mississippi / Nonesuch 480380 – (N’AWLINS) *NEW*
Adriana Maciel featuring Moska: Tô (You) / Poeira Leve / Deckdisc 22031 – (BRAZIL)
El Tanbura: Shoft Toshy / Between The Desert and The Sea / World Village 450002 – (EGYPT) *NEW*
Béatrice Bonifassi & Benôit Charest: Belleville Rendez-Vous (Demo) / The Triplets of Belleville film soundtrack / Higher Octave Soundtracks 96811 – (FRANCE)
Marimba á Tun Tun: Morena Hermosa / Nicaragua Presente! / Rounder 11564 – (NICARAGUA)
Vieux Farka Touré (remixed by Fabian Alsultany): Courage / UFOs Over Bamako / Modiba 5 – (MALI)
Aceituna sin hueso: Para La Libertad / Cuba: La Canta a Serrat / ZunZún Cuba 999 – (CUBA)
Arúan Ortiz Trio: Invisible / Arúan Ortiz Trio vol. 1 / Ayva Music 33 – (SPAIN)
Giorgio Conte: Balla Con Me (Dance With Me) / Italia / Putumayo 290 – (ITALY) *NEW*
Hüsnü Şenlendirici: Şina Nari / The Joy of the Clarinet / Doublemoon 30 – (TURKEY)
The Crash: Big Ass Love / Come hear. Finland. / Kukko (demo) – (FINLAND)
Glaz: Run / Ar Gest / Déclic Communication 334 – (IRELAND)
High Tone (DJ Click remix): Bad Weather / Labesse / No Fridge 4 – (INDIA/UK)
Jimmy Cliff : Many Rivers to Cross / Ultimate Collection / Hip-O 314 546 727 – (JAMAICA)
Kandia Kouyate: Kandali / Kita Kan / Sterns Africa 1088 – (MALI)
Amos Hoffman: I Met You / Evolution / RazDaz 4606 – (ISRAEL)
Terrakaft: Tahra A Issasnanane / Akh Issudar / World Village 469084 – (WESTERN SAHARA)
Harry Manx: Afghani Raga / Mantras for Madmen / Dog My Cat Records 13982 – (INDIA)
Lora Chiorah-Dye and Sukutai: Chemtengure / Safarini in Transit: Music of African Immigrants / Smithsonian Folkways 40457 – (ZIMBABWE)
Souad Massi: Ilham / World Music Produced in France Compilation / Bureau Export 2005 – (ALGERIA)
Badar Ali Khan: Love / Lost in Qawwali III / Media Creature Music 3 – (PAKISTAN)
Waves Band: Nou Devwar / Only a Dream / Kelele Records 31003 – (SEYCHELLES ISLANDS)

meet the past

June 21, 2009


A new recording from World Music Network introduces us to Niger’s Mamane Barka and the biram, an ancient holy 5-string harp long played by the nomad cultures living along Lake Chad. Mamane is the last biram master in the world, as younger generations of desert people have moved on and are no longer learning how to play it.

This week on World of Music we’ll hear Mamane Barka’s debut recording, along with new music from Turkey, Italy (featuring Paolo Conte’s brother, Giorgio!), and Finland. Lenny Bruce will stop with some thoughts on poetry and jazz, and we’ll swing it with music from the Triplets of Belleville film soundtrack. Listen to “World of Music” online (Mondays, 3-5pm EDT) or at 105.9FM in Burlington, VT.


June 20, 2009


Two benefit events tonight; each very different from the other but both musical:

Joel Najman, MC of the event

Joel Najman, MC of the event

#1 – The annual car show with the Vermont Street Rodders at Libby’s Blue Line Diner in Colchester is also a benefit event for the local Ronald McDonald house, and a fun night outdoors with oldies rock-n-roll, a live band, and more cool cars in a single place than you’ll find in any Jan & Dean song. Free cake too, courtesy of the diner. I always look forward to that. It was my third year coming to the show. They raised over $1,000 for the House and eight proud rodders walked away with the show’s top prizes. Nice rides, all. (My pick of the lot: the sweet cherry Buick with the chrome grill, pictured top. Does it come with AC and a side-impact airbags? Only kidding.)

From there we moved on to…


#2 – Each November the Jeh Kulu West African dancers & drummers hold their annual festival, and tonight was the fundraiser for the festival. For four hours the barn at the Intervale featured live DJs and a band, along with the whole Jeh Kulu troupe in the kind of joyous performance that makes them one of the most popular local dance/drum groups in the region. In Vermont, barns are just as likely to house art exhibits and evening dances as they are livestock. This is how we celebrate summer and live up the longest night of the year – how do you do it? (The magic of the show was only matched by the firefly display in the darkened country fields on the way home. It is summertime. Happy solstice!)      2009-Jun20-JehKulu02



music and then some

June 20, 2009

2009-Jun18-OnTheAirThe week started in downtown Burlington with the last sweet notes of this year’s Discover Jazz Festival, and it ended just as nicely: with Thursday evening’s recording session featuring music of Lake Champlain, and last night’s red-hot set of standards with Ray Vega’s new Quartet at the bakery in Richmond.

No doubt: I am very fortunate that both the professional and personal areas of my life are so frequently filled with music, and usually such different kinds. A day that starts with two hours on the air hosting beautiful classical music often continues in the afternoon as I listen to new world music in the barn while working in the Cumbancha/Putumayo database, and concludes later that same evening by catching live music somwehere: classical, jazz, world, or any variety of local performers. Very fortunate.

Both Thursday and Friday this week were days like that: hosting classical music on the air in the morning (commemorating “Juneteenth” on yesterday’s show); working at Cumbancha/Putumayo in the afternoon, and then enjoying live music in the evening.

On Thursday eve around 7,  the forces gathered in the VPR performance studio to record the last artist we’ll be including in the Champlain 400 music showcase. (The program is scheduled to air later this summer, as part of the station’s and the region’s wider Quadricentennial celebrations. You may remember my mentioning it here when the first showcase recording session took place over Memorial Day weekend, included the French Canadian fiddler/guitar duo of Lisa Ornstein and André Marchand, and singer/songwriter Alan Greenleaf. What a day that was!)

Robert & Deb recording in the VPR studio

Robert & Deb recording in the VPR studio

Singer, songwriter and historian Deb Flanders stopped by to share an intimate set of traditional and original songs largely reflecting the personal stories of the Lake’s Anglo settlers. Found and lost love, distant love, struggle and survival and despair and optimism…the 9,000+ songs and ballads that comprise the extensive collection of Deb’s great-Aunt, Helen Hartness Flanders represent a comprehensive narrative of  the collective and individual immigrant experiences. From the haunting ballad of The Butcher Boy to Deb’s original additions to the archive, Thursday evening’s music offered a quietly poignant, very personal cross-section of that vast experience.

Last night’s live music was a nothing short of a mainline into the other end of the intro/extroverted energy spectrum. Late in the week I found out that Ray Vega was going to be bringing his Quartet to Richmond’s On the Rise bakery. Having seen Ray just a couple of weeks ago with the new UVM Jazz Collective, I was ready for more and eager to hear him in a smaller ensemble setting.

The only complicating factor? I work on the Burlington side of the Richmond Bridge (where On the Rise is), but I live on “the other side” of it.

March, 2009: taking the backroads home

March, 2009 - at your own risk: taking the VT backroads home in mud season

A little history: in early March (yes, the start of ‘mud season’ here), the Bridge closed for structural repairs, necessitating any number of creative alternate routes around it on dirt roads for anyone living on ‘the other’ side. That is, anyone – like me – living at the southern end of Chittenden County and dependent on the Huntington Main Road (and the Richmond Bridge) to be connected to the rest of the county. Besides adding another 10 min. (minimum: that’s without school buses or heavy weather or excessive mud) to the daily commute to/from Burlington, the temporary closure effectively bifurcated the Richmond business district and severed the main route through town. The Bridge was scheduled to reopen in time for the annual 4th of July parade to pass through, but I read that the contractors  also had a tiered scale of financial incentives available to them to encourage an earlier completion.

So: back to last night. In considering whether or not I  would go to the bakery to see Ray Vega’s Quartet for their 8pm set, I also had to think seriously about driving home afterward – without the benefit of the Bridge – tired, through the winding (deer, fox, beaver and moose-filled) backroads to get home. It’s funny, I admit it. But a little less so when dodging the wildlife very late at night in the pitch dark. I decided to do it anyway and just be extra vigilant and careful on the drive home afterward. This is just something I never had to think about when I lived in LA, where heading home meant leaving the wild life behind.

I arrived in Richmond yesterday evening around 6 for a pre-concert pizza at the Bridge Street Café, and noticed right away the unusual amount of traffic at the top of the Street. Was the Quartet drawing all the traffic? Or the Friday afternoon Farmer’s Market? Or…?

Turns out the Bridge had just reopened! Two weeks early! I learned when I got to the bakery that when the day’s construction ended (at 6pm), there had been a brief ceremony and the Bridge reopened for business. Great news.

