Monday, December 14, 2009

Blame It On The Bossa Nova - Lisa

The Englert was nearly full last Saturday with a full menu of great Latin Jazz. I’m a born people watcher…and I have to tell you…when you boast that it’s going to be a Brazilian Night…it brings out the area’s Brazilians in a big way…and that made me even happier.

The best known Brazilian in the house was Rodrigo Ursaia from New York, finishing up a UI residency. He played with Jazz Repertory Ensemble, the Latin Jazz Ensemble and Johnson County Landmark bands. Each band touted some terrific soloists and were supported by faculty players like Jim Dreier and Steve Grismore.

Ursaia gave some interesting histories of the Antonio Carlos Jobim tunes that he had selected for the evening, and some comments on the dynamics of Brazilian life in the 50s

He commented that Jobim was aware of the barrio and what that reality is like. It was all reflected in some complex music and it was a great program. The head of the UI Jazz department, John Rapson gave us some suggestions on artists to seek out to hear more of this great music. He suggested we seek out Rosa Passos, a vocalist who often works with Ursaia.

One thing is for sure…jazz musicians love playing…they love each other…and Ursaia was a wonderful addition to the terrific Latin jazz program at Iowa. I appreciated the faculty praising each other, showing respect and support of one another. What a class act!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Always a Cool Yule Here... - Dennis

There are two groups of people who are already tired of Christmas music before most of us have even started our shopping: Anyone who works in retail, and…. DJs.

Personally, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with holiday music for years. As a young radio announcer, I would watch with a sinking feeling as the program director hauled a scarred cardboard box into the studio with the word “XMAS” scrawled on the side in faded block letters. This sight signaled four endless weeks of format-busting tedium, as even the most contemporary station’s playlist suddenly sprouted Perry Como, Bing Crosby and the Boston Pops. For a young DJ who prided himself on being on music’s cutting edge…. pure torture.

Had you asked me in those days, I would have told you the only Christmas song worth the vinyl on which it was pressed was Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” As time passed, a few other tunes made my “tolerable” list: Bing Crosby and David Bowie’s “Little Drummer Boy,” Santa Baby” (Eartha Kitt’s original, not Madonna’s horrifying remake), and the Russian and Chinese Dances from the Nutcracker (although that may have been due more to Disney’s “Fantasia”).

But in 1984 a record arrived that changed how I, and millions of others, perceived Christmas music forever.

(Click here to read more)