Sonic Gift Guidance

FRINGE PRODUCT GIFT GUIDE: Shopping for musical
inspiration has perhaps never been such an expansive—and also
exhausting—experience, when much of the world’s best available
music is absent from above-ground commercial media sources.
Word-of-mouth from kindred spirits becomes evermore vital to our
emotional survival. Here, then, some gift ideas for fringe-leaning
listener, with restless ears and an open mind. Ben Riley’s
Monk Legacy Septet
, Memories of T (Concord)

When it comes to dealing with
Thelonious Monk
’s great songbook, drummer ben_riley.jpgBen Riley has a more direct link—and
possibly divine right—than most, having played with Monk for years,
as part of the classic Monk band sound. After Monk’s death, Riley
revisited his old comrade’s tunes in the band Sphere, with Kenny
Barron in the piano seat, and again recently with his fascinating
Monk Legacy Septet—sans piano, and all the more intriguing for it.
Memories of T, besides being one of 2006’s best jazz
albums, is one of the freshest Monk sets in years. The song list
opens with “Let’s Call This” and closes with the common Monk
set-closer “Epistrophy,” and ranges from the standards “Straight,
No Chaser” and “Rhythm-a-ning” to quirky delights like “Brake’s
Sake” and “Green Chimneys.” Trumpeter Don Sickler’s cool
arrangements cleverly divvy up the melodic material between
players, and guitarist Freddie Bryant is a stand-out soloist.
Generally, the project reminds us that Monk is history, in the best
and most renewably inspiring way.

, the destroyed room, b sides and rarities

For many bands, a package of sonic_youth.JPG“b sides and rarities” might be a
euphemism for spring cleaning, with a capitalist’s
gleam-in-the-eye. For Sonic Youth, always with experimental ideas
and avant-garde-ist tendencies beneath their song parade, it’s a
different story, as heard in this collection of mostly instrumental
and often hypnotic avant-rock vamps from the Geffen years. Kim
mumbly voice appears on the minute-long “Razor Blade,”
and briefly on “Blink,” but is an anomaly on an album of
atmospheric debris from a blessed mess of a destroyed room. Here’s
further proof, from the attic, that Sonic Youth is among the most
important rock bands of the last quarter century.

Derek Bailey
, The Play (Samadhisound)

Avant-guitar hero Derek
was one of the jazz legends who passed on in 2006 (if
“jazz” is the proper term for his adamantly free, atonal and
arrhythmic sound painting genius). This final solo guitar
recording, for David Sylvian’s gamey label Samidhisound, is full of
typically dry, abstract Bailey-esque magic, with plinking
Giacametti-ish harmonics, cracked intervals on the fly, and
anti-sentimental spirits somehow soaring and dodging clichés.
There’ll never be another him.

, Universo ao meu Redor (Metro Blue)

Brazil’s sensuous marisa_monte.jpgsophisticate and it girl released two
albums this year, after a four-year silence, and this tribute to
samba is the more dazzling of the two. In part, her artful feat
lies in balancing a passionate homage to tradition and subtle
contemporary manners and textures, and even a cameo by David Byrne.
Just try not to succumb to its wiles. We dare you.

SURFING TO THE LEFT: Following up our recent
respectful nod to the alternative airwaves of KCSB-FM (91.9 fm),
two more compelling shows have bubbled up into consciousness. On
the subject of refreshing Brazilian sounds, check out “Tudo Bem”
(Wednesday, 2 to 4 p.m.). Jazz from the edges live on “Roots to the
Source” (Sundays, 3 to 5 p.m.), which actually plays music by
—one of the Great American Heroes too few know

TO-DOINGS: In this otherwise slack zone in live
music hereabouts, discerning Christmas cultureniks actually have
two fine options to choose from tonight: The Blind Boys of Alabama return to
the Marjorie Luke Theater with the Christmas show they memorably
brought two years ago; Phil
“Unsilent Night” public performance art event,
involving ambulatory ghetto blasters a’caroling—an annual fete in
NYC for years—comes west, starting at Contemporary Arts Forum at

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