Sunday, July 08, 2007

film - Knocked Up

Knocked Up 2.5/5

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I resisted seeing this film because I pretty much knew it what it would be like - a sweet film with some positive messages completely saturated with lowest common denominator dialogue and endless plays for cheap laughs with vulgarity. In other words, formulaic.

I was right.

She kept the baby. Positive message. The film wouldn't have been the same if there was an abortion.

She decided to give the broke, career-less overweight,slob with a genuine heart, a chance although he is way out of her league. Nice touch.

Part of me wonders if today's movie going audience would find the film just as good without the vulgarity and lowest common denominator language. Or would they find it boring? Like The 40 Year Old Virgin, there's such a flood of bad language that after a while it begins to lose its shock and "comedic" value. Makes me wish they just cut it out altogether to see what would happen to ticket sales.

It's easy to make a film like this. The laughs are not derived by cleverness or wit but through foul language, mostly.

The film is somewhat a fantasy for guys. If you've got a great heart but are not as handsome as she is beautiful, there still may be a chance for you, no small thanks to our friend alcohol. "Alcohol, the cause of and solution to, all of life's problems." - Homer Simpson.

The film is a hit so expect more of them same.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

movie - Transformers

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2.5/5 for adults

I didn't grow up with Transformers, after my kid years, but I liked the concept.

This is a terrific film for kids but for older people, it's just eye candy and not much else. It could have been a better film, but to do so would ruin the fun aspect of it.

These are super-powerful robots, highly advanced. Man's major technological breakthroughs are a result of backwards engineering the centuries frozen Megatron.

Despite all this high tech power, modern military weapons can keep them at bay. Despite their fire power, they resort to robot "fisticuffs" to fight.

The ending made no sense to me. The Optimus robot wants to commit suicide by having the cube shoved inside of him to prevent Megatron from getting it. But.....
when you see what happens, it just doesn't make sense.

On the plus side, there's plenty of hilarious dialogue, especially with our hero's parents.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Concert Review: The White Stripes, July 2, 2007, Winnipeg, MTS Centre

This was the second show at the MTS Centre in which I had floor seats, but this time, all the seats were standing — rush seating. My goal was to leave home so that I could arrive in time to be among the first let inside so I could get to the front of the stage.

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I arrived around 5:30 but was told that the doors were to open at 6:30. I headed to the tavern next door and had a quick supper. As I waited with a small crowd for the doors to open, one of them noted the warning that strobe lights would be used. He commented that strobe lights weren't good for him but that they didn't have any warning when he was buying his tickets.

I was the first and only person at the nearest merchandise booth but they said I had to go to the other one since that one had the 2 XXL shirts. As I walked over, I popped my head in to see how big the gathering crowd was at the front of the stage. It was still not even taking up all the space at the front. I waited for a few minutes at this other merchandise booth and made my way to the floor, putting on my new T-shirt-shirt. People were packed up near the middle but not on the sides so I just walked up the front.

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White Stripes vocalist and lead guitarist Jack White jammed with a street musician at The Forks Monday before blowing out 6,000 fans at the MTS Centre last night.

At first I had people jumping around me and just having a good time. Then, the shoving began, but I stood my ground the diminutive woman standing beside me and I didn't get squished. Before the show began, the security guards warned that anyone caught audience surfing would be kicked out. Several times during the show, the security reached over into the audience to try to grab people or to tell them to stop. One guy who was pulled out the audience was just let go and he gleefully ran back into the standing floor crowd.

I can't say what most of the songs were since I only recognized one for sure and I didn't know the names of the others that were familiar. I really like the new album but I haven't heard it enough to know the song titles. Dolly Parton's "Jolene" was powerfully and passionately sung by Jack White. One of the best songs performed was the single from their 2001 album, White Blood Cells, "Hotel Yorba." Jack introduced the song saying how much they enjoyed Winnipeg public transportation but they were kicked out of this particular hotel.

From the same album, many fans were singing along to "We're Going to Be Friends," which has also been used in the Napoleon Dynamite film and a cover version was recorded by Jack Johnson for the Curious George soundtrack. I don't think they played another favorite, "Fell In Love With A Girl." Towards the end of the show they played another favorite, "Seven Nation Army," which Jack started by stomping on stage monitor to get the audience clapping along.

