Sunday, January 5, 2020

A Music Mash of 2019:

As we ended 2019, a year of some disruption and fluidity, the music industry posted another year of deep sea streaming, while cds continuing to crawl into the past, and the sound of vinyl, showed its buoyancy and had its best year in 30 years--vinyl resurrected outsold the once mighty cd, and continued to pick up sales and loyalists. With streaming and lower cost music production equipment readily available, it was easier to make more types of music accessible both to the maker and the listener, often bypassing the traditional major record labels, and spurring on innovation,
In 2018 and 2019 we honored the 50th and 60th Anniversaries of great music of the 1950s and the 60s, when much of our innovations in genre-bending popular music began. But even Billboard, the so-called music industry bible, now in its 126th year, is changing its tune and adapting its charts of hits to today's way of musicians linking more directly to their audiences. This was a year in which musical styles and genres crisscrossed and were often disrupted, with interesting new faces, voices, and sounds emerging.
A newcomer, Billie Eilish, and her brother worked from their house to de- and re-construct popular music, using the ordinary to create a new sound that popped like magic through the airwaves, sweeping Billie into modern-day fame and fortune. DC area’s own SHAED created an infectious yet elastic “Trampoline” that whistled its way to almost continuous play.
Remixes, mashes, and covers abounded, while new super groups were cleverly founded, like I’m With Her, Better Oblivion Community Center, the Highwaywomen, and Boygenuis--all sounding joyful, playful, and fun. Rap mixed with country, classical with hip hop, jazz and rock melded, breaking down boundaries in salute to the freshness of 2019.
Here are some of the albums and songs that were among the highlights of the year (in no apparent order), and I am honored to share them with you :
Dido -- Still On My Mind
Lana Del Rey | Norman F***ing Rockwell!
Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride
Angel Olsen – My Woman
Michael Kiwanuka -- Kiwanuka
Sharon van Etten – (Seventeen)/Are We There?
Jenny Lewis – On the Line
Maggie Rogers -- Heard It in a Past Life
Solange -- When I Get Home
Bon Iver -- I,I
Lizzo -- Cause I Love you
Highwaywomen-- The Highwomen/ The Chain
Better Oblivion Community Center -- Better Oblivion Community Center
Purple Mountain—Purple Mountain
Joan Shelley: Like The River Loves The Sea
Jamila Woods (Jagjaguwar) -- Legacy! Legacy!
Wilco -- Ode to Joy
Tyler the Creator-- Igor
Brittany Howard: Jaime
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds: Ghosteen
Leonard Cohen – Thanks for the Dance
Burna Boy -- African Giant
Weyes Blood | Titanic Rising
Sudan Archives -- Athena
FKA twigs – Magdalene
Selena Gomez –Lose You to Love You
Rodrigo y Gabriela – Echoes
Billy Eilish --When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?/
Bad Guy
I’m With Her — Live at House of Blues (Full Set)/and for their work on Live from Here
SHAED – Melt/Trampoline
The Lumineers -- Gloria

Mavis Staples -- Change
Olivia Chaney -- Who Know Where the Time Goes (Live at Richard Thompson's Albert Hall birthday concert 30/09/2019)

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Remembering Irv Noren

I was sorry to hear about the passing of Irv Noren, a fine hitting outfielder who achieved most of his fame with the fabled Yankees of the 1950s, as a fill-in successor to the just-retired Joe DiMaggio, when the truly-anointed successor, Mickey Mantle, still suffered from an injury in the 1951 World Series (getting out of Joe D's way on a ball hit by Willie Mays). The Yankees of that era often picked up key pieces of their teams from the less successful American League teams, in this case, Noren came from the hapless Washington Senators of the early 50s.
Noren had played pro basketball in the 1940s alongside Jackie Robinson on an integrated team before Jackie's Dodger historic stint began. Noren had a great rookie season with the Senators in 1950 (with 160 hits, 10 triples, 14 home runs, 98 runs batted in, and a .295 average; he hit .319 for Yankees, and made the All-Star team in 1954). His salary for the Yanks in 1952 was a meager $19,000, and the stingy Yanks first offered him a $2000 raise. But he went on to be part of three Yankees championship teams, and a third-base coach on two championship Oakland A's teams in the 70s. Noren's career as a player in the majors spanned eleven seasons and six teams and he played all outfield positions and first base, and he had a respectable lifetime batting average of .275. Irv Noren was a modest yet talented utility player who journeyed after his time as a key piece of a legendary franchise.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

