Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Cinch Review

Even Deaf Dogs Have Their Day

Deaf dog alerts owner to burglarIn Salem, Oregon, a deaf English Springer Spaniel named Bonnie is credited by her owner, a gentleman named Dan Strasser, for alerting him to the intrusion of a burglar into his home in the early hours.

Sometime around 6 a.m., reportedly, he was woken by the sound of Bonnie running around in the living room. It being an odd time for such activity, he thought perhaps a skunk or some such had gotten into the house and Bonnie was giving chase. Entering the living room, he caught a glimpse of a human figure running past, clutching Mr. Strasser’s laptop computer. Bonnie had evidently smelled and/or seen the visitor and decided it was play time—hence her running around. The intruder, in his alarm, failed to run out the back door, and instead ran through a door that led into the garage, and effectively a dead-end. At this point it could have gotten ugly. The intruder (allegedly a man named Thomas Lowell, who has been charged with a parole violation, burglary, criminal mischief, and unlawful possession of methamphetamine) reportedly brandished a knife and might have decided to fight his way out. Fortunately, Mr. Strasser had retrieved a firearm which he owned, and was thus able to persuade the intruder to remain in place until the police arrived to take him away. Continue reading Even Deaf Dogs Have Their Day

The Cinch Review

Saved, by Bob Dylan, to be Remastered

Bob Dylan's Saved to be remasteredOn November 5th, 2013, Sony/Columbia will release a remastered version of Bob Dylan’s 1980 album, Saved. It is customarily characterized as the second of Bob Dylan’s three “gospel period” albums. It contains the most straightahead gospel songs of the three, drawing deeply from black American forms of worship music. It is the first time that the album has been remastered, although there were complaints about the audio quality of the record from the outset, including from Dylan himself. That way I’d put it is that the album has an odd kind of muted nature, lacking the life and presence you would expect. Some might use different terminology. It’s not the performances that seem lacking (and Dylan and his band were delivering galvanizing live performances of the same material during this period) but something about the sound of the record or CD itself. It has even been speculated over the years that possibly some Columbia execs—unhappy with Dylan’s foray into religious music—deliberately caused the album to be sabotaged. On the face of it, this seems nuts (why would businessmen undermine the sales of their own products?) but on the other hand even more bizarre things happen in this world every day, so who knows? Continue reading Saved, by Bob Dylan, to be Remastered

Milder McAloon review

Quoted Out Of Context: Music by Paddy McAloon – (Joakim) Milder PS

Review of Music by Paddy McAloon Milder PSI guess that there are at least three obvious reasons why jazz musicians have always gravitated towards playing standards (at least as a part of their repertoire). By standards, I’m referring to the classics by the great composers of popular song of the first half of the twentieth century: the Gershwins, Porter, Arlen, Kern, Rodgers (with both Hart and Hammerstein), et al. For one, the songs are melodically appealing and harmonically interesting, and so make good subject matter for a musician and provide good jumping-off points for his or her own improvisations. A second reason—I would suggest—is that the songs are lyrically strong. Even when there is no singing (or perhaps especially when there is no singing) it is advantageous for the music to have an emotional and poetic anchor in words that may be unheard but are known to the players and likely to the listeners as well. And the third reason is familiarity itself: if your audience knows the songs, then they will more readily accept your performance and more easily perceive what you are adding to the music. Likewise, your fellow musicians know the songs, and the ways in which your rendition varies from those that have come before will define your uniqueness as a player.

When Swedish saxophonist Joakim Milder decided to record a whole album of songs by Paddy McAloon (Quoted Out Of Context – Milder PS), I guess he decided that two out of three wasn’t so bad. That is, McAloon (leader of erstwhile British band Prefab Sprout) writes songs that meet the criteria of being melodically inventive and lyrically strong, but I don’t think anyone could claim that they are well-known enough to constitute a common currency amongst jazz musicians. And in any case, Milder and his musical cohorts avoid the few obvious hits from the McAloon ouevre (e.g. “When Love Breaks Down,” “Cars and Girls,” and “King of Rock & Roll”).

The very broad and distinctly tasteful look at McAloon’s body of work that is offered by the tracklist is one of the things about the album that I liked instantly, including as it does songs like “Andromeda Heights,” “God Watch Over You,” and “I Trawl the Megahertz.” And on listening, it is simply a delight for a fan of McAloon’s songwriting to hear his material being performed with the kind of intelligence, maturity and depth of feeling that Joakim Milder and his colleagues bring to this record.

An example is better than any number of characterizations, and an ideal one is probably the version of “Nightingales.” The version by Milder and company can be heard below embedded via SoundCloud. (For comparison, the original Prefab Sprout version is no doubt easily found on YouTube, and one might even find a rare solo piano rendition by the songwriter).

The song “Nightingales” possesses a melody both gorgeous and perpetually teasing to the ear. By itself it would announce that McAloon is a rare talent. Lyrically, it is also teasing: a rhetorical, one-sided conversation about nothing less than the meaning of existence. Questions are softly posed, inadequate answers are brushed off, and a conclusion is offered that is all but proven by the existence of the song itself, in a kind of circular philosophical gambit.

Milder, with his saxophone, joins in the conversation, and adds to it. He contributes no histrionics, and does not stretch anything beyond its breaking point, but nevertheless imparts his own particular urgencies and poignancies. And the sound of the entire ensemble is a true joy of sensitivity and focus.

I could go down the list, and there would be similar observations to make about each and every track. It is that good an album. McAloon has had a fair number of cover versions recorded of his songs, but not to my mind (or my knowledge) by anyone with the kind of musical chops needed to lift the material out of a very contemporary pop context and into the more timeless zone which I think it is, at its best, worthy of occupying. That it would be a jazz instrumentalist who would do this is surprising, but surprises like this are very welcome.

Paddy McAloon Crimson/Red Prefab SproutThe album has been out for a while, and I’ve long had it on my mind to write something about it, but the timing now is perversely apt, because a long-awaited brand new album by Paddy McAloon is being released shortly. It’s under the moniker of “Prefab Sprout,” but McAloon (who some years ago developed ear trouble that prevents him from easily working with a band) provides all of the instrumentation. It’s titled Crimson/Red, and previews suggest it is (perhaps surprisingly) a very bright, energetic collection of pop songs.

I’ll be happy indeed if it has just one or two tunes as good as the great “Doo Wop in Harlem.” A live version from McAloon and Prefab is discoverable on YouTube. The lovely rendition by Joakim Milder and company is embedded below.

You can find the Milder PS album through Amazon UK: Quoted Out Of Context – Music by Paddy McAloon


The full tracklist is:

1. Couldn’t Bear To Be Special
2. Doo Wop In Harlem
3. Anne Marie
4. I Trawl The Megahertz
5. Dragons
6. Nightingales
7. God Watch Over You
8. Andromeda Heights
9. Jesse James Symphony & Bolero
10. Pearly Gates

……

Visiting the September 11th Memorial

September 11th MemorialThe National September 11th Memorial opened in lower Manhattan on September 12th, 2011; so, it has now been open for two years. Yet, though yours truly is a resident of New York City, I only got around to seeing it for the first time last week, in the company of an out-of-town visitor who was interested in going there. Frankly, I’d had no great interest in seeing it (which I knew meant reserving a ticket and then standing in line to gain access to the memorial). Why? I suppose—although I fully appreciate the purpose of a national memorial for the victims of the September 11th attacks—that I just felt no need to utilize it. Without wanting to come across dramatic and angst-ridden, I think I can honestly say that I remember the 9/11 attack each and every day that I am in New York. And I’m quite sure that something very similar is true for most New Yorkers who were here on the day it happened. It’s merely human nature. Familiar things retain the sense of such an emotional event. I can’t so much as glance at the skyline without some measure of remembrance, however fleeting. A jet airliner flying relatively low … it’s just the way it is, and will be, till these bones are desposited into the earth. And just the typical weather of September in New York City evokes that day, in a similar way to that in which a specific smell can evoke vivid memories of a long past moment.

In addition to that, I didn’t lose a loved one in the attacks, so the site would not be a place for me to go and remember or pray for any one in particular.

Nevertheless, I can well understand why out-of-towners would want to go, and so I dutifully accompanied my visitor. It was not a challenge to reserve tickets online a day before (the rush has diminished since the opening two years ago). And the line to get in, through the entrance at the corner of Greenwich and Albany, moved pretty quickly. In line, one’s first impression is the similarity to going through airport security. There is a fairly thorough security check (please leave your guns and bombs at the hotel) and the passes I’d printed out from the internet were checked no less than three times.

At the end of it, you emerge into the September 11th Memorial, which is entirely outdoors. It basically comprises the land area that was occupied by the Twin Towers, and the space between them and immediately around them. (The new World Trade Center “Freedom Tower” is immediately adjacent.) When the towers were standing, you would have been able to walk through this space freely, entering from multiple points on the Manhattan street grid. Now that they’re gone, there is the single entrance via the security checks. Continue reading Visiting the September 11th Memorial