Monday, December 31, 2012

New Years stay-at-home music

If you're staying home but still want to celebrate the new year with a blast, I suggest:

The third movement of Coltrane's "A Love Supreme"(Pursuance)

The last movement of Turangalila-Symphonie by Olivier Messiaen

And "Siesta for the Fiesta" by Jimmie Lunceford

I may add to this list if I think of others.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas parade photos (belated)

After digging out from under a heap of work, I'm finally posting Christmas parade photos. Last year, I discovered several weird scenes. There was no point in shooting the portable toilet on wheels again, so this year, lots of faces.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ravi Coltrane: Jazz for writing

Lately, I have been dividing jazz between tunes I can listen to while I'm writing, and those I can't.

Old-school jazz mostly falls into the "can't" category. There's too much distracting spontaneity and driving momentum going on. Dexter Gordon playing "It's You or No One." John Coltrane playing "Impressions." George Adams playing "Sue's Changes." Freddie Hubbard playing "Red Clay." Will I get my writing done with those players demanding my attention? Not likely.

Ravi Coltrane:
But I listen to many jazz CD's that help me focus on my writing. Examples:

"Stargazer," Dave Douglas
"Barefooted Town," David Binney
"Suno Suno," Rez Abassi
"Blood Sutra," Vijay Iyer

In addition to those, there's one more album, out this year, that made me pay close attention to the difference between jazz I can and can't write to —  "Spirit Fiction" by
Ravi Coltrane. So much has been written about the maturing aesthetic of the son of the most influential saxophonist in the history of jazz. He's coming into his own. He's finally confronting the music of his father. Et cetera.

All this comparing and contrasting of father and son puts today's jazz in perspective. Old-school jazz (1940's-90's) is propulsive; it's going somewhere. Newer jazz is all about creating intricate objects and admiring them — and there's a lot to admire.

On the tune "Spirit Fiction," the spare, pointillistic flurries of pianist Luis Pedromo and the flutters from bassist Drew Gress create a backdrop for Ravi's snaky lines. The structure they create is an end in itself. The delicate melody of "Who Wants Ice Cream" occupies my head when I'm writing and when I'm sleeping.

Newer jazz is more moody, often spacey or filled with odd and mixed meters. The examples above are all from the past half-decade, except for "Stargazer," which is about 15 years old (The work of Dave Douglas is where I became aware of the trend I'm describing).

This music enhances the writing environment and does not distract from thinking about words — cerebral music for cerebral pursuits. Ravi's work does this for me.

I'm not taking sides here. I want both kinds of jazz, as well as others not mentioned. Most of the players I know stake out strong opinions as to style; they've invested their musical lives in following a certain path. As a listener, I don't have to choose.

Now that I'm done writing, I'll take off Ravi and put on some Dexter.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ultimate wine-jazz nexification

I believe I have found the true wine-jazz nexus:

In my vast freelance practice, I do restaurant profiles for the News-Leader. This week: St. George's BBQ and Catering. As usual, I shot photos and sampled food on site, then I went home with to-go boxes. For accuracy, I sampled the food again later in the evening. In this case, it was ribs.

These ribs were gloriously smoked. The aroma suggested that a smoker was operational in the house. To taste, the effect was that of a smoker inside the mouth. To complement, I opened a bottle of Norton from Tyler Ridge grapes, which I had oaked two months ago. The effect of the wine was to suggest that oak was smoldering within the mouth. The wine will, I hope, achieve a subtle oaky essence in a year or so. At this point in its development, it perfectly complemented the massive smokiness of the ribs.

On top of this feast, I put on the video, "Charles Mingus, Live at Montreux 1975," with George Adams and Don Pullen. On "Sue's Changes," these two musicians delivered etched-in-brain, off-the-edge solos, Adams' pupils disappearing into the recesses of his skull, Pullen's hands flying in keyboard smears — knuckles / fingers / knuckles / fingers. The perfectly wretched yet divine excess.

The ultimate wine-jazz nexification.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Young Buffalo Horse at MSU pow-wow

I always enjoy Missouri State University's Native American Heritage Month Powwow. The eighth annual event was Nov. 3-4. This drum group is Young Buffalo Horse, an intertribal group that performs Ojibwe and Sioux songs, according to its Facebook page. Members of this group from Shawnee, Okla., delivered seriously heavy impact on their drum, and their singing was fiercely spirited. The other photos below are scenes from the event.

