Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Sun Ra Lives! Who Put the Bad Mouth on Me Live at Black Betty, Brooklyn NY 3/12/08

This group takes all the right risks. If the idea of jazz in a dingy back room in Williamsburg on a work night sounds distinctly unappetizing, if the thought of an endless series of boring solos around the horn is enough to keep you home for the evening, you should get to know Who Put the Bad Mouth on Me. Tonight the Brooklyn groove jazz sextet played two remarkably tight, focused sets, mixing originals with covers by Sun Ra and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. The show started late, well after eleven (aside from Rev. Vince Anderson’s Monday residency here, they don’t usually have live music). Long jams on a single chord that go on for sometimes twenty minutes apiece are usually prone to sprawling out and separating into individual parts that mix like oil and water, but this group kept everything together. While each musician – a rhythm section, keys and three-piece horn section including tenor and baritone sax along with bandleader Dave Smith (who also plays with Rev. Vince Anderson) on trombone – gets to express his unique personality, they play with an unusually high awareness that what they’re doing are songs, that everything ought to fit in some particular way, even when they go way out on a limb, which is more than occasionally.

Early in the set, the keyboardist – who functions essentially as a guitarist in this unit, making heavy use of distortion and wah-wah effects – doubled the bassline for extra propulsion. When it came time for him to solo during a Sun Ra cover, he took it way down to the lowest registers on his synthesizer, stopped, looked around, took a few tentative steps and then was joined by the band on a long, eventful walk out of the dingy, cobwebbed space he’d led them to. The tenor player likes warm, even sultry soul fills and also provided a recitative on an Art Ensemble of Chicago number. The baritone player doubled on percussion when he wasn’t getting some strikingly high frequencies out of the big horn. Smith’s playing with Vince Anderson is admirably terse, with a purist blues sensibility. He also stays within himself in this unit, at one point punctuating one of the last numbers of their first set with a tensely gripping, highly disciplined, staccato solo.

When the bassist started pounding out a hypnotic chord for what seemed like minutes on end, the baritone player picked up the bassline and ran with it. The drummer knows the one-drop cold, and gave the Sun Ra cover a brisk burru beat, with a delicious turnaround at the end of the verse that would do the Skatalites’ Lloyd Knibbs proud. It was a lush, intricate, sometimes even mesmerizing show. If there’s any criticism of what they’re doing now, it would be nice to see them mess around with the rhythm (they pretty much stayed in 4/4 all night) in the same spirit within which they tackle melody and mood. Shows like this are a welcome reminder that jazz in this town is evolving in some of the most unlikely places. Somewhere on Saturn, someone is smiling.

March 13, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | Leave a comment

An Open Letter to Eliot Spitzer

THIS MESSAGE WAS DELIVERED VIA BLACKBERRY WIRELESS

ellie boo

now wil u mry me lk u prmsd u wd

tm dc pos

xo cashley

ps in st barts w yr ducatzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

March 13, 2008 Posted by | Politics, snark | 1 Comment