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Sons of Azrael vocalist reported dead

Joe Siracuse, lead vocalist with Buffalo-based hardcore metal band Sons of Azrael, has died, according to a report published by AntiMUSIC.com. No details on the circumstances surrounding the 29 year-old's death have been made available. Band members posted a brief message on their Facebook page on Tuesday, reading simply "Joseph R. Siracuse 1983-2012".

This is the second time in the space of a single year that the band has been affected by tragedy. Last October, Sons of Azrael guitarist Tony Lorenzo was shot during a mugging in the Elmwood Village. Lorenzo has been paralyzed from the waist down since the shooting.

We'll report details as they become available.

--Jeff Miers

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Talking Leaves to host publication launch for Great Lakes Review tonight

Buffalo is one of five cities that will be hosting simultaneous readings and publication launch events tonight for the inaugural issue of Great Lakes Review,  a new triquarterly journal that publishes fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry from Toronto, Chicago, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Buffalo, and the rest of the Great Lakes region.  A book launch is scheduled tonight in an independent book seller in each of the five cities in which the review will be distributed.

Among the Buffalo area contributors to the debut issue of Great Lakes Review who will be reading from their work at 7 p.m. tonight at Talking Leaves Books, 3158 Main St. in Buffalo are poet and BlazeVox Books publisher Geoffrey Gatza, poet and Just Buffalo BIG NIGHT co-curator Aaron Lowinger, playwright and children's author Donna Hoke, and poet Damian Weber.  Former Just Buffalo Artistic Director Michael Kelleher, who now lives in New Haven, Connecticut is also a contributor.

The event is free and open the public, and copies of the new journal will be available for purchase.  For submission guidelines to Great Lakes Review, visit
http://greatlakesculturalreview.submittable.com/submit.

--R.D. Pohl
 

Three Dog Night and the old neighborhood

St. ann's 2

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly to Three Dog Night. A friend called me today and told me he remembers the roller rink at St. Ann's that Cory Wells talked about.

It was on the top floor of the school, he said.

Right now it is apparently not pretty, the old roller rink. There is all this water damage. This once handsome building has been allowed to deteriorate horribly.

The friend went on to tell me that the little church nearby where Wells heard the gospel music was across the street from St. Ann's. He said it was a Baptist church and the music coming out of it was very loud and was kind of famous in the neighborhood.

Thinking about that now, you get depressed, you know? I know, when Wells was growing up, the neighborhood was not paradise. But it is terrible to think of what it looks like now. It is unbelievable to think how beautiful St. Ann's Church is sitting there crumbling. You would not think that any civilized society would allow this to happen.

I mean, if you saw this in Europe...

St. ann's

... you would be freaking out and taking pictures.

Oh well. Whatever Wells does when he is in town I hope he does not go back to his old neighborhood.

It will really have him singing the blues!

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

Video: Critics' Corner with Simon & Miers

Cory Wells' granddaughter, in the Subaru driver's seat

Cory Wells of Three Dog Night -- my interview with him is running in today's paper -- is a lot of fun to talk to. He was also very patient with me because it became obvious early on that I am more of a Beethoven and Brahms gal than a rock 'n roll gal.

I liked him a lot and I kept him on the phone for quite a while. I mean, how often do you get to someone who reaches that kind of pinnacle of fame? A few weeks ago I was out shopping and "Joy to the World" came onto the store's sound system and everyone was singing along.

One thing Mr. Wells -- that was what I called him -- told me, I could not quite fit it in. It would have taken too much explaining. So here it is:

In the Subaru commercial up above, when you see the guy's daughter grown up, that is Cory Wells' granddaughter. He and his wife have two daughters and a four grandkids. One grandson, Jake, works for a casting company. He told me that.

The Subaru commercial is kind of sweet and Cory Wells' granddaughter is cute. The apple did not fall far from the tree. I mean, check out Cory in this video, singing lead. Adorable. That pantsuit, hahaha! People really had fun with their clothes back then. Also it is interesting how he smiles. Back then it was not stylish for rockers to smile.

I asked Mr. Wells what he thought of his granddaughter going into show business.

He said: "It scares the hell out of me. Because I know what this business can be. It can eat you up really fast." He added: "I hope her father’s diligent about keeping her safe."

He is known for avoiding the pitfalls of the rock lifestyle and for his long marriage. Mr. Wells, I asked, what do you tell up-and-comers in music who come to you for advice?

 "I’d say stay away from drugs," he said. "It does not enhance you nor does it make you better nor does it make you a genius. Stay focused and live for the music. It's the best advice I can give."

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

The mystery portrait of Mozart

 Mozart

The British blogger and author Norman Lebrecht calls our attention to a controversy surrounding the most famous portrait of Mozart. A friend kindly alerted it to me on Facebook. It seems this portrait, pictured above, is generating quite the buzz.

It was painted by Mozart's brother-in-law Joseph Lange, who married Aloysia Weber, the girl Mozart had originally been in love with. This portrait stands out among other Mozart portraits because it is the only one that appears to hint at his genius. The others all look kind of vapid and two-dimensional.

Our authority on this portrait is Michael Lorenz, a musicologist and scholar. Looking over what he wrote he seems to be telling us that the portrait was expanded from a miniature. I will have to read it in more depth. One thing, the portrait always did look a little funny to me by the way it is unfinished but the boundary between the painted and the unpainted areas is so pronounced. It looks like a paint-by-number painting might if you had not finished it.

