Thursday, December 29, 2005

Rahsaan Roland Kirk

For my last post of 2005, I have another entry dedicated to the sadly underrated and neglected (you didn’t see him on Ken Burns’ Jazz, did you?) Rahsaan Roland Kirk (1935-1977). As I mentioned in one of my early blog entries, I saw him 6 months before he passed away on December 5, 1977. It’s hard to believe it’s been 28 years! So in honor of Rahsaan, I thought I’d post another page from the prospective book of Kirk transcriptions. This one is from the "Introducing Roland Kirk" album and this excerpt is his unaccompanied manzello/tenor sax duet near the beginning of the blues entitled "The Call."

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Miles Davis

Posted by Picasa
Back in the mid-80s, they used to hold various incarnations of the Kool Jazz Festival.

For the San Diego version, my friend Ellen got me a job driving the artists from their dressing areas (behind the dugout) to the stage in center field in a electric cart.

Most were nice (especially Patti LaBelle), but there was one jerk (his name rhymes with Joe Sample).

I approached Miles Davis before I gave him a ride to the stage. He signed it, but said nothing the whole time. Honestly, I would have been surprised if he had spoken!

Monday, November 07, 2005

I always feel like somebody’s watching me…..

Under the Freedom of Information Act, you can obtain information on:

  • an organization, business, investigation, historical event, or incident.
  • a third party.
  • a deceased person.
  • yourself.

At the FBI website (, they have published some of the most popular FOIA requests. From a jazz standpoint, these include Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway and Charles Mingus amongst others. An interesting peek into an interesting period of time…..

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Benny Carter

Benny Carter's autograph Posted by Picasa

I’m back, after a too long absence. I hope I didn’t lose too many of my dozen readers! My time has been spent on getting my genealogy website online. It’s at, dedicated to my great-great-great-great grandfather, James Bowie, free man of color and his descendants. The web site is still in the formative stages, but I’ll be trying to get back to weekly entries here at Blog-O-Jazz.

Back to the music….

One of the cool things about Los Angeles is that you can run into celebrities without really trying. For me, those of movie and TV fame don’t impress me that much and I would never care enough to ask one of them for their autograph. But as you know, a jazz musician is a totally different matter.

Back in 1979, at an Ellington tribute concert, I happened to turn around to find the great Benny Carter [1907-2003] seated directly behind me. Benny Carter was a great arranger and composer and pretty much played every instrument. His specialties were alto sax and trumpet. He was an amazing musician with an amazingly long career, with recordings from the 1920s to the 1990s!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Diz, Bird, Monk & Trane

Diz, Bird, Monk & Trane Posted by Picasa

There are two newly discovered, previously unknown, never before issued live concerts that you MUST own. Get them today!!!

The first is by Dizzy Gillespie & Charlie Parker, recorded in June of 1945. The ‘be-bop’ movement was in its infancy. The songs they played were new, each one destined to become a standard. The group even has trouble recalling the title of ‘that Tadd Dameron tune’ (Hot House).

The sound is great for a 1945 live session. Most importantly, the group really gets to stretch out – the average song is 7 minutes, twice that available on the 78 rpm records of the time. Bird does things here that you don’t hear on the studio recordings. He even makes several excursions into the altissimo register. The rhythm section is Al Haig, Curly Russell and Max Roach. Tenor saxophonist Don Byas and drummer Big Sid Catlett guest on a song each.
The second captures the Thelonious Monk quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall in 1957. This group burns! This concert is extra significant because of the limited amount of material documenting the Monk/Coltrane collaboration. Supporting cast: Ahmed Adbul-Malik on bass and Shadow Wilson on drums.

On Tuesday, 11 October, our local jazz radio station KKJZ (88.1 FM) will present a one hour program on the Monk/Coltrane connection at 7:00 PM (Pacific Standard Time). For those of you outside the area, go to for their stream broadcast.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A New Orleans Memory

Autographs of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, 1983 Posted by Picasa

For obvious reasons, here’s another entry about New Orleans:

My first trip to New Orleans occurred in August, 1983. Being a southern California native, my attention was immediately seized by the overwhelming humidity. I was glad my grandparents had left the South before I was born!

