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Regina Carter Brings “Southern Comfort” to Santa Cruz


By Eric Berg | KUSP News
(Regina Carter debuts her new album “Southern Comfort” for 2 shows Monday, April 21st at Kuumbwa Jazz.)

CarterJazz Violinist Regina Carter’s excellent new album is “Southern Comfort”. This is not a jazz record per se, but a contemporary crossover exploration of Carter’s musical roots inspired by her journey up and down the family tree.  Continuing the theme of her previous two albums – one of which was nod to her mother’s jazz favorites, “Southern Comfort” focuses this time on what Carter imagines what the dad side of her family might have listened to or appreciated both old and new. Her band’s novel arrangement of Hank Williams’ venerable  “”Honky Tonkin’” is a point in case.

“Southern Comfort”, Carter’s first album for the Sony Masterworks label, is an engaging exploration of 11 songs ranging from the traditional “Miner’s Child” to Gram Parson’s contemporary “Hickory Wind”. It’s what they call a crossover record aimed at appreciative folks who listen to Americana but aren’t necessarily dyed in the wool jazz fans.

Different Arrangements

Each track is arranged by a different member of Carter’s backing band, which includes her husband, drummer Alvester Garnett.  The result is an instant satisfying grab bag of musical genres ranging from Appalachian string music to guitar rock, country swing, old timey blues and exotic accordion jazz with a little gospel and spoken word tossed in.  When it works, it’s sweet and will melt your heart like Carter’s solo in the middle of the traditional chestnut, “I’m Going Home” arranged by guest guitarist Adam Rogers.Regina

My only small but very whiny complaint is Marvin Sewell’s over the top, Van Halen style guitar solo vs. Carter’s violin on singer Lucas Madrazo’s contemporary redo of the old timey blues standard, “I Moaned and I Moaned”.  It almost takes me back to the day of violin driven early 70’s fusion bands like The Flock and so on.  However, all is forgiven once the t beautiful gospel fadeout commences.

Musical Journey

“Southern Comfort” is the third in a series of albums recorded by Carter as she digs up her family’s American folk music roots.  It’s a musical journey that up to now was made possible in part by a sizable “genius grant” this gifted jazz violinist received from the MacArthur Fellowship Program in 2006.

Regina Carter’s has reinvented herself with “Southern Comfort”.  It’s an inspired journey by this the violinist as she imagines traditional American folk music both old and new that her paternal grandfather, an Alabama coal miner might have liked then as well as now. Highly recommended. -Eric Berg

On the One Hand Stark Reality, On the Other Hand Fantasy


Colombian writer and Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez greets fans and reporters outside his home in Mexico City on March 6. Photo: Mario Guzman/EPA/Landov

Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez died Thursday at the age of 87. His work, including the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude earned him a Nobel Prize and sparked an entire genre of literature.

NPR’s Mandalit Del Barco reports his magical realistic style of narrative had its roots in two grandparents with two different perspectives.

Garcia Marquez was born in 1927 in the Colombian coast town of Aracataca, which experienced a boom after a U.S. fruit company arrived. In a 1984 interview with NPR, he said his writing was forever shaped by the grandparents who raised him as a young child:

“There was a real dichotomy in me because, on one hand … there was the world of my grandfather; a world of stark reality, of civil wars he told me about, since he had been a colonel in the last civil war. And then, on the other hand, there was the world of my grandmother, which was full of fantasy, completely outside of reality.”

According to the BBC obituary, in 1965 he was politically active and a journalist but little known. He was driving to Acapulco with his family when he had a idea for a story. He turned the car around, went home and shut himself in a room for 18 months with six packets of cigarettes a day.

He emerged eighteen months later to find his family $12,000 in debt. Fortunately, he had thirteen hundred pages of phenomenal best-selling text in his hands.

The novel’s first printing in Spanish sold out within a week, and during the next thirty years One Hundred Years of Solitude sold more than twenty million copies and was translated into more than thirty languages.

The New York Times called it the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race.

