Freddie Hubbard’s Spirit Lives On

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Freddie Hubbard, one of the great jazz trumpeters of the last 50 years, died Monday night of complications from a recent heart attack. He was 70.

Hubbard made his recording debut on Blue Note with the dazzling Open Sesame, and followed with a string of successful albums for the label open-sesameincluding Hub-Tones and Ready for Freddie. However, he is probably best known for his work on some of the greatest jazz albums of all time, including Ornette Coleman’s 1960 genre defining work, Free Jazz, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messenger’s 1961 recording, Mosiac, Eric Dolphy’s 1964 classic, Out to Lunch, Wayne Shorter’s 1964 Speak No Evil and Herbie Hancock’s seminal 1965 recording, Maiden Voyage.  All of these LPs are essential works for any serious jazz listener and capture the essence of Hubbard’s virtuosic talents.

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Hubbard was known for blowing hard and apparently this led to a lip injury in 1992 and to a subsequent infection from which he never completely recovered, writes jazz critic Peter Keepnews in a tribute to Hubbard’s career in today’s New York Times. Shout.net has a compelling article up of an interview with Hubbard by Fred Shuster of Downbeat magazine in 1995 – “When Your Chops Are Shot” – in which Freddie discusses the injury and reminisces on his career. Downbeat posted a brief retrospective on Hubbard’s artistry.  Free lance jazz writer Dan Heckman provides a comprehensive summary of Hubbard’s major achievements in today’s LA Times.  And Doug Ramsey of Rifftides posted a heartfelt tribute along with a video of Hubbard playing with Art Blakey.

I will miss Freddie Hubbard. It’s hard to believe he’s no longer with us, but his spirit will remain in the hundreds of recordings he left behind for jazz lovers everywhere to enjoy. Thank you Freddie, God Bless and RIP.

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Bowl Games – What’s in a Name?

What do GMAC, GM, Ford, AutoZone, Roady’s Truck Stops, Bell Helicopter, Emerald Nuts and the New Mexico Department of Tourism have in common?  emeraldIf you were thinking bailout, you’d be close, but that’s not it.  Yes, they do have some connection to the transportation industry, but that’s not it either.  The answer is football!  These companies are all sponsors of college football Bowl games.

Speaking of bailouts, aren’t we bailing out GMAC, GM and Ford?  The Detroit Free Press reported that the Federal Reserve will recognize GMAC as a holding company making it eligible for a slice of the $700 billion lifeline.  Therefore, shouldn’t the GMAC Bowl be renamed the Taxpayers Bowl of America or the TARP Bowl (Troubled Asset Relief Program)?  The GMAC Bowl payout to the teams involved is $750,000 – not much and it’s not all coming from GMAC – there are a number of minor corporate sponsors chipping in as well – but I wonder if GMAC will make good in a timely fashion on their share of the payout.  Will the bridge loan be used for the purpose?

Ford and GM are two of the three principle co-sponsors of the Motor City Bowl with a payout of $750,000.  I know this payout is small change for the Big Two, but I thought they were cash strapped, especially GM who warned they’d be out of money by year’s end unless they received a few billion or so.  Does that mean that US taxpayers will be footing the payout to the two teams playing in the Mweedeaterotor City Bowl – Florida Atlantic and Central Michigan?  I think the answer is yes.

And I want to know what happened to the Weed-Eater Bowl, also known as the Weedwhacker Bowl for its lowly status.  Well, a little research revealed that this short-lived sponsor gave way to Rubbermaid and then PetroSun and is now known once again as just the Independence Bowl.  Now that’s the way I like it. Bowls should be called by their original names, sans sponsors.

The Allstate Sugar Bowl sounds silly.  Anyway, all states are not involved,  just two generally.  The Peach Bowl is not even a Bowl anymore; it was replaced by the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, which sounds rather unappetizing, and is now simply the Chick-fil-A Bowl.  What is a Chick-fil-A anyway?  Whatever.  Go Louisiana State!

The Konica-Minolta Gator Bowl.  Good grief.  If they insist on naming rights, the company should use just one name, not two – is it Konica or Minolta?  No matter, it’s always going to be the Gator Bowl to me.  Go Nebraska!

Now I like the sound of the Brut Sun Bowl;  I do – perfect gridiron term.  But I can’t stand the smell of the stuff and sun, sweat and brut sounds like a malodorous stew – something I don’t want to be anywhere near.   On the other hand, Brut as in sparkling wine, would be much more appropriate; toasts after each score and for spraying around after the  game.

