Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Frank Sinatra Tribute and Straight Ahead

by Gran Canaria Big Band

We spent Christmas in Agaete, a cute and mostly quiet village near Gran Canaria. I say “mostly quiet” because two (of five) nights were not quiet. I don’t remember Nochebuena being celebrated so loudly in Corralejo. In fact, I don’t remember it being celebrated in Corralejo at all. But here, there was music and fireworks until 3 am. And then, on Saturday, there was a band playing just a few meters from the house we were staying. At some point, Yuri went out to see them. A bit later, I joined him.

This happened to be Gran Canaria Big Band and Fasur Rodríguez presenting “Frank Sinatra Tribute”. To be honest, I never understood what was so great about Frank Sinatra. I find his manner of singing out of tune (not even slightly out of tune) rather irritating, and lyrics of many “Sinatra classics” far too cheesy for my liking. Fasur has a great voice but I wish he didn’t copy the said out-of-tuneness so much. On the other hand, the band was simply perfect. It was a while since I heard the big band sounding exactly the way the big band should sound.

After the show, I went to chat with the musicians. As it happens, the band is all-male except the drummer, Xerach Peñate. Even that was an accident: she told me she was replacing the “official” drummer who got ill. And I bought the CD — but not before asking them if they have one for sale!

As could be guessed from the name, Straight Ahead is a tribute to Count Basie. Five songs feature vocals by Laura Simó. No Sinatra nonsense here, except maybe The Lady is a Tramp. My favorite tracks, however, are the instrumentals, Calles Vacías by the band’s pianist Rayco León and Gentle piece by Kenny Wheeler.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

by Robert Frost

Today’s web feed brought the sad news: died Grigori Dashevski (Григорий Михайлович Дашевский, 25.02.1964—17.12.2013), Russian poet and literary translator. One of the last works of Dashevski was the Russian translation of Stopping by Woods.

Frost wrote the poem in June 1922, that is, as far from “the darkest evening of the year” as one can get. Couple of months ago, the polls revealed that Stopping by Woods is a most-requested poem on BBC’s Poetry Please, the world’s longest-running poetry programme.

Robert Frost
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Роберт Фрост, перевод Г.М. Дашевского
Остановившись у леса снежным вечером
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Чей лес, мне кажется, я знаю:
в селе живет его хозяин.
Он не увидит, как на снежный
я лес его стою взираю.

В недоуменье конь, конечно,
зачем в ночи за год темнейшей
мы стали там, где нет жилья,
у леса с озером замерзшим.

Он, бубенцом слегка звеня,
как будто бы корит меня,
да веет слабый ветерок,
пушистым снегом шелестя.

Лес сладок, темен и глубок,
но в путь пора мне — долг есть долг.
И ехать долго — сон далек,
и ехать долго — сон далек.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Six Sonatas for Violin and Piano

by Johann Sebastian Bach (BWV 1014—1019)
performed by Michelle Makarski and Keith Jarrett

I don’t listen to classical music that much, even to Bach, and most probably would not be able to distinguish Jarrett/Makarski interpretation from some other smoothly-played version. However, it was thanks to Jarrett, the pianist I know and respect, that I paid any attention to this album at all. It was on display in the library, in the “New CDs” section. Unmistakeably ECM. (I used to love ECM designs. Now they depress me. That’s what living in Finland does to you. You look out of the window and see the ECM cover art.)

According to Bruno de Giusti’s excellent Bach website,

the usage of calling these sonatas “Violin Sonatas” tout-court is absolutely wrong, because Bach was probably the most... democratic musician in his time and granted to each instrument its own personal space in his works. Indeed, the autographed copies of these sonatas report them as “Sonatas for cembalo certato and solo violin, accompanied by a viola da gamba, if one likes (!)” and listening to them makes understand why, in the headline, the priority has been given to the keyboard instrument.

I am glad that Jarrett chose piano for his part. One can tolerate only so much of harpsichord. But here, I was listening to this double CD in one sitting (well I was actually laying down, but you know what I mean), and did not get tired of it.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

The Kalahari Typing School for Men

by Alexander McCall Smith

Mma Ramotswe has a reason to worry: a rival detective agency is set up in town. A younger apprentice of Mr J.L.B. Matekoni finds the Lord. In the meantime, Mma Makutsi opens her phenomenally successful Typing School for Men — so successful, she almost gets a boyfriend.

That afternoon, when Mma Makutsi had been dispatched to the births, deaths, and marriages registry to pursue some routine enquiries on behalf of a client, Mma Ramotswe was visited, unannounced, by a woman whose view of the Satisfaction Guaranteed Agency and its boastful proprietor was quite the opposite of the view held by the apprentice. She arrived in a smart new car, which she parked directly outside the agency door, and waited politely for Mma Ramotswe to acknowledge her presence before she entered the office. This always pleased Mma Ramotswe; she could not abide the modern habit of entering a room before being asked to do so, or, even worse, the assumption that some people made that they could come into your office uninvited and actually sit on your desk while they spoke. If that happened to her, she would refrain from speaking at all but would look pointedly at the bottom planted upon her desk until her disapproval registered and it was removed.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Chaal Baby

by Red Baraat

Baraat (not to be confused with Borat) is a North Indian wedding procession, often featuring its own band. Red Baraat is a nine-piece dhol‘n’brass band founded by Sunny Jain in Brooklyn. The band’s debut studio album, Chaal Baby, is fun from beginning to end. Imagine funky Balkan brass band playing bhangra! Naturally, the program includes Punjabi Wedding Song as well as the unusual rendition of Tunak Tunak Tun. My favourite song of the lot is Mehndi Laga Ke Rakhna.

Compared with original US album, the European edition inexplicably omits two great songs, Aaj Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai and Dum Maro Dum. Instead, there are the “live in Brooklyn” versions of Baraat To Nowhere (featuring excerpt of Mundian To Bach Ke) and Hey Jamalo. In my view, hardly a good replacement. I read that Red Baraat is great to watch live, but that does not always mean it is equally great to listen to. And they really, really should lose the rap.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013


by Александр Сергеевич Грибоедов

For most Russian speakers, Aleksander Griboyedov remains homo unius libri, the book in question being his great comedy Горе от ума (Woe from Wit). Yes, we all have been learning by heart Chatsky’s monologue in high school. For the rest of the world, Griboyedov is largely unknown but for his beautiful waltz in E minor.

To my surprise, I found (and bought for €2!) a hefty 1953 hardback edition of Griboyedov works in one of Porvoo’s second-hand shops. I spent a few long November evenings reading this book. Mind you, I did not read all of it. I don’t think Griboyedov’s letters were meant to be read by anybody but their recipients, so I gave them a miss. (But I did read a preface by Vladimir Orlov, complete with quotes from Lenin, Stalin and Malenkov.)

And so, another discovery was made: apart from Woe from Wit, Griboyedov authored a few more plays. Of them, Студент (The Student) is by far the funniest one. This scene below could have been written by Gogol. Benevolski, a student from Kazan, is the protagonist; Sablin, a Hussar captain, is his drinking companion; and Fed’ka is Benevolski’s servant.

Саблин (наливает и поет).
Vive Henri quatre!
Vive ce roi vaillant!
Беневольский. О! умолчите! что за охота петь французскую песню? У нас столько своих пленительных мелодий певцов своей печали.
Саблин. Пусть они сами свою печаль поют, а я стану петь «Vive Henri IV», оттого именно, что это вовсе не печально.
Беневольский. Но есть ли тут хоть малейшее воспоминание для души русского?
Саблин. Преславное: наш вход в Париж, мы первые заставили петь эту песню. Вот было житье! Выпьем скорее в память этого счастливого дня! Пей же, ну, без гримас!
Беневольский (с стаканом в руке). Вакх!.. тебе!
Саблин (вливает в него весь стакан). Без росказней!
Федька. Пей, да про себя разумей.
Саблин (выпивши). Что за бургонское! стакан было проглотил.
Беневольский (сморщившись). Нектар.
Саблин. Беневольский! душа моя! выпьем еще по стаканчику.
Беневольский. Нет, никак; я еще с обеда отуманен этими парами.
Саблин. Беневольский! не будь хоть теперь Беневольский: выпей, не заставляй себя просить. Беневольский, знаешь? я тоже когда-то учился по-латыни и очень помню одну пословицу... постой! кажется: что у трезвого на уме, то у пьяного на языке.
Беневольский. In vino veritas.
Саблин. Ну, а ведь ты теперь не трезвый. — Скажи мне, любишь ли ты меня?
Беневольский. Люблю.
Саблин. А я тебя не люблю, да всё равно: ты любишь, так докажи, выпей! на! Да полно, я не в шутку рассержусь; бери же, вот так, поцелуй меня! стукнем!
Беневольский. Чашу в чашу.
Федька (подкрадывается). Подойду поближе, хоть понюхать. (Саблин пьет, а Беневольский ловит эту минуту, чтоб вылить стакан, и попадает прямо Федьке в лицо и на платье) Что за обливанье, сударь? еще я покамест свое платье ношу, когда-то сошьете!
Саблин. Выплеснул! не выпил! Поделом не терплю я этих марателей: всякий из них, последний, презирает всех, думает, что он всех умнее, ничем не дорожит.
Беневольский. Именем дружбы...
Саблин. Плевать я хотел на твою дружбу и знаться с тобой не хочу. — Поеду домой. (Смотрится в зеркало) Раскраснелся, досадно! никуда нельзя показаться: про меня и так бог знает что говорят. (Уходит)