Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Kernis - Three Flavors of Exuberance

This album presents three works by American composer Aaron Jay Kernis. They were all written between 2002 and 2007, providing a snapshot of Kernis' evolving style. And that style is engaging, accessible, and exuberant.

Three Flavors began life as a concerto for toy piano and orchestra. While Kernis revised the work for a grand piano, he retained its sense of fun. From the driving ostinato of the first movement through the gorgeous lullaby of the second to the jazz-inflected finale, this is a concerto that appeals on many levels. I enjoyed it the first time I heard it, and with repeated listening grew to appreciate the imaginative orchestration and thematic structure of the work.

Two Movements (with Bells) is an homage to Kernis' father, with echoes of mid-century blues and jazz skillfully woven into its evocative melodies. This virtuoso work was commissioned for violinist James Ehnes, and in this recording he owns it.

The Superstar Etude No. 3 is an homage to George Gershwin, but I didn't need to read the liner notes to know that. This ferocious piano piece captures the spirit of Gershwin, equally at home in the classical and jazz worlds. And Kernis does so without losing his own compositional voice.

Pianist Andrew Russo is a long-term collaborator with Kernis. His performances show the deep understanding he has of this music, and in my opinion, brings out their full potential. This was one recording I thoroughly enjoyed from start to finish.

Aaron Jay Kernis: Three Flavors for piano and orchestra; Two Movements (with Bells) for violin and pinao; Ballade(e) out of the Blue(s) -- Superstar Etude No. 3
Andrew Russo, piano; James Ehnes, violin; Albany Symphony Orchestra; David Alan Miller, conductor
Naxos 8.559711

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Gasoline Alley and the Hot Dog Monarch

I understand that the gentle humor of Jim Scancarelli's Gasoline Alley isn't for everyone. But there's something to be said for nuance. Take the May, 11, 2015 sequence, for example. (click on image to enlarge).


Joel and Rufus have launched another hair-brained scheme -- this time literally. There are three layers of humor contained in that final panel.

The first level is the balloon's shape. We expect an inverted teardrop hot air balloon, so one that looks like a wiener is funny (OK, not very funny, but still). The second level is the name. "Frank King" seems like an excellent name for a hot dog company. Because "frank" is another word for "hot dog." Get it? But it's the third level that makes me appreciate Scancarelli's artistry.

Frank King was the creator of Gasoline Alley and both wrote and drew the strip from 1918 through 1959. So the name on the balloon is actually a nod to the originator of the strip. An Easter egg for the knowledgeable fan.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Spam roundup August, 2015

There's spam, and then there's spam so oddly written it's somewhat amusing. Here's a roundup of some of the "best" comments I received this month from spambots around the world.


That's the name -- don't wear it out

Hi there! AI know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could find a captcha plugin for my comment form?

Whats up this is somewhat of off topic but I was wanting to know if blogs us WYIWYG editors or if you have to manally code with HTML.

Hey! quick question that's entirely off topic. do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? [Yes, this blog is titled "Off Topic'd" but enough's enough!]

The Nomura 3" tin lumber truck. Still pulling down
the comments!
Lumbering Along

The Straco Express Layout, Part 23 - Lumbering Along continues to be one of my most popular posts -- among spambots. Really, fellas, it's just an inexpensive vintage Japanese tin toy. Really.

What I do not understood is in reality how you're no longer really a lot more well-preferred than you might be now. [What do you mean "no longer?!]

Wonderful workk! this is the type of information that are supposed to be shared across the web. Shame on Google for no longer positioning this put it upper. [Google "Straco Lumbering Along" and watch what happens.]

Spammers register at general dating services. The attraction must be interested in or the headline of the game who tend to be better? [I find the idea of registering spammers especially attractive.]

Fastidiously yours

Just when I thought spammers were through misusing this word, I receive this:

Hi, this weekend is fastidious designed for me, for the reason that this moment i am reading this impressive educational post here at my residence.

That's all for August. Until next time, have a fastidious month, and try not to get to far off topic.