Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Jennifer Niceley’s Birdlight Reveals a Unique, Captivating Southern Voice

Over the last few years, Tennessee songwriter Jennifer Niceley has distilled a distinctive blend of noir torch song, Americana, Nashville gothic, classic southern soul and blues. Her latest album, Birdlight, is streaming at Soundcloud. In recent years, the twang has dropped from Niceley’s voice, replaced by a smoky, artfully nuanced, jazzy delivery. The obvious comparison is Norah Jones, both vocally and songwise, although Niceley has more of an edge and a way with a lyrical turn of phrase. As with her previous releases, the new album features a first-class band: Jon Estes on guitars, keys and bass; Elizabeth Estes on violin; Evan Cobb on tenor sax; Steve Pardo on clarinet and Imer Santiago on trumpet, with Tommy Perkinsen and Dave Racine sharing the drum chair.

The album conjures a classy southern atmosphere: imagine yourself sipping a mint julep in the shade of a cottonwood, the sound of a muted trumpet wafting from across the creek, and you’re in the ballpark. The opening track, Nightbird, sets the stage, a nocturne with Niceley’s gently alluring delivery over a pillowy, hypnotic backdrop livened by samples of what sounds like somebody clumping around in the woods. The second number, Ghosts, is a balmy shuffle lit up by Estes’ deliciously slipsliding Memphis soul riffs, and picks up with a misty orchestral backdrop. .

Niceley sings New Orleans cult legend Bobby Charles’ Must Be in a Good Place Now with a hazy late-summer delivery over a nostalgic horn section and Estes’ keening steel guitar, and a little dixieland break over a verse. The Lynchian Julee Cruise atmospherics in Land I Love, from the swooshes and gentle booms from the drums and the lingering pedal steel, are absolutely gorgeous, Niceley brooding over her pastoral imagery and how that beauty “is never coming back.”

What Wild Is This switches gears for a lushly arranged, bossa-tinged groove; then Niceley switches up again with a gently swaying western swing cover of Jimmie Rodgers’ Hard Times. She keeps the jazzy-tinged atmosphere going with a restrained version of Tom Waits’ You Can Never Hold Back Spring.

But’s Niceley’s originals that are the real draw here, like Goodbye Kiss, a wistful lament that along with Land I Love is the most plaintive, affecting track here: “Unfinished visions keep hanging around like fog in the trees,” Niceley muses. The album’s title track is a brief inetrumental, Niceley’s elegant guitar fingerpicking against washes of violin and accordion. She winds it up with the hypnotic, surreal Strange Times, whose wary psychedelics wouldn’t be out of place on a Jenifer Jackson record. Lean back with a little bourbon and drift off to a place that time forgot with this one: what a great way to stay warm on a gloomy winter evening.

December 24, 2014 Posted by | Music, Reviews, music, concert, review, rock music, jazz, blues music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Marc Cary Delivers Depth and Gravitas and Redemptive Fun at a Harlem Jazz Shrine

Pianist Marc Cary and his Focus Trio – Rashaan Carter on bass and Sameer Gupta on drums.- played their opening set at Minton’s uptown last night like a suite. It was as if they felt the cold and the snow flurries outside – not to mention the tension and grief this city’s endured in the last couple of weeks – and decided to welcome everyone and warm them up with a healthy dose of hot pepper. But they eschewed jalapeno jump for a lingering, resonant bhut jolokia burn. That Indian pepper reference is deliberate, and makes sense since Cary draws so deeply on Indian classical music, plunging in and savoring its otherworldly qualities to a greater degree than most western musicians.

Gupta’s relentless, restless energy, implied clave and wry repartee maintained a livewire energy as Cary mined the low registers for pitchblende atmosphere, with long, pedaled choral phrases, suspenseful modalities, minimalistic, rhythmic motives and the occasional droll phrase or two on an old analog synth perched above the piano keys. Although he got more animated and threw in rippling, bluesy riffage and runs toward the end of the set, most of it was lowlit, dark and mystical.

The rhythm section got to expand throughout a catchy number inspired by a transcontinental flight sitting next to Brazilian composer Hermeto Pascoal, who used his time on the plane to write a brand new tune. Betty’s Waltz, a stirring, bittersweetly assertive Betty Carter homage from Cary’s latest album Four Directions, became a platform for brooding, Satie-esque resonance. Cary hit a peak by reinventing his mentor Abbey Lincoln’s Throw It Away as a bitterly ambered mood piece – it was there that he chilled out on the synth, adding only some eerily echoey blues phrases that brought the song toward a corporate idiom, but in an out-of-focus and sardonic way. No doubt Lincoln would have loved that.

