Ray Sings, Basie Swings is the master at the peak of his prowess, a tribute not just to Pro Tools but to the strength of the man they call the Genius’ artistry reaching across time, sounding more alive than ever.


In This Special Edition, We Contemplate the Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat
1. Mets vs. Cards:
The sound you just heard was Fox TV executives gulping down some Maalox. Baseball can be a very humbling game. This series played out like a Hollywood screenplay until the very last out. If you had told me the Mets would’ve held the feared Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and clean-up hitter Juan Encarnacion to a total of three RBI, I would’ve liked their chances, even without the injured Pedro Martinez and El Duque. In the end, it was the bottom of the Cardinals order that beat the Mets, with the light-hitting catcher Yadier Molina, who hit all of .216 in the regular season with four home runs, hitting the game winner off a seemingly invincible Aaron Heilman while Billy Wagner warmed up in the bullpen. And while the Mets’ pitching was in a weakened state, it was the lack of clutch hitting, not surprisingly, something that plagued them all season, which did them in. Young pitchers John Maine and Oliver Perez delivered bigtime in games six and seven, making the future something to look forward to, but the big guns didn’t. Both Jose Reyes and David Wright had uneven series and, in the end, it just wasn’t meant to be, as much as I convinced myself up until the final strike that it could be like the Miracle Mets of ‘86 all over again. In fact, through eight innings, I thought the Mets were a lock, especially after Endy Chavez’s all-time-great grab at the left-field fence, pulling Rolen’s long fly back from out of the park in an amazing snowcone catch double play that is now, of course, relegated to a footnote by the deflating loss. But the blueprint the Mets followed in this post-season was more like the one in 1988 against the Dodgers, a team they beat something like 10 out of 11 times during the season, but dropped a seven-game series to after Dwight Gooden gave up a game-tying two-out, two-run home run in game four to Mike Sciosia that knotted the series just as the Mets were about to go up 3-1. The same thing happened in game two of this series with the Amazin’s holding a 6-4 lead in the seventh, again with two outs when Scott Spiezio, he of the obnoxious red soul patch, hit a two-run triple barely out of Shawn Green’s grasp as it bounced off the top of the fence. The even more unlikely So Taguchi followed two innings later with a home run off our supposed ace closer Wagner and the Mets, instead of being up 2-0 and in control, were tied 1-1 going back to St. Louis, where they ran into a red-hot Jeff Suppan, who held them to two hits in eight innings in the final game, reminiscent of Orel Hershiser’s yeoman work in the ’88 LCS. Oh, well, it was a great series, turning my stomach into knots for a week. You can’t ask for more from a sporting event than that. But if Tommy Lasorda thinks I’m watching a Cards-Tigers World Series, he can find me up in a tree with the Cub fan. —Roy Trakin

2. Grammy Gossip:
The announcement of this year’s nominations on Dec. 7 is less than two months away, and it’s already looking like the Feb. 11 ceremony at L.A.’s Staples Center could well turn into a referendum on Dubya and the Iraqi war, with the Dixie ChicksTaking the Long Way and the Bush-bashing single, “Not Ready to Make Nice” the leading candidates for Album and Song/Record of the Year. Throw in the possibility of nominations for Neil Young’s Living With War, Bob Dylan’s Modern Times, John Mayer’s Continuum (with its anti-war “Waiting on the World to Change”), Paul Simon’s Surprise (including its plea for peace, “Wartime Prayers”) and Johnny Cash’s posthumously populist American V and you have some potent political statements from each of the likely contenders. New Artist candidate James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful” is a definite in the Song and Record of the Year categories, with rapper T.I., R&B songwriter turned performer Ne-Yo, rookie diva Corinne Bailey Rae, avant-soul duo Gnarls Barkley (“Crazy” is a certain Song/Record candidate), KT Tunstall, Rihanna, The Fray, Panic! at the Disco, Daniel Powter and Arctic Monkeys also in the mix. Red Hot Chili Peppers and Bruce Springsteen look to be locks in the Rock and Contemporary Folk categories, respectively, Rascal Flatts should sweep in Country, while also rearing their heads in the Pop area, and Rick Rubin, with the Dixie Chicks, Chili Peppers and Cash among his high-profile projects, has to be an odds-on fave for Producer of the Year. —RT

