Listening Closely with Alan Evans and AE3

first_imgOliver BurkatAnyone lucky enough to experience the retro-funk scene revival in recent years has undoubtedly enjoyed at least one or more dose of Soulive, the jazz/funk/soul power-trio that formed in 1999. This lucky person may also be wise enough to realize that you can’t have that stanky funk without a drummer who lives, sleeps, eats, and breathes the stuff. Alan Evans, drummer for Soulive and front-man, writer and producer of his new band, the Alan Evans Trio (AE3), is the embodiment of that person. Or that cat, I should say. Funk, anthropomorphized.Sunday night at Brooklyn Bowl, funk was the ingredient du jour, and the Alan Evans Trio was the main course. But since nobody likes a stand-alone entrée, AE3 had some help in the form of Mr. Breakdown, a 7-piece ensemble from Nyack, NY, as well as SHMEEANS & the Expanded Consciousness, the brainchild of Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff, rhythm guitarist and breakdown master of Lettuce. The Expanded Consciousness enlightened with the help of perpetually cheesing bass-beast Chris Laughlin, Pete Levin on keys (Blind Boys of Alabama), and the unmistakable hop-crack gangster lean of Adam Deitch on drums (Lettuce, Break Science). Both were tasty appetizers indeed, making the oncoming main course that much more enticing. Between Mr. Deitch and Mr. Evans, Brooklyn Bowl was a funk-drum fiend’s paradise.After such pleasing appetizers that would satisfy any normal appetite, AE3 took the stage for the final night of their 29-show tour in support of their debut album Drop Hop; everyone in the room had to unbutton their proverbial pants to make room for the main dish. Flanked by Beau Sasser (Melvin Sparks, Akashik Record) on organ and Danny Mayer (On The Spot Trio) on guitar, Evans fell in to a deep hole of soul. He and the rest of the room remained for the rest of the evening. Counting off the first tune, Evans shouted “1, 2, 3!” followed by a one-count drum fill, launching “They Call Me Velvet.” A diverse and charging tune, AE3 was obviously in the zone.Following the introduction was the promise of “our greatest hits… all the way back from February – when we started… some brand new tunes… [that] we will record for our next album, right before we head to Bear Creek.”Crushing their album’s opening track, “Authoritay” utilized Mayer’s swinging guitar rhythm complimented by a patient yet soaring solo, all backed by Sasser’s expert organ spurts.Then the breakfast chef in me got a bit over-excited.“Right about now,” Evans preached from his percussive pulpit, “we are gonna play a brand new tune, hot off the presses. And this song, ladies and gentlemen, is all about… pancakes. Pancakes! Drippin’ butter, syrup, and a side of bacon. This next tune is titled ‘Hot Cakes Meltdown.’” Hard, driving funk echoing a frenetic songbird, Mayer’s staccato guitar worked from verse to effortless solo and let all those in attendance know that they were still piping hot on the plate, begging the crowd’s full attention. Holding down the low-end bass with his left hand, Sasser had the pocket ingrained, giving Evans and Mayer their chance to shine and really open the throttle before a quick cut breakdown to end Mayer’s solo. It created a very chilled out vibe. Exploding into his own solo, Sasser didn’t hesitate to show the crowd why Evans chose him as a brother in rhythm on keys, highlighting his left brain/right brain duality. The band then segued seamlessly into their album’s title track “Drop Hop”, a straight-forward 12-bar blues strut. Gaining in intensity with every phrase, Sasser got a chance to really scream on his organ before Mayer jumped back in with a roaring blues solo emanating the band’s 60s/70s influences, all while reinventing the sound for the 21st century.In tribute to a great influence, Evans quizzed the audience about the Mothers of Invention’s Jeff Simmons, and Simmons’ little-known song-writing collaboration with Frank Zappa (Zappa rarely had co-writers) before launching into the slow, soul waltz “Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up”, with Evans crooning.Two songs from Drop Hop closed the AE3 set. “Crooooz”, a laid-back tune featuring guitar and key vamps, got the audience grooving and comfortable before transforming – as all great jazz groups do – into something barely recognizable from the beginning of the song. They explored all aural possibilities only to eventually find their way back to the head.That indefinable feeling that comes from the perfect groove morphed into indefinite improvisation – all held together with artist mastery until resolution – is something that the AE3 has mastered in the studio and let run wild in concert. If there is one thing the musical brain loves, its resolution, and AE3 distributes.“Check Your Lugnuts”, a reference to the hardware that maintains a tight fit between drum and drum head, was the perfect close to the AE3 set. Between Evans’ syncopated ride cymbal bell-hits were dirty chord progressions crafted by decades of research. A band tighter than a snare drum head, the AE3 proved that whether on wax or in person, they are a band for all ages, delivering heart-felt, powerful soul, blues and funk to those of us smart enough to listen.Alan was nice enough to sit down and chat with L4LM before the show, where we learned about the tour, the album, and one of the best venues in the world.L4LM: AE3 recorded Drop Hop in 5 days. You wrote every part and sent them to Beau and Danny to learn before the recording session; how long did it take you to write those songs?Let’s see… Some of those tunes on the album, maybe 2 or 3 of them, I had in the can from when I built my new studio at home. They were kinda like the first thing I did to see what it sounded like in there. And then I had the idea to record an EP. That was back when Beau and Danny and I were just like “yeah, we’ll record a few tunes…” So then, I got home from Jam Cruise, and I was like “Man, you know what? If I’m gonna have this opportunity to record, I might as well just do an album.” So I just wrote the rest of the album. That was like a tune a day, or sometimes maybe two in a day. I don’t know… all in all, it took me a week or so to write the whole album…Beau and I have been playing together for a while now on his regular gig, because we live like right next to each other. After one gig, we just kind of got in to something, and it just hit me – it definitely inspired me. I don’t like writing tunes just to write – honestly I just can’t – there has to be some kind of purpose or inspiration, you know?L4LM: For sure. How does your experience differ between playing with your brother (Neal Evans, Soulive) and playing with Beau?Mmmm… wow…that’s a… good question. I mean, playing with Neal… it’s kind of like no one’s there… it’s very invisible. Obviously I know he’s there but…it’s really hard to explain.L4LM: You’re just in each other’s heads, I suppose?Yeah, yeah – we’ve literally been playing together our entire lives, so it’s just a different thing. So there’s obviously differences between playing with Neal and other cats. But, playing with Neal for so long, it makes it very easy for me to find other cats to play with. In that, I know from a few seconds in that “nope… nope… you’re outta here” It’s just not gonna work, know what I mean? It’s not me trying to be a jerk or anything, it’s just that the bar is pretty high. So it doesn’t take me long to figure who I can actually really play with, who gets what I’m doing, and I get what they’re doing. So in that way, it really helps. Obviously, every player is different, and their take on things is totally different. That’s the one thing that I can point out that helps me play with other cats.L4LM: How did your parents influence your musical tastes and the instruments that you play?Well, music has always been a part of life for us growing up – there was always music on. There were drums in the house, so I was hitting drums when I was like 9 months old, and Neal about the same. One of our uncles played piano, another played drums. All of a sudden Neal comes home one day from school and told my parents he wanted to play piano, just out of the blue – so they just went out and got a piano. The thing is man, music was just always, always on in our house. And our father was very cool – [one of] the biggest things with music with my father was listening – we’d walk thru the room and he’d say “hey, sit down here” “listen – who’s playing tenor here? Who’s playing bass?” And that was just huge man – that gave me a huge appreciation for music – for songs – for musicians. And that’s why I play different instruments. It was never just about the drums – never “practice all day” – it was just about music. And these instruments are just secondary. I’ll play any instrument. It’s just about the music, you know?L4LM: Definitely. In that vein – I don’t know if you guys notice this when you’re up on stage – but when I go to a show, I’m really there to listen, and it really bothers me when people around me are talking too loud during a show, especially in an intimate place like City Winery, for example. We’re all trying to listen, and listen closely – not enough people understand that I think. Listening is so important.I hear that – it’s interesting – we go to Japan a lot – and it actually takes a little while to get used to – because in Japan, if you break it down, and play something really quiet, you can literally – and this is not an exaggeration – you can literally hear a pin drop in the joint. Because people don’t say anything, they’re just chillin’, listening, you know? It’s actually a little disorienting at first, because you’re going from playing in San Francisco, then you hop on a flight, [and all of a sudden] you’re in Japan – you break it down [and] it’s like wooooaaaahhhhh… So yeah I definitely dig that when people are really paying attention.L4LM:  I saw that you give drums lessons sometimes. How often do you practice and how often do you teach?How often do I practice? uh….L4LM: And it’s OK to say “not much” because I know, as a drummer…(Laughs) Nah, nah, I wasn’t gonna say “not much,” I was gonna say “never.” (laughs) You know, I attempt… to practice. But the thing is, I really dislike playing drums by themselves… I don’t know, it’s just boring. So what happens is, I sit down in the studio and I start playing something, and I get an idea for a song, and then I go over and pick up the guitar… (laughs)L4LM: Ha ha. More like practicing music making.Yeah, exactly, so to me, I realized a long time ago that that’s just not me. I went through that phase of just like, shedding drums for hours and… it’s just not in me. It’s not who I am. I guess my kind of practicing is just writing music. I’m just listening. A lot of my practice is just listening – I just can’t help it – anything I hear anywhere, it just seeps in, and I’ll go home and try to figure out the tune from what I heard… That’s just my thing.The thing about me and lessons is – I’m not the type of cat who people come back to every week. A lot of it is more philosophy… I get a lot of drummers who come for drum lessons, but what I try to instill in musicians who come to me, younger or older, is that it’s not just about teaching drums – and I’m just talking my philosophy of music – I mean yes, you can sit in a room and practice 12 hours a day, but the problem with that, is that you’re not communicating with anyone but yourself – so when you get out on a gig, you’ve got nothing to say. So yeah, practice – but also take a hike, go walk somewhere, get some exercise, experience life. So you have something to bring to your music. I also tell people, “be a drummer, that’s great, nothing wrong with that– but pick up another instrument”, try and get in the heads of your fellow musicians on stage. You don’t have to be proficient at it, but just attempting to play a different instrument will give you an appreciation for what other cats on stage are doing, and it will automatically open up your ears; you’ll be listening, and learning, while you’re playing with these cats on stage. So that’s what a lot of my “drum” lessons consist of. And if I don’t see you for 5 or 10 years, that’s cool, you know? If you’ve taken something from it, that’s all that really matters to me.L4LM: What do you love to do when you’re not playing music?I love exercising man – I love messing around with my car… I love hangin’ out with my family, dude – we just kick it. I just love enjoying my time off, and just experiencing life.L4LM: Besides other musicians, what external (non-musical) sources inspire your musical creativity?Well, I guess for me, I never know where it’s gonna come from, so I just leave myself open to everything… it’s funny man, you just never know – I could get up in the morning, go downstairs, and start making some food, and it just hits me. Or I’m sitting in line at the bank, and it hits me – you just never know. So with that said, I don’t point to any one, or two, or any fifty external experiences from just music – but I just kind of walk around and soak it all in. License to be a space-cadet, you know? (laughs)L4LM: Where did the phrase “Drop Hop” originate?I thought it went with the style of music and the time period that I was thinking of when writing the music. I just kind of imagined: sometimes you see these old-school album covers from the 60s or whatever – some random cats – and they have some title – “Drop Hop” – what does that mean? I have no idea. But it sounded relevant to the specific time that I imagined in my head. It’s about conveying a feeling rather than a meaning.L4LM: You just played about 30 dates in 40 nights or so. How has the band progressed while on tour?Well, everything gets tighter every night, then we discover new things. When we first started, it was much more serious, trying to play all the tunes right and everything, but as that happens and you get that together – we’re finding we’re having a lot of fun with it on stage (laughs) – we’re definitely doing stuff that I wouldn’t do with Soulive, which is cool – this is kind of more my personality that is coming through. The cool thing is too, Beau and Danny and I, we have a very similar humor (laughs), so it’s developing into this really great thing – you can tell how much fun we’re having on stage, and we’re trying to drag people along (chuckles).L4LM: How does Brooklyn Bowl compare to other venues you’ve played, and why did you decide to end the tour there? Or was the decision more logistical?There is no venue that compares to Brooklyn Bowl, you know what I mean? (chuckles)L4LM: Agreed, Agreed.It’s an amazing spot, man. When we got the opportunity to… it was just kinda perfect. We’re playing Northampton the night before, and Beau and I live right there, so logistically it would have been great to end the tour right there (chuckles). But, to end it in New York at Brooklyn Bowl is pretty, pretty special man, I’m really psyched – Obviously, I’ve played there a bunch, but to go play there for the first time with this band, as our last night of the tour, I’m really, really looking forward to it. It should be a really good time.And a good time it was. Thank you so much Alan for taking the time to talk with L4LM. And thank you for reminding us that when dealing with music, the most important part is listening. We look forward to another album and tour.Download the Whole Show Here:  http://archive.org/details/aet2012-09-30.mk21.flac24last_img read more

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‘Mick Jagger’ by Philip Norman (Book Review)

first_imgBob WilsonPhilip Norman’s former offerings of THE STONES, SHOUT!, RAVE ON, JOHN LENNON, and ELTON JOHN are fine rock history recorded by someone covering the music scene of the Rolling Stones since their inception.  Norman interviewed Jagger in 1965, and had a firsthand view of the scene that gave us the British Invasion.  The author views the story of The Beatles and the Stones as “intertwined”, and tells Mick’s story within this context.Norman relates that Jagger feigns a type of amnesia on the events of his own life, and once returned a million dollar advance to a publisher for his proposed autobiography.  On this rare occasion, money was secondary to having to relate details from his journey to justify the payoff.  The story of Jagger’s rock and roll circus life suffers from lack of details from the participant’s own recognizable mouth, which we sense could be far more exciting for some “personal dish” and details to quote from.  Unfortunately, few are available, and we are offered a historian’s pastiche of the life of the premiere frontman in rock.Mick went by “Mike” well into the formation of the Stones, and hated being referred to by his stage name. The blues of Muddy Waters offered the “Rollin’ Stones” their name, and originally they saw little hope of chart success. Morphing from “Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys” into the familiar logo, the group broke into fame as the mirror image of the “safer” softness of the early Beatles.  Northern and southern England seemed a proper geographic mirror image to view the two groups in text, linked together in a breath as the greatest musical exports of their generation.Mick and Keith’s drug bust, early questions of Mick possibly being of mixed race, romantic entanglements, Hell’s Angels, and musical evolution are described faithfully, and with anecdotes from some insiders, as well. Mick’s obsession with Angelina Jolie will attract an audience entertained by today’s tabloid mindset, and “there is nothing wrong with that”. As the pages turned, one could not help but wish that the late Brian Jones would have been the focus of the author’s talents here. A musical genius with more out of wedlock children than guitar strings and no apparent conscience, screamed for more detail. Jones’ relationship with Anita Pallenberg included Nazi SS uniforms, whippings, and bandmate Keith’s pining to “rescue” Pallenberg from Jones, and suffering silently in a brotherly code. All of this, while the group went through a transitional power shift from Jones, to Jagger and Richards, as Jones wasted away before everyone’s eyes.Mick loved Marianne, who loved Keith. Keith loved Anita while standing in the shadows, and Anita loved Brian.  Brian wanted Anita to tie him to their bed, and whip him with both dressed in the Nazi Regalia. To paraphrase J. Geils, love did not only “stink” among the Stone’s crowd, it was positively fetid. Mick’s story is worth the read, and the author did not merely recycle his previous Stones’ work.  We are left wanting more of a personal insight and account, but it is not available as of this date, at least.  Fans of Mick and the boys will not be disappointed, and it is an overall solid effort from a veteran journalist.  Fans also may not be overwhelmed, complete satisfaction having required a more personal glance of the subject’s viewpoint.Rating: 3/5last_img read more

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Luke the Knife Live: East Coast Debut

first_imgJust like the city that never sleeps, Lotus vibes are electrifying.  If you were at their show in Times Square on January 26th, you know exactly what I’m talking about when I say this combination is fire.  The ambiance perpetuated by the crowd was brought to the after-party, where Luke Miller of Lotus made his East Coast debut of Luke the Knife live.Still high off Lotus’ live set, fans were greeted by the thrill and buzz of midtown as they shuffled over to Lucille’s at B.B. Kings for some late night funk and disco-themed beats.  LtK fuses elements of funk, disco, and indie dance together, creating an eclectic and energetic style.  Electronic music can trace its roots back to disco, funk and experimental rock, so it’s interesting that he choose to revisit these genres.Coming from an electronic jam band, which blends live elements with electronic music, it’s no surprise that Miller decided to explore a hybrid of live elements with an emphasis on music production.  Since Lotus is constantly adapting and has thus been migrating toward electronic music, this type of project makes perfect sense for Luke.  “When we first started doing more electronic stuff or more post-rock stuff there was a push back from certain portions of our fanbase,” said Miller. “And I will admit we had some missteps while delving into new areas. But at the end of that process now when we drop an electronic-oriented song with sampled vocals like Bush Pilot, or a post-rock song like Behind Midwest Storefronts, and the crowd explodes.”  This makes me wonder what kind of influence LtK will have on Luke’s composition for Lotus, and vice versa.  I’m sure he has already learned a great deal from this undertaking.As LtK organically takes shape, more than just music has been mixed, such as live elements.  Ever since the first performance in Denver on December 14th, each gig has been different.  At his second show, Miller added live guitar and keys with Chuck Morris (of Lotus) on drums.  Saxophonists Clark Smith (Dynohunter) and Nick Gerlach (Cosby Sweater) sat in at different shows as well. Other performances included saxophonist Pete Wall and percussionist Athony Fugate.  On the flip side, his focus remains solid, which according to Miller is to have a “show where the crowd can’t help but dance because the music is drawing them in with the groove.”  At the same time, guest musicians and live instruments such as guitar, keys, drums/percussion, and saxophone have been consistently augmented, which lays down a solid framework for the live setting.Miller left his guitar and keys behind this time around, mixing a two and half hour set accompanied by Chuck Morris on drums.  After setting the track order in advance for the first few shows, he now improvises the set list by feeding off the crowd’s energy.  “You can kind of sense when a crowd wants to take the energy higher, or if they need a little break and I need to slow it down a little bit,” said Miller “I like to have multiple peaks during a show, but you don’t want to have the climactic moment come too early in the show.”As opposed to his shows in Colorado where he leaned heavier on the funk, his set list in New York was laced with indie and house tracks.  He also tossed in a remix of The Talking Heads’ “Crosseyed and Painless” and some Deadmau5 material.  Most of the tracks he used that night can be found on Luke the Knife’s Soundcloud.The lotus epitomizes purity and spontaneous creation, which is evident in LtK’s development.  “I think paradoxically that spontaneous creation takes a lot of pre-planning and practice,” said Miller, right before he shared a personal story that reflects the dynamics between practice and spontaneity.“About 8 years ago I was at a Lotus show and there was a psychic there just in some van. We were struggling to get by as professional musicians, not getting paid and sinking all the money back into the band to buy equipment and repair our van and stuff. I told the psychic I was worried I’d have to stop doing this and she said it would all work out. And lo and behold it did. I don’t usually buy into that stuff, but she said it with such certainty I kind of just believed her.”I walked away with the realization that any level of uncertainty requires spontaneity in order to push forward, and I think good electronic music achieves just that.  It brings you for a fast ride, so a sturdy backbone, such as a well-planned rhythm, is a must since it’s all there is to rely on.  Luke the Knife Live draws a parallel to Lotus’ live performances in which spontaneously improvised elements are key for setting the vibe.  For this exact reason, I would definitely recommend catching a Luke the Knife live set whenever possible.Check out Luke the Knife’s facebook page for updates, and Luke the Knife’s Soundcloud for new music.Photography by Dave Moshkowichlast_img read more

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ZZ Top and Jeff Beck Touring Together This Summer

first_imgZZ Top and Jeff Beck will partake in a five week long summer tour together. Each act will play a full set, and then close each show with a collaboration! This marks the first time that the acts have toured together, although they have performed at least two times together in the past. Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top joined Jeff Beck at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in 2009 to play Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady”. The next year, Beck joined the band during a show in Italy for an extended version of “La Grange”.Jeff Beck and ZZ Top Tour Dates:8/8 Missoula, MT – Ogren Park 8/9 Woodinville, WA – Chatea Ste. Michelle 8/10 Eugene, OR – Cuthbert Amphitheatre  8/12 Saratoga, CA – The Mountain Winery 8/13 Los Angeles, CA – Greek Amphitheatre  8/15 Murphys, CA – ironstone Amphitheatre  8/16 Las Vegas, NV – The Joing 8/20 Englewood, CO – Fiddlers Green Amphitheatre  8/22 Oklahoma City, OK – Zoo Amphitheatre  8/23 Kansas City, MO – Starlight Theater 8/24 Maryland Heights, MO – Verizon Wireless Amphitheater  8/27 Clarkston, MI – DTE Energy Music Theatre 8/28 Highland Park, IL – Ravina 8/31 Mashantucket, CT – MGM Grand Theater @ Foxwoods 9/2 Boston, MA – Blue Hills Bank Pavilion 9/3 Columbia, MD – Merriweather Post Pavilion 9/4 Wantagh, NY – Nikon @ Jones Beach Theater 9/6 Alpharetta, GA – Verizon Wireless Amphitheater  9/7 St. Augustine, FL – St. Augustine Amphitheater  9/12 The Woodlands, TX – Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion-Brittney Borruso www.facebook.com/rockstella[via Rolling Stone]last_img read more

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Pink Talking Fish Winter Tour Dates: Phunk The Winter!, Dark Side of The Moon and More

first_imgPink Talking Fish, a hybrid tribute fusion band that tackles covers of Pink Floyd, Talking Heads, and Phish, is excited to announce plans for a Winter tour. The season is highlighted by a very special event in New York City, and also includes a Florida run featuring members of The Heavy Pets, a second edition of the intertwining set experiment “The Music Never Stops Making Sense.” and three encore “Dark Side Of The Moon” performances in Boulder, CO, Philadelphia, PA and Boston, MA.Each Dark Side Of The Moon concert includes a phenomenal support act, including Aqueous, The Recovery Act performing the music of Stevie Wonder, and The Z3 ft. Ed Mann playing Funky Takes on Frank Zappa.The band has also officially announced their next New York City Event called PHUNK THE WINTER! at The Gramercy Theatre on February 7th. On top of two great sets from PTF, special guests ShwiKus will play a set of P-Funk music. ShwiKus is a 13-piece combination of the 2 bands, Shwizz and FiKus. They debuted their action packed Parliament/Funkadelic Tribute set at The Catskill Chill Music Festival this year, which was one of the highlights of the weekend. Tickets for the show are available here!It’s already getting cold in the Northeast and this event is specifically designed for all the people who are fed up with the freeze and want to heat up life by getting crazy, dancing hard and feeling hot…Phunk The Winter!Pink Talking Fish features Eric Gould (former/founding member of Particle) on bass, Richard James on the keyboards, Zack Burwick on the drums and a revolving cast of established players in the national music scene. For more information, check out the official band website and Facebook Page. Full tour dates can be seen below:Pink Talking Fish Tour Dates2014:December 10th – Live From AURA Studios in Boca Raton, FL (Free Video Webcast)*December 11th – Guanabanas Island Restaurant and Bar in Jupiter, FL*December 12th – The Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton, FL*December 13th – Dunedin Brewery in Dunedin, FL*2015:January 3rd – The Rusty Nail in Stowe, VTJanuary 16th – The Fox Theatre in Boulder, CO (Dark Side Of The Moon Performance)**January 17th & 18th – Quixotes True Blue in Denver, CO (The Music Never Stops Making Sense – Intertwining sets with very special guest act TBA)February 6th – The Ardmore Theatre in Philadelphia, PA (Dark Side Of The Moon Performance)$February 7th – The Gramercy Theatre in New York, NY (PHUNK THE WINTER! w/ special guests ShwiKus Plays P-Funk)February 20th – Putnam Den in Saratoga Springs, NYFebruary 21st – The Spot Underground in Providence, RIMarch 28th – The Middle East in Boston, MA (Dark Side Of The Moon Performance)$$* w/ Members of The Heavy Pets** w/ The Recovery Act performing The Music of Stevie Wonder$ w/ Aqueous$$ w/ The Z3 performing Funky Takes on The Music of Frank Zappalast_img read more

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Taj Mahal Cancels Upcoming Concerts Due To Health Concerns

first_imgLegendary guitarist Taj Mahal has announced that he will be canceling all upcoming scheduled concerts for June and July, citing health issues and a much-needed break.Mahal’s management released the following statement, which promises that he will return by August. Read the text below:For decades Taj Mahal has been committed to giving fans the most of himself through music, both on stage and off. This has been his love and his life and it is with regret that The Maestro finds it necessary, at this time, to take a much needed break from the demands of his constant touring schedule. This brief hiatus will allow the time to re-charge his health and vitality.Taj promises to be back in August with refreshed and renewed health allowing him to continue his high energy performances well into the future. He hopes that you, his friends and fans, will understand. Taj looks forward to seeing you all as soon as he is back on the road.Until then, peace and love to you all from The Maestro[Via Taj Mahal’s Facebook]last_img read more

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The Grateful Dead Shows Broke The Record For Largest Pay-Per-View Audience

first_imgWith 71,000 people in attendance, the final Grateful Dead show easily broke the attendance record at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL. In fact, each day surpassed the last, with more and more people getting in to witness the magic.Grateful Dead Conclude Anniversary Celebration With Emotional ‘Fare Thee Well’As the shows were webcast on a variety of different sources, including the first-ever live concert streamed by YouTube, fans had no shortage of options for finding a way to experience the music.In an interview with Mashable, Nate Parienti, president of Live Alliance, said, “We believe it’s already the largest online music pay-per-view event, once all the numbers are in it’ll be the largest music pay-per-view in history.”They estimated that 175,000 people paid to watch the shows, which doesn’t account for a whole plethora of factors, including multiple people viewing the same stream, and all of the live simulcast options, like viewing parties at venues and movie theaters nationwide.30 Photos That Perfectly Capture The Magic Of The Grateful Dead’s Final Fare Thee Well ShowsThe production of the shows was simply phenomenal, with 18 cameras in total, including one on a blimp and another wired over the field. There were TV trucks, satellite dishes and more, all to share the Dead’s music.The 175,000 figure alone broke the record for most PPV streams purchased for one event… once the cable/satellite figures are added, there’s no telling how high that number will climb.last_img read more

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Fentanyl-laced heroin causes fatalities nationwide

first_imgMinutes after New Jersey health officials posted the jump in overdose deaths in an Internet alert, an official from Maryland called: People were dying there, too. Valdez’s family left Mexico for San Diego when he was 7. When his father walked, Ricardo looked after his five brothers and sisters, as well as young nephews after his drug-addled sister stopped caring for them. The drug’s trail is easy to trace. A synthetic alternative to morphine, it was 100 times more powerful than its opiate cousin, 50 times stronger than heroin and highly addictive. But authorities found only residue inside the building. The fentanyl was gone. LOWELL, Mass. Mexican police call him “El Cerebro.” The Brain. Ricardo Valdez, rogue chemist, spent 11 years in a U.S. prison for making a synthetic drug called fentanyl, which is like heroin times 50. And when he got out, he quickly set up shop in Mexico. Valdez was sent to prison; he would be back on the streets in 2003. A few weeks later, in October 2005, Tiffany McKaye, a forensic chemist with the Detroit Police Department, was also running a packet of suspected heroin through her lab. Standing before the judge in the spring of 1993, prosecutor Laura Birkmeyer described a man his relatives said they scarcely recognized, a man who ruthlessly manufactured a lethal street drug known as fentanyl. A man the government had chased since agents discovered more than two pounds of homemade fentanyl in a California apartment in 1988. This is the tale of a killer no bigger than a few grains of salt, the swath it cut through the heart of America and the reality that it could happen again. But powdered fentanyl is so powerful, so toxic, an extra grain or two can render a dose lethal. Some people who shoot up can’t even slide the needle from their vein before they die. _____ It is still commonly prescribed as a skin patch, lozenge or intravenous drip for patients with cancer and other chronic pain. In Chicago, there was no shortage of dealers willing to sell it. Police say the Mickey Cobras street gang turned a south-side housing complex into a virtual fentanyl supermarket, peddling packets of fentanyl-laced heroin stamped with names like Reaper and Lethal Injection. Has the epidemic of fentanyl finally played out? He said he has cleaned up his life since his 2003 prison release and ran an honest company. Later, over the phone, he is reminded about that videotape, the one in which he confessed to Mexican authorities. He said the agents punched him in the kidneys to encourage his “confession,” a claim to which Mexican authorities did not respond. The agents’ video shows a bespectacled, middle-age man wearing a beige jacket, golf shirt and blue jeans. It was Ricardo Valdez, the company chemist. More than 1,000 dead nationwide. Suburban kids, city kids, folks like your neighbor or hard-luck cousin. But the raid proceeded peacefully. “Today, when we give people Narcan, they’re not coming out of it,” Philadelphia Fire Capt. Richard Bossert said. “We had no idea what we were getting into.” Police in Philadelphia say they still see fentanyl, often combined with cocaine. _____ In May 2006, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration caught a break — it received a tip about a drug smuggling operation in a small town near Mexico City. Sitting inside the Reclusorio Norte prison this February on the northern edge of Mexico City, where agents have held him since the raid on his lab last year, Valdez, 53, was polite but defiant. He settled into an apartment 40 miles southwest of Mexico City, in Toluca. Mexico was a strange new land for a man who had not lived there since he was a child. But he was free and, before long, back in business. He and an accountant friend formed a new company amid a cluster of factories in the industrial town of Lerma. _____ “I think it will reappear,” Schmidt said. “It has done so in the past.” Federal agents at first thought they were seeing the fallout from a major theft of pharmaceutical fentanyl. But no one knew for sure. American prosecutors want to extradite him to face charges in the United States, which could put him behind bars for life. Drug agents pored over coroner reports, trying to account for a rising number of heroin deaths. Ambulance workers reported that, after years of using one dose of Narcan, which reverses heroin’s suppression of the respiratory system, they now needed four doses to counteract the new dope. The labels didn’t lie. They put James DeFrancesco on the case. DeFrancesco, 44, a Chicago-based U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration chemist, tended to find clues others missed. “Perhaps five kilos,” Valdez answered. In January 2006, the daughter of a 52-year-old overdose victim called the medical examiner’s office, alarmed, not just by her mother’s death, but that other heroin addicts in her neighborhood were dropping, too. Valdez and three others were taken to jail. Distribuidora Talios was out of business. “I call it heroin,” Valdez said softly. “Synthetic heroin. It’s formulated in the laboratory.” _____ _____ Paroled in May 2003, Valdez was deported to Mexico. By late summer 2005, clandestinely produced fentanyl was turning up in the Midwest. Meanwhile, heroin overdoses, or what was assumed to be heroin, kept the Wayne County, Mich., morgue busy through the end of 2005 and into the new year. They were quick deaths, investigators noted, almost instantaneous. A 30-year-old woman discovered in the fetal position, a needle still in her arm. A man, 44, facedown on the floor of his home. A 54-year-old with Love and Hate tattooed on his knuckles and a cocktail of drugs in his blood. Drug experts from Washington to Detroit say they simply don’t know. And if Ricardo Valdez really did create 10 kilos, where is the rest? Death moved east. “It didn’t seem any different than the heroin we were seeing. Nothing to set it apart,” Gayle O’Neal, McKaye’s supervisor, said. “We weren’t looking for fentanyl, but she recognized it right away.” How much have you made? In its legal form, fentanyl has been around nearly 50 years. Across the river, New Jersey was also counting dead bodies. Emergency responders were handling 60 overdoses a day, compared with the usual 10 cases. As in Chicago, Philadelphia emergency workers were going through an astonishing amount of Narcan. Valdez would be the director of operations for the new venture, which they named Distribuidora Talios. It was a chemical company. _____ In the late 1970s and early ’80s, outlaw chemists developed a new, more powerful twist on fentanyl in private labs. They called it China White, a name given high-grade heroin. This was no accident. It mimicked heroin’s high and satisfied the same cravings. Its staggering potency made it attractive for street sales. In Chicago, deaths are way down, but officials think fentanyl is still around. It’s just being used more cautiously. A massive police raid on a Chicago housing project last spring produced scores of arrests and major drug indictments. “This stuff, what do you call it, this final product?” a voice from behind the camera asked. _____ Or, as some experts surmise, have fentanyl dealers and users simply gotten better at using it? The outbreak that quietly began to percolate in northern U.S. cities in summer 2005 and would reach a crescendo in May 2006 was beyond anything law enforcement and health officials had seen. On May 21, 2006, 10 Mexican agents carrying guns, bolt cutters and a video camera, burst through the gate of Distribuidora Talios. The men wore gas masks and protective suits. Gun battles and lurid, drug-related killings are endemic in Mexico, so the agents came prepared for war. Sometime after the raid, U.S. authorities said, Valdez upped his estimate from 5 to 10 kilos, or 22 pounds. That’s enough for 80 million doses on the street. Every couple of years, street fentanyl kills a dozen or so addicts somewhere in the United States. _____ Within a week, two or three more samples came back as fentanyl. Clinical fentanyl has sometimes been abused by doctors or medical workers, and hospitals developed elaborate safeguards to monitor supplies and stem its release onto the black market. Someone, somewhere, was cooking the stuff up in a lab. Valdez and his codefendants await their fate in Mexico’s byzantine judicial system. He faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty. By April 2006, emergency workers in Philadelphia, Camden, N.J., and Delaware were swamped with overdoses. Heroin laced with fentanyl and sold as Al Capone, Flatline, Rest in Peace, Rolex and Exorcist was dropping addicts everywhere. The chemists warned the narcotics squad to be on the lookout — and use caution. He cooked another batch, 22 pounds, authorities claim — enough to get 80 million people high if it didn’t kill them and sent it across the border. “Quite honestly,” the prosecutor told the judge, “he has a very dangerous knowledge, and I think we should do everything we possibly can to keep him from ever manufacturing any synthetic or a natural drug again.” When DeFrancesco finished his tests, the results were unmistakable. And then there was the gravest mistake of his young American life, the contours of which are contained in Case No. 92-0015-G, U.S.A. v. Ricardo Valdez, a drug trial in federal court in San Diego. He knew that commercial fentanyl, the kind doctors prescribe, was readily identified by its purity. The kind made on the street, no matter how talented the chemist, invariably carries flaws or impurities or different ingredients altogether, altering the molecular structure of the drug. In metro Detroit, fentanyl’s presence is harder to gauge. Long after it vanished from other cities last year, it peaked again, killing another 29 drug users in Wayne County in November. Since then, fentanyl deaths have largely disappeared, said medical examiner Carl Schmidt. In October 2006 in Lowell, four people died after using heroin cut with fentanyl. Police said the overdoses likely occurred because the drug is exponentially more potent than the victims were used to injecting.last_img read more

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‘We are all teachers and we are all learners’

first_imgThe threat of thunderstorms on Sunday (Sept. 9) persuaded planners of the Opening Exercises for the Class of 2011 to move the event from the tree-shaded lawns of Tercentenary Theatre to the varnished vaults of Sanders. The venerable auditorium, Harvard’s largest indoor venue, was filled to capacity by the crowd of freshmen and their parents.Once safe from the prospect of inclement weather (which never materialized), the freshmen were treated to a program of encouraging exhortations punctuated by performances by the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum, the Radcliffe Choral Society, the Harvard Glee Club, the Kuumba Singers, and the Harvard Band.Harvard President Drew Faust delivered the keynote address, a warm welcome to the new class, followed by a challenging invitation to partake of the educational riches available to them at Harvard.The size and complexity of Harvard can be daunting, she said, so much so that “As a dean here once put it, the place ought to come with an owner’s manual. Or at least a map, a whistle, a compass, and a sandwich.” Although Faust did not promise that every freshman would be supplied with these accouterments, she did offer them some important considerations to keep in mind as they explored the University’s infinite byways.First, she urged them to remember that Harvard is a research university, and an exceptionally large one at that. Its mission is not simply to impart what is known, but to expand the frontiers of knowledge, an activity in which undergraduates are just as welcome to take part as Nobel Prize-winning professors.“As you get started at Harvard,” Faust said, “one thing to remember about a research university is this fundamental premise: we are all teachers and we are all learners. In every seminar and laboratory and archive, we cultivate the habits of civil and curious inquiry, of capacious mind and spirit, in order to reconstruct, re-vision, and reformulate what is known. Professors, graduate students, and undergraduates alike must believe in this double commitment of teaching and scholarship, and its continuum of discovery, and of learning.”The second thing to remember about Harvard, Faust said, is its commitment to public service, which can be traced back to the school’s earliest beginnings and its Puritan founders’ intention to “prepare young people to serve the greater community.”Today, students at Harvard have more opportunities to serve their community than ever before, whether by “running a local homeless shelter, teaching dance to fifth- and sixth-graders, living and working in a public housing project for the summer,” or engaging in international efforts such as investigating children’s rights violations in St. Petersburg, Russia, optimizing AIDS health-care delivery in South Africa, or working with Paul Farmer’s Partners in Health to improve health care in Haiti, Peru, Rwanda, and Russia.This “cauldron of creativity” that is Harvard offers “unparalleled choice and opportunity” to both learn and serve, Faust said. While the number of options can be overwhelming, the doors are always open for undergraduates who wish to try out a new field. Faust related the stories of several students whose initial, uncertain steps soon brought them to the point where they were helping to make original contributions to their chosen field.Lief Fenno ’07, for example, took Professor George Whiteside’s course on “DNA and the Molecules of Life” and discovered that he had a passion for the life sciences. This newfound interest led to a work-study job in the Organismic and Evolutionary Biology lab and then to research on stem cells with biology professor Douglas Melton. By his senior year Fenno was growing Parkinson’s disease cells in the lab, a breakthrough that has made it easier for scientists to study the illness.“At the beginning,” Fenno said, “I didn’t know how to do this, but people were overflowing with helpfulness. One day I was asking for directions to the bathroom, and then I was asking to work in Professor Melton’s lab. At Harvard, anything you might need is there. The equipment, the expertise, the connections, they are all there.”Junior Elizabeth Gettinger did not expect to have personal contact with her professors when she entered Harvard as a freshman, Faust said. But when she took a Core course in Mesoamerican Civilizations she received an e-mail from her professor, archaeologist William Fash, inviting her to participate in his summer field school in the ancient Maya city of Copàn. Her hands-on experience excavating Maya ruins led her to return the following summer and to take a job working in Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.Faust urged the freshmen to follow the examples of these enterprising upperclassmen.“Discover the byways and the rich troves of Harvard,” Faust said. “Do not wait. Start exploring now. Harvard is far more than its 10 Schools and the College. Think of it as the treasure room of hidden objects Harry [Potter] discovers at Hogwarts — libraries, museums, centers of all kinds.”When the Opening Exercises were over, the students and their parents marched out of Sanders to the energetic playing of the Harvard University Band, crossed the still-dry Tercentenary Theatre to the steps of Widener Library, where all 1,600-plus members of the freshman class assembled for a group photo.Nina Webb, the mother of freshman Alex Konrad, gazed at the rows of students, searching for her son’s face. She and her husband, Kerry Konrad, were both members of the Class of 1979. Remembering her own Opening Exercises 28 years ago, she was struck by both the similarities and the differences.“It seems that the College is trying much harder to make the students feel that they’re part of the University,” she said. “It seems like a kinder, gentler experience. But it also seems like a lot of fun.”On Wednesday (Sept. 12), Faust spoke before a gathering of new doctoral and master’s degree candidates at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS). She said that all of them, in their respective fields of knowledge, were dedicating themselves to changing the way we understand the world, and by the time they receive their degrees that new understanding will have become part of the fund of human knowledge.“You will have discovered something new, something no one else understood or knew before in quite the way you will have captured it and explained it,” Faust said.She ended by welcoming the GSAS students to the company of scholars.“It’s a company in which I have spent my life, and I am so pleased that I made that decision. I hope that you will be pleased that you have made that decision as well. I look forward to watching you change the world, to change how we understand the world, both during your years here at Harvard and in the course you pursue in the years to follow.”Incoming President Drew Faust will be formally installed as Harvard’s 28th president on Oct. 12, at an outdoor ceremony in the Tercentenary Theatre. An academic procession, featuring representatives of universities from around the world, will begin at 2 p.m. The installation will begin at 2:30 p.m. The event will be open to all faculty, staff, and students.last_img read more

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HLS students effect real change in law, policy clinic

first_imgIn October 2007, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment made the unprecedented decision to deny a permit application for three new coal-fired generating units that together would emit 11 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year, citing greenhouse gas emissions and climate change as the reason for the denial.As expected, the power company and its supporters filed appeals in multiple forums, sending the state scrambling for legal allies. It found them among a group of Harvard law students involved in the Law School’s Environmental Law and Policy Clinic.“We narrow our case selection to the most complex, precedent-setting cases. We don’t take on routine or easy cases,” said Clinical Professor of Law Wendy Jacobs, who heads the clinic.The clinic is an important part of the Law School’s Environmental Law Program, founded and directed by Law Professor Jody Freeman, who came to Harvard from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 2005.The program consists of a series of courses that students interested in environmental law can progress through or pick individually to suit their interests. The clinic, started a year ago, gives students a taste of practicing environmental law in the real world.While Harvard Law School (HLS) has occasionally had faculty with interests in environmental law, it lacked a coherent program until the Environmental Law Program began, Freeman said. With the increasing prominence of environmental issues, Freeman said, that omission needed to be rectified.“Harvard Law School is a leading institution. People take notice of what we do,” Freeman said. “It is long overdue.”The program introduces students to a field that began in the late 1960s and has grown since the 1980s, Freeman said, when it was largely litigation-based and dominated by efforts to get parties to abide by environmental laws and regulations.Today, she said, though there remains the need to enforce laws through legal action, environmental law encompasses a host of other activities, including the regulatory design of whole new markets to limit carbon emissions as a response to climate change.“In the ’80s,” Freeman said, “it was important to enforce the first round of statutes. Now there’s the opportunity for creativity and designing markets. I really emphasize the idea of lawyers thinking like architects.”While scientists, economists, and policymakers will all play a role in new environmental regulatory markets, Freeman sees lawyers as an essential part of the mix. It is they who can design the legal language of rules and laws so it does what policymakers — informed by scientists, economists, businesspeople, and others — desire.“The truth is the devil is always in the details. Scientists, who are crucial, can produce climate modeling. Policy people debate policy, but somebody has to sit down and translate that into laws and regulations. Lawyers are trained to think about this, how to design laws and regulations,” Freeman said. “Without lawyers, it’s hard to imagine translating this from the imagination phase to the implementation phase.”Law students don’t have to use their imagination to understand what practicing environmental law would be like. At the clinic, they get to do the real thing.Though just a year old, the clinic is already larger than most others of its kind, Jacobs said, managing 10 diverse projects and cases and 25 students. Jacobs and Freeman have been ambitious about the clinic’s caseload and, though they now have just one staff attorney, want to bring on another as well as a policy analyst to support further expansion of both the clinic and the program. It’s a far cry from a year ago, Jacobs said, when she worked alone in a single office, managing externships in which students were placed in environmental jobs outside of the Law School.“The clinic is growing by leaps and bounds,” Jacobs said.The clinic’s work is very diverse, she added, spanning such precedent-setting legal action as the Kansas lawsuits and a variety of other legal activities, from public education about energy conservation to helping the California Attorney General’s Office draft comments on hundreds of pages of proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules to assisting a team of scientists and doctors to resolve thorny legal questions about the ramifications of collecting environmental samples from people’s homes to analyze the impact of chemicals on health and well-being.“The clinic is a really dynamic and challenging place to be,” Jacobs said. “Our students are excited and my sense is that they’re sometimes startled by how important yet difficult the work can be.”In the Kansas lawsuits, students have prepared and filed briefs on behalf of the state in the Kansas Supreme Court, in lower state courts, and in the Office of Administrative Hearings. They’ve also helped Kansas Secretary of Health and Environment Roderick Bremby draft Congressional testimony on the case.“It’s been a great experience, learning a lot about how to write briefs,” said Dan Silverman, a student at the clinic. “There’s not a lot of opportunity to do real legal work in law school.”Chris Looney, another student at the clinic, agreed, saying it is a thrill to work on a case that may set a key precedent in environmental law.“It’s exciting to be working on a case that’s high profile, really an important case. It’ll set an important precedent in what administrators can do about the regulation of greenhouse gases,” Looney said.Another student involved in the clinic, Kate Bowers, said she took Freeman’s environmental law class last spring and became “utterly hooked.” She worked last summer at a New York City law firm and wanted get more real world experience, so she joined the clinic.“I like the intersection of government and regulated entities,” Bowers said. “The positions parties take are always evolving. As an area of law practice, it’s always changing. As a subject matter, I like working in a field where I can make the world better.”Bowers was assigned to work on a project that is a partnership between the clinic and a boutique environmental law firm near Philadelphia, which has among its clients builders interested in green building techniques. Bowers and another clinic student have identified and analyzed the legal issues associated with green buildings, in which new technology and new building standards are creating potential pitfalls for builders. What happens, for example, if a building doesn’t turn out to be as energy-efficient as initially thought? What if it doesn’t earn the energy-efficient rating promised and that, in turn, affects financial matters like tax credits?“We’re working on the cutting edge of environmental law,” Bowers [email protected]last_img read more

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