Fabulous Fiction Firsts #176

Utah Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Gerald Elias capitalizes on his musical background in his "witty and acerbic" debut Devil's Trill*. The title is borrowed from Giuseppe Tartini's famous Violin Sonata in G minor, known in musical circles as the Devil's Trill Sonata, for being extremely difficult and technically demanding.

The Grimsley Competition, held once every 13 years, open to child prodigies 13 and under, culminates at New York's Carnegie Hall with cash, concert appearances, and most coveted of all - for the winner the use of the world's only 3/4 sized Stradivarius, known simply as the Piccolino.

When this prized instrument is stolen, Daniel Jacobus, a former Grimsley contestant, now a blind, bitter recluse who cobbles together a livelihood by teaching, is accused of the theft. Suspicion mounts when the winner's teacher is murdered, who happens to be one of Daniel's old enemies.

This thoroughly engaging mystery, packed with violin and concert lore brings to mind the fabulous film The Red Violin . Fans of mystery with a musical theme should also consider The Rainaldi Quartet by Paul Adam; Voice of the Violin by Andrea Camilleri; and Canone Inverso by Paolo Maurensig. And along the way, enjoy some cinematic armchair traveling...

* = Starred Review

The Dirty Projectors -- Bitte Orca

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The terms 'accessible' and 'listener-friendly' don't exactly sit at the same lunch table as The Dirty Projectors. The band's manic tendencies to change rhythm mid-song, or pile melodies like clothes in a hamper, or noodle away on a riff into next week make them something of the Gujarati cuisine of indie rock -- strange to many, but obsessed over by a vocal few. Is Bitte Orca, The Dirty Projectors' latest release, going to make them arena rock stars of the Coldplay caliber? Hardly. Though Dave Longstreth manages to hold onto a unified idea for more than 4 bars on the record, the lo-fi sounds and disjointed structures of the songs are certain to turn many off after the first three tracks. But for those who want to hear music teetering on the edge of the esoteric without falling into the John Cage realm, check out Bitte Orca.

Les Paul, world renowned guitarist and multitrack recording innovator, has died

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Les Paul, phenomenal guitarist, inventor, and songwriter, died today in White Plains, NY.

In 1941, he built The Log, a solid-body electric guitar which eventually morphed into the Gibson Les Paul, one of the most coveted electric guitars in the world. In 2005, Christie’s auctioned one for more than $45,000.

Paul was inducted into the Halls of Fame for Rock and Roll, Grammys, Inventors, and Songwriters. He had 11 No. 1 pop hits and 26 gold records. He won two Grammys in 2006 at age 90. With his second wife, Mary Ford, Les Paul performed such hits as Vaya Con Dios and How High the Moon. He invented multitrack taping when Bing Crosby lent him an audiotape recorder and he started messing around with it.

And for anyone who still doubts his absolute devotion to music 24/7, after a terrible 1948 car crash, Les Paul instructed his surgeon to permanently set his shattered elbow at a near right angle so that he could continue to play the guitar.

Les Paul was 94.

Mike Seeger, musician and musicologist, dead at 75

This past weekend saw the death of Mike Seeger, a musician well-known to those interested in folk and old time music. Seeger, the son of musicologist-composers Charles Seeger and Ruth Crawford Seeger and brother of folk musicians Peggy Seeger and Pete Seeger, grew up surrounded by traditional American music and the people who understood it. He played a large role in bringing traditional music to the attention of the late twentieth century by both recording musicians across the country and performing old time songs as a solo artist and with his group The New Lost City Ramblers. His work helped bring about the folk revival of the 1960s and directly influenced the artists of that movement, especially Bob Dylan. Seeger also worked closely with Smithsonian Folkways Recordings to document and educate people about American music. Throughout his life, Seeger sought to bring traditional music to people from the "true vine", performed using the techniques with which it had been written.

Seeger's performance of "Did You Ever See the Devil, Uncle Joe?" from his 2003 album True Vine is the perfect example his work: just a voice and a mouth harp, unaccompanied and unadorned, performing a tune from the nineteenth century.


Click read more to see a video of Mike Seeger's toe-tapping rendition of the Henry "Ragtime Texas" Thomas song "The Fox and the Hounds" on guitar and quills.

