Dr. Perry Alexander

The University of Kansas

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Blog

I keep this blog of things related to interests outside work in music, stereo gear, movies and what not. This is the main blog with exerpts from all posts. Category specific listings can be found in the sidebar.

The Water

19 Mar 2016

You find out who your friends are with things explode.

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The Room

18 Mar 2016

It should be pretty clear from my initial set of prototype pictures that the room and the new gear don’t exactly go together. Using the bar in the back as an equipment rack and stacking the speakers in front of the wooden built-ins is highly non-optimal. Enter Natural Breeze. By far the best remodelers in Lawrence and as I would learn later, the best guys ever.

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Prototype Pictures

17 Mar 2016

Here are some pictures of the prototype system. Completely haphazard setup on the bar in the back of my sound room. I should say, what will be my sound room.

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Prototype setup

14 Mar 2016

I want sound. Having sat and looked at these speakers and amps its time to make some sound. Thus, I decided to set up a prototype to experiment with the various components. Not much sense in setting up a full 5.1 system if I can’t do stereo, so I decided to go that route first.

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What to do with a DSP

11 Mar 2016

With the speakers uncrated and moved into something close to a decent configuration, it was time to figure out the electronics. My plan was to work forward from my sources through the DSP to the amps and finally to the speakers. This turned out to be a great approach as I figured out what to do with all this stuff.

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End of an Era

08 Mar 2016

Before moving in the new speakers, I took one more picture of my system. Although pieces have changed over the years - Audio Research LS16 for Classe, Parasound for Bryston, Benchmark for Cal Audio - my speakers have never changed. The venerable Snell C/V have just been beautiful for almost 22 years. I hate to see them go, but they will migrate into my son’s first stereo. Something quite appropriate about that.

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Unpacking

07 Mar 2016

The three-day weekend gave me the opportunity to start hauling the new gear into my sound room. I’ve got to get all the boxes across the yard and into the downstairs door. Two days with a dolly got everything but the sub into the room. I hauled it crate-by-crate into the staging area outside my sound room, unpacked the crates, and moved the high/mid components and the lows into the room.

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Bye eMusic

06 Mar 2016

Well, I’ve finally given up completely on eMusic. Too bad really as I use to love their products and their services. If you want to figure out how to piss off your core customer base, you can learn a great deal from these people.

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It begins

01 Mar 2016

The big upgrade begins with a call from the shipping company the day before delivery. They’ve been told they have a residential delivery and are concerned that I’m going to be able to get my new gear off their truck. They said 1400lbs of gear with the lightest box coming in at 70lbs. I said not to worry. I’m telling you right now, I was damn worried.

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New Gear

29 Feb 2016

Major overhaul in the stereo room! Gone are the venerable Snell C/Vs and Parasound amplifier. Replaced with an amazing system that I happened to stumble into. Sometimes it is way better to be lucky than good.

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NSF Scholarship for Service

27 Jan 2016

KU and ITTC just won an NSF Scholarship for Service grant that will allow us to sponsor students studying cybersecurity. If you are an interested student, please do let me know. I’m excited for us to get good students in the pipeline.

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Dancing on The Oatmeal

03 Jan 2016

As many of you know, The Oatmeal is my favorite site in the web-o-sphere. Highly irreverent and often not safe for work, but not for the usual reasons. It often makes me laugh really, really hard.

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Formal Systems

25 Dec 2015

Our task is to define formal systems that describe systems and reason about those systems to determine correctness. One application of this is verifying language properties, but that represents a tiny fraction of the kinds of verification we can do. In fact, we do this all the time: (i) circuits example of a parity checker; (ii) examples from physics.

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Coq

24 Dec 2015

About 7 months ago I started exploring new theorem provers for use in my lab and teaching. I am a diehard PVS fan and that really hasn’t changed. The folks at SRI produced a tool that shaped my teaching and research for years. I just got a bit stir crazy and wanted to check out something completely different.

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Chicago in The Hall of Fame

24 Dec 2015

Finally. My boycott of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame can officially come to an end. Chicago is in. It simply took far too long for a band that defined a sound, was exceptionally popular in two different incarnations, and whose political activism was as unique as its music to make the hall. Every pep band in the world plays 25 or 6 to 4. Beginnings, Saturday In the Park, and Does Anybody Know What Time It Is? are among the greatest pop/rock songs of all time. 11 number one hits and multiple number one albums. Finally there is justice.

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Science is hard

19 Aug 2015

I read Nate Silver’s online news service FiveThirtyEight just about every day. Nice, insightful news backed by research and data analysis rather than random opinions and emotion. This morning I read a fantastic piece called Science Isn’t Broken that talks about why establishing causation and predicting outcomes in the social sciences is hard. Until I got to know some social scientists, I had no idea how hard. It’s a lengthy read, but it does an outstanding job of describing the pitfalls social science researchers deal with every day. Cool stuff and worth a read.

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Karma Go

09 Aug 2015

Just got my Karma Go wifi hotspot in the mail. Although it’s only been a couple of hours, I’m quite happy with the performance and intrigued with the business model. First, performance. Easy connection to all my devices. I intend to use it with my computers more than my iThingys, but they were still simple to connect. iThingys need an app while computers use a browser to authenticate. Feels a bit like a hotel hotspot, which is my only quibble.

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Banach-Tarski in the news

07 Aug 2015

This, folks, is why I read FiveThirtyEight.com for my news. A description of the behavior of participants in the first Fox Republican Presidential Candidate Debate:

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Understanding Kansas

05 Aug 2015

I end up having quite a few discussions with colleagues on the coasts and overseas about how I can live in a completely insane state like Kansas. Particularly given my political leanings. There are lots of reasons. Lawrence is consistently rated among the top 10 college towns in the US and has a fantastic arts and music scene. Then there’s my 5 minute commute my wife’s 3 minute commute. When the Oscar Meyer Wiener Mobile shows up in town it’s front page news. Mainly it’s my colleagues at KU who are outstanding scholars and better friends. But I digress.

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the autumn stone - Escapists

04 Aug 2015

Escapists present a nice fun album in the autumn stone. A bit of chamber pop with just a twinge of ska - think The Aluminum Group sans electronics plus sax and you’re close to the Escapists sound. Dreamy vocals, jangley guitars, good horns, nice harmonies and a great summer feel. I really dig the lead vocalist and the groovy bass and drums. (And yes, groovy is the just right adjective here.) There is a nice consistency in the sound with a few surprises thrown in.

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Twin Within - Horizontal Lines

04 Aug 2015

Horizontal Lines presents Twin Within, a dream-pop album with fantastic vocal harmonies over acoustic guitars. However, what makes this album go and a thoroughly enjoyable listen is the wonderful dissonance these guys create in just the right places. Not dissonance in the harmonic sense, but dissonance in the logical sense. A chord progression here, stylistic twist there, then an unexpected song choice in a way that should bring listeners back over and over again.

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Circus School

30 May 2015

I just learned today that Lawrence has a Circus School. The Last Carnival is advertised as the ‘first and only school for Circus Arts in Lawrence Kansas.’ Like there would be more than one! How cool is that? My town has a circus school should I need a second career or just want to learn how to hang from stuff artistically. In need to see if they have elephants and clown cars. I would truly love to have a clown car for faculty meetings.

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John Nash

24 May 2015

Just read that Nobel Laureate John Nash of A Beautiful Mind fame was killed in a car accident. He changed economics and made countless contributions to mathematics. This is a sad day.

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code.org

20 May 2015

I’ve been trying to get my son interested in coding. All the tools are there. He loves logical games, math, Minecraft, and other things that involve thinking akin to programming. Yet, none of the “kid” oriented programming things appealed to him. We tried writing Minecraft mods, but that was too heavy. We tried a Raspberry Pi, but that was too limited. Scratch is really cool, but wasn’t structured enough.

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Turing and The Cloud

02 May 2015

A few days back I needed to explain The Cloud to a good friend who is brilliant, but not a computer scientist. It dawned on me that I could use Turing Machines and specifically the Universal Turing Machine to explain it far easier than metaphor or trying to explain Xen and OpenStack.

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Virtual Vector Lab In The News

02 Dec 2014

Virtual Vector Lab is in the news. See the article in EurekAlert!.

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Necktie madness

05 Aug 2014

Once again, Doghouse Diaries gets it right. Ties are just fundamentally evil things that have no place in modern society.

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Martin Logan Sadness

21 May 2014

For those of you who don’t know, I’m looking to replace my venerable Snell C/Vs. They’ve been with me 20 years and sound really good, but speakers have improved and it’s time for an upgrade.

