Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Better Way to Brew

You just have to love an invention that excels in its simplicity of form and excellence in function. The invention I refer to is the Aeropress Coffee and Expresso Maker. The inventor is Alan Adler, maker of the Aerobie; the flying Frisbee-like ring that holds world records for distance and accuracy. It must have been his love of coffee that caused him switch gears and engineer an ingenuous new method for brewing a single cup of coffee or expresso. I had been looking for a good system for brewing single cups that wasn't one of those K-cup type machines that I really don't care for. I was gifted an Aeropress over Xmas and I am very pleased with this gadget.

So, if you happen to run into me, and I seem a little more hyped up than usual, its probably this caffeine buzz that I have perpetually been on since receiving this gift.

The Aeropress Coffee and Expresso Maker has a cult following among geeks and baristas. Variations on brewing methods for the Aeropress are all over the Internet in coffee forums, blogs and videos. The device uses pressure to force heated water through ground coffee beans infusing it full of satisfying flavor without the bitterness or particulate matter that often accompanies traditional expresso or French Press methods.

The product, which sells for a street price of under $30 has few parts; a tube like vessel (for water and grinds), a plunger and a filter cap. Also included are a scoop, a stirrer and a supply of small round filters. The process for brewing coffee takes only 30 seconds. I prefer the Inverted Aeropress Method as shown below, over the one prescribed in the product instruction sheet.

Inverted aeropress from Abi Porter on Vimeo.

Monday, December 23, 2013

When the Duck Quacks...

The debate over comments made by Duck Dynasty's patriarch, Phil Robertson is raging. Yes, he has every right to speak his opinion, and yes A&E as a private enterprise has every right to suspend or fire him at will.

My bet is that the two sides will kiss and make up. Its all about the money, and DD has the highest rated show on the network and likely brings in the highest ad revenues. All first amendment rights and protecting A&E's brand will be thrown by the wayside as both sides find a way to keep the profits flowing.

For me, what is most revealing about this incident is the clash of cultures. I am talking about modern urban professionals versus the southern rural redneck cultures. I have been alarmed over the last few years at the glorification and elevation of the Rednecks in our popular culture. We've seen it not only on TV shows, but in country music and Tea Party politics.

While most of the time these rednecks seem like harmless fun lovin' good ole' boys, its always been apparent to me what makes up the foundation of that culture. Phil Robertson's remarks brought those values to the surface. His comments regarding gay equality, race relations, and Christian fundamentalism speak volumes about the redneck value system. You can laugh with them, sing songs about them or glorify their lifestyle. But you can't escape the bigotry and intolerance that pervades that culture. Phil Robertson has reminded us what Rednecks are really all about.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

GOP Update - Shaking My Head

Now that the Republican manufactured crisis has ended (at least temporarily). Here is something to ponder:

Despite the GOP nearly sending our country to into default, costing our economy an estimated $24 billion dollars and even despite the bloody eye that the Republican brand has inflicted on itself, 144 Republican Congressmen (including Paul Ryan) voted NO to reopen the government. In other words, they still believe they should pursue the government shutdown and risk defaulting on our debt. SMH

Friday, October 11, 2013

House GOP: Bullying and Extortion

As the threat of government shutdown and debt crisis continues, lets examine the strategy and tactics of the Tea Party controlled Republican party that orchestrated this crisis.

First, Boehner needs to agree to extending the debt limits and re-open government funding before negotiations can commence. The extreme right wing faction of one political party cannot impose their minority views on the majority of Americans by threats of shutting down the government and placing our economy in jeopardy. Also, a short term extension may end the current crisis, but will only prolong the agony.

Above all, Congressional "leaders" need to get the message that bullying and extortion are not tactics for negotiation that can be tolerated by this or future administrations.

The Republican Party, taken over by Tea Party extremists, must live in a bubble. We just got through the general election. The results were pretty clear that the Tea Party's political and social agenda, including destroying Obamacare, does not reflect the views of the majority of Americans. The Affordable Care Act has been passed into law, survived over 40 attempts to be overturned by Congressional Republicans and upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court. This latest tactic is merely a childish attempt to "get their way" through holding our government and economy hostage.

Lets be honest here. This isn't even about "Obamacare". It's a vitriol, caustic, hatred against Barack Obama, the first African-American President (there, I said it... There is at least some racism at the core of this movement). That hatred is manifested by the Republicans total obstruction of any and every piece of legislation supported by this President. We have seen it with the Affordable Care Act, Jobs bills, sensible gun safety legislation, immigration policy, and the list goes on. It's obvious that Republicans want to sabotage this government at any cost, even if the American people must suffer.

It's as if shutting down the government and defaulting on our debt is the Republican's way of punishing the country for electing President Obama. This is simply a stupid, self-defeating strategy that ultimately will destroy their own political future.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Trayvon, Looking Back

It's been several weeks since the George Zimmerman verdict of "Not Guilty" was handed down. I've invested too much of my time watching testimony both during the trial, and researching testimony after the trial. I've had exhausting arguments on social media and elsewhere on the topic. Now, for some reason I feel compelled to sum up my feelings and opinions on the matter.

First the undisputed facts. George Zimmerman, in the role of a neighborhood watchman, was suspicious of a young black teen walking through his gated community. He took a loaded handgun and followed the teen. He called the police who told him not to leave his car; advice he chose to ignore. He pursued the teen on foot, a scuffle ensued, resulting in Zimmerman sustaining injuries deemed insignificant by the medical examiner. Zimmerman then shot and killed Trayvon Martin.

Days of testimony revealed other circumstances that led the jury to conclude George Zimmerman acted in self defense in the last few seconds or minutes prior to the shooting. The most convincing testimony may have come from Zimmerman's video taped walk-though of the events with investigators the day following the tragic event. That description was George Zimmerman's side of the story. All the first hand evidence was that of George Zimmerman's.  He never took the stand and therefore was not subject to cross examination. The jury never heard the events through Trayvon Martin's eyes.

The difficult burden of proof on the Prosecution, the slanted evidence favoring Zimmerman's side of the story, and the Florida laws as they were presented in the instructions to the jury (including Stand Your Ground), left little opportunity to convict George Zimmerman of murder. 

This statement sums it up pretty accurately (Allen Clifton-Forward Progressive);
 "(Zimmerman's) “not guilty” verdict wasn’t as much a declaration of innocence as it was a decision based upon the specific charges the prosecution sought against him. But it’s indisputable that George Zimmerman stalked, provoked and then killed Trayvon Martin." 
In other words, George Zimmerman got away with murder. Those that choose to defend the outcome of the George Zimmerman trial based on existing laws and how they were applied are a shameful reminder of those that justified racist treatment of minorities (e.g. lynchings, police brutality, segregation) using Jim Crow laws in the South. One has no choice but to accept the not-guilty verdict, but all fair minded people should be outraged at a legal system so terribly tainted by predjudice.

Here is some music, from harpist Brandee Younger, inspired by the tragedy of Trayvon Martin that you may want listen to and meditate on.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Newport Jazz Festival 2013

I have been covering the Newport Jazz Festival for WHUS FM for the last 5 years, and the 2013 festival is one of the best I've had the pleasure to attend.

Musically, the festival covered a wide range of jazz styles; fusion, latin, avant garde, funk, modern post-bop. So many of the artists were exploring new sounds. There was a lot of experimentation with electronics and effects creating interesting sonic textures. Rhythmically the music was moving away from bop and more towards progressive rock-fusion or "free" jazz. In general I felt that most of the musicians, young and old were taking the music beyond its reliance on traditional jazz constructs from the past. 

Highlights at the festival for me were:
The Festival was themed as an 80th birthday celebration for Wayne Shorter. Herbie Hancock was his special guest. They played a duo performance before Shorter's quartet took over with a rousing somewhat avant-garde set. Wayne took a much more aggressive role in his playing than I had seen in his past performances with this group. Herbie took the stage again at the end of the set to share the piano with Danilo Perez in a 4 hands one piano accompaniment.
Terrence Blanchard with a surprise appearance by Herbie sitting in to play Footprints. Terrence's entire performance was memorable. It was a modern sound, with subtle electronic effects that provided sonic interest but did not overwhelm the music.
Chick Corea's new band was reminiscent his electric bands of the fusion era, with a bit of a latin feel, and based more on Chick's compositions and arrangements than the musicians pyrotechnics. 
Jon Batiste brought the New Orleans feel to his music with a fresh modern sound. It combined R&B with straight ahead jazz chops. His use of the melodica added an interesting twist to his great performance.
Gregory Porter is an outstanding new vocal force in jazz. You can hear the influence of R&B and Gospel with his tremendous vocal chops. He has a talented jazz band that know how to swing hard to his tunes.
Guitarist David Gilmore was the final show we saw at the Festival. He had a great All-Star band with Miguel Zenon (sax), Jeff Tain Watts (dr), Christian McBride (b), Luis Perdermo (p) and Claudia Acuna (v). They played his Numerology suite, an hour long set that was smoking.
Other notable performances we saw: Marcus Miller, Mary Halverson, Robert Glasper Experiment, Eddie Palmieri Salsa Band, Bill Charlap w/Anat Cohen & Bob Wilber, Lew Tabakin, Joshua Redman, URI Big Band, Jim Hall, Hiromi, (and more).

Friday, June 07, 2013

Haven't we already relinquished our privacy?

Revelations about the NSA's PRISM program that monitors our Internet usage with the cooperation of Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook and others are one more assault on our privacy. However, is this really cause for hysteria, outrage and indignation?

Let's face it. Haven't we all willingly given away our privacy whenever we search in Google, type an email in Gmail, or post our status in Facebook. Most of us flippantly click that checkbox, agreeing to those Terms and Conditions that gives someone permission to monitor your internet usage for their own purposes. No one should be surprised at this. This is the world we live in. It's not going to change how we live our lives.

I basically agree with Kevin Kyle's post Why I Just Don't Give a Shit About PRISM (Or Any Other Spying) on Gismodo:
... there's this weird disconnect between the breathless hysteria deployed to write about it and how it affects me (and, presumably, most of you). Yes, your data is vulnerable, and your privacy has been shot to smithereens. But how does that affect you? How does your life, as you live it, change in any tangible way? I am unimportant, on a practical and metaphysical level. So are you, probably. And so is absolutely everything any of us do on the internet. No one gives a shit about our information...
If the United States government wants to disclose to the public that I have the porn viewing habits of a hyperactive and presumably dehydrated 14-year-old, I can't really stop them. But the thing is, I also don't care. Any mess I've made on the internet, whether it's a social disaster or simply deviant behavior, is not something I'm alone in. We're all goddamn weirdos online. It's a level playing field. And no government analyst is going to waste time trying to parse your SkyDrive uploads.
If PRISM is being used effectively to protect us against terrorist attacks, versus being used to stifle political dissent, I wouldn't be so quick to put a stop to it. Right now, I haven't seen any evidence that it is being used beyond protecting our citizens against terrorists and criminals.

The important questions are; Are there enough controls in place to protect citizens rights and uphold our Democracy? Does giving the power to the Feds now open the door to abuse in the future? If we limit the ability of the Feds to monitor communications are we putting ourselves at greater risk of terrorist attacks? Quite honestly, I am not sure of the answers.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Star Trek: Into Disbelief

I saw the movie Star Trek: Into Darkness recently. I will give it the Thumbs Up, though I have reservations for doing so. I definitely consider myself a Treky, so the movie would have to really, really stink for me to pan it.

What makes this a good movie? The plot based on the original Khan episode Space Seed from the original Star Trek series. They portray a young Star Trek crew that maintains the strong personality traits of the original cast. Some of the special effects like beaming, warp drive, and various space ship scenes are very well done. The screenplay is filled with clever dialog, much of which makes light of the original Star Trek crew and their quirky personalities. As always, Spock's personal conflicts between his logical Vulcan side and his repressed emotional human half is a central element throughout the film.

Now here is where I take issue with the movie. And these criticisms apply to so many of the Action, Sci-Fi and Superhero genre  produced recently. It seems like it is a prerequisite to fill these movies with over the top battle scenes, destruction, mass killings, and ridiculous fighting scenes. While these scenes are meant to excite, for me, they have become a  big bore. Movie directors have tried to out-do each other by making these scenes longer, louder, more outrageous and showing more destruction on a bigger scale. The more over-the-top they take it, the more unbelievable these scenes become, and the more tedious and boring the film is to watch. What was at one time fantastic is now commonplace.

For example, how many times can one endure a fight where the hero is hanging off the side of a speeding vehicle by his finger tips while the protagonist is stomping on his hands and pummeling his head. Of course our hero somehow overcomes these situations to climb to safety and beat his enemy into submission. Then there is the battleship that is exploded in space and comes tumbling to earth in a cracked, fragmented state, taking out city blocks as it crashes into a major metropolitan area. Needless to say, the pilot survives the reentry through the atmosphere and an impact that destroys steel girdered buildings and walks away to fight another epic battle.

Really!!! I know it is science fiction and you have to suspend reality, but these movie directors keep escalating the outrageousness of these scenes to the point that they have destroyed any semblance of believability. Ultimately, these scenes distract from the characters and plot lines and detract from the enjoyment of the movie itself.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Jazz Art

Jazz inspired art of Andres Chaparro

Here is my Chaparro:
Behold Gods Shine Round Midnight
Andres Chaparo 2011

Miles Davis album 'Round About Midnight. Columbia Records 1955
Miles Davis - Trumpet
John Coltrane - Tenor Sax
Red Garland - Piano
Paul Chambers - Bass
Philly Joe Jones - Drums

Friday, April 12, 2013

About the 2nd Amendment

Let's get one thing straight about the 2nd Amendment. It clearly states that the right to bear arms is for the purpose of "a well regulated militia". I'll spell it out for you; "WELL REGULATED".
Regulated as defined by Miriam-Webster; Control or supervise by means of rules and regulations
That regulation was re-affirmed in the 2008 Supreme court decision DC v Heller where it was stated, "the right [to bear arms] is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose" 2nd amendment was not intended to guarantee your right to stockpile obscene numbers of dangerous assault weapons and deadly ammunition. It's not there for you to satisfy your perverse need to wield power over your adversaries. It's not intended for you to fantasise about your Tea Party militia overthrowing "Tyrant" Obama. 
The more the NRA and pro-gun advocates try to bully the rest of us with their irrational arguments, while putting our society and our children at risk of death and injury, the more it becomes apparent that gun regulation is necessary.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

NRA, Liars and Hypocrites

In press conferences and Sunday talk shows the NRA and supporters falsely claim that any laws limiting the sale of guns violates their second amendment rights. Instead, they self-righteously advocate for law enforcement to use existing laws to "keep guns out of the hands of criminals".

However, there is nothing in the NRA's actions to substantiate that they have any desire to do so. Their recent opposition to universal background checks or registration of firearms contradicts any sincere desire to help law enforcement accomplish that goal.

Even now, in the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy and increasing public sentiment in favor of passing gun safety legislation, the NRA has successfully lobbied congress to push through laws that will hinder law enforcement in tracking down weapons used to commit crimes. This was done as riders to the spending bill recently passed to keep the government funded.

