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Tuesday, Aug 31, 2010
Mike Reed’s People, Places, and Things present a bold vision of not just what improvised music has been in the past, but what it can be in the future.

I sometimes fear that the concept of the live jazz performance is slowly fading. While jazz still maintains a presence in major cities, public support for America’s truly original art form is undoubtedly not at an all-time high. With rising concert costs, it is increasingly more difficult for folks of average economic means to attend gigs. These circumstances are truly unfortunate, for nothing else in the music world rivals the vitality of a live jazz set.


Common wisdom states that a recording can never quite capture the magic that happens in a club or on a concert stage. It is curious, then, that a jazz fan’s induction into the music often comes through records. Where would the jazz world be without such masterpieces as Kind of Blue, A Love Supreme, or Maiden Voyage, all albums that originated in a studio?  Capturing the energy of a live performance on record is one of today’s major artistic challenges. Given the dire economic and cultural conditions described above, it is good to know that creative and engaging live recordings are still being made. One primary example is an album called Stories and Negotiations, released in April 2010 and recorded live in Chicago’s Millennium Park in August 2008.


Mike Reed, a Chicago drummer and composer, works with an octet—drums, bass, two tenor saxes, alto sax, trumpet, and trombone—called People, Places, and Things. Reed is not only a vibrant musician, but he also presents the music of local artists he admires, as well as dedicates himself to preserving the history of Chicago’s neglected jazz musicians of the past. On his professional website, he lists some of his major musical influences, including artists as diverse as the Impressions, the Beatles, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, John Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins, and Neil Young. After just one spin through People, Places, and Things’ Stories and Negotiations, all of Reed’s influences and interests are prominently displayed.


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Monday, Aug 9, 2010

We’re always on the lookout for great new tracks to share with our readers, and William Brittelle’s “Sheena Easton” definitely falls under that category. It’s a cut off of Brittelle’s sophomore release, Television Landscape, which landed in stores just weeks ago. In the course of an album marked by complex orchestrations that are by turns jazzy and jarring and some frankly mind-bending arrangements, Brittelle collaborates with a slew of musicians from bands like the Long Count and Alarm Will Sound, and on “Sheena Easton,” the patently unfairly talented kids of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. And if that’s not enough of a taste, you can get a load of the album’s opening track, “Dunes of Vermillion”, on Brittelle’s MySpace page.



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Tuesday, Aug 3, 2010
Everest cranks up a great rock groove in this catchy tune

Everest is a So Cal band made up of musical veterans that embrace a solid rock format, although for “Let Go” the group has also added some strings to the mix. It’s a lush sonic landscape with a hard-hitting rhythmic romp from a band only a few years old, yet clearly comprised of accomplished musicians.  Frontman Russell Pollard played with Sebadoh, the Watson Twins, and the Folk Implosion, just to name a few. The group was tapped by Neil Young to tour with him in 2008 and two Everest CDs were released on his label, Vapor Records. These five guys are also a fave opening act of Minus the Bear as well as My Morning Jacket.


“Let Go” is the opening track of the band’s new release, On Approach. It was actually recorded at an old chicken ranch before the group completed the process in its studio in L.A. The video for the song begins with a nice little intro of the band tuning up in a studio. After some cooing vocals the lyrics begin with a simple yet sweet concern: “May I come in / My old friend / You’re looking thin / Do you feel alright?”


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Tuesday, Aug 3, 2010
A turn towards the radio-friendly on the new Manic Street Preachers record may not be for everyone, but it's hardly new, either, and is a direction which has yielded great music before.

In announcing their latest and tenth album, to be released in late September, Welsh rock veterans Manic Street Preachers described Postcards From a Young Man as “one last shot at mass communication”. Provocative as ever, the band will have meant for this fascinating choice of words to sound ominous, but after the first UK radio play of “(It’s Not War) Just the End of Love” last night, responses will be varied.


Anthemic, brief, uplifting and string-laden, the new song will not be received by the faction of the band’s fanbase that applaud only the darkest of the group’s material, and have always felt that the harrowing 1994 album The Holy Bible was a singular high point from which the group have since uniformly declined. Those fans also didn’t like and may well have forgotten some of the band’s past explorations with pure pop-rock, including a number of wonderful and accessible songs spread across past albums like Everything Must Go (1996), Know Your Enemy (2001) and especially the tenderly icy Lifeblood (2004). Another faction of fans—myself included—lapped up that material, and will be impressed with the radio gleam of the new song.


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Thursday, Jun 17, 2010
The greatness of 'The Happiness Project' does not lie in its carefully-crafted songs. It lies in the stories it tells. 'The Happiness Project' is about aging, the suppleness of life, and finding whatever happiness you can in contemporary life.

I forget sometimes, sitting in my little studio apartment, the lives that go on directly beyond my four whitewashed walls. Then, later on, leaning over the balcony the first day the sun makes its remarkable summer comeback, I meet my neighbors for a short conversation that lasts just as long as our encounters in the hallway or in the elevator. Alone, I wonder what they are really like. What they do and what they think; how they survive and make sense of everything.


I imagine that this is what Charles Spearin (founding member of Do Make Say Think and multi-instrumentalist for Broken Social Scene) must have thought many times before he started The Happiness Project. Simply put, The Happiness Project uses the inflections of ordinary human speech as a springboard to compose music. On the surface, it is music and performance art, but beneath the sounds lurks a microcosm of modern urban life.


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