Gary Clark Jr. – House Of Blues, Orlando 2/20/16

Muddy Waters.  Chuck Berry.  Buddy Guy.  BB King.  Eric Clapton.  Jimi Hendrix.  Stevie Ray Vaughan…Gary Clark Jr.

Since the beginning of the 20th Century, every music generation has had their blues heroes, innovators and saviors.  For the current generation of musicians that have been searching and starving for that next true bluesman, Gary Clark Jr. has staked his claim to this lofty perch.  Now, this isn’t exactly breaking news at this point of his continually blossoming career.  Some version of this statement has been said, written, and celebrated countless times before.  So, why say it again?  Well, one cannot fully grasp the absolute truth of that lofty statement until they’ve seen this man live and in person, and on a perfect Saturday evening in Central Florida, the proof was in the pudding…or rather, his viciously raw and dirty, yet smooth and crystalline texture of a guitar tone that knows no bounds. Continue reading

Mashed Cauliflower: (almost) Better Than Taters

When you make the best mashed potatoes of all time, it’s tough to not eat that creamy, mashy, garlicky, deliciousness at every moment possible.  There’s only a few flaws in that formula (starches + fat + calories = continually expanding stretchy pants).  So, yeah.  There needs to be another way to get this fix without going bankrupt from having to regularly buy new clothes.  Thankfully, mashed cauliflower is coming to the rescue.  Sure, it most certainly isn’t mashed taters, but it’s really darn close.  This recipe is also quick, easy and HEALTHY. So, no time to wax poetic.  Let’s get mashing! Continue reading

This Soup Is Neither Italian, Nor A Wedding…Discuss

In keeping with my current winter recipe kick (I mean…it is winter, after all) here’s the latest one-pot wonder to keep you warm and satisfied, without expanding your waistline.  Italian Wedding Soup.  Now, this is one of those recipes that you can tweak about a hundred different ways.  Some call for chicken meatballs, some for pork and beef.  Some pre-cook said meatballs and some poach them in the broth itself.  Some don’t have carrots and some do.  Some say you should finish it with parmesan and some have you whisk raw eggs into the hot broth.  No matter which way you simmer it, in order for the soup to be considered of the “Italian Wedding” variety, it needs to have meatballs, spinach, and small pasta in a chicken broth.  So, here’s my take on it.  Just so you know, this recipe yields a whole lot o’ soup and it’s absolutely delicious. Continue reading

Chili, Because It’s…Well…Chilly

As my friends up in the Northeast can attest to…it’s winter.  The struggle is even oh so real down here in the FLA.  It got down in the mid 30’s last week (GASP!!!).  I know.  Cry me an ice cube tray of frozen tears.  Regardless if it’s a Class-5-Kill-Storm or a Florida-frost-warning-freakout, this is the time of year when all you really want at the top of your list of food choices are whether or not said meal will take the chill out of the bones.  Not too many would argue that there’s no better food to help in that endeavor than a good ol’ bowl of chili.  And in the interest of keeping our meal choices figure friendly this time of year, I’ve decided to go with a White Bean Chicken Chili recipe that will not only warm you up and satisfy your appetite, it won’t have you using those leftover gift cards from Christmas to buy larger clothes. Continue reading

Dad’s Kitchen: PIZZA!!!

My Dad’s pretty awesome.  So much so, that he’s willing to divulge his secrets for a KILLER pizza.  Not that I’m biased or anything, but his pizza is as good as anything you’ll ever eat.  He’s been making this homemade circle of deliciousness since my brother and I were kids, but the recipe for the dough has been a continual work in progress over the years.  It’s always been good, but like all the greats, he’s never satisfied until it’s perfect.  And now, at 64-years of age, he’s got a pizza dough recipe that’s pretty darn close to perfect.  Not bad for an Irishman from Levittown. Continue reading

(Legal) Magic Mushrooms

I’m with ya.  The holidays are done and the (over) indulging on just about everything has you feeling like a big fatty McFat fat.  I get it.  Drinking is fun…and sometimes needed during the holidays.  Eating rich, fatty, carb-loaded foods at all hours without regard for your own well-being is awesome.  But, of course, we know this type of behavior cannot sustain itself.  We have clothes we like to wear and these eating/drinking habits are making us angry at said clothes for not fitting anymore.  Aside from the fact that directing hate toward an inanimate object is just weird and deserving of medication, we can’t just throw money at a new wardrobe every year because we can’t stop our waistline from expanding faster than the universe (NERD ALERT!!!).  It’s time to do your body and your favorite pair of jeans a favor.  Cook up some low-cal deliciousness (yes, it’s possible) and I’m here to help. Continue reading

Snarky Puppy @ The Plaza Live 1/5/16

As Tuesday morning rolled around, I hadn’t made up my mind whether or not I was going to attend this show.  I’d heard of Snarky Puppy, but had barely even listened to a note of their music.  The one thing I did know, however, was that nearly every single one of my favorite musicians showered this band with praise when they won their Grammy in 2014 for “Best R&B Performance.”  This alone made me think twice about even entertaining the idea of missing this band’s first ever Orlando appearance.  So I paid the $43 for a day-of ticket, watched a few of their videos online and joined up with my group of music-obsessed friends to see a band I really knew nothing about.

I will say, there’s something very liberating about going into a show with zero expectations and a certain level of ignorance.  I know within the jam band community we can all get hung up on chasing certain songs and critiquing a set list far past the realm of normalcy.  So just being there for the sole reason to experience the superhuman level of musicianship this band possesses felt a touch foreign…but very freeing.  Oh, and when I say superhuman…this is not hyperbole.  Holy hell, this band can play!

The 1st set (which admittedly, I missed most of), Banda Magda took the stage with Snarky Puppy for what I can only describe as a set of highly hypnotic acid jazz grooves, mixed with Latin American rhythms, set to the otherworldly French vocal stylings (and accordion playing) of Magda Giannikou.  Ya.  A mind bending musical excursion that was only about to get turned up a notch.

The 2nd set saw Snarky Puppy put on a display of pure instrumental insanity.  With the genius-level talent of bassist and band leader, Michael League, Snarky Puppy played a set that defied and refused to conform to any single musical convention.  At certain moments, it kinda broke my brain.

The seamless melding of so many different styles of music, all while keeping a cohesive distinct “sound”, is just miraculous.  The way I hear it, the main foundation of Snarky Puppy’s music sits solidly within smoky, back room, acid jazz stylings, twinged with Spanish, Middle Eastern and other “world” rhythms.  Within this framework, they manage to somehow find their way into moments of slow, slinky, soul, pure pocket funk, super catchy pop melodies and the occasional Moog induced giddiness courtesy of the mad scientist of keyboard rhythms and atmospheres, Cory Henry.

For a group of musicians to have such complete control over music this complicated, the rhythm section comprised of the aforementioned League, along with Nate Werth (Percussion) and Larnell Lewis (Drums), is crucial to making Snarky Puppy the ultimate groove machine that they are.  Playing in time signatures I can only aspire to understand, all 9 musicians on stage (constantly taking direction from League) will stop on a dime, change tempo, switch the groove, and go from nothing but a whisper to a joyous scream without 1 musician missing a cue.  I swear there were moments where even the band couldn’t believe what they just played.  This is music from the future, yet somehow rooted in grooves and styles that have been around for hundreds of years.

In an evening full of highlights, there was none better than the set closing “Shofukan” (thank you for the song title, setlist.fm).  What starts in a very eerie, almost Arabic space of jazz-fusion, devolves into what feels like an almost spaghetti-western style standoff soundtrack, where a lone trumpet (Justin Stanton) muses away as a very minimal soundscape rhythm holds everything in place.  As the intensity and urgency of the atmosphere builds, they throw the whole thing upside down and launch into an all-out, get down, hands-in-the-air rager with the entire crowd singing along to the instantly memorable horn section melody.  The crowd/band interaction during this moment may have even caught the band by surprise as they stopped playing just to hear (and take video on their phones) of the “singalong” before slamming into a reprise.

Not too shabby for a Tuesday.

Have Yourself an Old Fashioned Kind ‘o New Year

For those of us who buck trends, think outside the box, live the life of a rebel and cause all sorts of head-scratching social mayhem by not being a part of all the New Years Eve riff-raff and enjoy a (many) cocktail in the comfort of our own home with a carefully selected group of friends/family…I have a drink for your impressively refined taste.

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THE MAPLE OLD FASHIONED

  • 2 oz of good bourbon (I dig Bulleit)
  • 1 tsp Dark Amber Maple Syrup (if I catch you using Mrs. Butterworth, you’re gonna get blacklisted)
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 2 dashes Orange Bitters
  • 1 Maraschino Cherry
  • Orange or Lemon twist (totally optional, but it looks pretty and does add flavor)
  • Ice (ice baby)

Continue reading