Guitar virtuoso Earl Klugh, a prolific mainstay of smooth jazz radio, turned 60 this year and decided to give us a present. HandPicked is a generous, highlight-filled collection of Klugh’s favorite songs, mostly jazz and pop standards, and a reminder that the great ones make everything sound effortless. Klugh’s lighter-than-air touch on the nylon-string guitar lifts classics like “Blue Moon” (a duet with Bill Frisell), “Cast Your Fate to the Wind,” “Hotel California” (with ukulele wiz Jake Shimabukuro), and the Beatles’ gorgeous “If I Fell” to lofty heights.
Wrapping paper? Magazine subscriptions? Schools have asked many parents to buy stuff they probably don’t need, all in the name of fundraising. Schoola.com tries to shake up the formula. The website gives local businesses the tools to create Groupon-style deals and to share the profits with nearby schools. This way, families can rally around shops they already like and the stores can support a worthy cause while reeling in new customers.
Here in Boston, we’re big fans of chef Joanne Chang and her chain of bakeries, Flour. Chang’s first cookbook, “Flour,” featured her baked goods. Her new cookbook, Flour, Too, moves beyond sweets to include savory dishes within its sections for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and party ideas. The breakfast section has two versatile muffin recipes. We tested Chang’s vegan vanilla mixed-berry muffins and found the recipe simple and unfussy, and the muffins moist, dense, and packed with fruit.
Like many kids, Danny MacAskill grew up building obstacle courses for his action figures. His toy biker leapt from block to block, across a pencil bridge, and back-flipped through the train set. Now that MacAskill is a professional stunt cyclist, he and energy-drink giant Red Bull have built a human-scale toy box for him to race through. The stunts he pulls off are incredible. Search YouTube for Danny MacAskill’s Imaginate.
Heartthrob/guitar hero/pop star/bad boy John Mayer has added another slash. Now he’s hipster/cowboy. Just in case you missed the latest metamorphosis, he’s wearing a cowboy outfit on the cover of his latest album, Paradise Valley. All of Mayer’s albums have been good, and this one is no exception. Adopting the stripped-down sound of 1970s California singer-songwriters, he breezes through a tasty but lightweight collection of 11 Western-tinged songs that add little to his impressive songwriting canon. Who’s he going to dress up as next time? Stay tuned.
A female Sherlock
Billed by some critics as the best crime series ever produced for television, the entire PBS series Prime Suspect is available on Blu-ray Aug. 27. Follow Detective Superintendent Jane Tennison (Helen Mirren) as she battles sexism in Scotland Yard, a demanding work-life balance, and a growing dependence on alcohol all the while bringing criminals to justice.