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Blue Note Connoisseurs dish up Hill, McLean and more

Jazz fans can always count on a new batch of Blue Note Connoisseur Series reissues to brighten up a cloudy day. The latest stack of six discs hit shops on Tuesday and reprises some old gems from the label and brings some non-Blue Note sessions onboard, too.

Among the former are "It's Time," by alto sax man Jackie McLean, who died recently; Solomon Ilori's "African High Life"; thunderous drummer Art Blakey's "A Message from Blakey: Holiday for Skins"; and the "Pax," by Andrew Hill.

"Pax" was a 1965 session that went unreleased for 10 years and this edition also includes two other tunes from the session previously released only on Hill's seven-disc Mosaic Records box set. Why this quintet session featuring trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, drummer Joe Chambers and now-Madison-based bassist Richard Davis languished for so long is a mystery. This line-up was leading the "New Thing" at Blue Note at the time and swings here. The same band -- with Sam Rivers replacing Henderson -- reunited two months later to record Bobby Hutcherson's phenomenal "Dialogue" and if this doesn't shout instant classic like the Hutcherson set, it definitely set the stage, thanks to Hill's engaging compositions and the musicians' fiery spirit.

This still leaves me awaiting a long overdue reissue of Hill's "Compulsion," despite the fact that Jack Grassel assures me it's a low point in Hill's Blue Note oeuvre.

"It's Time" was among a string of discs that McLean recorded for Blue Note in the first half of the 1960s that stand as his best work and one of the best runs any jazz musician has ever had. Once a Bird watcher, McLean jumped head first into new experimentation without discarding his bebop past. The result, on this 1964 session -- and the others -- is that he built a bridge from the old to the new and helped listeners, who can often be leery, get across.

The Blakey and Ilori discs are from 1958 and 1963-'64, respectively, but take similarly percussion…Read more...

Greek travel consultant readies his red cards

If you want to watch the World Cup and understand the back story -- not just of the sport but of the societies the teams represent -- Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey have just the book for you.

“The Thinking Fan’s Guide to the World Cup” features essays on all 32 competing nations written by folks like novelists Tim Parks (who has lived in Italy for 25 years and is a rabid fan of Verona’s team and who writes the Italy chapter here), Robert Coover (Spain), Henning Mankell (Angola), John Lanchester (Brazil) and Caryl Phillips (Ghana); literary pop star Dave Eggers (who writes about the U.S.); and “Fast Food Nation” author Eric Schlosser (Sweden). Of course, no such book would be complete with a Nick “Fever Pitch” Hornby (England).

But, wait there’s more. There’s a recap of the 2002 tournament and editors Weiland and Wilsey, like good American sports fans, also dish up the numbers. There are stats of all kinds on the 32 nations and 12 pages of World Cup stats, including my favorite, a chart of all the World Cup winners since 1930 and the form of government in the winner’s country (1930, Uruguay, fragile democracy; 1950, Uruguay, emerging democracy; 1978, Argentina, military junta; 1986, Argentina, emerging democracy).

This list forms part of New Republic editor Franklin Foer’s afterword, “How to Win the World Cup,” which opens with the question, “if we were to take up arms (to guarantee a winning soccer team) what kind of government would we want to install?”

Another interesting chart lists the tournament referees, their ages, their home nations and what they do for a living (Lubos Michel is a car tire sales manager at home in Slovakia, Kyros Vassaras [pictured]is a Greek travel consultant and Mohamed Guezzaz teaches geography in Morocco).

On June 13, four days after the kick off of the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Wilsey visits Schwartz Bookshop, 2559 N. Downer Ave. at 7 p.m. to talk about the book and the tourney. Admission …Read more...

We shoulda gone to see We Are Wolves

If you're like us, you're kicking yourself for not checking out Montreal's We Are Wolves last night at the Cactus Club.

The band's debut disc, "Non-Stop Je Te Plie En Deux," on Fat Possum Records, sounds like a danceable rock band's tape run through an old synthesizer set on "stun."

Electronic beats mix with a live drummer, there are hints of '80s new wave and '90s Prodigy hues. Then there are numbers like the eerie instrumental "Namaï-Taïla-Cambodge (Go-Tabla-Go)," which defy comparison.

The pictures in the booklet showing the band on stage suggest that the band needs to be seen live to really be appreciated. And how they bring this mix of live and electronic together onstage would be something to see.

Of course, if you saw We Are Wolves with IfIHadaHiFi last night in Bay View, then you already know. Tell us what you saw using the talkback feature below.

Moffitt jets off on last-minute tour

Julie Moffitt, who celebrated the release of her "The Stolen EP" earlier this week at Centanni in the Third Ward announced today in an e-mail that she has been invited to join The Hit and Run Tour.

Moffitt describes the tour as, "a month-long national tour featuring two other amazing singer/songwriters!"

She adds, "This is a dream come true for me. I've been imagining my first real tour since i was a little girl, and suddenly, with no warning and no planning on my part aside from a plane ticket and a new ATA-approved case for my keyboard, I'm on the road! I'm in heaven!  Well, actually, I'm in the international terminal at the San Francisco airport, waiting with my luggage for Martha Berner and Arrica Rose to arrive from L.A. with Adam Levy for our first show."

The tour, which runs through the end of June stops in San Francisco, Fresno, Berkeley, Tucson, Albuquerque, Denver, Davenport, Iowa, Lake Geneva, Madison, Milwaukee (at the Art Bar on June 16), Chicago, Indianapolis, Nashville, Columbus, Ga., Charlotte, NC, Washington DC, Philadelphia, New York and Boston.

Moffitt's Web site is and her My Space site is