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Erwin Helfer, Barrelhouse Chuck

Both pianists on this bill play a rollicking mix of blues, boogie-woogie, and jazz-tinged standards, but there are big differences between their musical personalities. ERWIN HELFER was heavily influenced by 30s and 40s Chicago boogie masters like Cripple Clarence Lofton and Big Maceo. He also spent time in New Orleans, where he learned from Preservation […]

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Rolling Stones

No one needs a new Rolling Stones album, of course. But for those who want one–even those who aren’t named Jann Wenner–A Bigger Bang (Virgin) is the first real deal since . . . um, Steel Wheels? Tattoo You? Some Girls? Those late-period touchstones are beside the point, actually: the new album is noisier and […]

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Cafe Lumiere

Hou Hsiao-hsien’s most minimalist film to date (2003) is a bracing return to form, a provocative and haunting look at Tokyo and the overall drift of the world that’s slow to reveal its secrets and beauties. Commissioned by the Japanese studio Shochiku as an homage to its famous house director Yasujiro Ozu, it references Ozu […]

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Katrina: State of Emergency

What with all the scandals and indictments since Katrina, it’s easy to forget that Bushco’s bungling of the matter occurred recently, just over four months ago. And the disaster got a lot of play in the media–especially as the backdrop against which, journalists assure us, they finally rediscovered their balls. Perhaps as a result, this […]

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The Torture Question

The decision to use torture at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib can be traced to the highest levels in U.S. government, and much of the value of this excellent documentary by Michael Kirk, broadcast on PBS’s Frontline last October, lies in its comprehensively mapping how the policy got carried out. Kirk reveals the pecking orders and […]

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Juan Carmona

Guitarist Juan Carmona was born and raised in Lyon, France, but his roots are in Spain, and he has a deep affinity for Spanish flamenco in its purest form. He began playing guitar at ten and later moved to Paris, where he studied and eventually taught flamenco at the National Conservatory of Music. But in […]

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Kathie Klarreich

Early on in her stay in Port-au-Prince, writes Kathie Klarreich in her new memoir, Madame Dread: A Tale of Love, Vodou, and Civil Strife in Haiti (Nation Books), she saw a crowd and followed it. It led to the temporarily unoccupied home of a retired general, where people were engaged in dechoukaj, or “uprooting”–systematically and […]

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Valentine Victorious

Here endeth “The Valentine Trilogy,” which follows a single character–often, but not exclusively, known as Elliot Dodge–through adventures in three pop genres. The first installment was a western; the second, a samurai tale; and this one is a superhero saga set in 1930s Chicago. Think Road to Perdition meets Stupendous Man from Calvin and Hobbes. […]

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Cloud Cult, Kid Dakota

CLOUD CULT are the kind of earnest, idealistic, vaguely granola indie rockers who put solar panels on their tour van. But if they ever figure out how to convert bandleader Craig Minowa’s energy into electrical power, they’ll be able to do a lot more than ditch the photovoltaic cells–like maybe take a decent-size city off […]

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Jon Langford

The combination of Jon Langford and the Museum of Contemporary Art calls up some fond memories for me–I’ll never forget the Mekons’ 1997 MCA presentation of Pussy, King of the Pirates, which was one of Kathy Acker’s final performances. This time around Langford’s staging an autobiographical multimedia piece, The Executioner’s Last Songs, which is partly […]

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Brad Wheeler Quintet

Local saxist Brad Wheeler plays with an infectious passion, but it’s rooted as much in musical intellect as it is in his broad, swaggering tone on both tenor and soprano. Wheeler’s name might ring a bell: he grew up in the Chicago suburbs and hit the local scene hard and fast in the 80s, but […]