Sunday, April 30, 2006

Yvan's Extended Family

This one is for Martine and Gini. Within the first block of the festival in Lafayette we ran into the Fruges`, who were part of the Cajun club and host family network for Belgian teachers in southwest Louisiana back in the mid 1980s. They had visited Cincinnati in 1998 for Yvan's daugher Gini's high school graduation. Beautiful people!

Festival International de Louisiane

Moroccan roll in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Jazz Fest Cameo Appearances

Based on weather reports we went back to New Orleans today. Good decision. Jazz Fest surprises included Edge jamming with Dave Matthews and Terrance Blanchard playing the Miles Davis part on "TuTu" with Herbie Hancock!

Friday, April 28, 2006

Friday at Jazz Fest

Bob Dylan at Jazz Fest - not quite 3 feet away like last night, but a great performance. Also Yerba Buena was awesome - Gypsy Latin music.

Breakfast In New Orleans...

(...dinner in Timbuktu - with apologies to Bruce Cockburn)

Breakfast of the gods! Beignets and chickory coffee at the Cafe du Monde - Cafe of the World.

Hanging out with Bob Dylan!

Thursday night in New Orleans - went straight from the airport to Mullates' post-Katrina grand reopening featuring Beausoleil (pictured). Bob Dylan walked in and stood right next to us! We were too surprised/polite to speak to him. If i had spoken to him, I would have asked "When is Chronicles Vol 2 coming out?"

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Louisiana bound - music and more music

I'm packing tonight for a long weekend getaway to Louisiana. My friend (and former bandmate) Yvan and I are heading to New Orleans for the Jazz and Heritage Festival, then on to Lafayette for the Festival International de Louisiane . Yvan and his family lived in Louisiana (Lake Charles) for about ten years, teaching primarily in French immersion programs within the public school system. He tries to get back for the festivals each year, and this year I decided to take him up on his invitation. Should be a musical adventure. We plan to hear Bob Dylan, Keb' Mo', Ani DiFranco, and others on Friday. If we hang around New Orleans on Saturday, we might catch the Dave Matthews Band and Herbie Hancock.

I'm sure there will be some sobering sights as well, due to the Hurricane Katrina aftermath.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Testing out blogging from my phone

Check out Josh in the "30-hour famine" t-shirt at the buffet - talk about disonnance :=)

I'm going to Louisiana soon for some music events, and just configuring and trying out this blogger feature before I go.


My wife keeps bugging me to post something on my blog. But I've been a bit preoccupied with a new musical toy - a Yamaha Motif ES7 workstation. I've been shopping around for at least 6-8 months, comparing what's available and what's anticipated. And the Motif just kept bubbling to the top of the stack. So I've got a bit of a learning curve ahead in order to scratch the surface of it's capabilities. I've played in bands of all sorts for many years, and mostly enjoyed doing arranging and performing of other people's music, as well as exploring new musical genres. But lately I've been having the urge to create some original music. Not sure what shape it will take, but I've already gotten some good frameworks down after only having this keyboard a few days. The Motif has some amazing sounds and tools. It is also the best option for interfacing with computer-based Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software. What would normally take 16 audio/midi cables can be connected with a single firewire cable via Yamaha's mLan protocol.

I'll have some less self-indulgent content in a day or two. Julie has some interesting comments on Karen Armstrong's appearance at Xavier that I'd like to respond to. Also Deb and I have been inspired by some of Joan Chittister's on-line writings, and I'd like to pass those on.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Another tag from Tammy Jo. This one seems a bit like a test...without a perfect score. Actually after filling it in, it's almost like a verbal rorschach test...what's the first thing that comes to my mind by:

I AM: what I am (thanks to Popeye and Joseph Arthur)
I WANT: more time
I WISH: I could be healthier (lose weight mainly)
I HATE: my laziness
I LOVE: my wife, house, and life
I MISS: my mom and dad
I FEAR: dying (not death)
I HEAR: panting dogs, chirping birds
I WONDER: what God is like
I REGRET: wasted years
I AM NOT: too old to be young
I DANCE: much too infrequently
I SING: almost all the time (usually internally)
I CRY: when "love comes to town"
I AM NOT ALWAYS: patient
I MAKE WITH MY HANDS: music and food
I WRITE: because I can
I CONFUSE: those around me
I NEED: focus
I SHOULD: exercise regularly
I START: lots of books
I FINISH: fewer books

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Religions and Truth

So now that "holy week" is over within my faith community, I'm going to try to find time and words for a few posts that have been brewing in my mind for a week or so. They are a bit broad in scope, so might have to be split up a bit. You can tell by the title of this one that I have all the answers - aren't you glad you stopped by?

I recently read "The Heart of Christianity", by Marcus Borg. The author has been (not sure if currently) a member of the controversial "Jesus Seminar", and an outspoken advocate for allowing our views of the world to influence our approaches and beliefs surrounding spirituality. I found a lot I agreed with in this volume. I found myself immediately rereading a few chapters, because I needed the first readings often to challenge my preconceived notions of certain terms like "born again" and "salvation" - terms that in many ways have lost their meaning to me. At least they had lost the meaning I attached to them growing up in a Christian subculture - a subculture that I left for many years.

I especially liked Borg's equating being "born again" with the natural process that we each need to go through when moving from the self-centered nature of a child to the (hopefully) less self-absorbed nature of an adult. My "takeaway" was that the experience of religious faith had the goal and potential in the past of providing a framework for this natural life process within communities that shared religion and culture - even though the reality of many religious settings has been far from successful in this regard. Our natural rites of passage that carry us to adulthood are best experienced within a caring community. And in spite of all the blemishes and distortions, I think the church could fill this role for those with or without "traditional" family structures. (Unfortunately, finding such churches is far from easy.)

Borg continually returned to his version of a statement that I've heard from many lips in the past few years - "all religions are the same", or "all religions lead to the truth". I usually rebel against this blanket statement. My version would be "all religions are similar in that they probably have some mixture of truth and distortions". And I'm certain I allow the fundamentalists of various religions to magnify my naturally cynical view - they are indeed (and unfortunately) the loudest voices.

In Borg's case, he chose to say that the purpose of all the "major" religions was to mediate the sacred, and provide "sacremental" access to the mystery of God. I do believe he tried too hard at times to not offend any religious traditions, and also tried to "overload" the word "true", just has he attempted to overload the term "born again". So I would balance his emphasis on the natural growth process with a (hopefully) healthy cynicism about any specific religion having a corner on or understanding of all the truth.

I have certainly found more than enough truth to last a lifetime within my own faith community of Christianity. It has little to do with doctrinal certainty, and much to do with a realistic sense of hope that can fuel my time on earth. And hopefully there is something more after that. I'd be very interested in learning more about how other faith communities or religious orientations have nurtured this "natural" growth in their constituents. Any experiences to share or sources to recommend? Do you agree or disagree? Or am I talking in circles?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

PoMoXian: "Touched or Tickled?" - Tagged!

PoMoXian: "Touched or Tickled?" - Tagged!

Dave linked to my Friday Fives tag on performing arts concerts. The dude has had an interesting life indeed - and he made it thru alive!

This post is partly to experiment with/demonstrate how the "links to this post" feature works in Blogger. It's a bit backwards from what I expected - seems like the goal is to create a new post that is linked to a post on another blog, rather than linking an existing post via the comments - which I would prefer. Anyone know of other tools for trackbacks, etc?

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Deb and I journeyed up Mt. Adams last night to take in the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park production of "Company". I'm not necessarily a big musical fan - I prefer to keep my theater experiences segmented into plays and concerts. But the word on the street about this production had me intrigued. The actors performed quadruple duty. In addition to the normal singing/dancing/acting roles, all instrumental accompaniment was provided by the cast members. I had to see what this group of overachievers was capable of doing.

And the show did not disappoint. While none of the instumental performances were in the "virtuoso" category, the "orchestra" sound was solid and well balanced. Each cast member except for the lead male role had a rotating stool at the back of the stage upon which they perched when not involved in an acting/singing role in a particular scene. And most of the (12+) cast members were multi-instrumentalists. The choreography of the show included using the instruments as props and foundational elements. If there was anything negative about the show, it was that my fascination with the instrument integration (what will they play next) probably distracted me from paying attention to the finer details of the story. It was a very enjoyable evening.

Director John Doyle had already used this approach with "Sweeny Todd", another Sondheim musical (and one of my favorites in the musical genre). I was intrigued to read the story of how this approach was taken as much due to economic necessity as to artistic expression. (He first used this approach in economically depressed Liverpool, England). It has obviously caught on, as the current production is Broadway bound in the fall.

It's been a busy week - Company, improv rehearsals (yes, they do rehearse...), taxes. I hope to have some more thought provoking posts over the weekend. I have a few religion topics mulling around in my head.

Monday, April 10, 2006


Still getting the basics of my blog together. I finally put my Blogroll together - see links on the sidebar.

Also added a new release to "Currently Listening To" - Lunatico by the Gotan Project. Tango meets club/house/hip-hop. I loved their 2003 release Revencha Del Tango.

I have a few new books on the shelf - just need to decide what to dig into next.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Tag, I'm it - Friday Fives

The RevGalsBlogPals have a FridayFives tradition, and today the subject is "name five experiences of the performing arts that have touched or tickled you". TammyJo tagged me, and I love this topic, so here goes. Update - I had to go with 6 - had several in mind and forgot an important one when I originally posted, and I can't see removing anything. I guess I won't get to play the game anymore...

  • Touched - Todd Rundgren's "No World Order" tour (circa 1993-1994). I didn't see this in person, but have several videos from these shows. It epitomized the integration of technology, arts, and audience immersion in a performance setting.
  • Touched - The Blue Man Group. Deb and I saw them in Las Vegas a couple of years ago. A major purpose of our trip was to catch Cirque du Soleil, and seeing the blue dudes was a last-minute decision. I found myself more excited about that show than Cirque - perhaps because of the surprise element, certainly because of the tribal rock beats, which I love, and definitely because of how the mute blue men take on our personas - self-discovery, awe, jealousy/competition, creativity, etc. etc. etc. I immediately bought the DVD "The Complex Rock Tour Live", from their summer arena tours a few years back, and have enjoyed it even more than the live show - highly recommended (and cheap!).
  • Touched - Civic Music Series in Harriman, Tennessee. My parents took me to these shows consistently - some pretty sophisticated music/performances for our small Tennessee town. It transformed the well-worn high school auditorium into a venue for opening my preteen eyes to the wonders and diversity of music. I can't remember a specific show, just the general impact they all had on me.
  • Touched - Mark O'Connor with Doc and Merle Watson at Parrish Auditorium, Miami University Hamilton (Ohio). O'Connor is probably the most incredible musician I have seen in my entire life. This particular concert was in the mid/late 80s when he was only 19 and was a "sideman" for Doc. He apologetically thanked Doc for letting him play a solo, then proceeded to transport the entire audience to Heaven and back while playing a medley of "Midnight on the Water" and "Bonaparte's Retreat". (Thanks to Howard Epstein for bringing this and many other fine concerts within 5 minutes of my house. I've truly seen some of the best concerts in my life in this auditorium - Michael Hedges, Liz Story, Charlie Hayden, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Arlo Guthrie, Los Lobos, Mark O'Connor solo, and many more)
  • Touched - "Jazzdance by Danny Buraczeski", sponsored by Cincinnati's Contemporary Dance Theater. Deb and I happened to take in this performance the weekend some of my own spiritual convergences were underway (largely involuntary). This show featured dance to music from Astor Piazzolla, my favorite composer, as well as classical, jazz, and blues influences. The combination of movement and music reached me at a deep level that I'm still unpacking. I wept after coming home from this performance. Sheer beauty and transcendence.
  • Touched - Any time I hear Ken Medema. I've been a huge fan since first experiencing his unique musical and story-telling abilities in college days. He manages to cut to the heart of crucial life issues in ways that have you laughing as often as crying, but leave a lasting impression. He's also one of the best keyboard performers and improvisers on earth. I've seen probably 8 of his concerts, and each one is unique - he usually composes several songs right on the spot, and they are keepers.

I tried thinking of something in the "tickled" category, but I can't come up with any - I must have a gift of repressing painful memories :-)

Now it's your five experiences of the performing arts that have touched or tickled you. Post on your blog and link back to here.

Dave - here is his post (testing the link to post feature)





Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Live at the Improv

Improvisation is definitely one of the things I love most about life on earth. Jazz improv is just about the most amazing thing ever conceived. My favorite movies are the Christopher Guest mocumentaries like "Waiting for Guffman" and "This Is Spinal Tap", which have very little in terms of scripts and plot directions. Life is an improvisational experience, if you ask me. So I ran into my friend Bekka Eaton at the grocery store on Sunday night. Bekka is a wonderful actor/musician/director - formerly with of The Second City troupe, The Daves, and film/TV work, and now back home in Fairfield and Assistant Professor of Theater at Miami Hamilton. She asked me to do the Paul Shaffer piano thing (sorry, I'm not shaving my head) for an improv show she is directing/producing next weekend. So I spent this evening with her troupe of college and community folks figuring out how to plan for improv -kind of an oxymoron if you ask me. We had lots of laughts together and I think it's going to be great fun. If you like "Whose Line Is It Anyway", you should enjoy this evening. Who knows, even Big Red might show up.

The show is entitled "Improv-Ing Our Lives" and will be in the Studio Theater (Phelps room 307 - same building where the most excellend Parrish Auditorium is located) April 13, 14, and 15 at 7:30PM. Details are here, except the link erroneously says two nights only - trust me, it's all three nights.

Hustle and Flow

Over the weekend I watched "Hustle and Flow", featuring the Oscar-nominated performance from Terrence Howard and the Oscar-winning song of the year, "It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp" (my favorite Oscar comment from Jon Stewart - "For anyone keeping record, Martin Scorsese, zero Oscars. For Three 6 Mafia, one.") The movie also paired "Crash" castmates Howard and Ludacris for a tense scene.

I enjoy rap and hip-hop music for the most part, except for the profanity-laden stuff (well, that reduces the field considerably, I guess.) So I enjoyed that aspect of the film. But the main impact of this film was the way it transported me into the life and especially the household of Djay (Howard). These scenes, and in many ways the entire movie, felt like a stage play in a cramped theater. I'm not a claustrophobic person, but that's the operative word for the lingering sense of this film. It is set in Memphis during a long hot summer, and pimp Djay along with his crib sweltered in this environment. The effect of heat and drugs deadened them to most attempts at civility, except for a few soliloquies from Djay on the meaning of life, God, and their place in the world. Rage was the main tool in their relational arsenal. Music became their escape and salvation, even thought the ultimate path of musical "success" veered from the path Djay layed out. I have volunteered in inner city settings for some years, but I don't believe I ever felt transported into the home setting like I did watching this film. That impression will linger and hopefully will impact my work in the future.

The theme song continued to stick in my head for a couple of days as well. But I noticed it slowly mutated. Influenced by a well-known song from Annie (why, I do not know...) it became "It's A Hard-knocked Life For A Pimp" :-)

I realized this morning that I probably need to have a films section in the sidebar. And I'm also looking for solar power for my iPod - to support the "Desert Island" media requirements if ever needed :-) I'll try to get the film section and a blog roll in place within the next few days.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Religious Satire

My usual monthly ration of religious satire comes from LarkNews - should be an April issue any day now. However, the April fools issue of the SojoMail newsletter from Sojourners will really give Larknews a run for their money this month.

Music - Joseph Arthur

Music is a major (and hopefully healthy) obsession of mine. It always has been. I watch concerts like many watch sporting events. Improvisational jazz is just about the most exciting thing in the world. Consequently, much of my life has been spent playing and listening to music. I've become rather picky in my "old age", and it's rare for new music to come along and knock my socks off. So after a long dry spell, I have a new musical obsession in the works of Joseph Arthur.

He's not new on the scene. About the time I found a reference to him on Bob Carlton's most excellent blog, "The Corner", I discovered his music had been in the episode of Grey's Anatomy we had watched recently. Bob's reference was to the digital EP release of 5 different mixes of Arthur's song, "In The Sun" on iTunes. All funds from this release go to Gulf state Hurricane Relief. Also apparently Joseph has a tune in "Shrek 2", (which I have not seen). He was "discovered" by Peter Gabriel and Lou Reed, and his first three releases were on Gabriel's Real World label. So I'm hardly the only one who likes his stuff.

You can easily sample his music by going to his home page - The embedded music player plays 3 full songs from his latest release, "Our Shadows Will Remain". I've passed this on to some folks over the past month, and had about 50/50 response between those who like him and those who don't get into him. Obviously I'm in the former group. His self-described role is "someone struggling to heal over experimental folk-rock". I'm not sure that I can isolate a single aspect of his music that appeals to me the most. He certainly blends acoustic, electric, and electronic sound sources effectly. His songs contains some of the freshest hooks and sonic/melodic surprises in my recent memory. And his lyrics simultaneously puzzle, challenge, inflict guilt, inflict hope, and generate joy in the midst of this multifaceted existence of ours.

I've acquired all four of his full-length releases (he also has a couple of EP and vinyl releases), and my favorites are the two recent ones - "Our Shadows Will Remain" and "Redemptions Son". I'm certain one or both of these will soon make it to my desert island list (in the sidebar). From what I've gathered through articles and a couple of video downloads, his live solo concerts are unique, in that he creates paintings during each show. (His latest release contains a 36 page booklet of his art work - assuming you don't download it...) Through the use of a variety of guitar pedals and digital effects, he creates percussion and musical loops on the fly, and adds layers of his own vocals dynamically. So each song performance becomes effectively a new orchestration. (He also sells CDs of his concerts after the show and via his web site).

I could go on and on, but it is best to just give a listen and check out his lyrics for yourself. Let me know what you thing.