Hey, what happened to the Tangerine Bowl?  Well, it’s now the Capital One Bowl.  What’s in your wallet?  There’s no Capital One in mine, and nothing even close to the $4,250,000 payout to the two schools involved in the game – Georgia and Michigan State.  Go Michigan State!

And what happened to the Bluebonnet Bowl?  First played in Houston in 195Blue Bonnet Margarine9 the Bluebonnet Bowl was unique in that the proceeds from the game went to Houston area charities.  The Bluebonnet Bowl was last played in 1987 and discontinued due to dismal ticket sales and the inability of its board of directors to attract a corporate sponsor.   I find it hard to believe that ConAgra, the makers of Blue Bonnet margarine, never sponsored the game – I wonder if the board every approached the conglomerate.   The sponsorship would have been a win, win, because “everything’s better, with Blue Bonnet on it.”

The Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl payout of $750,000 should go to Humanitarian Aid, not to the aid of the University of Nevada or Maryland.

The University of Texas plays Ohio State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.  The payout is 17 million.   UT certainly does not need the money.  According to  The College Sustainability Report Card for 2009, the University of Texas – Austin, has the 5th largest endowment in the country (15.6 billion) behind only Princeton, Stanford, Yale and Harvard.  I would like to see UT donate its share of the pot to support Adult Basic Education (ABE) programs in the state of Texas, texasprograms that include GED, Citizenship, and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes.  Texas spends an abysmal 6 million a year on ABE.  It’s a sad state of affairs when the payout for a football game exceeds the state’s investment in education for adults.  By contrast, neighboring Arkansas with 1/7 of the population of Texas, spends more than three times the amount on its ABE system a year – $21 million.   And Ohio State has the 30th largest endowment – $2 billion, so I recommend the University also donate it’s proceeds to its ABE system which has an annual budget of a mere $7 million.

An educated mother or father can better provide the academic support their children need.   When a parent learns English or obtains a GED, the children are direct beneficiaries!  Charter and Pilot schools, voucher programs and privatizing efforts are not the best way to combat the dropout problem in our public schools.  These experiments do little more than siphon money away from struggling schools.  Why not invest more in the education of the parents?  The return on the dollar would be off the charts.  More kids might one day have the opportunity to attend one of the schools featured  during the holiday Bowl Game season.   Cheers!

The Roots of Accidental Music

In my last post, I explored the idea of accidental music – the serendipitous and random nature of a first encounter.   My first exposure to the music of Pat Metheny happened while browsing through a stack of LPs in a used record store some 25 years ago.  Without even having heard of the group, I purchased the LP American Garage just because I liked the album cover art.  Some 25 years later, I still love this band and the music on the LP.  I thought it would be interesting to detail other random encounters with some of my favorite music.   And as you read this, reflect on your own experiences;  no doubt, you have some interesting stories too about how you stumbled across some fantastic music.

Stereolab

A few years ago, I had the idea to to digitize all my CDs.  It’s much easier to do now, as you may know, than before – computers are so much faster these days and have enormous storage capacity.Stereolab Dots and Loops Anyway, before converting anything, I needed to decide on the best format:  MP3, AAC, OOG or WMA.  In the process, I went to many sites, all with a strong opinion as to the superior format, but I couldn’t tell any difference between the sound of a MP3 at 128 kbps and 192, or a WMA encoded at a bit rate of 64 kbps.    One site had an MP3 sample at 128 kbps and it sounded great – not the quality of the sound recording so much as the music – an incredible find.   It was a tune called “Miss Modular” from the Stereolab album  Dots and Loops.  What a find and I wasn’t even looking! By the way, I use Exact Audio Copy for ripping along with a LAME MP3 Encoder.

Johnny McLaughlin Electric Guitarist

I used to listen to a lot of guitar oriented bands when I was in high school – Yes, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and of course to some of the original guitar heroes –  Muddy Waters and Eric Clapton (my first concert ever), BB King, Carlos Santana and Jeff Beck.   johnny-mclaughlinI also used to buy Guitar Player magazine every month.  I don’t know why.  I didn’t own or play guitar.  Anyway, in 1978, I bought an issue with John McLaughlin on the cover.  I had never heard of him.  I read the feature article in which he was billed as the world’s fastest guitarist.  I hurried down to Peaches Records and Tapes and purchased his latest LP, Electric Guitarist.   The hippie who rung me up was impressed with my selection.  He said that there weren’t too many kids who had ever heard of John McLaughlin.  This place was a head shop.  I remember the glass display case over the register was full of bongs, pipes and rolling papers.  I got home, put it on my turntable and was absolutely floored by the sound.  To this day, Electric Guitarist is still one of my favorite albums.

Accidental Music

When I was a sophomore in college back in the early 80’s , I serendipitously discovered the music of Pat Metheny. I was looking through a stack of used albums at a local record store when I came across a album cover with a bunch of glistening airstream RV trailers photographed against a blue sky. pmg_americangarage I didn’t even notice the name of the band or the album title at first.  I was trying to imagine what music represented by an airstream might sound like.  I was intrigued, so I checked out the name of the band – the Pat Metheny Group.  Never head of them.  American Garage was the name of the album. I almost put it back in the bin, but decided to flip over the album, expecting to find references to folk or country music – maybe a fiddle player or a picture of a mandolin or a banjo trio. Quite the contrary.  The photo on the back cover revealed some young guys in a greasy garage jamming.  I knew it wasn’t a country band because the guitarist was playing a hollow body Ibanez jazz guitar.  Hoping I had found a gem, I bought the album; I’ve been playing it ever since.  A true gem!

To check out samples of the rest LP,  follow this link: American Garage.  To check out more Pat Metheny music, go to the Pat Metheny Group website.

WBW #52 – Value Reds from Chile

veramonte-winceThis is my first Wine Blogging Wednesday, and I am excited to be a part of it.  I’m particularly pleased that Cheap Wine Ratings is hosting because good cheap wine is just about the only wine I know.  And the theme is perfect for me because I’ve been drinking inexpensive Chilean reds for the last 15 years.  As a general rule, I try not to spend more than $10 U.S. bucks a bottle though I’ve been bending this rule a little bit lately.  And speaking of values,  Chile is the New World shoppers’ bargain mart.  Today, I’m blogging about a 2006 Veramonte Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva from Chile’s Colchagua Valley, about a 2.5 hour drive South of Santiago.  I have not had this wine in a few years, so I am taking a bit of a risk, but for $8.99, not much of one.

I assembled a team of  tasters made up of friends and family, two of whom were born in Chile.  I poured.   A deep inky red color – one  friend who is an artist wanted to dip a brush into her glass and paint.   We swirled.  I sloshed some right out of my glass and onto the tablecloth.   Not a good start and not much going on with the nose either.   No intensity – dull and flat.   Nothing.  Maybe it needs some air.  I left the bottle uncorked for 15 minutes or so, repeated the swirl, (with no spillage this time, thank you) and detected Dixon Ticonderoga #2 pencil shavings atop dried raspberries; not very aromatic, but with a little more life.  Team comments on the nose included dried fruit, muted cherries and traces of vinegar.  Sips revealed pomegranate quickly overpowered by sharp tannins and harsh unfiltered tobacco like a Lucky Strike – smoke and burn on the finish.  Chalky on the tongue – medium to full-bodied.  We might need a chalky Tums chaser.   One taster described the wine as sour; another detected some metallic bitterness and we all noted the prominent tannins from its exposure to oak.   One thing is clear:  this Veramonte  is out of balance.

By contrast, here are the winemaker’s notes:

Deep, dark ruby red. Concentrated blackberry and black cherry aromas with well-integrated oak. Juicy red and black fruit highlighted with earthy notes and elegant oak that lend a creamy mouth feel. Plush with soft, rich tannins, this wine is concentrated, round and luxurious with a long finish.

Our notes clearly tell a different story.  I do think this wine will soften in time and could be worth holding onto for a few years despite our negative first encounter.  Though not as appealing as some Chilean wines I’ve recently had, at $8.99 this 2006 Cab is still a value in the Chilean red department.  And if you like dry red – oaky and smoky, pop the cork on this Veramonte and enjoy with barbecue pork….and very sharp cheddar cheese.

Cheers!

Bail Out the Big One – GM

The Big Three want a bailout – to be rescued from their own incompetence, demanding immediate loans – a little slice of the 700 billion pie.  Interestingly, in two week’s time, their demands went from 25 billion to 34 billion.  With the new Jobless Report out signaling the worst numbers in 34 years, the Big Three just got the big break they needed to compel Congress to dole out the loans.

hummerThe “rescue” loans are on top of the 25 billion they have already been promised by Congress to help meet fuel efficiency standards.  However, it’s not clear when these monies will be released.

Ford seems to be along for the ride; they don’t need a loan, but would like to have 9 billion just in case, according to a NY Times editorial.  Hey, I’d like to have a little 9 billion cushion just in case I lose my job or miss my mortgage payment or fall behind on my daughter’s future college tuition payments.  Ford, do us a favor – go home.

Now, what to do with the Big Two?

GM has proposed to do away with product line, the details of which have not been disclosed.  I have some suggestions for GM that I think would help the company become solvent.  First, do away with Buick, Pontiac, Oldsmobile and GMC.  I never understood the difference between Buick, Olds and Pontiac anyway; there are simply too many overlapping models,  the majority of which have proven to be unreliable.  Eliminate the 14 mpg Hummer, which means lobster in German, and sell SAAB to Ford or back to the Swedes.  Keep only Cadillac, Chevrolet and Saturn.  Turn Saturn into a hybrid and plug in factory.

And why doesn’t GM sell its Opel or Vauxhall lines in the States?  Not that I would, but some might chose an Opel over a Toyota.  The Agil, below, looks a lot like a Yaris.  Any Europeans out there with an opinion on GM’s European lineup?opel-agila-2008-700815

Cadillac should make but two cars:  the CTS and the Escalade Hybrid –  that’s it.  Stop production of all others.   Chevy should only make the Cobalt, the Impala, the Silverado pickup, and a Van, and eliminate all  crossovers.  No sporty versions of anything.  Goodbye Corvette.

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There should be a gasoline and hybrid version of each model.  The gasoline models should get 35 – 40 mpg and the hybrid models 40-60 mpg.  New plug in models like the Volt should also be developed and sold under the Chevy brand.

Who owns Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge anyway?  The German Daimler group sold 80% of its stock to Cerebus Capital Management Group.  I don’t consider a management group an automaker, so we should not bail them out.  Anyway,  Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep models are some of the least reliable cars sold in America and I have no faith that a management group could turn around a car company with a quick loan in this economy or in any economy for that matter.

Obviously, the potential of Chrysler failing and GM and Ford’s restructuring plans will mean plant closings and massive layoffs.  However, laid off workers could be reemployed immediately in Obama’s Public Works Campaign, which will require expertise at all levels.  Those who are not keen on public works could work in the public education sector.  Following the model of Teach for America, dislocated workers could become certified K-12 or Adult Education teachers and work in urban and rural school districts or with community based organizations.  And there’s no better investment than an education!

What are you listening to right now?

Right now I’m listening to a tune called Double Rocker from the UK band Stereolab.  Check out the vid, to hear the song.  If you like what you hear, hop on over to Listen free at Last.fm for vids and streams of the band, and sample some tunes from their compilation Serene Velocity at AllMusic.com.

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I think you’ll dig the vibe.

What are you listening to right now?

Light Sweet Crude on Pancakes

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Every time I hear light sweet crude, I think of pancakes.  And at 51 dollars a barrel, it’s a better deal than maple syrup!

Ask Your Doctor

Lipitor, Caduet, Nexium (the purple pill), Abilify, Plaxil, Imitrex, Viagra, Levitra, Cialis, Flomax – No, I purple-pilldon’t take any of these prescription drugs, but I feel like I know all about them.  And if you watch any TV at all, you might know them well too.  Ask your doctor if Caduet is right for you?  Wait.  Isn’t this role reversal? Drug companies apparently believe it is now the role of the patient to suggest a course of treatment to the doctor, as if the doctor were the patient or simply clueless, or an intern in need of supervision.  “Hey doc, I have this migraine and was thinking to go with 20 mg of Imitrex and for the clogged artery thing, a 4 month alternating course of Caduet and Plavix.”

This would save time, wouldn’t it?  Maybe the HMOs would promote the idea.  Self-diagnose on WebMD (we all do it) and request your own meds.  No second guessing the doctor.  You are in charge.  No annoying exams or redundant questions.  All that’s needed is a “sounds good” from the doctor and a signature.

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Doctor:  How can I help you?

Patient:  A bottle of Flomax and box of Prilosec to go please.

Doctor:  Sounds good, anything else?

Patient:  Got any more of those Caduet mugs?

Doctor:  No, I’m all out, but I do have this nifty Thorazine penlight.  Here, take two.

Patient:  Gee thanks – great stocking stuffer!