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by Thomas Hauner

26 May 2009

Ahmad Jamal presented a tight, affable early set at the Blue Note, playing through a repertoire spanning both genres and decades. After sitting down to the piano and launching into “Wild is the Wind / Sing”—from 2008’s impressive It’s Magic—Jamal quickly stood back up and, going from stage right to left, introduced his supporting cast: Percussionist Manolo Badrena, drummer Jake Johnson, and his trusty bassist James Cammack. He then impishly added, “…and me!” As if there was any doubt.

As a stalwart bop pianist in earlier times Jamal’s playing flaunted timing and urbane impulse, all without resorting to innocuousness. His rhythm always attacked and then defused in interesting ways. Thus his work with Badrena has been a welcome marriage, blending dynamic rhythms and feel with eclectic textures. A new composition, “Love Is Lost”, showcased some of Badrena’s bells and “It’s Magic”, a slow ballad, was made even more tender with gingerly conga flourishes.

Cammack also showed-off his tenure with Jamal, effortlessly playing with and under Jamal’s strong lines. A new tune, “Flight to Russia”, was grounded by a swinging bass line that carried the piece. At another point Cammack played a brilliant solo of modulating octaves, all while fighting over a waiter’s steak order in the background.

Jamal was still, however, very much the focus of the set. Vocally, he would chide his aging hands when they failed him during a virtuosic run or compliment Cammack or Badrena after invigorating turn-arounds. It gave the intimate club an even more intimate feel, like we were picking his brain in real-time. Musically, Jamal was engaging as ever. Though he sometimes stumbled on his most difficult passages, his classics, like “Poinciana”, were ethereal in their resolving harmonies and syncopated cadences.

Closing with “Baalbeck”—written after a 2004 performance in the town of the same name in Lebanon—proved a disappointing choice. Its militant, and prominent, snare-drum rhythm smothered Jamal’s playing suffocating the piece. It was simply unrepresentative of the night’s warm performance as a whole.

by L.B. Jeffries

25 May 2009

From Rez, SEGA

From Rez, SEGA

Last year’s release ofRez HD on the Xbox Live marked a return for what was one of the best cult classics for Dreamcast and PS2. Inspired by the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky’s synesthesia style, it attempts to make literal Kandinsky’s declaration that “Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the harmonies, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.” This statement refers to his belief that when he observed colors he could hear literal sounds in his mind, that a painting could produce music the same way an instrument can. The game is an exercise in abstractions contrasted with technology, a mixture of ambiguous art and an electronic style of music that creates the experience of playing a musical instrument as a game. It is just as much ahead of its time today as it was in 2001 when it was first released.

by Rob Horning

25 May 2009

Generation Bubble points to this WSJ article about “youth magnet cities” like Portland, and the lack of jobs therein. The story’s opening salvo reminded me strongly of when I was young and utterly clueless about the economy, as though it didn’t really apply to me, as if I were exempt:

In October, as the stock market tanked and the economy shed 400,000 jobs, Matt Singer moved from Oxnard, Calif. to Portland, Ore. He didn’t have a job, but he was attracted to the city’s offbeat culture and hungered for change. Mr. Singer’s plan was to get an editing or writing gig at an alternative weekly newspaper, the job he was doing in California.

Seven months later, the 26-year-old is still without a steady job—and still here. “I wasn’t really aware of how bad the job situation was at the time,” says Mr. Singer.

by PopMatters Staff

25 May 2009

Our review of Grizzly Bear’s latest Veckatimest headlines tomorrow, but today here is the band’s new video.

by Lara Killian

24 May 2009


This weekend I stumbled across a feature article published in the most recent Booklist, and just couldn’t resist sharing. Keir Graff writes a fictional account of an apocalypse – but rather than people it with machines or macho headhunters, the author depicts the disintegration of text worldwide, and follows a roaming book reviewer as he searches for other survivors. Graff calls the tale simply, “The Read: A Short Story”.

Evocative book-related metaphors abound. The blast that wipes out most life made “a deep sound like the tearing in half of the telephonebook of the world.” Though his basic survival instincts are intact, the book reviewer wonders why he didn’t learn to do something practical rather than make his living critiquing the original work of others.

Suddenly near extinction, books take on a critical importance for those who seek to distract themselves from the nightmare landscape around them. Books become currency, fuel, even sustenance. The reviews the protagonist recalls verbatim from his brain must sometimes take the place of the original text when the book itself is not available. Questions of the value of the printed page and the resulting despair when no books can be found prod the reader into considering the consequences of the death of the book as a physical object. It’s not pretty.

//Mixed media

Tricks or Treats? Ten Halloween Blu-rays That May Disrupt Your Life

// Short Ends and Leader

"The best of this stuff'll kill you.

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