‘VICTORIA’ comes to MASTERPIECE this month on PBS

Scripted by bestselling novelist Daisy Goodwin (The Fortune Hunter), Victoria airs in seven magnificent parts, fit for a queen, on MASTERPIECE, Jan. 15 on PBS.

Jenna Coleman (Doctor Who) stars as the young Queen Victoria at the outset of her epic reign, which set the stage for an entire era that would be named in her honor. The stellar cast also includes Rufus Sewell (The Man in the High Castle) as Lord Melbourne, the British prime minister who was Victoria’s father figure and intimate friend, and Tom Hughes (Dancing on the Edge) as the handsome, brilliant and awkward Prince Albert, who stole Victoria’s heart after a rocky start.

In Victoria, writer Daisy Goodwin imaginatively depicts what it was like for an ill-educated, emotionally deprived teenager to wake up one morning and find that she is the most powerful woman in the world. Victoria charts how the new ruler rose to the challenge and weathered a series of crises — some of her own making — without ever losing her youthful charm and innate sense of justice, which made her popular with her subjects.

Victoria is a coproduction of Mammoth Screen and MASTERPIECE. It is created, written and executive produced by Goodwin. The director is Tom Vaughn (He Knew He Was Right). The directors are Sandra Goldbacher and Olly Blackburn. The producer is Paul Frift (Restless). The executive producers are Dan McCulloch and Damien Timmer for Mammoth Screen and Rebecca Eaton for MASTERPIECE, presented by WGBH Boston. It is distributed internationally by ITV Studios Global Entertainment.

Musical prodigy Emily Bear set to release ‘Into the Blue’

Photo Credit: Nick Suttle

Pianist/composer Emily Bear, 15, has achieved the kinds of accolades and triumphs that take many artists a lifetime to accomplish. She’s performed at the most prestigious venues across the country and around the world, received numerous awards and honors, composed for film and television, made six appearances on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, garnered 30 million views on YouTube, played at the White House, Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, been mentored by the legendary Quincy Jones – and that’s only a partial list.

Now, with the release of Into the Blue, Bear brings us new original jazz compositions performed with her trio. The album comprises five of her original compositions plus a warm, graceful take on “My Favorite Things” that hints at the immortal John Coltrane version before veering off into dazzling variations. Exuding Bear’s own exuberant passion for music, Into the Blue is both accessible and appealing for listeners of any age.

Bear follows the chart topping success of her first album, Diversity–produced by her long time mentor, Quincy Jones–with this inspiring collection of new melodies. Her agility on the piano is matched by her skill in creating stylistic compositions – catchy, intelligent, and sophisticated.

Bear has composed and arranged for orchestra, written for film and commercials.  And while she continues to expand her musical palette, jazz holds a special place in her heart. “What I love so much about jazz is that you have a lot more freedom than in classical music,” Bear says. “Jazz has a groove that doesn’t show up in any other kind of music and I enjoy using all my musical influences to create a unique sound, familiar yet new.”

Mitch’s Books: Author chronicles poignant tale of U.S. Army hero

In Shadow Commander: The Epic Story of Donald D. Blackburn (Casemate Publishers), author Mike Guardia presents his readers with a memorable story of an underdog whose career was a testament to dogged determination and the will to stay alive.

On the evening of April 9, 1942, the fires on Bataan burned with a primitive fury, illuminating white flags of surrender against the dark sky. Outnumbered and outgunned, remnants of the American-Philippine army surrendered to the forces of the Rising Sun. Yet U.S. Army Capt. Donald D. Blackburn refused to lay down his arms. With future Special Forces legend Russell Volckmann, Blackburn escaped to the jungles of North Luzon, raising a private army of 22,000 men against the Japanese. His organization of native tribes into guerrilla fighters would lead to the destruction of the enemy’s naval base at Aparri.

But Blackburn’s remarkable accomplishments didn’t end with the victory in the Pacific. He played a key role in initiating Army Special Forces operations in Southeast Asia, became commander of the 77th Special Forces Group and later took command of the highly classified Studies and Observations Group (SOG), charged with performing secret missions. Blackburn also revitalized the Special Operations campaign in South Vietnam, conducting full-scale operations against the NVA and Viet Cong in Laos and Cambodia. Following his return to the U.S., Blackburn was the architect of the infamous Son Tay Prison Raid, the largest prisoner-of-war rescue mission — and, indeed, the largest Army Special Forces operation — of the Vietnam War.

During a period when U.S. troops in Southeast Asia faced guerrilla armies on every side, America had a superb covert commander of its own. This book follows Blackburn through both his youthful days of desperate combat and his time as a commander, imparting his lessons to the new ranks of Army Special Forces.

An internationally-recognized author and military historian, Mike Guardia is also a veteran of the United States Army. He served six years on active duty as an Armor Officer. He is the author of the widely-acclaimed Hal Moore: A Soldier Once … and Always, the first-ever biography chronicling the life of Lieutenant General Harold G. Moore, whose leadership was popularized in the film We Were Soldiers starring Mel Gibson.  As a lecturer, Mike Guardia has given presentations at the U.S. Special Operations Command and the George Bush Presidential Library.  He holds a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degreee in American History from the University of Houston and currently resides in Texas.

For more information, please visit:  https://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Commander-Donald-Blackburn-Guerrilla-Special-ebook/dp/B0169GGSFY/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

Mitch’s Commercial Break: Mary Kay’s Mint Bliss Energizing Lotion for Feet & Legs

Check out Mary Kay’s refreshing mint lotion that helps tired feet and legs feel revived! http://expi.co/01Fxv6

Mitch’s Travel: Kickoff new year with wellness/fitness getway to Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic’s all-inclusive resorts and world-class, white-sand beaches beckon travelers from all over the globe for rest and relaxation. But with the new year calling – and new fitness resolutions for 2017 – travelers should consider jetting to Dominican Republic for a fitness or wellness getaway. From outdoor activities and wellness retreats to luxurious hotel gyms, there are exercise options for every type of fitness getaway this winter.

“Dominican Republic’s wide range of travel options and activities may surprise travelers. Our country is so versatile, not only are we the premier destination for beach vacations, but we have the natural playground and high-quality service perfect for a fitness trip,” said Magaly Toribio, marketing advisor for the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism in a news release. “There are so many exciting attractions to explore, you will stay active no matter where your trip takes you.”

Home to both the highest and lowest points above sea level in the Caribbean, the boundless array of outdoor activities will keep a traveler’s muscles moving. For travelers looking for something less rigorous, yoga classes can be found in tucked-away bungalows. With so much to keep moving on a wellness getaway in Dominican Republic, R&R can be saved for home.

For example, Dominican Republic’s lush greenery and impressive mountain views can’t be found in any gym, so skip the treadmill and opt for a nature walk or hike. The country’s most rigorous hike, Pico Duarte, located in the central part of the county, is the highest peak in the Caribbean. Reaching an elevation of 10,125 feet, travelers can embark on a two-, three- or four-day trek to the top that is sure to challenge people of all fitness levels. The hike offers views of varying landscapes from tropical trees to cloud forests.

A rising travel trend, wellness retreats offer travelers a chance to forget about the busyness back home and focus on exercising their mind, body and soul. Yoga retreats can be found throughout the country, but are especially popular in the lush ecotourism hotspot of Samaná. The area’s breathtaking landscape, complete with waterfalls, mountains and mangroves, provides the perfect balance of nature and tranquility for a yoga retreat. Travelers can also opt for a yoga class on the beach to unwind. Sometimes, taking a deep breath is just what the doctor ordered.

Classes and retreats welcome yogis of all levels and practices, including acro, ashtanga, ahtah, asan and more. Some wellness retreats even provide health professionals for a complete wellness experience. There are also several meditation centers that offer more wellness retreats to help with pain issues and/or stress management.

So whether a traveler is searching for meditation, spirituality or strength training on your wellness getaway, Dominican Republic has it all.  Visit Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism’s official website at: www.GoDominicanRepublic.com.

