Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Art Review: Richard Heaven at Ten Eleven, NYC

On the left wall as you enter the former Mickey’s Blue Room space ( on Ave, C between 10th and 11th, and it hasn’t changed one iota since it reopened with the new name), there are several of Heaven’s playful, simple early punk era-style oil pastels: a big green dollar sign and similar. Over the door to the inner room hangs a striking, troubling, bespectacled portrait of Jesse Helms, a big red smear running across his head: wishful thinking? To the far right is a gray-toned portrait which may be a self-portrait; front and center over the bar is the best piece in the show, another in shades of grey which positions what looks like the inner part of the ear next to what could be a covered bridge. It’s captivating, to say the least.

Marcelo Goycoechea, whose work is displayed in the inner room, has a terrific sense of humor. There’s a parody of Guernica substituting cartoon faces for the anguish of the dead, and this guy’s Mona Lisa has the face of a pig. The rest of the show both mocks and pays homage to Salvador Dali, with the exception of the big oil painting to the right of the small stage which looks like a reverse image of the Centre Pompidou in Paris.  The show runs through the middle of February, so there’s still plenty of time for you to check this out the next time you’re in alphabetland.Since tonight was the opening party, there was also a small gathering in the back, with a handful of musicians from the scene doing short sets. The former violin player from the New Professionals breezed through a medley of motifs from several classical pieces, solo, before singing a goth-inflected song. After an interminable set by a couple of women playing acoustic guitar, and then some technical difficulties, Sousalves took the stage, just frontman/guitarist Paul Alves and his drummer playing a small kit. It was good to have the drums, because it freed Alves to throw in the frequently eerie, disturbing little chordlets that he uses to spice up the melody. He mixed what sounded like newer material along with songs from Sousalves’ latest album Spirit of NYC Woman, including the hallucinatory Tail Another Chase. Although Alves was playing acoustic, he would alternate between playing straight into the system and hitting his wah-wah pedal, which he’d left wide open for a flange effect. It would have been nice to see him play longer, but this show was really all about the art. Nothing wrong with that.

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January 15, 2008 Posted by | Art, Music, New York City, Reviews | 1 Comment

CD Review: The Flail – Never Fear

It’s always nice to have a scoop, but every once in awhile something comes over the transom that’s so good that it merits a writeup even if it’s not exactly news. The Flail’s debut cd was recorded a few years ago and slipped under our radar, but it’s good to report that the band is still together and playing regularly. These passionately intelligent jazz purists did a show last year at Small’s, which is how the album came to our attention. A quintet with piano, trumpet, tenor or soprano sax and rhythm section, they play vivid songs without words with an uncommon chemistry. A lot of jazz albums take their cue from putting players together to see what they can brew up on the spot, and more often than not the result is a showcase for the individuals rather than an ensemble effort. This, auspiciously, is the latter: every band member gets to solo, but it’s not the usual ostentatious parade of solos around the horn, ad infinitum. Everybody’s working within the songs.

Because this is an album of songs. Like Pamela Fleming or Kenny Garrett, the Flail like using big, memorable hooks as a jumpoff point. The opening track on the album, As You Like, has pianist Brian Marsella’s big, broad chords building a sturdy ladder for saxist Stephan Moutot to take off and climb. The following track, composed by trumpeter/bandleader Dan Blankinship has the piano and drums pairing off against each other as the sax and then trumpet go into exploratory mode, alternately boisterous and buoyant.

The next cut, Life Before the Rerun gets off to a flying start with a drum solo and then trumpet over a fast, loping bassline, venturing closer to bop than the rest of the album. Track four, Once, another Blankinship composition has the trumpeter building tensely and insistently to a crescendo and then passing the baton to Moutot, who ably steers the tune through high seas and brings it to comfortably to land. The gorgeously catchy Just About to Be layers coloristic piano and horns over a staccato bass pulse, building to an attractively precise Marsella solo. And then Moutot goes out exploring on soprano: it’s not the discovery that matters here, just the thrill of the chase. Bassist Reid Taylor’s Butterscotch is an idiomatic, torchy wee-hours ballad that would make a great addition to a slow-grooves mix.

Fraggle’s Car Got Toad begins with a relaxed Marsella piano solo and then picks up the pace in a split-second when Taylor comes in, building to a swinging, perhaps predictably jarring crescendo as the title would imply. After drummer Matt Zebroski’s soulful, gorgeously Middle Eastern-inflected 6/8 piano ballad We Travel, the cd closes with Blankinship’s title track, a magnificent, extended tour de force building from a haunting bass solo to where all guns are blazing, again with Middle Eastern tinges. It’s not every day that something this consistently gripping and exciting arrives in the mail. Fans of great melodic jazz: Brad Melhdau’s Art of the Trio Series, the aforementioned Pam Fleming and Ellington at his catchiest should definitely seek this out. The Flail plays the Fat Cat, 75 Christopher St. at 8:30 PM on Feb 27.

January 15, 2008 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment