The North


The descriptor “easy listening” connotes saccharine elevator music, and “goes down easy” suggests diluted medicine. The debut album from The North, a Brooklyn-based piano trio, is called “Slow Down, This Isn’t the Mainland,” and the entire recording is indeed easy like Sunday morning and smooth as a polished seashell. But there’s nothing insipid or cloying; the journey is an aural pleasure. Recorded in Hawaii, “Slow Down” is relaxed, gentle, charming, approachable, and utterly pleasurable. The band covers Chick Corea, Thelonious Monk and Bob Dylan beautifully. The bulk of the project, though, is devoted to lyrical originals, mostly by pianist Romain Collin. His virtuosity, like bassist Shawn Conley and drummer Abe Lagrimas, never calls attention to itself. The North is all about songs — melodies and grooves and especially dynamics. Imagine the Bad Plus blissed out and chilling on a beach. The result is one of . . . → Read More: The North

Rob Gleeson

rob gleeson

Network television viewers might be acquainted with Rob Gleeson as a charming second-banana in various national commercials. Aficionados of the Los Angeles improv-comedy scene know him as a charming leading-man in various stand-up and storytelling shows. Raised in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin, minutes from the Konik childhood homestead, Gleeson’s energy and visage are Midwestern unthreatening, which serves him well when shilling for corporations. But his astonishing improvisational chops are what’s got us excited. A recent epic appearance on “The Todd Glass Show” podcast with fellow comic Ian Karmel demonstrated that Gleeson has the ears and wit to create humor out of virtually nothing. You’ve seen him, whether you meant to or not. Now, listen and smile.

Daniel Koren’s “The Most Important Thing”

the most important thing

When a performance is difficult to explain yet utterly cogent to live audiences, something suspiciously like art is probably happening. In the case of composer Daniel Koren’s “The Most Important Thing,” a mélange of music, video, dance, and comedy, the results are wildly entertaining, formally provocative, and resolutely their own thing. That’s not easy in a culture built on reiteration. But the Israeli-born, Berklee-educated, Brooklyn-based Koren appears to have an essential quality intrinsic to liberated creators: fearlessness. Disembodied heads singing in harmony; tiny hands clapping and snapping; nonsense syllables conglomerated into a symphony — “The Most Important Thing” is subversive, surreal, and, if you’re hip, unmissable.

Poem: On Watching a Bee Expire in the Garden

bee on the ground

Death and life are interchangeable,

inextricably entwined.

Without a brain there is no thinking,

no motoring of the mind.

Fret not about the end impending

when you suppose you’ll not be able


to kiss and laugh – oh, all the pleasures

almost justifies the pain.

Without a wound there is no succor,

unwelcome drought, cherished rain.

Call it fated, then call it luck, or

consign your dance to humble measures.


But dance you must. And singing! Loudly.

And loving oddly. And now

you see that when the playing concludes

what’s left is not about how

or when you tamed unbearable moods.

No. Embrace your death – and life – proudly.

Poem: When We Make Contact

The Other and Us

When we make contact

with the extraterrestrials, the Aliens as they’re called – the Other in its most foreign form –

when we do, what do you think will happen?

What will you feel?

Relief? Fear? Bewilderment? Ecstasy?

Will they be exactly like us, much improved? Or – and this seems more likely – will they

be nothing like us, magically so?

Who will be more intelligent? More evolved? Who will have

figured out the mystery of the universe most fully?

Could it be us? Would that make you happy or sad?

Will black holes and fifteenth dimensions and all that’s sublime and inscrutable

become known and understood?

Would that make life better or worse for you?

When we make contact with whoever is out there,

anything could happen.

Anything might happen.

And though we can’t quite yet hear their calls across the galaxies, maybe that’s . . . → Read More: Poem: When We Make Contact

Poem: Nostalgia

game players

If it’s not too early,

a bit premature for a fellow not quite ready,

I should like to look backward

on the imaginary continuum of then and now.

How marvelous it would be

to gaze beneficently

upon my childhood,


and maybe weeping softly

at all that’s been lost.


We called it the Court. Forty yards of hard-packed grass.

A giant elm was one goalpost, and a shorter piney thing was the other

and there was an asphalt ring around it

for racing and chasing

and we spent our childhoods there,

inventing games, skinning elbows, making friends, running away and running back

being boys

unable to imagine we would one day miss it all terribly,

as though it were dead,

as though it weren’t still there,

where it’s always been.

. . . → Read More: Poem: Nostalgia

Poem: Mind Your Business

angry mother puppet

When the angry mother of two successors to her gene pool

behaved with an absence of cool

failed to set a good example for her precious offspring

neglected to teach them the importance of thinking

about others

as though they were sisters or brothers

not competitors at a shrinking trough

she was at that moment a suckling sow

and knowing that this was known and henceforth always would be

by those who had seen her dereliction of parental duty

she lashed out at the one most aware

of her pugnacious absence of care

yelling almost screaming but not from sheer bliss

instructing onlookers to mind their own business.

Poem: Why Not Me?

Walk into the light

My friend the genius musician artist

said: “The three words that define Los Angeles are

Why Not Me?”

The correct question, as any enlightened person could tell you –

and probably would if given an opportunity

no matter how slender or conversationally tenuous, like a run-on sentence in an increasingly ponderous poem – the correct question, of course, is

“Why Me?”

Why have I been so extravagantly blessed with every single thing I have and

don’t have?

Poem: Your Choice

dark or light, you choose

Where you want to put it, fool?

On the dark?

All right.

I’ll say it again: All right.

All right. You know it’s gonna be

all right.

Everything is gonna be all right

even when it’s not.

Perfection includes imperfection.

And that includes you, fool.

Perfectly imperfect worry machine,

forgetting to clean

behind the scene, where we find your centrum, the magic locus,

the secret room where you choose to focus

on the one or the other, the either or the or,

the acceptance of less or the addiction to more,

the sympathetic fight or flight,

the brooding darkness and the eternal light.


Where you want to put it, fool?

On the light?

All right.

Yes. All right.

Poem: The Logic of Success

Fiji truth

Find someone else to do the actual work for you

While you sit in a chair

Pay this person less than their labor is worth

Add value to their labor by doing clever things

Such as advertising and storytelling

Conjure fantastical tales of how beneficial and sexy it would be to drink

South Pacific water shipped across the ocean

Arriving like salvation

Making the drinker’s life altogether better and certainly more sophisticated than

The average tap-slurping worker type

Who made the plastic bottle and put the liquid inside and carried it to a truck

Unloading it and loading it and unloading it until

Something that started out being free

Now magically costs several dollars

Because you have to pay for quality