Charles Jenkins celebrates Christmas on Bounce TV’s “Holiday Praise”

Charles Jenkins

Soul Train Award nominated and Stellar Gospel Music Award winning recording artist Charles Jenkins’ “Holiday Praise” yuletide musical program will air at 8 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, Dec. 25 and a repeat broadcast at 9 a.m. on Bounce TV. Check your local TV listings for this program.

The hour-long holiday celebration was filmed at the historic Fellowship Chicago church, featuring an all-star musical lineup. The exhilarating concert features performances by Mary Mary’s Erica Campbell singing “Come Let Us Adore Him” and Grammy Award nominated singer Brian Courtney Wilson reinventing Donny Hathaway’s classic “This Christmas.” Deitrick Haddon delivers a passionate take on Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song.” Jonathan McReynolds does a resplendent acoustic cover of “Mary Don’t You Weep” while gospel legend Dorinda Clark Cole sings “Away in a Manger” to a circle of children. The show also features appearances by Tasha Page Lockhart, Isaac Carree, Donishia Ballard, and Dexter Walker & Zion Movement.

Jenkins, who is the pastor of the 8,000-member Fellowship Chicago, initially appeared on the national stage when the world-renowned song “Awesome” topped Billboard Magazine’s Hot Gospel Songs chart for 22 weeks in 2012.  The unforgettable “War” spent five weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Gospel Airplay chart and was cited by the magazine as the most played gospel song of 2015. Jenkins currently has a Top 10 hit with “Winning,” and his tune “Christmas Music” just made its Hot Gospel Songs chart debut at No. 21.

Mitch’s Travel: Santa Claus kicks off Christmas season Nov. 19 in Finland

santa_claus1According to a recent news release, Santa Claus will give his much-awaited speech in the annual Christmas opening in his official hometown Rovaniemi in Finnish Lapland on November 19. Fans can join the festivities directly from their own sofa.

Christmas opening festivities traditionally start the Christmas season in Finland. Held in Santa’s official hometown Rovaniemi in the Arctic Circle, the celebration gathers people from around the world to live the magic of Christmas.

The festivities start with a Christmas carol concert. Jingle bells jingle and elves gambol around when it’s time for the beloved Santa Claus to step on stage and hold his annual speech. Elves have whispered that this year Santa would speak about children’s rights and the meaning of charity. The speech and warm atmosphere will surely get everyone into the spirit of Christmas.

As Santa cannot fly everyone to Lapland to celebrate this special time of the year with him, he has arranged a possibility for fans to take part in the festivities online. A live broadcast from Arctic Circle starts at 3:30 p.m. Finnish time (UTC +2) on the Visit Rovaniemi Facebook-site  or Livestream.

Christmas opening launches an all-time winter season in Finnish Lapland

Rovaniemi enjoys exceptional popularity as a winter destination due to its fascinating nature and magical atmosphere. Even more people get to experience it this year, thanks to frequent charter flights and new direct flights from Berlin, London and Zurich. Co-operation with international operators such as Chinese Alitrip has been a significant move in terms of Asian market.

The provision of accommodation services in Rovaniemi is increasingly attractive due to the launch of new resorts such as Arctic Tree House Hotel, Santas Igloos Arctic Circle and Santa Claus Holiday Village extension. You can also find more exciting things to do, as new activities such as Aurora floating, Aurora flights, and nature watching tours have been added to the list of services. A truly breathtaking innovation is a cruise on a world’s biggest travel icebreaker on the Swedish side of the border.

The beloved Santa Claus can be visited every day of the year in Santa Claus Village, Arctic Circle in Rovaniemi.

Discogs announce partnership with Crate Diggers

Discogs, the world’s largest physical database, has recently announced the partnership with the premier vinyl-centric event in the world, Crate Diggers. The acquisition further solidifies Discogs as a leader in the vinyl community. By leveraging Crate Diggers footprint in the vinyl events space, Discogs seeks to bring their community from behind their screens to in the flesh in ten different cities across the globe in 2017.
“We’re often asked if we support record stores and selling offline. The answer has always been yes,” said Chad Dahlstrom, Discogs chief operating officer in a news release. “Through our site vinylhub and now Crate Diggers we can continue to support the sales, and trading of albums live. All of us love to dig records, and we want Crate Diggers to be one of those events diggers can look forward to year after year.”
Originally started three years ago in Portland, Ore., Crate Diggers has quickly expanded to include Los Angeles and Miami, Fla. This year saw the first international Crate Diggers held in Berlin. The event is always free, and the format is simple: Record Fair by day that gives way to a DJ After Party at night. Theo Parrish, Doc Martin, Dam Funk, Rick Wilhite and more have graced the turntables bridging the gap between old school record collectors and new vinyl enthusiasts.
“The vinyl record resurgence shows people are tired of renting their music and are looking for a tangible way to connect with their music if nothing else. Crate Diggers gives music lovers the world over the opportunity to connect in that same way in person, ” said Ronald Rich Jr., Discogs, director of marketing.
Discogs is the user-built database of music; with a catalog of more than 6.5 million recordings and 4 million artists, Discogs is the largest physical music database in the world. In addition, Discogs connects buyers and sellers across the globe. With more than 10 million items available and thousands of sellers, this is the premier spot for new releases to hard to find gems. Download the Discogs App for iOS (HERE) and Android (HERE). More on Discogs at crash-avenue.com/current-roster-2/discogs.

‘Duopoly’ chronicles pianist’s sessions with improvisers

davisCritically acclaimed pianist and composer Kris Davis has released her newest album, Duopoly, on Pyroclastic Records.  The album consists of 16 tracks with eight different highly regarded improvisers.  Each musician performs two pieces alongside Davis, one composed and the other completely improvised.  For Duopoly, Davis chose to work with musicians whom she had never worked with in a recording studio.  They are: guitarists Bill Frisell and Julian Lage, pianists Craig Taborn and Angelica Sanchez, drummers Billy Drummond and Marcus Gilmore, and reed players Tim Berne and Don Byron.

The CD comes with a DVD of live performances of each piece performed by Davis and collaborator.  Davis explains in a news release, “We also chose to make a visual record, which we hoped would be as live and uncompromising as the music.  Shot by Mimi Chakarova with one fixed camera and one handheld, the goal was for this film to have a kind of 1:1 or indexical relationship to the music itself.”

Davis continues her celebratory Duopoly tour tonight at Kennedy Center Millennium Stage in Washington DC, with pianist, and album collaborator, Craig Taborn.  The tour will continue through mid-October.

Rob Reddy blurs the lines between improvisation and complex structure

reddySince his emergence onto the scene in 1989, composer/soprano saxophonist Rob Reddy has established himself as an adventurous and original leader in the contemporary jazz realm. Prolific, eclectic and versatile, Reddy is recognized by musicians, critics, and funding institutions. With his new recording Citizen Quintet, Reddy adds another powerful milestone to his reputation. Citizen Quintet is his eighth album where Reddy is again fully within his own territory and in the company of a superb group of musicians — trumpeter John Carlson, guitarist Brandon Ross, double bassist Dom Richards and drummer Pheeroan akLaff — all regular collaborators of his for more than 20 years.
With Citizen Quintet, Reddy has purposefully diminished the emphasis upon the compositional form on behalf of a looser and more open approach to the creative substance, allowing the musicians’ longtime familiarity to breathe more freely. As a result, Reddy says “this session had a real joy & ease to it.” Indeed, the sense of joyful turbulence and free-reined expressiveness that is so fundamental to the music of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Sun Ra and Albert Ayler is vividly displayed throughout this album.
But this is no free improv or loose-knit blowing album by any means. There is a rich and complex structure and overall sense of purpose and shape always in full bloom. Reddy states in a recent news release, “Within the confines of five instrumental voices I attempted to break the ensemble down … solos, duos, trios, entire ensemble improvisations … I continue to explore the idea of juxtaposing the composed melodic material and the improvised music with one another.” They emerge from the compositional structures and sometimes the process is reversed — and often combined. Written and improvised lines are sometimes blurred, sometimes intersected and sometimes indistinguishable within the pure musicality and extraordinary musicianship of the members of the ensemble.