Meanwhile, it fell to Carter to hold the center as he added subtle colors when he wasn’t underpinning the songs with a muscularly slinky pulse to match Gupta’s clenched-teeth, tersely rapidfire volleys. Cary’s next NYC gig is at the Cell Theatre, 338 W 23rd St (8th & 9th Aves) on Jan 10.

A word about the vemue: Cary told the crowd that of all the false starts that various owners have taken in the Minton’s space over the past couple of decades, this version of the club is the best yet. He’s right. It’s a cross between the Vanguard and a swanky soul food emporium like Sylvia’s: plush ambience, inobtrusive but attentive service, expertly tricked-out sonics channeling the ghosts of history. Bebop was invented on this very same stage (or at least a significant piece of it) back in the late 30s, when the Ellington band held their famous cutting contests here. This incarnation of the club seems to draw a late crowd, and party people: it’s a Harlem jazz shrine that ought to be a must-see destination for anyone who cares about the music.

December 22, 2014 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, NYC Live Music Calendar, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Do Winter Jazzfest 2015

Winter Jazzfest turns the cheesy Bleecker Street strip into a jazz mecca on Friday night, Jan 9 and then Saturday, Jan 10. Tickets are not cheap, but considering what you get, it’s still a considerable bargain. The best deal is the $55 two-day pass for Friday and Saturday, which if you choose wisely, will get you in to see $200 or more worth of talent, at jazz club prices anyway. Getting tickets in advance at the Poisson Rouge box office is your best bet; otherwise you can pick them up starting at 5 at Judson Church on Washington Square Park South, each day.

Your second-best deal is the one-night $35 pass. At the top end, there’s a $145 package available that gets you Friday and Saturday plus an all-star show to benefit organist Mike LeDonne’s disability charity on Jan 8 at 7 PM at the Quaker Friends Meeting Hall, 15 Rutherford Pl. north of 15th St., across the park from 3rd Ave., with LeDonne joining a hall of fame lineup including Ron Carter, Renee Rosnes, Russell Malone, Brad Mehldau, George Coleman, Benny Golson, Jimmy Cobb, Peter Bernstein, Buster Williams, Harold Mabern, Bill Charlap, Kenny Washington and others.

Usually this annual festival is backloaded with a killer Saturday night lineup, but this year, Friday’s is stronger. Keep in mind that your pass does not guarantee entry if a venue is filled to capacity, so if there’s an act you really must see, it’s worth getting there early – maybe a couple of hours early at the smaller clubs. The Friday crowds tend to be smaller than the Saturday mobscene.

On Friday night the Poisson Rouge lineup is especially choice and will be very popular with a younger crowd, since Kneebody is headlining at 9. Donald Byrd kicks off the night at 6:30 followed by a rare US appearance by fearless and often surrealistically comedic Dutch big band the ICP Orchestra. Obviously, it’s tempting to stick around for Kneebody, but their set may be on the short side since the club will want to clear the room to accommodate the Jersey tourists lined up to see the Miley Cyrus cover band playing afterward.

Which gives you a perfect opportunity to beat the crowds and hightail it around the corner to the Minettta Lane Theatre, where David Murray is playing two sets starting at 7:30: a “clarinet summit” and then fronting a trio with Geri Allen and Terri Lyne Carrington. Oliver Lake leads a sax trio with Reggie Workman and Andrew Cyrille there at 10 followed by Marc Ribot with a string section (!!!) at around 11:15 and then sometime after midnight there’s a tribute to John Lurie and the Lounge Lizards with what will undoubtedly be a big Tonic crowd.

Saturday‘s early sets offer plenty to choose from. You might want to start at Subculture at 6 PM with trombonist Ryan Keberele’s reliably adventurous Catharsis, then head west to the Poisson Rouge to catch spectacular Colombian harpist Edmar Castaneda at 6:45. Meanwhile, luminous pianist Myra Melford’s Snowy Egret are at Zinc Bar at 6:30, while intriguing, Indian-inspired chanteuse Kavita Shah sings at 6:15 followed by Amina Claudine Myers’ trio, then sizzling postbop supergroup the Cookers, followed at around 10 by Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Charlie Parker project at the Minetta Lane Theatre. And percussionist Jaimeo Brown’s hauntingly atmospheric Transcendence,  who reinvent old spirituals, will be at Bowery Electric at 6:30. Just be aware that if you want to catch Rudresh’s set, or JD Allen’s explosive trio at half past midnight or so at Subculture, you are very strongly advised to get there early: a couple of hours early wouldn’t be too soon.