P.S. A Footnote to History: Motown Revived

P.S.   It is great for fans of all teams to see two pitching masterpieces in a row from Sanchez and Scherzer against a usually powerful Cardinal lineup. The Nats threw in some clutch hitting by Adam Eaton for good measure. The Sanchez and Scherzer back to back hitless pitching was only the second time in MLB postseason history that teammates pitched at least five hitless innings in consecutive games during a league championship series. The first to do the feat, were the self-same Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer, as Detroit Tiger pitchers, during games 1 and 2 of the American League championship series in 2013. The Nats remake a almost perfect Motown beat.
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Saturday, October 12, 2019


Washington sports teams are often the underdog in big games, and generally not as well supported as teams from other places. This is due in part to the DC population that is transitory; we have many people who come to DC from other places for a relatively short time, who naturally tend to root for their childhood favorites--their home teams. Thus, we often host games at which half the fans are in uniform or rooting for the visiting teams--so there is frequently not the home field advantage that other teams have.
But a couple of our teams have learned or are learning to deal with it, and showing heart and soul, and building more of a loyal independent fan base. The Caps, the Mystics, and the Nats are climbing out of their state of "underdogness," and winning big games, showing a level of durability, spirit, and resilience to rise above it, and win some key playoff games on the road and at home. They are rising to a level of mastery and a positive, never-give-up spirit, that is fun to watch and inspiring at the same time. In just two days, the Mystics came back to win a first WNBA title, and Nats opened a series in St. Louis with a Sanchez/Doolittle 2 to 0, one-hit gem.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Forces of Nature At Play

When all else fails, gather and bring some forces of nature into the playoff game, and you have a good chance for success. The Nats, after a frustrating 10 to 4 loss at home to the Dodgers, turned to true natural sources to tie the series 2 to 2 and take it back to LA for a winner take all game.
The Nats worked a misty rain to fall more heavily in the Dodgers half of their innings, so the Dodger batters had less chance of seeing and timing Max Scherzer's sliders and fastballs. But the rain never fell so heavily to cause a delay or to cause a tarpolin to be brought onto the field of play.
When then was not enough, the winds were brought in to make catch able well-hit Dodger baseballs that were stopped just short of the fences. And then there were the true forces of nature--Max Scherzer, and Ryan Zimmerman--experienced and competitive enough to make the difference against the less motivated and less focused Dodgers. While a little wet and chilly, this baseball night was made for the Nat fans and for witnessing the acts and actors of nature at work.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Just another great day in the August summer...

We may not have been part of a later-day Woodstock nation, but we were several hundred thousand strong at the Library of Congress' National Book Festival--
We headed on down to DC Convention center;
To join in a literary, spoken-word band,
And we camped out on the poetry and prose laden land,
Getting our souls free.
From a 600 BC Odyssey we traveled back to today
And felt stardust,
We were golden
And we got to get ourselves
Back to the garden.
Just another great day in the August summer.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Sunset, Creativity, Friendship, and Jazz

I admit it. I caught the live outdoor music bug, at least for a time.
It was my third visit to Wolf Trap for live music in five or six days. But who’s counting? This time, it was time to hear some visionary jazz with recently-acclaimed and gifted saxophonist, Kamasi Washington, much acclaimed after his work with rapper Kendrick Lamar; and the legendary, jazz-fusion keyboard visionary, and ambassador of jazzian good-will, Herbie Hancock.
Kamasi and his group opened the show and worked together flawlessly and produced modern works of art that led to many standing ovations. The ensemble is a family and neighborly affair with father, Rickey, a talented and experienced woodwind musician in his own right, and boyhood friends. As sunset fell on the park, it was so natural that they connected with each other and with the audience, leading to an outpouring of joy and standing ovations. It was innovative jazz the way it was meant to be.
After a relatively long intermission, Herbie Hancock and his group came on. From the start, they were the more experimental and had more difficulty connecting to each other and to the audience. Herbie Hancock is truly a gifted artist and he remains one, but coming on late with a somewhat impatient crowd did not help, and many in the crowd uncharacteristically started to walk out. It was hard to match the earlier warm links of Kamasi and grou[, and Herbie and his group seemed to be just getting to know each other by contrast. Herbie commented that “tonight you will hear things never heard or played before,” and tonight it just did not fully work. Overall, it was great to once again hear live music under the cool nighttime sky and to enjoy the creativity of gifted players at work and at play, especially when they succeed, but even when they do not quite bring it home.