Friday, March 23, 2012

CD Review: Conversations with Christian by Christian McBride

"Stank!" jazz bassist Christian McBride cries as he accompanies Gina Gershan on Jew’s harp on his new CD, “Conversations with Christian.”
“I ain’t never heard no funky Jew’s harp before,” he said on the CD.
McBride, who played in Kalamazoo, Mich., last fall, may be more prolific than you think. Not only did he create a CD of his compositions in big band form last fall with his release, “The Good Feeling,”  he soon followed that with this star-filled CD of duets, “Conversations.” Each artist has his or her own style and plays individually with McBride.
The artists include Sting on vocals, Chic Corea on piano, Dr. Billy Taylor on piano, Dee Dee Bridgewater on vocals, Regina Carter on violin, Angelique Kidjo on vocals, Hank Jones on piano, George Duke on piano, Ron Blake on sax, Eddie Palmieri on piano and Russell Malone on guitar.
Since bass players perform with many different musicians, they cover great musical territory during work and this CD shows the pop cross currents that McBride has been exposed to.
It starts off briskly with Kudjo’s “Afirika” and Sting is a later highlight in “Consider Me Gone.” “Conversations with Christian” is passionate, focused jazz.

CD Review: Radio Music Society by Esperanza Spalding

Come join Esperanza Salding’s ride to stardom.
With her new CD, “Radio Music Society,” a CD/DVD combination, it is easy to see why she won a 2011 Grammy as the year’s best New Artist. 
Spalding, a jazz bass player, is the complete package. She is talented, full of personality, slender and attractive, and the camera loves her. Creating a DVD was an excellent decision as she is best appreciated seen, not just heard. 
“Radio Music Society” features her handsome bass and delicate voice. She has a creativity that can not be denied. But I’m still waiting for a hit single.

Martini's special: The more you chew, the better it gets

Chef Marlon Manty, of Martini's, created this baby arugula salad with roasted asparagus and mushrooms with procuitto toast and egg as a $9 special. Chef Mandy is planning a new spring menu at Martini's, 832 S. Westnedge Ave. in Kalalmazoo, Mich. (Bradley S. Pines / ©2012)
Is it finger food, or is it salad?
It’s really both as Chef Marlon Manty combines lettuce, chopped egg, asparagus, and a giant triangular crouton grilled with fancy Speck ham. The more you chew the Speck, the better it gets. The crumbled hard-boiled egg, about one-third of a whole egg, added richness.
The dish was a special at Martini’s, 832 S. Westnedge Ave., in Kalamazoo, Mich., yesterday. Manty is creating a new spring menu. If you haven’t been to Martini’s in a while, there’s a great excuse to visit. 
Manty is an old-school chef, eschewing both an email account and a cell phone. said, “I just work with fire and knives.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A surprise dance, a night to remember

The dance seemed to go on forever.
That was a good thing. How often do you get a belly dance with your meal, from the chef?

I shake my feathers as Chef Channon Mondoux shakes everything else.
(Photos by Mark Bugnaski)
About 20 local chefs and volunteers threw a retirement party for me on Feb. 19 at BraVo! Restaurant and Cafe in Kalamazoo. 
I was showered with hugs. It’s just amazing that people can have fond memories of me like that. There were more than 200 people there.
Beyond all of the great food, a belly dance by a local chef, culinary educator and historian, Channon Mondoux, provided the highlight of the evening. 
The chefs sat me in a chair, and I thought, “What’s going on?” as they dressed me in an Arabian hat and cape, and beckoned me to watch the dance. Wow, Chef Mondoux. 
The aromas were incredible as meats were grilled in the rear of the restaurant. Pickles were homemade by Billy Sutcliff, of Cafe 237 in Paw Paw, himself another stage-4 cancer survivor. His ham, in proscuitto form, had been curing for months at his restaurant, reserved for such a special occasion. Most chefs prepared more than 150 portions. I was overjoyed and impressed. 

 I had spent 23 years trying to share the lives of local chefs with the community. The party was a reminder of that. The chefs had made many of the foods I had highlighted in stories in the paper. I was the center of attention, so I didn’t get the chance to taste much of the food. My family got to see that I had become a success, and that I wasn’t just the weird one. I was always the weird cousin, talking about news and different foods. I saw that people really respected me. Their generosity was stunning.

What people didn’t know was that a life and death drama was going on at my home that night. The family cat, Bob, had a potentially fatal urinary blockage. Bob had to be taken to the pet emergency hospital that night. Half of the family was at the party with me and half was at the pet hospital. Bob survived. I call him “The Thousand Dollar Cat.” 

Here’s a link to John A. Lacko’s gallery of images from the party:

Here’s a link to Mark Bugnaski’s Facebook gallery of images from the party: