Off the Record

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Off the Record

American Splendor

There was no distinction between life and art for comic genius Harvey Pekar. While his iconic American Splendor comic depicted the struggle and occasional triumph of the ordinary, the jazz criticism he penned for the Chronicle beginning in 1998 was the work of a scholar, steeped in the classics but with an ear to the ground. Like the jazz giants he covered – Miles Davis, Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie, Chet Baker, Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock – Pekar's prose possessed a brilliant distinction, authoritative and exacting. His expertise on the history of Brazil's jazz movement (see "Blame It on the Bossa Nova," July 2, 1999) and also ¡Cubanismo! (see "A Cultural Phenomenon," Oct. 9, 1998) made him one of the genre's leading resources. Pekar wrote features for the Chronicle, dozens of album and book reviews, and of course his own inimitable comics, all of which are worthy of their own anthology. For his complete Chronicle archive, visit

Pekar's Chronicles: Best Of

1) "Cubanisimo!": Ray Barretto and the roots of Afro-Cuban jazz (June 12, 1998)

2) "The Composer's Roots": A look at the career of a premier jazz pianist, Dallas-born Cedar Walton (Oct. 29, 1999)

3) "A Cultural Imperative": Profiling Bob Koester of Chicago's Delmark Records (Dec. 18, 1998)

4) "Lush Life": Miss Nancy Wilson (June 2, 2000)

5) "Cubana Be Cubana Bop": A historical guide to Cuban music (Jan. 12, 2001)

6) "Holy Ghost": Revenant Records returns with free-jazz specter Albert Ayler (Oct. 8, 2004)

The Unusual Suspect


YellowFever's Jennifer Moore was arrested at Houston's William P. Hobby Airport last Friday. The charge? Carrying a prohibited weapon in a prohibited place. The petite singer hastily packed her overnight bag for the local indie pop duo's one-off performance at New York's South Street Seaport and forgot to remove the Ruby's BBQ knife she brought to cook with on the rest of the monthlong tour. Instead of confiscating the object, Moore was taken first to Houston's downtown city jail, then booked at Harris County Jail, where she spent the night in a "cute" orange outfit before being bonded out at 4am Saturday. "I thought I was innocent until proven guilty, but they do their best to scare you and make you feel like shit," says Moore. "It was like all of a sudden, all of my rights had been taken away." Moore returned to court on Tuesday, but the charges hadn't been dismissed. Instead, her grand jury trial was postponed until the conclusion of YellowFever's current tour, which includes a stop at Emo's on July 31 with Silent Diane. On the plus side, the band has a delightfully infectious new EP, Bermuda Triangle, a teaser for an upcoming full-length that features minimalist covers of Culture Club and Austin's Horse + Donkey. In the meantime, the two will keep cooking meals to go. "We've even made sushi and catfish," laughs Moore. "We get kind of elaborate sometimes. We eat better on tour than we do normally in real life."

History From Below

Delta Spirit
Delta Spirit

San Diego's Delta Spirit has released two critically acclaimed albums of jagged indie folk for Rounder Records and garnered a local fan base at the 2008 Austin City Limits Music Festival. Likewise, the band's return to Emo's with David Vandervelde and the Romany Rye on Saturday doubles as another homecoming for frontman Matthew Vasquez. The 27-year-old singer cut his teeth in South Austin and proudly recalls being sent to the principal's office at Bailey Middle School for busking. "I made $20 before the school day even started," laughs Vasquez from the road. Like so many Austin musicians in the 1960s, Vasquez found his voice and success in the Golden State, where he hooked up with the members of Noise Ratchet in 2005. The only difference is he didn't have a choice. "My freshman year I dropped three tabs of acid and woke up in the hospital," Vasquez recalls. "Two days later I had to move to California."

Devil's Juicebox

Some Say Leland at the Central Presbyterian Church
Some Say Leland at the Central Presbyterian Church (Photo by Jana Birchum)

Like wayfaring stranger Peter & the Wolf, Austin's Some Say Leland is known for playing at odd times and in remote locations. The folklorists' new EP, Field Recordings Volume 1, was recorded late last year by candlelight in the long-abandoned laundry room of a state school for mentally unstable men and boys, using only one microphone and battery-powered equipment. "We happen to sound really good in abandoned buildings and dry creek beds," says founding singer/guitarist Dan Grissom, a former host of the Cactus Cafe's open-mic night and member of the McMercy Family Band. Named after a Mississippi John Hurt tune, Some Say Leland chose a relatively more conventional venue to commemorate the disc's release last Friday, the Central Presbyterian Church, but with the lights dimmed and only a handful of people filling out the pews, the occasion still felt like a secret society gathering. Accented by light experimental flourishes and aching background harmony from stand-up bassist Lindsey Verrill, Grissom led the sextet through its entire new studio EP, Wake, unfolding sparse, dime-store narratives of good men in trying circumstances, sounding at times like My Morning Jacket's demos for The Tennessee Fire.

Random Play

After a glowing review in last Tuesday's edition of The New York Times, Alejandro Escovedo's latest, Street Songs of Love, cracked Billboard's Top 200 Album chart at No. 93, the highest entry point of his career. The velvet guitarist returns to The Late Show With David Letterman on Wednesday, July 21. See "Texas Platters" for a review of the new album.

Elsewhere in Billboard, local good ol' boy Kevin Fowler (see "100% Texan," Aug. 9, 2002), who headlines Fowler Fest with Aaron Watson, Kyle Park, and Curtis Grimes at the Nutty Brown Cafe on Saturday, July 24, debuted at No. 37 in the Country Songs Chart with "Pound Sign (#?*!)," a self-edited hangover lament. The single will be included on Fowler's forthcoming bow for Disney's Lyric Street Records.

Harlem kicked off a three-week tour this week with Jack White's the Dead Weather that concludes with an appearance at Lollapalooza in Chicago, Aug. 7. Festival promoters C3 Presents, meanwhile, unveiled the ACL schedule grid on Tuesday.

The current U21 movement is bleeding over into film. Asleep at the Wheel's Elizabeth McQueen headlines a benefit at Scholz Garten on Wednesday, July 21, for teen filmmaker Emily Hagins' My Sucky Teen Romance, which is scheduled to begin shooting in Austin later this summer.

On Tuesday morning, it appeared as though the FCC had finally caught up with South Austin's true independent alternative, KAOS Radio (, when it redirected Web traffic to the Department of Homeland Security. According to the KAOS Facebook page, the pirate station's server is merely down: "It doesn't mean anything sinister."

Local musician Jon Notarthomas, who backs Ian McLagan, Colin Gilmore, and Aimee Bobruk, among others, is catching serious flack from parkside restaurant over his longstanding Best Wurst sausage stand on Sixth and San Jacinto. For the full scoop, see "Food-o-File, Food."

Music news

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More Harvey Pekar
Harvey Pekar and Bob Swain
Harvey Pekar and Bob Swain
In memoriam

Robert Faires, July 16, 2010

Page Two: Work and Splendor
Page Two: Work and Splendor
Harvey Pekar, 1939-2010

Louis Black, July 16, 2010

More YellowFever
Texas Platters
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Holy Wave, Bermuda Triangle, Mandukhai EP, Flight Path, Songs for Staying In (Record Review)

Audra Schroeder, Aug. 13, 2010

Texas Platters
YellowFever (Record Review)

Audra Schroeder, Jan. 22, 2010

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Harvey Pekar, YellowFever, Delta Spirit, Some Say Leland, Jennifer Moore, Harlem

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