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Minute Critic

Books and music reviewed

Minute Critic

Up and Coming

Elvis Costello has tried just about every musical style but rap (MC EC?), but he’s no amateur. On September 14 and 15, he performs his latest orchestral work and some pop hits with the Minnesota Orchestra. Costello’s tunes have gone over well with the instrumentalists, who were reportedly less than pleased when they had to play arrangements of Led Zeppelin songs in a similar pops format last year. And we thought they loved the classics.

—TIM GIHRING


FICTION

The View From Mount Joy

by Lorna Landvik

Random House, $24.95

Well-known for chronicling the lives of frustrated women, Landvik takes a male viewpoint in this new novel. Senior Joe Andreson transfers to Minneapolis’s Ole Bull High School, where he meets two girls, the sardonic artist Darva and the scheming cheerleader Kristi. After graduation, Joe ends up running a grocery store, while Darva goes to study art in France and Kristi reinvents herself as America’s Sexiest Evangelist. But in the end, Landvik leaves no doubt that it is average Joe, with his ordinary life, who has earned true salvation. “I experience grace every day,” he tells Kristi.

—KAREN ANWAY

Pontoon

by Garrison Keillor

Viking, $25.95

Keillor conjures up a boatful of typical Lake Wobegonians in his newest novel: Evelyn Peterson, whose death reveals her secret life—and lover; her daughter Barbara, a cafeteria cook with a crème de cacao addiction; and Debbie Detmer, a flaky practitioner of the pet-aromatherapy arts. It’s just another quiet week in Lake Wobegon, culminating in a grandly hilarious day on the lake. Keillor’s characters rise above the ridiculous to change their lives for the better, of course, and his voice is both wise and witty. The opening line: “Evelyn was an insomniac so when they say she died in her sleep, you have to question that.”

—K.A.


MUSIC

Look Around

The Fantastic Merlins

Innova, $15

Today’s multi-stylistic jazz groups are often ignored not only by young music bloggers, but also by old-guard jazz fans reluctant to embrace anything outside traditional bebop. Creative musicians can’t win. But open-minded listeners can’t lose with the Fantastic Merlins. Cellist Jacqueline Ferrier-Ultan and bassist Brian Roessler lay down an abundance of cinematic and spooky low-end grooves. Over that mix, saxophonist Nathan Hanson and percussionist Federico Ughi weave and moan. But throughout this smoldering set, instruments veer in and out of each other’s tonal range for a exploration that’s often solemn and organically psychedelic.

—JIM MEYER


The Return of Slide Huxtable

Slide Huxtable

Self-released

Like the Merlins, Slide is an enjoyably innovative quartet, but it mines a different vein of experimental jazz. Named for the trombone-playing father to Bill Cosby on The Cosby Show, Slide is the brainchild of trombonist Mark Miller, with rhythm support from J. T. and Chris Bates. All three were members of the vaunted 1990s bop sextet Motion Poets. With the addition of guitarist Bill Bergmann, they create a spacious, sensual bounce mixed with peaceful contemplations reminiscent of Miles Davis’s In a Silent Way. As with the Merlins, the music is beyond easy categorization, but never beyond comprehension.

—J.M.

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