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GitHub for Edcuation

23 Feb 2014

GitHub has just announced a program where students and faculty can get GitHub micro accounts at no cost. Read about it here. The micro account allows you to have a private repo so not everyone can see your code.

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Chicago

15 Feb 2014

Chicago is among my favorite bands of all time. I started listening in junior high school, when through a time in high school when I wanted to be their trumpet player, and have never been able to sit still for Saturday In the Park. Very few bands that I listened to in 7th grade still appeal to me in any way shape or form. In fact, Chicago might be the only one.

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After Blue - Tierney Sutton

15 Feb 2014

Tierney Sutton’s After Blue is a collection of Joni Mitchell tunes she performs with several backing ensembles including The Turtle Island Quartet. If you’re not familiar with Sutton (I wasn’t before this) she typically does straight-ahead jazz vocal albums with a mix of standards and original work. I ran across her stuff before making this purchase, but never bit. I will be going back and listening again after this wonderful album.

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Hearing Voices

18 Jan 2014

I just downloaded a remastered 192/24 version of Waltz for Debbie by the great Bill Evans Trio featuring Bill Evans, Scott LaFarro, and Paul Motian from my friends at HDTracks. This is of course the first great live jazz trio album and maybe the best ever. I’ve used it in stereo auditions since I bought it because of the phenomenal sound stage and the subtle artifacts - voices and sounds of people eating and drinking - that remain from the live show.

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Lots of Bits

31 Dec 2013

For the first time I’ve been playing around with various sample rates and resolutions. I picked up new versions of Gaucho by Steely Dan, Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, and New Moon Daughter by Cassandra Wilson. Gaucho is 96/24 flac, New Moon Daughter is 192/24 flac, and Kind of Blue is 192/24 AIFF. So, I’m maximizing sample rates and sample resolution on music remastered using the best known techniques. Furthermore, all this music is stuff I know very, very well.

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New on the server

21 Dec 2013

New tunes on the server since my last update:

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The Mountain Moves - Treetop Flyers

07 Dec 2013

Just a quick note about this really nice, retro album by Treetop Flyers. I saw a review in Paste and pulled down their sampler as I often do only to discover a reincarnation of the old pop group America. You remember America - Horse With No Name was a radio hit from my childhood. Anyway, Things Will Change could have been on an America album straight up. This is cool as I really like America, but here’s the odd thing - they’re British. British as in not America at all! Kind of fun if you ask me. Great album here. You should buy it.

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Swept Away - Marc Johnson & Elaine Elias

04 Dec 2013

I have a very soft spot in my musical heart for the classic jazz trio - piano, bass, drums. The stuff of Bill Evans and his landmark trio work where simplicity and elegance are their own reward. Swept Away, a collaboration between veteran bassist Marc Johnson and pianist Elaine Elias is a wonderful example of the classic trio at work.

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Wireless Dac

02 Dec 2013

I wrote about my very cool new BDP-2 that now serves up all my music. Now I’m looking at getting all my Macs out of my principle playback paths. The sound room is now good to go, but I would like to use the BDP-2 elsewhere in the house. I see two options. One is to use ethernet to deliver bits from my BDP-2 to wherever I need them. There is some appeal to this solutoin as I already have wireless everywhere in the house. Another is to use a dedicated wireless DAC or possibly a Sonos system. The wireless DAC is a nice alternative with a wireless signal dedicated to moving sound from my BDP-2 to where ever I might need it. The Sonos is interesting because I have the network in place.

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New on the server

29 Nov 2013

Lots of new music on the server since my last update. Here’s some of it:

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Bryston BDP-2

29 Nov 2013

The latest addition to my sound system is a Bryston BDP-2 media player. It’s a rather unique device who’s only purpose is reading music files of virtually any format and outputting them to D/A devices. I’m replacing my trusty Mac Mini with a dedicated music player because iTunes is rapidly becoming the Microsoft Word of music players - a bloated pig of functionality that I don’t want. As I said to the Bryston engineer, I just want to play my music. That’s all. No Genius lists, no cloud crap, no preferred formats, no automatic tagging, nothing. Just take my music and push it out to a D/A.

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Single To the Moon - Laura Mvula

20 Jul 2013

Just picked this up from iTunes on a recommendation from my wife who seems to know my music tastes better than I do! This is a pop album. It is a damn good pop album like nothing I’ve heard before, but it is pop. Laura Mvula is British with an African tinge to it. The title track brings this out. Reading a bit about her, she has Gospel roots and has worked extensively with community vocal groups. This is not a religious album in any traditional sense, but it is oddly gospel. Can’t quite put my finger on why.

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New On the Server

20 Jul 2013

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Walkin’ On a Pretty Daze - Kurt Vile

14 Jun 2013

You’d think that with a name like Vile, Kurt Vile would be the front man for very angry punk band. Not so. Definitely not so. This is my second album by Kurt Vile and both are consistently outstanding rock albums in a similar vein as Josh Rouse with a bit more edge.

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Tom Dowd and The Language of Music

08 Jun 2013

Years ago I saw a documentary when doing laps around the television about Tom Dowd. Dowd was a recording engineer and producer for Atlantic Records and was among the first to use stereo and multitrack recording techniques. He also worked on the Manhattan Project and made the decision to go into recording when his classified work was more advanced than academia would acknowledge.

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At Filmore East - The Allman Brothers Band

26 May 2013

Just a quick note about this album I just picked up on an impulse. I didn’t have any Allman Brothers in my collection and this came highly recommended as one of the best live albums of all time. Holy crap is that ever an understatement! Just finished up In Memory of Elizabeth Reed an am in the middle of You Don’t Love Me. I have never heard anything like this. I mean I’ve heard a ton of music like this - southern, guitar-based rock and roll - but never played like this. The musicianship on every instrument is phenomenal. If you don’t have this album you need to. Now.

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Modern Vampire in the City - Vampire Weekend

19 May 2013

I got this album from iTunes based on a one song preview and a rating over 9 on Pitchfork. I never do that - it was a classic impulse buy. I which all my impulses were this good!

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Swing Low Magellan - Dirty Projectors

21 Jan 2013

Just picked up Dirty Projectors’ Swing Low Magellan last week and have become completely smitten by the thing. Funny thing that I’ve owned Bitte Orca for quite some time and never really paid that much attention to it. Particularly surprising given all the rave reviews it got. I just didn’t get it. I think I get it now.

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Build Anyway - The Rocketboys

21 Oct 2012

Sometimes when I’m in a music buying frenzy I end up buying something that goes on the shelf for awhile until I get through the music that started the frenzy. Such is the case with Build Anyway purchased at the same time with new Minus the Bear and Sea and Cake. Finally got around to listening to this on a run the other day and was floored. So much so that I’m listing it here before the new Minus the Bear or Sea and Cake.

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Twilight - Louis Bonilla Quintet

14 Oct 2012

Twilight is a straight-ahead quintet album with a twinge of old-style fusion, ala The Crusaders, anchored by the wonderful trombone work of Louis Bonilla. As much as I hate to admit it after years of band rivalries, I’ve grown to love trombone. Deep, warm sound - like the tenor sax of the brass section. I also tend to like the quintet format a bit better than trio, but that’s nothing but personal taste.

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Cowboy Indian Bear

14 Oct 2012

Shout out to Cowboy Indian Bear, a local Lawrence band who won the Top of the Hill award for best local band. I listened to their samples on the LJW website with exceptionally low expectations. Boy was I surprised - this guys are awesome. Very much a pop band with a bit of twee that works very, very well. Really great vocals and some serious chops. I don’t think they’re going to be local very long. Major props to these guys - I always root for local bands.

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Siren - Uri Cain Trio

13 Oct 2012

Excellent straight ahead post-bop trio work. Very classic lines throughout, but with enough twists to keep you listening. Green Dolphin Street, Crossbow and Interloper are particularly good up-tempo tracks. You can guess how Green Dolphin Street goes. Crossbow and Interloper are not tunes that I recognize. Also worth mentioning is Succubus, a great post-bop tune with nice twists and turns with stylistic surprises. Smelly has some Monk-esque feelings mixed with some original ideas and movements.

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Tupperware Technology

15 Sep 2012

Many of my friends know that I finally broke down and bought a turntable. I didn’t get the very nicest model out there, but I did get a solid model that was well-reviewed - the Rega RP-1. I have zero complaints with the turntable other than the outputs having wired in interconnects. That doesn’t bug me as I’m not that into cables. Zero noise, soild, simple device.

