Portland Author Devon Monk – Magic To The Bone

Magic To The Bone by Devon Monk

Magic To The Bone by Devon Monk

One upside to being snowed in for almost a week is that I've had the opportunity to catch up on some of my reading.  My latest read comes from Portland author Devon Monk.

Magic to the Bone uses Portland (especially St. Johns) as the backdrop for a story of magic and mystery.  Magic "hounder "(essentially a magic detective) Allie is in over her head.  Allie's use of magic continues to have strong side effects including acute memory loss, which is not helpful when she's hot on the trail of a magical murder.  Soon Allie gets caught up in the very case she's investigating with a conspiracy that reaches far deeper than she'd ever imagined.

Magic to the Bone reads like a union of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series and Jim Butcher's Dreseden Files, however it's not an imitator. Devon Monk has original ideas about magic, its use and how it impacts people. Her style is  incredibly readable and it has the essential elements key to a blockbuster series. Monk's characters are well drawn and engaging.  The love interest is dark and mysterious (ala Stephanie Plum) but with enough depth to make him more than wallpaper.

What I loved the most about Magic to the Bone was how it painted St. Johns as a gritty and rough part of town, avoided by most, but with a special something for the people who inhabit it.  It's the kind of love note to St. Johns that Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys is to Pittsburgh.

With the next installment in this new series, Magic In the Blood, slated for May of 2009, Devon Monk has a real shot at building a best selling franchise series. Hopefully readers in her home town can provide the base from which she can really launch that career.

More info:

Chris Botti Delivers a Love Note to Jazz and Portland

Chris Botti

Chris Botti with The Oregon Symphony

The Oregon Symphony does not crap around: at exactly seven thirty, not a moment after conductor Gregory Vajda took the podium and started off the evening of music. I've been to a lot of performances and concerts in my time and I've never been to one that started exactly, precisely, absolutely on time. Vajda didn't want to waste a minute, he knew he only had two hours with his symphony and he wanted to use every last minute of that time performing.

The first act of the evening was a brisk 30 minute set by the symphony sans Chris Botti. Many conductors could have seen this as being sort of an 'opening band' to the main performer, but Vadja took the reigns and delivered a blockbuster set.  Mixing traditional Christmas carols with seasonal tunes Vadja lead the symphony through a wide range of tempos and styles, seamlessly transitioning from one to the next. The set came to its apex with the crescendo for "Farandole"  (from Suite No. 2 from L'Arlésienne) which flirted with an ovation from the audience.

The first act was capped with an extremely uptempo and frisky rendition of Frosty The Snowman arranged by Vadja himself. Think 50's lounge version done with a wide orchestra, it was certainly unique. In just thirty minutes of performing Gregory Vajda showed what a phenomenal and dynamic conductor he is. This was the first performance of the Oregon Symphony with Gregory Vajda conducting that I've attended and it left me wanting to see more.

After a brief intermission Chris Botti took the stage. Botti is backed by a very talented band, each accomplished individually but chose to tour extensively with Botti.  Starting out with fairly traditional light jazz, the evening seemed like it was going to be an evening of Botti's Greatest Hits.  The Oregon Symphony was pretty light in their accompaniment with  conductor Gregory Vajda doing  more head bobbing along with the music than conducting. But Botti quickly transitioned from light jazz to pure jazz and traversed a musical journey as diverse and enjoyable as the evening's opening set.

Botti is extremely charismatic and talented but he uses the spotlight sparingly instead opting to share the stage with the other talented musicians he plays with. Botti's extremely humble approach is refreshing and it's reflected in his playing.  One high moment of the evening came from the performance of Miles Davis's Flamenco Sketches from Kind of Blue where the Oregon Symphony connected with the song in a phenomenal way.  It may seem like a near impossibility for a Symphony to play jazz, but the Oregon Symphony came as close as you can get with one of the more ambitious conducting tasks of the night.

