EC’s Blog

News and observations from all over the musical map






Bike trips made easier by incorporating transit

Elaine C. Erb, 7 June 2016

Bike to Work Day is approaching and I look forward to riding with so many other cyclists on the roadway.

Like many people, biking in to work isn’t practical for me every day. It takes time, I might get sweaty, I might not have a shower awaiting, or I may have things to carry.

Through the years I have developed a few techniques to deal with these issues. Living near Boulder where developing a multi-modal network is a priority doesn’t hurt. If you don’t have access to these resources, let your local government know you want it!

My first approach is to take the bus to town or work. I often ride out to the bus,  place my bike on the front rack or underneath, and off I go. This gives me the option to bike around town, get to my appointments, and even shop for smaller items before I ride home. When it’s the end of the day I don’t feel as crushed for time or as concerned if I get a bit wet in rain or a bit sweaty biking home.

The bus opens up other opportunities. Yep, I’m one of those people who have been turned away from the bus as there was not room for the bike. That’s when using B-Cycle bike share comes in handy. My bus has easy access to three different B-Cycle stations in Boulder. I like to look online before I leave home to assure that there are bikes where I want to pick them up and openings where I want to deliver them, and smart phone users can download an app to have ready access to that information. B-Cycle is especially great when I need to start in one spot, run some errands, and end up at another location. At my final stop I hope to have easy access to a bus home or maybe a friend is heading in the same direction.

Boulder provides another great option – Bus-Bike shelters. Secure bike parking is a crucial component to any community trying to open up options for people to switch their commute. By having a spot where I can leave a bike safely for an extended period, I know I can get around downtown Boulder on my little blue Murray Missile. It’s fun to ride, equipped with frog lights so I can ride after dark if I need, and works for quick trips in the downtown. Since it’s one-speed, heavy, and uses coaster brakes, I don’t especially like to take it long distances or to University Hill, but perfect for making a bunch of stops in a close radius.

This week (June 5-11) is Boulder’s June Bike Week Challenge and we are asking people to log bike rides of at least ten minutes. What a great way to warm up for Bike to Work Day, June 22, and get out and ride. Whether you ride at home with family or friends, take a mid-day ride, or ride to work, we’d love to have you count your ride at If you aren’t in the Boulder/Denver area, go ahead and visit to learn more about logging your rides and how this encouragement program can help your community.

So don’t be afraid to ride your bike for a part of your commute.

Sept.23 2014

Physical Listening

I like to start my day in our quiet upstairs space with a view to the mountains. Spontaneous movements and tai chi warm-ups lead in to a yoga and stretching routine I’ve followed and modified for nearly thirty years.

Even though the core of the routine is the same, every day is a little bit different. Some days go longer, and some days I just do a few sun salutations. I find I need to tune in to my body, what it needs or wants, what areas need a bit more attention. After practicing aikido, tai chi, and yoga through the years I’ve lived in Boulder, I can fine-tune my practice to work out those kinks that build up through a day.

At heart, what I need to do is listen to my body. Sometimes listening happens beyond the ears. This is true in so many aspects of our life, whether it’s talking and being with friends, being on our own, or playing music with others.

The practice of listening to oneself, not the brain buzz and the cravings, but the true needs that will nurture a mind, a body, a soul, helps us as we move in our daily lives.  I’m convinced that listening more and better, both to oneself and to those around us, is a practice with benefits for all.

In an interview, I once heard Laurie Anderson talk about how much she liked to go for a walk and let it be a walking meditation. She shut out the inner chatter, she avoided headphones, and she listened and paid attention to the day. Afterwards, she indicated, it helped open up her creativity and ideas. For me, those moments let me relish the beauty of moments of silence, or of hearing my derailleur click as I coast on a bike, or of the sound of birds and leaves and wind.

We all know people who don’t really listen, and I always feel that they are missing out on special moments in the world. One man who loves to read and learn is always listing off facts and trivia. Often he’s correct, but on occasion I’ve found him to be wrong. Right or wrong, his factoids never lead to actual discussion. If his latest interest is rattling off numbers in Vietnamese, there’s no digressing into why different cultures write numbers differently. I prefer the discussion that winds up in the unknown place.

Musically, I love when musicians are truly listening to each other. I pick up when one player hears a new twist on a lick by another and gives that smile or nod that acknowledges it. In a recent performance by sarod master Rajeev Taranath, it was wonderful to watch the interplay with the tabla player, the way one would interpret the other’s line.  But I’ve watched other musicians who are striving to improv where one player invariably has to have the last note. I more appreciate the player in an improv session who sits the whole while not playing a thing, recognizing that the other players have it covered.

We all need to find our own ways to unplug and find our silence, our center. Here’s hoping we all take that moment to remove the headphones, turn off the device, take a deep breath, and just listen.

Jan. 9 2014

EC’s must listens for 2013

Artist, Release, Label, Website

Silk Road Ensemble w/ Yo-Yo Ma, A Playlist Without Borders, Sony Masterworks,

Yo-Yo Ma was classically trained but his hallmark now is as a ‘crossover’ musician. His interest in working with musicians from different styles and cultures draws him to many fascinating projects.  The Silk Road Project was founded in 1998 to pursue musical interests along the Silk Road and to create an educational platform to share and develop music.  This striking CD includes music from John Zorn, Vijay Iyer, and pipa player Wu Man.

Ben Goldberg/Nels Cline/ Rob Sudduth/Ellery Eskelin/Ches Smith, Unfold Ordinary Mind, BAG, https://ben-goldberg–

Clarinetist Ben Goldberg wanted to play bass on a project. So he enlisted some friends including sax players Sudduth and Eskelin and guitarist Nels Cline, freeing him to use the Eb clarinet as the bass part. With talented young drummer Ches Smith, this lineup made for one of the most entertaining shows we saw in 2013.

Anoushka Shankar, Traces of You, Deutsche Grammophon

The daughter of Ravi Shankar, Anoushka studied music with her father and was signed to her first record deal by the age of 16. Under the direction of Nitin Sawhney, she strikes a good balance of contemporary music rooted in Indian classical music for this release, largely inspired by the passing of her father. Norah Jones joins on a few tracks and Sawhney uses her voice to great effect on the title track in particular.

Rokia Traore, Beautiful Africa, Nonesuch,

What draws one in to Rokia Traore is her commanding voice; rich and flavorful, one still hears her passion whether she is singing in Bambara, French or English. The 2009 release Tchamantche brought her to prominence and she remains one of Mali’s preeminent musicians.  Traore’s writing on relevant topics and performance on guitar and ngoni set her apart from many of her contemporaries.

Atoms for Peace, Amok, XL,

While Thom Yorke is best known for his role fronting Radiohead, he released a solo album, The Eraser in 2006. To inaugurate Atoms for Peace, he and Nigel Godrich along with Flea, Mauro Refosco, and Joey Waroneker performed that release in its entirety without initially tipping off the talent behind the scenes. Percussionist Refosco has also worked with David Byrne and Forro in the Dark. The Radiohead influence is still obvious yet the sounds are fresh.

Khaira Arby, Timbuktu Tarab, Clermont ,

I admit to having a soft spot for Malian women singers. Arby has been singing in Mali for over 20 years but is only just getting known in North America. I was first introduced to her at the Globalquerque Festival ( Performing in Sonrhai (her local tongue), Tamashek(the language of the Tuareg), as well as Bambara and Arabic, Arby does not shy away from political views.  This is true music from the heart.

Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba, Jama Ko, Out Here,

So much of the music we get in the US coming from Africa comes from Mali so it is hard not to have this country of 14.5 million people so well represented here. Ngoni Ba performed with Bela Fleck in 2010 and introduced US audiences to the banjo related ngoni. Ngoni Ba features not one, but four stellar ngoni players.

Sigur Ros, Kveikur, XL,

That other group from Iceland has helped bring the great variety of music from the small north Atlantic island country to light. Stepping away from some of their old sounds, Sigur Ros has a harder edge on this release. I’m always happy to hear a group willing to reinvent their sound, especially when they’ve had the degree of success like Sigur Ros.

Frederico Aubele, 5, 13 Records,

. Part electronic, part tango and totally his own, Argentinean born Aubele draws from a myriad of influences for his music. Some electronic music loses me. I don’t like the sterility and the metronomic effect. But Aubele brings a warmth to his material that deserves a listen.

Paris Combo, 5, DRG Records,

Back for their fifth release, Paris Combo has helped bring to life a revival in Parisian Café music. Drawing on influences from jazz to chanteuse, punk and gypsy, it’s obvious that this is a group that is having fun. I like that they print their lyrics in French inside the CD, but you can read the translations on the website.

Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City, XL.

When I first heard Vampire Weekend, they felt like a guilty pleasure. They’ve continued with their style of clever and catchy pop. When other bands have been moving away from hooks and melody, Vampire Weekend relishes that.

Tartit with Imharhan, Live from the Sahara, Clermont,

Tartit was the first Tuareg group I ever saw live and I was so taken by them, I made sure to see them each of the three days of the WOMAD festival. This outing includes a bit more electric sound, but the core of Tartit’s sound is the trance inducing vocals led by Disco and four other women on vocals and Tinde drum. The four men of the group sing, dance, and play instruments and help to create a family and community environment in the music.

Mavis Staples, One True Vine, Anti,

Classy, soulful, irrepressible. Another collaboration with Jeff Tweedy.

Also worth listening:

Neko Case; The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You. Anti Records

Flaming Lips, The Terror, W Bros.

Devendra Banhart, Mala, Nonesuch,

Tribecastan, New Songs from the Old Country,Evergreene,

Haxan Cloak, Excavation, Tri Angle Records,

Fuck Buttons, Slow Focus, ATP,

Four Tet, Beautiful Rewind, Temporary Residence,

CocoRosie, Tales of a GrassWidow, Transistor,

Califone, Stitches, Dead Oceans,

© 2014 Falling Mountain Music

Nov. 11 2012

How We Listen

After I’d left my job as music director at KGNU but while I was working as studio manager at a local music studio, I remember having a discussion with an acquaintance about listening to music.

His claim was that he listened to music more deeply than I did.  It gave me pause but I refused to agree with him. While I may not be a performing musician, I’m trained in listening and recognizing what I like in music. The things I love, I do listen to intently and repeatedly. I listen for the patterns, how it was layered and constructed, how the voices and rhythms interact. I pay attention to how the players interact.

My answer to him is that we all listen to music differently. Who among us doesn’t have a piece of music or a style that we can go to on a down day to help lift us up? Maybe there is music that helps make a dull or repetitive task pass more quickly. The music I listen to while cleaning house may bring me joy but is likely not the most profound music I know. Gorecki need not be played while toilets need cleaning. A Love Supreme is not what I want on if higher math skills are required. But a little Motown while I shake out the rugs, oh yeah.

I often put on music to see what it is that catches my attention. As music director at a community radio station, it was my job to wade through some hundred CDs that arrived every week. Obviously not all of them hit the player, but those that did needed to catch my attention. It was the lucky CD that had me return to the player at the end only to hit start again.

Likewise, there are times where I don’t listen to music. Much as I love to ride my bike, I prefer to hear the natural sounds around me. Meadowlarks and red-winged blackbirds announce the arrival of spring. Fall walks among crisp leaves remind us of the turn of the cycle. Squeaky snow helps me know how cold it is outside.

I’ve now been to two performances of John Cage’s 4:33. We were amused as the first encounter was in fact performed by a vocalist whereas Cage more envisioned a pianist doing the presentation. Of course a vocalist brought a lot of drama to the moment. Repositioning of the score differentiated each movement. More recently I heard 4:33 done by a pianist but somehow the use of an iPhone for the timing left a duller sensation. The counting down of the time seemed more significant than being in the moment.  Where I spent time after the first performance pondering how the vocalist had profoundly different experiences as she prepared, the pianist had me unconvinced that he took the piece seriously or rehearsed the piece.

