Tuesday, January 23, 2007

It's been a long time Since I last posted, but ...

I've been busy.

Some items and events that have interested me recently (in no particular order) ...

1)SawPalm, the new online academic and literary journal (cover, above) published by the graduate creative writing program in the English department at USF, has been up and running for a while now. Glad I was able to participate: I contributed an essay on John Sayles' film Sunshine State and a review of Harry Crews' new novella An American Family.

2)The IAJE (International Association for Jazz Education) conference in New York again was an amazing opportunity to hear tons of great jazz and generally plug into everything happening in the jazz world. It was nice to see and hear USF's own Chuck Owen, president of the IAJE, at the podium, presiding at the opening ceremonies and at several major performances. In a story published the Sunday before the conference started, New York Times critic Nate Chinen referred to the conference as, temporarily, "the global epicenter of jazz."

Among the blue-chip performances I caught at IAJE: the Avishai Cohen Trio, led by the virtuoso bassist from Brazil (I'm profiling him for Bass Player magazine); Charlie Haden Liberation Music Orchestra, led by the veteran bassist; singer Mina Agossi; "The Latin Side of Miles Davis," with trombonist Conrad Herwig and trumpeter Brian Lynch; pianist Joanne Brackeen's quartet; and much, much more.

3)I also took my son to see pianist Jason Moran and Bandwagon (his trio, with bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits) at the Birdland jazz club. I reviewed that for Billboard.com (link to come). I'm not sure if my son really liked the music, which ranged from rootsy blues to straight-ahead swing to free improvisation, but at least he got a chance to be exposed to jazz.

4)While in New York, I got to catch up with old Greenwich Blue bandmate Kim Bock, a tenor saxophonist whose new, just-released CD, Secrets, is on the Steeplechase label. Kim is really making inroads on the scene, with upwards of 160 gigs a year. He's preparing for a tour of his native Denmark and other European cities.

5)I also got to chat a bit with guitarist Corey Christiansen, another former musical associate, about his new CD, Jazz Hits Vol. 1, on Mel Bay Records. The CD has Christiansen and name guitarists Vic Juris and Jimmy Bruno joining forces with the rhythm section of drummer Danny Gottlieb and bassist Vic Juris. By the way, both Corey and Kim did graduate work in jazz at USF.

6)It was a family trip to New York, so we took the opportunity to visit the top of the Rockefeller Center (spectacular views); did a walking tour of Greenwich Village (where I lived for a couple of months back in summer of '85, while attending grad school at NYU); wandered around LIttle Italy and Chinatown; ate at an Indian restaurant in the Village and an Irish restaurant, Connelly's, in mid-town; skated at the Wollman Rink in Central Park, yet another venture that Donald Trump has co-opted (like I want to see his face everywhere I go); and saw "Mary Poppins" on Broadway.

7)Norman Mailer has been getting a lot of love lately, with feature stories in USA Today, Esquire and Entertainment Weekly.

It looks like his new novel, The Castle in the Forest, is going to get mixed reviews: Janet Maslin called the book "zzzzz-filled" in her review published in The New York Times on Jan. 19. Lee Siegel, though, in an essay-length review published a few days later in The New York Times Book Review, concluded that the book is "remarkable," applauding it as "the almost superhumanly detached fulfillment of the somewhat depressed boast he made nearly half a century ago in “Advertisements for Myself”: “I wish to attempt an entrance into the mysteries of murder, suicide, incest, orgy, orgasm and Time.”

Entertaiment Weekly critic Jennifer Reese, in her review, calls the book a "discursive, self-indulgent, and terrifically creepy wallow of a 12th novel."

Here's an excerpt, courtesy of USA Today.

8)Good stuff I've been listening to lately: (trombonist) Phil Wilson's PanAmerican All-Stars Celebrate the Music of Antonio Carlo "Tom" Jobim, on Capri; (fretless bassist) Mark Egan, As We Speak; Various Artists, Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life; Various Artists, Brooklyn Jazz Underground; Alice Smith, For Lovers, Dreamers & Me (lo and behold, the trumpeter on this disc is former Tampa Bay area musician Jonathan Powell, a part-time member of my old Ghetto Love Sugar band; and Corinne Bailey Rae.

9)I've yet to post my Top 10 list (CDs) on my own blog, so here's the list (best of year, jazz and rock and everything) I provided to Billboard.com; and here's the Top 10 jazz list I provided to jazzhouse.org, the site operated by the Jazz Journalists Association. I also did Top 10 CD lists for Las Vegas City Life and (forthcoming) the Village Voice Pazz and Jazz Poll.

10)I did film lists for a couple of critics groups: Winners of the Florida Film Critics Circle Awards are posted here; winners of the Southeastern Film Critics Association awards are posted here. I'm happy to report that both groups gave Scorsese's The Departed the nod for best film of the year, and Scorsese the award for best director.

That's 10 items, right? Gotta go ...

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