Then the music began. I was just thinking as the Quartet launched into their opener, Cedar Walton’s hard-driving Bolivia, that even if I had the longer (dark, beaverous) drive home to look forward to afterward, it would have been worth it.  They play for keeps, whether straight-ahead grooving or lingering over the delicious notes of a ballad like Tom Jones’ What’s New Pussycat? (the tune Ray dedicated to his wife, sitting at a table right in front: “This one’s for you honey.” And then, as an aside to the rest of the room: “Now I’ll really play the blues! ”  Love his humor. And his fluglehorn sound.)

Ray Vega Quartet at On the Rise bakery

The Quartet: Ray Vega (trumpet & fluglehorn), Tom Cleary (piano), John Rivers (bass) and Jeff Salisbury (drums)

They ended the set with a tribute to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, in its 50th anniversary year: All Blues.

My week ended with smiles, friends, great coffee and a sunset-lit table in the corner, enjoying the Quartet. And a short, quick drive home thanks to the reopened Bridge.

In other words: anything but the blues.

the shape of jazz that came

June 17, 2009

2009-Jun17-OrnetteColeman“Above all, Coleman’s sound on the alto had a piercing cry that was intensely human – a visceral, urgent quality that made it a sound that was very hard to forget…”

On today’s edition of Here and Now: the BBC’s Kevin LeGendre’s offered a thoughtful and thorough retrospective on the 50th anniversary year of Ornette Coleman’s landmark recording, The Shape Of Jazz To Come. (It’s landmark, it’s milestone, pivotal, and seminal, all of the usual adjectives apply here for a very unusual and special recording – when will we have the ability to spontaneously create new words to match the innovative impact of music like this?)

BDJ Festival, days 8-10: the wrap

June 16, 2009
And on the seventh day, the sousaphone rested.

And on the seventh day... (the sousaphone rested.)

Well maybe it says enough about the last three days of the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival that I didn’t have time to jump in here and share an update until now, two days after it has ended.

Every day was filled with tents and stages, artists and good friends, and dancing to the sounds of the area’s best street performers and school-aged bands and ensembles.

Each night rang with music from the festival’s headliners and the wide variety of acts in neighborhood clubs, cafés and streetside patios.

Reggae, gypsy swing, close harmony, experimental, big band, little band, funk, African drumming, a Fela Kuti tribute, and gospel singing…we didn’t miss anything.

Impossible to pick out the best of the lot from the last three days: was it the Branford Marsalis concert last Friday evening, where we were

Corey Harris

Corey Harris

introduced to his brilliant new 18-year old (!) drummer? The after-party at the Thai restaurant with the area’s hottest Afro-Cuban jam band? Maybe it was the inspiring City Park sidewalk drawing contest, and deep reggae groove at the Waterfront Tent on Saturday night. Or Anat Cohen’s off-the-charts performance on opening night. Or, the gospel singers on the Marketplace Sunday afternoon, followed by the sweet swing of Django stylings at the local coffee house.

Really impossible.

I can tell you I didn’t see and hear everything I wanted to during the Festival’s 10 days: on Saturday night I made the call to stay in the Tent and ride out the rain with   Pato Banton’s positive jah vibes, instead of walking up the hill to hear Pink Martini singing at the Flynn

Lettuce @ the Waterfront Tent

Lettuce @ the Waterfront Tent

Theatre. That meant I also missed Martini’s hot opening act, the innovative, quirky, and unconventionally ingenious Sneakin’ Out. Great fun! Or so I heard. They played typewriters. Apparently really well. I do regret missing that.

It was a strong Festival with a lot of high points: planned, many unplanned, and several that weren’t even directly related to the Festival. (The banjo happening at the Firehouse Gallery – unbelievable.)

The only act that didn’t quite measure up artistically was still entertaining. Saxophonist/vocalist/songwriter Grace Kelly lit up the FlynnSpace last Tuesday night with her charm and natural stage presence, even if her music didn’t reach that same level of accomplishment. It’s a tough one to criticize. She’s 17, and the fact that she’s leading her own group at festivals around the world is a notable achievement in itself. But a little less time touring and more time practicing, developing a unique voice, and becoming a stronger player and singer will ultimately be the key to making sure that Grace makes the transition from teen phenom to adult contender in the next crucial couple of years. She can do it, she has everything and more it takes to be great. Even time is on her side, and how many artists can say that?

Yesterday downtown I saw the Festival banners coming down, posters being scraped off the inside of shop windows, and the energy on the Marketplace had already been transformed from the creative crackle of the past week to the usual hum of more typical touristy summer activity.

That just means it’s time to start planning for Discover Jazz Festival 2010!

(Congratulations to the Festival staff, sponsors, partners, the volunteer crew, and ALL of the musicians and artists who made this year’s Festival such a rich experience.)

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