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Archive for the ‘Jay Rubin’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ANAT COHEN AND MARCELLO GONÇALVES-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #74 (September 2, 2020).

Anat Cohen plays the clarinet and Marcello Gonçalves plays the seven-string guitar.  Their

music comes from the heart of Brazil. The first two songs are choros, from the choro genre of music that originated in 19th century Rio de Janeiro. Think of choro music like New Orleans jazz, but in South America, both born of European and African influences. Cohen, on the other hand, is a clarinetist from Israel and the composer of these tunes. She developed a passion for Brazilian music while studying at Berklee College of Music and not long afterward found herself in a “roda” (choro jam session) in Rio de Janeiro with some of the most virtuosic players in Brazil’s choro scene. It was on that trip 20 years ago when Cohen met Gonçalves for the first time. All these years later, choro music has woven many of the threads in Cohen’s musical fabric.

Notice Gonçalves’s seven-string guitar, a common instrument in choro music; the additional string extends the lower register as if to combine an acoustic and bass guitar. Cohen explained in an email that playing with Gonçalves “makes me feel like I am playing with a full band.”

This duo was recently revered for their 2018 Grammy-nominated record, Outra Coisa, which celebrates the music of the iconic Brazilian woodwind player and composer Moacir Santos. Gonçalves is acclaimed for refining Santos’s orchestral arrangements down to just two musicians.

“Waiting for Amalia” opens with a bouncy guitar line and a sweet almost flirtatious clarinet.   This song feels quite jazzy.

“Valsa do Sul (Waltz of the South)” begins with a lovely, almost slinky clarinet melody. I love watching him play some of the fast riffs along with her, but it’s the bouncing, percussive moments that really make the song come alive.

This duo was recently revered for their 2018 Grammy-nominated record, Outra Coisa, which celebrates the music of the iconic Brazilian woodwind player and composer Moacir Santos.

Santos was the teacher of the guitarist and composer Baden Powell de Aquino.  I only recently heard of Baden Powell but here he is mentioned again–this time as an influencer before the existence of Instagram.  “In the Spirit of Baden” has some great low notes and a bouncy clarinet.  The middle has a strangely dissonant section where Gonçalves plays a few chords that are a little harsh.  Then Cohen joins in adding some wailing clarinet solos.  It’s a surprisingly dissonant moment in an otherwise very pretty song.

[READ: September 1, 2020] “U.F.O. in Kushiro”

I read this story almost ten years ago.  It was republished in a March 2011 issue of The New Yorker to memorialize the then recent earthquake in Japan.  This story was inspired by the incidents of the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan.

The story (translated by Jay Rubin) opens a few days after the Kobe Earthquake.  And even five days after the Kobe earthquake, Komura’s wife is still engrossed in the TV footage from Kobe.  She never leaves the set.  He doesn’t see her eat or even go to the bathroom.  When he returns from work on the sixth day, she is gone.  She has left a note to the effect that she’s not coming back and that she wants a divorce.  Komura’s wind is knocked out of him. (more…)

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oct28SOUNDTRACK: JASON LYTLE-Tiny Desk Concert #249 (November 5, 2012).

sonJason Lytle was Grandaddy.  Sure there were other people in the band, but it was pretty much all him.  And then he dissolved Grandaddy and started recording discs under his own name.

I loved Granddaddy, but didn’t listen to any of his solo stuff.  So I don’t really know how different it sounds.  For this Tiny Desk Concert, he plays two songs from his 2012 solo album Dept. of Disappearance and one Grandaddy track.

“Willow Wand Willow Wand” is a catchy song with just him and a drum machine playing a backing beat.  He sounds like the guy from Grandaddy but slightly different….

Introducing “Get Up and Go,” he explains that he’s been really enjoying playing his songs in this stripped down format.  He really likes making records that are big and produced.  And now he likes not feeling pressure to do them in concert that way.  He’s happy to not try to pull off all of the bells and whistles in a live environment.  “Get Up and Go” is a “happy and peppy song and this isn’t a happy and peppy version of it.”

This song is quite slow.  Again its him on guitar but at the appropriate moments in the chorus he hits a key on the keyboard and a little melody (very Granddaddy) plays briefly.

After this song you can hear Stephen Thompson ask “Robin, you like this?” to much laughter.

He says he finished an hour long session at Sirius XM.  He was completely by himself and he was really comfortable.  But playing music in front of people makes him nervous—you’d think he had it down by now.  But he tells us “if you’ve never done it before as weird as you imagine it being… it’s that weird.”

The final song is a request for Grandaddy’s “Jed the Humanoid” and that’s when I realized why he sounds different.  He sings slightly more falsetto in Granddaddy than on the solo songs.  It’s very subtle, but I can hear it.  The original of this song is very synthy, so hearing it on acoustic guitar (with the lyrics very clear) really changes the feel of the song.

After a verse, he turns a knob on the keyboard and this weird frog-like sound bubbles under the song (similar to the one on the record, which is neat).

And as he leaves the Desk, you can hear Robin say “the saddest song in the world.”

[READ: July 20, 2016] “Samsa in Love”

Basing a story on another story can be risky, especially when the story you base yours on is incredibly famous with a first line that many people can quote without looking.

But Murakami does something very interesting with Gregor Samsa in this story.  “He woke to discover that he had undergone a metamorphosis and become Gregor Samsa.”  We don’t know who or what “he” was before this and neither does he.  He’s not even sure exactly what he is–but he knows his name.

The first few paragraphs are all about him getting used to even being human–scoffing at his body, wondering why he was so cold and what that gnawing pain was in his stomach–hunger, it turns out.  He spends several paragraphs just trying to learn how to walk on two legs.  It’s all somewhat comical although not exactly funny.

Finally he gets downstairs–the table has been set for a meal but no one is there. Everything is still warm and yet the house appears empty. No matter, he tucks into the food wand eats everything.  Then he sets about trying to cover himself.  He looks out the window and sees everyone dressed, but he’s not willing to even attempt to put clothes on so he grabs a dressing gown and slips into that. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: TOM WAITS-Closing Time (1973). 

This is the first official Tom Waits release.  There’s a couple “Early Years” collections which are really fascinating for how much he doesn’t sound like the 21st century Tom Waits, but these at least show glimpses of the man to come.  There are some songs on here that I knew of from different artists, and had no idea TW had written them  (Tim Buckley covered “Martha” the same year this came out (that’s pretty amazing), The Eagles covered “Ol’ 55” on their album the following year.  However, Van Halen’s “Ice Cream Man” is not a cover of Tom’s song). The funny thing about the record is how much he sounds like a late 70s lounge singer. How can an album as stripped down as this sound of an era? I don’t know, but it does. It’s also nice to know that his opening song “Ol’ 55” has had such a long life.

My wife does not like Tom Waits, but I think I could sneak this album past her.  You can tell that it’s Tom (before years of abuse to his vocal chords).  His voice is in fine non-gravelly form, just a little bass heavy.  And he is crooning to us.  He even has one of his sweet songs (“Midnight Lullaby”).  It’s hard (but not impossible) to imagine that this man would have turned into the man from Bone Machine.

As I was saying about the mid 70’s, the style of songs here could easily have been played on the same radio station as Springsteen (this album came out the same year as Greetings from Asbury Park–and Springsteen made famous “Jersey Girl” one of Tom’s early songs).  Indeed, many of these songs were covered by other artists.  The funny thing to me about the album is that although Tom is the pianist, I feel like the album is more focused on the trumpet (that muted trumpet seems to be everywhere (giving the album more of a jazzy feel than a rock feel).  And yet, despite this overall jazziness, “I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love with You” and “Old Shoes (& Picture Postcards)” is a pretty straight-ahead folk song.  There’s also the beautiful ballad “Martha” played only on piano–such a gorgeous melody.  Perhaps the least exciting song is the instrumental ballad “Closing Time.”  It’s a simple piano melody with more trumpet.  There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just not that inspirational.