As a jazz fanatic, I needed to make the pilgrimage to Preservation Hall, home of traditional (don’t call it Dixieland) music. It’s small un-air-conditioned room, and on that hot humid night was completely filled with tourists like me. The band consisted of Raymond Burke (1904-1986) on clarinet, Emanuel Paul (1904-1988) on tenor sax, Emanuel Sayles (1907-1986) on banjo. Leading the band was trumpeter ‘Kid’ Thomas Valentine (1896-1987). Kid Thomas was OLD – I’m not sure that he wasn’t a conductor on the Underground Railroad! ;>)

It seemed Kid Thomas had a range of about an octave and a half. But he was still able to provide a punchy and quirky lead for the band. It was interesting to hear a trumpeter whose style owed more to King Oliver than Louis Armstrong.

A friend of ours was recently lamenting the many artists she had missed seeing (Tito Puente amongst them) and the city of New Orleans due to procrastination. If someone is playing nearby, go see them! As you can see by the dates of death for the Preservation Hall band members, I barely made it in time to see these gentlemen. But New Orleans will be back!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Jam Session!

Jam Sessions at the Vintage Cafe! Posted by Picasa

Well, last night, I performed in public for the first time in two years and only the second time in about 12 years!

The occasion was the weekly Tuesday night jam session at the Vintage Café in Pasadena. The hardest part was making myself get out of the car. There was no ego tripping or endless solos; and everyone was cool. The host of the jam, drummer Tony DiGiovanni, went out of his way to make everyone feel welcome. House bassist Al Gruskoff was also a big help in easing my nerves.

All told, at varying times, there were two alto saxophonists, two flutists, two vocalists and one each on harmonica, trumpet, trombone, clarinet and tenor sax.

There was a variety of abilities amongst the horns – I wasn’t the best (that honor would have to have to go to a clarinetist(!) named John), but I wasn’t the worst either. There were things I wish I would/could have done better, but I did manage to surprise myself on how well I did when they called a funk blues in E (C# on the alto)! Considering the long hiatus, I can hold my head up.

Friday, September 02, 2005

New Orleans Suite

New Orleans Suite Posted by Picasa

One of my favorite Duke Ellington albums is 1970’s "New Orleans Suite." It features the last recordings of Johnny Hodges. The first track, the appropriately titled "Blues for New Orleans" features him for the last time with the band.

New Orleans is (present tense) one of the great cities of the world. They’ll eventually come back with your help. If you can spare anything, think about

The title of the fourth track says it all - "Thanks For The Beautiful Land On The Delta."

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Kool Jazz Festival

Air - Henry Threadgill (reeds, b. 1944), Fred Hopkins (bass, 1947-1999), and Steve McCall (drums, 1933-1989) [photo by Steve Bowie] Posted by Picasa

The more adventurous types of jazz don’t make it out to LA very often. Unfortunately, the city is more receptive to smooth jazz (or as I prefer to call it, "snooze jazz").

One of the most notable exceptions was the 1982 Kool Jazz Festival. Held at various venues through the city, it featured the World Saxophone Quartet, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Air, Lester Bowie’s Root to the Source, and Anthony Braxton. It didn’t sell a lot of tickets, so this was the last time we saw such an assemblage in Los Angeles.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Paul Gonsalves "in action" Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Duke Ellington and Paul Gonsalves

Ellington in Copenhagen, 1965 Posted by Picasa

For my birthday yesterday, I got a Duke Ellington [1899-1974] DVD entitled "Copenhagen Concert, Parts I and II." It just came out in June and I would highly recommend it.

It was filmed in 1965 and has a lot of the great stars of the Ellington band on hand. The shows were originally broadcast on Danish TV. It’s in a very crisp black and white with great sound. The camera work/direction is just OK since there are times when the correct soloist or sections aren’t in the frame.

About the music – what can you say? This was an Ellington band that still had Cat Anderson, Ray Nance, Johnny Hodges, et al.

