TORONTO – On the title track of his new solo album, “Skyscraper Soul,” Jim Cuddy croons about a city that “can bring you down” but one which he cannot leave because underneath it, “there’s a heart beating.”
The amiable Blue Rodeo frontman says the reflective tune is largely an ode to his hometown of Toronto, which he thinks is sometimes misunderstood.
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“It sort of came about because … first of all, I think I’ve taken umbrage in the last year (at how) so many people slag Toronto,” the singer-songwriter said in a recent interview.
“For years and years and years it never bothered me and I never even thought about it. I don’t know why in the last year I’ve gotten kind of prickly about it,” the jeans-clad country-rocker mused while sitting on a couch at Blue Rodeo’s Woodshed Studio, where the group’s many Juno Awards are on display atop an armoire.
“I think that Toronto represents the beauty of many cities around the world – that its beauty isn’t always apparent upon first viewing. You come to Toronto and you may feel like it’s a cold, concrete place and after you’re here awhile … you realize that there’s an incredible amount of energy in this city and that it’s a very easy place to do creative things because there are so many people to bump into, to bounce idea off of.”
Cuddy said the track is also a nod to his early struggles in New York, where he and fellow Blue Rodeo singer-songwriter Greg Keelor lived in the early 1980s.
The two tried to make it as musicians there, supplementing their paltry income by serving tables, but gave up after three years.
“We realized at the end that it’s a bad place to put together a band,” said Cuddy, 55, noting musicians would suddenly drop out of the group because they were broke and had to move.
“It was just such a difficult place to keep life and limb together. We could never have done Blue Rodeo down there. It was coming back to Toronto, getting a little bit off the incredibly beaten track in New York, that helped us to have the time and the wherewithal to put together a decent band and play a lot.”
The urban nature of Cuddy’s third solo album, out Tuesday, is also felt in its sound, which has a lot more trumpet than what Cuddy normally works with.
“It changed the songs so that they became a little less rural, a little less country,” said Cuddy, who recorded the album in January, May and June with his touring solo outfit, The Jim Cuddy Band (Colin Cripps, Bazil Donovan, Joel Anderson, Steve O’Connor and Anne Lindsay).
“I chose to write from the perspective of being here and looking out, as opposed to many times in my career I’ve chosen to write about being in the mountains or being free of the city.”
Bryden Baird guests on the trumpet as well as flugel horn, glockenspiel and vibraphone. Other cameos include vocalist Melissa McClelland.
Cuddy embarked on the 14-track project (12 of the tunes are also available on vinyl) after writing the funk-infused song “Water’s Running High” for his actress-wife Rena Polley’s short comedy film, “Four Sisters.”
Playing piano on the song is their 24-year-old son, Devin, who studied jazz at York University and noodled a bit on Cuddy’s last solo album, 2006’s “The Light That Guides You Home.”
Cuddy’s family life also comes through on “Regular Days,” about a financially strapped couple on a road trip.
The story is reminiscent of the time he and Polley, with whom he also has two other children, drove around Florida early in their relationship, he said.
“We were so exhausted from our lives and she was asleep in the car and it sort of occurred to me then, and certainly upon reflection, that somehow this was going to be the template of our lives,” said Cuddy, who has several tour dates lined up for the rest of the year and will embark on a cross-Canada tour with his band in the new year.
“That these weren’t just wild days that we were having and then we were going to settle into a normal life. We were always going to have this very left-of-centre life, and that is certainly the way it’s turned out.”
“Everyone Watched the Wedding,” about an empty nester who watched the recent royal nuptials to get relief from his life, is the album’s first single.
Cuddy said he was one of the legions of viewers who got up early in the morning to catch the royal wedding live on TV. But the impetus for the song started much earlier, when he became smitten with the film “The King’s Speech.”
“One of the things that I was really struck by was that in order for a king to be a king, he had to be completely removed from the people; he couldn’t be of the people, he couldn’t have normal friends, he couldn’t be seen walking down the street buying groceries,” he said.
“I thought, ‘Well, that’s a very noble thing to do. It kind of brings tears to your eyes that somebody would sacrifice themselves like that.’ I started to read about William and I thought, ‘In a way, this kid is doing the same thing.’”
