Presents...My Favorite Things
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These are links to things that I think are beautiful and/or worthwhile. And I don't give praise lightly...

Brilliant Postcards Brilliant Dancing
Supremely clever, witty, heartfelt and amusing original postcards (some would even call them art) by one of the masters of the Modern Postcard, David Jouris, are available at The G-Spot Art Gallery now has one in its permanent collection (featuring Gunnar in a pointillistic mood). Go thence and be amazed! Gunnar worked withJamey Hampton and Ashley Roland when they were dancing first as Momix, and later as ISO. They've gone on to found a new dance company which continues their breathtaking choreographic style - BODYVOX. Based in Portland, OR, their shows are dazzling, humorous, haunting. Catch them in Portland or in a city near you soon!
©1999 Hold the Mustard

The Story of The Bobs:
Western Onion went broke. Say what? Yep, they went broke, leaving all the singing telegram deliverers broke and unemployed. That was the Great San Francisco Singing Telegram Depression of 1981. Two of the unemployed were Gunnar Madsen and Matthew Stull. They placed a twenty-five-words-or-less ad in the free classifieds, looking for a bass singer. They got one call, from Richard 'Bob' Greene who was not only a bass but a songwriter and recording engineer....

Read and understand more about the Bobs at their very own website!

Children's Links: Noted children's music authority and reviewer Fred Koch has assembled this excellent site that guides you to the very best in children's music. Everything there is top-notch, and all products are available online.
Children's Music Web A non-commercial site dedicated to children's music in all it's forms.
Tell Us a Tale Hear stories (ie 'Horton Hears a Who', 'StellaLuna') produced by Peter Jones of Public Radio WTJU in Virginia, plus games and loads of other hi-quality children's stuff.
Ralph Covert - One of the very best children's music writers. Like Gunnar, his songs have depth and wit and musical complexity - highly recommended
Dan Zanes - Dan delights in covering classic tunes from folk, blues and even broadway with a warm-as-a-campfire voice and great instrumentation. Exciting guest stars join him on his recordings. He's like a Pete Seeger for the next century
Laurie Berkner - Laurie's music is aimed at younger kids (2-5), but it's got qualities that put it head and shoulders above most of the stuff aimed at pre-schoolers. It's so good, family members of all ages will probably get a kick out of it.
Caspar Babypants - Focussed for younger kids (2-5), BUT it's rockin' good, great pop melodies. Caspar is aka Chris Ballew of the indie pop band The Presidents of the United States. Let him rock your socks off.
The Hipwaders - For kids 5 and up, this band has a serious groove and sound, and makes interesting music that wears well with adults in the car/househould.
List of Songs for Car Rides- This link comes from a young friend named Lindsay - wide variety of songs that kids might prefer to "Are we There yet?" :)
Justin Roberts - High-quality music for the 2-6 year old set. Justin's voice is sweet, like James Taylor, and the musicianship and production is impeccable.
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From the world of Music:
Blues Dream | Bill Frisell - He's a quasi-jazz guitarist, but he's also a gifted composer and arranger. His albums til now have intrigued me, but, for my money, he's hit a home run this time. Think Miles Davis' 'Kind of Blue' meets Hank Williams Sr., with a light basting of memphis blues/Van Morrison/Captain Beefheart and a demiglaze of Anthony Braxton/Carla Bley. Yeah, i know, sounds like food you wouldn't want to eat, but I'm telling you this is one tasty record.

J.S. Bach | Cantates BWV 21, 42 | Philippe Herreweghe, Conductor - I'm not a fan of choral music, or classical vocal music in's just not my bag. But, when it's done THIS well...when the music is this gorgeous, and the conductor lavishes such love on every line and phrase...well, I'm in Love! I've been enjoying very much Mr. Herreweghe's version of Mozart's Mass in C minor for a few months - this guy really lives his music, and brings a clarity to the mass that I've never heard before. A commendable record, the Mass in C minor. But these cantatas are way beyond. It's some of the most accessible and beautiful writing by Bach (if you like Handel's 'Messiah', that's the kind of stuff this is). Nuff said? Nuff said!

