Progressive rock legends Yes lost their only constant member with the passing of co-founder/bassist Chris Squire on June 27. This is probably as good a time as any to sit back and take a long listen to their music--and there's no better way to binge-listen than this box set that captures their work from their eponymous 1967 release, up to 1987's "Big Generator." There's clearly an evolution to their sound--the baroque intricacies of Fragile and Close to the Edge (not to mention the epic excess of Tales from Topographic Oceans) give way to the more straightforward 80s sounds of 90125 and Big Generator. Through each of their periods and stylistic incarnations, however, the group managed to create its own unique sound, creating plenty of musical gems along the way. Also check out the always-available albums by Yes on hoopla digital.
Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick, on tour in the US, found an affinity with the upper Midwest--which reminded him of southern Norway (and was once the destination of many Norewgian immigrants). This inspired him to write the songs that make up Midwest, his latest offering on ECM records. The pieces are stately, even reflective, and reside in the area between jazz, folk and classical music. There's a quiet intensity to them, and the melodies are haunting and memorable. Eick's trumpet playing is clean and understated--and blends beautifully with the folk-inflected violin playing of Gjermund Larsen. There's clearly talent in the ensemble, but no one overplays. Standout pieces include "Hem" and "Dakota." Also check out Eick's previous albums,Skala and The Door, via hoopla.
Codona was the trio of sitar/tabla/dulcimer player Colin Walcott, legendary free jazz trumpeter Don Cherry and Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Nana Vasconcelos. In July 2013, The Wire music magazine went so far as to ask "Could this be the most influential group of the last 30 years?" Certainly not by sales, but they certainly anticipated the coming wave of interest in world music in the three very special albums they created between 1978 and 1982. However, their vision of world music was a unique hybrid that spanned continents, with any given song featuring a mix of instruments from India, West Africa or Brazil, along with jazz trumpet and singing/chanting. This is music simultaneously from nowhere/everywhere. It runs from experimental ("Trayra Boia") to playful ("Colemanwonder," which includes a snippet of Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke") to ritual ("Mumakata"). It might be a bit much to sit through all three albums in one package, but there's a lot of beauty in this set, and it's well worth a listen. Find it via the hoopla music/video/audiobook service.
So, the World Cup is over and many of us are going through a bit of withdrawal. Maybe it's a good time for a quick read about some previous tournaments! George Vecsey of the New York Times is considered one of the first US journalists to start covering soccer seriously, and he's logged a lot of miles covering the eight tournaments (both men's and women's) of the title. The book is part travelogue, part memoir and fully enjoyable. There's enough soccer name-dropping (Maradonna, Zidane, Donovan!) to engage the enthusiast, but it's not overly technical, so it's fun for those who only pay attention when the World Cup rolls around. He also covers the various intrigues and controversies surrounding FIFA and the World Cup, such as a New Zealand delegate's sudden disappearance on the eve of the election that allowed Germany's bid for the 2006 tournament to win by a single vote over South Africa (which did go on to host 2010). Still, it's really the joy of the sport that comes shining through and Vecsey shows how he became more fond and knowledgeable of it as he trotted the globe to follow "the beautiful game."
Would a great work of art be any less great if there was a little technical assistance involved? Computer graphics pioneer Tim Jenison had a fascination with the theory championed by David Hockney and Philip Steadman that the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer may have painted with the aid of a camera obscura, a special projection device that could have helped him reproduce sight lines and shadings with superhuman accuracy. In 2008, he set out to try and deduce just how that might have been done, with his friends Penn & Teller on hand to document the process (Teller directs, Penn narrates). For the next five years, Jenison worked out a process and spent countless hours devising mechanisms that he thought would allow him to make an almost exact replica of Vermeer's The Music Lesson, despite having no previous experience with painting. The film is a nerd's paradise, full of tinkering and speculation. It gets bogged down in minutae at times, but ultimately, it makes a great case that art and technology go hand in hand.