Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: The Moonlighters at Barbes 6/23/07

For awhile the Moonlighters were ubiquitous on the NYC club circuit.  In case you haven’t seen them lately, you should. This is basically a brand-new band: of the pioneering old-timey quartet’s original members, only frontwoman/ukelele player Bliss Blood remains. Yet they’re better than ever. The new Daria (as denizens of the scene might say) is singer/guitarist Cindy Ball, whose harmony vocals and playing are spot-on, and she has the Gatsby-era look down cold. Upright bassist Peter Maness is a concise, incisive cat, especially when he solos. But their best acquisition is guitarist/banjoist/baritone sax player Ken Mosher, late of the Squirrel Nut Zippers. He’s brought back the fire that was missing since the Moonlighters’ original steel guitarist Henry Bogdan left for Hawaii and then the Helmet reunion tour.

They opened their first set with a typically charming version of Big Times, the two women in the band blending voices exquisitely. “Let’s do a tango,” smiled Blood, and they launched into the haunting Dirt Road Life, a day in the life of a sweatshop worker. “I’ve tried to wash it off, I’ve tried and I’ve tried, but it’s stuck there inside like a scar in my side,” went the refrain: though they’re best known (and rightfully so) for their authentically retro, romantic stylings, the Moonlighters have a social awarness to rival that of the Clash. They followed with Broken Doll, from their most recent album Surrender, the first of several “snuff torch songs” that Blood has been playing with this unit and another project, the deliciously sinister Nightcall. Then they picked up the pace with the sprightly hobo tune Special Cannonball and the wistful melancholia of Every Little Teardrop. Mosher punctuated the following tune, Never Be the Same with a sizzling, jazzy electric guitar solo as the band took it to warp speed.

Mosher switched to banjo for the swinging, jauntily optimistic Farewell to the Blues, and for a minute it was as if the little back room had become a speakeasy circa 1928 – or sometime before the crash, anyway. There are innumerable other old-time bands out there – basically everybody who plays Pete’s Candy Store these days – but the Moonlighters were one of the first and remain just about the best. Maness took a decisive little stroll to open the next number, the sprawling, crescendoing, multi-part Ziegfeld Doll, written by their former guitarist/singer Carla Murray. After an innuendo-laden 6/8 pop tune from the 20s with another blazing Mosher guitar solo, they closed their first set with a crowd-pleaser from their early period, Makin’ Wicky-Wacky Down in Waikiki. The audience – especially the young couples – loved it. New York crowds take this kind of show for granted: see this band now while you can before the only venues left standing are VIP DJ lounges in luxury hotels.

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June 29, 2007 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

CD Review: The Debut Album by the Oxygen Ponies

The great lost Luna album – at least most of it. Darkly glimmering second-generation Velvets rock hasn’t been done so well since Dean Wareham and crew, about 15 years ago. “Get me out!” is the theme that recurs again and again here. The Oxygen Ponies’ debut release is a not a happy album, and it doesn’t end well. It’s a concept record about a breakup and its aftermath, a pungee trap that’s left a thousand songwriters impaled on the sharp bamboo sticks of self-pity and bloated ego. Credit frontman/songwriter Paul Megna for getting through this one with just a few scratches, his morbid sense of humor and withering cynicism solidly intact.

It begins quiet and acoustic with the downcast It’s Yr Life, a theme that will recur later. The next cut, Devotion begins with a 6/8 nice piano intro that comes back in at the end (themes both lyrical and musical abound on this album). “God I hate asking for favors, just get me out of this mess,” complains Megna as dirty, dirgy wall of guitar like Luna or the Jesus & Mary Chain circa their late 80s peak kicks in. After that, Brooklyn Bridge sets the stage for what’s to follow:

Heard you been talking shit my friend
Well you can talk talk all you want
If she gets fuckin’ hit again
It’s the asphalt you will haunt
‘Cause I have known a lot of girls
In that swimming pool called romance
Where simple oysters crush the pearls
With a steel toe’s swift advance
Washington, Washington, god I miss the Brooklyn Bridge
Get me out of Washington, take me where she lives