There were a lot of high points to Botti's performance including a haunting duet between Chris Botti and guitarist Mark Whitfield on Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah. The performance captured all the nuances of Buckley's arrangement while imbuing it with Botti's own signature style.  American Idol backup singer Sy Smith took the stage for a brilliantly jazzy rendition of The Look of Love. The chemistry between Smith and Botti's band was so good I could have watched an entire evening of them.

The absolute high point of the evening was when violinist Lucia Micarelli joined Botti to play the theme song from Cinema Paradiso.  Lucia Micarelli is mind blowingly talented and perhaps the best violinist I've heard. Together with Botti, Micarelli elevated the evening to a height so far above the rest of the performance. The two only played two songs together and as with Sy Smith I could have easily listened to an entire evening of the two playing together.

Botti finished the evening by turning off his mics and doing an 'un-plugged' version of Frank Sinatra's favorite lounge act closing song. It was refreshing to hear Botti's trumpet in its unamplified state, it presented a different perspective on his work and talent and was a great way to close the evening.

Chris Botti is an extremely talented and hard working musician who continues to have the ability to make each performance feel fresh and unique. Botti continues to surround himself with talented performers who deliver world class music at every outing. Chris Botti: Home for the Holidays was an excellent showcase of that talent as well as a love note to Jazz and the town where he learned his craft.

More info:

Portland Snow

On Portland Snow
On Portland Snow

We've had a good amount of snow lately, but today's snow storm was one of the prettiest I've seen in Portland.

Here's some video I snapped while walking in the snow:

@PortlandRain Storms Twitter

When I first saw @PortlandRain I was skeptical. I thought it was some sort of Twitter marketing ploy by one of the firms in town that specializes in Social Media Marketing. But the more I've followed @PortlandRain the more I've realized that it's not marketer, but some sort of artist or poet using Twitter as their canvas.

Just check out some of these recent @PortlandRain tweets:

Believe it or not, PotlandRain isn't at home. Please leave a message at the bee-eep. I must be out, or You would be we t. Where could I be?
Had a long night. Taking a few hours off this morning.

Only one day of rain and @PortlandSun is back! Looks like I picked the wrong day to stop sniffing glue

I'm never gonna stop the rain by complaining. Because I'm free (&Thankful), Nothing worrying me

@PortlandRain has been getting a fair amount of attention lately, first with an interview with the Oregon Red Cross Blog and then one with the Portland Water Bureau@PortlandRain was even mentioned on a recent episode of 7 Live @ The Square.

However, @PortlandRain really hit its tipping point today as a rain storm blanketed Portland  and @PortlandRain stormed twitter.  I think I saw as many references today to @PortlandRain as I have to #bacon this whole week. @PortlandRain even seemed to trump the highly anticipated release of WordPress 2.7.

Since the launch of @PortlandRain there have been a lot of other weather related twitters (including @PortlandSun and @PortlandSnow), but none seem to have the level of whit and character as @PortlandRain. Portland has long been known for its rain, so it'll be interesting to see if @PortlandRain finds national prominence.

Two Upcoming Portland Films – Fighting Politics and The Waiting List

  • As luck would have it, I got two emails this week almost back-to-back announcing new films with Portland roots. The first one Fighting Politics is a documentary on Matt "The Law" Lindland. Lindland, a former championship UFC Cagefighter, is the founder of Sport Fight (one of Portland's biggest MMA Events). This year Lindland made a run at the Oregon House of Representatives where he was nearly defeated in the general election. Fighting Politics looks at the life of Matt Lindland, his MMA career and his epic battle with the UFC and owner Dan White.The trailer for Fighting Politics looks phenomenal, and as soon as we get word on when it'll be playing in Portland we'll let you know!

    More info on Fighting Politics and Matt "The Law" Lindland:

    Another film with Portland roots is The Waiting List, a film about parents who spend the night in a preschool in order to get their kids enrolled (based on a real experience). The Waiting List was shot this summer at Springwater Environmental School in Oregon City, as well as at Voodoo Doughnuts II. It is currently in contention for spots at a number of film festivals nationwide. We'll let you know when The Waiting List has its first Portland showing!

    More info on The Waiting List: