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Mike Stern & Jeff Lorber Fusion at The Iridium December 22, 2019

Posted by Mike C. in Jazz, Music, Personal, Photography, Theatre, Travel, Weather.
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I made my fourth trip to The Iridium Jazz Club on Thursday night to see Mike Stern and Jeff Lorber Fusion perform. Not only was it the last show of their four-night engagement at The Iridium, but also the last show of their tour.

I bought my preferred seating ticket on October 1, four days after the release of Eleven, Mike and Jeff’s collaborative album. Before Thursday, I had seen Jeff, a keyboardist, and his Fusion bandmate Jimmy Haslip, bass, three times each. For Jeff, my first time was the first night of Smooth Jazz for Scholars in 2014, followed two months later by the Fusion’s appearance at Blue Note, and 19 months after that, I saw them at Birdland. Obviously, two of the three times I’d seen Jimmy was those two Jeff Lorber Fusion shows, but I also saw him with Yellowjackets in 2006. (He left the band about five years later.)

This was my first time seeing Mike Stern, as well as his wife Leni (“Lainie”), also a guitarist, and drummer Dennis Chambers.

It was very cold as I stood on the platform at Wantagh LIRR station just before 6:00, and the gusty winds didn’t help. I was only up there a few minutes because the ticket office was unlocked, which was only slightly warmer, but it was a tough few minutes.

I thoroughly enjoyed Eleven, which I’ve listened to several times since September 27, including during the train ride to Penn Station.

Once at Penn, I took the E train to 50th Street. The station let out at 51st and 8th Avenue, so I had to walk a block east to Broadway to get to The Iridium. It was 7:05 when I arrived.

I initially stood on a small line outside the entrance, not realizing that preferred seating ticket holders could go in before 7:30. When one such ticket holder showed up, I acknowledged my mistake and walked down the stairs inside where ticket holders were let in one at a time. Unfortunately, there was a draft from the front door constantly opening and closing. It was a relief once I entered the venue itself.

The host seated me at a table by the stage, but I felt uncomfortable with the lack of space between chairs. So, I was reseated at a small table facing the left side of the stage that had two chairs on opposite sides. That was much better.

From the menu, I picked Pasta Bolognese which came with a couple of slices of bread; delicious.

The TVs cycled through upcoming bands until 8:30 arrived. Showtime.

The energetic and gregarious Mike Stern led the way on guitar:

Jeff Lorber played a pair of Yamaha Montage 8 synthesizers:

Jimmy Haslip on bass:

I color corrected Jimmy’s pictures because they were too blue and red.

Dennis Chambers on drums:

…and for seven of the nine songs, Leni Stern, Mike’s wife, on additional guitars. She played ngoni on the first tune, “Like a Thief” from her Sabani album, which she also sang:

…and electric guitar:

The happy couple:

Five of the nine songs in the set were from Eleven:

  • Motor City
  • Jones Street
  • Nu Som
  • Runner
  • Slow Change

Wide shots from the end of “Motor City”:

The end of “Jones Street”:

“Slow Change,” the finale, was my favorite on the album and my favorite Thursday night, ending in an extended jam:

The end of the song:

Mike asked if we wanted one more. Of course we did.

The encore was a Jimi Hendrix cover sung by Mike – “Look Over Yonder”:

With that, the set and the tour were complete.

Before bundling up for the trek back to Penn Station, I met and greeted Mike Stern and Jeff Lorber. I spoke to Jeff more than Mike, reminiscing about the last time I saw the Fusion play in 2016 with Andy Snitzer on saxophone and Lionel Cordew on drums. We talked about what they were up to lately. Lionel was in the audience for one of Wednesday’s sets. I didn’t get to say much to Mike before we posed for a picture:

Mike didn’t realize I wanted both of them in the shot, but I’m satisfied with how it came out.

Just as I was about to leave, I noticed Jimmy Haslip walk by. We spoke briefly and posed for a pic:

The set ran longer than I thought it would, so I didn’t have much time to get to Penn Station for the 10:45 train to Babylon, which would arrive in Wantagh an hour later. Not wanting to look for a subway line to ride to Penn, I ran and walked 17 blocks. I was on the train with a minute to spare. Thanks to the double whammy of two shows at Madison Square Garden – Andrea Bocelli in the arena and Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Twas the Night Before in the Hulu Theater – the train was standing room only! Not a single car offered relief. I learned this from one of the passengers I stood next to in the car. The situation was initially frustrating, but everyone in my end of the car bonded through conversation about where they’d been, which led to other topics. Once the train reached Rockville Centre, the crowd began to thin. 15 minutes later, I was in Wantagh. By midnight, I was home in bed.

I had a wonderful time. Thanks to Mike, Jeff, Leni, Jimmy, and Dennis for 90 minutes of musical bliss.

Whether or not you’ve seen Mike Stern and Jeff Lorber Fusion in person, Eleven is a must. It even has a horn section.

Smooth Jazz for Scholars 2020 dates/lineup December 14, 2019

Posted by Mike C. in Jazz, Music, Personal.
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A few days ago, keyboardist Jay Rowe announced the dates and lineup for his 18th annual Smooth Jazz for Scholars benefit concert series. He did so via a Facebook events page, writing the following in the details tab:

The 18th Annual Smooth Jazz for Scholars Benefit Concert will take place Friday May 1st, 2020 and Saturday May 2, 2020 at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium at the Parsons Complex – 70 west River Street Milford, CT 06460. Doors at 7PM – Showtime at 8PM both nights.

Artist line-up on May 1st: Peter White, Lindsey Webster, Nelson Rangell and Jay Rowe

Artist line-up on May 2nd: Steve Cole, Paul Jackson Jr., Jeff Kashiwa and Four80East

To purchase tickets, click on this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/18th-annual-smooth-jazz-for-scholars-benefit-concert-friday-5120-saturday-5220-tickets-84746560243

Or send a check or money order
payable to Smooth Jazz For Scholars Inc. to P.O. Box 3723 Milford, CT. 06460.

We appreciate your support. Thank you.

Jay’s inclusion in the lineup means he’ll be playing music from an album that should be out by then.

Vocalist Lindsey Webster, guitarist Paul Jackson Jr., and Four80East are appearing for the first time. Four80East is a two-for-one deal: the duo of Rob DeBoer and Tony Grace.

Peter White is back for the first time since 2016, Steve Cole and Jeff Kashiwa last appeared in 2017, and Nelson Rangell’s last appearance was in 2018.

As I always do in these posts, here is the information one more time:
Friday, May 1
Peter White
Lindsey Webster
Nelson Rangell
Jay Rowe

Saturday, May 2
Steve Cole
Paul Jackson Jr.
Jeff Kashiwa
Four80East

Location:
Veterans Memorial Auditorium at the Parsons Government Center
70 W. River St.
Milford, CT 06460

Tickets: $45 for one night, $75 for both nights

Tickets can be purchased by check or money order payable to:
Smooth Jazz for Scholars, Inc.
P.O. Box 3723
Milford, CT 06460

Or they can be purchased here.

I’ll conclude with recaps of last year’s first night and second night.

Pat Contri, Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the SNES Library December 2, 2019

Posted by Mike C. in Baseball, Basketball, Books, Education, Football, Internet, Media, Radio, Sports, Technology, TV, Video, Video Games.
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I photographed my copy of Guide to the SNES Library shortly after completing it Sunday

Two months and one day after completing Pat Contri‘s Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Librarywhich I reviewed here – my pre-order copy of the special edition of his Guide to the SNES Library arrived on my front porch.

Once again, the guide is as big as an educational textbook. Now that I think of it, this book is educational. There’s much to learn about the Super Nintendo Entertainment System within its 445 pages (plus a few pages listing Kickstarter contributors).

When I tweeted on Sunday that I finished reading, Pat wondered what my muscle gains were, considering the book’s heft. I replied thusly:

I was late in boarding the NES bandwagon, not getting a console until February 1990, over four years after its initial release in the New York Metropolitan Area. The Super NES, released on August 23, 1991, is a different story. Besides commercials, my first exposure to the console came at my friend Jessie’s house. I regularly played Super Mario World and F-Zero on her projection TV as 1991 gave way to ’92. After saving up part of the cost, my parents got a console for me and my sister Lauren in late January. In the months that followed, I spent many hours playing games, especially the aforementioned Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart (an 11th birthday present), and Mario Paint. I discovered all of Super Mario World’s exits and repeatedly watched the end credits. I would get emotional at the scene with the Yoshi eggs hatching. I successfully beat all cups in Super Mario Kart in all cc modes, and I loved the Rainbow Road theme. And as a weather buff, I had fun making radar loops with Mario Paint’s animation feature.

In nearly 28 years, I’ve amassed a collection of 46 Super Nintendo games. Reading this guide inspired me to add to that collection, at least somewhat.

Guide to the SNES Library chronicles all games released in North America and PAL territories in alphanumerical order, from 3 Ninjas Kick Back and The 7th Saga to Zool and Zoop. (Yes, those are their names.)

Pat Contri was not alone in reviewing the games. Returning from Guide to the NES Library are Asheton “Ashi” Phinney (I loved his alliteration, puns, and rhymes), Jim Evans, and Karen Niemla. The new recruits are Daniel Anderson, Daniel Greenberg, Dagan Moriarty, Kyh Yang, Alli Flanagan (who, like Pat, appeared in The Video Game Years), Pete Skerritt, and Mike Vito(12/14 UPDATE: Dagan, Kyh, and Pete also wrote reviews for the third edition of the NES guide.) Visual effects artist Yoshi Vu provided cart and hardware images, and additional cover art. The foreword was written by Jirard Khalil, a.k.a. The Completionist.

As with Guide to the NES Library, most pages in Guide to the SNES Library are devoted to two games. An image from one of the games is blurred in the background with two images from each game appearing above and below the review. The top of the page shows the games’ cartridge designs and lists their genre, release date, developer, publisher, number of players, special features, availability during the SNES’s life (from “very common” to “extremely rare”), and star rating. There are 10 ratings that range from half a star (one small star, “poor”) to 2 1/2 stars (two big stars and one small star, “average”) to 5 stars (five big stars, “classic”). Reviews can take up anywhere from a fifth of the page to a third of it, followed by the reviewers’ “reflections.” Reviewers are identified by their initials (i.e. PC, PS, AP, DG).

Eleven landmark titles with five-star ratings got full page reviews, including EarthBound, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Mario World and its sequel, and Super Metroid. Those reviews take up more space on the page than regular half-page reviews. I only own four of the games out of those eleven, and only two that I listed here. Some five-star games only got half a page, such as Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest, Super Street Fighter II, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time. I have two of those, along with one that I didn’t mention. You’ll have to buy the book to find out which other five-star games were only on half a page and which got the full page treatment.

The tone of game reviews ranged from clinical to critical, but not in your face or obnoxious. I’m just glad the SNES versions of Tetris 2 and Yoshi’s Cookie weren’t treated as harshly. As I mentioned earlier, I currently have 46 SNES games, and I plan on buying some of the easier-to-obtain games in the book with ratings of 4, 4 1/2, or 5 stars to add to the collection. If they cost over $100, forget it. No Pocky & Rocky for me.

There were plenty of sports games released for the Super Nintendo that I read about. At the moment, I only have four: NBA Hangtime (which I also have on the Genesis and Nintendo 64), NBA Jam: Tournament Edition, True Golf Classics: Pebble Beach Golf Links and Super Bases Loaded. While reading about Midway games like NBA Jam, I learned who that the voice of most of those games was Tim Kitzrow. Besides NBA Jam, Tim also voiced the NFL Blitz series, which I enjoyed on the N64. He included video of an appearance on FOX Sports West on his website:

NBA Hangtime, Midway’s successor to NBA Jam, was voiced by longtime Bulls TV play-by-play announcer Neil Funk, who is retiring at the end of this season. Other TV announcers and analysts to lend their voices to sports games on the Super Nintendo are Al Michaels, Jack Buck, Pat Summerall, and of course, John Madden, to name a few.

After 400 pages of North American and PAL releases, there are chapters on special and promo cartridges, test cartridges, select games from the Japanese Super Famicom library, a look at some unreleased games (by Evan Gowan of SNES Central), and the SNES console and its accessories.

Guide to the SNES Library concludes with supplemental articles. Three of the articles were based on the authors’ YouTube videos. James Rolfe‘s “The Console Wars: SNES vs. Sega Genesis” was taken from a two-part video in 2012, which was combined into one part on the Cinemassacre Plays subchannel:

James and Pat Contri’s friendship dates back to their early days on YouTube. They’ve occasionally collaborated on videos. In fact, their latest went up on Saturday night:

Kelsey Lewin‘s supplemental article was on the Life Fitness LifeCycle Exertainment Bike, based on her video from last year:

In addition to her YouTube channel, Kelsey is the co-owner with her husband Cody of Pink Gorilla Games and co-director with Frank Cifaldi of The Video Game History Foundation. For you sports fans, Kelsey’s father is play-by-play announcer Josh Lewin. You may know him from his stints with the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers on TV, and the New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, San Diego Chargers, and UCLA Bruins football and men’s basketball on radio. Those and other credits can be found here.

And speaking of sports, the third article based on a video was Norman Caruso‘s Gaming Historian 2016 episode on Nintendo‘s ownership of the Seattle Mariners, which he posted as Nintendo was selling most of their shares. The episode had periodic quote readings by YouTubers, and Pat read a quote – in a sinister tone – from Fay Vincent, commissioner of Major League Baseball at the time of Nintendo’s purchase. Unfortunately, MLB forced the removal of the video, so I can’t embed it here.

As for the rest of the supplemental articles, Chris Kohler’s entry on the SNES CD-ROM originally appeared on Kotaku last September. Roger Barr, Andre Meadows, and Karen Niemla supplied original articles. It’s worth reading each article, especially the ones based on videos so you can see differences in text.

It took 19 days to read 445 pages of Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the SNES Library. Once again, I kept a journal of how many pages I read per day. Dividing 445 by 19, I averaged about 24 pages a day. I mostly imagined my own voice in my head as I read the reviews, but I occasionally thought of certain public figures narrating them. I had Pat’s voice in mind when I read his reviews.

Guide to the SNES Library was another great read! Thanks to Pat Contri and his fellow reviewers Ashi Phinney, Daniel Anderson, Daniel Greenberg, Kyh Yang, Karen Niemla, Alli Flanagan, Jim Evans, Dagan Moriarty, Pete Skerritt, and Mike Vito.

For those that grew up with the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, are collecting for it, or just want to learn about it, this book is a must. There are eight versions available for purchase ranging from $59.99 to $99.99, or $29.99 for just the digital download. I have the $79.99 special edition, but I recommend the physical/digital combo at $99.99. I should have bought that in the first place, but I didn’t mind paying an extra $10 yesterday for the digital download and paying the same price to download the NES guide. Having the books physically and digitally is the ultimate experience.

There will eventually be an Ultimate SNES Game Guide Collecting app for iOS and Android. I will update this post when it’s available.