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Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Black Is Back - 40th Anniversary Project (KATALYST )

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Lacy, Steve: School Days (1960/3) (Emanem)

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Shetland Improvisers Orchestra: First Steps (FMR)

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Acid Mothers Temple SWR: Yes, No & Perhaps (Magaibutsu)

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Zorn, John: Valentine's Day (Tzadik)

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Rodiriguez, Roberto / Zorn, John: Aguares: The Book Of Angels Volume 23 (Tzadik)

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Smith, David / Bill Laswell / John Zorn: The Dream Membrane (Tzadik)

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Sealed Knot, The: Surface/Plane (Confront)

Listed as one of The Wire's Top 10 Improvised Music Records in 2003, this reissue of The Sealed Knots Meniscus release presents two live 2001 concerts in the UK from the subtlely sophisticated trio of UK & Berlin artists Mark Wastell, Burkhard Beins, and Rhodri Davies. ... Click to View


Wastell, Mark: Caressed On The Brow By Unseen Hands (Confront)

This long overdue re-issue celebrates the unique encounter of eleven like-minded musicians from Japan, England, Wales, Germany, Basque Country & Norway, brought together in the studio for one day only for this daytime recording session followed by an evening concert. ... Click to View


Leandre, Joelle / Michael Duch: (Live at) Gramolna (Confront)

Two double bass players--Joelle Leandre and Michael Duch--performed as a duo live in at nyMusikk in Oslo, then recorded this album of freely improvised bass interactions the next day in the studio at Gramolna in Trondheim; dark and commanding explorations of deep strings. ... Click to View


Moholo-Moholo, Louis Unit: For the Blue Notes (Ogun)

Ogun marks their 40th anniversary by releasing this superb album from drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo's Unit as an octet including Alexander Hawkins on piano, John Edwards on bass, and Jason Yarde on saxes, performing a heartfelt tribute to The Blue Notes live in Italy. ... Click to View


Perelman, Ivo / Mat Maneri: Two Men Walking (Leo)

The second collaboration between saxophonist Ivo Pereleman and violist Mat Maneri, pairing two single-melody instruments in a melding of sound, technique and personalities that captivates in exceptional unison and counterpoint playing. ... Click to View


Perelman, Ivo / Matthew Shipp / William Parker: Book Of Sound (Leo)

A single extended work in 6 parts from the trio of Ivo Perelman (sax), Matthew Shipp (piano) and William Parker (bass), emotional and masterful music from a trio that has developed their sound over years working together; superb! ... Click to View


Smith, Wadada Leo: The Great Lakes Suites [2 CDs] (Tum)

Outstanding compositions and performances on a 2 disc set from trumpeter Leo Smith, each piece dedicated to one of the US Great Lakes, with multi-wind player Henry Threadgill, bassist John Lindberg, and drummer Jack DeJohnette, a milestone in a superlative career! ... Click to View


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Helen Stapinski 
Baby Plays Around  
(Villard) 

review by Kristen Persinos
2004-04-26
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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