Fiona Apple's newest album catches fire-unofficially.
The first time I heard Spoon I was living in Japan and had no idea who they were. A free music-mag CD containing Back to the Life alerted me to their existence, and quite frankly, it blew me away, becoming the soundtrack to a long sweat-soaked summer. I also assumed they were English. So imagine my shock when I discovered they were Texans and had long been considered perennial underachievers by the U.S. indie cognoscenti. Well, fuck them-what do they know? Longtime admirers will be pleased to know little has changed with this latest release. The vague echoes of late-'70s Bowie and XTC are still firmly in place, backed up by shards of piano-wire guitar, crisp, sparse production and best of all, Britt Daniel's intense nasal whine (which sounds like John Lennon with a severe head cold). Gimme Fiction is more a refinement of the sound perfected on their previous album, which is fine. If you're looking for willfully experimental, avant-overindulgence, go elsewhere. But if you're looking for wired, small-town neuroticism, you've come to the right place. B (Neil Ferguson)
Donald L. Maggin
Dizzy: The Life and Times of John Birks Gillespie
Donald L. Maggin last wrote a well-received biography of tenor saxophonist Stan Getz-he of the bossa nova bop and West Coast cool. Now Maggin tackles the more complex legend of Dizzy Gillespie. Bebop founder Gillespie was an improviser nonpareil and the leading light of Afro-Cuban jazz. Later, when the popularity of big band jazz waned, the trumpeter created a big band of his own and reinvigorated the form. Gillespie was warm and generous, and tends to be remembered as he appears in many of the archival photos in Maggin's book: laughing and showing off those balloon-like cheeks. Maggin nicely complicates that picture. Though Maggin investigates Gillespie's struggles, his focus is on the music. (A CD with tracks that span Gillespie's career is being released in conjunction with the book.) By detailing Gillespie's evolution as an artist and his collaborations with other musicians, Maggin draws a compelling portrait of musical genius. Note to Philly-philes: About 20 pages in this 422-page tome deal with Gillespie's family home and his performances here. (Liz Spikol)