The video below is a reprise of a song I shot during the 2009 pow-wow performed by Tha Tribe from Lawrence, Kan.

I'm taking this opportunity to reprise a video (at the bottom of this post) from the 2009 pow-wow. It's a song performed by Tha Tribe from Lawrence, Kan.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A jazz evening in Portsmouth, N.H.

Arnie Krakowski
During our visit to Hampton, N.H., earlier this month, we visited Jen's brother Bill Paarlberg in nearby Portsmouth. He took us to the Press Room, a restaurant and bar that programs lots of jazz. 
On the evening we dropped by, tenor saxophonist Arnie Krakowski and the Les Harris Jr. trio were playing upstairs, and we sat downstairs so we could chat freely. It was one of the few times, maybe the only time, when I went out to hear jazz but allowed it to become background music, and I found it really enjoyable as we talked.

Krakowski's laid-back, easygoing, swinging solos wafted down the stairwell and made me think of late Lester Young.

Portsmouth, population 20,000, has a bar with live music seven nights a weeks, mostly jazz. An advanced civilization, to be sure.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Bruton band's CD release at Pappy's

Emcee, Dan Timbrook; recording engineer, Pat Shikany;
cover design and photography, Jay Nicholson

Pappy's stayed open late (9:30!) last night to contain all the music that the Richard Bruton Band discharged at the CD release party.

It was actually a double-CD release party. Cost for the album (above): $5. The album was recorded live in the beer garden of Pappy's on June 26, one of the early 100-degree days of the year. It was a great evening, well worth losing sweat over.

The after-hours music was worth staying for — the fiery and joyous "Song for Bilbao" by Pat Metheny, recorded by Michael Brecker on his "Tales of the Hudson" album from 1996, followed by "If I Only Had a Brain" as a closer.

[By the way, last night was the second time this month I heard the Scarecrow's song. Previously, it was in Springfield-Branson National Airport. We were waiting for our flight to be called when an airline employee stepped jauntily past our seats whistling this tune. A less-than-inspiring choice in the context of aviation, if you ask me … ]

Sid Norris (above) and Richard Bruton (top)
Left photo: Austin Wilson (left) and Ryan Talbot. Right photo: Ian Erickson
Kathe Bruton pops in. The only way to enter Pappy's is through the band.
No bigger than the average living room.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Flea opens; music returns

The Flea has been open for not quite a month, and it's already become a musician-friendly place.

The new bar occupies the space of the former Harlow's at Harrison and Kimbrough in Springfield MO. It looks and feels like Harlow's, the folks are just as friendly, the music is just as good, and the TV's are bigger and wider.

Photos from a jam night, Oct. 16:

At The Flea, the outside merges with the inside. Patrons can take a smoke break
on the patio without missing a note. Paul Rose, left, and Ryan Boone, right)

From left: Quantum Groove members Chris Vanderpool, Paul Rose, Ryan Boone, Cole Gurley.

Chad Graves of the Hillbenders also sat in with twangy-bluesy
contributions to the jazzy, funky jam tunes.
Ryan Boone and Cole Gurley
Paul Rose

Friday, September 28, 2012

Dexter Gordon's legacy

Dexter Gordon's wife has been maintaining his legacy through lectures and appearances. Her work reminds me of Sue Mingus's efforts on behalf of her husband, although Sue presides over multiple ensembles and actually arranges pieces for the big band, even though she has no formal music knowledge.

Maxine Gordon has dedicated her husband's archival work to the Library of Congress. She is also writing his biography, according to an article on All About Jazz from earlier this year.

I was pleased that Dexter received recognition through his acting in movies in the 1980s, but his acting also made me sad, as it showed the weakening of his presence as compared to the vigor and energy he once projected.

Pairing Missouri wines with Missouri jazz

More than a year ago, I renamed this blog the Wine-Jazz Nexus, which is a mouthful but well suited to my defiantly awkward approach to routine matters.

The blog has been fun, buut has not lived up to its name. Yes, there's wine, and there's jazz — but where's the nexus?

One answer would be to pair wine with various jazz listening experiences.

I've actually seen that done in Downbeat a couple of times, both involving the Umbria Jazz Festival. An esteemed restaurant owner in the region provided wine at  performances. His pairing principle was more narrative than taste. For example, a wine that was not respected when first created but gained respect over time would be paired with a musician who "paid his dues" — and so forth.

I can't find the article at the moment, but I found the results disappointing. The guy served a Riesling at a Cecil Taylor concert. Really, now: Does the music of Cecil Taylor in any way suggest Riesling?

I can do better. Let's pair Missouri wines with jazz musicians associated with Missouri.

Charlie Parker: The protean founder of modern jazz made music with furious harmonies and rhythms, complex yet enjoyable, though with an edge. These characteristics have an obvious shared aesthetic with one — and only one — Missouri wine, the biggest, the most complex: Norton.

If you're listening to a crazy live version of Moose the Mooche — 

— you might try the seriously spicy Lindwedel Norton. If you're listening to the Massey Hall concert (aka the greatest jazz concert ever), spring for one of the premium Nortons from Stone Hill or Les Bourgeois. For Charlie Parker with Strings, try Burnt Barn Red, a semisweet blend of Norton and Chambourcin from Tyler Ridge.

Count Basie, 30's band: The jaunty head arrangements and the spare, jabbing piano style suggests a white wine that's fun to drink but has good acids: Vidal

Count Basie, 50's-70's band: The mature, composer-driven music suggests a white wine with sophistication and less of an edge: Chardonel.

That's enough for now.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Lewsi Winery: uncompromising yet friendly

In recent weeks I have had a chance to spend some time with Lewsi wines by Ken and Patty Lewis. Lewsi Winery, which they named by transposing the last two letters of their name, just for fun, is located about 15 miles west from Branson on Missouri 76, then left on Missouri Y and right on Long Bend Road.

Ken takes an approach to winemaking that you don't see very often: uncompromising. Or at least more or less uncompromising. He sticks to his policy of no sweetening, just getting what the grapes give him — but he presents his point of view, and his wines, in a friendly way.

A good example of his approach is Virgin Bluff Red, a blend of Chambourcin and catawba that tastes like a semisweet wine but actually is bone dry. I wrote about this wine a few months ago, but I have since tasted others.

Virgin Bluff White (Elvira): Until recently, I had neither tasted nor heard of this grape, but it's a triumph of mid-American winemaking with a nonstandard variety. Juicy with mellow citrus. 

Moonsong Blush (catawba): Most catawba is sweetened to some extent, but if you've ever wondered how a dry catawba might taste, this is it. I don't like heavily sweetened catawba, but a little sugar takes the edge off this grape's acidity. Confession: I have stirred a micro-dash of generic Splenda into each glass of Moonsong Blush I drink, with really satisfying results. 
Reeds Spring Red (Chambourcin): The incredible nose and spice of this grape is fully realized. I've tasted Chambourcins (including my own) that soften that spiciness, but Ken embraces it. I ate a piece of Lindt chili dark chocolate with this wine. The muted heat of the chocolate lingered along with the spice of the wine, creating a pleasant accommodation.

Ozark Velvet (Frontenac):
This Frontenac reminds me of unoaked Norton, but softer. It's weird to realize that this wine probably has been made without tweaking or sweetening, yet the result is rich and soft — nothing unruly here. This result must be the true flavor profile of the grape. What other way would Ken make it?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Do Good festival: Black Bonnet Ballyhoo

Strange/amusing moment from their set: The band was performing their scary storytelling song, "Fortnight," in which the forces of good and evil team up to bring a murderer to justice. The line, "Gabriel knocks on Lucifer's door ... " introduces the unusual crime-fighting alliance. Moments after Jen Kean delivered that line, an officer in a squad car next to the stage sounded his siren to get the attention of a motorist who had blundered into the square. I'm not sure anyone else noticed, but it was a well-timed sound effect, and it made me laugh.

Jen Kean
Kera Newman
Alisha Schroeder
Abbie Benton

Do Good festival: Lowdown Fancy

Photos of The Lowdown Fancy from the Do Good festival, 9/22. From left: Bo Brown, Aaron Holmes, Steve Ames (also below), Josh Randolph and Mike Henderson.

Bo Brown rocking out on his new guitar (above and below).

Friday, September 21, 2012

Jaco Pastorius

I've seen many more than one tribute today for Jaco Pastorius on the 25th anniversary of his death, and I've paused to grasp how much I appreciate his innovations on the bass, if mainly through all the bassists he's influenced.

I stopped listening to Weather Report around the time he joined the group. Then I started to rehabilitate those Mysterious Travelers when Richard Bruton showed me copied videos of performances with Jaco. He was an astonishing force, another horn in the band, florid in style, as a foil to the often terse and cryptic Shorter. 

