Feeling good

Most years, as the winter gloominess lifts, there comes a day when I think, “Hey! Things are just fine! I feel good!” Although I worry just a little that I’m being premature here—in Central Illinois it’s entirely possible to have a whole winter’s worth of snow and cold weather in the first month or two of spring—for me this year, that day was yesterday.

In fact, today I’m just a bit manic—enough that I think Jackie was finding me something of a pest, although she bore up well. (It’s worth mentioning here that my manic—as manic as I ever get—is really quite calm. Let me put it this way: an average person on a day with an ordinary mix of good and bad news probably goes through swings of emotion that cover my entire annual range.)

Jackie and I have been re-watching the TV series “Chuck,” and last night we got to the episode where Chuck and Sarah have finally gotten together—the episode that ends with Chuck suggesting that he’s found the song to be Sarah’s favorite, a song by Nina Simone. I don’t have a recording of her version, but I some years ago grabbed a recording posted by fellow occasional Wise Bread writer Nora Dunn performing “Feeling Good,” which is still there at Nora’s site, and which I commend to your attention.

 

iTunes twofer playlist

When I lived in Ft. Lauderdale (this would have been the early 1980s), there was a local radio station with what they called “Twofer Tuesday,” where they played two songs by the same artist, followed by two more by a different artist, and so on throughout the day.

I enjoyed it. Of necessity it eliminated the one-hit wonders. As performed by the DJs on that station, it produced a nice mix of newer and older stuff—most of the twofers had a recent hit followed by an older hit by the same performer or group.

A few years back, I spent some time trying to make an iTunes playlist that would give me twofers, and finally came up with something that was sorta okay.

I did it in two steps:

First, I created a smart playlist for each artist that I wanted to hear twofers from. The basic playlists was “Artist contains artist-name,” “Rating is greater than 2 stars.” Then I limited it to 2 songs, selected by random. (That didn’t quite work—it gave me a single instance of the playlist. To fix that, I added a third rule “Last played is not in the last 2 days,” so that once I played a song it would drop out of the playlist and iTunes would give me a new song for next time.)

Second, I created a folder for all those playlists, and sorted that folder by Artist. Voila: A twofer playlist.

Except for the fact that it always plays my twofers in alphabetical order, it works great. (If you randomize it, it doesn’t group the two songs by the same artist together, which defeats the whole idea.)

Here’s the list I’m playing right now. (If you’re adequately OCD, you’ll notice that I won’t get my Alison Krauss’s played together, because the second one is credited as “Gillian Welch, Alison Krauss, and Emmylou Harris,” so it’s sorting between Fleetwood Mac and Huey Lewis and the News. I’m okay with that.)

Lord Grenville    Year of the Cat    Al Stewart
On the Border    Year of the Cat    Al Stewart
Teardrops Will Kiss the Morning Dew    Two Highways    Alison Krauss
Hello City    Gordon    Barenaked Ladies
If I Had $1000000    Gordon    Barenaked Ladies
Paperback Writer    1    The Beatles
Hey Jude    1    The Beatles
The Stranger    The Stranger    Billy Joel
Only The Good Die Young    The Stranger    Billy Joel
Down On The Corner    Chronicle    Creedence Clearwater Revival
Someday Never Comes    Chronicle    Creedence Clearwater Revival
Tulsa Time    Just One Night (CD1)    Eric Clapton
Rambling On My Mind    Just One Night (CD2)    Eric Clapton
Second Hand News    Rumours    Fleetwood Mac
Dreams    Rumours    Fleetwood Mac
Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby    O Brother, Where Art Thou?    Gillian Welch, Alison Krauss, and Emmylou Harris
Whole Lotta Lovin’    Fore!    Huey Lewis And The News
Walking On A Thin Line    Sports    Huey Lewis And The News
Something In The Way She Moves    Best Of James Taylor    James Taylor
Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight    Best Of James Taylor    James Taylor
Danger Danger    Folk is the New Black    Janis Ian
Passion Play    Restless Eyes    Janis Ian
The Town Crotch    Thing a Week I    Jonathan Coulton
Mr. Fancy Pants    Thing a Week V    Jonathan Coulton
Make You Feel My Love    Heart of Mine: Love Songs of Bob Dylan    Maria Muldaur
Midnight at the Oasis    Maria Muldaur    Maria Muldaur
The Nearness of You    Come Away With Me    Norah Jones
Those Sweet Words    Feels Like Home    Norah Jones

A night out on the town

Jackie and I had a night out last night.

