One of our readers (and my very dear friend), Adelaide Edelson, has made a name for herself in the DC area as an accomplished pianist. Although music is not her day job, she has a stellar background, including training at Julliard, Vassar and Yale School of Music. Performing everything from religious music to musical comedy -- and doing so for decades (!) -- Addie has proven she can handle whatever comes her way, including music written in an unfamiliar tonal and rhythmic system.    

This video blends traditional Indian music with Western motifs, but I hear fleeting Appalachian riffs and a hint of ragtime piano. Where did that come from?  

Go, Addie, go!   

Notes about the piece:
(from YouTube)
This piece is V.S. Narasimhan’s quartet arrangement in his ongoing efforts to combine the beauty of Indian melodies with the glory of harmony present in the Western music system. The music used is the piano reduction of the quartet score. Ms. Edelson is a well-known pianist and performer in the Washington area. 
It was amazing [to] Narasimhan …how quickly she got the feel for this music, which is really foreign to her. In addition to her focus and dedication to music, it was clear that she possesses a unique perception in order to be able to play this without having ever delved into Indian music.

(from Addie)
He originally scored his pieces for string quartet. He could only bring his sound engineer with him on his recent trip from India, however, so he wrote piano reductions, scanned them, and mailed them to me as e-mail attachments. That is how I was able to practice the music in advance of his arrival in the U.S. 

 
 

 
 
The best bowl game played yesterday was not held in Indianaopolis but at John M. Green Hall at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. 

The 28th annual Silver Chord Bowl featured seven or eight of the best a cappella groups from the Northeast, including one each from Smith, UMass, Trinity College, Brown, Penn, UConn, Berklee School of Music and, of course, Dartmouth. 

Since it's always a sell-out event, we sprung for some good seats this time because we wanted to see and hear the Dartmouth Aires up close.  Michael Odokara-Okigbo  was in great form, and seemed to love every moment of adoration from the almost-hometown crowd. But, the entire show was terrific, with special shout outs to Berklee, UMass and Smith. 

In case you don't know the Dartmouth Aires, they came in second place in this year's Sing-Off, the extraordinary a cappella competition NBC holds every fall. The Aires sealed themselves a slot in the finals with a riveting medley of songs from Freddy Mercury (including Somebody to Love and Bohemian Rhapsody), which they performed again yesterday with substantially less glitter. Still, they rocked the house. 

Follow this link (
http://youtu.be/RJasmvWmaSA) to a video of the Aires doing their Queen medley on Sing-Off. Above, half of the group sings the 1950s evergreen Shama Lama Ding Dong. These guys are not only talented, but smart and adorable. Michael is, well, Michael. I'm sure we'll be seeing and hearing more from him after he graduates this spring. 

 
 
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In honor of Bob Dylan's 70th birthday, it's good to remember his admonition, "he not busy being born is busy dying," from It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding). We know which direction he's been going all these years, since he's never stopped working at his art. 

So, what are your favorite Bob Dylan songs? You’ve got hundreds to choose from.

According to Wikipedia, over the last five decades, Dylan has recorded at least 34 studio albums, 58 singles, 13 live albums, nine bootleg collections and 14 compilation albums.

Here’s a list of titles of every song he recorded.

My favorites include When I Paint My Masterpiece, Maggie's Farm, Mr. Tambourine Man, All Along the Watchtower, Don't Think Twice, One More Cup of Coffee, Subterranean Homesick Blues, Masters of War, I Shall be Released, Mozambique and Hurricane, for starters. As someone said earlier today, it would be easier to list the songs I hate than those I love.
  
For fans or for those who want to know what all the hullabaloo is about, Rolling Stone has devoted an entire issue to Dylan, his music and impact on several generations.

I’m so glad Bob Dylan is still around, still doing what he’s always done. Yes, he’s evolved, gotten raspy and wrinkly and old, but his essence is still there, clear as it was in 1963. The first song I ever heard by him was "The Ballad of Hattie Carroll," and since I lived in the state where Carroll lived and was killed, that song rocked me to my core. Then I heard "Like a Rolling Stone" and he had me in the palm of his hand.   

To me, Bob Dylan is far more than a singer, songwriter, lyricist, artist or personality. He's my anchor to the beginning of my own sense of self. Without him in the world, I’d have to invent him.

One of my all-time favorite Dylan lyrics, if a bit cynical:

"Ah, get born, keep warm
Short pants, romance, learn to dance
Get dressed, get blessed
Try to be a success
Please her, please him, buy gifts
Don't steal, don't lift
Twenty years of schoolin'
And they put you on the day shift"
 - Subterranean Homesick Blues

Feel free to add your list of favorite songs or lines, in Comments.

Happy Birthday, Bob, and many, many more. 

 
 
If the world doesn’t end tomorrow, Bob Dylan will turn 70 next week. That’s right, 70.  I, for one, hope I don’t outlive him because I can’t imagine a world without Bob. 

You can hardly find a publication that isn’t honoring this milestone, but the best tribute of all may be from Psychology Today, of all places. Here are a few excerpts from Not Dark Yet: Bob Dylan at 70, in the April issue: 

Unlike many of his generation, who died or became nostalgia acts, Dylan remains active, innovative and relevant. He has continued to make new music, and his new music is often more urgent, more probing than before, exploring various aspects of Americana--its interior and exterior landscapes.

In a world where most artists have one good song, or at best one good record in them, Dylan has made multiple masterpiece recordings in each one of the last five decades, creating undoubtedly the deepest, richest, and most influential songbook in the history of adult American pop music.

His influence and longevity are even more startling given the fact that he's never sold that many records; he has sold less than the Spice Girls, less than Cher. He's never been a heartthrob, never shook his hips or pouted. He never starred in the tabloids, never did the talk show thing, the ‘reality' thing, the rehab thing. His children and ex-wives have never been paraded in the media. The only thing he's known widely for is his art.

Here are a few graphs from a beautifully written review of a New York City film festival featuring two documentaries about Dylan. For the full piece, go here.  

From The New York Times:

His Back Pages, Captured on Film
By A.O. Scott
Published: May 17, 2011

Bob Dylan will turn 70 next Tuesday — unless of course Judgment Day arrives in the meantime, an eventuality that Mr. Dylan might well take in stride. After all, the scope of his historical imagination stretches from before the flood to the end of days, and the man himself can sometimes seem to dwell outside of time altogether. Devotees who use the age of their idol to calculate their own dismaying senescence may be shocked that he is so old, but to many more of us he has always been around. He was never young. Or else he was so much older then, and he’s younger than that now.

A hustler and a confidence man arriving on a scene that valued authenticity and ideological relevance above all, he ruined any easy distinctions between protest and surrealism, parody and profundity.

But what is hardest to believe may be what is most self-evidently true, namely that this kid from Minnesota, before he was 25, was able to absorb so much of the history of the world, musical and otherwise, and turn it into songs that are likely to last at least un
til Judgment Day.


 
 
For those of you reluctant to follow any more talent shows, here's a peek at a dynamite performace by a group of young men from Miami, choreographed to the James Brown super hit, "It's a Man's World."  Enjoy!

 
 
In case you missed it, here is a link to an hour-long video of the PBS program In Performance at The White House: A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement. Those of you who were involved in the 1960s (or wish you had been) will probably love this concert as much as I did.  

http://video.pbs.org/video/1410865290/ 

In his introduction, President Obama reminds viewers that the civil rights movement had a sound track, was "sustained by music" and “sharpened by protest songs.” 

This program brings back some of the real greats, even Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, whose historical importance overshadows their weak performances. They are, after all, almost 70 years old! Smokey Robinson, on the other hand, is even older and, as far as I’m concerned, stole the show with his performance of Abraham, Martin and John. When you think about where he was singing and when (the eve of Lincoln’s birthday), you wonder how he got through the song at all. 

This very special uninterrupted concert features the Blind Boys of Alabama, John Mellencamp (one of my second cousins!), Yolanda Adams, Jennifer Hudson and Natalie Cole, and others.  

To go directly to Smokey Robinson, scroll ahead to 45:35. For a snippet from MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the Blind Boys of Alabama, go to 49:15. 

 
 
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Solomon Burke, 1940-2010
Some of you may have listened to Christmas music I posted last year, including the song I Pray at Christmas, written and sung by Solomon Burke with the Blind Boys of Alabama. Here’s a link to that song (scroll down to listen to it).

Solomon Burke, preacher, soul/gospel/ country singer, arranger and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, died today on a plane traveling from Los Angeles to Amsterdam. A giant of a man with a big voice, the music world just got much, much smaller. 

Follow these links to find some background on his life and his music , an interesting tribute and a great collection of his music at his official website.


 
 
Full disclosure: John Mellencamp’s grandmother and my paternal grandmother were cousins, so I guess that makes us – what? – second cousins twice removed, or something? Don’t ask him, I’m sure he’s never heard of me.

In any case, the fact that we’re loosely related may have colored my opinion, but, over the years, I’ve grown to love his work – at least in concept – and was fascinated by this story on NPR’s Morning Edition, earlier this week: http://www.elabs7.com/ct.html?rtr=on&s=fj6,mqgz,dv,f2fy,cnwq,g1zw,l3bv

Born with spina bifida, Mellencamp got off to a rough start in life, but has managed to become something of an inspiration to many people, from towns large and small. At the same time, he’s developed as a musician in spite of in his phenomenal success.   

As a fan and someone who shares a very little bit of his DNA, I can appreciate Mellencamp's eclectic musical taste and demand for authenticity.  Lord knows he's paid is dues in a very tough business, and he certainly has a right to look back on his roots, musical and familial. After all, in the 1840s,  his ancestors waded for miles up the White River to the White Creek (in what is now called Indiana), where they cleared the land to build a community. A century and a quarter later, Mellencamp ran away from that same spot, only to return home rich enough to buy up much of the town. What a story!  Go John!

Here’s a review of his latest album, from Rolling Stone:

No Better Than This
By John Mellencamp
 
No Better Than This is John Mellencamp's debut on Rounder Records, the legendary indie label specializing in roots and Americana music. The entire album was recorded with Mellencamp and his band all playing live in one room using a 55-year-old Ampex tape recorder and just one vintage microphone. Legendary producer T Bone Burnett captured the 13 new tracks at three historic locations: Sun Studio in Memphis, Tenn., (where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis first recorded); the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Ga., (the oldest Black church in North America, dating to 1775); and in Room 414 of the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio, Texas (where Robert Johnson made his first recordings in 1936). Mellencamp's songs on No Better Than This reflect classic American musical traditions including blues, folk, gospel, rockabilly and country, while addressing such themes as the need for hope, the nature of relationships and narratives that recount extraordinary occurrences in everyday life.
 
"No Better Than This shows Mellencamp channeling spirits and stepping into period styles. They fit him perfectly." ~Will Hermes, Rolling Stone


 
 
Everyone in our family sings, plays an instrument or two, and is an avid music listener. Even the youngest among us seem to have the gene.

Of course, it's one thing to have talent and quite another to use it. 

Consider our two-year-old grandson -- clearly a budding musical genius -- seen here (out)performing  Papa and Grandpa, while Mama and Nana enjoy the show:  

 
 

While shooting this, I couldn't help but think of another percussion trio from an earlier lifetime. Maybe you remember these musical orangutans, a/k/a Ernie Kovacs, Edie Adams and either Jack Lemmon or Frank Sinatra: