Lucid Culture


Concert Review: Jenifer Jackson at Rockwood Music Hall, NYC 11/18/07

A triumphant homecoming of sorts. Jenifer Jackson was an East Village denizen and made a name for herself here before relocating to Austin this past spring. It was obviously the right move. She’s never looked more at ease onstage or sung better than she did tonight. Like Erica Smith and Rachelle Garniez, Jackson is another one of those multistylistic songwriting machines, someone who can appropriate literally any style of music and make it work, with fluency, poise and passion. Likewise, Jackson has been known to tweak her vocal style from time to time. On her earlier material, she sang with a gentle, tender delivery, then she went through a brief but spectacularly successful phase as a big belter. Tonight it was obvious that she’s gotten more in touch with her lower register, giving her vocals a new warmth and confidence. It suits her well.

When her latest cd The Outskirts of a Giant Town came out last spring, we said it was the best album to come out so far in 2007 and that claim still looks to be valid. Playing a sparse, trio show backed by Roland Satterwhite, who played layers of ambience on violin, and Elysian Fields axeman Oren Bloedow, whose virtuosic, jazzy guitar was spot-on all night, she mixed tracks from the new cd along with a couple of brand-new gems and some older material. On the 70s soul-inflected Power of Love, Bloedow grinned as he went into generic Wes Montgomery mode, playing a solo made up solely of octaves. Was there room on the fretboard for the last note of the verse? Yes! Moments like these are typical at Jenifer Jackson shows.

One of the best things about small-group performances like this is that the songs get stripped down to just the moving parts, which can be fascinating to watch. The title track to Jackson’s new album actually turned out to be built on a totally generic indie rock progression that pretty much anybody can learn how to play in a few minutes’ time. Yet Jackson pulled it off with her airy, jazzy vocal melody, combined with Bloedow’s artful passing tones. I Want to Start Something, with its stratospherically high vocal melody – which Jackson absolutely nailed – was particularly captivating, all impatience and longing for something secure. Their absolutely gorgeous, minor-key, bluegrass-inflected take of Dreamland, arguably the best cut on the new cd, got a welcome boost of energy. Of the new songs, the best new one was a jazz-pop number called Words, seemingly about miscommunication. Jackson’s songs, and especially her lyrics, are remarkably terse and crystallized, so it’s understandable how not being able to precisely express something would really bother her.

They encored with an audience request from her second album, Mercury the Sun and Moon, a tune Jackson wrote back in the 90s while still in her teens. Stripped down to its eerie tango roots, this version saw Bloedow playing a bassline on the guitar with his thumb as he did on several of the other songs. The crowd wanted more, but Jackson hadn’t rehearsed anything else with these longtime cohorts of hers. Always leave the audience wanting more, the saying goes. Tonight Jackson and her band did just that.

November 20, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

NYC Live Music Calendar 11/20-12/7/07

We’ve extended this through the first week of December. We’ll get the complete month up by the end of November since some venues (lots of venues, actually) don’t post their calendars until the 11th hour. Which doesn’t help anybody, right?

Tues Nov 20 Carol Lipnik & Spookarama play the Rockwood, 11 PM followed by her drummer’s project the Dred Scott Trio. Lipnik has a spectacular 4-octave range, a deep feel for old-school soul/jazz (think Nina Simone, who she covers, well) and a gypsy violin player who almost steals the show – when those two trade off, the effect is spine-tingling. She also makes excellent albums.


In case anybody is in town on Thanksgiving eve, Weds Nov 21 Moisturizer plays their deliriously fun baritone sax/bass/drums instrumentals at Black Betty, 10 PM til whenever. Lately they’ve had a rotating cast of special guests sit in with them, both jazzcats and rock animals and you never know who might show up.


Also just a stone’s throw away – ok, a long stone’s throw away – the master of New York noir LJ Murphy plays a rare solo show at the Lucky Cat on Grand, just a walk down Havemeyer, starting at 10:30. His album Mad within Reason remains one of the 10 or so best albums of this decade, a triumph of old-school blues-inflected melody and scathingly intelligent lyrics.


Fri Nov 23 Mr. Action & the Boss Guitars play authentically spirited surf classics and obscurities along with instrumental versions of 60s hits at Lakeside, 11 PM


Sat Nov 24 sprawling harmonica-driven, bacchanalian, intense pan-global improvisers Hazmat Modine open for and then play with the ultimate Far Asian psychedelic musical experience, throat singers Huun-huur-tu at Symphony Space, 8 PM, adv tix available at the World Music Institute (click on Venues to your right, under Categories, then scroll down to Symphony Space to find box office hours and directions.


Sun Nov 25 gypsy guitar genius Stephane Wrembel is back at his usual spot, Barbes at 9 PM



Sun Nov 25 sultry NY expat and lefty guitarist/singer Leslie Nuss plays a rare NYC date at Banjo Jim’s, 9:30 PM. Equally adept at soaring, ethereal ballads, scorching garage rock and sweetly psychedelic, Beatles-inflected material. And whatever else she’s come up with out there in Indiana.


Tues Nov 27, 8ish Elisa Flynn plays Union Hall. She’s an electric indie rocker – not your usual weepy acoustic chick – with a nicely unpretentious, assured voice like an urban version of the Walkabouts’ Carla Torgerson. She has an uncommonly good sense of melody, likes minor keys and reverb, and as her guitar chops get better she’ll be someone to keep an eye on . Impatience, anger and frustration find their way into her smartly crafted, mid-80s style lo-fi songs along with a sense of humor. Catch her on the way up.


Tues Nov 27 Jenny Scheinman and her violin return to Barbes for an early show, 7 PM, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get there early.


Weds Nov 28 arguably one of the year’s best triple bills with literate, casually alluring, Richard Thompson-class janglerock songwriter Paula Carino – a terrific and very funny live performer – at 8, then the equally clever, funny and somewhat theatrical Tom Warnick, then Erica Smith & the 99 Cent Dreams (NYC’s bombshell jazzkitten answer to Neko Case, and just as good) and the John Sharples Band winding up the night with some brilliant obscurities. 


Also Weds Nov 28, 7 PM it’s the annual Gram Parsons tribute, this year at Luna with Mary Lee Kortes of Mary Lee’s Corvette, Roscoe Ambel of the Yayhoos and Steve Earle’s band, Chip Robinson, Demolition String Band, King Vidor (King Vidor?!? Isn’t he about 200 years old, and shouldn’t he be behind a camera?) and others. 



Thurs Nov 29 Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co. plays Otto’s, 8 PM, 2 sets. This retro pre-rockabilly trio look exactly as if they stepped off the stage at the Ryman, 1953 and play like it, although their lyrics have a contemporary edge and sense of humor.



Thurs Nov 29 marvelous British expats the Bedsit Poets play the Bowery Poetry Club, 8:45 PM. Windswept pastoral anthems, catchy 3-minute 60s style hits, and gorgeous harmonies featuring Amanda Thorpe’s haunting, luminous voice. 


Fri Nov 30 Jack Grace brings his boisterous, authentic 1960s style country band into  Barbes, 8 PM, get there early.


Also Fri Nov 30 brilliant, utterly original keyboardist Greta Gertler plays the cd release show for her surprisingly retro new one Edible Restaurant at Joe’s Pub at 7ish with “culinary audience participation” – assuming that means they have a menu there? The cd is amazing.




Fri Nov 30 Black Fortress of Opium plays Goodbye Blue Mondays in Bushwick, 9:30 PM. The name is apt: they blend ambient, psychedelic, female-fronted, Siouxsie & the Banshees-influenced, Middle Eastern-inflected art-rock with late 80s style dreampop. They’re big in Boston, home to World Champions. Let them see how tough it is to pull a crowd here in the wilds of Bushwick. But you should go: you might be the only people there.


Also Fri Nov 30 reliably hilarious ragtime throwback Al Duvall plays Pete’s, 10 PM. Sex figures into most of his totally authentic-sounding retro songs. As does history, New York City history in particular. And he plays a mean banjo.


Later Fri Nov 30, 11 PM Purple K’Nif play Lakeside. They’re sort of a shambling, jangling, psychedelic 2-guitar Ohio surf band plays a mix of classic covers and originals. Their big hit seems to be called The Beer Theme and it’s good.


Fri Nov 30 and Sat Dec 1 Ween at Terminal 5 is SOLD OUT


Sat Dec 1 it’s another Unsteady Freddy surf show at Otto’s with the sometimes painfully cutesy Tarantinos NYC along with Blue Wave Theory, The Outpatients and Strange But Surf. Among all these surf bands there ought to be at least a set worth of something decent and danceable, maybe a lot more.


Sun Dec 2 all-female rockabilly trio Catspaw has a new bass player and he’s a guy. They play Otto’s at 9:30 PM. They’ve really got an handle on inspired, fiery rockabilly and surf music and write some clever, funny, occasionally absolutely haunting originals.


Sun Dec 2 Matt Keating plays downstairs at the Brooklyn Lyceum, time TBA. He looks like a skinnier Jon Papelbon and throws just as hard, lyrically speaking, even if he doesn’t dance. Ask yourself, would you want to face Matt Keating in a key situation in the 9th inning? No way in hell.


Mon Dec 3 System Noise frontwoman Sarah Mucho stars in her noir sci-fi cabaret show Subterranean Circus at the Duplex, 7 PM, this will sell out fast, adv tix available at the box office. The show – a futuristic cautionary tale – has a throwback early 80s East Village punk rock vibe, and her pianist and accordionist are phenomenal. Imagination rules and rules are meant to be broken. And Mucho’s spectacular voice might shatter your glass. 


Fri Dec 7, 8 PM Hot Tuna plays electric at the Beacon Theatre. Former Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen remains maybe the foremost exponent of Rev. Gary Davis’ searing, open-tuning delta blues style, and bassist Jack Casady is still one of the most melodic, interesting 4-string players around. Tix  $39.50 at the box office open 11-7 M-F, very pricy, but these guys actually could be worth it.

November 20, 2007 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City | 2 Comments