Sunday, June 29, 2014

Black Dog House Concerts Presents ...

Van Delisle and his wife, Karin McCool, live by Loyola University in Chicago and about once a month they offer up the best possible evening of live music, that is, in their living room.  The musicians are about three feet from the front row of the audience.  There might be microphones and some percussive device and one musician that is joined by another and then another.  There might be three guys with no mikes at all, a purely acoustic set.  Van and Karin travel to Champaign, IL; Nashville, TN; various points in Iowa to hear their favorite musicians then they invite them to play an intimate concert set in their home between gigs.

Let's say someone has a show in Pittsburgh, PA, and another in Milwaukee, WI, three days later.  Van and Karin arrange for them to put on a show in their living room.  They give the musicians a free and private place to stay, a well-stocked fridge, and all the proceeds from the modestly-priced concert.  (As you can imagine, they have a very good reputation.)  Adoring fans can be among the crowd or just people like me who've known Van for many years and want to support any endeavor he has.

I've seen Nashville legends like singer-songwriter Phil Lee, charming singer-songwriters like Jon Byrd, singer-songwriter and master storyteller Rod Picott.  Even if the music is not your style -- I've written many times of my love of opera -- the evening is terrific and never a waste of time nor money nor energy.  Last night, Black Dog House Concerts presented Eric Brace and Peter Cooper with their special guest, Thomm Jutz.  It was a wonderful evening.

These are three handsome, talented, charismatic men who do a well-prepared show featuring their individual music or projects they've done with others as well as the music they've recorded together.  They and their music are both charming.  Their stories are delightful.  Every seat was taken.

A devoted fan requested a song and when they started to falter in the middle of it and Peter Cooper said they would play it privately after the show, the fan gave him the words he missed, they started again, she offered a few more lyrics, and they sang it through.  It was lovely.  You don't get that kind of refreshing imperfection in an arena show.  And at an arena show, you surely don't get one of the performers asking you if you're having a good time while you're waiting in line at the restroom.

Black Dog House Concerts are charming and Eric Brace and Peter Cooper (and Thomm Jutz, too) are charming.  Troll the internet for a Black Dog House Concert schedule.  Be delighted by one of the best evenings of music to be had.

Here's "Suffer a Fool" from Master Sessions:

Sunday, June 22, 2014


It's the World Cup of Football, y'all, when the best national players come home to play for their home countries.  Englishmen playing in Spain, Americans in Holland, Germans in the USA all return to do their patriotic duty.  The best of the best, kind of like almost the entire National Hockey League returning home to Canada to win the gold medal in Olympic Ice Hockey.

Four years ago, most Americans I knew were giving it all the big skip (or maybe they were appalled by the vuvuzela, that loud horn the crowd seemed to adore).  This year, Americans are congregating anywhere it's offered, and in my town they're broadcasting games on a Jumbotron in an downtown park.  Thousands of people showed up to watch the USA beat Ghana.  (Actually, they showed up to watch a soccer game and got the bonus of the win.)  People in my office are speaking about the games with great excitement and knowledge.  (Please note: These people didn't work in my office four years ago.)

Professional soccer players are tough customers.  They make players in the NFL seem like little fat kids with bad attitudes and not a lot of athletic prowess.  I love that comparison but I am sure most players in the NFL would take exception to it.  Yeah, I wanna see those muscle-bound oafs running hundreds of yards for 45 minutes straight.  They would be coughing up lung in short order.

Here is how FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association, based in Zurich, Switzerland) scoring goes in the words of my friend and blog subscriber, Suzy Forcella:

The World Cup consists of two stages: the group stage and the knockout stage. Initially the 32 teams competing in the WC are divided into 8 groups and during the group stage of the competition a team will play all the other members of their group (3 games total). Points are awarded to the team based on the result of the match: 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw, and 0 for a loss. After the 3 games are played the two teams with the most points in each group move on to the knockout stage.

Italy are in group D with England, Uruguay and Costa Rica. The current point standings are: Costa Rica with 6 points (they won against Uruguay and Italy), Italy with 3 points (they won against England and lost to Costa Rica), Uruguay with 3 points (they lost against Costa Rica and won against Italy), and bringing up the rear is England with 0 points. Italy and Uruguay are tied for 2nd place on points, so in order to break that tie they look at goal differential (goals for minus goals against). Italy has a goal differential of 0 and Uruguay has -1, so Italy is in 2nd place. In their final game against Uruguay, Italy only needs a draw to remain in 2nd place (they would retain the goal differential advantage over Uruguay).

England are done for, however. With 0 points even if they won against Costa Rica (very unlikely at this point) they would still only have 3 points and one of Italy or Uruguay will have either 4 or 6. 

Thanks, Suzy!  You're a good, clear writer.

And now y'all know what I know.

I think you know my preferred team.  USA!  U S A ! !

Sunday, June 15, 2014

OMG Hugh Jackman, All Over the Place and Hurray!

Behold this teaser for the PBS show "Kimchi Chronicles."  Jean-Georges Vongerichten and his wife, Marja, go to South Korea -- the birthplace of Marja -- and learn about Korean food and then come back and cook it with their neighbors, the Jackmans.  Sounds simple, right?

In my Thursday night tap class, the teacher, Bril Barrett, has every student name a tap dancer -- past or present -- as an homage to those who have danced before us.  Last week, suffering from Tony Awards damage, I named Hugh Jackman.  Bril said he'd not watched the Tonys but someone sent him the clip where Hugh tapped with the cast from "After Midnight," and then said, "Hugh Jackman tore it up!"  Then he added, "But to me he's Wolverine."

After class, I usually walk by myself to the CTA train, but last week walked with one of my classmates.  She said, "Oh you know there is a TV show where Hugh Jackman and his wife cook Korean food, right?  On PBS?"  My brain did what it always does when I hear something that right then and there makes no sense.  It was the same thing it did when my friend Michael told me about his friend who had a pet python during the period when Michael was Porky Pig in a production of "Bugs Bunny and Friends on Ice."  My brain went "What?  What?  What?  What?  Porky Pig?  On ICE?  What?  What?  What?  What?  What?"  It said it so many times that I had to ask Michael to please repeat his story.  My classmate told me that and many whats ran around my head.  When I got home, sure enough, I found "Kimchi Chronicles" starring Jean-Georges and Marja and their neighbors, Hugh and Deb Jackman.

It's great that Jean-Georges and Marja did all this hands-on research about Korean cooking but it's Hugh Jackman and his wife cooking Korean food with them.  HUGH JACKMAN IS EVERY KIND OF AWESOME!  (And most awesome is that he's a devoted husband and dad.)

Here's the link to the whole series:

And one more time:  HUGH JACKMAN!!  (Regular readers of this blog know I will get obsessed with something/someone -- like Jacques Brel -- and feature it/him for a  few weeks running.  Yes, Hugh Jackman is the obsession du moment.)

Sunday, June 8, 2014


It's the best night for honoring the New York theatre and therefore THE WORLD of theatre!  It's the presentation of the 2014 Tony Awards starring that superhunk of excellent Australian man meat, Hugh Jackman.  Perhaps you've not heard of Mr. Jackman to which I ask, "What the f*ck rock is it you live under?" 

Mr. Jackman was Curly in "Oklahoma" on Broadway and he was Peter Allen in "The Boy From Oz," also on Broadway.  He is Wolverine in the popular X-Men series of movies.  He was Jean Valjean in "Les Miserables."

Hugh Jackman acts.  Hugh Jackman sings.  As evidence of belonging on the Radio City Music Hall stage, Hugh Jackman tap dances.  TAP DANCES, y'all!  As a student of the percussive shoe art that is tap, I can share that it's not easy.  It takes practice, discipline, and some not-cheap footwear.  We will be seeing Hugh Jackman TAP DANCE and I am very excited.

I love the Tony Awards and I would have gladly done with terrific Mr. Neil Patrick Harris as the host again (last year he jumped through a hoop -- literally -- with the cast of "Pippin") but Hugh Jackman is the complete package:  handsome, talented, and smart.  Case in point:  When I watch him being interviewed I don't want to smack him.

The show starts with a huge tap number starring Mr. Jackman and members of various casts, especially "Around Midnight," a show that features ... tap dancing!

It would be so off-the-hook, smack-my-face, steal-my-dinner crazy if one night Hugh Jackman turned up at Friday Night Tap Jam.  My less-than-stellar improv skills would go right out the window as I stared at the gorgeous specimen of human male.  I would try to not stare and giggle and blush and would try not to miss my turn.  But I assure you, if he happened to use my moves -- that's a big tap-jam thing, stealing the moves of others -- I would talk about that for the rest of my life, prompting my family members to tell me, "OH SHUT UP!!"  Hmmm, maybe Mr. Jackman at Friday Night Tap Jam is not the best idea.


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Oh, I Think So in NYC, Part 2

Behold Malang Jobateh, a kora player who shares his music in the Union Square subway station.  Like many musicians in New York's subway system, he is a very talented man. I am sharing only 1 minute and 14 seconds of his talent which is not nearly enough.  A lilting voice, a talented kora player, charisma -- Mr. Jobateh is the complete package.  People were showing their appreciation with well-deserved money.

In my town, there are subway musicians who are phenomenally talented and others who are so bad that one thinks about fleeing from the station and just taking a bus.  There are wonderfully gifted people like the young woman who sings the blues while playing the banjo (don't mock, it works) or the old man/young man combo who played rocks songs on the Jackson Blue line platform and totally killed it.  There is the middle ground of what-the-fuckery and the lady who plays the violin, whistles, and does flamenco tapping, all at the same time. There is the young man who beautifully played acoustic guitar but sang so off key that I, at the far end of the platform, struggled to not laugh too hard; I think he must be the guy who one summer's night some years later sat under my apartment window in his car, all the windows down, and loudly sang along with Lite-FM (and he knew every word).  In other words, there is good but there is a lot of ?????? and a lot of serious crap.

If I lived in New York, I think I'd need to set up a separate subway musician budget because there are so many really gifted musicians giving their all within steps of the entrance to the 4, 5, 6, L, N, Q, and R trains, just to name one subway station.  When you visit NYC, ride the rails and you'll see what I mean.  Make sure you give some monetary love to Malang Jobateh.

Check out more on You Tube.  There are several videos that offer his music.  Here's another one: