Sunday, October 31, 2010

This and That

I haven't done any new blog posts lately because I have been busy with "this and that" a lot and I keep forgetting to take my camera with me. Of course, some of my recent activities didn't lend themselves to sharing photographically, namely the colonoscopy, the removal and replacement of a large molar filling, and the recent upper GI and small bowel follow-through test. I suppose I could have taken a pic of the flu shot, but it was very brief. I have to say that I am grateful to the ability of modern medical technology to identify and diagnose (and sometimes even treat) important potential problems with my body. But I also have to say that the sadistic, cruel, unusual, and tedious preparations and procedures themselves are no fun.

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In addition to invasive bodily tests, I have been busy attending a number of great local music gigs. Since we all know here in Illinois that the pleasant weather can't last (patchy frost a couple of nights), now's the time to get out and enjoy ourselves, especially before daylight savings disappears into the sunset.

So, after The Music of Djano Reinhart (posted here), we took in Bate Calado, a Brazilian group, at V. Picasso. They play sambas like Desafinado but with a little more contemporary (i.e., loud and fast) sound. They are fun though and we enjoyed the evening.

A cool thing happened actually. I had written on the wall of their Facebook Fan Page (BTW, if you haven't joined my page as a Fan, please do. The link is on the right-hand side listing of links on Susan's Blog) and so I guess a thumbnail pic of me was displayed. The singer for Bate Calado was a different one than I had seen when I saw the group last, this past winter, so I didn't know her. At a break, she came up to me and thanked me for coming and said she was glad to see me. I suppose I had a puzzled look on my face, so she added, "I recognized you from Facebook." Wow ... my physical reality and my virtual reality met! Such a world of technology we live in, I guess.

The next gig we attended was at the Iron Post. Kevin Hart was going to be there. He's a dynamite vibraphone player from Peoria who used to play around Champaign-Urbana from time to time. We found out once we were there and had ordered our cheeseburgers that he wasn't playing -- he was coaching some students who were playing.

As the set went on, a bunch of local musicians were drifting in. I was amazed to see so many terrific professional musicians showing up just to support the efforts of these students. Then, to our surprise, the second set turned out to be a group headed up by Jordan Kaye, guitarist extraordinaire and leader of the Music of Django Reinhardt, called something like Early Jazz Group. Wow! Carl Johnson, incredible clarinet player and saxophonist; Barry the trombonist, also from the New Orleans Jazz Machine like Carl; Nick Schroeder, wonderful trumpeter (especially great with the bluesy mute); Paul Asaro, incomparable stride piano player who tours nationally and, it turns out, also plays horn (coronet, I think); William Hope, guitarist and player of the Cuban laud from the Sandunga band that plays guajira son; and a banjo player, tuba player, and bass drum plus singer whose names I didn't catch.

They were absolutely terrific. They did some great old tunes like Canal Street Blues, Frankie and Johnnie, Jazz Me, and, the last piece, St. Louis Blues ... a wonderful rendition that brought the house down. Thanks, guys! Although some of the musicians were fairly young people, maybe grad students at the U of I's famous music school, several were oldies like us, so it was nice to hear how several decades of musical experience ... coupled with skill and talent, of course ...  make a difference!

Then, after a quick trip home to feed the hungry five felines, we went on to V. Picasso to catch Desafinado, the Brazilian jazz group par excellence that we've been following for at least 10 years. They started late because of trying to fit onto a small stage, and the sound was a little different than usual because of some band members who were new and others who were not able to be there, but the music was great as always. Elis Artz's vocals are always so spirited, and she is so radiant, you can't help but get caught up in the music and the Portuguese lyrics. George Turner was sitting in for Greg Jahiel on guitar and gave a very impressive performance. As always, Tom Paynter's flute and melodica were a joy. Luciano Costa, Brazilian mandolin player from the Bate Caldo group, joined in. He was having some trouble with the electronics at first but got that straightened out and did some great work. Joel Caracci was on drums and Karim Yengsep from the Bossa Nuevo band was on bass.

Just before Desafinado came on that night, Lara Driscoll was finishing a set of jazz piano, and George Turner joined her for a couple of numbers. It was mellow and very good, so we decided to catch her playing again last night at V. Picasso. This time she was appearing with Carlos Vega, a wonderful saxophonist who played a few times with Desafinado some time back. For a few numbers, Chip O'Neill, U of I jazz director, joined in as well. Lara and Carlos did an especially nice version of "Moonglow" and "Bewitched" in honor of Halloween. I enjoyed the music a lot and, since the restaurant provides paper placemats and pencils, had a little fun doing a humorous drawing of the band and another more "surrealistic" style drawing as well.

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In the realm of nature/outdoor/garden activities, we have been enjoying the fall color, both in our own yard and around town. We did a little tour of Urbana residential streets near us the other day, where many trees are changing leaf color gradually (and losing leaves as well), and the fruiting trees (like the red-berried hawthorns) are filled to the brim with bright round tiny berries. My guess is that it's been such a strange summer and fall weather-wise that those trees got a bit nervous about their survival and so decided to put out a lot of seed for future generations of their species (nature is so smart!).

We also had a bit of an out of town nature trip last week. We had been wanting to explore a new nature area over north of Danville, about 40 minutes away, called Heron Park. I had gotten directions for getting there from our dental hygienist who commutes from Danville and has two little boys who like the outdoors. Our friend Bob was in town and the three of us were going in his car. We loaded up my four-wheeled rollator (if folds) into the trunk and were ready to leave, even though it was windy (we had a wind advisory that day) and not very early. At the last minute, the intrepid Panther, our sweet black cat, managed a daring escape. I spent 20 or 30 anxiety-filled minutes trying to find him, calling his name pitifully, and waiting for him to reappear. Thankfully, he did, and we went on our way.

Heron Park is a fairly new place with a wonderful expanse of wooden boardwalk (wide enough for the rollator and with a rail to help steady David on his feet) all around the park over the shallow bottomland waters. There is an observation tower, and I could even go to the first level of it with the rollator! It was so cold and windy and late in the day, however, that most of the wildlife was probably hunkered down in the reeds and whatnot to stay cozy. But we did see a couple of mallards, a bunch of tiny birds on the muddy flats that I thought might be sanderlings, a lovely white swan, and -- big treat -- a pair of sandhill cranes! Nice show of foliage changing color along the interstate going back home.

In our yard, the Chinese dogwood (Cornus kousa)  has changed color and the Japanese maples are gorgeous. This year the Fothergilia shrub has turned bright red, and several viburnums and hydrangeas have color on their leaves. The hostas have turned a cheerful yellow, but there's still lots of green and even blooming annuals still around. The crabapple is full of tiny orange fruit, and the firethorn (Pyracantha) bush is covered with berries. The chokecherry trees fruited a lot earlier this fall, and the robins feasted and then spattered my car windshield with the results (ugh!). But I have been quite surprised by the endurance of the annuals (and a few blooming perennials like the butterfly bush and the fall anemone). Frank the supergardener's hypothesis is that the dryness has made the plants tougher against the frost compared to the usual rainy fall here.

Well, that's about it for now. I will try to remember to bring my camera with me next time I do something that might be sufficiently interesting to share because I know my readers like photos. Write a comment and let me know what the autumn is bringing your way.


  1. Susan, I am amazed at your whirlwind tour of the music scene in CU. Anytime Jordan K. is present you can be sure it's going to be a most amazing entertainment!

  2. Susan, you are very good at writing, my friend! Also, you are very kind!! Thanks so much, Susan!!
    See you next time!!