Radiohead | Kid A - I loved their last recording, OK Computer. They are a band that plays together so well, and they know how to create a recording that is of a whole - when I got to the end of OK Computer, it was the same feeling I got from listening to an entire symphony - a sense of journey, of arrival at the end. Kid A is a radical departure - the Band is not there, it's more loops and synths and a pastiche. At first I was disappointed, and it seems a shame for them not to be grooving together as a band. But as a record? It's another very satisfying journey - it takes you somewhere, and when you get to the end, it's a great feeling. It's a rare thing in music these days to hear someone with a grasp of how to put a large piece of music together. I like this one.
Paul Bley | Open, To Love (1973) - One of my favorite recordings of all time is of Paul Bley and Neils Henning Orsted Pedersen, a piano and double bass duo album from the early '70's. It's long out of print, and my copy is scratched but revered. I just recently bought, on CD, "Open, To Love", Paul Bley's solo piano recording from the same era. This is not typical jazz piano - it's closer to contemporary classical piano (reminds me in some ways of the tonality of Oliver Messiaen) - dissonant, but not aggressively so. Paul Bley's playing here is very spare, and the most enjoyable thing about it, to me, is his sense of harmonic rhythm. Almost all the music here is rubato, there's really no sense of groove, but he w...a...i...t...s.........til the very last moment to move from one chord to another, and it's never too long a wait, every movement is full of anticipation and delicious suspense. Only the very best classical players seem to understand this kind of attention to harmonic movement (see Philippe Herreweghe above) - most jazz players are paying attention to other musical aspects. Paul Bley understands a different pulse in the music, and it's a delight to hear.
LIVRO - Caetano Veloso - Takes my breath away! This is the kind of writing, the kind of music, the kind of album I aspire to. First cut sounds like it's going to be a bossa nova record, but the percussion is too strange and off-kilter to be mere mood music. Then it gets richer, wilder, and by the end of the record you've been through big band, and reggae and through exuberant exultation and post minimalist microcosms and, yes, even a bossa nova. I guarantee this record!
Rufus Wainwright - It took a while to grow on me, seemed too amorphous at first ("Where's the structure?"), but now it's a bona-fide favorite. It's more akin to classical in the depth of it's melody and counterpoint, the richness of the arrangements, and the individuality of it's song structures. Really worth listening to.
Dar Williams - The Honesty Room - I've heard of Dar for a while now, but only recently got around to listening to this one. The opening tune, "When I Was a Boy", is the best 'explanation' of the male and female energy we all carry inside us - oh, god, that sounds way too prosaic, but it cuts to the bone for me. If there were a way of singing this song from a male perspective, I'd do it in all my concerts. The rest of the album holds up - she's a unique voice in the world!
CAKE - Fashion Nugget - A good friend turned me on to this one. He cautioned me to give it a chance. And, yes, when I first put it on it seemed a little whine-y, a sense of "I'm so cool I'm bored" attitude. But you know what? There's real stuff under that first impression, and the music is so very very good, melodies and counter melodies all over the place, a nice variety of styles, and an interesting instrumentation (a rock group with a trumpet?). And the lyrics, they paint some vivid and wonderful pictures. I'm diggin' it.
Marlui Miranda - Ihu, Todos os Sons I worked with Marlui on the soundtrack to "At Play in the Fields of the Lord". One of the most fantastic and soulful voices I've ever worked with. She is an expert on the musics and cultures of indigenous tribes in the Amazon rain forest. But her new album is not mere reproductions of tribal songs fit for ethnomusicologists. Oh, no. She's 'interpreted' them, made them her own, infused them with her own voice while keeping the raw spirit alive. I play this one over and over, it's a rare treat. It features the work of Uakti and Gilberto Gil and many others.
Rubén Gonzàlez - Introducing... I don't know the man, never been to Cuba, but this album is as alive as they come. Born in 1919, Rubén was once a star piano player in Cuba. In recent years he'd been forgotten, he was without a piano to play on, but he apparently lived for the chance to play. You can hear the stiffness in his fingers, but his rhythm is impeccable and his mind is alive with playfulness, and the character of the recording is so fresh, you can hear every musician as if they were in the room with you. Delicious.
Don Byron - Bug Music Fantastically fresh re-creations and re-interpretations of Raymond Scott and a few others. Raymond Scott's music is familiar to almost everyone, as it was used in by Carl Stalling in Warner Brothers cartoons (Bugs Bunny and etc.). This record shows off how wonderful that music was and is - The images of the cartoons have faded from my mind as I've listened over the past year, and the music stands on its own now. Very engaging.
Jane Siberry - When I Was a Boy A record seemingly all about love. Yes, some romantic love, but mainly love in the largest sense of the word. I mean, you know, BIG love. It's a strange mishmash of moods and styles, but it's a true journey of a record. I put it on and just go.... I do stop it before the remix of a song which comes 10 seconds after the end of the CD - That kind of ruins the mood. But hey, there is genius here, and a lot of heart.
Radiohead - OK Computer I don't tire of this one. Melody everywhere, layers of it. Another 'journey' of a record, not just a collection of songs.
Honorable Mention:
Vanessa Lowe - Her House of Sin Local songwriter/friend just oozing with talent - this is a very good record, surprising melodic and harmonic twists, lyrics that invite you in for a closer listen, and an expressive voice - It's available at (this link will take you to her Amazon page - soundbites n' everything!)
Karnak - Karnak Music from all over the world from Brazil. A sonic feast, though it's a high energy thing, I long for some slower, mellower moments.
The Birdwatchers Pop music with heart and soul. Great songs, lush vocal harmonies. CrosbyStillsNash meets the Beach Boys meets the Beatles. Or something like that. We've got some gigs together coming up soon...meantime, buy their record at NOTLAME Records (the ONLY place you can find this gem!).
...After my recent gig doing Sammy Davis Jr. vocalizations over my pal Mark Adler's steamingly creative big band arrangements, I've gone back to a coupla records that share a similar edginess in their big-bandedness. They are:
Thelonius Monk - Who's Afraid of the Big Band Monk? This is an old two-record set, don't know if it's still in print. One record is a tossaway for me, Oliver Nelson and Monk in a studio, it misses the mark. The other LP is a live recording of Hall Overton's arrangements for Monk, and it's as if Monk just lifted handfuls of notes from the the piano and threw them at the horn section. A marvelous, marvelous record.
Carla Bley - Musique Mechanique Playful, dark, arty, but almost a rock n' roll record to my ears. One of the songs is orgasmic, it out-does Ravel's Bolero in terms of sustained crescendo.
Frank Zappa - Waka Jawaka The whole second side of this record is still a pleasure lo these many years later, but it is the title track, Waka Jawaka, that steals my heart. The big band arrangement is derivative of detective soundtracks, but it's its own thing, and the wacked out solos by Don Preston and Zappa himself are a treat. The extended trumpet/guitar duet leading to the major horn blast is also a tasty morsel. Yum.


updated: 2/2/15 12:27 PM