Miss Peggy Lee (Capitol, four CDs). One of the three or four top names on the short list of great pop-jazz singers, Peggy Lee was exceedingly well served by this 1998 retrospective of 113 tracks recorded for Capitol in the Forties, Fifties, and Sixties. All the hits are here, including “Fever” and “Is That All There Is,” plus a sizable helping of her own excellent songs. The liner notes are by Gene Lees, who knew Lee and understood her. The discographical information is sketchy, but you can find out everything you want to know here. If you’re planning a road trip, pack this set (TT).
Archives for June 18, 2011
James Agate, The Selective Ego. You don’t have to be an intellectual to be a great diarist, and Agate, the debt-ridden, spectacularly self-involved drama critic of the London Sunday Times from 1923 until his death in 1947, wrote about the printable parts of his life with careful evasion (he was a brothel-loving homosexual given to masochistic practices of the grossest sort) and colossal panache. This compact selection of entries from Ego, the nine-volume series of diaries that Agate published in the Thirties and Forties, is a superlative bedside book, hugely amusing and easily readable in random snatches (TT).
Wolf Kahn: Color and Consequence (Ameringer McEnery Yohe, 525 W. 22, up through July 16). New paintings by an underappreciated modern master, a Hans Hofmann pupil who renders the American landscape in high-key colors that recall the luminous palette of Pierre Bonnard. The result is a deeply personal style in which abstraction and representation are so closely intertwined that they can’t be teased apart (TT).
Richard Stark, Butcher’s Moon (University of Chicago, $15 paper). The best of Donald Westlake’s pseudonymous thrillers about Parker, the toughest burglar who ever lived, in which he goes up against an entire big-city crime syndicate–with a little help from a lot of friends. Out of print for years and years, Butcher’s Moon is the ultimate Parker novel, best read as an installment in the series as a whole but comprehensible and wholly satisfying on its own (TT).
Play Dead (Players Theatre, 115 MacDougal, closes July 24). Teller’s wonderfully creepy off-Broadway theatrical spook show has posted its closing notice, so if you haven’t seen it yet, go while you still can. The illusions are spectacular, the humor delicious. Two pieces of advice: (1) If asked to go onstage, say yes. (2) Wait until after the show to eat dinner (TT).
Justified: The Complete First Season (Sony, three DVDs). In this cable-TV series, Graham Yost takes U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, one of Elmore Leonard’s most attractive recurring characters, and returns him to Kentucky’s Harlan County for a series of freshly written adventures that have the true Leonard touch. Timothy Olyphant, who plays Givens, is exactly, exquisitely right. You can’t follow the second season on FX without knowing what happened last year, so if you’re coming late to the party, buy this box set first and savor each episode (TT).