Jeff Simon, The Buffalo News

Jeff Simon

Editor

Jeff Simon is the News' Arts and Books Editor. He has been writing for the paper since Spiro Agnew was the vice president.

Wow. Talk about a community with bad luck. There, courtesy of Warren Beatty’s mistake or a bad envelope was something we had never seen before. But then, before the snafu there was more bad luck. There they were in film community of Hollywood, the most self-celebrating community on earth. And they were all ready to celebrate their annual self-love festival: The Oscars…

Pray for Jimmy Kimmel. He's almost all that is likely to separate the 89th Academy Awards from a mass audience snoozefest Sunday evening. Movie pros and fanatics will feel differently. The year 2016 was a very good one for movies and the movies and performances that are up for awards are very good ones. But none is the sort that make for gripping television for an a…

Folk Music Harry Belafonte, "When Colors Come Together" (RCA/Legacy). Sidney Poitier came first on Feb. 20. On March 1, it's Harry Belafonte's turn. That's when he turns 90. If ever there were two Americans who changed radically the way America looked at itself in the mirror, it's those two. Unlike Poitier and Belafonte, Billy Eckstine and his most ardent fans use…

The universality of Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" has always been a bit of a surprise to me. It seems too American a play to conquer the known world--too specifically mercantile and, frankly, too conspicuously "New York" and Jewish. But it's so good and so universally applicable to a faltering old man to whom "attention must be paid" that it seems every culture …

Let's start first with Chelsea Clinton and "Wayne's World." At the beginning of the Clinton presidency, Dana Carvey and Mike Myers took the opportunity to make jokes about her  looks on their popular "Wayne's World" segment of "Saturday Night Live." The angry howls -- mine among them -- were deafening for a simple reason: It was unforgivable. They could argue all th…

CLASSICAL Ralph Vaughan Williams, "The Piano Music of Ralph Vaughan Williams" performed by pianists Mark Bebbington and Rebecca Omordia (Somm) Wait a minute. You mean to say there's an important body of piano music written by one of the most beloved of all 20th century composers, whose Symphonies, "Greensleeves" and Thomas Tallis fantasias, "The Lark Ascending' and m…

Three separate mysteries clobber you right at the beginning of HBO's terrific "Big Little Lies" (9 p.m. Sunday). The first two are about a murder you are told about right away even though you're not told either the victim or the killer. I've now seen the first four episodes of the mini-series and at the end of those episodes you still don't know. The third mystery is…

“Norse Mythology” by Neil Gaiman, Norton, 293 pages, $25.95 In a recent edition of the classic “Bulfinch’s Mythology,” 292 is the number of pages devoted to Greece, Rome and the mythology of Southern European climes. Twenty-seven is the number of pages devoted to myths of the snowy North – without England, that is. As old Thomas Bulfinch smartly noted, no on…

JAZZ Virginia Schenck, "Aminata Moseka: An Abbey Lincoln Tribute" (Airborne Ecstasy) Abbey Lincoln was unquestionably a great jazz figure. She was not, though, a great jazz singer. But then neither -- strictly as a beautiful producer of vocal sound -- was Billie Holiday. In both cases, their voices often produced thin, unbeautiful sounds that were close to squawks. T…

CLASSICAL Scriabin, The Complete Piano Sonatas performed by Peter Donohoe (Somm, two discs) An oddity of the piano sonatas of Alexander Scriabin is that, for magnificent music that is as distinctive as it is, there are a vast number of ways to perform them. Personalities of complete sets of them are very different. The cold, technical perfection of Roberto Szidon …

Bill Murray and Kristen Wiig, it seems, tell pretty much the same story. There are plans afoot to make an American adaptation of "Toni Erdmann," the hugely praised German comedy that is the likely winner of the Best Foreign Film Oscar on Feb. 26. But Murray blew it big time, as he tells the tale. He misplaced both Wiig's feeler about the lead role as well as the screene…

The biggest professional mistake I ever made in my life? Easy. I didn't take "The Apprentice" seriously. When it began 13 years ago, none of us had any idea that it would turn out to be one of the most important shows in the history of television. So I felt quite safe and smug in my fatuous insistence on ignoring it. On those rare occasions when I'd deign to watch --…

JAZZ Ralph Towner, "My Foolish Heart" (ECM) Ralph Towner has, decades now, been one of the unquestioned jazz venerables. This is his sixth solo guitar record for ECM since the label first recorded Oregon, the exquisite chamber classical/jazz group he was so essential to. He is articulate and revealing on his playing of the standard that gives the record its name: …

JAZZ Gabrielle Stravelli, "Dream Ago" (Big Modern) So many new jazz singers have been coming at us for a decade at least that you can be so jaded that you miss one that's truly special. Not this time. Nobody could let this one pass by who actually listened to her. Gabrielle Stravelli is an absolute arresting talent, whether she's opening a disc with Cole Porter…