Archive for May, 2011

black angels

May 31, 2011

George Crumb had been working on his iconic work Black Angels (for electric string quartet) for nearly a full year before he expressed its association with the Vietman War. The connection was probably inevitable on some level. The year of its compostion spanned most of 1969, and the first few months of 1970.

Black Angels has been on my mind recently, with Memorial Day on the calendar yesterday. So I popped it in today (the definitive recording on Nonesuch with the Kronos Quartet) and gave it a good long listen.

It’s been a while since I’ve heard it – long enough for the many additional ‘instruments’ in it to jump to the forefront and remind me all over again what I love about Crumb’s vision and his innate ability to express it. There are sewing thimbles, glass rods, water glasses, paperclips and mallets. There are maracas, and tam-tams and bass bows  – along with the usual two violins, viola and cello of the Quartet itself.  It’s a whole choir of disparate voices, unified in chilling purposefulness.

This is music that sings and buzzes, it’s furious and sedate and it wails. Black Angels is not a work intended for surface solace, but rather of raw emotional expression. It is a piece of perfect intensity to acknowledge the singular mix of loss and pain and senselessness and reconciliation and resolve that is represented in our national occasion of Memorial Day.

Here’s the second movement – “Absence” – from George Crumb’s Black Angels.

memorial day

May 30, 2011

World of Music is taking Memorial Day off today.

We’ll be back next week with music from artists playing at this year’s Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, tickets to give away for the Fest, and a lot of new international music.

World of Music is a weekly adventure in blues, jazz, poetry, and world music every Monday from 3-5pm ET on the Radiator.  Online, or at 105.9FM if you’re listening in Burlington, VT.

Richmond, VT


is it jazz?

May 30, 2011

Thanks to our friends over at Jazz on the Tube for this tribute to Gil Scott-Heron:

how high’s the water, mama?

May 29, 2011

5/26 - storm over Richmond, VT

The heavy snows we had this winter were followed by epic melting and the wettest April and May in Vermont’s recorded history. The month isn’t over yet, and there is more rain predicted for the next few days.

On May 6th Lake Champlain also topped out at a record-breaking 103.2 – more than a foot above previously recorded highs. By the time the lake crested on that date, it had already been more than two feet above flood stage for a while and flooding all along the lakeshore had already been happening for several weeks.

I live on a large hill and have not personally been afflicted by flooding. The roads I travel have been washed out, crossed by spontaneous min-rivers, and littered with downed trees, branches, and loads of gravel and rocks washed down from nearby hills. Outside of a few hazardous driving experiences I can’t offer much new perspective on the situation that hasn’t already been explored – at least in words – but I can share with you my view of things via some of the photos I’ve taken in the last month or so.

My slideshow is below, I’ll continue to update it as I get around and get more shots.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Keith Vance is a reporter with the Times-Argus, and he’s also put together a nice (to be clear: nice presentation, not subject matter) slideshow of the shots he took in the devastating wake of last Thursday’s storm and immediate flooding:

There is much suffering and loss due to flooding around the entire nation right now, including Vermont. There’s also much that’s unknown about the longer-term effects of the situation. It crossed my mind recently that the annual Burlington Discover Jazz Festival is scheduled to start in a week, and one of its most popular events is the annual Dixieland Jazz Cruise which leaves from the King Street ferry – except that the ferry dock (parking lot, and all surrounding buildings) has been under more than two feet of water for the last month. I wonder how the cruise can happen as planned – will some creative alternate solution be necessary this year?

So it’s hard to imagine today how recovery is going to begin in many of  the areas I’ve seen. Let’s see how things look later this summer, if/when the lake level begins to subside and the extent of the damage can start to be guaged.

Here’s Vermont Public Radio’s flood page, with stories, photos, videos, road closure information, and resources for flood victims.

the revolution will not be…the same.

May 28, 2011

“Gil Scott-Heron died”.

Musically speaking those words have the impact of someone saying the moon just fell from the sky. How could it be true?

For over four decades Gil Scott-Heron asked the hard questions, writing and singing his reality large in poignant, vivid poetry. He held up a mirror to the world around him and implored society to take a long look at itself in that reflection.

The first music of his I remember hearing was on the radio in Denver, where I grew up. At that time (1970s) the town was slowly emerging into a more urban identity. As the population makeup was shifting to include many more Mexican, black, Vietnamese and Hmong families, Denver could no longer be as readily stereotyped by its white cattlemen and horse ranchers and the many who didn’t make it quite all the way to California.

One of the sure signs of the cultural shift was the colorful current of new sounds that overcame Denver’s airwaves in that era: for a while we had a dedicated full-time jazz station; for soul, r&b and disco there was KDKO “the hot sauce”; and AM radio had 95 KIMN – which played its share of the Eagles and Little River Band and Bread, for sure. But they also played Gil Scott-Heron. And, later on, the Sugar Hill Gang’s ground-breaking Rapper’s Delight. I heard The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, and Pieces of a Man, and Whitey On The Moon as a pre-teen and I think I knew on some level in this music I was also hearing the sound of my own future, a soundtrack for a lifelong path of curiousity about poetry and politics and human rights and passionate voices of all musical kinds.

I saw him perform just one time, at the Blue Note in NY City two summers ago. It was in 2009, another pivotal time in his life when he’d just been released from prison after serving a term for possession of crack cocaine and a couple of pipes. His new album “I’m New Here” was ready to be released and he was as feisty as ever.  While the complete Blue Note experience was of mixed success, the music that night was everything I possibly could have hoped for after three+ decades of loving his music.

Thank you Gil Scott-Heron.

He wrote about it so vividly because he lived it. Poet, junkie, pianist, inmate, political observer, singer, civil rights icon, the grandfather of hip-hop: the man. Gil Scott-Heron died last night. He was 62. His message to – and about –  humanity is timeless. Love endures.

May we each honor his memory by finding our own unique voice, and using it. Loudly.

cultcha, vt style

May 26, 2011

When people ask me, “what’s your blog about” I say it’s an arts and culture journal. The perspective is rooted in Vermont, where I live, but the content is world-curious and open-mindedly inclusive.

So let’s file this one under “culture” – in more ways than one.

Summer is coming and one thing you should know is that creemees are a BIG DEAL in Vermont ths time of the year. These are the delicious, soft-serve (but not too soft) ice cream delights piled precariously atop perfectly crunchy cones that barely contain all the melty goodness.

They’re readily found at roadside stands that pop up like dandelions when the daily temps top 65 or so and the last of the snow is gone, for sure, even from the sunless recesses between rock outcrops in the forest.

I enjoy creemees very much, with a mental list of where to find the ones with best consistency, flavor, size, accessories, service, price, or other considerations. While it can happen it’s rare to find all of the best qualities in the same experience.

All creemees are not created equal.

That’s why my good friend (and unfailing creemee accomplice) Michelle has an entire blog dedicated to this very specialized area of Vermont ‘cultcha’. We even got matching creemee t-shirts a couple of summers ago just to really geek out on the whole thing. They’re super cute.

So check out her blog idreamofcremee for photos, tips on what to look for in a good creemee experience, and recommendations for the place to go for just the kind of experience you want.

You’ll never be disappointed again. Not that you can ever go too wrong with a creemee.

what yo-yo said

May 25, 2011

Yo-Yo Ma and me (photo by Ty Robertson)

On the eve of his Burlington appearance in late April, Yo-Yo Ma was the guest of honor at the reception we had at the radio station. Around 60 folks came, invited by both us and the Vermont Symphony Orchestra to enjoy some personal time in his company.

When I wrote about that event I mentioned one of the things that struck me was the short conversation we had (in fairness – he did all the talking) as we walked up the long hallway on his way out of the building. He talked about the importance of public broadcasting – radio, specifically – and of its undeniable worthiness for public funding. I still think about that conversation.

The next night, Yo-Yo Ma and conductor Jaime Laredo joined my colleague Walter Parker on the Flynn Center stage for Musically Speaking, the pre-concert talk. I wanted to share some of the highlights of that interaction – there were many, here are some of the most memorable ones:

Walter Parker: “At our reception last night you mentioned you met Jaime when you were 15.”

Yo-Yo Ma: “Jaime warned me you would embarass all of us here at some point. (laughs…)

WP: “We were all 15 at one time.”

Y-YM: “I was 15 for many years.”


Y-YM: (on his relationship with Jaime Laredo) “You ever have a dream where you’re taking a test and you haven’t been to any of the classes? That’s what Jaime inspires in me.”


Later in the conversation, Yo-Yo talked about having traveled all over the world with Jaime in their long relationship. He mentioned the one place they hadn’t been together yet was Jaime’s home town of Cochambamba, Bolivia. Jaime’s response: “Cochambamba, Bolivia might be the only place in the world we could walk down the street and people would say, ‘who’s that guy’ “(pointing at Yo-Yo).


Walter then mentioned Yo-Yo’s website solicitation for musical support of Japan, in the wake of the devastating March 11th earthquake and resulting tsunami – what does musical support mean?

Y-YM: “Music is something very porous. It travels lightly. You can hear it inside you. As an artist you always want to think of how you can offer a cultural response.”


Given Yo-Yo Ma’s well-known omnivorous approach to musical styles, Walter asked about the lessons learned from playing non-classical music.

Y-YM: “It was fortuitous as a classical musician that I played so many wrong notes…” (big audience laugh – of course.)


At the end of the more formal conversation, the floor was opened to audience question. The first was the best – because of the answer it received.

Audience member: “What prompted you to start playing the cello?” (at age four) –

Y-YM: “I wanted something BIG.”

sierra leone’s refugee all-stars in the house!

May 24, 2011

We’re lucky to have so much great music come to little ol’ Vermont. Tonight Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars are playing at Higher Ground in Burlington. Doors at 7pm, show starts at 7:30.

Last time they came they filled up the room with a couple hundred dancing fans and some of the coolest grooves to hit the ballorom in a long time.

It’s not really luck that brings the Refugees here, their latest recording was released by Vermont’s own Cumbancha recording label. It was produced by the legendary New Orleans sound wizard Steve Berlin so it’s brassy, it’s a little r&b and a little bit reggae, and it’s all spunky spirit from the hearts and spirit of musicians with some very beautiful souls.

Recommended? Highly.

knockin’ on heaven’s door

May 24, 2011

The world is wishing Bob Dylan a happy 70th birthday today – happy b-day Bob!

Here’s one of my favorite covers, Randy Crawford with Eric Clapton and David Sanborn.

Soulful, oh yes it is.

playlist #160 (5/23/11)-random handful of tunes

May 23, 2011

World of Music
Pgm #160 – Random selection of new recordings we’ve received recently, artists playing at this year’s Discover Jazz Festival, and a preview of tomorrow night’s concert in Burlington with Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars.
Catch the show on Mondays 3-5pm ET – at 105.9FM in Burlington, VT or online at The Radiator
Nas with Youssou N’Dour & Neneh Cherry: Wake Up (It’s Africa Calling) / Open Remix (download) – (USA / SENEGAL)
Lubo & Kaba Horo: Abre / Contrabanda / 2010 – (BULGARIA / CANADA)
The Burning Bush: Russian Shers / Yiddish, Klezmer & Sephardic Music / ARC Music 2332 – (UK) *NEW*
La Banda del Pepo: A Mil Besos (To a Thousand Kisses) / Tanto por Hacer / Galileo 11 – (SPAIN)
Hot 8 Brass Band: Sexual Healing / Tru Thoughts / Digital-only release 2009 – (N’AWLINS)
José el Chatarra: Lola Mentos / De Chatarra…Corazón / Lolailo Productions 2010 – (SPAIN)
Makám Ensemble featuring Szilvia Bognár: Lily of the Valley / Best of Fonō Records / Fonō Records 2000 – (HUNGARY)
Red Stick Ramblers: Tes Parents ve Veulent Plus me Voir (Your Parents Don’t Want to See Me Anymore) / Made in the Shade / Sugar Hill Records 4038 – (USA)
Yam Yam: Bahama Mama / Eatdubafrobeat-The Big Chill Recordings / Factor 21 – (UK)
Celia Cruz: Dos Dias en la Vida (Two Days in Life) / Siempre Vivré / Sony Discos 84132 – (CUBA)
The Jolly Boys: Perfect Day / Great Expectation / Geejam 2134 – (JAMAICA) *NEW*
Cuong Vu Quartet: En Se Ne / Agogic / T&C 1 – (USA) *NEW*
Dobet Gnahoré: Inyembezi zam (My Tears) / Na Afriki / Cumbancha 4 – IVORY COAST)
Henri Texier: Santa Mana / Bagad Men Ha Tan / Naïve 3271 – (BRITTANY)
Jorge Drexler: Tres Mil Millones de Latidos / Amar La Trama / WEA 256468335 – (URUGUAY)
Les Amazones de Guinée: Wamato / Wamato / Sterns Music 1106 – (GUINEA)
Dengue Fever: Only a Friend / Cannibal Courtship / Fantasy 32622 – (USA) *NEW*
Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars: Jah Come Down / Rise & Shine / Cumbancha 18 – (SIERRA LEONE) * At Higher Ground tomorrow – *
Les Doigts de L’Homme: Les Doigts dans La Prise / Les Doigts dans La Prise / Cristal Records 2008 – (FRANCE)
Flamingo Star: Django’s Dub / I Wouldn’t Wait No Longer / peacelounge recordings 17 – (DENMARK)
Samir & Sanghamitra Chatterjee: Ei Jibaner Mahanander / Guru Pranam-The Eternal Songs of Sri Chinmoy / Chhandyan Productions 15 – (INDIA)
Toumast: Maraou Oran/ Ishumar / Real World 50999502436 – (NIGER)
Martina Camargo: La Luna Hermosa / Canto, Palo y Cuero / Chico World Music 2009 – (COLOMBIA)
Ray Barretto: Bruca Maniguá / Energy To Burn / Fania Records 773130457 – (USA / PUERTO RICO)
Cheb Mami: Rani Maàk El Youm / Meli Meli / Mondo Melodia 186850007 – (ALGERIA)
Andy Palacio & The Garifuna Collective: Águyuha Nidúheñu (My People Have Moved On) / Wátina / Cumbancha 3 – (BELIZE)

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