Last year’s festival featured several non-jazz acts at the end of the night at some venues. This year, they’re scattered throughout the evening at a few spots, and they’re not nearly as good. Other than postrock instrumentalists the Cellar & Point (at the Players Theatre, 1:30 AM-ish on Saturday), soul chanteuse Mavis Swan Poole and her band (the Bitter End, 8:45 on Saturday) and guitarist Stephane Wrembel (who’s gone further into Pink Floyd territory lately, also 8:45 on Saturday, way over on Barrow Street at Greenwich House Music School), that’s the only stuff beyond the jazz that’s worth seeing.

The complete lineup is below: be sure to check the schedule for updates, as there’ve been new venues added in the past week.

FRIDAY JANUARY 9th 2015

LE POISSON ROUGE 158 Bleecker Street NY NY 10012
6:30pm Donald Byrd Acoustic Electric Sessions
7:45pm ICP Orchestra
9:00pm Kneebody + Daedelus

MINETTA LANE THEATRE 18-22 Minetta Lane New York, NY 10003
6:15pm TBA
7:30pm David Murray Clarinet Summit w/ Don Byron, David Krakauer, and Hamiet Bluiett
8:45pm David Murray w/ Geri Allen and Terri Lyne Carrington
10:00pm TRIO 3 w/ Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman, Andrew Cyrille and special guest TBA
11:15pm Marc Ribot & The Young Philadelphians with Strings
12:30am Strange and Beautiful: The Music of John Lurie and The Lounge Lizards

JUDSON CHURCH 55 Washington Square Park South
6:45pm Jason Miles & Ingrid Jensen “Kind Of New”
8:00pm Russ Johnson’s Still Out To Lunch (Music of Eric Dolphy)
9:15pm Dave Douglas Quintet
10:30pm Travis Laplante’s Battle Trance
11:45pm So Percussion feat. Man Forever
1:00am Improvised Round Robin Duets

SUBCULTURE 45 Bleecker Street NYC
6:00pm Arturo O’Farrill’s “Boss Level” Septet
7:15pm Linda Oh’s Sun Pictures
8:30pm Taylor Eigsti’s Free Agency
9:45pm Tyshawn Sorey Piano Trio
11:00pm Kris Davis Infrasound
12:15am Uri Caine / Han Bennink
1:30am Aaron Parks Little/Big

THE BITTER END 147 Bleecker Street NYC (Revive Music Stage)
6:15pm Wallace Roney Quintet
7:30pm The Baylor Project feat. Jean Baylor and Marcus Baylor
8:45pm AFRO HARPING: Brandee Younger’s Tribute to Dorothy Ashby feat. Mark Whitfield
10:00pm Igmar Thomas and The Cypher
11:15pm Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life feat. Jean Baylor
12:30am Raymond Angry – Celebration of Life Suite
1:45am Nate Smith + KINFOLK

THE PLAYERS THEATER 115 MacDougal Street NYC
7:00pm Joe Locke ‘Love Is A Pendulum’
8:15pm Oran Etkin ‘Reimagining Benny Goodman
9:30pm Mike Pride’s From Bacteria To Boys
10:45pm Jen Shyu’s ‘Solo Rites: Seven Breaths’
12:00am Marquis Hill Blackout
1:15am Michael Bates Northern Spy

ZINC BAR 82 West 3rd Street NYC
6:30pm TBA
7:45pm Alicia Olatuja
9:00pm Allan Harris
10:15pm Dafnis Prieto Sextet
11:30pm Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom
12:45am Bria Skonberg
2:00am TBA

BOWERY ELECTRIC 327 Bowery NYC
6:30pm TBA
7:45pm The MazzMuse Breakdown
9:00pm Jungle Funk
10:15pm Zongo Junction

CARROLL PLACE 157 Bleecker Street NYC
6:00pm Jovan Alexandre & Collective Consciousness
7:15pm Chris Washburne SYOTOS plays Acid Mambo
8:30pm Anthony Pirog
9:45pm Jay Rodriguez SEVEN
11:00pm Todd Clouser A Love Electric
12:15am Silver with Eddie Henderson
1:30am Frank Catalano

SATURDAY JANUARY 10th 2015

LE POISSON ROUGE 158 Bleecker Street NY NY 10012
6:30pm Edmar Castaneda Trio w/ Andrea Tierra
7:45pm TBA
9:00pm David Murray Infinity Quartet with Saul Williams

MINETTA LANE THEATRE 18-22 Minetta Lane New York, NY 10003
6:15pm Kavita Shah
7:30pm Amina Claudine Myers Trio
8:45pm The Cookers
10:00pm Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Bird Calls (The Charlie Parker Project)
11:15pm TBA
12:30am Nicholas Payton Trio

JUDSON CHURCH 55 Washington Square Park South
6:45pm Theo Bleckman Quartet w/ Ambrose Akinmusire
8:00pm Ken Vandermark – Nate Wooley Duo
9:15pm Ambrose Akinmusire Quartet
10:30pm The Campbell Brothers – A Sacred Steel Love Supreme
11:45pm TBA

SUBCULTURE 45 Bleecker Street NYC
6:00pm TBA
7:15pm Alfredo Rodríguez Trio
8:30pm Lionel Loueke Trio
9:45pm SFJAZZ Collective: Originals and the Music of Michael Jackson
11:00pm Harriet Tubman
12:15am JD Allen Trio w/ Gregg August & Rudy Royston
1:30am TBA

THE BITTER END 147 Bleecker Street NYC (Revive Music Stage)
6:15pm Oliver Lake Organ Quartet
7:30pm Matthew Stevens
8:45pm Soul Understated feat. Mavis Swan Poole
10:00pm Mad Satta
11:15pm Butcher Brown
12:30am Taylor McFerrin
1:45am Walter Smith III

THE PLAYERS THEATER 115 MacDougal Street NYC
7:00pm Dan Weiss Large Ensemble
8:15pm Darius Jones Quartet
9:30pm Tomas Fujiwara & The Hookup
10:45pm Ryan Keberle & Catharsis
12:00am Eivind Opsvik’s Overseas
1:15am The Cellar and Point

ZINC BAR 82 West 3rd Street NYC
6:30pm Myra Melford’s Snowy Egret
7:45pm Mark Turner Quartet
9:00pm Hadar Noiberg Trio
10:15pm Kellylee Evans
11:30pm Mino Cinelu World Jazz Ensemble
12:45am Nasheet Waits Equality Quartet
2:00am Loston Harris Trio

BOWERY ELECTRIC 327 Bowery NYC
6:30pm Jaimeo Brown Transcendence: Work Songs
7:45pm Dana Leong Trio
9:00pm Ilhan Ersahin’s Istanbul Sessions
10:15pm Troker

CARROLL PLACE 157 Bleecker Street NYC (Hot Jazz Festival Night)
6:15pm Martina DaSilva’s Ladybugs with Kate Davis
7:30pm Dan Levinson’s Gotham SophistiCats
8:45pm Stephane Wrembel Band
10:00pm Catherine Russell
11:15pm David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Eternity Band
12:30am Frank Vignola and Friends
1:45am Cynthia Sayer & Her Joyride Band

GREENWICH HOUSE MUSIC SCHOOL 46 Barrow Street
6:15pm Martina DaSilva’s Ladybugs with Kate Davis
7:30pm Dan Levinson’s Gotham SophistiCats with Blind Boy Paxton
8:45pm Stephane Wrembel Band
10:00pm Catherine Russell
11:15pm David Ostwald’s Louis Armstrong Eternity Band

December 21, 2014 Posted by | concert, jazz, Music, music, concert, New York City | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ensemble Pi Commemorate the Iraq War with an Understatedly Harrowing Program

Even by avant garde standards, chamber group Ensemble Pi stand out not only for the adventurousness of their commissions and their repertoire, but also for their fearlessly political stance. Their annual Peace Concert at Subculture Wednesday night, commemorating the tenth anniversary of the Bush/Cheney war in Iraq, held to loosely interconnected themes of how language may be interpreted. Group leader and elegantly eclectic pianist Idith Meshulam joined with cellist Katie Schlaikjer and violinist Airi Yoshioka to premiere a Susan Botti song cycle, J’ai tant rêvé de toi, a setting of the famous Robert Desnos love poem that was inscribed posthumously on the Monument to the Martyrs of World War II in Paris. Soprano Kristin Norderval dedicated the performance to Eric Garner and his survivors – with its acidic tonaliites, the vocals, accompaniment and instrumental passages maintained a bracing, tense, precise walking pace punctuated by the occasional horrified cadenza.

It set the stage for an early Krzysztof Penderecki work, his Violin Sonata No. 1. Ostensibly written with the death of Stalin in mind, its harshness never wavered and eventually dissapated in endless if precisely played waves of twelve-tone acidity. Clarinetist Moran Katz then joined the trio for another world premiere, Laura Kaminsky‘s strikingly intense diptych, Deception. Katz’s moody, richly burnished low register in tandem with the cello built an air of mystery and foreboding, occasionally punctured by the piano. The second movement worked clever variations via individual voices in a very Debussy-esque arrangement that also offered a nod to Shostakovich and possibly Penderecki as well.

The evening’s funniest moment was when Norderval sang a brief Bryant Kong setting of Donald Rumsfeld doublespeak about known knowns and known unknowns and so forth: it brought to mind Phil Kline‘s Rumsfeld Songs, a lengthier and even funnier take. Jason Eckardt‘s Rendition, for clarinet and piano, made an apt segue, exploring the concept of rendition in both lethal and less lethal forms. It made for a portrayal of both the chillingly robotic, lockstep mentality that justifies the use of torture as well as its numbingly dehumanizing aspects. To close the program on a particularly chilling note, the ensemble switched out the cello for soprano Rachel Rosales, who sang selections from Shostakovich’s subversive 1967 suite Seven Romances on Poems of Alexander Blok. Blok’s hundred-year-old poems celebrate the downfall of the Tsarist regime, but they also make good anthems for freedom fighters looking to destroy any evil empire: they’re hardly pacifist, and Shostakovich was keenly aware of that. And it was there that the horror of totalitarianism came front and center, Rosales’ dynamic delivery ranging from steely irony to fullscale terror over a backdrop that spoke of shock and awe, from the perspective on the receiving end.

December 19, 2014 Posted by | avant garde music, classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Karine Poghosyan and David Bernard Revel in the Unserious Side of Beethoven

Anyone who thinks classical music is stuffy didn’t go out into the storm last night to see Karine Poghosyan play Beethoven at the DiMenna Center. Joining her in an uproariously conspiratorial performance of the Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 15 and then switching gears with a fiery, impassioned take of the Piano Concerto No. 3, Op. 37 were conductor David Bernard and a good proportion of the majestically sweeping Park Avenue Chamber Symphony. The first part of the performance was like watching two good friends share a long, amusing yarn, making sure at the same time that everyone in the audience was in on it. It’s as if Bernard had pulled Poghosyan aside during rehearsal and said something like, “Look, we both know how funny Beethoven is. Let’s see who besides us and the orchestra gets this, huh?”

To which Poghosyan probably replied with a wink (she made her orchestral debut with this same piece while still in middle school). And the synergy worked like a charm, Poghosyan’s erudite wit matched to Bernard’s usual meticulously dynamic direction. Some of the humor in the first of the concertos is rather subtle and deadpan but much of it is very broad, particularly in the series of peek-a-boo phrases between the piano and voices throughout the orchestra. Poghosyan, in particular, got tons of punchlines and made the most of them, beginning with her introduction where she really took her time sidling in as the orchestra backed off, as if to say, “What was that racket all about? Get lost. I’m going to show you how this is done!”

Between movements, conductor and pianist exchanged over-the-shoulder peeks at each other; neither could resist breaking into a grin. Beyond the hijinks, it was fun to watch how much Beethoven was already pushing the envelope with this piece, engaging the orchestra more than simply as a backdrop for piano pyrotechnics. But fun ultimately won out of whatever paradigms were being shifted. “It’s such a goofy piece of music!” Poghosyan confided afterward.

The backstory to both the works on the bill, which Bernard couldn’t resist relating, is that Concerto No. 1 is not the first one Beethoven wrote, nor is No. 3 in correct sequence either – that’s just the order in which they were published. That solves the dilemma of how some of the cadenzas in No. 3 echo those in No. 4 – publishers just couldn’t keep up with the guy. And this one required everyone onstage to put their serious hats on, which they did, especially Poghosyan. From the faux-gypsy themes, dripping with sarcasm, that open the piece, all the way through to a vindictive cadenza that Poghosyan hit with pure venom, to its more jaunty if still somewhat cynical conclusion, the musicians left no doubt that this was a kiss-off. Had Beethoven been spurned? Had someone reneged on a fat commission? Whatever might have inspired him, the performance vividly grounded the buffo theatrics that opened the show.

Poghosyan, a leading advocate of the music of Aram Kachaturian, explores that repertoire at an intimate benefit performance on Feb 11 at 7 PM at the Louis Meisel Gallery, 141 Prince Street in SoHo in conjunction with an exibition of her father Razmik‘s paintings. And Bernard directs the Park Ave. Chamber Symphony in a performance of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps and Lorin Maazel’s arrangement of Wagner themes, The Ring Without Words at Rose Theatre at Jazz at Lincoln Center on February 22 at 3 PM.