I like how Lorenz knows Lange's work and calls him one of the best amateur painters he has run across. It is fortunate that Mozart had his portrait painted by someone halfway decent. Other than that, Mozart was unlucky in that regard. You think of Chopin, being painted by Delacroix ... I saw this in the Louvre..

Chopin

.. or the portrait of Richard Wagner by Renoir.

Wagner

With Mozart we are stuck with a lot of pictures that do not hint at what he was like.

Well, at least we are learning more about the pictures we do have.

I will stay tuned!

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

 

On Paul Hogan's new collection of poems, 'Inventories'

The poems in Paul Hogan's new collection "Inventories" (BlazeVox Books) explore themes of legacy and loss, corporeality and physical pain, the errant qualities of human attention and limits of speculation about natural phenomenon, usually set against the more pressing agendas of the flesh.  "What is precious/cannot be delivered all of a piece, polished and pointed at,'' he writes in his poem "Deliverance":

What is precious is what can be or not be, depending
 only on faith that it will not be held simply
 within things we believe to be shatterproof.

 Hogan--who read from and signed copies of the new collection Friday night at the Western New York Book Arts Center and will join poet Morani Kornberg-Weiss in a reading at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday afternoon in Buffalo State College's Butler Library as a guest of The Rooftop Poetry Club--is not a confessional poet in the sense that his work attempts to dramatize the inner life of a constructed literary subject, but it is instructive to read his work  as a kind of formalized soulcraft in which the constraints of the writing process permit him to methodically strip away layer after layer of psychological armor, until the familiar masculine cadences of his narrative voice fall away, and he is face-to-face with his own vulnerabilities, his own mortality, and the terrifyingly irreducible fact of his own body.

As was the case in his previous collection "Points of Departures" (White Pine Press, 2008), the results of this denuding can be as unsettling for the reader as it presumably is for the poet.  The awkwardness of intimacy, the confusing continuum that is sexuality, and the shifting ground that is identity and gender attribution are touchstones of his work, even if the emotional impact of these self-interrogations can sometimes transfigure his poetics into an existential ordeal.

"I am terrified I’ll lose/ you as a/ lover even though/ I keep you as/ a wife mainly/ because of my/ body which I/ am less ashamed of/ than resigned to," he writes in one of the most harrowing poems in the collection, one in which he describes in almost excruciating detail the extent to which his current physical condition limits his plausibility as an erotic subject.

In the poem that lends this volume its title, Hogan situates himself in the gene pool of first born sons of "west Euro Celtic" descendants, with all that implies in terms of ethnography, cultural affinities and prejudices.   The poem unfolds as a kind of exorcism of a mindset--almost akin to the evolutionary assertion of the frontal cortex over the primitive reptilian brain--that leads the poet to at once both acknowledge and repudiate the tribalism of his own heritage:

we all are racist, sexist, classist – repeat:

homophobic, geocentric, fanatic – repeat: until

every one of us drawing breath now

gets that we cannot be part of the fix

that tears off those plates of that armor

we never think anyone sees, until

we give up that we’re wearing it now,

and count it, once and for all.

At the core of Hogan's work is a kind of sustaining pessimism--think Beckett, or later Yeats, or even Robert Creeley's "Bresson's Movies"--that even while he is taking his dying dog out for some fresh air in "The Walking," refuses to sentimentalize or seek some redemptive quality in small gestures:

...I know he’s dying and there’s nothing

either of us can learn from it. We can’t

examine the faults of our lives

through the misapplied lens of the other; can’t

find clarity in the lack of sense of this, can’t

weigh down this walking with wanting

different paths. Even if I call his big eyes wise,

I know it helps only me.

 

He knows better than to ask

anything of me other than a walking pace

a quarter-step quicker than I’d prefer; water

when we go in; an ice cube if he reminds me.

But after all the trees rush past like so many people

in so many quick lives, there’s nothing, finally,

to learn beyond the fleeting messages at each next

tree we lurch toward, though by the end of this

walk I’m afraid he’ll forget all he’s known

in his innocent rush

to get to what’s next.

 

The twenty-five poems in "Inventories" are complemented by a series of a half dozen intaglio and wood cut print images by the Buffalo area artist Cynthia Hand reproduced in whole and in various degrees of detail by the artist.  Although not created in specific collaboration with Hogan's text, they serve to highlight its rough, furrowed grace nonetheless.

--R.D. Pohl

Live chat: Miers on Music at noon

Daemen College opens new arts center

LOCAL DAEMEN LEWIS
Daemen College's new Center for the Visual and Performing Arts opened on Oct. 4. Photo by Charles Lewis / The Buffalo News.

Earlier tonight, Daemen College celebrated the opening of its new Center for Visual and Performing Arts. The building, formerly the college's library, was transformed by  local architecture firm Lauer-Manguso. The firm's Glenn Jones spoke to me about the concept for the design during a break from the celebration in the structure's outdoor classroom area:

 

And here's a short video of Daemen College President Edwin Clausen giving some remarks about the building's importance to the college and to the community at large:

Look for Charles Lewis' photos later on, and my column on the new center in Sunday's paper.

--Colin Dabkowski

Video: Replay Critics' Corner chat with Simon & Miers

News critics Jeff Simon and Jeff Miers took reader questions about music, TV, movies, books and more yesterday during their weekly Critics' Corner chat. Watch the half-hour show:

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