Know Your ABCs: An Album, a Book, and a Cat

Here’s your new Sunday edition of Know Your ABCs

Your Album:  Tiny Resistors, by Todd Sickafoose
Your Book:  Nevermen, by Phil Amara & Guy Davis
Your Cat:  Moe Tippy Toes, a farm cat who’s ready to move up to the sofa set.


TINY RESISTORS, an Album by Todd Sickafoose

Bassist Todd Sickfoose, perhaps better known as a mainstay in Ani DiFranco’s band, released one of 2008’s best jazz albums.  Tiny Resistors is justifiably regarded as one the finest examples of fusing the modern Indie-Rock sound in a jazz framework.  Resplendent with odd meters, drifting melodies, and an eclectic array of instrumentation, Sickafoose has created an epic story-like album perched firmly on the fringes of jazz.  And in this instance, the fringes probably ain’t even found on this planet.

Your album personnel:  Todd Sickafoose (acoustic & electric bass, piano, Wurlitzer, vibraphone, marimba, bells, celeste, accordion), Shane Endsley (trumpet) Ben Wendel (tenor sax, bassoon), Alan Ferber (trombone), Skerik (baritone sax), Adam Levy (guitar), Mike Gamble (guitar, effects), Allison Miller (drums, percussion), Simon Lott (drums, percussion), Andrew Bird (violin, whistling, loops), and Ani DiFranco (voice & electric ukulele).

Great albums have the effect of removing me from the spot where my feet are touching the ground, of creating a subtle shift in perception whereby everything looks a little bit different, a little more hopeful, a bit more happy, and kinda cool. I’m not talking about an out-of-body experience, but something transcendent about the moments that fall between the album’s first note and its last. It’s why I treasure music and why I spend way more hours than I probably should scouring new releases lists and streaming countless samples in the search for the next uplifting, challenging, and joyful album to include in my life.  Tiny Resistors is one of those albums.

Bouncy strings, long high calls of trumpet, sax growls, trombone pronouncements, baritone sax back-alley muggings, forlorn piano lines, and the oddly identifiable whistling of Indie-darling Andrew Bird.  Those are just some of the sounds that are added to the mix.  It’s a complex soup with plenty of ingredients, but somehow they all work together (an excellent flavor profile, I believe, is how it would be phrased on Top Chef).

But no matter how Sickafoose dissects a melody and rearranges it into his own personal Frankenstein, he also knows how to shape one that’s simple, polish it, and let it shine…

Another aspect of this album I enjoy is how Sickafoose arranges the various instruments, layers them atop one another, hemming them in, and stringing them together.  It forces me to engage the album on its own terms, and its depth is why I discover different facets of the album on subsequent listenings.  It keeps me coming back to it…

… And it creates a celebratory mood that gets me smiling no matter what kind of day I’ve had.  That is, I suppose, a pretty powerful effect to have upon a listener.  It is, for me, and it’s why I still trumpet this album years after it came out.  Just brilliant.

Released on the Cryptogramophone label.  Jazz from the Brooklyn scene.

Download a free album track at AllAboutJazz, courtesy of the artist and label.

Available at Amazon: CD | MP3


NEVERMEN, a Book by Phil Amara & Guy Davis

The scene is The City.  It looks very much like New York.  The time is Today.  Today looks very much like the roaring twenties.  There are heroes and villains.  They have no powers, per se, but are the result of science and experimental genetic mutation.  What we’re given is a mob story, a la The Untouchables, where the main players aren’t the Feds, but mutated skin-grated individuals, a la Neuromancer.  For the serious comics fans, it’s Marshall Law set in the world of Sandman Mystery Theatre.

The Nevermen protect The City.  They wear the fedoras and trench coats of the times.  They’re equipped with a variety of handy technology.  Also, it’s tough to kill them.  One of their own has gone missing.  As they protect The City from extortionists and arsonists and mob bosses and the leader of an undead army, the Nevermen search for clues as to their partner’s disappearance.