One of the things Ellington was known for was his refusal to fire anyone. (Although there was one exception - a young Charles Mingus got fired for getting into a knife fight with valve trombonist Juan Tizol.) Ellington’s preferred method of discipline was to embarrass the offender.

This DVD captures such an incident. During the second number of the first set, "Ad Lib on Nippon", Paul Gonsalves [1920-1974] is sound asleep! (Maybe it was jetlag, too much cough syrup, etc.?)
The next three numbers called feature Gonsalves, but you would never know he was "impaired" as he proceeds to blow the stuffing out of the songs.

But by the time we get to the second set, Jimmy Hamilton quickly steps into Gonsalves’ usual solo spot on "Perdido." Why? Because Gonsalves is out cold, with his saxophone in his mouth!

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Fifty Greatest Jazz Pianists

Normally, I try to keep things positive here at Blog-O-Jazz, but sometime exceptions have to be made. Last week, I was browsing through the bookstore and saw a new book entitled “The Fifty Greatest Jazz Piano Players of All Time: Ranking, Analysis and Photos.” It’s by Gene Rizzo and published by Hal Leonard Publishing.

From the Hal Leonard website: “Spanning players from eighty years of history, this bold book steps forward and claims who are the greatest. Compiled from an extensive survey conducted with the best jazz minds in the education, publishing and entertainment worlds, noted jazz journalist Gene Rizzo summarized the chosen and presents a concise bio on the essence of these jazz giants.”

“Choices were made on the basis of chops, originality, creativity, and degree of influence. This book will either confirm some readers' opinions or open debate with others, but ultimately the book provides an impressive summary of the greatest jazz piano players of all time.”

If they had called the book “Gene Rizzo’s Favorite Piano Player’s of All Time” I wouldn’t have been perturbed. To purport to rank the ‘greatest’, in order, is an exercise in futility. But I’ve never seen a list this far off the mark:

1. Oscar Peterson
2. Bill Evans
3. Bud Powell
4. Art Tatum
5. Monty Alexander
6. Benny Green
7. Andre Previn
8. Tommy Flanagan
9. George Shearing
10. Red Garland
11. McCoy Tyner
12. Gene Harris
13. Kenny Drew
14. Hampton Hawes
15. Thelonious Monk
16. Ahmad Jamal
17. Billy Taylor
18. Horace Silver
19. Hank Jones
20. Chick Corea
21. Tete Montoliu
22. Phineas Newborn, Jr.
23. Teddy Wilson
24. Nat “King” Cole
25. Erroll Garner
26. Cedar Walton
27. Count Basie
28. Dave Brubeck
29. Cyrus Chestnut
30. Lennie Tristano
31. Fats Waller
32. Dick Hyman
33. Wynton Kelly
34. Dave McKenna
35. John Bunch
36. Kenny Barron
37. Bobby Timmons
38. Duke Ellington
39. Earl Hines
40. Jimmy Rowles
41. Ray Bryant
42. Herbie Hancock
43. Jelly Roll Morton
44. Al Haig
45. Derek Smith
46. Ralph Sharon
47. Mary Lou Williams
48. Willie “The Lion” Smith
49. Sir Roland Hanna
50. Keith Jarrett

Normally, there is room for debate in any list like this, but this one is flat-out WRONG! Imagine, Cecil Taylor isn’t even included! Cyrus Chestnut over Herbie Hancock ?! Andre Previn at NUMBER 7 ?!! Has he even recorded any jazz in the last 40 years????

Duke Ellington is #38 and John Bunch is 35 ??!! How does John Bunch even make the list? How does Earl Hines not make the Top Ten? Ralph Sharon BUT NO JAMES P. JOHNSON??? Where’s Herbie Nichols??? You get my point…………

Save yourself $20 that this book costs and spend it on an Art Tatum CD. I imagine that their book of the Top Fifty Reed Players of All Time would include Mezz Mezzrow and Kenny G in the Top Ten!!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Birth certificate of Ronald Theodore Krik aka Rahsaan Roland Kirk Posted by Picasa

As you’ve seen so far in this blog, Rahsaan Roland Kirk ranks high amongst my favorite musicians.

