Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I usually remember my name...this is ridiculous

Here's a clip showing autistic artist Stephen Wiltshire who is able to draw detailed cityscapes from life- amazing stuff!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Music Review: Rodrigo Y Gabriela- 11:11

Whether you’re a metal head, a flamenco fanatic, or a jazz nut, 11:11, the new album by genius guitarist masterminds Rodrigo Y Gabriela is a collection of songs you’ll need to take a look at. The Mexican duo of Rodrigo S├ínchez and Gabriela Quintero have been every musician’s fan favorite for years now but their blend of classical, metal, jazz, folk, and flamenco along with their amazing talents on the guitar are beginning to get noticed by a wider audience and for good reason.

The songs vary a bit but all show-off the group’s virtuoso skill ranging from the quick paced Spanish style “Hanuman” to the jazzy, melodic “Triveni”. The album is a tribute of sorts to their musical influences and each song was created as a homage to another musician from Hendrix to Pink Floyd. The album features another well known guitar playing duo, Strunz & Farah, on “Master Maqui” which is a gorgeous work that almost leaves you exhausted from the quick fingering. Metallica fans will enjoy “Chac Mool” which brings to mind the beautiful old school introductions in Master of Puppets and Ride the Lightning and “Atman”, a tribute to fallen guitar icon Dimebag Darrell, featuring Testament’s Alex Skolnick which will quickly find itself in the folds of your brain tissue sparking the neurons.

Not every song goes on the iPod playlist but the music inspires awe in anyone who’s held a guitar and the album is great as long-play party music

For: Short & Sweet NYC

Monday, October 19, 2009

Harley Davidson's "The Art of Rebellion"

Harley Davidson motorcycles have always been iconically cool but the customized bikes featured in Harley’s “The Art of Rebellion” show bring cool up a notch. The show which raised money for the CUE art foundation which supports art students, professionals, and scholars took place on October 16 and 17 at LA Venue in Chelsea and featured silkscreened posters and customized gas tanks of Harley’s Dark Custom Iron 883 bikes by 10 well-known artists: Art Chantry, Brian Ewing, Derek Hess, Dirty Donny, Frank Kozik, Harpoon, John Van Hamersveld, Lindsey Kuhn, Tara McPherson and The Pizz.

The art work was varied in approach and style ranging from Art Chantry’s more three-dimensional approach with holes bursting out of the white tank like gunshots with a red neon light inside to Dirty Donny’s painted skull and bones on a lacquered metallic tank. Many of the artists were on hand showing off their work and how customizable the Harley’s Iron 883 motorcycles can be.

I had a chance to speak with illustration legend John Van Hamersveld who’s work such as the “Endless Summer” film poster and album covers like the Beatles “Magical Mystery Tour” and the Rolling Stones “Exile on Main Street” (along with Robert Frank) are designs that are well known in the lexicon of the 20th Century. Van Hamersveld’s tank featured a silkscreen of his well known Jimmy Hendrix design from his 1968 concert poster so I asked him how he became involved with creating it and he explained that he “was an art student and got a community together and became a rock promoter to do happenings, this was a Pinnicle concert, it ran for about a year or so and we did about 16 or 17 happenings”.

I also caught up with artist Frank Kozik, who is known for helping to revive the silkscreen poster scene back in the 90’s creating gig posters for bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden and now he’s most known for his unique vinyl toy designs such as the Smorkin' Labbits and Chumps. Kozik had a complete Harley in the show which featured his “Dead Che” design in black with his signature orange and green coloring which gave it a cool underground military look. I asked Frank where he came up with the concept of a skull Che Guevara and he said he “thought that it was funny that all these hipsters were really into Che but he was like a fucking killer motherfucker, there’s a whole ‘Che Vive’ thing so I was like oh- ‘No Che Vive’”. I also asked Frank how he felt about the success of modern poster artists like Shepard Fairey and he said that “I’ve known Shepard since he was in school I was in love with his stuff [but] he went from doing this thing-‘okay, I’m anti-propaganda’- warning you about the evils of propaganda to doing real propaganda, he invalidated his whole life long work by doing real propaganda, I’m like okay, dude, I’m happy for you but you just fucked your message, you fucked yourself”.

The show also featured some great black and white photographs by Adam Wright and Steven Stone that are definitely worth a mention and to see more information on the Art of Rebellion series check out Dark Custom’s website.

Review for: Short & Sweet NYC

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Interview: Chico Hamilton

A living legend, Chico Hamilton has played with the likes of Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Nat King Cole, and Sammy Davis Jr. and recently celebrated his 88th birthday with a show at Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village. I had a chance to speak to the NEA Jazz Master for a very, very brief talk about his illustrious career and found that his craft for conversation was not as developed as his skills on the drums. He was a bit like “mean grandpa jazz” calling my questions stupid but I did coax a few replies out of him before his nap or Matlock or whatever 87 year old Jazz musicians do when they aren’t onstage.

I asked Chico what it was like being a jazz musician coming up in the heart of the depression in California and he thought it was a stupid question but did relent to say that “at that time in jazz, you were considered a sinner and there was only one kind of music being played at that time which was swing music.” After brushing aside a few more questions with Andy Warhol like short answers, I inquired about his experience in teaching and why he wanted to work as an educator to which he replied that it was his way of giving something back because music has always been very good to him.

Mr. Hamilton has had a few choice parts in the world of film, such as his role playing in Fred Astaire’s backing band onscreen in the 1941 hit You’ll Never Get Rich (which featured Rita Hayworth’s first big starring role) so I asked him about how he ended up in the world of movies. He told me that he had been in films ever since he was a kid in L.A.- “I was in all the Tarzan movies- you know those natives running around the jungle, I was one of those kids.” When asked about his feeling about contemporary music Chico stated that “it takes all kind of music to make music- that’s my philosophy” going on to say that music was “God’s will and God’s will, will be done.” Finally as for his advice to young people who want to make it as musicians Chico said to “save your money” and with that nugget of sunshine we bid adieu and I looked back on our five minutes together and thought about all the good times we shared as a montage of dead silence and aggravated short answers played in my head to the hit “Through the Years.”

For: Short & Sweet NYC

Friday, October 9, 2009

Hamptons International Film Festival

This weekend I'll be out to the East End of Long Island for the Hamptons International Film Festival in East Hampton. The film I most excited about this year is the premiere of Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus which is Heath Ledger's final film which has Heath, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, and Jude Law all playing the same role (due to his death). It should be interesting- everything Terry Gillam does usually is!

* A note to any of my students who are waiting to hear about volunteering out there- last I heard is that they are full so if you didn't receive a phonecall there is likely no room- if you are going to head out and give it a try anyway I suggest buying some film tickets in advance so you can at least grab a seat for a film and try to make the Master Cinematography class which is free and open to the public.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

CD Review: Monsters of Folk

Chocolate is delicious but it’s even better with peanut butter and pretzels and Monsters of Folk which features Jim James from My Morning Jacket, M. Ward, most recently of She & Him, and Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes might be the indie/alt. country/folk rock equivalent. Their premiere self-titled album is a sonically eclectic but thematically coherent musical piece and interestingly it strays quite a distance from “folk” music at times.

The band might be best compared to the original 60’s folk rock super group Crosby Stills Nash (and Young) because the combinations of writing, musical sensibilities, and most notably vocals in combination make for a sum greater than the individual parts. This isn’t true of every track but the standouts such as “Baby Boomer” which is an extraordinary song that gets political in the old school folk tradition certainly shows off how fruitful the collaboration between the members can be.

There are quite a few memorable tracks on the album such as: “Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)” which begins the album on a spiritual note with a colorful blend of 1970’s downbeat disco and folk, “Temazcal” which is a beautiful poem set to music, and “The Right Place” which questions personal ethics with a sound reminiscent of Gram Parsons. For fans of any of these musicians the album is a must have and even in this era of side project madness this one feels a little more special than the rest.

For Short & Sweet NYC

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

DVD Review: Terry Fator– Live From Las Vegas

On his new DVD, Live from Vegas, Season 2’s America’s Got Talent winner Terry Fator proves that he is extraordinarily talented and that his show is equally extraordinarily difficult to sit through. The cringing started shortly after hitting the play button because although Fator is clearly one of the best singing-ventriloquist-impressionists around, his very hokey, starchy show is a snoozefest on valium. There is an audience for this kind of cheesy garbage, I know, I wait behind them sometimes at traffic lights screaming, but they are best avoided when possible.

The show does have moments that emerge from the middle-American grey, dullness such as when Terry pulls an audience member on stage and adds a mask and dress using the live person as a doll very effectively, but everything is so scripted any reality is quickly shooed offstage. I’m sure Terry is a nice guy because he said so in the first chapter of his autobiography which was included with the DVD “Who’s The Dummy Now?” (answer: anyone reading the book) in which he tells his story of rags to riches slowly and painfully. Another added bonus is the worst audio commentary ever recorded featuring Terry and his comedy writer who is so far from the microphone that he might be down the block running from the nightmare.

It may play well in Peoria and fill seats at the Mirage, but after watching his act Terry Fator’s fan club is probably just hearing about this great new thing called the internet.

For Short & Sweet NYC