Sunday, July 31, 2005

Bird is the Word

The New York Times has an interesting article about a previously unreleased concert featuring bebop legends Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie:

It's an unlikely story, but the most stunning jazz discovery in a decade - the Rosetta Stone of bebop - was unearthed at an Elks Lodge in Chelmsford, Mass. The trove consisted of seven 12-inch acetate discs, on which was recorded a 40-minute concert by Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker at Town Hall in New York on June 22, 1945.

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Saturday, July 30, 2005

Interesting Articles

The online magazine One Final Note has an interview with saxophonist David Binney:

Born in Florida and raised in Southern California, saxophonist Dave Binney has been immersed in the New York City jazz scene since his arrival there at the age of 19. A prolific artist with nine recordings—including the recent Bastion of Sanity (Criss Cross)—under his own name, Binney has also worked with artists as diverse as Cecil McBee, Maceo Parker, Aretha Franklin, and Medeski, Martin & Wood. Ludwig vanTrikt touched base with Binney earlier this year to talk about his experiences as a musician and producer, as well as his candid opinions of the record industry in general.

The Newark Star-Ledger has an interesting article from Zan Stewart about a special concert to honor Horace Silver and Kenny Dorham:

Showcasing top-rate players of the New York and New Jersey area, the evening revealed how seriously Silver, 76, and Dorham, who died in 1972 at age 48, took composing. The pieces boasted a wealth of engaging melodies. Most were orchestrated for the entire ensemble -- from trio to sextet -- creating full, detailed music of sometimes startling complexity that was also quite moving.

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Vision Festival Review

Bruce Lee Gallanter of the Downtown Music Gallery has a review at their web site of this year's Vision Festival:

There is a good reason why a couple of hundred folks from around the US and the rest of the world come to the Vision Fest every year. They know they will be transformed and their/our Vision will be strengthened. For me it is like a family reunion every year, everyone who attends it connected by the music.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Interesting Articles

Bagatellen has an interesting review about the new book The Last Miles: The Music Of Miles Davis, 1980-1991 by George Cole:

If you’re a total Miles maniac, this book is fascinating – sometimes in a surprising way, as it reveals through repetitive anecdotes how Davis used the same psychological-warfare techniques on everybody who ever joined his band, for decades. If you’re just getting into the music, though, this isn’t the book for you.

There's an interview with Bill Frisell from a Canadian magazine here - he's supposed to have a new double-disc live album coming out soon, I'm really pshched about it:

Even his soon-to-be-released 2-CD live album East/West takes us on a journey: Geographically, by presenting a performance on each American coast; musically, via two different trios effortlessly improvising their way through two dizzying sets that encompass everything from Heard it Through the Grapevine to Bob Dylan covers and restrained Frisell originals to a faithful bluegrass cover of Johnny Cash's Tennessee Flat Top Box.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Do the Ipod Shuffle

Being a practicing geek of long standing I couldn't resist picking up an Ipod Shuffle when they came out a couple of months ago. I really like my big mp3 player (40 gb Nomad Zen) but the Shuffle is great for taking to the gym or going hiking since it's a flash player, there's no hard drive to shake around or skip. It's not a super high-tech gadget, I wish there where at least a minimal display but it really holds a charge and does just what it says on the tin.

I am loathe to recommend any product over another, but Itunes does make it pretty easy to manage digital music and make playlists so swap on and off the shuffle. I still prefer Winamp for music streamed from the computer, because it will play FLAC files that I have downloaded via bittorrent without converting them.

I was never much good at making mix tapes during the bygone age of the cassette and I'm now trying to improve that skill a little bit for the shuffle by making a number of different playlists, the cool thing is that the shuffle by its very name will shuffle the tunes so the actual order of the songs doesn't grow stale. So far I've made playlists for the gym (punk and indie rock) and electric improv (fusion and electronica.) Suggestions for playlists are always welcome!

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Monday, July 25, 2005

Downbeat Readers Poll

The one Downbeat magazine that I buy instead of reading at the library each year is the one where I get to vote in the Reader's Poll. They have this kooky system where the eligable albums are from September 2004 - August 2005 instead of just a regular calendar year, but I'll make do. Here are my selections:

Hall of Fame: Sam Rivers
Jazz Musician of the Year: William Parker
Jazz Album of the Year: Wayne Shorter - Beyond the Sound Barrier
Jazz Reissue of the Year: Albert Ayler - Holy Ghost
Jazz Record Label of the Year: Palmetto
Jazz Combo: Dave Holland Quintet
Jazz Big Band: Mingus Big Band
Blues Musician of the Year: Joe Louis Walker
Blues Album of the Year: Pinetop Perkins - Ladies Man
Composer: Reid Anderson
Trumpet: Ron Horton
Trombone: Grachan Moncour III
Soprano Sax: Wayne Shorter
Alto Sax: Kenny Garrett
Tenor Sax: Chris Potter
Baritone Sax: James Carter
Flute: Sam Rivers
Clarinet: Chris Speed
Electric Keyboard: Craig Taborn
Acoustic Piano: Ethan Iverson
Organ: Alice Coltrane
Guitar: Bill Frisell
Bass: Dave Holland
Drums: Susie Ibarra
Percussion: Ray Burretto
Vibes: Stefon Harris
Misc. Instrument: David Murray (Bass Clarinet)
Male Singer: Mose Allison
Female Singer Bebel Gilberto

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Sunday, July 24, 2005

Odds and ends

The McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ has announced its schedule for the upcoming fall and winter season, with a couple of well known mainstream pianists leading the bill, the legendary McCoy Tyner and the cranky young keyboardist Brad Mehldau.

Speaking of Princeton, I stopped down there today to do some record shopping at the Princeton Record Exchange. I picked up Sun Ra's Supersonic Jazz, Chick Corea's Is, Grant Green's Alive, and a Junior Wells' Comin' at You.

Book review - The Rock Snobs Dictionary by David Camp & Stephen Daly. Being something of a music snob myself (why limit it to rock?) I couldn't pass up this little tome. It's a neat book with entries on snob-friendly cult bands like Can and The Fugs. Great for settling arguments or pondering strange bands. It's a call to arms - music geeks unite!

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Interesting Articles

The Pogues web site has re-printed Bob Geldof's comments originally slated for the Waiting for Herb re-issue and then dropped:

The Pogues were the truest to the original though at the start it didn’t look promising. Calling a band ‘Póg Mo Thóin' could only be considered smart by a first generation immigrant. No Irish band would ever have CONSIDERED calling themselves as lame as ‘Kiss My Arse,’ but Gaelic in Britain was no longer a language but an indecipherable prank code in which one could secretly insult a host culture that looked down upon one. MacGowan had already tried the punk rebel route. A mix of two immigrant outsider groups, first generation West Indians and Paddies mixing it up with fundamental outlaw noise. It was great but I never thought Shane was that convincing.
The Riverfront Times has an article on one of my favorite rock and roll bands, The Black Keys:

This entanglement of music and manufacturing seeps into the music of the Black Keys, the Akron duo of vocalist-guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney, who still live and record in the metropolis. A rock & roll pair frequently compared to wizened old bluesmen and fellow bass-less wonder twins the White Stripes, the Keys mix shuddering drums and scorched-earth riffs to encapsulate their town's blue-collar, unpretentious roots.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Sun Ra – Dance of Innocent Passion (Saturn, 1980)

This live album from the Sun Ra Arkestra recorded at the Squat Theatre in New York City is well out of print and that’s a pity, because it’s one of the more interesting Ra albums of his final period. While much Ra work during the final ten years of his career saw him consolidating the advances he had made previously and exploring favorite swing era themes, this one catches an expanded Arkestra at an exploratory peak, with some blistering solo work.

This disc contains some instrumentation not normally heard in a Sun Ra album, including vibraphone, guitar and tuba. “Dance of the Innocent Passion” begins with some killer organ and synth work from Sun Ra, who creates near-orchestral soundscapes with his instruments. One of the real highlights of this album is the way-out tenor saxophone solo from John Gilmore which he takes here. The rest of the band lays out allowing him the spotlight and he makes the most of it. Gilmore plays up in the highest register of his horn and makes use of overblowing techniques to craft an outstanding and intense solo.

Finally on “Cosmo-Intensity” Ra’s synthesizer squares off with Richard Williams bowed bass in an epic duet, that is at the same time wild and musically perfect. The keep up this exchange of ideas for over twelve minutes before the band finally kicks back in, and the group improvises as a whole, bring the piece to a close. This is one of the most interesting extended improvisations in the entire Ra catalog and must be heard to be believed. You’re going to have a devil of a time hearing it though – I only got a copy through a trading network the tries to keep Sun Ra’s out of print work available to collectors. Let’s hope Evidence Records starts a new round of re-issues with this lost gem.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Sonny Boy Williamson (II) – 1951-1953 (Classics, 2004)

After coming into prominence while hosting the King Biscuit Flower Hour on radio, the second of the great Sonny Boy Williamson's (Alex"Rice" Miller) singer, songwriter and harmonica player extraordinairebegan to record singles for the small Mississippi blues label Trumpet Records. Classics brings together three years worth of these 45's in chronological order on this CD. While Williamson's best known for the classics he cut for the Chess label, there is some equally powerful music here with some heavy duty sidemen in tow, like the legendary slide guitarist Elmore James.

Some of Sonny Boy's great songs are heard here in their original incarnations with hits like "Eyesight to the Blind," "Nine Below Zero"and "Mr. Down Child." His trademark super laid-back singing and swooping stinging harmonica punctuate all of the music here. One of the more interesting tunes represented here is "Cat Hop" which finds Sonny Boy trading licks with members of a swing orchestra, proving that as a musician he was much more than a one trick pony.

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Monday, July 18, 2005

ROVA Orkestrova – Electric Ascension (Atavistic, 2005)

The west coast saxophone quartet ROVA has been at the forefront of avant-garde jazz for over a quarter of a century. As a part of the 25th anniversary celebration of the band they invited a number of guests who played electric or electronic instruments to join the band in an interpretation of John Coltrane's most controversial composition, Ascension. Two versions of this extended free jazz suite were recorded by John Coltrane in 1965 and polarized the jazz world with it's cauterizing performance. This was actually ROVA's second recorded interpretation of Ascension and it certainly takes quite a bit of fortitude to record it not once, but twice!

The original performance was transcribed and then arranged into a suite like “structured improvisation” the utilized not only the entire group as a whole as when they state the melody at the beginning and end of the composition, but also breaks the group down into smaller units for improvisational sections within the larger composition. Yes, as in the original work there are many passages of howling, shrieking saxophone, but there are also portions of this interpretation which are quietly eerie, especially when the strings combine with the electronics for an otherworldly interlude in the maelstrom.

This disc certainly isn't for the faint of heart, but those with an appreciation for free improvisation and an interest in the legacy and impact of John Coltrane's free jazz period on the musicians of today will find much to enjoy in this msuic.

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Sunday, July 17, 2005

Interesting Article has a very interesting two-part interview with painist, composer and academic Vijay Iyer:

In particular, it’s more common to see South Asians doing stuff in the world—being public figures, artists, being public intellectuals, or anything. Being in a state where they can actually speak to great numbers of people. But at the time, I felt like I needed to state, for whoever was going to be listening and reading, that I am—a fact. That was maybe a verbose way of saying it back then, but I was twenty-four; maybe I was “full of words and myself.”

Friday, July 15, 2005

Top five Grant Green discs:

Jazz guitarist Grant Green never quite received the respect of his contemporaries like Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell, but at his peak from 1961 to 1965, he released reams of great albums on the Blue Note label. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Grantstand – Green’s albums usually fell into a couple of categories, organ boogaloos and modernist hard bop. This album is fascinating because it combines both of those two styles. Brother Jack McDuff lays down the funky organ groove while Yusef Lateef blows hard and heavy on tenor saxophone, flute and oboe. Green stakes out the middle ground between these two other giants, and lays down a modern groove all his own.
2. Matador – Hard to imagine a more killer post-bop rhythm section than McCoy Tyner, Bob Cranshaw and Elvin Jones. Green hold his own and flourishes, dispelling any down that he was just a groove player. The highpoint is “My Favorite Things” which he nails as if he feels no pressure of Coltrane’s epic version hanging over him.
3. Quartets with Sonny Clark – Grant Green and pianist Sonny Clark were a simpatico pair. Both were steeped in bebop and the blues, with great knowledge of jazz and pop standards. Hearing both stretch out on “It Ain’t Necessarily So” is amazing and when they lock into the watertight groove that Art Blakey is keeping on the drums, the results are just spellbinding.
4. Street of Dreams – Here we find Green with another trio of modernists, but with a completely different feel. Elvin Jones is back on drums, but this time they are joined by Bobby Hutcherson on vibraphone and Larry Young on organ. The develop a groove that is all about shades of color that can be developed in music. Jones is superb on music that is moles away from the thunder of the Coltrane quartet.
5. Solid – Almost a companion to Matador, astoundingly Blue Note kept this one in the archive until the mid-80’s. Joe Henderson blows some hard edged tenor saxophone and McCoy Tyner keeps things moving with brisk chording. Green is very patient on this recording, picking his solo spots with care, proving himself every inch the equal of the heavyweights on this disc.

Send comments to: Tim

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Interesting Articles and Information has an interesting interview with Sue Mingus, where she discusses the Mingus legacy and recent projects entitled Sue Mingus: "First and Foremost a Composer"

Downbeat has released it's 2005 Critics Poll Awards, and these are a few of the interesting choices:

Dave Holland: Best Jazz Artist, Best Big Band, Best Acoustic Bassist
Maria Schneider: Best Jazz Album, Best Composer, Best Arranger
Steve Lacy: Hall of Fame
Jason Moran: Rising Star Jazz Artist, Rising Star Acoustic Group, Rising Star Composer, Rising Star Acoustic Piano
Dave Douglas: Best Trumpet
James Carter: Best Baritone Saxophone
Bill Frisell: Best Guitar

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Interesting Articles

Blue Note has issued a press release stating it's intention to release the newly discovered concert with Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane:

On September 27th, Blue Note Records will release Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane: 1957 Concert (**WORKING TITLE), a never-before heard jazz classic that documents one of the most historically important working bands in all of Jazz history, a band that was both short-lived and under-recorded. The concert, which took place on November 29, 1957, at the famed New York concert hall, was preserved on newly-discovered tapes made by Voice of America for a later radio broadcast that were located at the Library of Congress in Washington DC earlier this year.
John Dworkin has an interesting editorial about a confrontation between Gary Peacock and Elvis Costello at the Iridium in New York City entitled The Trouble With Gary: An Open Letter to the Jazz Community:

Soon thereafter, Bill Milkowski quoted Peacock as saying, “I don't play backup to no rock star,” in JazzTimes magazine. I was and am personally offended and embarrassed by Peacock's shameless public display of musical elitism. Also, his use of the term “rock star” most likely hints at his lack of familiarity with Costello's music and career as that term doesn't really fit, but this is a relatively semantic point.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Jarvis Humby – Assume the Position, It’s Jarvis Humby! (Hard Soul, 2004)

It’s 1964 again! Over-amped guitars, some killer swirling organ, and a super-retro feel, but this band rocks like crazy. Jarvis Humby is a garage rock band that pays homage to the classic days of British R&B and Nuggets type psychedelic rock. They’ve been getting a lot of airplay on Sirius Satellite Radio via Little Steven’s Underground Garage which is where I heard the group for the first time. While there really isn’t anything original here, but the advantage the band has over some of their rock and roll contemporaries is that they are in on the joke and have a sense of humor about the music they’re playing.

Songs like “99 Steps to the Sun” and “Majestic 12” mine their psychedelic roots, particularly the latter which is about a UFO investigation the U.S. Government set up in the 1950’s. Blasting rockers are well represented as well, with tracks like “Ain’t No Friend of Mine” and “Man With the X-Ray Eyes” crank things up to eleven. If you’re a fan of the classic garage psychedelica and regret that they don’t make ‘em like that any more, you’ll love this disc. It’s one of the most unabashedly unpretentious and fun CDs to be released in a while.

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, July 11, 2005

Various Artists - Vision 3 (AUM Fidelity, 2005)

The Vision Festival is a yearly avant-garde jazz and improvisation festival held each spring in New York City. Started by William Parker and Patricia Nicholson as a way to feature musicians who otherwise might fall through the cracks of the mainstream, the festival has grown into a premier musical showcase. This CD captures some highpoints of the 2004 festival and also includes a DVD with different performances than those included on the CD, not repeating Thirsty Ear's blunder of having a redundant audio CD with the same performances as the DVD of the 2003 festival highlights. Both of the discs showcase the variety of music available at the festival, and the diverse interests of the performers.

As can be expected, William Parker shows up quite a bit, performing with the Matthew Shipp band on the emotional "Sacrifice and Dream" and leading his own fascinating Jeanne Lee Project with the psychedelic "Bowl of Stone Around the Sun." Another fascinating performance is the politically charged "War Crimes and Battle Scars: Iraq" performed by Roy Campbell and Joe McPhee. This package makes for a great souvenir of the festival and also makes for a great primer for those interested in the current state of the New York avant-garde jazz scene.

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Marcia Ball - Live Down the Road (Alligator, 2005)

Marcia Ball is such a fixture on the blues circuit, it's hard to believe that this is the first live album of her long career. It's an environment that suits her crowd pleasing piano pounding and soulful singing quite well, and it doesn't hurt that she's got a hot band including a horn section and an organist backing her up and filling out the sound. The setlist is made up of a lot of her best known material from previous albums, so fans will feel right at home and newcomers will get something of a greatest hits package in the bargain.

The music is a mix of blasting uptempo piano driven house rockers, and slower ballad pieces which feature the soulful emotionality of her voice. The boogies include "Big Shot" and "Right Tool for the Job" as well as blasting, rollicking versions of concert favorites "Louella" and "Crawfishin.'" As good as these are, highpoint of the set may be a haunted version of Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927" about floodwaters devastating a rural community. It's particularly interesting given the hurricane battering the south this weekend, and the heartbroken beauty of her clear, strong voice make this a thing of beauty.

The band is well rehearsed and stays with her every step of the way, and everybody gets a solo turn when they blast into the old blues standard "Let Me Play With Your Poodle" which ends the set. Ball sings the double entendre blues with impish glee, pounding out chords in the piano and belting out the lyrics. This is a fun CD that is easily recommended to fans of blues and R&B.

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Interesting Article

The New York Times had a piece about Marshall Allen leading the Sun Ra Arkestra ghost band:

The bandleader, Marshall Allen, lives in a three-story row house on Morton Avenue that since 1968 has been the headquarters of the Sun Ra Arkestra, the avant-garde big band that the keyboardist and free-jazz pioneer Sun Ra formed a half-century ago. Sun Ra died in 1993 at 79, and now Mr. Allen leads the group.

Friday, July 08, 2005

New Podcast

I have a new podcast available for downloading. I lowered the bitrate a little bit to make the file size more manageable, so I hope that doesn't affect the sound quality too much. Right click on the link, and choose "save target as." Let me know what you think! Here is the setlist:

Artist/Group – Title - Album
William Parker – Groove - Sound Unity
Big Joe Williams – Prison Bound – George Mitchell Collection
Vijay Iyer – Composites – Reimagining
Little Freddie King – Hot Fingers – You Don't Know What I Know
Joshua Redman – Greasy G – Momentum
Marcia Ball – Crawfishin' – Live Down the Road
Scott Amendola – Buffalo Bird Woman – Believe
James “Blood” Ulmer – White Man's Jail – Birthright
The Thing – Have Love Will Travel – Garage
Bebel Gilberto – Aganju Remixed – Bebel Gilberto Remixed
George Danquah – Hot and Jumpy – Boonjay: A Compilation of West African Funk

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Interesting Articles

B.B. King is interviewed by Relish Magazine of northwest North Carolina, and he's upset about the lack of blues on the radio (note: the "young" Robert Cray is 52 years old!)

Yet King, acclaimed around the world, still laments what he believes is a lack of respect for blues music in America, where radio stations mostly play hip-hop, pop and rock. "We get treated poorly," he said. "I'm thinking about the younger ones, who are coming along today, not B.B. We've had several superstars, like the late Stevie Ray Vaughn, like the young Robert Cray, and they don't get play. They don't get exposed."

Bird Lives! Here's a nice feature on Charlie Parker from the Voice of America that's available to read, stream or download.

Charlie Parker forever changed the performance and writing of jazz music. He developed a new style of jazz called bebop. It was different from the dance, or swing, style that was popular for years.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Bebel Gilberto - Remixed (Six Degrees, 2005)

My friend Brian hipped me to this album, as he his a big fan of remix projects and has plans in the works to release a remix of his most recent album Distance. Bebel Gilberto is the daughter of the famous Brazilian singer Joao Gilberto, and she released her self-titled debut album to great acclaim last year. This album adds beats, samples and loops from different DJ's to the finished tracks as each artist interprets her music and dreamy vocals in their own way.

Overall, the project is quite successful - something akin to viewing a well remembered image through a funhouse mirror. The most exciting aspect of the project for me is the erosion of the "easy listening" aspect of the original album and in some cases adding an extra layer of mystery to the music. I would love to hear her collaborate with Bill Frisell - her dreamy vocals backed with his unique guitar and some subtle electronics would be a match made in heaven.

Monday, July 04, 2005

E-Bay Blues

Been burned and with both feet on the ground,
I've learned that it's painful comin' down.
No use runnin' away, and there's no time left to stay.
Now I'm finding out that it's so confusin',
No time left and I know I'm losin'.

Neil Young "Burned"

OK, so perhaps I'm being a little melodramatic, but this is the first time I have ever been scammed on e-bay and it's another chip of my innocence lost in the great void. Yep, I'm definitely being melodramatic. The whole sad story goes like this: I saw an entry on e-bay for the Captain Beefheart rarities boxed set Grow Fins and I took a flyer at it. Never expecting to win, I kept my bid at a reasonable $50. When lo and behold I had the high bid at auction's end I was thrilled, and greedily and gullibly sent out a fast $53.50 payment via paypal without waiting to check the seller's ratings and feedback (duh!)

Imagining the shocked and disgusted looks on my co-workers faces as I subjected them to five hours of Beefheartian weirdness from my computer speakers in the office, I eagerly awaited the arrival of the package. And waited... and waited... Finally after two weeks, I respectfully e-mailed the seller asking if he had mailed the set yet... no response. I tried contacting him through e-bay... no response. I'd been had! I had received comeuppance for my greed at the hands of a vile fiend. Shocked and angry e-mails to paypal and e-bay were decided in my favor and they say they will attempt to track down the cutpurse and reclaim my filthy lucre. Meanwhile, I hang my head in shame.

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, July 01, 2005


White Stripes – Glastonbury Festival, UK 6/24/05 - It took a die-hard fan to slog through the mud and torrential mud to see the White Stripes first high profile gig since the release of their new album, but it was certainly worth it. Meg and Jack White put on an incredible performance for the gathered masses, kicking off with “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” and then a whip-tight version of the lead-off single from their new album “Blue Orchid.” It was very interesting to hear how the band handled the new material live in concert. Meg was featured, singing “Passive Manipulation” three times as part of medleys, and Jack broke out the marimba for the odd tale of “The Nurse.” Popular favorites were featured as well, with crown pleasing versions of “Hotel Yorba” and the old Son House chestnut “Death Letter.” The band really rose to the occasion for this performance, fortunately broadcast on the BBC so it was able to be archived clearly both on audio and video for posterity.

Send comments to: Tim