Alice Coltrane and Michael Brecker, RIP

I was surprised and saddened to learn of the death of two jazz luminaries this weekend. Michael Brecker was a pretty stellar saxophonist, Grammy winner and collaborator with pop luminaries ranging from Paul Simon (“Still Crazy After All These Years,” The Rhythm of the Saints) to Steely Dan (Gaucho, Gold) to Parliament (Trombipulation) to a host of jazz gigs under his own leadership, including multiple Grammys. I will always remember him for his superbly wry and understated guest spot on Dave Brubeck’s Young Lions and Old Tigers, the “Michael Brecker Waltz.” Leukemia took him too soon.

I was saddened about Alice Coltrane too, though reportedly she had been in poor health for a number of years. Fans of her husband John’s work generally are of two minds regarding Alice’s contributions to his later works, when she replaced McCoy Tyner on piano in his performing ensembles. Either they think of her as Yoko to his John (particularly those who don’t like the later, more experimental albums), or they recognize her work as a passionate collaborator and an important contribution to the sound and concept of such albums (Expressions, Stellar Regions). She was also an important contributor to the work of McCoy Tyner himself (Extensions). She will be missed.

Finishing the Project–with an AirPort Extreme

airport extreme base station

I have found the first product I’ll buy from Apple after this week’s keynote—and it wasn’t even mentioned in the keynote. At MacWorld, Apple quietly announced a next-generation AirPort Extreme base station that supports a draft of the 802.11n protocol, meaning that it’s up to five times as fast and up to twice the range of the existing 802.11g base station from Apple. This is frankly a secondary feature for me, though, compared to the news that it supports sharing a USB2 hard drive over the network.

This is a Big Deal. The original plan for The Project, the big effort to move my over 1,000 CDs to a hard drive, called for placing that drive on the network as network attached storage. I didn’t want the drive to be permanently anchored to my MacBook Pro—which would kind of defeat the purpose of having a laptop. But the only solutions I could find for sharing a network USB drive didn’t support Mac disk drive formats. That’s way the capability of the new AirPort Extreme to share a USB hard drive out of the box is so cool.

In fact, the only fly in the ointment is that the AirPort Extreme’s included 802.11n Enabler, which upgrades the AirPort cards of currently shipping Macs to 802.11n, does not extend to my first-generation MacBook Pro, since that model doesn’t include what Engadget called the “secret draft-N cards.” But I think it will still be worth it. I can 86 the old PowerBook that currently powers my music, move the RAID array into the stereo cabinet along with the base station, and free up a lot of space in our guest bedroom.

And…and this is the ironic part…I won’t have to buy a Mac mini to do it, which was my original plan.