But what really got me started on the current thread of how we listen was finally seeing the film Sound of Noise. This delightful film was released in Sweden in 2010. A Repo Man for the new millennium, it’s an outrageous yet dark humor. But what is really striking is how the film soundtrack is so totally synced to the visuals.

Based on a premise of a music piece that is conducted in different locales in a city, the performers must infiltrate major institutions to perform the different movements. Who among us hasn’t heard the rhythms and aural textures of our own workplace or home environment? Certainly heavy machinery can be grating, but can’t you also hear its patterns and how it adds to the sonic fullness of many urban environments.

Sound of Noise is not a deep film, but it’s charming in its touch of anarchy and rebellion in the pursuit of art. The performers seem not concerned with an audience as much as pulling of a portion of their symphony. We, the film audience, feel more like voyeurs to their exploits of sonic disobedience.

What’s particularly striking is that the soundtrack to the film is not the most engaging music. But it opens us up to the possibility that music can be created anywhere, with anything.

© 2012 Falling Mountain Music

EC’s 2011 music faves

Whenever I work on a list of my favorite music from a year, I never come up with an even ten. I’m sure I’m missing some great releases, but here’s a list of the music that spoke to me in 2011.Artist – Album – Label

1. Tinariwen – Tassili – Anti

Tinariwen has led a wave of recognition of the music and culture of the Tuareg, or Kel Tamashek people, a Berber people from the Sahara. On their latest, they return to more acoustic musical roots while involving friends like TV on the Radio and Nels Cline. You know they are gaining recognition when they play on Stephen Colbert’s show.

2. Bill Frisell/Vinicius Cantuaria – Lagrimas Mexicanas – eOne

Frisell and Cantuaria have played on each other’s albums and collaborated on the Intercontinentals project. These two fine guitarists complement each other nicely. A native of Brazil, Cantuaria began writing the material after moving to New York and being inspired by the diversity of cultures, especially Latin cultures in his neighborhood. His lyrics flow from Portuguese to Spanish and English.

3. Tom Waits – Bad as Me – Anti

Waits has been making albums since 1973. His music has taken on a decidedly edgier turn since his collaborations with Kathleen Brennan. Ever the collaborator, this album includes appearances from artists like Keith Richards and Marc Ribot.

4. Mamani Keita – Gagner L’Argent Français – No Format

Keita was lead singer of the group Tama whose albums for Real World I still enjoy. On her latest, she’s found her groove in working with French producer Nicolas Repac. Where formerly he layered too many effects for my taste, here they hit the right balance of modern instrumentation while letting her lovely voice shine.

5. Mamak Khadem – A Window to Color – M Khadem

I’ve only just gotten to hear this release but I love it. What a great voice and range of textures. You may have heard Khadem before as the voice of Axiom of Choice. This beautiful release is inspired by the Persian poetry and paintings of Sohrab Sepehri.

6. TUnEyArDs – Whokill

It’s too rare lately for artists to come along with a unique voice. Merrill Garbus draws on a diverse range of influences to come up with a project distinctly her own. Whokill is the second album by Garbus and we can’t wait to hear where she goes from here.

7. Brian Eno – Drums Between the Bells – Warp

After all these years Eno remains prolific and interesting. Drums Between the Bells is a collaboration between Eno and poet Rick Holland. Holland recites only one of his own works and the resulting mix of voices adds nice texture to this release.

8. Gillian Welch – Harrow and the Harvest – Acony

Considering how long Welch has been performing, it’s hard to believe that Harrow and the Harvest is only her sixth album. It was entirely worth the wait. With haunting songs like The Way it Will Be, Welch keeps alive a vital element in the folk revival scene.

9. Terakaft – Aratan N Azawad – World Village

Did I mention how much I enjoy the music of the Tuareg? When I first heard Terakaft, I only liked one song that had a fun reggae groove. Here they strike similar tones to Tinariwen while retaining their own sound.

10. Kate Bush – 50 Words for Snow – Anti

I’m from Michigan where winters were cold and snowy. I appreciate all the seasons of the year. Perhaps this is why I love albums that bring out the qualities of cold and snow without dwelling on the holidays or the discomfort of cold. Hector Zazou did it with Songs from the Cold Seas and now we have this offering from Kate Bush. Great to enjoy while sitting by a cozy fire sipping your hot tea or cocoa.

11. Kiran Ahluwalia – Common Ground – Avokado

Ahluwalia is based in Canada, of Indian heritage, and now explores the sound of Pakistani Qawwali music. She recruits Tuareg musicians Tinariwen to accompany her on the classic track Mustt Mustt. While they frequently use handclaps in their music, you can hear the difference in approach from traditional Qawwali, and yet, they do find common ground.

12. Various Artists – Rough Guide to the Best Music You’ve Never Heard – World Music Network

I could feel guilty about naming a compilation as a best of, but I won’t. The Rough Guide series continue to expose layers of music from around the globe and make it available to the rest of us. As they move into the realm of digital distribution, they came up with a great concept to launch digital only releases. Some of us may have heard a few of these tracks before, but everyone will find some gems to enjoy, whether you are looking for great African guitar tracks, stunning vocals, or unusual instrumentation.

13. Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, Chris Thile – Goat Rodeo Sessions – Sony Classical

Classical purists may not like the energy Yo-Yo Ma puts into crossover projects but he seems to have fun with them. Wonderful playing all around. Michael would place this much higher.

14. Nels Cline, Tim Berne, Jim Black – The Veil – Cyrptogramophone

Every album Nels Cline does has its own feel, which is one of the reasons I like his work. One of my favorite all around guitarists. He’s picked appropriate collaborators for this project.

15. Wilco – The Whole Love – Anti

My sister is the big Wilco fan in our family. I enjoy and follow their music and think Nels Cline has been a great addition to the group. The final song, One Sunday Morning is what makes this.

16. Brian Carpenter’s Ghost Train Orchestra – Hothouse Stomp – Accurate

Fun, swingy, and upbeat.

17. Joe Henry– Reverie – Anti

I really enjoy Joe Henry’s songwriting and presentation. Sometimes a whole album at one sitting is a lot as he doesn’t have the broadest palette, but when you take the time to listen to a song like Dark Tears, you hear more take away lines in the one piece than many artists put together in a lifetime.

18. Jeff Gauthier Goatette – Open Source – Cryptogramophone

Gauthier is the head of Cryptogramophone Records. A true believer that jazz is alive and well, he surrounds himself with talented players and gives them the room to create and play the music they love. It’s always a treat when he finds the time to put out his own material.



Top Albums 2010

I listen to a lot of music in a year, though don’t get to hear everything that’s released. Here’s a list of the music that caught my ear. Hope you find some gems you might want to explore further. To hear these and other international and jazz music, look for me on the KGNU schedule and tune in to 88.5fm Boulder/Denver or online.

          Artist                  Album          Label

1. Laurie Anderson     Homeland     Nonesuch

Laurie is back with a reflective, stirring, timely album. Integrating material she’s worked on live including the outgrowth of a science and the arts grant from NASA, Anderson offers up her unique take of our times. Produced by husband, Lou Reed. Fun fact – did you know they got married here in Boulder by E-Town’s Nick Forster?

2. Tony Allen    Secret Agent     Nonesuch

Tony Allen served for years as drummer to Fela Kuti. His sound is heavily influenced by Kuti’s signature Afrobeat, but is so much more. A rich album with plenty of catchy riffs.

3. Tom Waits     Glitter and Doom Live     Anti

Tom Waits has produced many albums through the years, though not many of them were done live. This is a great chance to hear his off beat storytelling, both in song and on the accompanying disc of only stage banter. Includes Trampled Rose which was popularized by Alison Krauss on her project with Robert Plant.

4. Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabate    Ali & Toumani           Nonesuch

A second collaboration from two of Mali’s finest performers. Recorded in 2005, the year before Toure’s death, the material is only now released. Lovely African guitar and kora duos.

5. Mulatu Astatke    Steps Ahead    Strut

Popular in Ethiopia since the 1960s, Astatke has gained a new following in the US since his collaboration with the Boston big band, Either/Orchestra. Steps Ahead finds him continuing the collaboration on both new and classic material.

6. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba        I Speak Fula                 Next Ambience

Renowned ngoni player Kouyate has played with some of the greats, including Ali Farka Toure, Taj Mahal, and Carlos Santana. Kouyate toured with Bela Fleck on the Throw Down Your Heart tour, opening up new audiences to his African lute.

7. Afrocubism     Afrocubism     Nonesuch

More from Bassekou Kouyate. Here he’s part of the African contingent collaborating with Cuban musician Eliades Ochoa. This is the project originally envisioned 14 years ago, but when the musicians from Africa didn’t show, the Buena Vista Social Club project was created.

8. Greg Ruby Quartet     Look Both Ways    Greg Ruby Music

Seattle-based guitarist Ruby has been playing Gypsy Swing with Pearl Django and Hot Club Sandwich. His original compositions celebrate the 100th anniversary of Django Reinhardt’s birth. Ruby is a fluid and fast player and a fine composer.

9. Darrell Katz & Jazz Composer’s Alliance Orchestra                                                                     A Wallflower in the Amazon         Accurate Records

Katz has been leading the JCAO for 25 years. His original compositions are blended with blues for a different twist on the jazz big band sound.

10. Esperanza Spaulding     Chamber Music Society      Heads Up

Very talented Portland based bass player on her third release. At 26, she already has her own distinct sound and feel. Spalding reminds us that jazz is still a living, breathing style.

11. Portico Quartet      Isla        Real World

These young British artists discovered the hang drum, which is now a cornerstone of their sound. The melding of symphonic and cinematic with the smooth steel sound of the hang makes for a beautiful release.

12. Maya Beiser      Provenance        Innova

Forget the cover of Kashmir, the commissioned pieces on this album are what make it. Beiser, a cellist formerly involved with Bang on a Can, delves into music from Armenia, Persia, Israel and the US. Harkening the golden age of Spain, Beiser celebrates her diverse heritage.

13. Nils Petter Molvaer     Hamada       Thirsty Ear

The more I listen to Molvaer, the more I like him. Based in the jazz tradition, Molvaer moves beyond, incorporating cinematic and new age styles for a very meditative sound. Norwegian Molvaer is one of the reminders that jazz lives today, and can often be found in Scandinavia.

14. Mavis Staples      You Are Not Alone       Anti

Two great talents from Chicago join forces to bring us You Are Not Alone. Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy produced Mavis, daughter of Pops Staples and member of the classic Staple Singers. Mavis here shows off her soul, grace, and humor.

15. Catherine Russell      Inside this Heart of Mine         World Village

Cat Russell is one of today’s fine soulful, jazzy singers. Raised in a musical family, she’s done her share of supporting work. Her third release shows off her confident alto voice on classic and contemporary material without over relying on the standards.

16. Nels Cline Singers      Initiate      Cryptogramophone

Even before joining Wilco, Cline was one of my favorite guitarists. With a foot in the rock and jazz worlds, Cline is innovative and fun.

17. Amira/ Merima Ključo      Zumra       World Village

A lovely and haunting collection of Bosnian music. Vocal and accordion.

18. Claudia Quintet      Royal Toast      Cuneiform

John Hollenbeck is one of contemporary music’s modern innovators. Each release brings new sounds and moods. Claudia Quintet is but one of his outlets and includes bassist Drew Gress and clarinet/sax player Chris Speed. Hollenbeck proves jazz and the New York scene continue to thrive.

19. California Guitar Trio      Andromeda       Inner Knot

Andromeda marks the return to original compositions for Guitar Craft veterans the CGT. Highlighting the unique skills to each member, you rarely hear the acoustic guitar sound so electric as you do with the CGT.

20. Either/Orchestra      Mood Music for Time Travelers Accurate Records

Boston-based big band the E/O has spent the last chunk of years working with Ethiopian musicians. Their latest release serves up the new material they’ve been writing in the interim. Under the leadership of Russ Gershon, E/O highlights the wide range that a jazz big band can cover.

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