Features

TAUT COMPETITION AT JERUSALEM SCRABBLE CLUB

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JERUSALEM - Perhaps it is a bit strange that Jerusalem, where Hebrew and Arabic are the native languages, is home to probably the world's largest club of English-speaking Scrabble players.

But its 50 or so members - and the three or four newcomers who drop in weekly - don't care about that. They just want to play.

``It's a social haven for every sort of Jerusalemite. Here, they have everything in common,'' said Sam Orbaum, director of the Jrslm Scrbbl Clb, as he likes to spell it.


PONTY'S NEW CHAPTER THRILLS BOOKSTORE CROWD

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PEABODY - The world's greatest jazz violinist, Jean-Luc Ponty, opened a US tour Wednesday night before a thrilled, standing-room crowd of about 60 at a bookstore here.

He played three songs from "Life Enigma," his first studio album since 1993, and then answered questions and signed memorabilia for fans, some of whom drove two hours for a taste of his music. Before playing, he begged indulgence, saying, "I never did this before, but I'm taking a little more time, now that I'm older." He played alone, backed only by a CD of instrumental tracks he said he had recorded.


MANA MIXES POLITICS AND ROCK, MEXICAN STYLE

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You've heard this description before: a charismatic lead singer leading three guys playing guitar, bass, and drums, performing their songs born of love and politics, spiced by talk of faith and evidence of social activism.

U2, you say? Fair enough, but the subject today is Mana, the Mexican rock band rolling into Tsongas Arena in Lowell Tuesday.


USING EMOTION AND INTUITION, VIOLINIST EVOKES HIS OWN IDEAL WORLD

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There's no veneer to Jean-Luc Ponty, the jazz violinist who's appearing at Berklee Performance Center Thursday night.

You might expect, and could forgive, a little crustiness if you consider his path: decades of performing, thousands of concerts, hundreds of venues, and dozens of tours in countries uncounted. After classical training and a symphony job right after, he helped shape the futures of rock and jazz during stints with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention and John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra. He's been a successful bandleader and composer for more than 25 years.


THE GREAT UNKNOWN Malian musician Habib Koite samples his country’s traditions and cultures

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NEW YORK - Oh, you jaded listener. You don't know the name Habib Koite, and you want to know why you should care about one more musician from someplace you've barely heard of. Well, maybe this will put him on your musical map:

On the opening night last month of his 37-city march across North America, fans repeatedly threw money – $10s and $20s, real money - at his feet or, better yet, pasted the bills onto his brow, moist with the sweat of his labor.

Battle that, Eminem.


BORN TO THE BLUES Coco Montoya learned what he wanted — with both kinds of luck

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In 48 years on the planet, Coco Montoya has been lucky, good, and to the brink of death, three of the many reasons to think he was born to play the blues.

Lucky: Barely 21 and a drummer in a California bar band, Montoya left his kit at the club one night after a gig. The next day, blues guitar legend Albert Collins came to play a matinee, and the club manager let him use the drums. When Montoya came by later and saw that someone had been playing in his seat, he let the manager know he didn't like it. Word got to Collins, who called to apologize, and a deep lifelong friendship was born.


TO THE BEAT OF HER CONVICTIONS Singer Angelique Kidjo a dynamic force for peace, spirituality

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NEW ORLEANS - To get a clue into Angelique Kidjo, you only had to witness her set at Congo Square, one of the big venues of this city's annual Jazz and Heritage Festival, on the first Friday in May.

It wasn't just that she wheedled the burly security chief until he allowed fans to come up and join her. Kidjo commonly requires fans at her shows not only to dance, as she does endlessly, but to do so with her onstage.


DESIGNING ONLINE Software helps arrange the furniture before buying

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Do-it-yourself home designers used to have only graph paper and a ruler for tools, but you can find better tools these days on the Internet. The bad sites aren't that bad, and the best ones are getting better. jordansfurniture.com

A new software package by Hookumu Inc., a Salem, N.H., developer, could turn out to be one of the very best. It is due to debut by the end of this month on the Jordan's Furniture website. I got to test the package last week at home, and found it to be pretty snazzy: easy, efficient, and eminently customizable.


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