The next track The Truest Thing begins with tasty, reverberating Wurlitzer electric piano and what sounds like standup bass:

I get up 6 AM
Coffee, paper, back to bed again
Cause the news is never good
I only read the parts I think I should
Think I should write the perfect song
But everything is wanting since you’re gone
I’m up again, 12:15
My body yearns for more caffeine
The coffee burned to the pot
I thought I turned it off
But I forgot

It’s one of the most evocative portrayals of clinical depression ever set to music. It’s followed by Chainsmoking, the big breakup song, with more Wurly and nice layers of guitar on the chorus, evoking the Church at their most atmospheric. There’s a delicious lapsteel solo straight out of the Jon Brion/Aimee Mann school of arranging.

The second side of the album (the cd is divided into two sections, pre-and post-breakup) starts out with the slowly, sadly swinging, slightly jazzy Umbrellas in the Rain with its buoyant, muted horns:

She thinks I’m having a party
She thinks I’m baking a cake
She thinks I’m celebrating
Great

Then the guitars – all jangle, clang and feedback – kick in on Have You Forgotten. Here’s where the Luna/J&MC comparisons are most apt. It’s even more apparent on the next cut I Don’t Know Why, with its insistent rhythm underneath a soaring steel guitar melody. The accusatory Happy Where U R follows, a dead ringer for the J&MC tune Happy When It Rains. If this is intentional, the irony is very clever; if not, it’s a fortuitous coincidence because it works so well.

The slow woozy waves of depression return with Get Over Yrself, turning to mania on Starshine, a glimmering, growling hit waiting to happen. The album winds up with the epic The Quickest Way to Happiness – which leads you straight to hell. “I’ll survive,” intones Megna as the song builds to a majestic, orchestral chorus, but one has to wonder how much he means it.

Don Piper’s pristine production deserves major props for making this cd sound like a vinyl record, drums back in the mix where they should be, vocals slightly out front, guitars always cutting through. Fans of the gutter-poet school of songwriting: Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Shane MacGowan et al. will love this just as much as the guitar aficionados who will revel in the album’s textures. One of the better efforts we’ve heard this year.

June 28, 2007 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Weekly jazz in NYC – who knew? And it’s FREE!

Thought this would bring some of you jazzcats out of the woodwork…. the nonchalantly brilliant guitarist Matt Munisteri sent this over:

“New York keeps losing venues for live music every month, and last summer we lost a wretched – but oddly loveable – joint called The Cajun (NYC developers, and their Lord and Master Michael Bloomberg, finally succeeded where the board of health repeatedly met with failure.) So flash forward to summer 2007, and NYC still has no place where traditional jazz is a regular offering – for the first time in maybe 80 years. So Jon Kellso and myself are starting a regular Sunday hot blowing gig at The Ear Inn (Spring St a half block from the Hudson on the island of Manhattan ).

The Ear is it, folks. It will be free, with tips graciously accepted and respectfully encouraged. And it will be early – 8pm to 11pm. And it will feature many of the best local – and national – players in the scene. And, even better, while we’re calling it a “traditional jazz” gig, you know…that’s just the jumping off point – and pool’s shallow end has been roped off. The only sour note is that it may take a few weeks for Jon and me to be there together.

On the subject: If you’d like a taste of the Ear gig, Jon Kellso’s first CD in around 10 years has just been released. It’s called “Blue Roof Blues” and it’s really good. Go get it. Now.”

June 28, 2007 Posted by | jazz, Live Events, Music, New York City | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Problem of Peer Review

So in recent weeks, I’ve quoted some linked articles in Alexander Cockburn’s ongoing tirade against the global warming hypothesis. Today, I finally waded through the source material of this tirade – an ongoing ‘debate’ between Monbiot and Cockburn hosted by Znet after Cockburn’s first column appeared in the Nation several months back. Bracketing any dispute I may have with Cockburn on the ‘global warming’ issue, after reading the exchanges, I can now completely understand why his columns took the direction that they did – and I have completely lost all respect for Monbiot. Let’s start at the beginning.

Let me begin this response with an admission of incompetence. I am not qualified to comment on the scientific claims made in Alexander Cockburn’s article. But nor is Cockburn qualified to make them.

George, you are a journalist who writes almost exclusively on environmentalism and environmental science. If you are not ‘qualified to comment’, you should seek another field. But this point is just the opening volley of a gross appeal to ‘experts’, to people who seem more qualified to offer their opinions simply because they have letters after their names and their writings have been ‘peer reviewed’

When a non-scientist attempts to dispute the findings of an entire body of science, a good deal of humility and a great deal of research is required. Otherwise he puts himself in the position of the 9/11 truthers.

Right, so when someone appeals to the work of scientists who disagree with the prevailing paradigm, they are immediately to be deemed conspiracy theorists who believe that no plane hit the Pentagon. Great. Got that point.

Cockburn’s article cannot be taken seriously until we have seen his list of references, and affirmed that the key claims he makes have already been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. This would not mean they are correct, though it does mean that they are worth discussing.

And we reach the point – the only science ‘worth discussing’ is that which appears in peer-reviewed journals. Before I dissect this, I would like to backtrack to one more statement made in this foray by Monbiot:

If you want to believe that HIV does not cause AIDs, you can find a professor of medicine who supports that view.

Well, given your high appraisal of peer review, I ‘d like to see the peer-reviewed article in which 1. HIV has been isolated, 2. HIV has been shown to be present in vivo in blood and fluid, 3. HIV is shown to have a clear pathogenesis resulting in AIDS, and 4. That the non-specific antibody tests for HIV actually predict an AIDS diagnosis in the absence of other factors which could result in an AIDS diagnosis. Don’t put yourself out George, Kary Mullis has been asking the HIV royalty for this ‘peer reviewed’ article for about 15 years, neither Gallo nor Montaigne have coughed it up. And for your information, some 2,500 scientists, doctors & academics have concluded from a review of the literature that HIV does not cause AIDS. There are several Nobel laureates, there are a vast array of people formerly working in the field, there are a vast array of some the most prominent scientists currently alive on that list.

Why are their opinions not worthy of grants George?

Peer Review.

I have long had issues with the ‘peer review’ system. We now seem to accept it unquestionably as the only way to vet knowledge. It wasn’t always such. And it serves a far more nefarious purpose than one would imagine. David Noble has written a great article on the history of peer review that should be a both a revelation and reiteration for anyone following science in the ensuing decades.

Led by New Deal senator Harley Kilgore they put forth a plan for a postwar National Science Foundation that emphasized lay control over science and political accountability. It was to be headed by a presidentially appointed director advised by a board whose members would include citizens representing consumers, labor, and small businesses as well as large corporations and scientists. The agency would let contracts to firms and universities on an equitable basis and would retain public ownership of all patents. Kilgore envisioned the new agency as a democratic means to socially responsive science.

This democratic proposal alarmed Bush and his elite academic and corporate colleagues who formulated a counter proposal, for National Research Foundation (later, also called the National Science Foundation). Central to this plan was an agency that guaranteed professional rather than lay control over science, was insulated from political accountability, and gave its director discretion over the awarding of patent ownership. In essence, the Bush agency was designed to guarantee public support for scientists – and, indirectly, for the corporations they served as well – without public control, a regime of science run by scientists and paid for by the taxpayer.

And

In 1950 a compromise version of the Bush bill was passed and signed by Truman, now once again under (cold)wartime exigencies. The new agency included a presidentially-appointed director but a board composed only of scientists committed to continuing the comfortable patterns established by the OSRD during the war. As a bulwark against democratic oversight and lay involvement in the awarding of scientific contracts and grants, the agency adopted a new mechanism of exclusion: “peer review.” Only peers – fellow privileged professionals, whatever their unacknowledged ties to commercial enterprise – could be involved in deciding upon the merits and agenda of science.

Hence the origin of ‘peer review’ – a political attempt to keep ‘science’ under the control of government and the corporate interests they serve. Keep that in mind the next time you ask for ‘peer reviewed sources’.

But this gets to the crux of the matter. What has this legislative dictum wrought? Precisely what we have today – a world in which the status quo is reaffirmed by grant after grant, and those doing real science, those questioning, those debating, those doing whatever they can to cobble together research that contradicts the ‘right’ ideas, are completely excluded from the ‘scientific world’. They are cranks, quacks and snake oil salesman. It doesn’t matter if they’ve won Nobel Prizes or are recognized in other ways as some of the greatest scientists of all time. They’re still heretics in the face of ‘peer review’, because their ideas don’t serve political ends. 

June 28, 2007 Posted by | Politics, Public Health, Science | 2 Comments

NYC Live Music Calendar 6/27-7/5/07

Kind of a slow week in terms of live music: everybody gearing up for the July 4th weekend, getting out town. But some good things happening if you’re sticking around:

 

Weds June 27 Demolition String Band plays an acoustic show at Banjo Jim’s, 9 PM. Probably a good chance that they’ll do some stuff from their awesome Ola Belle Reed cover album of a couple of years ago.

 

Also Fri June 29 the Howlin Thurstons play Lakeside, 11 PM. Putatively a surf band but they also have a noisy, occasionally skronky indie rock side. All instrumental and completely unique.

 

Also Fri June 29 the 4th St. Nite Owls share a double bill with Jack Grace at Barbes, 8 PM. The openers are a tremendous barrelhouse blues band with great guitar and keyboards; the headliner is one of the funniest guys in country music and also a hell of a songwriter in an old school, 50s mode with a touch of Tom Waits barroom jazz.

 

Also Fri June 29 System Noise plays the Blaggard on 38th St. west of 5th Ave., 10:30 PM. If you want to get away from the crowds of tourists, there will assuredly be none here at this midtown Irish pub. See our review of La Fete de la Musique on our Reviews page for a look at what these scorching rockers sounded like last week playing on the street.

 

Sat June 30 Greta Gertler & the Extroverts open for One Ring Zero at Barbes, 8 PM. See our Reviews page for a look at the opening act, a brilliant keyboardist and art-rock songwriter now taking a stroll through Retroville. The headliner have an oldtimey feel, use antique instruments and have a good sense of humor.

 

Also Sat June 30 Big plays Magnetic Field in Brooklyn Heights, 8 PM. The joke is that all 3 women in this Joy Division-influenced trio are all about five feet tall. Sit N Spin guitarist Mony Falcone fronts the unit, which portends very good things.

 

Sun July 1 Stephane Wrembel plays Barbes, 9 PM. This amazing gypsy jazz guitarist channels Django Reinhardt, I kid you not, and he’s very popular, if you’re going to the show get there at least an hour early.

 

Also Mon July 2 Rev. Vince Anderson returns to Black Betty, two sets at 10:30 PM. Who needs fireworks when the Rev.’s playing: pyrotechnic piano/organ work, a spectacularly authentic old-school 60s gospel vibe, the Rev.’s great stories and pure spiritual vocals. If you are in a party mood this is your destination. 

 

If you’re in town on the 4th there are a couple of things going on. Canadian power popsters the New Pornographers play Battery Park in the afternoon: I say afternoon because your best best is to show up around 1 and scope out the area for a place to park your ass. Last time we were there it was a labyrinth of fences worthy of the King of Minos

 

Later on the 4th Mercurochrome plays Cake Shop, 9:30 PM. Sonic Youth ripoff, better than most, although nobody in the band can sing. Then again nobody in Sonic Youth could sing either.

 

Thurs July 5 Duke Robillard plays Wagner Park, north of Chambers on the west side, 7 PM. Don’t let his past with Roomful of Blues scare you away: the guy can play. Sort of the Stevie Ray Vaughan of jazzy blues. A million notes, a mile a minute, but he has a sense of how to build a solo and most of them hit the mark.

 

 Later Thurs July 5 the incomparable Rachelle Garniez plays Barbes, 10 PM. One of the most charismatic rockers in the world, an accordionist adept at just about every style of music that existed prior to 1990. And a damn fine lyricist, and a hell of a singer, and she has guitarist Matt Munisteri in the band. What more could you want. Just get there early.

June 27, 2007 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City | 2 Comments

Concert Review: Make Music New York, 6/21/07

The start of what could be a very good thing, if it doesn’t rain. This is the American version of La Fete de la Musique, a French tradition which literally dates back centuries: on June 21, everybody breaks out their instruments and plays on the street. Thanks to the organizers, who worked with the city to make sure permits were made available to the musicians, there were an impressive number of bands on the street by the time people started leaving work. It was harder to gauge what was going on during the day. At noon, I went over to the garden on 8th between Ave. B and C to see No Police State Girl do hip-hop. No idea who she is or what she does, but you gotta love the concept.  She wasn’t there. Let’s hope that minivan with tinted windows at 9th and C wasn’t Blackwater operatives who grabbed her off the street and put her on a flight to Romania.

 

After work, there was noise everywhere, not all of it good, but an improvement over the usual screech of bus alarms, car alarms and such. Many acts chose to play outside music venues: Jack Grace in front of the temporarily shuttered Rodeo Bar, a bunch of white guys playing reggae outside Otto’s. A country-rock band set up at Broadway and West 4th, and the loud, artsy quartet System Noise played a block south. Although many of the creme de la creme of New York musicians play on the street, they were by far the best thing we saw. Dynamic frontwoman with a spectacular range and ability to project (keep in mind that this was outdoors, and she was competing with a lot of extraneous noise); virtuoso rhythm section including a bass player who basically doubled as rhythm guitarist, playing a lot of chords; and fiery Strat player who has a thing for eerie chromatics. They like odd time signatures and complex song structures, things typically associated with prog bands. But their songwriting is a lot more terse and their material is a lot louder. They have a Pink Floyd-esque anguish, but also a sense of humor, which came to the forefront on a ridiculously catchy funk number directed at Fox News and the people who hang out there. A bevy of friends of the band worked the corner, handing out flyers for their show at the Blaggard at 10:30 this Friday; from the crowd’s response, their show will be well-attended.

 

Then the rains came, and we were off to see a HORRIBLE art opening on 57th St. And then to Lakeside for drinks, and after that a block east to see Amy Allison. But that’s a story for another day.  

June 27, 2007 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Girl Friday at Lakeside Lounge, NYC 6/25/07

This band is creeper. Their songs sneak up on you when you least expect them. Sonically, Girl Friday are your basic indie rock: guitar with a dirty, unprocessed sound, bass and drums. But the songs are not. They’re very intelligent, very crystallized and when you think about it, very catchy, with something of a minimalist sensibility. They seem to be written deliberately for repeated listening. If that’s the band’s intent, they succeed. The hooks often appear unexpectedly, in places other than the front of the chorus, the turnaround or the opening of the song. Sometimes they flare up and then disappear. But they’re all over the place, and there are so many of them it’s hard to count.

Singer/guitarist Amanda Dora didn’t waste a note all night. Her vocals were casual, conversational and completely unaffected. The songs themselves remind very strongly of the late, great Scout, at the very end when they were off their brief garage rock tangent. Girl Friday evokes the same nebulous melancholia, but without the occasional Beatlisms. And they also pick up the pace with riff-driven, punchy garage rock to liven things up. Dora plays mostly with downstrokes, adding to the percussive flavor of much of their material. On one song, the bass player began the song with a reflective stroll which he took using a slide, playing through a reverb box, and continued to carry the melody through to the end. On another, Dora began with an incisive, midtempo staccato hook on the verse, but when the chorus kicked in, the band went to 6/8 time, cranked it up to a crescendo and suddenly they had an anthem.

Girl Friday were completing a Monday residency here and invited a couple of special guests up to join them toward the end of the set. Briana Winter impressed the most with a ridiculously catchy 4-chord pop song that she delivered passionately and effortlessly while the band wailed behind her.