Democracy Now! opens its full-episode remembrance with Marquez’s own words accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982:

[translated] The country that could be formed of all the exiles and forced emigrants of Latin America would have a population larger than that of Norway. I dare to think that it is this outsized reality, and not just its literary expression, that has deserved the attention of the Swedish Academy of Letters. A reality not of paper, but one that lives within us and determines each instant of our countless daily deaths, and that nourishes a source of insatiable creativity, full of sorrow and beauty, of which this roving and nostalgic Colombian is but one cipher more, singled out by fortune. Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable. This, my friends, is the crux of our solitude.

Isabel Allende was Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez’s guest for the show. She offered a different perspective on the magical realism Marquez made popular:

I would say that magic realism begins with the conquistadors that came to Latin America, and they were writing these letters to the king or to Spain in which they talk about a continent that had fountains of youth, that you could pick up the gold and the diamonds from the floor, that people had unicorns or had one foot so big that at siesta time they would raise it like a parasol to have shade. I mean, this is—I’m not making this up. This is in the conquistadors’ letters.

Marquez had recently been hospitalized. He died at home in Mexico, where he had lived for the past 30 years.

To Restore Elkhorn Slough, Ecologists Look to 19th Century


Elkhorn Dairy Farm, now site of the reserve, in the the 1930s or 40s.Source: Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve

Water rationing starts in the city of Santa Cruz on May 1, just in time for spring planting. Landscaping with native plants is one way to reduce the water use in your garden. Ecologists at Elkhorn Slough use history to help them decide which native plants to use during habitat restoration, and their tips can help homeowners choose plants as well.

The trail from the visitor’s center at Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve  leads to an overlook with views of salt marsh, grasslands and woodlands. An old barn with a rusty roof is a one clue that the wild land was dairy and pasture for many decades.

Andrea Woolfolk started working as stewardship coordinator at the reserve about 15 years ago. “I was told that my job was to restore things,” she says. “You stand out in a field of weeds and wonder ‘What do I restore it to?’”

She started gathering historical maps, photos, journals and newspaper articles to get an idea of what the land looked like in the past. That gave her clues as to what plants or habitats might do well in the future. “It could have been a small project,” Woolfolk says. “But it’s become a bit of an obsession, you might say.”


A land survey of upper Elkhorn Slough, created by A.T. Herrmann in 1898. Blue shows tidal channel; brown shows salt marsh; green represents freshwater areas dominated by tules. Source: Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve

And she says it’s become a hobby as well. At first, Woolfolk was captivated by the beautiful maps and arresting accounts. Then she started noticing themes emerging as she gathered more information. “The more that you pull it together, the more these narratives emerge and you kinda can’t stop,” Woolfolk says.

Creating a narrative

Woolfolk pulls out a map from 1869 that surveys the area for Elkhorn Road. Today, that road leads to the main entrance to the reserve, and it provides a way to locate our position in a field behind the overlook. The map shows that the land where we are standing used to belong to a man named Wescott.

Wescott held a big 4th of July party in 1869 that merited an article in some local newspapers. Woolfolk reads from the article in the Castroville Argus: “The choice of location was very good, a gentle roll of land studded with the grand old oaks. They give California hills the appearance of noble parks.”

The story in the Pajaronian gives a little more information about the land. “The ground is clean and shaded by wide, spreading oaks and nearby is a spring of pure water,” Woolfolk reads. The reporter estimates there’s room enough for over 100,000 people.

The articles also mention dancing on a green sward, which is an old-fashioned way to say meadow. Based on those descriptions, Woolfolk learns that the land used to be covered in a mix of grasses and oaks.


A painting of Moss Landing, looking south to Castroville, painted by Leon Trousset in the 1870s. The original hangs in Our Lady of Refuge Church in Castroville.

Decisions, decisions

Ecologists at the reserve aim to restore grassland using locally collected seed. Bree Candiloro, stewardship specialist at the reserve, tends a small plot of native grasses that includes blue wild rye, California brome, and California oak grass.

The seed from these grasses will be used to restore habitat across the estuary from the overlook. Historical information tells the ecologists that the targeted area used to be grassland, but Woolfolk says they don’t know exactly what species grew there before. “We’re starting to test which grasses take the best,” she says. “The ones that take the best are the ones that we’ll use the most.”

Planting guided by history can be done with smaller parcels of land as well. Woolfolk and Candiloro have collected resources on a website  so that individual land or home owners around the Monterey Bay area can learn about the past ecology of their property. “Knowing where you are, knowing the land, [and] knowing what was there will assist in choosing the right plants,” Candiloro says.

Benefits from landscaping with native plants include reduced water use as well as increased native insect and plant diversity. That kind of landscaping, even if just on a little postage stamp of property, is still making a difference if you’re doing it within the context of the best thing for the land, she says.

Chances of a Stormy Winter on the Rise


By J.D. Hillard | KUSP News
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration this week put the chance of El Niño influenced weather this winter at 66 percent. The forecast indicates a significant possibility of a break in the series of dry years Northern California has experienced. A strong El Niño can also cause dangerous and damaging floods and mudslides.

This graph shows anomalies in the temperature of the upper layers of the Pacific oceean water uppupper-ocean heat content anomaly (°C) in the equatorial Pacific (5°N-5°S, 180º- 100ºW). The heat content anomaly is computed as the departure from the 1981-2010 base period  pentad means.

This graph shows diversions from the average temperature of the upper layers of the Pacific Ocean. Courtesy of NOAA.

Mercury News environmental reporter Paul Rogers wrote a roundup of meteorologists’ analysis of the data behind the announcement. The announcement comes specifically from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland. And, from what Rogers reports, the forecast seems to have come without the reserve you often hear from meteorologists: “We’re seeing a pretty strong tilt toward El Niño,” said Michelle L’Heureux.

A significant indicator is a growing body of warmer than average water on the surface of the Pacific. In some places it’s more than 700 feet deep. It starts near New Guinea and stretches along the equator most of the way to South America. This body of warm surface water is called a Kelvin Wave. The last time it was anywhere near as evident as this, in 1997-1998, Northern California saw storms that caused widespread floods and landslides.

Another phenomenon suggesting an El Niño winter is the that east-trending trade winds have appeared to weaken at times. According to meteorology blogger Daniel Swain, who is a doctoral candidate at Stanford, this can be part of a feedback loop: the warm surface water can contribute to weaker trades, which allows the surface to warm more.

Rogers in the interview above notes that with months to go before winter, there’s still a good chance an El Niño won’t develop. But he cautioned against putting off cleaning roof gutters.

Nat King Cole Trio – From Film Jukebox Era

Nat 'King' Cole Trio publicity photo. Courtesy kalamu.com/ via: riverwalk.stanford.edu

Nat ‘King’ Cole Trio publicity photo. Courtesy kalamu.com/ via: riverwalk.stanford.edu

From Mike Lambert | KUSP’s In the Groove

Soundies were three-minute musical films which were displayed on a “Panoram,” a coin-operated film jukebox, in nightclubs, bars, restaurants, factory lounges, and amusement centers.

I’ve hunted up a number of swell rare ‘soundies’ and other clips of the Nat King Cole Trio from the 40′s.

We listen to the trio on the show this week–plus selections by Jacky TerrassonRené Marie (Kuumbwa Jazz this Monday), the late Frank Wess, Johnny Hodges, George Benson, and by Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.

There will be a selection by Billy Taylor, the pianist/educator, and by Billy Taylor, the bassist, as well.


Monterey Jazz Festival Lineup: Where To Start?


The Monterey Jazz Festival organizers have delivered a real one-two punch to music lovers in the area: on the heels of the exhilarating Next Generation Festival this past weekend (28-30 March), showcasing the best young jazz musicians from across the country, the MJF this week announced the lineup for the September MJF, and it’s a particularly dazzling array.

The Roots. Photo: Danny Clinch

The Roots. Photo: Danny Clinch

Where to start? How about with The Roots! ?uestlove and Black Thought and all the cats in Philadelphia’s boundary-busting hybrid live hip hop band (which is also the house orchestra at the Tonight Show) will take the Main Stage Saturday night. This is an encouraging signal of MJF programmers’ eclectic tastes and forward-looking vision. The Roots’ presence at MJF will also provide an opportunity to reform the under-appreciated Philadelphia Experiment, a troupe that includes Roots’ drummer/leader Ahmir ?uestlove Thompson, pianist Uri Caine (of trumpeter Dave Douglas’s group, among other gigs) and super bassist and MJF favorite Christian McBride. Check out the Philadelphia Experiment’s self-titled 2001 album to whet your appetite.


Showing Otters Love Through Your Taxes

Photo: Michael L. Baird/Flickr

Photo: Michael L. Baird/Flickr

By Melissae Fellet | KUSP News

More than two million dollars have been contributed to the California Sea Otter Fund through donations on the state income tax form. The fund has become an important source of support for sea otter research and conservation programs in the state. But the program will only continue if donations reach a mandated minimum target this year, which is the largest in its seven-year history.


Big News for News: Metro Newspapers Acquires Good Times and 3 Other Local Newspapers


The Santa Cruz Weekly swallows up the Good Times. The papers will merge into one printed weekly edition – under the Good Times brand name.

It was announced today that Metro Newspaper Group has purchased it’s Santa Cruz county rival, the Good Times, along with three other newspapers and their digital properties.

The other three newspapers reported in the purchase are the Gilroy Dispatch, Hollister Free Lance and Morgan Hill Times.

The Santa Cruz Weekly will distribute it’s final issue on April 2. After that, the Good Times will continue to provide 35,000 weekly copies, according to Jeanne Howard, publisher of Santa Cruz Weekly.

Other sources: Silicone Valley Business Journal,  Santa Cruz Sentinel

Michio Kaku Foresees ‘The Future of the Mind’

Theoretical physicist and author, Michio Kaku

Theoretical physicist and author, Michio Kaku

By Rick Kleffel | KUSP’s Agony Column

It’s obvious that Michio Kaku is about four steps ahead of the rest of the world. His books, ‘The Future of the Mind’ and ‘Physics of the Future,’ are as outstandingly entertaining as they are informative. In person, he’s just like his books, smart beyond belief and lots of fun.

“But I’m a physicist…”

— Michio Kaku

While I didn’t see a “But I’m a physicist…” button when we spoke at KQED, I’m pretty certain if there was one he would have been hitting it more often as I was hitting the cough button. To be honest, I find the man astonishing. He’s always on, and he has his subject down with a delivery that is authentically enthusiastic. It’s easy to see why he has two TV shows and two radio shows.

I tried, with some success, to get him to talk about crafting the books. He clearly gets to have a blast in the process, particularly with the interviews, and I can see the “kid in a candy shop” scenes when he talks about visiting labs, and seeing dreams and telepathy demonstrated by actual scientists.

Readers will get to hear as well the thrill in Kaku’s voice when he talks about how much he enjoys science fiction, and the importance of science fiction to the process of science. Here’s where the rubber meets the road in the form-following function arena. Listening to Michio Kaku you can get an appreciation of hard science and completely nutso, goofy science fiction.

Coming Soon: Water Rationing

Santa Cruz Water Director Rosemary Menard urges residents to use low-flow shower heads and other implements to save water during the drought. Photo: J.D. Hillard / KUSP

Santa Cruz Water Director Rosemary Menard urges residents to use low-flow shower heads and other implements to save water during the drought. Photo: J.D. Hillard / KUSP

By J.D. Hillard | KUSP News

You probably knew it was coming: Since it became clear we haven’t been having a normal winter, water managers around he Monterey Bay have been considering how to reduce demand. Santa Cruz was the first to announce penalties for using more than a certain amount. The measure takes effect in May. The newly appointed water director said that timeline allows the agency to adjust the restrictions if conditions change.

The fines take effect when a household uses more than 10 ccf in a month – that works out to about 60 gallons per person per day for a four person household. Menard says this shouldn’t be too disruptive indoors.