If he were alive, today he would have reached the biblical three score and ten (that’s 70 years). He died of a stroke at the age of 42 in 1977. There seems to be some controversy about when he was born, fueled by Kirk himself, since he claimed he was born in 1936. Even the recently published biography of Kirk uses the 1936 date. This is easily settled when one orders a copy of his birth certificate, like I did in 2000. (The same date was used on his Social Security card application below.) He was born Ronald Theodore Kirk. (Roland is an anagram of Ronald.) He added Rahsaan in 1970, claiming the name came to him in a dream.

When I ordered the birth certificate, coincidentally, it happened to be stamped on the 65th anniversary of his birth. Happy 70th Birthday, Rahsaan!

Rahsaan's Social Security Number Application

Rahsaan Roland Kirk's 1952 application for a Social Security number Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 01, 2005

Art Pepper

Art Pepper's autograph Posted by Picasa

Another entry from "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz"…..

Up until about 1979, Art Pepper was someone I deliberately ignored. Why? Because I knew he played with Stan Kenton and have never (even today!) cared for Kenton’s music.

Fortunately for me, one of my friends, Laurence McFalls, educated me. Laurence also didn’t care for Kenton and explained to me what Pepper’s playing was all about. It didn’t fit into the mold that I had pre-conceived. His playing was swinging, interesting, full of surprises and continued to evolve through his life.

If you read his interviews or his autobiography "Straight Life," sometimes Pepper comes across as cocky. This is what I expected when I asked him for his autograph. But like many others, he was unfamiliar with the book and was flattered to find himself included in it. He wrote "My best, be cool and enjoy, Art Pepper."

In a music with many tragic figures, Art Pepper certainly stood out. Just when he had put addiction and prison behind him, with a successful career looming ahead, Art Pepper succumbed to a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 56 in 1982.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Miles Davis and Gil Evans

Miles Davis and Gil Evans Hollywood Bowl Concert Program, July 20th, 1983 Posted by Picasa

Yesterday was the 22nd anniversary of the Miles Davis [1926-1991] and Gil Evans [1912-1988] concert at the Hollywood Bowl.

Davis and Evans were celebrated for their earlier collaborations like "Sketches of Spain" and "Porgy and Bess." Although they were on the same bill, it was stressed that they would not be playing together.

Evans’ group played first, followed by Miles. But the set-up for Evans’ group still remained on the stage. Could Miles be going against expectations again?

After Miles played his set and an encore to an enthusiastic crowd, the audience lingered. And lingered some more. It wasn’t until the house lights came up and an announcement was made on the PA that everyone dispersed into the night. We had hoped in vain….

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz Posted by Picasa

Zoot Sims

Zoot Sims Posted by Picasa

Aside from album covers, most of the autographs I’ve collected over the years have been in a book called "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz." It’s by two British writers, Brian Case and Stan Britt. As a British book, it has musicians that a lot of us Americans are not familiar with, like Bruce Thompson and Mike Westbrook. But it also had the advantage that nearly all the musicians I had sign in it were unfamiliar with it. Most read their entries very carefully and a few flipped through the book to see the rest.

The illustrations in the book are largely album cover reproductions with a few photos thrown in. It’s out of print now, but I’ve seen it in some used bookstores (and has a few copies).

I thought the honor of the first entry reproduction should go the John Haley "Zoot" Sims [1925 –1985] since he had the best comment. Besides cool nicknames, musicians generally have a good sense of humor. When he looked at his picture, he said: "Hey, I’m wearing the same clothes!"

Friday, July 08, 2005

Freddie Hubbard and the UCLA Jazz Ensemble

Freddie Hubbard and the UCLA Jazz Ensemble, 1980 Posted by Picasa

I’ve only had the pleasure of playing with one major jazz artist in my career. (To be hopeful, I should add ‘so far.’) That artist was Freddie Hubbard.

The director of the UCLA Jazz Ensembles at that time was Gary Gray. He was able to work some magic and get the great trumpeter Freddie Hubbard as our guest soloist! To put this in perspective, Freddie was still in his early 40s and about at the peak of his popularity and technical prowess. This was a guy who had played with John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy and Ornette Coleman (amongst many) and now he was playing with us!!