Meanwhile, the League of Crows, a society of professional thieves, have stolen the blueprints for the city’s power network.  Cadaver, a crime boss who can detach every part of his body and function fully, is making a move on the other mob leaders.  Manboulian leads his army of zombies through the city to plunder its riches and its ancient artifacts; he speaks only in poetic form and riddles.  A former Neverman, who goes by the name of Murderist, has gone rogue in his search for the missing Neverman, crossing paths with them to the detriment of both.  There is a mad scientist building a machine that will destroy time and everything else with it; he misses his son terribly.  And then there is the Professor, who lives in a tower high atop a hill that overlooks The City and all its skyscrapers.  He watches everything.  The Nevermen begin to suspect that he has something to do with their missing partner, the increasing strangeness of crimes being committed, and maybe even their origin.  The Professor has a child, an android seven feet tall and not unlike a skeletal angel; he is learning about life and, perhaps, ready to be his own man.  All of these elements merge together as the story approaches its conclusion.  Also, giant fighting robots and motorcycle chases, which is always pretty cool.

Phil Amara does the scripting.  He appears to have worked almost exclusively for Dark Horse Comics titles, mostly on Aliens and Predator titles, and some Star Wars, too.  Guy Davis handles the art.  He first gained some recognition, when his title Baker Street was nominated for a Harvey Award.  Later, he went on to work for Vertigo’s noir mystery title Sandman Mystery Theatre.  More recently, he’s worked on the Hellboy spinoff B.P.R.D.  Amara succinct deadpan voice matched seamlessly with Davis’s sharp sketch-pad lines and angles.  In most comics, it’s easy to point to either the writer or artist as the major contributor to the feel or vibe of the story, but on Nevermen, it looks like a dead tie.

The story begins in black & white, which I typically don’t much care for, but in this instance, it fits the story perfectly, and later on when it moves to color, I found myself missing the old black & white format a bit.  But the inking is in dark autumn colors and they enhance the noirish ambiance of the story to a tee.  The earliest chapters to the story are very clipped, more like vignettes than actual storyline.  I found myself re-reading them several times, certain that I was missing something.  However, as the story unfolds, those vignettes become clearer, both in the way that they set the table for the complexities to come, but also in how they frame the style of the story, too.  A brilliant effort, and one of those titles that flew under the radar, but deserves much better.

Put out on the Darkhorse Comics imprint.  It was collected into a trade.

Available at Amazon: Paperback


MOE TIPPY-TOES, a farm Cat ready for a sofa set

Meet Moe Tippy-Toes.  He was one of three siblings, all boys, who were dropped off at the Humane Society from a nearby farm.  They were all kittens when they first got here, and feral as hell.  They were kept in a tall cat condo (cage), and whenever I got inside it to remove their litter for cleaning or to give them fresh food and water, they’d hiss dramatically at me from the top shelves.  Sometimes one of them (usually Moe) would swat at the top of my head and yank my cap off.  They were the most ferocious puffs of fur ever seen.

Obviously one of Moe’s parents was a manx, because Moe’s two siblings had no tail, just rumpies; they were adopted pretty quick.  Moe has a full tail, domestic short hair, and all black except for tiny blocks of white on his paws.  In the time we’ve had him, he’s gone from feral to homebody.  He has become the sweetest cat around.  Whenever a new cat comes to us, he takes care of them, grooms them, plays with them, and cuddles with them during naps.  If an older bigger cat tries bullying a smaller cat, Moe comes to their rescue and chases the bigger cat off.  It’s amazing what a love bug he’s become.

He’s fixed, up to date on all his shots, and tested negative for feline leukemia.  He knows what a litter box is and how to use it.  He’s not a noisy cat; I can’t recall him ever making a racket meowing like mad.

Moe Tippy-Toes, done chasing his toy mouse and ready for a nice long nap

More information on Moe Tippy-Toes is available at the Mercer (KY) Humane Society at (859) 734-9500, If you are unable to adopt, you may sponsor his adoption, or the adoption of any cat, by contacting the office.