3. Ray Charles + the Count Basie Orchestra, Ray Sings, Basie Swings (Concord/Hear Music): The product of Concord A&R exec and Genius Loves Company producer John Burk’s discovery of some mid-’70s Norman Granz recordings made in Germany labeled “Ray Charles and Count Basie,” this is actually a technological recreation of a mythical collaboration between the two giants using Ray’s live vocals augmented with overdubs from the current Basie band. On standards like Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” from Oklahoma, and the Gershwins’ “How Long Has This Been Going On?” as well as more unlikely material like the Beatles’ “The Long and Winding Road” and Melanie’s “Look What They’ve Done to My Song,” Charles brings an emotional gravity to the songs as only he can, while the orchestrations couch them in just enough heft and airiness to come across as authentic. Scott Barnhart’s punchy trumpet and Joey DeFrancesco’s organ are perfect complements to Ray’s blues reading of “Let the Good Times Roll,” while Patti Austin’s Raelettes arrangements are acutely attuned to his take on Buck Owens’ country lament, “Crying Time,” and one of his best versions ever of Don Gibson’s “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” masterfully arranged by Quincy Jones and album producer Gregg Field. “Feel So Bad” shows the affinity of both Charles and Basie for the intersection of big band jazz, gut-bucket blues and call-and-response gospel, while Tom Scott’s arrangement of “Georgia on My Mind” is darn near definitive, the backing never obtrusive, but perfectly attuned to every vocal inflection and nuance. Unlike Genius Loves Company, where a terminally ill Charles, racing to finish the album before his death, was in less than top-notch form, this is the master at the peak of his prowess, a tribute not just to Pro Tools, but to the strength of the man they call the Genius’ artistry reaching across time, sounding more alive than ever. —RT

4. Jose Reyes: The 23-year-old Met phenom is perhaps the most exciting young baseball player to come to the Big Apple since the heyday of the Say Hey Kid himself, Willie Mays, with an enthusiasm and ebullience for simply playing the game that recalls the legendary Hall of Famer’s early visits to the New York streets for an impromptu round of stickball with awestruck kids. Like Mays, Reyes had been struggling during his first trip to the post-season, but he erased all the bad with one swing of the bat in Game 6, slamming St. Louis Cardinal pitcher Chris Carpenter’s third pitch over the wall, electrifying the crowd and giving his team a 1-0 lead it never relinquished. A combination of blinding speed and deceptive power, Reyes and his white-bread Virginia teammate David Wright, both signed to long-term deals by the Mets, represent a left-side of the infield that can more than compare with their crosstown rivals’ duo of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez, and since they’re younger, may even have the edge. To watch Reyes’ joyous congratulatory dance, which is a rhythmic bump-and-grind complete with a complex handshake worthy of a secret society and individualized for each teammate, is to see an athlete in the process of reaching his prime, having the time of his life and bringing a joie de vivre to the increasingly business-like pressure of pro sports that takes us back to our own childhood, when we played just for the fun of it. —RT

5. Anne McCue, Koala Motel (Messenger Records):
This Aussie singer-songwriter-guitarist may look more like an elementary school teacher than a blues-rocker, but she now thrives as part of L.A.’s Americana/roots scene, a combination of Bonnie Raitt and Lucinda Williams, who discovered her in Nashville and immediately had her open several shows. The former film student gives the opening “Driving Down Alvarado” a noir feel, which thanks to John Doe’s harmonies, recalls classic X, while the wistful “From Bakersfield to Saigon” details the journey that took her to Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City for a year-long stint entertaining tourists until the authorities chased her back to the States. “Hellfire Raiser” is a loping Dylanesque rocker that showcases her nimble Stones-style blues guitar, with an accompanying vocal by Williams, while “Any Minute Now” is an apocalyptic warning that builds to a chilling climax, underlined by Carl Byron’s icy keyboards. “Jesus’ Blood” is a no-holds-barred tribal chant that targets pedophilia in the church and religious hypocrisy from someone raised by a strict Irish Catholic family in the outback down under, biting out the lyrics, “A fat priest and a shrivelled up old nun/They took your innocence/They dragged it through the mud/They made you eat the flesh/And drink of Jesus’ blood.” By the time the dreamy Ennio Morricone-meets-Dick Dale twang of the instrumental title track closes the album, you are ready to follow this peripatetic world traveler wherever she wants to go. —RT
6. Sarah Paulson: As Studio 60 at the Sunset Strip’s resident Christian fundamentalist Harriet Hayes, this veteran of such quirky series as Deadwood and American Gothic is the ultimate shiksa, an Ann Coulter with a quick-witted sense of humor about herself and an ability to do spot-on impressions of such unlikely candidates as Holly Hunter, Juliette Lewis and Nancy Grace. The relationship between her and Matthew Perry’s liberal neurotic writer was one of the things that didn’t ring true for me in the show at first, but the dead-on lines she’s given to deliver with aplomb satisfyingly echoes the characters’ back story in the show. She’s both vulnerable and assertive about her right leanings within the anarchy of a weekly live comedy show, and while that may well be just Aaron Sorkin’s fantasy of the Red States and Blue States coming together, it’s not a bad one, as those kinds of dreams go. —RT

7. Lily Allen, Alright, Still… (Regal/Parlophone/EMI U.K.), live at the Troubadour, L.A.:
This sassy 21-year-old U.K. phenom is a show biz brat now breaking out bigtime through MySpace, with an outspoken attitude that has endeared her to the media and a #1 British single in “Smile,” a sunny blend of reggae lite and ska in which she tells off a cheating boyfriend that recalls such influences as Deborah Harry circa “The Tide is High” and Gwen Stefani in her cheeky, pre-glam days. There’s also a bit of colloquial hip-hop in “Knock ‘Em Down,” where she resembles a female Mike Skinner of The Streets renown putting down in no uncertain terms some poor geek attempting to pick her up in a pub: “Go away now, let me go/Are you stupid?/Or just a little slow?” That kind of empowerment is also present in “Everything’s Just Wonderful,” where she takes a shot at the media’s preoccupation with a woman’s weight (“I wanna be able to eat spaghetti bolognese/And not feel bad about it for days and days and days”) and “Not Big,” as she teases a boyfriend about the size and effectiveness of his you-know-what (“No you ain’t a big brother/Not big what so ever”). On “Littlest Things,” she comes across like Astrud Gilberto fronting No Doubt, while “Alfie” is not the Bacharach/David tune, but a catchy plea to shake her slacker brother from his pot-induced lethargy (“I’m trying to help you out so can you stop being a twat”). At her L.A. live debut, an enthusiastic crowd, which included, interestingly enough, Stefani, husband Gavin Rossdale and bandmate Tony Kanal, as well as Lily’s mom, cheered her on, but Allen appeared even smaller-than-life in person, her drummer-less band, complete with punchy ska-driven horn section, not enough to cover the music’s essential brittleness. Charming and adorable, she played along with the audience, and while at this stage of her career, Allen’s probably a more natural performer than either Harry or Stefani was at a similar time, she’s still got a ways to go in translating the spirit that comes across loud and clear on disc to the stage, though it seems only a matter of time before she adds this toughest medium of all to her conquests. —RT

8. Arnie Morton’s The Steakhouse, Beverly Hills (435 S. La Cienega Blvd):
This old-school chain is the type you go to for special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries, which is why I was there, celebrating our 25th thanks to my mom’s generous $100 gift certificate which, truth be told, barely gets you a pair of filet mignons. And while you wonder who goes to eat there when they’re not on an expense account or celebrating a milestone, we cooled our heels in the bar for about 20 minutes on a Saturday night, even with a reservation. The interior is classic steakhouse, true to its Chicago roots, with Sinatra on the sound system and couples of various ethnic persuasions making out in the side booths. One of the place’s shticks is to have the servers come out with actual food on a tray table to show you the menu, but in the end, it’s all about the steak. And while the place doesn’t hold a candle to the classic Peter Luger over the Williamsburg Bridge in Brooklyn, the GM who stopped at our table turned out to be a Jets fan from Astoria, Queens, who comped our chocolate soufflé when he heard we were celebrating an anniversary and sent some after-dinner aperitifs gratis to the table. In the end, an enjoyable dining experience is just as much about the service as it is the food anyway. —RT

9. The Agony of Defeat:
There’s a certain comfort in rooting for a losing team, and as a Mets/Jets/Knicks/Islanders fan, I have plenty of experience. It’s the negative mirror image of a winner, knowing that somehow, someway, inevitably, your guys will find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Last Monday night’s incredible Chicago Bears-Arizona Cardinals game on ESPN was a prime example of that axiom set into motion. Up 23-3 going into the fourth quarter and completely dominating the previously unbeaten Bears with rookie quarterback Matt Leinart showing the poise of a veteran (because, after all, as the announcers pointed out, he’d already played three years in a pro program at USC), the cursed Cardinals were due to score a startling upset before a suddenly fired-up fan base at their spanking-new stadium in the desert. Of course, being a longtime Jets fan, I know how quickly a game can slip away and I was already silently figuring out that three more TDs for Da Bears would result in a 24-23 victory, though I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to happen, given the domination of the Cardinals D to that point. Sure enough, within moments, Leinart was sacked, with the Bears returning the fumble for one touchdown. After yet another interception by the Bears’ Rex Grossman (one of an incredible six turnovers on the night for the team), the Cards’ beleaguered running back Edgerin James was stood up by the line, as he had been all night, and had the ball knocked out of his hands by the ubiquitous Brian Urlacher (who racked up 19 tackles overall), which was picked up and run in for yet another score, making it 23-17. Still without an offensive TD, the Bears’ Devin Hester ran back a punt 82 yards with less than three minutes left to stun the crowd and give his team a one-point lead. True to excruciating form, though, Leinart led the Cardinals back into field goal range where, with less than 30 seconds left, the usually reliable kicker Neil Rackers missed a very make-able 40-yard-attempt, leaving red-eyed Cardinal coach Dennis Green to an expletive-laden press conference meltdown, as he knocked over several microphones on his way to a conniption that was replayed all over TV that night and the following day. The beauty of this backbreaking loss was its complete inevitability; the only question was how, and the answer was something only a true downtrodden fan of the woebegone Cardinals would appreciate. And if anyone could sympathize, it’s the Chicago sports fan, at least those who root for the Cubs, a team that hasn’t won a World Series since 1908 and counting, the current mark for futility in pro sports. And I thought I had it bad. —RT

10. Gripe of the Week: I never really had any problems sleeping until around 18 years ago, when I’d awake in the middle of the night in a cold sweat contemplating my own mortality, fixated on the fact every tick of the clock on my nightstand brought me one step closer to old age and, inevitably, death. When my two kids were born shortly after that, despite the fact I’d be awakened by their cries, I slept a lot better, the focus on myself suddenly dissipated by concern for my children. These days, my bouts of insomnia only arise when I’m not sleeping in my own bed, but on vacation in a hotel room or anywhere I feel claustrophobic. The other night, though, I had one of those restless evenings when my mind wouldn't stop racing, like a 33 1/3 album playing on 78, where I look up and see the green glow of the digital clock every hour… 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, 4:00, 5:00, until I finally lapse into sleep only to be startled awake by my wife’s 6:00 alarm. Hey, it’s not like I’m sitting at the kitchen table with Abraham Lincoln, a talking gopher and an astronaut straight out of an MTV moon landing, like in the commercial for a sleep aide, but it still leaves me exhausted the next day. —RT

Fri, Oct. 20th
Plain White T's Nokia Theatre: Grand Prairie, TX

Soilwork with Darkest Hour, Mnemic, Threat Signal @ House of Blues on Sunset

Switchfoot @ The Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR

Outlaw Radio 1st Anniversary Party:
Performers include Judge Jackson, Joe Walla Band, Honky, @ Angels Roadhouse, Yucaipa, CA.

Xzibit @ House of Blues in Anaheim.

Sat, Oct.21st
Texas @ Nebraska on ABC: Nebraska is at home let’s see how good they really are this will be their first really big test.

UCLA vs. Notre Dame on NBC: UCLA may be forced to start their third-string QB in this game, and as big a fan of the Bruins as I am, I think this will be a blowout.

Galactic w/ The Stanton Moore Trio @ House Of Blues on Sunset

Supersonics vs Clippers @ Staples Center: The Clippers’ first preseason home game.

Dashboard Confessional @ Cox Arena, San Diego.

Kasabian & Mew @ The El Rey Theatre, Los Angeles

Sun, Oct. 22nd
Panthers vs. Bengals in Cincy on Fox: This match-up has two teams with Super Bowl aspirations going in opposite directions. Ever since Steve Smith has returned to the lineup, the Panthers have been a different team. Cincy is coming off an ugly loss to the then winless Buccaneers. Look for this to be a highly contested game, considering that the Bengals don’t want to lose three in a row, but don’t be surprised if the Panthers get a road win.

Cardinals vs. Raiders in Oakland on Fox: The Cardinals will look to rebound after that monumental collapse against the Bears Monday night, and the Raiders would appear to be the perfect team to play. On the other hand, Oakland can’t go winless all season…can they?

Hellogoodbye @ House of Blues in Chicago

Sparta @ Theatre of Living Arts, Philadelphia

Hanson, Strong Enough to Break, Arclight Hollywood: A glimpse inside the Mmmm-Bop boys struggle to redefine themselves as the record industry implodes around them. Think of it as their version of Wilco’s I Am Trying to Break Your Heart as Isaac, Taylor and Zach try to balance art, commerce and creative freedom.

The Prestige
Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, David Bowie, Michael Caine, Piper Perabo
In early 20th century London, a magician develops a rivalry with another conjuror after he devises a seemingly impossible new trick.
I’ve been looking forward to this movie for awhile. As good as The Illusionist was, I think this one has a chance to be nominated for an Oscar.

Flags of Our Fathers
Jamie Bell, Ryan Phillippe, Robert Patrick, Barry Pepper, Paul Walker
In February 1945, the United States closes in on victory in Europe, but the battle in the Pacific still rages on. A photographer captures a photo during the battle of Iwo Jima, an image of men raising the flag that is destined to become a symbol strong enough to raise morale back home. But as they're paraded around the country in an effort to sell war bonds, the surviving flag raisers begin to wonder who the real heroes of the battle were.
This one an early favorite to win best picture. Has Clint done it again?

Marie Antoinette
Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Rip Torn, Judy Davis, Asia Argento, Marianne Faithfull
When betrothed to King Louis XVI, the Austrian-born Marie Antoinette enters the French court, rebels against Versailles and becomes France's most misunderstood monarch. Stripped of her riches, imprisoned and beheaded by her own subjects, the queen of France becomes a symbol of excess.
I really have no interest in this movie other than the fact that it’s directed by Sofia Coppola, and I love Lost in Translation. My biggest problem is that I’m not a fan of Kirsten Dunst.

Limited Release
Running With Scissors
: With a great cast and an interesting story, this movie looks extremely quirky but intriguing.

The Lupe Fiasco CD is a must-have if you’re a hip-hop fan—it’s a nearly flawless debut for the Chicago-based rapper. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but as soon as I popped the disc in the car, I found myself hypnotized.

V for Vendetta:
This is my favorite movie of the year so far, for many reasons. It's more than just a comic book adapted for the big screen; it’s a movie that makes a big political statement that we can all relate to these days. Definitely a movie that was slept on, and I advise everyone to check it out if you haven't yet.
The Last King of Scotland: All I can say about this one is Forrest Whitaker is unbelievable, and although there are still plenty of good movies to come out, I hope Forrest wins for this role. He is truly one of the most underrated actors of our time.
World Trade Center: Another important movie that I urge people to see. I was in tears, and although a lot of it is hard to watch, it’s quite an astonishing story.
The Illusionist: Giamatti and Norton are truly awesome.
X-Men III: The Last Stand: If this is the last one, it certainly satisfied my appetite. It had it all, including some incredible action sequences.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Simply awesome! Johnny Depp is brilliant, Bill Nighy is creepy, Keira Knightley is sexy and it has great special effects and nonstop action.
Mission Impossible III: OK, people are getting sick and tired of Tom Cruise, but if you can just get past him, this movie is actually really good. A lot of people are missing out because they’re so turned off by the star’s off-screen antics.
An Inconvenient Truth: The most important movie of the year. A must-see.
Nacho Libre: The funniest movie of the year. Jack Black rocks.
The Devil Wears Prada: Makes my list because Meryl Streep is truly brilliant, and if you haven’t seen it, or are on the edge about seeing it, go for her performance, if for nothing else.

Lox & bagels is our guess. (10/4a)
Michael and Kyle find a feast of hip-hop to chew on. (10/5a)
She brings a Gryn to Roppo's face, so to speak. (10/4a)
Honoring the life and music of a truth-teller (10/5a)
It was a surprisingly easy "Habit" to break. (10/5a)
New categories! New rules! New WTF!
It's the one you didn't see coming.
"Who took my passports?"
Allow us to apologize in advance.

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