Posts Tagged ‘Myra Melford’

BDJF: myra melford

June 9, 2011

Myra Melford at this afternoon's "Meet the Artist" pre-concert talk

 “In the end no one else can teach us how to find our own voice, we have to do that ourselves.”

BDJF: waiting for myra

June 6, 2011

Later this week I’m going to have the experience I’ve been waiting years to have.

Myra Melford, by any standard, is one of the greatest living jazz pianists. She’ll be performing here with the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival this Thursday evening at the Flynn Space. I’ve heard she came to Burlington a few years ago, but it was before I moved to Vermont. And every opportunity I’ve had to go to NY City in recent years to see her play has been thwarted for reason or another.

I would have been perfectly happy if she were coming by herself, or with her very fine Trio M. But it’s the best of all worlds with this week’s concert: Myra Melford will be playing here with her Be Bread Sextet, a top-flight cast of colleagues that includes trumpeter Cuong Vu; Ben Goldberg, clarinets; Brandon Ross, guitar; Stomu Takeishi, bass guitar; and versatile drummer Matt Wilson.

Enjoy a few Myra moments with the videos below. And know that you could, if you choose to, attend the concert this Thursday that everyone will be talking about for a long time after the lights have gone down for the last time on this year’s Jazz Fest.

playlist #159 (5/16/11)-new tunes & jazz fest folk

May 17, 2011

World of Music
Pgm #159 – Featuring new tunes & artists playing at this year’s Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, June 3rd-12th
Catch the show on Mondays 3-5pm ET – at 105.9FM in Burlington, VT or online at The Radiator
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Nas with Youssou N’Dour & Neneh Cherry: Wake Up (It’s Africa Calling) / Open Remix http://www.intrahealth.org/open/ (download) – (USA / SENEGAL)
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Victoria Abril: Jolie môme / Olala! / Topami 88697200602 – (SPAIN)
Gotan Project: Diferente / Lunático / ¡Ya Basta! 195 – (FRANCE)
Les Doigts de L’Homme: Blue Skies / 1910 / Cristal 2010 – (FRANCE) * Featured at the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival on 6/12: http://www.discoverjazz.com *
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The Jolly Boys featuring Albert Minott: Ring of Fire / Great Expectation / GeeJam 2134 – (JAMAICA) *NEW*
James Blake: Limit To Your Love / James Blake / Universal Republic 2 – (UK) *NEW*
Constantinople & Françoise Atlan: Afuera, Afuera, Ansias Mias / Premiers Songes / Analekta 9989 – (MEXICO) *NEW*
Vinicius Cantuária & Bill Frisell: Lágrimas Mexicanas / Lágrimas Mexicanas / EOM 2110 – (BRAZIL / USA) *NEW*
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Michèle Choinière: Tant Mon Mari / La Violette / http://www.michechoiniere.com 2010 – (MADE IN VT)
Myra Melford’s Be Bread: Moon Bird / The Whole Tree Gone / Firehouse 120401012 – (USA) * Featured at the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival on 6/9: http://www.discoverjazz.com *       Bombino: Assalam Felawan / Agadez / Cumbancha Discovery 20 – (NIGER) *NEW*
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Crecencio Camacho y El Super Combo Curro: Santana en Salsa / Cartagena! / Soundway Records 26 – (COLOMBIA) *NEW*
Samir & Sanghamitra Chatterjee: Ami Jabo / Guru Pranam-The Eternal Songs of Sri Chinmoy / Chhandayan Publications 15 – (INDIA) *NEW*
Rajery: Mandehandeha / Sofera / Marabi 46820 – (MADAGASCAR)
Mayte Martin: En Aquel Tiempo / Al Cantar A Manuel / World Village 468087 – (SPAIN)
Vusi Mahlasela: Mokalanyane / Say Africa / ATO Records 88088-21722 – (SOUTH AFRICA)
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Tiempo Libre: Mecánica (More is Less) / My Secret Radio / Sony Masterworks 88697-84585 – (CUBA) *NEW*
Didier Sustrac: Tout Seul (Completely Alone) / Bossa Nova Around the World / Putumayo 306 – (FRANCE)
Malika Zarra: Berber Taxi / Berber Taxi / Motéma 60 – (MOROCCO) *NEW*
Sergent Garcia: Una y Otra Vez / Una y Otra Vez / Cumbancha 19 – (FRANCE) *NEW – being released tomorrow! *
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MC Solaar: Perfect / MC Solaar / Polydor 557603 – (FRANCE)
Paris Combo: Lettre A P… / Paris / Putumayo 249 – (FRANCE)

2010 in the rearview: what’s to love in music, part 1

December 31, 2010

Remember a year ago, when so many people and media organizations fell over themselves to declare the “end of the 21st century’s first decade”, and publish their “best of the decade” music lists? And remember that they were wrong about 2009 concluding the century’s first decade? (Here’s that discussion…)

Well now it’s new year’s eve, 2010, and we really ARE at the end of the 21st century’s first decade. I’ve yet to see a single “best of the decade” list. Odd. I’m not going to create one either, I’d rather share some of the sounds I encountered and enjoyed the most over the past year. Just like last year’s list, I don’t know how many we’ll end up with: it’s not a “best 10′ or ‘best 20’ just to keep the list at a tidy round number. The music will guide the discussion and we’ll see where it takes us.

Here’s the first handful of the recordings I found the most compelling in 2010. Please share yours too – leave a comment below!

Michèle Choinière: “La Violette” –  You like to dance? I mean, really dance? It’s OK if the answer is ‘no’, because all you really need to do is listen to “La Violette” to join the party. The dancing will take care of itself. “La Violette” is the new recording from Vermont-based Franco-American singer Michèle Choinière. I couldn’t stop listening to it this year. It’s the long-awaited followup to her soulful 2003 debut release “Coeur Fragile“.  The songs on “La Violette” are mostly (not entirely) traditional French and French-Canadian, many arranged by Choinière herself and performed with great energy, ease, and classy style. From the catchy song Tant Mon Mari (including exciting traditional French-Canadian fiddling technique) to the Edith Piaf classic Tu es Partout (You are everywhere), this is a warmly melodic recording with a lot of heart. Yet while the songs of “La Violette” may be rooted in the past, the performance is irresistable and spirited, infusing the whole recording with fresh, contemporary relevance. Special nod to Lane Gibson at Gibson Recording in Charlotte, VT  for “La Violette”‘s terrific production. I’m ready for Michèle Choinière’s third recording – any time now!

Gorillaz: “Plastic Beach” -This is one of the first new recordings I heard this year, it premiered in Australia and the UK in February and then on March 1st National Public Radio streamed the whole album. Two days later is was released to the public. I was immediately struck by the continuity and textural richness of “Plastic Beach” – and how I kept getting more from it, the more I listened. Nearly a year later that’s still true. “Plastic Beach” is the third studio release from musician Damon Albarn (formerly of Blur) and animation artist Jamie Hewlett. The album creates a fully realized sonic world of disillusionment, wonder, and some sadness with a long list of special guest including Lou Reed, Mos Def, Snoop Dog, and Lebanon’s National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music. Highlights for me include “White Flag”, “Broken”, and the title track. Sometimes the transitions between the album tracks or musical grooves seem abrupt or disjointed, but that effect seems to be an intentional aspect of the aural topography being described in “Plastic Beach”. This is an unusual, engaging and repeatedly rewarding album. Notable quotes: “all we are…is stars.”

Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI: “Istanbul” – Jordi Savall is a viol player, an early music scholar, and the tireless leader of ensembles like Hesperion XX, Hesperion XXI, and the Concert des Nations. I’ve come to expect the unexpected from any project he’s involved with, and yet this year’s recording “Istanbul” still surprised me. First of all, there’s the pedigree: the title on the recording says “The Book of Science and Music and the Sephardic and Armenian musical traditions”. Really? OK, then, so maybe we can expect to hear Sephardic and Armenian music from Turkish sources. But who is Dmitrie Cantemir (also noted in the album title) and what does he have to do with the music being played here?  Turns out he was a 17th-century intellectual and Moldavian Prince who had some musical skill. He wrote a few pieces, but his greater contribution is probably his “Book of Science and Music”, a collection of some 350+ pieces of music popular in 17th-century Turkey, all preserved in his own unique notation format. This is a collection that Jordi Savall encountered while doing research for his earlier album, “Orient-Occident”, and he decided there was enough material to create a whole other album. This is that album. Add to the Cantemir collection a few Savall originals that serve as preludes to the Cantemir contributions, AND a small assortment of Sephardic and Armenian songs in contemporary versions by Sephardic scholar Isaac Levy. Interesting background, but does it all hold together to make for good listening? It does. In fact, it’s on the purely musical level where “Istanbul” works best. This is a rare instance where the backstory doesn’t necessarily enrich the experience by providing context for the music. Once we’ve navigated through the tangled patch-up of the program’s various source material, we can simply listen and be delighted by the lively inventiveness of Hesperion XXI, and the exotic tunings and instruments this spirited, beautiful music requires. When you listen to this – just listen. Leave the booklet alone until you’ve heard the recording a couple of times all the way through and had a chance to enjoy it on a musical level. It doesn’t need anything else.

Myra Melford & Be Bread: “The Whole Tree Gone” – (Be Bread is: Stomu Takeishi, bass; Ben Goldberg, clarinet; Cuong Vu, trumpet; Matt Wilson, percussion; Brandon Ross, guitar) Another year, and (thankfully!) we have another Myra Melford recording to show for it. I’ve mentioned before I appreciate Myra Melford’s artistry without reservation. And I have enjoyed her various solo or chamber music outings in recent year, but what a joy to hear her return to her role as the leader of the Be Bread ensemble in the 2010 release “The Whole Tree Gone”. It’s a programmatic album, featuring eight pieces inspired by Rumi verse. Each piece is self-contained, but one listens to the collective result differently to realize that the pieces were written as part of a suite (supported by a 2004 Chamber Music America grant). Be Bread is a capable, incredibly creative ensemble grounded by Wilson and Takeishi and tastefully accented by Goldberg, Vu, Ross, and Melford herself in playing that ranges colorfully from meditative and introspective to punctuated, and explosive. Thrilling playing (individually AND as an ensemble) – “The Whole Tree Gone” is undoubtedly one of my top faves of the year.

2010 in the rearview, part two coming up…stay tuned…and tell me about your 2010 favorites! Leave a comment here.

playlist #113 (5/3/10)-bits and parts

May 4, 2010
World of Music
Pgm #113 – A little bit of everything.
Catch the show on Mondays 3-5pm EDT – at 105.9FM in Burlington, VT or online at The Radiator
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Nas with Youssou N’Dour & Neneh Cherry: Wake Up (It’s Africa Calling) / Open Remix / http://www.intrahealth.org/open/ (download) – (USA / SENEGAL)
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Rodrigo y Gabriela: Tamacun / Rodrigo y Gabriela / ATO Records 21557 – (MEXICO) *On the Flynn Main Stage this Saturday, 8pm *
Youssou N’Dour: 4-4-44 / Rokku Mi Rokka / Nonesuch 266044 – (SENEGAL)
Iness Mêzel: Ifassen / Berber Singing Goes “World” / Silex 225066 – (MOROCCO)
John Brown’s Body: Play On / Among Them / Shanachie 45042 – (USA)
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Maria Bethânia: A Coroa / Pirata / Do Brasil 4251 – (CAPE VERDE)
Selim Sesler: Melodic Sesler / Anatolian Wedding / DoubleMoon 36 – (TURKEY)
D’Gary & Jihé: Mbo Hahita Avao (One of these days I’ll find it) / Islands / Putumayo 129 – (MADAGASCAR)
Ana Cañas: Super Mulher (Super woman) / Amor e Caos (Love and Chaos) / Sony 88697 – (BRAZIL)
Shinehead: I Just Called To Say I Love You / Sidewalk University / Elektra 61139 – (UK)
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Dengue Fever & Dara Chom Chan: Give Me One Kiss / Electric Cambodia / Minky 1 – (CAMBODIA / USA)
Samuele Bersani: Binario Tre / Caramella Smog / Ariola 82876570472 – (ITALY)
Steve Zissou: Rebel Rebel / The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou / Hollywood Records 63494 – (BRAZIL)
Dobet Gnahoré: Nan / Ano Neko / Contre Jour 14 – (IVORY COAST)
Puerto Candelaria: La Colomnina / Llegó La Banda / Merlin Studios 2006 – (COLOMBIA)
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Whitefield Brothers: NTU / Earthology / Now Again 2010 – (GERMANY) *NEW*
Novalima: Se Me Van / Coba Coba / Cumbancha 9 – (PERU)
Theryl “Houseman de’Clouet”: Ain’t No Yachts in the Ghetto / City of Dreams / Rounder 2196 – (N’AWLINS)
Aterciopelados: Don Dinero / Oye / Nacional 68480 – (COLOMBIA)
Ashley McIsaac & Mary Jane Lamond: To America We Go / Celtic Crossroads / Putumayo 243 – (CANADA)
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Sabakoe: Un Bai Wolo / The Best of Sabakoe vol. 1 / Stemra 6 – (SURINAM)
Nikki Giovanni & The New York Community Choir: My Tower / Truth Is On Its Way / Collectables 6506 – (USA)
Alpha Yaya Diallo: Bambara Blues / Djama / Jericho Beach Music 501 –  (GUINEA)
Jane Hirshfield (read by Brenda Wehle): Lake and Maple / Poetic License / GPR Records 83765 – (USA) *NEW*
Los Van Van: La Protesta de las Gallinas / Lo Ultimo en Vivo / Qbadisc 9020 – (CUBA)
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Myra Melford & Be Bread: Whole Tree Gone / The Whole Tree Gone / Firehouse 12-04-01-012 – (USA)

what’s new? part 2

January 11, 2010

Another new recording to look out for is being released in a week (next Tuesday, 1/19): it’s the latest from jazz vanguard Myra Melford and her ensemble, Be Bread. The group came together a little over seven years ago to realize Melford’s musical vision following her extensive musical studies in India. Their first project (The Image of Your Body) came out in 2006 and was inspired by the writings of the mystic poet Rumi.

Their new effort is The Whole Tree Gone. It’s made up of eight acoustic/electric pieces that mostly come from “The Whole Place Goes Up”, a larger work sponsored in 2004 by a grant from Chamber Music America. Melford has a special talent for engaging in like-minded artistic partnerships that not only complement her own considerable talents but collectively inform the broader vision, often in wonderfully unexpected ways. A lot of creative energy is gathered to make The Whole Tree Gone a notable one.

Be Bread is: Cuong Vu – (trumpet); Ben Goldberg – (clarinet); Brandon Ross – (guitar); Stomu Takeishi – (electric bass); Matt Wilson – (drums)

2009 in the rearview: what’s to love in music, part 1

January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

I’ve been thinking about the fact that year-end “best of” music lists usually leave me wanting because of how tunnel-visioned they can be. When you come across a list described as “Best Songs” or “Best Albums of the Year” you can guess without even glancing at it that it will more than likely focus on pop or indie releases. They contain no jazz, no world music, not even any country or folk music “songs” – and classical or opera are definitely out of the question.

This much I know of indie/pop music from the last year: Death Cab for Cutie, Wilco, the Decemberists, Neko Case and Jonatha Brooks all have recent recordings and make for fine listening. If you’re into more adventurous sounds, you’ll enjoy the latest from XX, Animal Collective, Grizzly Bears, and the Dirty Projectors. Likewise, I’m told the new Lady Gaga recording really represents a new sound; a genuinely fresh and creative vision. I haven’t heard much of it myself yet but I’m curious, always on the lookout for a unique voice, and I will certainly check it out at some point.

For anything besides pop or indie offerings you need to move past the popular “best of” lists and find less mainstream, more specialized sources if they exist. That’s alright, I suppose, I’d rather have a good list from an expert than a few token offerings from someone who doesn’t really love the music they’re listing.

Consequently, this look back at 2009’s music may come off as somewhat unconventional. It contains music from several different genres. I don’t feel like I can call it the “best of 2009” because I didn’t hear everything that came out last year. And I’m not going to limit the list to a number: this isn’t the ‘top 10’ or the  ‘top 50’. In fact I’m not sure right now how many recordings there will be on the final list. I’m just going to share with you some of the sounds that caught my ear over the last year, with the one provision that the recordings listed here all warranted repeated listening. In no special order, these are the recordings I loved and listened to the most in 2009:

Einujuhani Rautavaara: “12 Concertos” – I do believe that native landscape and culture can have a tangible effect on a music’s sound, and not always intentionally. The simultaneous compositional austerity and warmth of Finland’s Einojuhani Rautavaara is found nowehere more evidently than in his concertos, recently collected in the 2009 anthology 12 Concertos from Ondine Records. In each work, his great skill at manipulating a pre-determined tonal palette gives the music the lumonisity and transparency of masterful, muscular watercolors. The set includes the three piano concertos along with the concertos for harp, for flute, for violin, for cello, and – my two favorites, the Clarinet Concerto and the Concerto for (Arctic) Birds and Orchestra. There is so much to love in this rich anthology, and just when you think you’ve experienced all the 4-CD set has to offer, you can listen again and make more new discoveries.            Kailash Kher & Kailasa: “Yatra – Nomadic Souls” – If you lived in India the following sentence wouldn’t be necessary: Kailash Kher is the most popular singer in India today. His familiar beaming smile, powerful voice, supreme musicianship and magnetic personality have given him a place on the stage (leading his group, Kailasa); in Bollywood (as a top film composer); and on Indian television (as a celebrity judge on the show, Indian Idol). So why, in America, is this introduction necessary? It’s crazy to me that people around the world know who Madonna, Beyoncé, and Brittney Spears are: even if people have never heard the music from these artists, the personalities are an inescapable international pop culture ‘presence’. Conversely, American audiences are often in the dark when it comes to the superstars (not to mention the equally talented, lesser-known artists) of other countries. If you don’t already know Kailash Kher, then please let the outstanding 2009 recording Yatra – Nomadic Souls be your introduction to this fascinating musician and the fine ensemble Kailasa. The songs are traditional in many ways like their instrumentation (including tablas, oud and santoor) and their form (Sufi qwaal and Hindustani ‘classical’), and yet equally contemporary in others, like their length (shorter) and rhythmic, melody-driven lines. Yatra is an endlessly rewarding recording that balances genuine soul with popular appeal.

Kurt Elling: “Dedicated to You” – Let’s see: One of today’s most gifted and stylish singer/arrangers decides to pay tribute to monster talents John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman, by re-interpreting the songs from their iconic eponymous collaboration. (Along with a few bonus tunes from the Hartman-less Coltrane Ballads release). We’ll call the result, Dedicated to You, a win/win/win with a solid chalk mark in every column. Elling does not trawl through the original lineup, track for track, note for note, nuance for nuance, in the kind of misguided “tribute” that so often comes off much more like an overly reverent excercise in faithful recreation. Elling revisits the original songs by inhabiting them, with his signature exquisite phrasing, his soaring vocal technique, and his own personal warmth as a singer. It is obvious he truly loves these songs, he loves the Coltrane/Hartman versions of them, and he loves being able to bring them to audiences in his own, fully-invested way. Understanding and appreciating your source material is a great place to come from as an artist. And it’s a great place to visit with this special, very personal recording, which as far as I am concerned can Say It Over (and Over and Over…) Again.

The Very Best: “The Warm Heart of Africa” – I was introduced to this recording by a friend, late in the year – many months after Warm Heart had been released (and more than a year after the first excited buzz about it had begun circulating on the web). My first reaction was dismay, in thinking “how did I miss this one?” and then I put that aside and let myself be carried away by the ride. And what a ride! Warm Heart lives up to every bit of its name with groovy, light-spirited funky tunes that rely on the feel and tradition of African vocals, rhythms and musical styles (highlife, in particular) fused with Western pop sensibilities. Great fun, but happily not to the detriment of quality music-making.

Renée Fleming: “Verismo” – I’d be hard put (and flat-out wrong) to describe Renée Fleming as a verismo soprano. She’s just too nice. But do I love her singing verismo arias? Yes I do! Even when she’s not given to the full range of hysteria, sobbing, and frequently guttural, more earthy sounds that characterize the style at its most fully realized. The one aria on Verismo I found myself returning to repeatedly is the hauntingly sad Sola, perduta, abbandonata (“alone, lost, and abandoned”) from Puccini’s defining opera, Manon Lescaut. Fleming gets all of that one. Along with the familiar verismo arias are several rarely heard selections, like those from Giordano’s Siberia (you’re not the only one saying “Giordano’s WHAT!?” right now), and Cilèa’s Gloria. Fleming completists will want to add this one to the collection because it’s Fleming. And, it’s good. If you’re more into the faithful rendering of the repertoire at its verismo brightest, this recording may not be the one you want. Bottom line is, this is a very nice recording with Fleming at her smoky, emotive best – verismo perfect or not.

Brad Paisley: “American Saturday Night” – Remember Brad Paisley’s “Ticks“? That’s a song that got play far beyond its targeted country music audience. The reason was its novelty, of course, but it goes beyond that. Paisley is a top-flight songwriter (and guitarist, for that matter) whose abilities shine through in funny, insightful and often poignant observations on the common things of everyday human life. He’s bold and adventurous, and his style offers a fresh perspective in an increasingly discouraging formulaic landscape of pre-fab country music hooks and hits. I’ve been listening to country music longer than any other style. I grew up on Marty Robbins and Jim Reeves and Charley Pride and Hank and Johnny and Roy and Elvis and Dolly and all the other country greats known best by a single, iconic name. With over 40 years of listening to country music (and, yes, liking it too –  if that needs to be said) I’m telling you, Brad Paisley is the real deal. American Saturday Night represents something of a change for Paisley as he moves away from catchy novelty songs and the clever rhymes to offer reflections on everything from raising kids in the 21st c. world of internet and iPods (Welcome to the Future), to the tender ballad about mature love, Then. And if you listen to country music for a flat-out good time, not to worry, American Saturday Night isn’t only about Deep Thoughts and Grown-up Perspective: the title track will be enough to keep your pointy-toed sh**-kickers tapping for a long time to come. This country girl sends up an enthusiastic “yeee-HAW!” for Brad Paisley!

Myra Melford & Satoko Fujii: “Under the Water” – I am a Myra Melford devotee. I hang avidly on her every keystroke. I devour everything she records, and follow obscure fan blogs and websites for any whiff, any unsubstantiated rumour about upcoming projects or comments on her recent performances. If you’re lucky enough, every so often an artist comes along who speaks to you on such an intense and complete level that every encounter, however brief, is a completely satisfying experience. John Coltrane and Myra Melford both do that for me. But even without that connection, I think I would have enjoyed this unusual recording for the ambition of its scope and fulfillment of that vision. Under the Water is a live collaboration between Melford and a kindred creative spirit, the Japanese pianist Satoko Fujii. Piano duos are uncommon, and that fact becomes exponential when the two performers in the duo are such uncommonly extraordinary artists as Melford and Fujii. The spontaneous, free-form recital runs the spectrum from delicate, melodic runs and lively duo interplay to dark, thumping tone clusters that act as the aural equivalent of the blackened, heavy-bottomed Cumulus of summer thunderstorms. Melford’s solo exploration, Be Melting Snow, is an inspired joyride in adept pianistic effect. Five tracks in all on this CD, it’s a journey. Prepare yourself accordingly. Under the Water isn’t an easy recording to find, but you can listen to a few samples and get a copy here at the Squidco website. (Recorded live in recital, Sept. 14, 2007 at Maybeck Studio in Berkeley, CA)

2009 in the rearview, part two coming up…stay tuned…and tell me about your 2009 favorites! Leave a comment here.


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