“Skyscraper Soul” also has a purely instrumental track: “City Birds.”
Cuddy said he wrote the song for the 2010 film “Gunless,” starring Paul Gross, which Keelor scored.
“But it was rejected as being too sentimental,” Cuddy recalled with a laugh. “Which was great for me because I was very glad to have it back.”
Cuddy said another song from the album, “Don’t Know That Much,” was also one that he originally scored for the film.
“That was also offered to Greg and rejected, so his rejections are my benefit,” he said.
ATLANTA – A judge took the rare step Tuesday of allowing former NBA player Javaris Crittenton, charged with murder in a drive-by shooting, to go free on bond after hearing friends and coaches testify that he was too focused on making a comeback to squander his future on a revenge killing.
Magistrate Judge Karen Smith Woodson took the unusual step to grant him US$230,000 bond over the objections of prosecutors, who said they feared Crittenton could threaten witnesses who implicated him in the Aug. 19 shooting death of 22-year-old Julian Jones in Atlanta.
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The judge, though, banned Crittenton from the crime scene and ordered Paul Hewitt, who was coaching Georgia Tech when Crittenton starred there, to co-sign the bond with others who spent hours testifying on his behalf Tuesday.
The former first-round draft pick for the Los Angeles Lakers, who was suspended from the NBA after a locker room dispute with ex-teammate Gilbert Arenas, was arrested Aug. 30 at a southern California airport and charged with the shooting. Police said Crittenton was retaliating for being robbed of $55,000 worth of jewelry when Jones was mistakenly hit by gunfire while standing outside her house with a man who wasn’t injured, 18-year-old Trontavious Stephens.
Atlanta Police Det. James Thorpe testified that police charged Crittenton after Stephens identified the player as the shooter in a photo lineup. Thorpe said investigators were told by Stephens that he had a “good, clear look” at the gunman because he stuck his head out of a dark SUV from the back seat. He also said a neighbour who had spotted Crittenton in the neighbourhood searching for the jewelry thieves told police that Crittenton was the gunman, according to authorities.
Defence lawyer Brian Steel said the charges were based on faulty eyewitness testimony and that no physical evidence linked the player to the shooting. Police haven’t located blood or DNA evidence. His fingerprints weren’t found in the black SUV he rented hours before the shooting took place, and tests for gunpowder residue are still pending.
Steel also disputed assertions from authorities who said Crittenton stuck his head and arms out of the back of the vehicle. He noted that the window of the black Chevrolet Tahoe he was accused of riding in only gave him about six inches of space.
“There’s no physical evidence,” Steel said. “There’s no gun. There are no confessions.”
Crittenton’s friends and family, who packed the courtroom and a nearby overflow area, said he was too busy training for his return to the league to worry about stolen jewelry.
His longtime friend Darryl Slack said Crittenton made it his mission in life to be on an NBA roster, and his agent Mark Bartelstein testified that his client had turned down offers to play overseas so he could try out for a few NBA squads when the league’s lockout ended.
“He was really focused. He had something to prove,” Bartelstein said.
Crittenton is an Atlanta native who starred at Georgia Tech before being drafted by the Lakers in 2007. He was later traded to the Washington Wizards, where he and then-teammate Gilbert Arenas had a dispute over a card game in December 2009. Two days later, Arenas brought four guns to the locker-room and set them in front of Crittenton’s locker with a sign telling him to “PICK 1.” Crittenton then took out his own gun.
Crittenton pleaded guilty in January 2010 to a misdemeanour gun charge and received a year of unsupervised probation.
He has struggled to get back into the NBA after that episode, playing overseas in China for some months before returning in January to play for the NBA developmental league’s Dakota Wizards.
The move was a wake-up call for Crittenton, said Hewitt, now head basketball coach of George Mason University.
“Being there got his attention, He said, ‘Coach, it’s so cold up here my lungs hurt,’” Hewitt said. “It helped him refocus.”
In April, Crittenton told police that he and a friend were leaving a barbershop when two teenagers surprised them. One of the men held Crittenton at gunpoint and forced him to hand over a $25,000 black diamond necklace, a $30,000 black diamond watch, an iPhone and $25 cash, according to a police report.