As reported by Tamara Kieth from NPR,
"There was very little discussion," says Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky. Rogers is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee... "These are not new. These are general provisions that we've carried for a long time," Rogers says.
What is new is that the continuing resolution makes four of these riders permanent. One rider prevents the Department of Justice from requiring gun dealers to conduct an inventory to see if guns are lost or stolen. Another requires the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to make it clear that any data from criminal traces on guns can't be used to draw broad conclusions about firearms-related crime...
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., says the provisions "restrict inventorying, information gathering, other practices that combat gun violence." Blumenthal is pushing for new gun controls and changes to make it easier to enforce current laws. He's no fan of these riders. But he voted for the continuing resolution anyway. 
Democratic Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York has been fighting these provisions for years, but she, too, voted for the spending bill. "What's tough on this particular vote is do we shut the government down?" she says.
This shows the NRA to be liars and hypocrites. There is really no interest in keeping weapons away from criminals or the insane. Claims of "protecting second amendment rights" are disingenuous. The NRA has but one motivation. That is to lobby for the gun industry to sell more guns. They have been relentless (and successful) in that pursuit. The power of the NRA will continue as long as we have a system that lets Congress accept bribes in exchange for access and influence, even while putting our nation at risk for further tragedies like Newtown.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Jazz and Beyond for your iPhone

If you dig my weekly podcast In the Groove, Jazz and Beyond and you dig your iPhone as well, I now have a mobile web app that you can install on your iPhone or other smartphone. Simply go to this mobile In the Groove site using Safari on your iPhone or iPad, and follow the instructions to add the icon for the web app to your home screen. See the screen shots below.


If you have an Android or other smartphone, you should still be able to link to the mobile site and add a  shortcut to your home screen.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Of Guns and Budgets

Last week was a momentous flop for the Republican Party. Are they in complete denial of the 2012 elections? Are they so entrenched in their ideology of the far right that they have forsaken the will of the people? Has the Tea Party put a stranglehold on the Republican leadership? On one hand, the party is trying to reach out to minorities and the middle class, but beyond the rhetoric, its the same old policies that have driven those groups away in droves.

Take, for example the recent negotiations surrounding gun safety legislation. If there is one issue that Congress could agree on, you would expect it to be on Universal Background Checks for gun purchases. On this single issue, there is no suggestion of banning weapons or ammunition, no confiscating guns from law abiding citizens. Just keeping new gun sales out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. Isn't that what everyone says they are striving for? Yet, not one Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted for universal background checks, despite polls showing 91% of the people support them. Republicans have put the interests of the gun industry and the NRA above the will of the people. The GOP clearly has shown themselves to be a party of special interests ($$) and obstructionism. No wonder nothing can get accomplished in our Congress.

And now the Republican House has put forth their budget as authored by defeated VP candidate Paul Ryan. A recent Bloomberg editorial summed it up best. 

... it’s hard to view this latest budget as anything more than a holding pattern for a political party caught between its past and its future. Like the fiscal outlook, the nation’s politics have shifted. Ryan’s budget pockets the savings from Obama’s health-care plan while calling again for its repeal. As Jim Nussle, a former Republican congressman and budget director under George W. Bush, said to CNBC: “I think we fought that battle.” Pretending otherwise is silly.
Similarly, the last Ryan budget was fully vetted in the 2012 presidential campaign. Afterward, Democrats won the White House and picked up seats in the Senate and House. Republicans can keep offering the same platform of spending cuts, but they seem unlikely to achieve different results.
...It is crucial that policy makers find ways to bring down medical costs, but there are ways to do this without leaving the elderly and poor with inadequate health care. Medicare could, for example, raise premiums for high earners, reduce payments to drug companies or drive competition by making public the prices it pays for drugs, devices and medical services... The latest Ryan budget, like its predecessors, is an artifact of the era.
Republicans may try to put a kinder and gentler facade on immigration, healthcare and cuts to valued safety nets (entitlements), but their actions on guns and budgets this week show where they really stand. As the saying goes, "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig". 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My Chromebook Experiment

I can get obsessive over certain things. jazz music, progressive politics and Apple computers come to mind. I have been one of those Apple fanboys since the early 1980’s. I have stuck with them through good times and bad for thirty years. I have bought dozens of Mac’s and nothing but Mac’s for myself, family, friends and coworkers through all these years. 

So it is not insignificant when I broke with tradition and bought a Google Chromebook. When my 6 year old MacBook Pro bit the dust I was unsure how or if I would replace it. I still had my desktop iMac, iPad, iPhone and another MacBook Pro (company issued). I have always wanted a MacBook Air but with all those Mac’s in my possession I just couldn’t shell out over $1,000 for a new Air.

I had seen this Chromebook designed to look like an 11” Air. It’s physical specs of 0.7 inches thick, 2.4 lbs and an 11.6” screen are nearly identical to the MacBook Air. While they look very similar, under the hood they are completely different animals. But for less than $250 I figured I couldn’t really go wrong.

The Chromebook runs Google’s Chrome OS. Unlike conventional operating systems, Chrome OS does not run programs from its hard drive or rely on storing documents or media on its internal disks. Chrome OS is almost completely “Cloud” based. Power up and the computer boots right into Google’s Chrome browser in about 6 seconds. All of it’s apps are web based and are served from the Internet (not your hard drive). Files are stored on the cloud based GoogleDrive. No internal spinning hard drive, no fan, no viruses, the charged battery is good for over 6 hours. All your files are backed up automatically and are accessible from any computer with an Internet connection.

You are pretty well locked into the Google ecosystem. That is not a big deal for me since I had already been making extensive use of Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, Calendar, Contacts on my Macs and iPhones. You will find that Apple computers and iPhones sync very well to the Google universe even though they are arch rivals in the mobile space. 

I am finding tons of useful apps beyond Google’s office suite. My +10,000 songs in iTunes have been synced to Google’s music service. Evernote is indispensable for note taking and organizing information. Blogging, social networking, news, video and games are available from many sources.  I can even remotely operate my iMac from the Chromebook without getting up from my recliner. About the only task I can't do on this platform is rip and edit the audio files for my Jazz and Beyond Podcast.

The Chromebook has thus far been a great experience for 90% of my personal computing needs. Light word processing, social networking, email, Internet browsing and consuming media are great on the Chrome platform. These web based tasks are even a superior experience on the Chromebook than on an iPad or tablet. For the heavy lifting, like editing video or graphics, technical writing, serving databases or specialized applications that you may use in your professional career, get a real computer (May I recommend an iMac?). For leisurely, fun personal computing, this Chromebook is a great way to go.

Notes: This blog post was created on my Chromebook. For clarification, some software resides on an internal drive (media player, document viewer, image viewer/editor). Google Docs can be viewed and edited off-line. Chromebook comes with 16 GB of internal SSD storage for downloading files and 100 GB of Google Drive storage for 2 years for free. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Jazz is For Your Heart

excerpted from liner notes to Mood Swing by Joshua Redman.

"According to popular notion, jazz is something which you research and study, inspect and dissect, scrutinize and analyze. Jazz twists your brain like an algebraic equation, but leaves your body lifeless and limp. In the eyes of the general public, jazz appears as an elite art form, reserved for a select group of sophisticated (and rather eccentric)intelligentsia who rendezvous in secret, underground haunts (or accessable ivory towers) to play obsolete records, debate absurd theories, smoke pipes, and read liner notes. Most people assume that the appreciation of jazz is a long, arduous, and painfully serious cerebral undertaking. Jazz might be good for you, but it just isn't any fun.

This image is simple, powerful, and dangerously appealing. But it is also egregiously false.

Jazz is music. And great jazz, like all great music, attains its value not through intellectual complexity but through emotional expressivity. True, jazz is a particularly intricate, refined, and rigorous art form. Jazz musicians must amass a vast body of idiomatic knowledge and cultivate an acute artistic imagination if they wish to become accomplished, creative improvisers. Moreover, a familiarity with jazz history and theory will undoubtedly enhance a listener's appreciation of the actual aesthetics. Yes, jazz is intelligent music. Nevertheless, extensive as they might seem, the intellectual aspects of jazz are ultimately only means to its emotional ends. Technique, theory, and analysis are not, and should never be considered, ends in themselves.

