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December 10, 1996 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1996-12-10

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Student showcase
The department of film and video's term-end screening of student work
will occur on campus this weekend. Check out student-produced films,
videos and various digital productions created during the past few
months. It's a rare chance to see the early work of budding Steven
Spielbergs or Alfred Hitchcocks. The free presentation is at 7:30 p.m.
on both Saturday and Sunday nights at 1324 East Hall.

December 10, 1996


.Battle, jazz masters to thrill Hill

By James Miller
Daily Arts Writer
Jazz is famous for being filled with impossi-
ble personalities. Bird was a terror to work
with, not to mention his penchant for junkie
rages. Ray Charles is a relentless taskmaster
and absolute perfectionist, as is pianist Marcus
Roberts. All of this makes someone like Cyrus
Chestnut a breath of
tweet air.
In a recent telephone PR l
interview with Theo
Michigan Daily,
Chestnut spoke for a
good 15 minutes from a
pay phone at a mall Call 764-2
somnewhere in Florida as
he shopped with his wife. To have a musician
of his stature interrupt his day for a phone
interview is one thing. To have him do it from
a pay phone in such a gracious and relaxed
manine is quite another.
Chestnut is promoting his upcoming lill
Auditorium show called "So Many Stars." In it,
he will be performing with saxophonist James
Carter, bassist Christian McBride and vocalist
Kathleen Battle.
"We're playing lullabies, spirituals.
Brazilian music and Duke Ellington too,"
Chestnut said about the eclectic nature of his
program. But even more eclectic than that is


the selection of Battle as the ensemble's vocal-
ist. Battle, a world-famous classical performer,
is an unusual selection both because of her
training and because of her reputation as a dif-
ficult person to work with.
"I found her a joy to work with," Chestnut
when said asked about his collaborator. "She's
very inspiring. She calls me up to a higher
level of musicianship."
Chestnut even refers
VIEW to her as "a brilliant
vocalist and musician."
Many Stars Coming from him, to
Friday at 8 p.m. describe a singer outside
at ill Auditorium, the jazz genre in such
8 for more information glowing terms is no
faint praise. Chestnut
got his start at the Berklee College of Music in
Boston, graduating in 1985 with a degree in
jazz composition and arranging. His gigs have
included stints with singers Joe Williams, Jon
Hendricks and Dizzy Gillispie.
"But I think Betty Carter did a lot to launch
my career," Chestnut said when pressed for one
name. Carter, another brilliant vocalist, has a
tradition of taking young talents under her
'watchful eye and turning them into the young
lions we see today.
In fact, throughout the interview Chestnut
displayed a huge amount of respect and admi-
ration for the people who influenced his music

and started his career. He is so respectful, that
sometimes it's easy to forget the caliber he is.
Chestnut, along with his band mates
McBride and Carter, as well as saxophonist
Joshua Redman, form a core of talented young
musicians that are revitalizing jazz. All of these
new players combine stunning academy tech-
nique with a reverence to the old music and the
old styles. The result is a mixture of polished
concert jazz and heart wrenching emotional-
Adding to his list of accolades, Chestnut
also appeared in the Robert Altman film
"Kansas City" as a member of the nightclub
"I think I was supposed to be a kind of a
Count Basie character. But to be honest, I
haven't seen the movie yet," he said with a
chuckle. He alluded to his busy schedule of
late, which includes two albums, "So Many
Stars" and the recently released "Blessed
Quietness," plus his current tour.
Chestnut is no stranger to Ann Arbor either.
During his stint with Betty Carter he even
jammed with the excellent and local Bird of
Paradise Orchestra.
"Yeah, I had a lot of fun in Ann Arbor," he
said with sincerity. Those who are looking for
a break from finals and would enjoy feeling the
Holy Spirit are well advised to attend and have
a little fun with Cyrus Chestnut and friends.

Cyrus Chestnut and Kathleen Battle will perform at Hill Auditorium on Friday night.


Pop artists contribute
to CD benefiting
clean water action

Skilled essayist Didion explores
intrigue in novel, comes up short

Various Artists
MOM: Music for Our Mother Ocean
Surfdog/I nterscope
Oh look, it's another annoyingly conceived
environmentalist benefit album with a band or
two for each alternative listener out there, just
like iternative NRG" and that animal testing
thirig. Well this one is for the Surfrider
unlttion, a pressure group whose aims are
o keep surfable waters and their environs
clean. The music is largely thematic for this, as
well, and only one song on the album was writ-
ten by Brian Wilson.
Pearl Jam delivers quite possibly the least
annoying song they've ever recorded with
"Gremmie Out of Control," a '64 surf tune. It's
sung just about
entirely through
' ..the nose and is
the only fun
work they'll
probably ever
A ton of other
notables con-
Pearl Jam is featured on tribute songs as
"Mother Ocean." well. The
Ramones, Porno
For Pyros, Silverchair, The Reverend Horton
Heat, Primus, No Doubt, the Beastie Boys.
ell, Helmet's even on it doing a cover of
ork's "Army of Me,' almost completely
straight musically but laced with Page
Hamilton's distressed vocals.
This album dodges the bullet of being too
full of itself, probably because of the rich
resource of surfing-themed songs available to
be drawn upon. Of course, you're likely to only
want one or two songs on it. Oh well, at least
tie other songs won't annoy you. Except for
Soundgarden's contribution of "My Wave,"
hich is the exact same version as on
4superunknown." Like they couldn't have con-
tributed a live version.
- Ted Watts
Bush Babees
Warner Bros.
Though it's titled "Gravity," Bush Babees'
latest LP could just as well be named