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Freedom Flight - Nicky Shrire

12 Aug 2012

Freedom Flight is a jewel - brilliant jazz vocals. Nicky has a beautiful voice, but there are lots of those. She also has simple but sophisticated and interesting arrangements and fantastic musicians behind her. Freedom Flight/Blackbird sucked me in. Material is quite varied - a bit of everything from samba through a James Taylor cover. A really good James Taylor cover I might add. I will be on the lookout for album number 2 from Nicky.

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The Beach Boys

03 Jun 2012

I’m sitting here listening and reading back issues of Paste and found a fascinating read on The Beach Boys with some words I’ve never seen before. I completely ignored The Beach Boys for most of my musical life. When I was a serious jazzer listening to such serious jazz groups like Spyro Gyra and Chuck Mangione (stop laughing), The Beach Boys were just silly. During my New Age acoustic years, they were not sophisticated enough. During my indie rock years, they were old. Then I was a tried and true Beatles guy using the Beatles/Stones classification system. You kind of get the picture.

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New on the server

27 May 2012

It’s definitely a jazz guitar month this month. New stuff downloaded this weekend:

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Benchmark DAC1 HDR

14 Apr 2012

About 6 months age Benchmark made me a sweet deal to upgrade my original DAC1 to a DAC1 HDR. I’m a huge fan of my DAC1, but passed on the original offer. I had just made a serious investment in amp, preamp, and home theater processor and just couldn’t justify one more purchase. This week I got a chance to revisit the offer and with some hesitance took them up on it.

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At the Edge - John Crowley

08 Apr 2012

John Crowley was not a name I had heard before discovering At the Edge on iTunes. I forgot what lead me there - most likely Ari Hoering - but I’ve been enjoying this album quite a bit recently. If you like your jazz with a post-bop feel and lots of trumpet, fender-rhodes, and tasty drumming, this is definitely an album for you.

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Serene Audio Pebbles

24 Mar 2012

I’ve been looking for desktop speakers for near field listening at my computer forever. I finally read enough reviews of the new Serene Audio Pebbles self-powered speakers to give them a whirl and am quite happy with them so far. I love my Grado 225 cans, but there are times when I want to work and not be strapped into headphones. Thus, the desire for desktop speakers.

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Josh Rouse and The Long Vacations

21 Feb 2012

Josh Rouse is a long-time favorite of mine. Really great, laid back pop music that kind of reminds me of Glenn Campbell in a very good way. 1972, Nashville, and Country Mouse, City House being my favorites. After a series of releases that I enjoy, but don’t hit the player that often Josh Rouse and the Long Vacations caught me a bit by surprise. It seems he has a band now, but he’s returned to a sound that reminds me of the early albums that are, in my opinion, as close to perfect as you’re going to get.

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Think Free - Ben Allison

14 Feb 2012

Ben Allison is a bassist from Portland who was recommended to me by my friend Jeff Lewis after he learned of Ari Hoenig from one of my posts. It’s great how that works, isn’t it? I’ve since invested in quite a few of Ben Allison’s projects and am a big fan.

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From Sennheiser to Grado

14 Feb 2012

For about 10 years I’ve been using Sennheiser HD 650’s as my main headphones at work and Grado sr60s on my desk at home. The sr60s are in my opinion the best headphone one can buy for under $100 and way better than some headphones at 10x the price. The problem with the 60s is that they are horribly uncomfortable for long listening.

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Beautiful Mechanical - yMusic

12 Feb 2012

I had never hear of yMusic before I purchased Beautiful Mechanical. I bought the album and let it sit for a month or so before I got around to listening. I’m a huge fan of playing classical music and listening live, but never a fan of recorded classical music. When I finally did start, I’ve listened to this album every day. The musicians are fantastic and the compositions wonderful.

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Until Tomorrow - Zara McFarlane

05 Feb 2012

Just a quick note on Zara McFarlane’s album Until Tomorrow. Very nice classic jazz vocal album featuring Zara and a small ensemble. I like most of the tracks pretty well. Of particular interest are Mama Done, Chiaroscuro, Desire, and My Favorite Things. Desire is by far my favorite track on the album - a nice, slow classic piece featuring Zara and piano. Pretty good album overall if you like vocal jazz.

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