Jack is a true icon. He's got the stage presence, the looks, the moves, the vocals and the guitar playing to keep audiences captivated. With his shock of bed-head hair, he also resembled a bit of Edward Scissorhands. He's also a Hollywood celebrity, which can only help the Stripes following among people who care about these things. I thought he also looked a bit like that guy who was in The Crow, a Goth movie from way back.

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When I saw the five microphones on the stage, I wondered if they would have back up singers but, of course, they didn't. It was interesting to hear the audience cheer when Jack played even the smallest blues lick on the guitar. Maybe the blues is something exotic to most of them. The opening band, Dan Sartain from Birmingham, Alabama, was unknown but they were appealing. The lead singer looked a bit geeky. I liked their energetic, twangy, sound and would like them more, I'm sure, if was familiar with their music. The drummer and second guitarist looked as if they were barely out of their teens. The bass player looked very average joe-ish, but I could hear his bass really well.

Having recently seen the awesome multi-media spectacle that is the current Roger Waters tour last week, I can honestly say that I have become spoiled for video screens. Usually, you see one video screen on either side of the stage, to give everyone a great look at the stage show, regardless of how far away anyone is. I was surprised to see that there were no video screens for this show. The backdrop was just a red curtain, without any names or logos. Almost everything on the stage was painted red, from amplifiers to keyboards, and including the stairs and raised platform that Jack White ran on so infrequently, you've got to wonder why they bothered to erect it in the first place.

At the end of the show, Jack was given a flag of Manitoba which he and Meg took turns waving at the front of the stage, as the audience reacted wildly, but also with the realization that with this special of a close, that there wasn't going to be an encore.
Given all the people I knew who were going, I was surprised to see fewer people than I expected, less than 10,000, I'd say. Today's paper said that 6,000 people attended.

I brought my earplugs, but it wasn't loud enough to require them. The Derek Trucks was way louder, as I was at the front, and I should have put them in for that show.

How long can they continue with the 2-person thrashy garage rock band before people tire of them? You'd think their angle - the two-person "brother-sister" act (Jack referred to Meg as his older sister at least twice, when they were formerly married and he took her last name) has limited musical potential before they have to repeat themselves. Meg sang one song in her girlie voice and Jack played a couple of keyboards.

Clearly, they appeal more to the twenty-something and under crowd, based on the audience I could see (which was mostly people on the floor.) Usually, the younger fans are, the more fickle they are and the more likely to abandon groups they love so much at the moment. I mean, if Ricky Martin came to town, I doubt he'd attract the same fans who saw him about 8 years ago when he was one of the hottest acts in the world. If the audience was more diverse than what I saw, then maybe the Stripes will be around for a while, especially if they continue to make good albums like the current one.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Roswell UFO incident "death bed" confession?

The mystery continues. Will we ever know the truth? From

July 30, 2007
Roswell officer's amazing deathbed admission raises possibility that aliens DID visit

Exactly 60 years ago, a light aircraft was flying over the Cascade Mountains in Washington State, at a height of around 10,000ft.

Suddenly, a brilliant flash of light illuminated the aircraft. Visibility was good and as pilot Kenneth Arnold scanned the sky to find the source of the light, he saw a group of nine shiny metallic objects flying in formation.

He estimated their speed as being around 1,600 miles per hour - nearly three times faster than the top speed of any jet aircraft at the time. He described the craft as arrow-shaped and said they moved in a jerky motion - 'like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water'.

A reporter seized on this phrase and in his story described the objects as 'flying saucers'. The age of the Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) had begun.

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Soon, similar reports began to come in from all over America. This wasn't just the world's first UFO sighting, this was the birth of a phenomenon, one that still exercises an extraordinary fascination.

Then, two weeks after Arnold's sighting, something happened that was to lead to the biggest UFO conspiracy theory of all time. On or around July 2, 1947, something crashed in the desert near a military base at Roswell, New Mexico.

Military authorities issued a press release, which began: "The many rumours regarding the flying disc became a reality yesterday when the intelligence officer of the 509th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc."

The headlines screamed: 'Flying Disc captured by Air Force.' Yet, just 24 hours later, the military changed their story and claimed the object they'd first thought was a 'flying disc' was a weather balloon that had crashed on a nearby ranch.

Amazingly, the media and the public accepted the explanation without question, in a way that would not happen now. Roswell disappeared from the news until the late Seventies, when some of the military involved began to speak out.

The key witness was Major Jesse Marcel, the intelligence officer who had gone to the ranch to recover the wreckage. He described the metal as being wafer thin but incredibly tough.

It was as light as balsa wood, but couldn't be cut or burned. Some witnesses described seeing strange inscriptions on the wreckage.

These and similar accounts of the incident have largely been dismissed by all except the most dedicated believers.

But last week came an astonishing new twist to the Roswell mystery - which casts new light on the incident and raises the possibility that we have, indeed, been visited by aliens.

Lieutenant Walter Haut was the public relations officer at the base in 1947, and was the man who issued the original and subsequent press releases after the crash on the orders of the base commander, Colonel William Blanchard.

Haut died last year, but left a sworn affidavit to be opened only after his death.

Last week, the text was released and asserts that the weather balloon claim was a cover story, and that the real object had been recovered by the military and stored in a hangar. He described seeing not just the craft, but alien bodies.

He wasn't the first Roswell witness to talk about bodies. Local undertaker Glenn Dennis had long claimed that he was contacted by authorities at Roswell shortly after the crash and asked to provide a number of child-sized coffins.

When he arrived at the base, he was apparently told by a nurse (who later disappeared) that a UFO had crashed and that small humanoid extraterrestrials had been recovered. But Haut is the only one of the original participants to claim to have seen alien bodies.

Haut's affidavit talks about a high-level meeting he attended with base commander Col William Blanchard and the Commander of the Eighth Army Air Force, Gen Roger Ramey. Haut states that at this meeting, pieces of wreckage were handed around for participants to touch, with nobody able to identify the material.

He says the press release was issued because locals were already aware of the crash site, but in fact there had been a second crash site, where more debris from the craft had fallen. The plan was that an announcement acknowledging the first site, which had been discovered by a rancher, would divert attention from the second and more important location.

Haut also spoke about a clean-up operation, where for months afterwards military personnel scoured both crash sites searching for all remaining pieces of debris, removing them and erasing all signs that anything unusual had occurred.

This ties in with claims made by locals that debris collected as souvenirs was seized by the military.

Haut then tells how Colonel Blanchard took him to 'Building 84' - one of the hangars at Roswell - and showed him the craft itself. He describes a metallic egg-shaped object around 12-15ft in length and around 6ft wide. He said he saw no windows, wings, tail, landing gear or any other feature.

He saw two bodies on the floor, partially covered by a tarpaulin. They are described in his statement as about 4ft tall, with disproportionately large heads. Towards the end of the affidavit, Haut concludes: "I am convinced that what I personally observed was some kind of craft and its crew from outer space."

What's particularly interesting about Walter Haut is that in the many interviews he gave before his death, he played down his role and made no such claims. Had he been seeking publicity, he would surely have spoken about the craft and the bodies.

Did he fear ridicule, or was the affidavit a sort of deathbed confession from someone who had been part of a cover-up, but who had stayed loyal to the end?

Another military witness who claimed to know that the Roswell incident involved the crash of an alien spacecraft is Colonel Philip J. Corso, a former Pentagon official who claimed his job was to pass technology from the craft recovered at Roswell to American companies.

He claims that discoveries such as Kevlar body armour, stealth technology, night vision goggles, lasers and the integrated circuit chip all have their roots in alien technology from the Roswell crash.

Corso died of a heart attack shortly after making these claims, prompting a fresh round of conspiracy theories.

As bizarre as Corso's story sounds, it has support from a number of unlikely sources, including former Canadian Minister of Defence Paul Hellyer, who spoke out recently to say that he'd checked the story with a senior figure in the U.S. military who confirmed it was true.

The U.S. government came under huge pressure on Roswell in the Nineties. In July 1994, in response to an inquiry from the General Accounting Office, the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force published a report, The Roswell Report: Fact vs. Fiction in the New Mexico Desert.

The report concluded that the Roswell incident had been attributable to something called Project Mogul, a top secret project using high-altitude balloons to carry sensor equipment into the upper atmosphere, listening for evidence of Soviet nuclear tests.

The statements concerning a crashed weather balloon had been a cover story, they admitted, but not to hide the truth about extraterrestrials.

A second U.S. Air Force report, The Roswell Report: Case Closed, was published in 1997 and focused on allegations that alien bodies were recovered.

It concluded that any claims that weren't entirely fraudulent were generated by people having seen crash test dummies that were dropped from balloons from high altitude as part of Project High Dive - a study aimed at developing safe procedures for pilots or astronauts having to jump from extreme altitudes.

These tests ran from 1954 to 1959 in New Mexico, and the U.S. government suggested that sightings of these dummies might have been the root of stories about humanoid aliens, with people mistaking the dates after so many years, and erroneously linking what they'd seen with the 1947 story of a UFO crash.

Sceptics, of course, will dismiss the testimony left by Haut. After all, fascinating though it is, it's just a story. There's no proof. But if nothing else, this latest revelation shows that, 60 years on, this mystery endures.

UFO enthusiasts plan to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Roswell incident with a series of events. In Roswell itself there will be a conference partly sponsored by the city authorities. Thousands are predicted to attend. Roswell has become not just big news, but big business.

Ever since Kenneth Arnold's sighting and the Roswell incident, UFO sightings have continued to be made around the world.

In the UK, in 1950, the Ministry of Defence's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Henry Tizard, said UFO sightings shouldn't be dismissed without proper, scientific investigation.

The MoD set up arguably the most wonderfully named body in the history of the Civil Service, the Flying Saucer Working Party. Its conclusions were sceptical.

It believed UFO sightings were attributable to either misidentifications, hoaxes or delusions. Its final report, dated June 1951, said no further resources should be devoted to investigating UFOs.

But in 1952 a high-profile series of UFO sightings occurred, in which objects were tracked on radar and seen by RAF pilots. The MoD was forced to think again and has had been investigating ever since. To date, the MoD has received more than 10,000 reports.

The best-known UK incident occurred in December 1980 in Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk. In the early hours of December 26, personnel at RAF Bentwaters (a base leased to the USAF) reported strange lights in the forest. Thinking an aircraft had crashed, they went to investigate.

What they found, witnesses say, was a UFO. They took photographs (which they were later told hadn't come out) of the brightly illuminated craft and one of the men got close enough to touch the object, which then took off and flew away. The stunned men briefed their bosses, including the deputy base commander, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Halt.

Halt ordered the men to make official witness statements, including sketches of the craft. The following night Halt was at a social function when a flustered airman burst in, saluted and said: "Sir, it's back."

Halt looked confused and said: "What's back?" "The UFO, Sir. The UFO is back," the airman replied.

Halt and a small team went to investigate. His intention, he later reported, was to 'debunk this nonsense'. As they went into the forest, their radios began to malfunction and powerful mobile searchlights cut out. Suddenly, Halt and his team saw the UFO and attempted to get closer. At one point it was directly overhead, shining a bright beam of light down on them.

After these events, Halt ordered an examination of the area where the UFO had been seen on the first night. Three indentations were found in the ground where the craft had landed. A Geiger counter was used and radiation readings were taken, which peaked in the three holes. Halt reported it to the MoD and an investigation began.

This was inconclusive, but Defence Intelligence Staff assessed the radiation readings taken at the landing site were 'significantly higher than the average background'. The MoD's case file on the incident has only recently been released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Another spectacular UFO incident occurred in March 1993. Over six hours, around 60 witnesses in different parts of the UK reported a series of sightings of spectacular UFOs. Many of the witnesses were police officers and the UFO also flew over two military bases in the Midlands, RAF Cosford and RAF Shawbury.

The Meteorological Officer at RAF Shawbury described the UFO as being a vast triangular-shaped craft that moved from a hover to a speed several times faster than an RAF jet in seconds.

He estimated that the UFO was midway in size between a Hercules transport aircraft and a Boeing 747 and said that at one point the craft had been as low as 400ft. He also said that it had been firing a narrow beam of light at the ground and emitting an unpleasant low-frequency hum.

The MoD investigation lasted several weeks and the case file - also recently released - runs to more than 100 pages.

The final briefing submitted to the Assistant Chief of the Air Staff stated: "In summary, there would seem to be some evidence on this occasion that an unidentified object (or objects) of unknown origin was operating over the UK." That is about the most frank admission on UFOs that the MoD has ever made.

Sixty years after Kenneth Arnold's 'flying saucer' sighting, pilots are still seeing UFOs. In April this year, Captain Ray Bowyer, a pilot based in Alderney, saw two bright yellow UFOs in the vicinity of the Channel Islands.

Some of his passengers saw the same thing, another pilot in the area made a similar report and some unusual readings were seen on air traffic control radar. The MoD and the Civil Aviation Authority investigated the incident and no explanation has been found.

Despite any number of hoaxes over the years, interest and belief in UFOs remains strong. Under the Freedom of Information Act, the MoD receives more requests relating to UFOs than on any other subject.

So what is it about UFOs that continues to excite our imaginations? To some people, the subject has become almost a religion and perhaps that gets to the heart of it. Those who study the subject are on a quest not just for the truth, but for meaning. It's a search for the answer to one of the most fundamental questions we can ask - are we alone?

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I personally have no doubt about this issue and believe these aliens are able to programme the mental processes of human beings. The two alien proteges named Bush and Blair who have so misguidedly dominated and influenced world politics for the past several years must be clear evidence of that.

- Robert, Kirk Ella, East Yorks.,

I have seen UFOs two times in my 74 years....both time with other people.
We all decided it was real and reporting it would have been futile.
Why some countries are covering up this phenomenon is beyond rational thinking. This secrecy leads to all kinds of speculation. It also leads one to believe that our governments thinks/believes that we are all idiots.
Will we ever know the truth, or will we know the truth when it's too late?

Winnipeg Free Press's Roger Water concert review

Roger Waters puts on a 5-star performance
June 28th, 2007
Roger Waters

MTS Centre

June 27, 2007

Attendance: 11,000

out of 5 stars

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The amount of power emitted at a Roger Waters concert just might be enough to light the dark side of the moon itself.

The pyrotechnics, light show and visual effects are just part of the equation though. The stellar production would be nothing without the sheer magnitude and weight of the music - harness the combination and you could probably illuminate the most remote planet.

That’s how it seemed last night when the former Pink Floyd frontman brought his Dark Side of the Moon world tour to the MTS Centre for a crowd of 11,000 enthralled fans who packed the arena to worship at the altar of the psychedelic pioneer and “feel the warm thrill of confusion, that space cadet glow” (to quote the man himself).

Waters divided the spectacle into three parts, the first consisting of a cross-section of the Pink Floyd catalogue and some of his solo material, the second featuring the 1973 Dark Side of the Moon album in its entirety, and an encore filled with classics from The Wall.

The stage was on the south end of the rink but sound gear stretched three-quarters of the way across the arena catwalks providing a surround sound experience. It was an example of music as theatre with video narratives enhancing the force of the lyrical subject matter.

ImageThe unassuming frontman and his 10-piece band, including three guitarists to play David Gilmour’s parts, took the stage to the throbbing chords of In the Flesh as Waters barked out the words. The song occurs at the moment in The Wall when the deluded protagonist Pink believes he is leading his own Nazi-esque army, so it was quite surreal to witness everyone singing along, pounding their fists in the air and playing air guitar (this writer included) as though we were part of his master plan.

From there, the first set was a 70-minute roller coaster of emotions, soundscapes, anthems and pointed politicals. The self-questioning ballad Mother had some in the audience singing along while the oldest song in the set, 1968’s Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun, evolved into a spacey jam complete with psychedelic graphics on a large screen behind the stage and black and white images of the members of Floyd in their younger days.

Former frontman Syd Barrett received a fitting tribute during the dynamic Shine on You Crazy Diamond and the ballad Wish You Were Here, one of the most beautiful and sentimental songs in the Pink Floyd canon.

Waters is not the flashiest frontman but became the most animated during the two tracks from The Final Cut (Southampton Dock and The Fletcher Memorial Home) and two solo songs, including the new Leaving Beirut about his time hitchhiking through Lebanon as a 17-year-old and being taken in by a poor couple. The song’s lyrics and story about unconditional kindness were projected behind the stage in a series of comic book frames. He sang the song without an instrument and walked back and forth on the stage making a series of hand motions to get his points across. It was obvious the experience shaped his humanist view of the world.

Set one climaxed with the driving Sheep, a classic from the Animals album about rising up against oppression. In the middle of the 10-minute rallying cry an inflatable pig flew over the crowd covered in slogans like “Fear builds walls” and “All religions divide” while the video shoot for the album cover at Battersea Power Station played in the background.

After a 15-minute break Waters returned and performed Dark Side of the Moon, in order. The landmark album was a multi-media experience with graphics depicting the greed behind Money, an oasis of people during Us and Them and pills floating in front of the moon for the climax Brain Damage/Eclipse. A rainbow of lasers shot through a three dimensional triangle above the stage providing a larger than life version of the iconic album cover.

“Canadian audiences are the best we’ve ever played to,” a sincere sounding Waters said before the encore, a selection of favourites from The Wall including Another Brick in the Wall Part II which had the crowd shouting “We don’t need no education!”, Vera and the evening’s final number, Comfortably Numb, the tale of a drug-casualty illustrated on screen by a reoccurring character who was featured in several clips throughout the night fiddling with a radio, smoking and drinking.

The explosions that marked the conclusion were both thrilling and disappointing: even though the concert extended to nearly three hours fans were left wanting more and would have stayed as long as Waters played. The true sign of an amazing show.

2007Jazz Winnipeg Festival Winnipeg Free Press reviews

Reviews from the Winnipeg Free Press by Michael Wolch.

Sensational Pink Martini puts on mesmerizing show.
June 24th, 2007

OVER the course of the last 10 years, Pink Martini has become a worldwide sensation.

With sales of well over a million copies of the first two independent CDs, Sympathique and Hang on Little Tomato, and the brand new release Hey Eugene currently storming the North American charts, the band from Portland, Ore., has proved that you can have your cake and eat it, too.

The little big band, a cross between a 1930s Cuban dance orchestra, classical chamber ensemble and lush film score, brought its acclaimed orchestra to town Friday night and got the 2007 COOL Jazz Winnipeg Festival got off to a rousing start.

As the near-capacity crowd at The Pantages Playhouse Theatre gave them an enthusiastic and warm welcome, the 13-piece band filed in and occupied every inch of the stage, a feast for the eyes, and a hint of what was about to come.

Before lead vocalist China Forbes came out, the band launched into a sultry, buoyant version of Ravel's Bolero, which began gently and restrained until it slowly built into a smouldering rendition, displaying the full power of the small orchestra.

Composed of a string trio, harp, two horns, several percussionists, guitar, bass, back-up singer and band leader/pianist Thomas Lauderdale, they were able to achieve a whole array of vibrant colours on the well-known classical piece.

When Forbes arrived for the next number, Tempo Perdido, an old Carmen Miranda song from the 1930s, they kicked up their heels and transported the audience to Brazil with the lively samba beat.

On CD, Forbes' vocals are beautiful and evocative, but live they ascend to even greater heights, becoming enchanting, captivating and more expressive. Being able to see her dance around elegantly and sensually on stage it becomes obvious that she truly enjoys performing and has a passion for the music. Not only that, but she sings in at least seven different languages: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Italian and Croatian. I am probably missing some.

With that in mind, the next several songs were all in different languages. The title track to Pink Martini's debut album, Sympathique, was sung in French; Lilly, from the band's second CD, Hang on Little Tomato, was an "easy" one in English, then there was the charming Japanese song, Taya Tan from the newest CD, about a woman longing to be the guitar that her lover is playing. On this piece, guitarist Dan Faehnle was out front on acoustic guitar doing a superb job of playing the provocative notes of the lover.