The night before the concert, we had our only dress rehearsal with Freddie. There were a few bumps and glitches, but we thought we had them nailed down by the time the evening was done. The concert itself took place on Wednesday, April 16th, 1980 at UCLA’s venerable Royce Hall. The second jazz ensemble opened the show and then the first ensemble played a short set of four numbers before Freddie joined us. He played 6 numbers with us and each one managed to show how nervous us young players were! The opening number, "Blues for NKWE" featured a very shaky introduction, but we recovered. After all, it’s pretty hard to mess up the blues! This number had my only solo of the evening – two choruses on the baritone sax. (In addition to baritone, I played tenor sax, bass clarinet and flute for the evening). A one chorus interlude followed my solo and then Freddie played 10 choruses. It was surreal to hear such great playing being done just 10 feet away from you!

Next followed his original composition (now a jazz standard) "Little Sunflower", "The Summer Knows", "The Love Connection" (it was originally scheduled to be last per the program, but it was switched to the penultimate spot). We finished with "The Intrepid Fox", a fast and tricky tune. After that, the audience wanted more, but we didn’t have anything else! So, we played "The Love Connection" again. Actually, it was good that we did since we messed it up pretty badly the first time we played it. (The band got lost during Freddie’s solo and he had to revert to the melody to show us where we should be.)

Some of the band members have gone on to great careers in music. Trombonist Alex Iles keeps busy playing with groups like Maynard Ferguson Big Bop Nouveau and Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, in addition to teaching low brass at Cal Arts. Drummer Washington Rucker in active in the scene by not only leading his own groups, but also acting and teaching.

Because of my class schedule, I changed to the number two jazz band for my senior year, playing lead alto sax. During my last quarter, the second alto was a guy named Dave Koz. I wonder what happened to him?

Friday, June 24, 2005

Sun Ra and Ron Wilson

Sun Ra and tenor saxophonist Ron Wilson. Perhaps some sort of telepathy is being worked here? (photo by Steve Bowie) Posted by Hello

Friday, June 17, 2005

Lester Bowie and the Art Ensemble of Chicago

Nice Guys Posted by Hello

Many years ago, I was surprised to find there was a trumpeter named Lester Bowie [1941-1999]. Bowie is not a very common name and I wondered if we were related. (One of my other hobbies is genealogy. So far, I been able to trace my family back to James Bowie, free man of color [c. 1794-1832]. He lived in the same Louisiana parish as Col. James Bowie (of Alamo fame) and his family. There’s a good possibility that they were related since they had a lot of dealings together, it’s just a matter of finding and documenting the link. You can find my genealogy site here.)

In 1979, the Art Ensemble of Chicago played at UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall. Their latest album, Nice Guys, had only been out a few months. (One of the things I like best about albums is they have room where people can actually sign. I have yet to get a CD autographed. Nice Guys went one better by including a poster inside the sleeve.)

I introduced myself to Lester backstage before the concert. One of the first things I wanted to know from him was how he pronounced his name. Like my family, he pronounced it Boo-wee (like the buoy that floats in the water and rhymes with Louie, etc.). Singer David Bowie [nee Jones!] has been the most responsible for the mispronunciation. Lester told me that he had gotten tired of correcting peoples’ mispronunciation and just let them say whatever they wanted. Not me!

Next we talked about a family connection. Although he grew up in St. Louis, he was born in Maryland and that’s where his family traces their roots. Since my originated in Louisiana, we didn’t think we were related. Nonetheless, he signed my poster "To Steve Bowie, A long lost cousin? Lester Bowie"

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Mercer Ellington

"To Steve, With My Very Best, Mercer Ellington" Posted by Hello

The UCLA Jazz Club put on several Duke Ellington tribute concerts at UCLA’s Royce Hall in the 80s. For the 1982 concert, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley presented the club with a proclamation declaring April 29th, 1982 Duke Ellington Day.

Shortly after the concert took place, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, led by Mercer Ellington [1919-1996] was playing a gig at Disneyland. I volunteered to present the proclamation to him since I was living in Orange County at the time (with the ulterior motive of adding to my autograph collection).

Security is tight at Disneyland, especially concerning access to the stuff behind the scenes. But it’s amazing how doors are opened when you’re carrying an official Los Angeles city document!

I given a backstage security pass and shown to the area where Mercer Ellington was relaxing after the concert. I presented the proclamation to him and although something like this was probably old hat for him, he was genuinely touched by it.

The album he signed for me is shown above. I’m a lefty and so was Mercer. Surprisingly, very few of the musicians I’ve gotten autographs from are left handed. Ornette Coleman and bassist Monty Budwig are about the only others I can think of off the top of my head. Intuitively, I always thought there would be a higher percentage in jazz than the general population, but I guess not….

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Rahsaan Roland Kirk Transcribed

Page 1 of "Meeting on Termini's Corner" Posted by Hello

If you get a chance, take a look at the February 2001 issue of DownBeat (Sonny Rollins is on the cover). Pages 86 & 87 feature my transcription and annotation of Rahsaan's "Meeting On Termini's Corner" from the "Domino" album. The blowing changes are based on "On Green Dolphin Street."
Since they didn't print the whole solo and what they did print is really tiny, I've included a complete copy above (for Bb instruments). For those of you who want a concert key version, let me know and I’ll send it to you.
I have a fair number of Rahsaan Roland Kirk solo transcribed (by me and another musician). We’re trying to get them published, but so far haven’t had any luck.

Page 2 of "Meeting on Termini's Corner" Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Alex Trebek and me, 1985. For the first week of the second season, they changed the format to put the champion in the far right podium. That's why I'm where the champ normally is. This was a very short lived change.
Posted by Hello


Jeopardy! is in the middle of its $2 million dollar tournament of former champions. I wish I could come back on the show, but the rules preclude it. Unless you’re invited back for some special event, you have just the one shot.

On the first game of the tournament, they had a clue in which part of the answer was Sun Ra. Of course, no one got it! Why didn’t they have clues like that when I played?

I competed on the first show of the second season. It was taped in June of 1985 and aired the following September. I was ahead after the first round, but I was in trouble once the categories for the Double Jeopardy! round were revealed. Out of the six categories, three (Fashion Designers, Law, New England) were perfect for the Female Attorney from Connecticut! D’oh! After the other contestant (the returning champ) and I got stomped in that round, the Final Jeopardy! category turned out to be Female Athletes. Surprise!; she got this right and established a new one day record in earnings at our expense - $18,000. (Today, it’s chump change for the show, but it was a big deal then.)

I got home from the taping early enough to catch the Jeopardy! show airing that night. (This one was taped several months earlier). In the Double Jeopardy! round, one of the categories was Jazz!!! No one wanted to touch it; it was the last category selected (they didn’t finish it). To add insult to injury, one of the Daily Doubles was there!!! That’s the kind of luck I have. Oh well………

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Cecil Taylor at UCLA, 1978 Posted by Hello

Cecil Taylor

I was talking to my uncle the other day and he told me Cecil Taylor played in his town last month. This is shocking because my uncle lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which isn’t exactly a hotbed of jazz activity!
The Cecil Taylor Trio played at the Latino Cultural Center (!) and of course my uncle was there. He told me it was a great concert to a receptive audience.
I was reminded of the first (and only) time that I saw Cecil Taylor in concert. He was playing at UCLA’s Royce Hall in 1978. At that time, I had heard of him, but I hadn’t heard him. At 18, there were still a lot of artists I was trying to check out. It was a solo piano concert and the first ‘song’ was 50 minutes! I had never experienced anything like that! At the end of the two-hour concert, I felt overwhelmed. I didn’t dislike it, but I was lost.
Since then, I’ve learned it’s good to do a little homework before you go see an artist, especially someone like Cecil Taylor. I now have a lot of his recordings, from solo to big band, and can appreciate where he’s coming from. Unfortunately, he doesn’t come to the Los Angeles area very often, which is why I was only able to see him that one time (so far). It also makes his Albuquerque appearance all the more interesting.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Artist's conception of the Aulochrome. (from Posted by Hello