We went to the Art Theater to see “A Most Wanted Man,” the latest John le Carré film. Spoiler alert: What a depressing story! Good film, but geez.

After that we went to Seven Saints for Whiskey Wednesday and sliders. This has become our go-to night out while we’re living downtown, because it’s reasonably cheap—half-price whiskey—and not too many calories (as long as we don’t order waffle fries, which we don’t).

Yesterday was “Irish and International whiskeys.” The last two international Wednesdays I’d had Japanese single malts—once Yamazaki and once Nikka, both excellent. This time they were featuring an Irish whiskey from Powers Distillery, so I tried that. It was good, but not as good as either of the Japanese whiskeys (which are both as good as the best Scottish single malts I’ve had).

After sliders, we went to Dublin O’Neil’s, a newish restaurant that’s trying to go for the feel of an Irish pub. We don’t eat there much, because they bring way too much food, but on Wednesday evenings a bunch of local musicians show up for a jam session of Irish music. It’s an odd mix of people and instruments—there are many more squeeze boxes of various sorts than you’d usually put together in a band—but pretty good music played with enthusiasm. Last night there was also a flute, a fiddle, a 4-string banjo, and a guitar.

We ordered beers (Harp was on sale cheaper than Guinness, so we ordered that, although I think I’ll go back to Guinness next time) and listened to Irish music for most of an hour. The musicians were still going strong, but it was past our bedtime, so we headed home.

The Meadowbrook Jazz Walk

One of the unique events in Champaign-Urbana is the Jazz Walk. Bands (duos and small combos) are scattered across the sculpture garden at Meadowbrook Park, and you walk from one to the next. The result is a series of surprisingly intimate performances. You have each group almost to yourself, sharing one or two or three songs with a shifting mix of perhaps a dozen or so other pedestrians.

You can linger longer if you like, but the event only goes on for two hours, so if you spend too much time with one band it begins to eat into your time to spend with the others.

As a bonus, you get to enjoy the sculpture as well.

I liked all the music, even the groups that didn’t play exactly my sort of jazz had the sort of energy that makes a live performance worth attending.

It was a cool, cloudy evening, and was already getting a little dark for photography, but I thought my camera did pretty well—I got an adequate shot of each group, and a few pretty good ones.

Bluesnik performing at the 2011 Meadowbrook Jazz Walk
Bluesnik
Mark Smart and Mark Ginsberg performing at the 2011 Meadowbrook Jazz Walk
Mark Smart and Mark Ginsberg
Almost Anything performing at the 2011 Meadowbrook Jazz Walk
Almost Anything
The Jazz Cycle performing at the 2011 Meadowbrook Jazz Walk
The Jazz Cycle
Johnathan Beckett and Young Kim performing at the 2011 Meadowbrook Jazz Walk
Johnathan Beckett and Young Kim
New Orleans Jazz Machine performing at the 2011 Meadowbrook Jazz Walk
New Orleans Jazz Machine
Katy Flynn and Will Yanez performing at the 2011 Meadowbrook Jazz Walk
Katy Flynn and Will Yanez
Peter and the Wolves performing at the 2011 Meadowbrook Jazz Walk
Peter and the Wolves

George Turner at V Picasso

We went to eat tapas and hear George Turner play at V Picasso this evening.

George is a great jazz guitarist. He’s been a local performer since coming to town to work on a Masters and now a PhD at the university. We first encountered him playing with his trio at the Iron Post a few years ago, and have made a point of going to hear him whenever we get a chance.

He played mostly jazz standards.  I’d heard most of them many times, but the only ones I recognized were “My Funny Valentine,” “Girl from Ipanima,” and “Moon River.” (I have an odd relationship with jazz standards. I’ve heard all of them, because my dad played them when I was a kid, but a lot of what my dad played were instrumentals, so I often don’t know the names of the songs.)

It was a good show, and good food. A pretty small crowd. He’s playing a couple more times this week and next, so if you like great jazz guitar in an intimate setting, check it out.