Maturity." The
Brooklyn trio has
made a few adjust-
ments, both in record-
ing production and
lyrical delivery. The
result, manifested in
"Gravity," is a
thoughtful and cir-
cumspect effort, dis-
tancing the band
slightly from its for-
mer popular identity
as wild-child boy won-
Following the ram-
bunctious 1994 debut As we all know, the B
"Ambushed," Mr. fight for their rights o
Man, Lee Major and album to keep surfab
Light show their
growth over the past
two years. The frenzied choruses and blaring
vocals - only occasionally interrupted by
wiser, more eloquent verse in "Ambushed" -
takes a definite back seat this time around. The
Babees flip their approach this time, reserving
their explosive energy only for the most intense
moments of "Gravity."
Those who doubt the group's sincerity,
though, can be assured that the Babees haven't
left the foundation of their infancy. With such
songs as the title track and "Melting
Plastic," it's clear that, despite
their musical evolution, "
they've preserved their
Jamaican influence.
Echoing throughout the
recording is the voice of
Light, a Jamaican native
and dance hall MC in his
own right. His deeply melodi-
ous chants lend an introspective
tone to the Babees' otherwise light-
hearted presentation.
"Maybe" and "The Love Song," on the other
hand, showcase the lighthearted outlook and
charismatic honesty the group is known for.
Although Mr. Man doesn't flow on "Maybe,"
as he claims, "more fluidic than runnin' water,"
the bouncing, accessible beat are sure to move
But what truly marks the Babees' coming
of age is the distinguished production staff. "3
MCs," produced by the Ummah, the A Tribe,
Called Quest team of Ali Shaheed

Beastie Boys are some really cool dudes. They
n "Music for Our Mother Ocean," a benefit
le waters clean.
Muhammed and Q-Tip, is a fiery lyrical free-
Q-Tip, who brings his own lyrics to the fray,
seems to have mastered the ability of appearing
on numerous other artists' albums and still not
sounding tired.
Then there's "The Love Song," deftly high-
lighting the considerable production skills of
De La Soul's Posdnuos. "Gravity" gets caught
up in some spots, though, by the trio's limited,
even simplistic lyrics.
Their sound is really mundane
only on a few tracks, like the
repetitive "Wax" and "The
Ruler," an unfocused
homage to the Kurtis Blow
classic "If I Ruled the
World:" The Babees tend
toward less complex lyrics,
occasionally forsaking their
potential for cleverness,
But the strength and depth of
"Gravity" carries through the group's
sophomore album.
Bush Babees' growth, as individuals and as
MCs, is well represented in the thoughts of
Lee Majors. Typically the group's most ram-
bunctious member, Majors says on "S.O.S.,"
"It's hard to be prophet and stil make a prof-
As the trio continues to improve, that profit
may well be on its way.
-Sam England
See RECORDS, Page 12

Joan Didion
The Last Thing He Wanted
Alfred A. Knopf
It is frustrating when you read an entire book
but cannot come up with a better plot summary
than what is contained on the inside jacket. It is
even more frustrating to forget about the literary
devices, themes or even the names of characters in
the book.
In her first novel in 12 years -a mediocre work
Joan Didion produces yet another novel in her*
trademark style. The novel only confirms my sus-
picion that she is a much better essayist than most
- she should stick to that form of
Didion is an outstanding essay-
ist. She combines a journal-Q
istic instinct with subtle, __ -
condescending wit to -
give her audience a better
understanding of issues-
without making any obvious
conclusion or judgment either
way. Previously, ii "Slouching Towards
Bethlehem" and the "White Album," she
addressed a myriad of complex issues ranging
from feminism's second wave, to the Black
Panthers, to junkies on Haight-Ashbury circa 1967
(in a much more succinct and powerful way than
Wolfe's "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test"). She also
touches on elements of her home life and obscure
topics that only people from Los Angeles seem to
She balances her criticisms and praise so that
she can neither be judged a cynic nor a shiny
happy person. What sets Didion apart from other
effective essayists - like Orwell, Bell or Russell
-is her ability to write about a particular event or
person as if she were writing about it 30 years
later. Her foremost talent is perspective. However,
Didion makes it clear that as time progresses we

are taking a series of steps back from a past situa-
tion. It is only through a bit a distance that any
insight or wisdom can be grasped.
Her new novel, however, falls short.
Didion's combination of a Clancy-esque plot
and her original writing style create a story that
any political science major would enjoy. There are
CIA / FBI cover-ups, international arms-running,
ties to the Cuban Missile Crisis, eccentric federal
bureaucrats, assassination attempts, CNN headline
reports and Nicaraguan Contras.
It is in this genre that Didion succeeds in quali-
ty where Clancy attempts at sensationalism. The
story twists and turns, jumping to and from differ-
ent periods of time all on the same page. The dia-
logue is often without quotes, a la
"Possessing the Secret of Joy"
(which can become annoying when
people sitting near you are loudly
discussing how to, become
Jedi knights).
Unfortunately, college
lhas taught many of us to
read inattentively.
The heroine of the book is
a female journalist named Elena McMahon. At
the outset of the story, Elena is a staff reporter
covering the 1984 presidential campaign. Soon
afterward, Elena gets mixed up with an arms-run-
ning deal that her father had been supervising for
years. She is set up by the bad guys to take the
"fall" or the "rap." The narrator of the story is
also a journalist in the present,attempting to dis-
cover what had happened to Elena in 1984 and
if you wish to read Didion, you should consider
reading her essays first. This novel is definitely
well-written, but I have seen "Patriot Games" too
many times to see it as anything truly new or excit-
ing. As time progresses, "The Last Thing He
Wanted" may just be the last thing you wish to
- Davidde Stella

This is last issue of the Daily for the term.
Wel return on Jan. 8. 1997.
Please drive safely.




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