Lucid Culture


Concert Review: The Paul Carlon Octet at Cachaca, NYC 8/28/08

Live, the band’s Latin influences really came to the forefront: as thoughtful and remarkably multistylistic as saxist Paul Carlon’s compositions are, this was a fullblown party with a lot of good songs. “We’re going to take a short break,” he joked after his studio engineer had taken forever to introduce the band, going on and on about how good they were. The guy did a great job with the album but should be kept at least five hundred feet from any live mic. The octet then launched into an adventurous but redoubtably tuneful excursion through most of what’s on their new album Roots Propaganda along with some well-chosen covers. The title track came across as far more accommodating than its name: Friendly Rootsy Persuasion would be more like it, Carlon taking a tastefully bluesy, exploratory solo followed by some sweet, overtly Latin playing from pianist John Stenger (who, just as on the album, took every opportunity to turn up the heat with some incisively staccato salsa lines whenever he could squeeze them in). Like the rest of Carlon’s work, it tips its hat to those who came before without being fawning or reverential (Carlon gave a shout-out to Barack Obama with a similar understatement, very warmly received by the crowd).


They’d opened with guest Max Pollak tapdancing along with the band, a brave move but one which ultimately backfired. Todd Londagin used to do the same thing with the Flying Neutrinos, but as a soloist: leaving the rhythm to somebody not in the band is asking for trouble. Vocalist Christelle Durandy provided warm washes of vocalese while the sub trumpet player (working on only one rehearsal) rose to the occasion, especially on the cd’s opening cut, Backstory, with brightness and high spirits that echoed throughout the set.


Their version of Ellington’s Smada (“That’s Adams, backwards,” said a wiseass in the crowd) was a high point, drummer Beaver Bausch pushing it along on a tricked-out vaudeville beat, Stenger contributing a beautifully terse, Satie-esque solo between pensive ensemble passages from the horns. Trombonist Ryan Keberle was given license to take flight on their cover of Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out and made the most of it: the version on the album has a Ray Charles vibe, but this one continued with the night’s Latin inflections. It may seem painfully obvious to say, but tonight was a vivid reminder of why a good band is always worth checking out to see what they can deliver live. Carlon was literally scheduled to play all night, with Grupo Los Santos after the octet’s two sets, but our stamina was no match for his. 




August 31, 2008 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews

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