Stephens has told The Associated Press he had never met Crittenton and wasn’t involved in the robbery. Police have said they don’t believe Jones, a 23-year-old mother of four, was the intended target, but they haven’t said who they believe the gunman was after.
“I didn’t know him at all,” said Stephens.
The day of the shooting, Hewitt said, he spoke to Crittenton and that he sounded “very upbeat” after some good workouts. He then travelled to visit his ex-girlfriend Mia Fields on a long-planned trip to Los Angeles when he learned police had charged him in the killing, she testified Tuesday.
“He looked shocked, paralyzed and in fear,” she told the court. “He said, ‘I didn’t do this and I can’t believe they are blaming me for this.’”
Jack Barrs, a prosecutor in Atlanta’s Fulton County, didn’t address Crittenton’s journey to California before his arrest. But he urged the judge to keep Crittenton in custody so he can’t threaten the witnesses crucial to the case.
“This case is about retaliation and revenge,” he said. “And as a result of his actions a totally innocent person is dead.”
But Steel vowed his client wouldn’t violate the conditions of his release and said that doing so could sacrifice a lucrative NBA salary. And Crittenton’s pastor, Mark Allen Couch, told the court there was little doubt where the athlete would be each weekend.
Once again, the NHL has found itself trending for all the wrong reasons.
Philadelphia Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds, just days removed from being subjected to an apparent racial taunt in London, Ont., found himself under investigation for an alleged homophobic slur made to New York Rangers agitator Sean Avery.
While Simmonds ultimately escaped punishment, the league issued a strong warning in announcing its decision.
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“All players, coaches and officials in the National Hockey League deserve the respect of their peers, and have the absolute right to function in a work environment that is free from racially or sexually-based innuendo or derision,” Colin Campbell, the league’s senior executive vice president of hockey operations, said Tuesday in a release.
“Since there are conflicting accounts of what transpired on the ice, we have been unable to substantiate with the necessary degree of certainty what was said and by whom. …
“In light of this, we are unable at this time to take any disciplinary action with respect to last night’s events.”
The latest ugly turn in an eventful NHL pre-season not only provided more fodder for talk shows and social media sites, but also offered a reminder that truth is often stranger than fiction.
Avery is the league’s most notorious pest and was suspended six games in 2008 after making the infamous “sloppy seconds” remark about an ex-girlfriend who had started dating Dion Phaneuf. However, he’s also been a strong advocate for gay marriage in New York State.
For Simmonds, it was a second appearance at the centre of a controversial story inside a week. A fan threw a banana out of the stands at John Labatt Centre last Thursday during a shootout attempt by Simmonds, one of a handful of black players in the NHL.
There was some confusion about the incident with Avery on Monday night – Simmonds said he wasn’t sure exactly what was said in the heat of the moment – but the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) demanded an apology.
“Hate speech and anti-gay slurs have no place on the ice rink,” said Mike Thompson, the acting president of GLAAD. “The word that Simmonds used is the same word that is hurled at (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) youth on the playground and in our schools, creating a climate of intolerance and hostility.
“He should not only apologize for this anti-gay outburst, but the Philadelphia Flyers and the NHL have a responsibility to take action and educate their fans about why this word is unacceptable.”
With the NHL slated to open its regular season Oct. 6, the incident shifted the focus again away from the on-ice product.
And that is decidedly unwelcome following an off-season dominated by Sidney Crosby’s concussion problems and the tragic deaths of a trio of enforcers. A string of suspensions resulting from illegal pre-season hits have also made headlines.
The most recent incident occurred during a heated game between Atlantic Division rivals. Avery and Simmonds were at odds in the first period, and television cameras caught Simmonds arguing with Avery, appearing to utter the slur.
It immediately became a major discussion point among fans and journalists on Twitter before spreading to NHL dressing rooms on Tuesday morning.
Player opinions ranged from those questioning the source of the allegation – “With Avery, you never know what the real thing is,” said Habs forward Mathieu Darche – to those wondering whether words exchanged on the ice should be discussed in public afterwards.
“There’s a lot of things said back and forth,” said Calgary Flames defenceman Scott Hannan. “We’ve all been there. If you’ve ever played sports and been in that situation, where the anger or the emotion gets a little ahead of you, that should be taken into context somewhat.”
Added Vancouver Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa: “Racial slurs are off limits. Stay away from personal issues all together, people’s families and wives. After that, I don’t think there has to be a whole lot of tattle-tailing.”
Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, who’s late son Brendan came out publicly announcing his homosexuality with the support of his father, said he approved of the way the league handled the incident.
“I don’t think a player should be suspended until the league had made it clear that that was a suspendable offence,” said Burke, an ardent supporter of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender community.
“I’m really pleased with Colin’s (Campbell) statement. I do think it should be a workplace that’s free of commentary like that. I do believe a lot of this is habitual and it’s got to stop.”
Campbell gave up the NHL’s discipline job in June, but stepped in to handle Simmonds’ discipline hearing because of the long queue forming at the door of his successor Brendan Shanahan.
Shanahan continued his crackdown Tuesday by suspending Anaheim Ducks forward Jean-Francois Jacques for the remainder of the pre-season and five regular-season games after leaving the bench on a legal line change to start a fight with Vancouver’s Mike Duco over the weekend.
That brought the total discipline meted out by Shanahan to six suspensions covering 21 pre-season games, 22 regular-season games and US$636,952.83 in forfeited wages – all over an unprecedented span of just six days.
More punishment is coming.
As of Tuesday night, the league hadn’t announced any discipline against Flyers forward Tom Sestito, who was ejected from Monday’s game for hitting Rangers forward Andre Deveaux from behind – a textbook example of the kind of play the NHL is looking to eliminate.
With all of the bad press coming out of the exhibition season, some began to question whether it was dragging on too long. Perhaps that was only a matter of perception.
“It’s only two and half weeks,” said Habs defenceman Josh Gorges. “It’s hard to explain how all this happened in one pre-season but it’s definitely not too long. It’s short, it’s quick.”
With files from Bill Beacon in Montreal, Jim Morris in Vancouver and Donna Spencer in Calgary.
CARACAS, Venezuela – Over months, Venezuelan TV soap opera writer Leonardo Padron built a Twitter following of about 250,000 people by posting more than a dozen messages a day, many of them skewering President Hugo Chavez.
On Aug. 29, Padron issued a typical shot: “Chavez knows of the immense death toll that there is in this country, so why such indifference to the subject of insecurity?”
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Three days later, however, the tweets picked a new target: Padron himself. “In no way have I contributed to combat racism, discrimination, cultural alienation,” one note read. “My soap operas feed these evils in our society.”
Padron had fallen victim to an unknown hacker or group of hackers who have hijacked the accounts of at least nine well-known Chavez critics, posting curse-filled insults, threats and slogans such as “Long live Chavez.”
One late-night post called a journalist a homosexual, and another threatened a Chavez opponent: “I’m going after you little by little, Damned Narco.” Doctored photos show opponents wearing red berets of the sort favoured by the socialist leader.
The burst of Twitter hacking has opened a new battlefield in Venezuela’s heated political wars. Some Chavez critics say their email accounts have also been compromised.
A group calling itself “N33” has claimed responsibility for the Twitter attacks, and those targeted have had “N33” appear on their Twitter profiles.
All sorts of theories have been circulating about who is behind N33, ranging from Chavez allies to opponents trying to make the government look bad. Some wonder if it could be a single young hacker trying to make a statement.
Padron heard from an acquaintance that his account was sending out insults. He had been wondering why he wasn’t able to sign in to Twitter. Suddenly, it was clear: Someone had stolen his password and shut him out.
“It’s an invasion, a humiliation. It’s as if you’re about to go into your house and the door doesn’t open with your key, and you sense there’s someone inside posing as you,” Padron told The Associated Press in an interview.
“You don’t imagine that your 2.0 life is going to be stolen, that your voice is going to be expropriated,” Padron said. “Of course, I began to have a very strong feeling of indignation.”
Other victims of the attacks this month have included an activist, a humorist, three journalists, a TV show host, an ex-diplomat and a former Chavez supporter, all of them openly critical of Chavez.
Some of the victims have complained to authorities. Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz said that two prosecutors are collecting evidence and will talk to witnesses.
Both Twitter and Google say the attacks most likely involved phishing, a form of Internet fraud in which victims are tricked into revealing passwords or other personal information through emails with links to pages that appear to be authentic. Once a victim enters a password for Twitter or an email account on a fraudulent page, hackers are able to use it to take over the real account and change the password.
About 2 million Venezuelans, or 8 per cent of the population, are Twitter users, according to figures by the local research company Tendencias Digitales. That gives Venezuela the second highest Twitter penetration in the region, after Uruguay.
Chavez’s opponents regularly use the social networking site to spread critical commentary, while the government goes on Twitter to promote its policies and attack opponents. Chavez’s Twitter account, chavezcandanga, reached the milestone of 2 million followers on Aug. 31.
That very day, the attacks by N33 began. In a Sept. 2 statement posted on the Internet, it called itself a group without links to “any government entity.”
The statement was read aloud on state television by the host of the late night talk show La Hojilla, or “The Razor,” a program that often denounces Chavez opponents.
In the statement, N33 said it had hijacked accounts to retaliate for “improper use of Twitter” and for attacking Chavez while he undergoes cancer treatment. It said Chavez’s “convalescence hasn’t been enough of a reason for these opposition characters … to diminish their load of rage and bad intentions.”
N33 has also taken over Gmail accounts, usually at night, stealing personal messages and photos and posting them on Twitter.
While the attacks on Twitter accounts died down after the first week of September, N33 continued posting items extracted from email accounts on a Twitter account, Cain_Supremo, until that account was suspended by Twitter. Another account has since appeared purporting to represent N33.
Activist Rocio San Miguel, whose Twitter account was taken over, also saw her personal photos and documents as well as insults and threats against her appear on the N33 Twitter feed.
“It’s a feeling of powerlessness,” San Miguel told the AP. “Without a doubt, they want to frighten and intimidate.”
San Miguel leads an organization focused on national security and defence issues, and she likened the attacks to a sort of terrorism, saying they seem aimed at making an example of certain government critics to inhibit others.
Padron said it took him three days to block his own account. He also had to recoup email accounts that had been seized.
One of pirate posts on Padron’s Twitter account sent greetings to the website “Table of Scorpions,” a similarly mysterious, unsigned blog that has posted recorded phone conversations of opposition politicians.
Venezuelan law imposes prison sentences for cyber-spying or accessing others’ accounts, and one 17-year-old Venezuelan was arrested four years ago for hacking into government websites. He was later released and the status of his case is unclear.
Twitter said that phishing schemes are a leading hazard.
“Most attempts to gain access to accounts target users by sending them fraudulent messages meant to trick them into sharing their passwords,” Twitter spokeswoman Kristen Hawley said in an email. “A personal email account that’s compromised is the second most likely way an intruder gains access to Twitter accounts.”
Rafael Nunez, a Venezuelan online security expert who has experience as a hacker, noted that while N33 describes itself as a group, many of its messages are written in the first person. One such message on Twitter boasted: “I’ve got you going crazy.”
“It’s a single virtual speaker, but behind that speaker there could be collaborators,” said Nunez, who heads the Venezuelan information security company Clean Perception.
Nunez was imprisoned in the United States for more than eight months in 2005 for hacking a Defence Department website and was later released. He calls himself an “ethical hacker” who saw hacking as a challenge and now uses his knowledge to improve online security.
After studying some of the latest attacks, Nunez said N33 apparently gained access to Gmail accounts by phishing for passwords or using software that enabled keystroke logging.
Nunez said he doesn’t know of other countries where Twitter accounts have been similarly taken over in such a systematic way.
As for who might be behind it, Nunez said there are only theories for now.
“The language is very immature,” Nunez said. “It’s like a kid.”
Associated Press writer Christopher Toothaker contributed to this report.
TORONTO – Glenn Gould died just days after his 50th birthday, and many fans have spent the nearly three decades since pondering how the legendary Toronto pianist might have added to his legacy had he lived.
But Gould expert Tim Page believes that one specific innovation above all others would have particularly enchanted the musician.
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“If I’m going to make predictions on Glenn Gould, the one thing I can pretty much say for certain is that he would have been obsessed with the Internet,” said Page, a professor of music and journalism at the University of Southern California and the editor of “The Glenn Gould Reader.”
“He would have done his own podcasts … I think he would have controlled his own website, recorded any music that interested him, and any time he wanted to do a new version of it, he would just do it and upload it.
“I cannot think of anybody who missed the Internet who would have loved it more than Glenn would have.”
Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that CBC has launched a new website in Gould’s honour with the aim of introducing new fans to the idiosyncratic genius ahead of what would have been his 80th birthday next September.
At the same time, the public broadcaster has also released the 10-DVD set “Glenn Gould on Television: The Complete CBC Broadcasts, 1954-1977.” The exhaustive set is a veritable treasure trove for fans of the iconic Canadian, bundling over 19 hours of Gould’s rare TV specials, performances and interviews.
Among the set’s impressive inclusions? Well, there’s Gould’s earliest surviving television performance, first broadcast on Dec. 16, 1954. There’s a series of enthralling discussions between Gould and the British broadcaster Humphrey Burton, in which Gould delivers astute analyses of Bach, Beethoven and Arnold Schoenberg. There’s also the 1966 interview clip with a bowtie-clad Alex Trebek, which begins with Gould’s famous declaration: “I detest audiences.”
For Gould aficionados who have diligently hunted and swapped bootlegged recordings of moments like these for years, the elegantly assembled boxed set is a blessing.
“Finally, it’s the last real piece of Glenn,” said Page, who won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1997 for his work at the Washington Post.
“I think what will be revelatory for viewers who are seeing it for the first time will just be the fact of how good he was … what a smart guy he was, and what a funny guy he was.”
“People will get a lot of his humour.”
Indeed, the set showcases elements of Gould’s unique personality, which in some ways has become as famous as his dazzling talent at the piano.
Gould’s personal eccentricities are well-documented. He wore heavy clothing year-round, had a strange proclivity for soaking his arms and hands in warm water and carried a reputation for reclusion.
Of course, he had plenty of quirks behind the piano, too: he insisted on sitting in the same worn-out chair, he was fastidious about the temperature surrounding his performances and he hummed to himself noisily as he played. And in 1964, he turned away from public performances altogether, because he simply preferred the precise control afforded by a recording studio.
Page was among the last people to interview Gould before his death of a stroke in 1982, and while he certainly saw evidence of the musician’s personal peculiarities – “He was a different kind of guy,” Page points out with some diplomacy – he also recognized Gould’s strengths.
“(He was) very kind, very shy, very guarded until he knew you and then almost profoundly unguarded,” Page recalled. “He’d just talk about anything that came to his mind. He’d be excited. He’d want to go talking all night.
“There was something very child-like about him, in a nice way, in a way which he was just like an excited kid who wanted to talk about the stuff he was excited about.”
And that included radio and television, with the latter especially providing a showcase for Gould’s very physical style behind the piano.
His fruitful partnership with the CBC, which yielded so many memorable performances, interviews and even documentaries, seemed mutually beneficial. The broadcaster allowed Gould to reach a national audience, while Gould – a true international star of classical music – allowed CBC to share in his glory.
To this day, visitors to CBC headquarters are greeted by a bronze statue of the pianist seated on a bench, bundled under a heavy coat, scarf and driving cap, his brow furrowed.
“I think (Gould and CBC) are very closely associated,” said Mark Steinmetz, CBC’s director of radio music. “He was such a massive talent … and I think producers, directors, throughout the years, realized how good he was, and he was so entertaining, whether it was on TV or radio, that it made for good programs.
“It made good sense to be involved with him in that way.”
And the Gould specials would sure seem like an anomaly nowadays, when it’s difficult to imagine a major TV network devoting a sizable chunk of primetime to a classical musician.
But of course, Gould was an anomaly too. When asked about finding evidence of the pianist’s enduring legacy, Page said it would be foolish to simply look for modern talents who share stylistic similarities with Gould.
“I think if you go out there and you say, ‘I’m going to be a Glenn Gould clone,’ you have completely misunderstood him,” he said. “In my opinion, what he’s about is looking at the world anew, looking at the world from a very personal perspective and with no attempt to try to fit his thinking into a little box.”
“I mean, he didn’t like Chopin, so he’d say he didn’t like Chopin. He didn’t like Mozart. We can disagree with him … but I’m grateful for some heresy now and then, and Glenn gave you some heresy.”
“I mean, he was sort of a fresh wind through classical music, which was and remains rather hidebound…. He was always at least interesting, and right there, that’s something special.”