Best of 2012

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Here’s a random list that came to mind over morning coffee.  I know I’ve left some stuff out, but it also occurred to me that I need to do several lists.  This one is mostly devoted to entertainment.  I plan to post a couple of political ones too, maybe a best and worst.  I might even do a top news items one too, though it’s sometimes difficult to separate news from politics.

Best Film:  Argo (reviewed here) and then probably Lincoln, but I didn’t see it.

Best Actor:  Alan Arkin in Argo

Best Indie Film:  Beasts of the Southern Wild.  See my review here.

Best Jazz Album:  Unity BandPat Metheny

Best Rock Album:  Clockwork Angels – Rush This one got them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and is their best work in their 35+ year career.

Best Musical DVD: Orchestrion – Pat Metheny.  Fascinating.  I saw him perform this in concert in 2010, reviewed here.  My words did not do it justice, but do yourself a favor and buy the DVD.

Best Classical Album:  HarmonielehreShort Ride in a Fast Machine – John Adams

Best Book:  Drift – Rachel Maddow

Best Weekend Talk Show:  Up With Chris Hayes

Best TV Show: Top Gear UK

Best Concert: Yes – Boston (the only one I saw all year)

Best Wine: Santa Cristina Toscana IGT 2010.  Sublime wime and nicely priced.

Best Commercial:  Wax Vac with best actor going to the guy who stabs his ear with a Q-Tip and yells OUch.

Best electronic gadget: Kindle Paperwhite e-reader.  I plan to review it later, but will say that it meets my expectations, which are admittedly low and I’ve managed to nearly read one free book on the thing: Nostromo by Joseph Conrad.  The Paperwhite lovingly keeps track of my reading speed and tells me how long it will take me to finish a book and how much of it I’ve read.  I’m 91% through Nostromo and have 38 minutes to go.  But the book is a slow slog and I’ll be happy when I’m done.  I like Conrad, but don’t recommend Nostromo.  I’ve downloaded lots of other free classics including Moby Dick, which may take me 8 years to read and thankfully the battery charge is said to last 8 years…or maybe its 8 weeks, I forget.  I accidentally purchased The Complete Sherlock Holmes for $2.99 after downloading a free version earlierI had this coupon from Amazon for a free download from a selection of books including the aforementioned Sir Authur Conan Doyle masterpiece illustrated, but I somehow botched the instructions and wound up buying it instead.  Now I have two Complete Works.  I have tons of other books on my wish list but I can’t bring myself to knowingly buy a book when there are so many classics for free that I want to reread, or have never read.  One thing is sure, with my Paperwhite, I’ll be reading more in the coming year and that’s a good thing.

Cheers!

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.

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.