Jazz is not about flat fives or sharp nines, or metric subdivisions, or substitute chord changes. Jazz is about feeling, communication, honesty, and soul. Jazz is not supposed to boggle the mind. Jazz is meant to enrich the spirit. Jazz can create jubilance. Jazz can induce melancholy. Jazz can energize. Jazz can soothe. Jazz can make you shake your head, clap your hands, and stomp your feet. Jazz can render you spellbound and hypnotized. Jazz can be soft or hard, heavy or light, cool or hot, bright or dark. Jazz is for your heart”.

-Joshua Redman

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Obama-Monk 2nd Inaugural Suite

I offer you this musical mash-up of Thelonious Monk's Straight No Chaser combined with excerpts of Barack Obama's inspiring 2013 Inaugural Speech. The President articulated a vision for America where there is equal opportunity for all including gays, immigrants and women. Where we are guided by our forebears who took a stand at Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall. It speaks to American values where safety-nets like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are not looked upon as sapping our initiative  but strengthening our commitment to the elderly the sick and the disadvantaged.

Click here for the
Obama-Monk 2nd Inaugural Suite.

Thelonious Monk  piano; Barack Obama – voice; Thad Jones – cornet; Sam Jones – bass; Charlie Rouse – tenor saxophone; Art Taylor – drums 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

20 Notable Jazz Releases from 2012

Best Overall Picks

Black Radio ~ Robert Glasper Experiment - Ground breaking, chart topping, Jazz-R&B-HipHop crossover album.
Star of Jupiter ~ Kurt Rosenwinkel - Unique sound with a spatial quality and a jazz-rock fusion influence.
Rayuela ~ Miguel Zenon and Laurent Coq - Concept album inspired by a the novel of the same name. Jazz album with Latin, Classical and Indian influenced sound.
Circle House ~ Kris Allen - This quartet led by Hartford based alto sax player shows some great hard bop chops along with raw emotion in these original compositions (and one standard).
Seeds From the Underground ~ Kenny Garrett - Non-stop intensity from start to finish. Soaring alto sax lines over African rhythms.
Four MF’s Playin’ Tunes ~ Branford Marsalis - Hard driving modern bop from some extroadinary jazz cats.
All Our Reasons ~ Billy Hart - Thoughtful compositions and expressive drumming leads the way with this great quartet's explorations.
Unity Band ~ Pat Metheny - Metheny's great all-star touring band of 2012. Chris Potter is paired beautifully with Metheny's playing.
1619 Broadway ~ Kurt Elling - Elling's interpretations of some great popular songs from the 60's and 70's with fine modern jazz arangements behind them.
Initial Here ~ Linda Oh - This great young bass player shows off her intricate writing and arranging skills with a fine quintet.
Accelerando ~ Vijay Iyer - An intense set of piano trio works from this forward thinking creative jazz artist.
The Eleventh Hour ~ Jonathan Blake - Blake explores many facets of jazz in first CD as a leader. He has a modern sound steeped in a swinging tradition.
Spirit Fiction ~ Ravi Coltrane - Ravi continues to grow creatively as an artist. Produced with Joe Lovano, and his influence is felt in these tracks.
Family ~ 3 Cohens- Anat, Avishai, and Yuval shows that a family that plays together, swings hard together. 3+3 play as 1 with these great sextet arrangements. Fine soloing as you would expect from the Cohens.

