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The Necks: Vertigo (Northern Spy)

The Necks 18th album finds the trio of drummer/percussionist Tony Buck, bassist Lloyd Swanton and pianist/keyboardist Chris Abrahams in a vertiginous 44 minute dark excursion punctuated by cliff hanging moments through homemade instruments and unusual textures. ... Click to View

The Necks: Vertigo [VINYL] (Northern Spy)

The Necks 18th album finds the trio of drummer/percussionist Tony Buck, bassist Lloyd Swanton and pianist/keyboardist Chris Abrahams in a vertiginous 44 minute dark excursion punctuated by cliff hanging moments through homemade instruments and unusual textures. ... Click to View

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Evan Parker / Schlippenbach / Lytton: America 2003 [2 CDs] REPRESS (psi)

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Midnight Doctors: (Ourodisc)

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Kare Kolberg : Attitudes (Bolt)

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MIRT: Solitaire (Bolt)

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Steerage: Entropy Is What The State Makes Of It (Caduc)

An album of tones and tonal environments from Barry Chabala and A.F. Jones, using guitars and effects to create slowly moving sound punctuated with unusual sounds of unknown origin; rich and curiously non-specific sound that lives in the back- and foreground. ... Click to View

Cecil Taylor : Garden, 2nd Set (Hatology)

The second set of Cecil Taylor's superb live set at Grosser Saal Volkshaus, in Basel, Switzerland in 1981, performing solo over five improvisations, presented for the first time in the original concert sequence. ... Click to View

Anthony Braxton : Quartet (Santa Cruz) 1993, 2nd Set (Hatology)

Remaster of the exhilarating second set from saxophonist and composer Anthony Braxton's concert at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz, CA, 1993, one of 7 nights performing with the quartet of Marilyn Crispell on piano, Mark Dresser on bass, and Gerry Hemingway on percussion. ... Click to View

Claudio Sanna : Ammentos (Hatology)

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Uwe Oberg : Work (Hatology)

German pianist Uwe Oberg (Lacy Pool, Uwe Oberg Quartet, Kooperative New Jazz) in a solo album performing works of Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Thelonius Monk and his own original work, applying a diverse set of approaches rooted in jazz tradition. ... Click to View

Anthony Braxton / Derek Bailey: First Duo Concert (London 1974) (Emanem)

A much-need reissue of the 1974 Emanem LP presenting saxophonist Anthony Baxton, also on flute, with guitarist Derek Bailey on acoustic and electric, performing at London's Wigmore Hall for twelve duets of a diverse, playful, and accesible character. ... Click to View

Veryan Weston / Jon Rose / Hannah Marshall: Tuning Out [2 CDs] (Emanem)

Improvised pieces for tracker action organs and strings recorded in five English churches from the trio of violinist Jon Rose, Veryan Weston on tracker action organ, and cellist Hannah Marshall, inviting the public to re-imagine the nature of pitch relationships. ... Click to View

Steve Lacy Quintet: Last Tour (2004) (Emanem)

The Steve Lacy Quintet's final tour with vocalist Irene Aebi, trombonist George Lewis, bassist Jean-Jacques Avenel and drummer John Betsch, performing live in Boston for an impressive set punctuated with words from Burroughs, Waldman, Kaufman, Creeley & Schelling. ... Click to View

Larry Ochs: The Fictive Five (Tzadik)

West Coast multi-reedist and founding member of the Rova Sax Quartet Larry Ochs leads this impressive free improvising quintet patterned after the New York Contemporary Five, with the superb lineup of Nate Wooley, Harris Eisenstadt, Pascal Niggenkemper, and Ken Filiano. ... Click to View

John Zorn: James Moore Plays The Book Of Heads (CD/DVD) Of A Film By Stephen Taylor (Tzadik)

Zorn's "The Book of Heads" is performed by guitarist James Moore, heard on CD and seen in a DVD by Stephen Taylor, using prepared guitar to interpret Zorn's hermetic language of meticulously notated sounds inspired by contemporary classical extended techniques. ... Click to View


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  Helen Stapinski 
  Baby Plays Around  

   review by Kristen Persinos
Helen Stapinski: Baby Plays Around (Villard)

December.  June.  Four Heads.  Recliner.  Star 69.  Speed Dial.  Bitter.  Panchino.  Gump.  Maraschino.  Tug.  Dish.  Reflector.  Stipend.  Slattern.  Slatternly.  Carmie.  Maxilla.  Shifter.  Resentful.  The Stevedores.

This is the pastime popular with musicians called the "name our band" game, as played by Helen Stapinski and her old bandmates in her memoir Baby Plays Around.  (My own band once considered "Jesus Streisand.")

The book chronicles a year or so in the life of 30-something Stapinski as she made her living as a freelance writer, played drums in an indie rock band based in the Lower East Side of New York City (with no prior band experience other than playing along to her favorite records as a kid) and faced marital problems.

Being a 30-something female in a rock band based in the Lower East Side myself, I was curious and armed for battle: What was her experience, her take on the male-driven popularity contest of the indie rock scene in NYC?  Would the book be much like most of the hipsters involved: puddle deep?  Would familiarity breed contempt?

Upon reading the first few chapters, it seemed that Stapinski and I share more in common than just age and the band thing. We both have older brothers who influenced our involvement with music. We both sometimes come off as tomboyish. We listened to some of the same records (REM's Murmur) growing up, and had some of the same rock heroes (Elvis Costello). And to top it off, much of the book's action takes place within a 10-block radius of my apartment. (One of her band's old haunts was a restaurant where I used to bartend.) After a few no shits - "no shit, that sounds familiar" and "no shit, that is a block from my house" - my claws began to retract and I ended up not being able to put the book down; not just for the cheap thrill of reading about my immediate surroundings and the things we have in common, it was Stapinski's self-effacing, wry sense of humor, her intelligence, and her sincerity.She is delightfully sarcastic, but also thoughtful, decent and ultimately fair. (Hey Helene, wanna play in my band?)  Her writing style is refreshing in its directness and its lack of masturbatory word play. She knows when enough is enough.

There are many witty moments in this book.  The chapter on her band's bass player auditions was funny and dead on, but you do not have to be a musician to appreciate the humor.

"There was another guy, who hadn't even listened to the tape.  'Why are you wasting our time?' Julie asked him.  He just shrugged, grinning like the teenager he actually was.  You could tell what was passing through his meager brain, as he nodded and looked us over: 'Chick band.  Cool.  Two chicks.  One guy.  Guy is me.  Hey.  Maybe I'll score.  Threesome!  Cool!'  I think he actually drooled on his bass guitar.  Unfortunately he was not electrocuted."

"Then there was the guy with the long ponytail who played New Age bass.  He was sent packing, back to the mother ship."

Later chapters in the book are touching as her relationships with her band mates and her estranged husband…well I wouldn't want to give it away, now would I?

So yes, I laughed ... I cried ... as her increasingly troubled marital life intertwined with her rocky (forgive me) band life, both marriages affecting each other with moments of ecstasy and despair as Helene powered through.

Readers who live in New York City, or just love it from afar, will enjoy reading about such landmarks as Katz's Deli, Ratners and the Lansky Lounge, as well as some of the popular rock clubs: Arlene's Grocery, Luna Lounge, and the now defunct Spiral and Brownies.

So, I'll do my best now to sound like a book critic and say that Baby Plays Around is a well crafted, entertaining book about the weathering of love found and love lost (and visa versa); dry but not without heart.

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