Phoenix -- Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

The first time I threw on the much-buzzed new Phoenix album with the bombastic title, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, I lost control of both legs. They started dancing and wouldn't stop. I looked ridiculous. After only making it through "1901," the second track on the album, I had to turn it off to avoid further embarrassment. The next day, I was ready. Blinds closed, stereo cranked, I made it through the whole thing. The French indie rock band has been making records for the last 10 years, with each a step forward in both complexity and songcraft, though this year's dance-pop, hook ready release marks the first time they've put together a complete set of tunes that exemplify the group's wit, confidence, and exuberance. Jump on the hold list for this record, and get ready to put Phoenix on heavy rotation.

Conor Oberst -- Outer South

You love him or hate him, find his emotive lyrics and inimitable wailing endearing or nauseating, but no doubt you know when you've heard a Conor Oberst, a.k.a. Bright Eyes, song. His latest record, Outer South, once again features the Mystic Valley Band, and continues down the alt-country vein of his eponymous previous album. This time around, Oberst takes a page out of the Weezer playbook by not only including six songs penned by backing bandmates, but giving up the vocal reins and letting the songwriters sing the songs they wrote. All signs point to Oberst attempting to erase his image as a tortured, self-absorbed wunderkind, as he plans on recording only one more album under the Bright Eyes moniker, becoming more of a lead singer than a singer/songwriter. But for those fans looking for a latter day "The Calendar Hung Itself," don't miss "I Got the Reason # 2" off Outer South.

Tori Tori Tori

The piano mistress is back. This time, it is her tenth studio album since 1992 titled Abnormally Attracted to Sin.

If you happen to be a "Toriphile", you've probably already heard this album, or own a copy. However, new listeners may want to wait on this one and first pick up a copy of one of Tori's earlier albums such as Little Earthquakes, Under the Pink or Boys for Pele. As a longtime fan of Ms. Amos - I cannot say that I have been heartily impressed with her more recent albums post 2002's Scarlet's Walk. 2007's American Doll Posse had a few highlights - but Abnormally Attracted to Sin feels a bit too safe and contemporary for my taste. Despite it all, I still love her, and can't help but follow everything she does. If you have a chance to see her live, she usually gives an amazing performance.

Tori Amos will be at the Detroit Opera House Saturday, August 8th.

New Wave/Post-Punk Redux

Good news for those still arguing over whether New Order is a better band than their previous incarnation, Joy Division, or if David Byrne of Talking Heads ever did go corporate: the new wave/post-punk sound is alive and well in this millennium. As evidenced by the popularity of Franz Ferdinand's latest record, Tonight, and The Killers continuing to sell out arena shows and summer festivals, the synth-driven, lo-fi tones of many bands from the late '70s/early '80s are proving to be increasingly influential on the direction of rock music in the coming decade.

So does this mean it's safe to blast some XTC and Gang of Four at your next party without fearing everyone will laugh at you and leave? Guess that depends on your audience, but chances are if your iPod shuffles to "Blue Monday" after playing Passion Pit's "The Reeling," few will notice that the former came out in 1983, and the latter in 2009. Now, whether you want to look like you're post-punk in 1982 at said party, that decision is entirely up to you.

AADL Productions Podcast: Mr. B

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Local musician Mark Lincoln Braun, aka Mr. B, is celebrating his 30th year playing street boogie-woogie piano as part of the original Ann Arbor Street Art Fair. We talked recently with Mr. B about his memories of art fairs past; his musical influences; and his most recent venture, Mr. B's Joybox Express, a 125-mile bike ride he began July 13 for charity, riding a special bike designed to haul his piano. You'll find Mr. B playing every day during the art fair, Wednesday, July 15 through Saturday, July 18, on North University near Ingalls Mall.

AADL is also happy to help the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair celebrate another milestone with 50 Years of Originality: A History of the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair, a website of images, text, audio and video from the past half century of Ann Arbor's first fair.

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AADL_production_podcast-mrb.mp3 26.3 MB

Pink Floyd

See you on the dark side of the moon... Or should I say, see you Saturday night at the Pink Floyd light show. On July 11th at the DTE Energy Music Theatre there will be an event featuring over two hours of the band's music accompanied with a mesmerizing light show, giant moving inflatable people, laser beams, and three dimensional images. AADL owns several of Pink Floyd's albums for you to enjoy whether or not you plan to attend the light show.

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