Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Today's Sampler: Ratatouille, Radiohead, Vinyl Fever, Mofro, Herbie Hancock

The true best pictures of the year, according to Forbes, are those with the best combo of critical acclaim (based on MetaCritic standings) AND box-office mojo. The big winner: Disney/Pixar animated gem Ratatouille. Close on the rat's heels are The Bourne Ultimatum, The Simpsons Movie and Knocked Up. Here's the full story.

I came way late to the party for Radiohead, and I didn't download In Rainbows when it was first available last year. But it's rarely been out of my car's CD player since I picked up the disc over the weekend at Vinyl Fever. As has been said a billion times about Radiohead, the Brit act remains on the forefront of what rock can do - and mean - as an artistic medium. Plus, you know, they rock.

As a former beneficiary of free admission to hundreds of concerts, I felt the pain when I forked over cash Saturday, online, to buy tickets to Radiohead's upcoming Ford Amphitheater show. But I feel good about it. The first and only other time I paid "serious" cash for a rock show was at last year's Police reunion stop at the St. Pete Times Forum. Yes, it was worth it, but, honestly, the only reason I would pay to see Sting, Andy and Stewart on their return swing through Florida -- dates in Orlando and West Palm Beach, if I remember correctly -- would be for the rare opportunity to catch Elvis Costello leading a full-on rock band.

Speaking of Vinyl Fever - The longtime Tampa Bay area independent music store, still my favorite place to go for new and used CDs, in the last year or so has lost two guys who were part of the fabric of the store, and knew as much about music and about the record business as anyone I've ever met. First, Carl left, and, just recently, Gabe moved on. Huh? I would call those major losses.

But, you know, don't let that stop you from visiting Vinyl Fever, perusing the bins, listening to new music and buying stuff. As an extra added attraction, Mofro frontman J.J. Grey is doing a live in-store solo performance this Saturday, coinciding with his Skipper's shows Friday and Saturday nights.

I heard good reports about legendary jazzer Ira Sullivan's show at the Gorilla Theatre last weekend, a performance presented by the Tampa Jazz Club. He pulled out trumpet, sax and flute for jazz standards, backed by a good group of local players - pianist Michael Royal, bassist Richard Drexler and drummer Steve Davis.

Finally, it's been amusing to follow the brouhaha over Herbie Hancock winning the Grammy for best album: Some critics and industry observers have whined ad infinitum over the fact that River: The Joni Letters, Hancock's tribute to Joni Mitchell trumped releases by Amy Winehead (er, Winehouse), Kanye "I Won't Be Ignored" West, the Foo Fighters and Vince Gill. No, Herbie's latest wasn't his best or most innovative album, or even one of the best jazz CDs of the year, IMO. But the album's performances - by such genius-level players as pianist Hancock and saxophonist Wayne Shorter - and arrangements are still far more sophisticated than anything offered by the competition. The complaint that the Grammys hurt their credibility (like they had any to start with) is upside down. Rather, the Grammys brought a little credibility to their game by giving rare kudos to a bona-fide musical artist.

For more thoughts on the above subject, see Tampa Tribune pop music critic Curtis Ross's dead-on column.

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