Props to Lakeside for giving them the residency and a chance to play for a crowd who would probably never see them on the Ludlow Street strip. While they’re pretty far removed from the usual Lakeside twang (Girl Friday clang and crunch instead), they share an intelligence and dedication to craftsmanship with the best of the crowd who play here. If their forthcoming album is anything like what they sounded like tonight, it should be killer.

June 26, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Concert Review From the Archives: Albert King at Tramps, NYC 4/24/92

[editor’s note: we were going to review the Moisturizer show last night at BPM, but something got in the way. From the looks of it, about five charter buses full of fresh-faced white kids looking like they came straight from the prom. There was literally a line around the block. I’ve never seen that many people waiting outside a small club in my life. Maybe someone spotted one of the Olsen twins, texted their whole IM list, and what we saw was the resulting flashmob. It would be heartening to believe that they’d all showed up to see the band, but Moisturizer’s dazzling musicianship and Satie-esque wit don’t exactly fit into corporatized suburban “culture.”

It was quickly obvious that those who weren’t already inside the club were never going to get in, but nobody seemed to mind. To complicate matters, there had just been a stabbing, obviously a white person since there were police cruisers speeding up and down the surrounding streets and a couple of helicopters overhead. So we went over to a friend’s place instead. In lieu of a full review of Moisturizer, we’ve pulled one out of the archives: legendary southpaw guitarist Albert King at Tramps in April of 1992]:

We rushed up here after an interesting and inspiring day at the Socialist Scholars’ Conference downtown on Chambers St. The club was crowded, but, happily, not ridiculously oversold and jampacked like it usually is. This was an incredibly moving show, perhaps the best blues concert I’ve ever seen. His band opened with two instrumentals: the rhythm guitarist played an unreal, lightining-fast, bone-chilling solo in the second. Albert King then took the stage: “Are you ready? I’m not,” warmed up with Every Day I Have the Blues (which he took slowly) and then launched into a brilliant set. Maybe the best song selection I’ve ever seen at a show like this. The anguished, screaming power of Elmore James’ The Sky Is Crying was overwhelming. A swinging Born Under a Bad Sign, an upbeat Crosscut Saw and a driven Stormy Monday were crowd-pleasers, as the band took turns soloing around the horn: first King, then the rhythm player (who got to showcase his jazz chops), and the keyboardist, whose talents unfortunately didn’t measure up to the rest of the band. It seemed he only knew one flashy descending riff, which he played on the cheesiest setting available. But even this could not detract from the power of King’s guitar playing and singing, which were, for lack of a better word, deep. With his guitar, he can say more in the microtones of a single bent note than most people could say in a whole album, and his vocals are the very definition of soul.

As much as King loves minor keys and slowly smoldering crescendos, he was in an upbeat mood tonight. Maybe the ever-present wine glass was part of it. “Ain’t nothing like a glass of red wine,” he mused. The best of many highlights was when the band went into an ominous, slow 6/8 minor-key groove, the keyboardist hit that unexpected major chord and King began to dedicate the song, “From the album Born Under a Bad Sign, As the Years Go Passing By.” He was rudely interrupted by a fan during his second solo, when some asshole handed him a piece of paper (a request? why not wait til he finished?). Later, they also did Robert Cray’s Phone Booth (which King popularized a few years before Cray hit it big). In a word, exhilarating.

[postscript: This was Albert King’s last New York show. He died less than eight months later.]

June 23, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Peter Apfelbaum, June 16 – Jazz Gallery

posted by Lucid

I first encountered Peter Apfelbaum when I was approached by a friend of long time Trombonist Josh Roseman to record a show of theirs in 2001. I was happy to do it, as a jazz head and an amateur recordist. I loved the show & cherished the recordings. For reasons inexplicable, I hadn’t gone to a Peter Apfelbaum date since then… until this past Saturday.

Peter has not only expanded the scope of his writing, but he has expanded the scope of his band. From Berkeley in 1977 when he first made a name for the ‘Hieroglyphics’, Peter has always shown a flair for blending African, Middle Eastern and American jazz idioms into a festive stew of riveting tunes, tonalities, idiosyncrasies – and extending them in his live shows with solos nodding to everyone from Zorn to Ponty.