The band members showed they were also more than capable of swinging as they displayed their jazz chops next on an instrumental number that would have sounded right at home in a speakeasy or 1920s nightclub.

Several members, including Faehnle, trumpeter Gavin Bondy, trombonist Robert Taylor and drummer Brian Davis, turned in great solos as they were led through this romp by their maestro, the joyous and colourful Lauderdale on piano, who deserves special mention as his arrangements and leadership are the heartbeat of the orchestra.

The evening was full of highlights, and even when they slowed the pace for a number of absolutely gorgeous ballads, including Amado Mio, Everywhere and Aspettami, the group, and Forbes, were mesmerizing. The show ran for almost two hours and never lagged for a moment. In fact, I need too much space to mention all the fabulous songs they packed into the show.

If I could, I would award the show a full 10 stars.

Two superb trios do it all up right

June 25th, 2007
Joshua Redman & The Bad Plus

Burton Cummings Theatre

June 23, 2007

Attendance: 500

4 stars out of 5

By Michael Wolch

IT was a sweltering evening on Saturday, and inside the Burton Cummings Theatre, both the air and the music were even hotter. Paul Nolin, executive producer of Jazz Winnipeg, cleverly paired two trios on the bill, The Bad Plus and The Joshua Redman Trio, who literally burnt up the stage. It was not a night for the faint of heart, but for those who braved the stifling humidity, it was worth the gallons of sweat they lost.

The Bad Plus was first on the bill. The trio, Ethan Iverson (piano), Dave King (drums), and Reid Anderson (bass), has become known for their genre-crossing music that is as much akin to rock as it is to jazz. After recording five CD's, the newest one, Prog, this year, their reputation as a crafty, hard-hitting unit has garnered them both rave reviews and criticism in the jazz media. Their performance here on Saturday reflected all the elements that get under your skin, both for the people who love them and for those who dismiss them.

The set, which lasted about one hour, was basically one free-flowing jam, which featured frenetic piano solos over driving drum rhythms, anchored by the steady flow of the bass. King proved he is a monster on the drums, as he jumped up and down on his stool, used every inch of the kit and was always searching for threads in Iverson's piano playing to pull and stretch.

Iverson has a beautiful touch on the piano and his playing sparkled throughout the performance.

All these elements came together, as evidenced on songs such as Big Eater from 2003's These Are The Vistas, which had a torrid pace, but the trio was always able to find common ground. Their cover of Everybody Wants To Rule The World, from Prog, which Iverson called a marvellous song from the '80's, was a slow, haunting, syncopated version that built to a crescendo, with all members weaving solos together.

Two of the set's highlights were a very powerful rendition of Rush's Tom Sawyer, which allowed King to become a rock star on the drums, and a beautiful ballad called People Like You.

By the time Redman and his trio arrived on stage, the audience was warmed up in more ways than one. Redman, who is widely considered one of the best young saxophone players around, was flanked by equally impressive sidemen -- Antonio Sanchez (drums) and Reuben Rogers (bass).

Although their set was full of fire as well, their songs were rooted more deeply in jazz. They opened with the standard Surrey With The Fringe On Top, giving each player a chance to loosen up with tasty solos before returning to the familiar theme of the song. Redman proved that he has really matured into a star player as he coaxed an array of sounds from the saxophone and reeled of a blistering solo right from the top. Another standard followed, East of the Sun (and West of the Moon), which featured more smoking saxophone, but to an equal extent was an opportunity to hear Sanchez smouldering on drums underneath the solo. He and Rogers, while not the stars of the show, constantly propelled the beat and kept pace with Redman.

Although the set was anchored by the familiar standards, it was Redman's original pieces that were the highlights. On Mantra #5, from his newest CD, Back East, Redman used the soprano saxophone to evoke haunting eastern melodies, which snaked in and out of the dusty grooves laid down by Sanchez. Another original, Oneness of Two (In Three), from 1994's Moodswing, gave Sanchez the spotlight and he unleashed an astonishing solo that nearly brought the house down and ended the set with a bang.

These guys are world-class artists, superb musicians and they put on a clinic in the art of serious jazz.

Hancock, Garrett continue hot streak

June 25th, 2007
Herbie Hancock & Kenny Garrett

Burton Cummings Theatre
June 24, 2007
Attendance: 1,200
4 stars

By Michael Wolch

THE Jazz Winnipeg Festival mainstage hot streak continued Sunday night at the Burton Cummings Theatre with a thrilling double bill featuring the quartets of alto saxophonist extraordinaire Kenny Garrett and the legendary Herbie Hancock.

Concert series acts have been spectacular so far, with Pink Martini, Joshua Redman and The Bad Plus all putting on world-class performances.

But to get two full shows for the price of one was amazing. So it was no surprise that the anticipation for the Garrett/Hancock performances was great, and you could sense from crowd members as they packed the theatre that they were ready for what would be almost four hours of stellar jazz.

The evening began with the Kenny Garrett Quartet. Garrett (alto and soprano saxophones), Benito Gonzalez (piano), Jamire Williams (drums) and Nat Reeves (bass) wasted no time in kicking the show off with a 20-minute piece that almost blew the roof off the place. With the crashing and driving rhythm section pushing him, Garrett reeled off a jaw-dropping, fierce solo that lasted nearly 10 minutes. It’s likely people on the street would have heard him playing as he wailed, moaned and reached to the second balcony with his blistering notes and phrases.

He did finally step out of the spotlight just long enough to allow other members of the band to have their say, with Gonzalez pounding away at the keys, Williams beating his drums at lightning speed and Reeves’ fingers flying up and down the neck of the bass.

After the opening number, members of the audience were left shaking their heads and wondering where the band could possibly go next.

Well, Garrett and his band had a lot more in their bag. The second piece continued at the torrid pace of the first, and when Garrett slowed proceedings down with a nice blues number, he had the audience clapping along. Things got funky once again as Gonzalez moved over to the electric keyboard and Garrett used some cool effects on his horn. Next up was a series of sparing and beautiful Japanese and Korean melodies that featured just Garrett and Gonzalez. The band ended its set with Happy People, as Garrett coaxed the audience several times to cheer loudly, entreaties that weren’t necessary because the audience was already fully appreciative of the outstanding performance.

After a much-needed break for some fresh air, the audience greeted Herbie Hancock with a roaring standing ovation. The multiple Grammy and Oscar winner looked in great shape, and he was backed by a superb band: Lionel Loueke (guitar), Vinnie Colaiuta (drums) and Nathan East (bass and vocals).

They launched their show with Actual Proof, from Hancock’s 1974 album Thrust, a funky workout for the keyboards that set the pace for the show. Next, Hancock had fun with a piece composed by Loueke called Seventeens, which he wove into his classic Watermelon Man to create a challenging, off-beat song wrapped in his signature heavy funk. Here, some of the sounds he persuaded from his array of keyboards were wild, sometimes squawking, undulating and sputtering. It is the sound that made him famous in 1973 when he released his Head Hunters album.

The set veered a bit off course when East came to the microphone to perform a few cuts from Hancock’s newest and vocal-laden CD, Possibilities. While East does have a good voice, he was challenged to sing the Stevie Wonder song I Just Called To Say I Love You, and a bit mismatched on the U2 and BB King collaboration When Love Comes To Town. He fared better with Stitched Up as he scatted along with his bass and showed off his impressive vocal range.

Loueke, who hails from Benin, Africa, was also given his moment in the spotlight, as the entire band left the stage and he displayed his command of the electric guitar. In his hands, the guitar became a virtual orchestra as he used various electronic effects and even drummed on it beating out a great solo.

While the song selection leaned toward Hancock’s funky recordings, he did pull out a couple classics from his Blue Note years, Maiden Voyage, and the set-ending Cantaloupe Island, probably his most famous piece from that that period. Garrett joined the band for the encore, an extended version of Chameleon, as Hancock sent the audience grooving and dancing its way home.

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