December 17, 2014 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Historically Vital, Epically Sweeping Film Music Album from Daniel Hope

Violinist Daniel Hope‘s latest release, Escape to Paradise: The Hollywood Album (streaming at Spotify), isn’t just a fascinating and rewarding listen: it’s a important historical document. Film preservationists race against the ravages of time to salvage rare celluloid; likewise, Hope’s new recordings of film music by Jewish expatriates, mostly from pre-and post-WWII Hollywood, have historical value for that reason alone. What’s just as important is how vividly Hope underscores how Jewish composers’ contributions were as vital in defining an era in filmmaking as their colleagues on the theatrical side were. What’s more, this new recording, made with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic under the baton of Alexander Shelley, is much cleaner and higher quality than any old, mono celluloid version could possibly be. Many of these pieces are not heard all the way through in the films, and while there were stand-alone soundtrack albums for some of the movies whose music is featured here, others had none, all the more reason to savor this.

As you would imagine from the filmography chronicled here, it’s a lavish, Romantic ride. The album opens with Miklós Rózsa’s ripe, vibrato-fueled 1959 love theme from William Wyler’s Ben-Hur, Hope leading the way with a crystalline, guardedly hopeful, soaring tone. Likewise, his highwire lines light up Rózsa’s lush, flamenco-inflected 1961 Love Theme from El Cid. And yet another romantic theme – this one from Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound, from sixteen years earlier – shows that Hungarian-born composer had his ecstatically crescendoing formula well-refined by then.

Taken out of context, Thomas Newman’s interlude from the immortal plastic bag scene in American Beauty is remarkably plaintive, a quality enhanced by this performance. The swing-era standard As Time Goes By, popularized in Casablanca, wasn’t written by Max Steiner, the composer of that film’s score, but by Tin Pan Alley song merchant Herman Hupfeld: Hope chooses it to end the album, in a stark solo rendition. A sad Henry Waxman waltz from the 1962 weepie Come Back, Little Sheba foreshadows it

The source material here reaches beyond mainstrean Hollywood. There’s also a majestic, string-driven version of a Walter Jurmann Weimar ragtime piece; Eric Zeisl’s striking overture Menuhim’s Song; and a surprisingly Celtic-tinged instrumental ballad by Werner Richard Heymann.

Not all the composers here are Jewish, either. John Williams’ theme from Schindler’s List adds context, along with an achingly lush 1988 Ennio Morricone set piece from Cinema Paradiso that draws a straight line back to his predecessors here.

And the album isn’t just film scores. German crooner Max Raabe sings a marvelously deadpan version of Kurt Weill’s Speak Low. Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, best known for his work with Andres Segovia, gets a shout via a rippling take of Sea Murmurs, from his Shakespeare Songs suite. Erich Korngold – whose Hollywood success springboarded a career in serious concert music – is represented first by a dynamic version of his Violin Concerto in D. Hope dances and weaves over an alternately sweeping and gusty backdrop as a dramatic melody with all the hallmarks of a movie title theme rise to the forefront. The Serenade from his ballet suite Der Schneeman (The Snowman) is more low key, with a similarly heart-on-sleeve ambience. Virtually everything here will sweep you away to a land that time happily hasn’t forgotten – if you tend to find yourself immersed in something on Turner Classics at three in the morning, do yourself a favor and get this album.

December 15, 2014 Posted by | classical music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jenifer Jackson’s Latest Brilliant Album Follows Her Deeper into Americana

It’s hard to think of a more brilliantly chameleonic songwriter than Jenifer Jackson. She can switch from honktonk to bossa nova to oldschool soul to psychedelia and absolutely own all of those styles. Throughout her career – from the Beatlesque tropicalia of her first full=length album Slowly Bright, through her most previous, more mistily bucolic The Day Happiness Found Me – one constant has been how economically she writes. No wasted notes, no wasted words, always straightforward and direct with an unselfconsciousness that can be downright scary. The other constant is that she’s always had an amazing band. She did a long stretch in New York for about ten years, ending in the late zeros, before setting down new roots in Austin. The change did her good, inspiring her to follow the Americana muse that always seemed to be perched on her shoulder somewhere.

Her latest album, Texas Sunrise, is streaming at Bandcamp. Jackson opens it with the gently evocative title track, fingerpicking her guitar against the warmly wistful backdrop of Kullen Fuchs’ vibraphone and Chris Meitus’ mandolin, Tony Rogers’ cello adding a stark undercurrent. A Heart With a Mind of its Own goes deeper into 50s C&W, period-perfect down to the fluttery cello multitracks. By contrast, the album’s other vintage country tune, Sad Teardrops is a hard-hitting hard-honkytonk kiss-off anthem worthy of early Loretta Lynn. And Paint It Gold, a duet with co-writer Fuchs, takes the idiom forward twenty years to the early 70s proto-outlaw sounds of bands like the Flatlanders.

Jackson’s voice can be fetchingly poignant, as on the warily introspective ballad Easy to Live, or the evocative, balmy atmospherics of the nocturne When Evening Light Is Low. And her gently ambered, vibrato-tinged vocals on the dreamily regretful Ballad of Time Gone By will give you goosebumps. Yet her most nuanced and quietly impactful moments are actually on the more upbeat material here, particularly the Rosanne Cash-esque In Summer, a blend of Americana and the elegant pop tunesmithing of Jackson’s early days, lit up by Fuchs’ one-man horn section.

Similarly, the most energetic songs here are the real knockouts. All Around, with its windswept angst and desolate shoreline milieu, evokes Steve Wynn at his most haunting and wintry. Fuchs colors the uneasy Texas shuffle On My Mind with accordion washes and swirls and then a soaringly aching brass section. A Picture of May plunges more broodingly into southwestern gothic, a plaintively stately, bolero-tinged number. The most quietly devastating track here is White Medicine Cloud, a hypnotic, metaphorically bristling anthem with an understated antiwar message, Jackson painting a great plains tableau that’s genuinely touching.

On a more sobering note, over the past few weeks Jackson has been battling an injury that’s forced her to switch to piano. Although she’s a competent player, guitar is her main axe, and not being able to play it has thrown a wrench in her ability to just pack up and perform pretty much anywhere. She’s pretty tough, so the longterm prognosis is optimistic. But if there ever was a time to support this resolutely individualistic artist, now is it. You can pick up the album at Bandcamp or Jackson’s merch page.

December 12, 2014 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Vivid, Edgy New Loopmusic Album and a Chelsea Release Show by Innovative Violist Jessica Meyer

Violist Jessica Meyer has an intriguingly vivid new solo electroacoustic album, Sounds of Being, streaming at Bandcamp. It’s her first collection of original compositions. Its seven instrumental tracks are explorations of specific emotions, from unabashed joy to clenched-teeth angst. You could lump these pieces under the wide umbrella of indie classical, although they also have echoes of film music, ambient music and the spectral side of the avant garde. She’s playing the album release show at 8 PM on Dec 15 at the Cell Theatre, 338 W 23rd St (8th/9th Aves); cover is $20.

Although this is a loopmusic album, Meyer often creates the effect of a one-woman orchestra, with animated dynamic shifts and changing segments, rather than long, hypnotic one-chord jams in the same vein as her fellow string players Jody Redhage and Nadia Sirota have recorded in the recent past.

Meyer builds a steady theme that rises toward a shivery franticness on the opening track, Getting Home (I Must Be…), ending with a big, distinctly Indian-flavored crescendo. The second track, Hello is more of a soundscape, assembled around subtle, dancing Steve Reich-ish variations on a simple, cellular theme. She orchestrates Into the Vortex with deft swoops, washes, frenetic clusters and microtonal displays of extended technique, sort of a mashup of Rasputina and the Mivos Quartet in particularly experimental mode.

Afflicted Mantra introduces another Indian-tinged melody and variations – albeit more tense and menacing – out of a keening, enervated intro. A simple, morose spoken phrase anchors its increasing agitation. By contrast, Source of Joy builds a jauntily leaping if considerably more measured, pensive atmosphere than the title suggests. The album’s most expansive piece is Touch, again reaching for distantly Indian overtones with a gently pulsing rhythm that contrasts with its enveloping sonics. The final piece, Duende follows a troubling trajectory upward out of more of hints of the Indian music that Meyer seems to love so much, to a cruel false ending. Who is the audience for this? Fans of the more edgy, intense side of classical music, obviously, as well as anyone who enjoys any of the abovementioned artists.

December 10, 2014 Posted by | avant garde music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Torchy Chanteuse/Tunesmith Jeanne Marie Boes Transcends Styles and Eras

Jeanne Marie Boes first came to the attention of this blog back in the zeros. Back then, she’d play the occasional gig at places like Tavern on the Green or some bistro in Queens. Why was this singer with the wise, knowing, fortysomething voice and songs that blended cabaret, mischievous blues and big oldfashioned rock anthems not doing more shows? There was a reason: turns out, she wasn’t in her forties. She was a teenager then.

Which was something of a shock. Among her three albums and numerous singles, there’s one where a family member tells her that she’s an old soul – and is she ever. She’s got brass in her upper register, a pillowy, dreamy quality in the lows and a soaring range. She sings conversationally, intimately: you feel like she’s in the room with you. You have to go back a long ways to find a comparison: Shirley Bassey without the camp, maybe. It’s an urbane voice, one that’s seen a lot in a short time and internalized it. And much as she’ll confidently channel whatever emotion she wants, she seems to like the subtle ones. As nuanced as she is now, if she keeps growing, in five years she’ll be terrifying. She’s playing the release show for her new single, Strangers, at the small room at the Rockwood on Dec 10 at 6 (six) PM, as good a room as any for a voice like hers.