This band, in its current configuration, surpasses anything I’ve heard in the past. It’s a 12 piece – traps, bass, 2 guitars, violin, 6 horns [with some reeds], and Peter. The night I saw them, it was all new material – no song names, with the only pauses to introduce band members. Peter has truly become a band leader. While in the past resting on the chops of his band to execute far simpler songs, with the complexity his writing now achieves, he comes into his own directing an ensemble of formidable musicians.

For me, the high point was the amazing violin solo in the third song by Charlie Burnham. From a traditional violin sound he transformed into a Jan Hammer/John McLoughlin screaming cat with a simple use of the wah – and a facial expression that left me wandering between sex, death and ecstasy.

Peter’s new music starts from tropes similar to his older material. He is a fan of a groove that encompasses anything form North African folk to McCoy Tyner piano idiomatics, but with his expanded line up, the veritable ‘wall of horns’ produces a symphony of harmonic & rhythmic ideas that cross paths, play in their own sandbox, and come back for a dive at the public pool. The band plays polyrhythms, odd time signatures and added measures with a tightness one would expect from an orchestra.

 Peter Apfelbaum and the NY Hieroglyphics are a must see when they’re in town – and it’s a very reasonable ticket for jazz this good.

June 20, 2007 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | 7 Comments

Concert Review: The Roulette Sisters at Barbes, Brooklyn NY 6/18/07

A deliriously fun, hot, sweaty show. It was late on a Monday night, but the place was packed. The crowd sang along, and when they weren’t singing, they were laughing at all the subtle and not-so-subtle double entendres the band was harmonizing on. Because (other than great musicianship and gorgeous 4-part harmonies and stone cold authentic acoustic blues playing), sex is what the Roulette Sisters are all about. Lou Pearlman couldn’t have come up with a better marketing concept: four attractive women singing innuendo-laden oldtime music – an impressively wide-ranging mix of blues, country and 1920s/30s pop – playing their own instruments, singing beautifully and writing a lot of their own material. They opened with Coney Island Washboard: guitarist Mamie Minch explained how it was an instrumental from the early 20s given lyrics by a popular pop group, the Mills Brothers, about ten years later. Lead guitarist Meg Reichardt (also of les Chauds Lapins) added a typically suggestive postscript, telling the audience about a co-worker who was walking around the office all day wearing something akin to the “brand new suit of easy breezes” in the song’s chorus. A little later they did another original, inspired by the Carter Family, that wouldn’t be out of place on the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack.

Minch had just asked her bandmates whether they should do a pretty song or a dirty song when she was suddenly interrupted. “Fuck!” She’d just gotten a jolt of electric current from her mic. Her bandmates grinned at each other, and the question was answered: they launched into the hokum blues classic Keep on Churnin’:

Keep on churning til the butter comes
Keep on pumping, let the butter flow
Wipe off the paddle and churn some more

The crowd roared for another in the same vein, so they obliged, with heir most popular original, Hottest Girl in Town. The song is a hoot: each band member takes a verse laden with Freudian imagery, some verging on X-rated, detailing how their boyfriends like to please them. Viola player Karen Waltuch, who played incisive, somewhat dark solos all night long, took her most intricate one of the evening after her verse and the crowd loved it.

Then was Reichardt’s turn to bring the house down with an outtake from Dolly Parton’s first album, a deliciously righteous tale of a jilted woman wanting to get even with the woman who married her man: “I feel like tying dynamite to her side of the car.” After that, Minch delivered an especially sly version of the Bessie Smith hit Sugar in My Bowl.

The excellent Al Duvall – who’s quite the master of thinly veiled dirty lyrics himself – accompanied them on banjo on their last four songs, ending with a brand-new composition about a sheet music plugger (plugger: get it?) which Minch sang off a lyric sheet. She began the song as a talking blues but by the end she’d written a vocal melody and had it down cold.

You heard it here first: this band is going places. Our predecessor e-zine picked their cd Nerve Medicine as best debut album of 2006. Good to see that prediction come true, with this fantastic band getting some real momentum.

June 19, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments