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Jeff Simon

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


Jazz Various Artists, "Sky Music: A Tribute to Terje Rypdal" (Rune Grammophone). One of the most radical distortions in the ongoing life of jazz worldwide is the lack of a proper international reputation for the magnificent Norwegian guitarist Terje Rypdal. If he had only toured America with as much ballyhoo as the other great jazz-rock masters -- John McLaughlin, fo…

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Jazz Bill Charlap, "Uptown" (Impulse) At its worst, this record is somewhere midway between Hank Jones and cocktail piano. At its best, it is excellent jazz piano in a sensitive post-Bill Evans style that is, on occasion, not afraid to swing hard and gobble up Petersonesque keys. If Charlap can indeed sometimes fall into a trap of playing just a wee bit too pretti…

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Warner Bros: The Making of an American Movie Studio By David Thomson, Yale University Press, 220 pages, $25. A droll title but you have to read it carefully. There is no period after the word “bros,” so the implication is that Thomson is not using the word -- or at least not ONLY using the word “bros” -- as an abbreviation of “Brothers” but also playing off …

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Film Music Miklos Rozsa, "Ben-Hur" World Premiere digital recording of the complete film score performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Nic Raine (Tadlow Music, two discs). To many of us, William Wyler's "Ben-Hur" is now almost completely unwatchable even though it was, in its time, a champion Oscar winner. Two things distinguis…

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Country Pop Linda Ronstadt, "Simple Dreams" 40th Anniversary Edition (Rhino). To be blunt, it seems like the 40th or 50th anniversary of some pop music wonder is happening at least every other week these days. This one, reissuing a new remastered edition of Linda Ronstadt's "Simple Dreams" with three new live songs from a 1980 concert performance, is more meaningful …

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I set a personal record watching "Rebel in the Rye." I have never before hated a film this quickly and thoroughly. It took me about 2 minutes to despise the film and my feelings never really changed despite the fact that there are truly fine actors in it and even a couple of things in it which aren't disgraceful. What I hated right away was writer/director Danny Strong …

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My favorite joke among the many, in-your-face retro gags in "Kingsman: Golden Circle" is the part played by Chilean born actor Pedro Pascal. He's a character named Whiskey in the film, an American secret agent in an American spy outfit that doubles as a Kentucky bourbon distillery the same way "Kingsman" in London is a secret agent cadre doubling as an exclusive Savile Row…

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You had to be there the '60's night John Coltrane appeared at the Royal Arms Jazz Club on West Utica to understand. You knew, long before the night was over, that you would never forget it. And most of us never have. Through the booking advice of the legendary Buffalo jazz disc jockey Joe Rico, The Royal Arms had itself become legendary. Because the art of sound mix had…

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NONFICTION What Happened By Hillary Rodham Clinton Simon and Schuster 492 pages, $30 It's a book, first of all. Just a book. It's not a nuclear bomb. It's true that it launches a lot of carefully aimed missiles in a lot of American directions for posterity's sake--most notably at the nation's press and former FBI director James Comey--but it does so persu…

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Classical Hildegard von Bingen, "The Complete Sequentia Edition" (Sony/Sequentia 9-discs). The sudden eruption of the writings and especially the music of Hildegard von Bingen in the '80's was one of the more marvelous things to come out of a decade didn't get much love. In 1982, the vocal ensemble Sequentia would begin recording the wonderful known music from the…

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You'll be getting in on the ground floor of something if you see "American Assassin." Whether it turns into a skyscraper or remains a one-floor warehouse at your friendly neighborhood megaplex will depend on how many other people go to see it this weekend. My vote is for at least one more in this series, simply because despite all deficiencies, it holds the promise of a…

Two, that's all. That's the grand total of Emmys I care about at this weekend's caravan of fame and self-adulation. But then, I've never really given a fig about the Emmys. They're not the worst of America's Award Shows. The Grammys have that distinction sewed up from zipper to hat band. But the Emmy Awards have always found ways to run as close as possible to total foo…

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“The Vietnam War: An Intimate History” by Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, Knopf, 613 pages, $60 This, from the introduction to this predictably exceptional book, is inarguable: “It’s been more than forty years now, and despite President [Gerald] Ford’s optimism we have never been able to put [The Vietnam] War behind us. The deep wounds it inflicted on our nati…

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Jazz Fusion John McLaughlin and Fourth Dimension, "Live@Ronnie Scott's" (Abstract Logix) The master jazz fusion guitarist John McLaughlin will be launching a "Meeting of the Spirits" tour in the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts on Nov. 1. He and American guitarist Jimmy Herring will present their bands for a half apiece and then collaborate for a big Mahavis…

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ROCK The Rolling Stones, "Their Satanic Majesties Request: 50th Anniversary Special Edition" (Abkco two vinyl records and two discs, mono and stereo). Keith Richards pretty much hates it. Mick Jagger mostly writes it off as a druggy detour that took forever to make because drugs kept getting in the way. Writer/annotater Rob Bowman says of one of the Stones' most impo…