Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Jenifer Jackson at Rockwood Music Hall, NYC 7/20/08

What a treat to see such a major artist, a Lennon/McCartney/Elvis Costello-class songwriter, in such an intimate, sonically beautiful setting. This was the fun set. Jenifer Jackson’s an urban person at heart, and tonight she might as well have been wearing one of those “I heart New York” shirts. Although Jackson relocated to Austin last year, she and her cohorts onstage – Elysian Fields guitarist Oren Bloedow and her longtime drummer Greg Wiz – were just about jumping out of their shoes, unabashedly delighted to be playing with each other again after a long hiatus. Which was particularly striking, because her stock in trade is lush, jazz and tropicalia-inflected songs with a pensive, moody edge. But tonight was just as much a clinic in good times as good songwriting, featuring mostly new material.

The drummer was playing all the new stuff cold, but nobody would have known it if Jackson hadn’t spilled the beans: his feel for her songs is absolutely intuitive. Bloedow played invigoratingly virtuosic, fast bluegrass-inflected lines all night, a striking change from the jazzy noir feel of his own band. “It’s hard to play chicken-scratch sitting down,” Jackson marveled, but it seemed as if Bloedow would have gladly done it behind his back, and well, if anybody had asked him to. The new stuff is sensationally tuneful and emotionally impactful: since her first full-length album, 1999’s Slowly Bright, Jackson hasn’t lost a step. Vocally, her range has expanded, in both senses of the word: she has the voice of a survivor, indomitable, confident, despite a few dents probably too deep to ever be completely smoothed out. There’s solace in that voice, but there’s also a bon vivant who refuses to miss out on anything good. The night’s best song, a new number, reflected exactly that. Building on a dark, steady, deliberate descending progression to a passionate crescendo, Jackson sang of letting it all go, defiantly refusing to accede to despair.

Another number had something of a sassy 60s Nancy Sinatra jazz-pop feel. The effortlessly sultry, 6/8 Whispering Words, a sprightly song perhaps titled Spring (as in “maybe love will come again in Spring”), and a particularly haunting breakup song, The Beauty in the Emptying – all new – kept the audience rapt. Nobody said a word, even when the guitars were constantly being retuned (the hundred-degree, humid night outside had a lot to do with that). Which pretty much sums up the show. You would be crazy to miss her the next time she plays here.

July 21, 2008 - Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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