As a tunesmith, she also looks back to an earlier era, yet her mix of Rat Pack orchestral pop, torch song, blues, cabaret and occasional stadium rock bombast is uniquely her own. She likes a clever turn of phrase, yet she’s down to earth at the same time. Like Harold Arlen – someone she resembles thematically if not really stylistically – she’s created her own niche.

The new single, recorded live at the Metropolitan Room, is streaming at Bandcamp along with the rest of her catalog. It’s a big, angst-fueled piano anthem, with a gothic tinge in the same vein as Kristin Hoffmann‘s darker material. And it’s a showcase for Boes’ powerful flights to the top of her register, ending with an unexpectedly jaunty blues phrase. Her albums are also worth a spin. Some of those tracks sound like demos, with drum samples and various keyboard textures substituting for a full band. Others have a directness that matches her voice; she doesn’t waste notes. Even if this is a solo show, it’ll be interesting to see how far she’s come in the time since she put out her first album in 2009.

December 8, 2014 Posted by | blues music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another Magical, Otherworldly Night Staged by @tignortronics

Last week’s triumphant reprise of the initial show at Littlefield staged by composer/violinist/impresario Christopher Tignor, a.k.a. @tignortronics was magical. Sometimes lush and dreamy, other times stark and apprehensive or majestically enveloping, often within the span of a few minutes, Tignor and the two other acts on the bill, cellist Julia Kent and guitarist Sarah Lipstate a.k.a. Noveller put their own distinctly individualistic marks on minimalism and atmospheric postrock. There was some stadium rock, too, the best kind – the kind without lyrics. And much as the three composer-performers were coming from the same place, none of them were the least constrained by any kind of genre.

Kent and Lipstate built their sweeping vistas out of loops, artfully orchestrating them with split-second choreography and elegant riffage, both sometimes employing a drum loop or something rhythmic stashed away in a pedal or on a laptop (Lipstate had two of those, and seemed to be mixing the whole thing on her phone). Tignor didn’t rely on loops, instead fleshing out his almost imperceptibly shapeshifting variations with an octave pedal that added both cello-like orchestration and washes of low-register ambience that anchored his terse, unselfconsciously plaintive motives.

Kent opened her all-too-brief set with apprehensive, steady washes that built to an aching march before fading out quickly. Between songs, the crowd was  rapt: although there were pauses in between, the music came across as a suite. An anxious upward slash gave way to a hypnotic downward march and lush, misty ambience; a little later, she worked a moody, arpeggiated hook that would have made a good horror movie theme into more anthemic territory that approached Led Zep or Rasputina, no surprise since she was a founding member of that band (no, not Led Zep). Slithery harmonics slashed through a fog and then grew more stormy, then Kent took a sad fragment and built it into a staggered, wounded melody. She could have played for twice as long and no one would have said as much as a whisper.

Tignor flavored his judicious, sometimes cell-like themes with deft washes of white noise and his own slightly syncopated beat, which he played on kick drum for emphatic contrast with his occasionally morose, poignant violin phrases. A long triptych moved slowly upward into hypnotic, anthemic cinematics, then back and forth and finally brightened, with a surprisingly believable, unexpectedly sunny trajectory that of course Tignor had to end enigmatically. A slow, spacious canon of sorts echoed the baroque, more melodically than tempo-wise, its wary pastoral shades following a similarly slow, stately upward tangent. He played a dreamy nocturne with a tuning fork rather than a bow for extra shimmer and echoey lustre and wound up his set with another restless if judiciously paced partita.

Where Kent and Tignor kept the crowd on edge, Lipstate rocked the house. She began with a robust Scottish-tinged theme that she took unexpectedly from anthemic terrain into looming atmospherics. A rather macabre loop hinting at grand guignol became the centerpiece of the big, anthemic second number, long ambient tones shifting overhead.
She followed a broodingly circling, more minimalist piece with an increasingly ominous anthem that more than hinted at David Gilmour at his most lushly concise, then a postrock number that could have been Australian psych-rock legends the Church covering Mogwai, but with even more lustre and sheen. She lept to a peak and stayed there with a resounding, triumphant unease as the show wound out, through an ominous, cumulo-nimbus vortex and then a long, dramatically echoing drone-based vamp that brought the concert full circle. Tignor promises to stage another concert every bit as good as this one this coming spring; watch this space.

November 29, 2014 Posted by | avant garde music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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