Babik is an outstanding band from Buffalo, a gypsy jazz act that will revive you, thrill you and add some juice to your life.

No drums drive the band, the members all play stringed instruments:

Joshua Assad, rhythm guitar
Stuart Fuchs, lead guitar
Kevin O’Brien, upright bass
Geoffrey Fitzhugh Perry, violin

The gypsy jazz style, evidently, has in its heart and cells a magic rhythm, strong but unwilling to spoil the music’s melodies and open to improvisation and the flavor of the moment.

Django Reinhardt digested the gypsy music and life of his youth, the jazz of Duke Ellington and the tumult of Europe in the 1930’s and 40’s and grew the style of music that Babik performs. Babik’s music is not a rehashing of old excellent tunes and it is not neo-vintage-anything. It’s music that lives now. They employ the language of gypsy jazz the way that anyone employs a language. They use it to address the world and call forth their own sense of things. It is a language that is Django’s but it is theirs as well. It is ours if we choose to adopt it.

Jazz most often strikes me as a music to listen with the playing musicians. They don’t necessarily play for you, separated and at a distance. Get along side the music and move with it and it’s suddenly yours and it isn’t just a swirl of sound moving the air but a call, an expression, a beckoning, a direction that you can go with for a while.

That’s the way Babik plays, but also one better. When you get with the music, a door opens to all of the feeling–sweet and bitter–and history and technique and silences and stomps that are encoded into it. Damn, though, if you don’t have to do that to love it. It’s so many infectious grooves.

Below are links to recordings of a couple of their live performances. You’ll find that the music becomes more complex and expressive as the band plays music from their forthcoming second album, as featured on the Buffalo Avenues set. But everything they play is excellent.

From the Buffalo Live! Podcast, from the Allen Street Hardware Cafe, January 2006. http://wnypodcast.com/2006/02/25/podcast-11-babik/

From the Buffalo Avenues show at the University at Buffalo, February 2008. http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wbfo/…

Also a bonus download from the show on Buffalo Avenues. http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wbfo/…

Babik on MySpace

Incidentally, Stuart Fuchs is a graduate of the University at Buffalo Department of Music.

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Emulso is a company in Buffalo that makes soaps, polishes and other like products. They also sell a dishsoap under the Dash’s Market house brand and does what you would expect a dishsoap to do. Emulso also apparently makes a biodegradable pine cleaner that I shall try soon.

I am fascinated when I find anything of use being made in Buffalo and the areas surrounding. It’s not that I am ignorant of the fact that quite a lot of things are made in the area, quite the contrary, I think. It’s that finding people doing things productive or creative (even making something as unheralded as soap) crashes into the assumption of the area as a wasteland.

I don’t intend to act as a booster for the city or for any company or group or, really, anybody. I do have enthusiasms, of course, and I think that this one is more about discovering, each time, my own ignorance. There is always something new, unexpected or different than the “complete” world that I assume each day upon waking. So I find myself in a city with a company that makes soap on an industrial scale. Strange, perhaps.

Nancy Kress is a science fiction author from Rochester. She has written thirteen books, so her Web site says. I’ve encountered some of her short stories through the podcast Escape Pod.

The first was “Nano Comes to Clifford Falls” and it caught my attention the way a neighbor does, friendly, gesturing you over: take a look at this. But the story worms its way in while you feel as if this is all familiar territory. High-high tech meets midwestern farm town. Ms. Kress is working a different angle than you might expect from modern genre fiction, not going for a snigger-at-the-hicks or supergizmo titilation. She’s writing about what it’s like when the telephone showed up or the printing press and what those things do to one’s life and those one lives near. Maybe she’s even writing about what it’s like to become an adult. You wake up one morning and you’re different. You wake up and now you have access to the world in a completely new way, unpredictable yesterday.

You can read “Nano Comes to Clifford Falls” and hear it read at http://escapepod.org/2006/10/12/ep075-nano-comes-to-clifford-falls/.

Escape Pod also has a few other stories by her:

Margin of Error

Ej-Es

End Game

Update: Nancy Kress has won the Nebula Award for her novella “Fountain of Age.” Excellent news.

Tesla, The Accumulator is a strange, whizzing adventure, a mash-up of the real life of Nicola Tesla, the man who in some sense gave us the city of Buffalo, and gothic American horror. It’s based on The Accumulator, a comic by Queen City Bookstore owner Emil Novak.

The film is essentially done, all filmed, scored and mostly edited but is caught in one of the circles of hell, frozen by the inexplicable behavior of the main participants. I hope to see this movie in full some day, because it’s a damned good time and a tip of the hat to the city and to a genius.

www.teslamoviesite.com has scenes and stills from the movie, which give you a taste of its scope and vividness.