Tuesday, November 16, 2010

November Winding Down ...

The weather has turned definitively autumnal around here, as the leaves drift down from the trees and November moves ever closer to the end. It makes me think of the words to that old song "and the days dwindle down ... to a precious few." Unfortunately, the last couple of those "precious few" days have been fairly miserable chez moi because of sore throat, fever, and clogged sinuses. Today is a bit better, but now I seem to have messed up my lower back from being in bed so long!

But before the recent misery, there was fun to be had, and we had some of it. I knew that it was going to be a great day for weather on Friday (and a cold snap coming after that), so I put myself into high gear and finished up the book I was copyediting a bit in advance of the deadline to free up the day. We went to Heron Park, an area of wetland, just north of Danville, with a lovely boardwalk, observation tower, and benches. We'd been there a few weeks ago, but it was a cold and windy day and we arrived late in the day, so the birdwatching was limited.

This time, the weather was perfect and we had lots of time, but the wetlands had dried up! Most of the area under the boardwalk was just left with puddles and animal footprints (racoon, muskrat, possum, shore birds) in the mud. We did see a few kildeer, so pretty with their brown-and-white stripes and distinctive call, but most of the birds must have gone to deeper waters. There were a few quick little birds (swamp sparrow?) flitting around in the brush. They are what my mom used to call ELBs (elusive little bastards), so we couldn't really see them well enough for clear identification. The "real" birders, of course, are willing to get up at the crack of dawn (or before), able to keep quiet the whole time ("hey, guys, look at this!!!), and know the sounds of the birds so they can identify those they can't actually see.

Nonetheless, a good time was had by all. On the way over, we'd taken the scenic route on some lovely curving road that Abraham Lincoln once traveled through hilly areas and ravines, a rare treat for us flatlanders. On the way home, we stopped at O'Leary's for a bite to eat.

Saturday included the usual brunch and library trip, nice and relaxing as always (I even got the New Yorker this time). Home to feed the five famished felines and then off to the Iron Post for Desafinado! As I think I've mentioned in an early post, we've been following this Brazilian samba and bossa nova band for about ten years now. Over that time, the change in players has resulted in the sound of the band evolving and changing.

One of the original founders, Connie Johnson, vibraphone player, moved to Portland, Oregon this summer. Connie is certainly missed -- the vibes are a mellow instrument for the music. Greg Jahiel (vocals in Portuguese and guitar) was the other co-founder, I believe. He's still part of the band, but he is temporarily busy with some important and exciting family activities. So George Turner on guitar and Karim Yengsep on acoustic bass have added their considerable talents to the mix.

Back at the beginning, Chad Dunn was the drummer and percussion experimenter, and there was a cello (Margo?) and her husband (Don?) on flute from time to time. Matt Plaskota was drummer for a while, succeeded by Joel Caracci. For quite a while, Tom Paynter has been with the group, on flute, melodica, and other interesting sound-makers. Giraldo Rosales on congas is also a steady feature of the band. I recently found out that he used to play congas for Sandunga. I love the conga sound, and it is absolutely essential to the kind of music that Desafinado plays.

There have been a couple of singers for Desafinado, one of whom, Simone da Silva, also moved to Oregon (do people really like that much rain?). But starting about three years ago, the singer has been the incomparable Elis Artz. Elis has the ability to express all the feelings in the lyrics and all the movement in the beat in a wonderfully natural and radiant way. It doesn't matter whether the listening audience understands the meaning of the Portuguese lyrics because Elis pours out the meaning in her voice.

This evening's performance was especially delightful for a couple of reasons. The Iron Post has a real piano, a Baldwin grand, and Tom Paynter played! This was quite a treat. Tom is so perfect with the flute and melodica in those haunting Brazilian melodies that those who haven't heard him on keyboards in other bands may not realize what they are missing! I'm really curious now about how and when Tom got interested in jazz because there is clearly some classical background as well. Tom is modest and rarely blows his own horn, but he is an extraordinarily talented musician (and loves to do experimental things like reaching into the piano to pluck a string!). Another cool note was the wonderful bowing work (there's probably a technical term for it) on the bass from Karim in a couple of numbers, including the beautiful "Quiet Night of Quiet Stars." And a third treat was that Mikael Templeton on saxophone joined the group for one number. His sound is so smooth! We'd like to hear more from him!

The place wasn't really crowded (I wish more people would come out for this great band!), but there was a nice audience of appreciate folks. Shelley Masar was doing some kind of dance and yoga performance in the wings during the second set, so I promised to mention her in my blog. She's very flexible and graceful. I usually think of yoga as sort of private and meditative rather than performance-oriented.

Too bad I forgot (again!) to bring the camera for pics. I'll try to catch them the next time.

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