For more than 10 years, I have owned "Weather Report: Live and Unreleased," with great Jaco presence throughout. It's the only Weather Report album I ever go to anymore.

"Portrait of Tracy" has the most astonishing shredding mixed with spontaneous composing of bits you could extract to make additional tunes. 

But the track that stays in my mind is "River People," with two implacable lines playing out side by side, Jaco's bassline and Shorter's mini-melody arguing with each other by reiterating what they already said. The tune pops into my head more often than I have realized until now.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Birds take heavier toll on grapes than drought

For most of the summer, we did a solid job of keeping birds away from the grapes by draping the vines with row cover. However, the storms of the last few weeks caused damage that we did not repair quickly and thoroughly enough, and birds consumed about 20 percent of the crop. 

Of course, we are talking about roughly 22 pounds munched down to 18. And the 18 pounds were 4 more than last year's harvest.

We have been using the Shroud of St. Vincent for three years now. This year, tattered areas gave birds openings. This photo I think shows the remnants (right foreground) of a cluster of grapes that went down several cardinals' abysmal gullets:

This cluster (below) was damaged by heat and drought stress, which took hold in July but didn't cause all that much damage.

The bigger issue about this "urban vineyard" experiment is that it has not yielded as much as I expected when we started in 2006. We have eight plants, but just two yield in large enough amounts that they have to be thinned, and two others manage to produce scattered sparse clusters. The rest are non-performers. It's odd to realize that all this effort is devoted to what amounts to half a case of wine — good wine, actually. So the experiment is not exactly disappointing, but it is definitely strange.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Doug Talley’s total Wayne immersion

Doug Talley, from his online press materials
One of my summer music highlights was a trip to Kansas City to hear saxophonist Doug Talley’s program of Wayne Shorter’s Blue Note tunes. I’d heard it three summers ago, and ever since, I’d been craving another visit to the Wayne spa.

Before the first hearing, I remember feeling skeptical about the prospect of this repertory concept, and I was also intrigued. But after the first few tunes, the total immersion in the glorious melodies and mysterious structures created a soothing state of enlightenment. And the band was great, with all players confronting the music on their own terms.

This time, the quintet played at the American Jazz Museum’s Blue Room, probably the most prestigious venue in the city for serious listening. Talley’s group includes Joe Parisi (trumpet), Wayne Hawkins (piano), Tim Brewer (bass) and Keith Kavanaugh (drums).

It was a weird experience, appreciating the master’s body of work and the musicians’ individual talents all at once. Shorter loomed as the sixth man on stage.

Talley said he’s learned a great deal not only from Shorter’s composing but also the way he interprets his work.

“When he plays his own music, I like the way he renders the melodies,” he said. “It took me a long time to enjoy his soloing on some tunes. It didn’t reach me at the time. I’d wonder, why is he doing that? Then I’d start playing the tune and I’d realize, he’s doing that because the tune asks that.”

Talley said Shorter is an acquired taste, and his songs are not easy to play.

“A lot of his tunes, you can’t just play some bebop line and expect to survive,” he said. “Typically, the melodies are simple, and the underlying chords are not. It’s almost like a puzzle, though I’m sure that’s not the way he would describe it.”

The simple elegance of the melodic lines creates an enjoyable entry point for the audience.

Talley said he was in high school when he first encountered Shorter’s music, during the Weather Report era. He listened backward to the Blue Note classics and the work with Art Blakey before that. Talley and his friends owned a few of the Blue Notes.

“We couldn’t figure out what he was doing or anything like that. It was way too complex for us at the time,” he said. The songs must be heard over time until they become a part of you, he said.
Joe Parisi, from

Talley’s group is usually a quartet, with Parisi frequently joining in. In addition to the Shorter program, the quartet plays non-themed performances.

The quartet, which formed in 1995, has composed and performed music for silent movies, including Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Lodger” and three Chaplin works.

Since 1984, Talley has worked as a music teacher in the Shawnee Mission School District, on the Kansas side of the K.C. metro area. His career has spanned all grade levels, currently grades 8-12.