Best from Connectiuct Jazz Artists

Grandma’s Revenge ~ Frank Varela - Soaring guitar work showing influences from Wes to Hendrix on this fine guitar trio album
Tales & Stories ~ Sinan Bakir - Fine compositions, great chops with an Eastern European influence from this Turkish born, Hartford guitarist.
Live at Smalls ~ Dezron Douglas - Hartfords up and coming bass player is getting some world-wide attention playing with Cyrus Chestnut, Ravi Coltrane and many more. His first major release as a leader swings hard.
Underground ~ New Jazz Workshop - This long standing project by leaders Dezron Dougas (bass) and Lummie Span (sax) puts a hard swinging groove to their original compositions.
Books on Tape, Vol 1 ~ Craig Hartley - Skilled piano chops and wonderful writing from one of Hartfords best jazz cats on this trio album.
State of Emergency ~ Nat Reeves - One of the best jazz session bassists shows how to lay down the perfect rhythm and push the music ahead with this quartet. Fine trumpet playing by newcomer Josh Bruneau deserves your attention.

Circle House -Kris Allen - CT artist listed above in "Best Overall Pics"

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Responsible Law Abiding Gun Owners. Really?

It's getting a little tiring hearing about how proposed new gun laws only punish the law abiding, responsible gun owner. Every single gun owner I have had this discussion with tells me about how responsible they are, how they have taken a gun safety course and learned how to shoot from a professional on a range. Every one. How do I know know they are responsible? Am I just supposed to just take their word for it? How do I know that everyone in their household is responsible, that their friends are responsible? I'll bet that Adam Lanze's mother said the she was responsible, and look how easy it was for her deranged son to get a hold of those weapons (no one seemed to even know he was deranged).

The chances are far more likely that those "safe and legal" guns will result in an accident, suicide or fall into the wrong hands to be used in a crime, than they will actually be used for self defense. Why should we as a society accept that risk.

With all the guns in our society, how often do you hear of an instance where a gun has been used to fight off an aggressor in an act of self defense? According to the FBI there were only 201 justifiable homicides using a gun in 2011 versus over 30,000 gun related deaths from murder, accidents, suicides, robberies, and assaults.

Do you walk around with a loaded handgun? Do you keep a loaded firearm "at the ready" while at home? If you do, you are not following the prescribed safety measures of keeping your firearm locked away with the ammo in a separate hidden location. If you do follow these safety measures, its not likely you can have the quick access to your gun needed for self defense. So what is the point? You have a false sense of security. You are far better off getting the family out of the house and calling 911 than you are of having a vigilante gun fight with an intruder, and society is better off with one less gun.

As for the defense against a tyrannical government... oh please, that is a childish Tea Party fantasy. We have a democracy with checks and balances. We have a means through our democracy to "overthrow" our government every 4 years. Do you think that Obama is planning this tyrannical takeover? Are you thinking that another government will invade and your "private militia" are better prepared to defend us than our military? Will this Tea Party militia defend us against an army's bombs, drones, fighter planes, tanks etc? Let's get real!!!

The fact is that country's that have actively reduced the number of guns in their society have far less gun related deaths. Japan, UK, Sweden, and nearly every democratic government sees gun deaths in the dozens. We count them in the 10's of thousands. NYC has seen a sharp decline in gun violence by strict enforcement of gun regulations. The silly notion that having more guns will reduce gun crime is just a fantasy perpetrated by the NRA to foster a gun culture. This only benefits the manufacturers and retailers that make millions off the sale of these deadly firearms. So don't be under the delusion that the NRA is here to protect your "second amendment rights". That's just BS.

Perhaps my outrage is because I still haven't gotten over the murder of 6 year old Ana Marquez Greene, daughter of Jimmy (and Nelba Marquez-) Greene, loved and respected members of our Hartford Jazz community. I am angered over Ana's death and the 19 other 1st graders and their teachers murdered last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School in my home state. This tragedy likely would not have occurred if not for the easy access to assault style firearms that were used in this and so many other massacres like this. I don't think I have heard ANY of the survivors or their family members advocate for more guns. The victims close to these tragedies (like Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Gifford) all advocate for more gun control; for less guns in our society. I also feel strongly that those that take the NRA's position that more guns are needed in our homes and schools are putting me and my children at greater risk of injury or murder. So, when I argue about this and I am told not to get personal, sorry but I guess I do take it personally.

(this blog is not affiliated with Sandy Hook Promise, but I do support their efforts)