I find that as I get older I like this album more (which is somewhat ironic since he recorded it when he was 24).  It’s tempting to say that the album–with its many styles–is unfocused, but Waits’ albums all seem to follow in this multiple-styles vein.  He’s not afraid to try something new (see his entire output since 1983).  But this one is a surprisingly straightforward album.  I can’t wait to see if Sarah likes it.

[READ: September 21, 2011] “Town of Cats”

Murakami is (in my limited experience) a master of the surreal. And yet for his more recent short stories, he seems to be switching into more of a story within a story conceit.  And that’s fine too, because the stories and the stories within the stories are clever and creative and still a bit surreal.

This story starts out a little awkwardly: at Koenji Station, Tengo boards a train with absolutely no destination in mind.  He can get off anywhere that he wants, he decides. He imagines going to the beach and enjoying a nice day.  But then he realizes that all along he has ben heading in one specific direction: to visit his father in a nursing home.  This is especially surprising for Tengo as he has not visited his father in over two years (and Tengo is his only relative).

As Tengo thinks back to his childhood, it is full of nothing but anger.  Anger that his father took him on his work (collecting fees for Japanese TV) every Sunday and that Tengo never had any chance for fun.  In fairness to Tengo’s father, Tengo’s mother died when Tengo was just a baby and his father had to take care of him as best as he could.  But there was no love, no warmth, no emotion.  And the more he thought about his father he realizes that that’s what his father was like–no intellectual curiosity of any kind.  Just work work work.

And yet Tengo can’t shake a memory from when he was only a year and a half or so of his mother standing near hs crib with a man who wasn’t his father kissing her naked breasts.  This memory has always been with him and he can’t help but wonder if his father really isn’t his father at all.  (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: GOGOL BORDELLO-Tiny Desk Concert #66 (June 28, 2010).

I had heard a few minutes of Gogol Bordello before this concert but it was during a TV show that I was half watching.  When I sat down and listened to this show, I was blown away by hem and immediately bought two of their CDs. Gogol Bordello is a multi-piece, multi ethic band that plays rocked-up Russian folk music (mor or less).  The sound is very traditional, with a kind of gypsy edge sprinkled onto it.  I’m not sure how many people are in the band, or how may people showed up for this concert but it sounds like about 100 in the tint room.  This is also the longest Tiny Desk show that I’ve heard (it runs almost 25 minutes).

The band plays five songs (and there’s a little chatting in between) and as the session goes on the band gets more rowdy (and more fun).  The video (also available at the same site) shows the singer sitting in the laps of the NPR folks and jumping on some desks and just having a blast.  And even though I enjoy shoegazing music, this is the kind of rollicking fun that I would love to see in concert.

The songs are political, but not overtly so, it’s more of a communal feel, of people uniting (which is indeed political).  I think they could get old kind of quickly, but in small doses the band is energizing and wonderful.

[READ: March 27, 2011] “U.F.O. in Kushiro”

This story was originally published in the March 19, 2001 issue and was inspired by the incidents of the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan.  It was reprinted here to memorialize the recent earthquake in Japan.  The story is accompanied by rather devastating photos (and some surreal ones) of the aftermath of the earthquake in Kobe.

The story (translated by Jay Rubin) opens a few days after the Kobe Earthquake.  And even five days after the Kobe earthquake, Komura’s wife is still engrossed in the TV footage from Kobe.  She never leaves the set.  He doesn’t see her eat or even go to the bathroom.  When he returns from work on the sixth day, she is gone.  She has left a note to the effect that she’s not coming back and that she wants a divorce.  Komura’s wind is knocked out of him. (more…)

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