The quartet, from left: Wayne Hawkins (piano), Tim Brewer (bass), Doug Talley (saxophones), Keith Kavanaugh (drums/cymbals). Photo from Talley's online press materials.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Evidence that the shroud works

The row cover I've been using to protect the grapes against birds and Japanese beetles continues to do its job without harming the fruit. The flimsy but effective fabric comes from the Dewitt Co. in Sikeston, Mo. It keeps the birds from harvesting grapes before I can, as these photos show.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Harvest time at Tyler Ridge; winemaking begins

Kathy and Mike Dennis, with Maggie.

Mike Dennis (left) and I discuss the harvest over the Chambourcin grapes I purchased and the Dennis' St. Bernard Maggie.
It's the second year of buying grapes from Tyler Ridge Vineyard Winery. Having bottled last year's wine from Tyler Ridge grapes only last month, we're tasting the possibilities of what this year's vintage might become. 

I realize many of these pictures below look the same as previous years' harvest photos. But it's always a hopeful time of anticipating the results of what's being created in the moment — so here they are.

Back home, the clusters go into the destemmer-crusher, and crushed grapes emerge.
Checking for spiders.
One thing is new: Mike Dennis urged me to add sulfite to the must and wait 24 hours before beginning primary fermentation. This step apparently kills volunteer yeast and prepares the must for the preferred yeast.This technique is new to me, but I tried it, and we'll see what happens …

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

David Murray Blues Big Band

I've always wanted to enjoy free jazz more than I actually do. But I'm glad people keep playing innovations, whether I like them or not. Eventually, I and/or the artist might come around to an accommodation that I will enjoy.

Such is the case with saxophonist David Murray's work. Throughout his life of squalling and beeping, he has always found a way to rein himself often enough to stay grounded — and he almost always plays in a deep rhythmic pocket.

Decades ago, I had trouble with the extramusical sounds, but now I'd be disappointed if he didn't play them.

Now, he and harmolodic guitarist James Blood Ulmer have teamed up to front a blues big band. From this promotional video, it sounds like the ultimate combination of tradition and extremes.

I assume this video is OK to copy here because of its promotional nature and because Murray's website links to it and encourages embedding.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Finally listening to Jennie Scheinman

From left: Jenny Scheinman, Todd Sickafoose, Jim Black and Nels Cline. Photo acquired from Scheinman's online press kit. Photo Credit: Michael Gross

I’ve always had trouble getting into the music of violinist Jenny Scheinman because it doesn’t sound like anything else, and I know I’d have to work at it to enjoy it.

And yet that was the reason I got into jazz in the first place, at about age 10. I’ve become so lazy of late with my music collecting, just falling back on familiar sounds and selecting new stuff only if it resembles old favorites.

So, at last, I downloaded a Jenny Scheinman album, “Mischief and Mayhem,” (her newest) and gave it a serious listen.

Her quartet includes the singular guitarist Nels Cline. He and Scheinman are kindred spirits in that they take totally individualistic approaches to their instruments for striking impact, but they don’t stand out as virtuosos.

In Scheinman, there’s no clear representation of typical violin influences, such as Hot Club, bluegrass or classical; it’s a personal language of melody with a little abrasion. Cline has worked in punk, alt and free jazz, but none of those terms describe his playing.

Instead, they play moods or emotions, in a manner that’s narrative, not static. They often play layers of atmospherics, from spacey (“A Ride With Polly jean”) to spikey (“Blues for the Double Vee) — sometimes folded into engaging rhythms (“The Mite”) that I can hang onto through mysterious excursions.

“Sand Dipper” is a gorgeous melody played against percussion resembling jarring Asiatic bells.

“July Tenth in Three Four” presents slow motion tranquility with rumbling drums and droning guitar.

The other members of the quartet are Todd Sickafoose on bass and Jim Black on drums. They can really drive the band, when the music calls for drive. People who like rock instrumentation and pulse probably can enjoy this album, even though the players improvise in ways that will satisfy jazz listeners.

Here is a clip of “Blues for Double Vee.” I am assuming that this is an authorized post because the author is “JennyScheinman” and it links to Amazon to encourage people to buy the album:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Once again, MOJO delivers

Once again, the Missouri Jazz Orchestra (MOJO) delivers. We took my wife's parents to see Tuesday's first set, and they really enjoyed it. My father-in-law, who played drums in bands as a kid and has continued to play percussion in community ensembles all his life, was thrilled. He said things like,

"Do you realize how complicated that is?"



"I can't believe this is here."

He told us that we're lucky to have MOJO.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Who cares about intellectual property?

The recent dust-up between the Romney campaign and Sliversun over the campaign's use of the band's tune, "Panic Switch," highlights an intellectual property issue that I see  more on the Internet than in live settings.

As Huffington Post Entertainment notes, the band charged that the campaign did not secure permission to use the song. The campaign said it used the song under a "blanket licensing agreement." What is that?

I follow several jazz bloggers on Twitter who seem to combine the audio of a tune with the album cover and post the combo as a video on YouTube. How is this any different than e-mailing illegally downloaded mp3's to friends? And why aren't recording companies and artists suing these bloggers in the same way they nailed Napster a decade ago? And why doesn't YouTube block this rampant practice?

This video is an example of the practice: "SeƱor Blues" from "Ray Charles: Genius + Soul = Jazz." It's posted by MrMusicMagic, with this edifying note: "No description available."

This video's integrity is uncertain: "Dark Eyes" from "Terminal 7" by the Tomasz Stanko Quintet. The post, authored by giokat100, claims a "Standard YouTube License." What is that? The artwork with this piece looks like a press-kit photo, so maybe the creator of the video is authorized by the artist or the label. However, the post also directs the user to a Tomasz Stanko YouTube channel "auto generated by YouTube." This channel is packed with tunes by Stanko presented in the same fashion as the first example. So, is YouTube enabling the misuse of intellectual property, or has the artist or label granted permission?

I will look for answers. Meanwhile, if you have any, please comment.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Autumn in summer

Finally raked all the leaves that have fallen off the sycamores over the past six weeks — as big a pile as I'd expect in mid-October. Sycamores, like many other trees, shed leaves to conserve moisture. I mulched them into a fine powder and made a small pile in the back corner.

Meanwhile, the "shroud" (partially visible at left in the photo) continues to protect the vines from birds. I've seen numerous pigeons and cardinals land on the covered vines. They seem to be able to identify the deep blue maturing fruit behind the see-through fabric. But they can't figure out how to penetrate it, so they fly away.

I checked the brix twice this week — only 15. Still a ways to go. I also check daily to be sure that the grapes are not falling off the vine, which St.Vincent grapes will do.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Finally bottling 2011 wines

My cat Dexter, an effective opportunist, crashed the photo of the wines just bottled from 2011 grapes.

For the first time in several years, I made Chambourcin and Norton, this time from grapes cultivated by Mike and Kathy Dennis of Tyler Ridge Vineyard Winery, about 10 miles north of Springfield. I have to credit the Dennises for the astonishing results. All I did is all I've ever done — observe sterile practices and avoid oxidation. But this time, the Chambourcin had the signature acids, but they were modified and smoothed out, and the Norton had a little smoky essence even without oak.

It's such a kick to have a tiny stake in America's native grape, whose development dates to Thomas Jefferson's failures and the successes of fellow Virginian Dr. Daniel Norton. For my output, all credit is due to the vineyard practices of the Dennises. If I can get these results as an amateur, imagine what the Dennises are achieving — for just $15 a bottle.

The third project is peach. Last year, I added more fruit to the mix, and the result requires even less sugar added back. In fact, it requires none. It's a dry peach that tastes like peach, not candy.

Aren't the labels classy?

Friday, July 27, 2012

Heat stress? Could be worse

Since my last report about heat and drought stress, I've noticed a few more raisins developing on clusters that are high on the vine, not as well shaded as the lower-placed fruit. 

Leaves at the top of the plants are turning brown, but what else can I expect? It's 100 every day with no rain.

Actually, the grapes mostly look really good. The yield is high, and the fruit seems to be ripening a little early. I suppose it's possible that I did not do the vines a favor by thinning only a few clusters last month. But it's hard to argue with success ...

... or at least signs of success so far.

I have decided to stop watering the vines. I did that a couple of times in July, but now I plan to let the sugars and acids concentrate. This is what Erv Langan at Keltoi Winery has been doing all season long — allowing the vines to stay stressed for maximum grape quality, as described in a report by Brad Douglas, KODE/KSN News, at

One last thing: I have made an exception for the youngest plant in the row, whose leaves are turning brown throughout, not just on top. I watered this one today:

 I'm wondering whether some of this damage (detail below) is black rot:

One last note: If we as a planet are now in the grip of palpable global warming — if Missouri's average high for July and August is destined to be 100 — is it worthwhile to keep growing grapes? Maybe we should switch to cacti and make tequila ...