Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Nightcrawling 6/12/08

First stop of the night was Banjo Jim’s, where Greta Gertler was playing a rare solo show on the club’s sonically impressive new acoustic piano. She’s one of those panstylistic rock goddesses, an ever-growing but select group who seemingly have never met a style they couldn’t play, brilliantly. Neko Case, Erica Smith, Jenifer Jackson, Mary Lee Kortes, Rachelle Garniez, the list keeps growing. Because Gertler’s imagination knows no bounds, and musicians like working with her, she’s fond of lavish, lush arrangements. Tonight, stripped down to just piano and voice, the set was something of a revelation: as surreally captivating as her lyrics are, the tunes are so strong that they’d work equally well as instrumentals. Gertler likes dark, rich melody, classically-inflected cascades alternating with the ragtime and blues she’s recently become enamored of. She started with a new one, a big ballad in 6/8, followed by the title track to her new album Edible Restaurant, a big, bustling ragtime-inflected number that vividly captures the chaos of a busy eatery at peak hour. Aching Melody, from her latest album Edible Restaurant was exactly that, all longing and angst rather than the sultry electric piano-and-beatbox come-on on the album. The same feeling permeated the next aching melody, If Bob Was God (the Bob in the song is Dylan), a cleverly lyrical number from Edible Restaurant. A request, the resolutely antiwar number Uniform saw Gertler playing stately, somber blues much in the same vein as Gary Brooker would do in Procol Harum. Her high, pretty voice made a striking contrast with the understated intensity of the music: one doesn’t typically expect someone with such seemingly effortless grace to pack such a wallop.

 

Next stop of the night was Bar on A, where (according to his myspace) sax player Dave Hillyard was supposed to play. But apparently not. So it was around the corner to Lakeside where catchy, jangly, female-fronted two-guitar popsters Delusions of Grand Street (gotta love that name) were about to go on. Had they been awful, we would have called them Delusions of Adequa Sea, but they weren’t: they’re one of those bands who are thisclose to not only becoming really good but also becoming really popular. Their songs bristle with unexpected chord changes, they’re all good musicians (especially the lead guitarist, who plays in the house band at Smalls) and their frontwoman is down-to-earth and completely unaffected. She doesn’t try to be Beyonce, or Courtney Love, or whoever the ho du jour is: she seems to know intuitively that she’s perfectly good just the way she is. Her lyrics often have a wry exasperation balanced with a defiant determination to tackle whatever obstacle gets in her way – getting drugged on a date, locked out of the apartment on a busy weekend night in the Village, hassled by an idiot employee at the Mexican restaurant where she works, etc. All of this is as accessible as you would imagine: there are no double entendres, metaphors or deep philosophical meaning to any of this. It’s pop, after all, what people who remember the 80s would call good top 40.

 

The band needs some work. They have tightness issues, the lyrics and melodies sometimes clash (dark lyric set to an incongruously cheery, chipper tune) and the song about taking dirty pictures was a waste of time. They shouldn’t want that one circulating over the internet any more than all those beaver shots. Check back with this crew in six months’ time and see how much futher they’ve come.  If you want to see them now they’re playing the Knitting Factory on July 21 at 9.

June 16, 2008 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews

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