Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Song of the Day 10/21/08

The countdown continues, a new song every day til we reach the best one ever. The allltime top 666 list, growing at the rate of one a day, is at the top of the page to your right. Today’s song is #644:

 

The Ramones – Needles & Pins

Their best song was the one they didn’t write or play on (simple as it is, studio musicians had to be brought in to do the backing track). An accidentally brilliant, wrenchingly gorgeous reworking of the early 60s Searchers hit. Seriously: can you imagine Johnny Ramone playing an acoustic guitar this cleanly…or Dee Dee discovering that his bass could create a tone that could cut through the mix so beautifully? At least that’s really Joey on vocals. Available at all the usual sites.

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October 20, 2008 Posted by | Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music | , , , , | 1 Comment

CD Review: Jenny Scheinman – Crossing the Field

A delightful, bracing cd for cool autumn nights when it just feels so good to be alive. Scheinman may be best known as a jazz player and composer, but this cd is a multistylistic smorgasbord of instrumentals with elements of classical, rock, film soundtracks and ragtime as well. The band here is is an all-star cast of like-minded envelope-pushing types: Ron Miles on cornet; Doug Wieselman on clarinet; a dream-team rhythm section of Tim Luntzel on bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums; Jason Moran on piano; Bill Frisell on guitar and many string players including the members of the ambitious quartet Brooklyn Rider. Scheinman is a master of many moods, and she packs a bunch in here. This may be a fun album at heart, but there’s an awfully lot going on and it’s all good.

 

The album opens with Born Into This, airy and ambient with shades of Jean-Luc Ponty but stark and somewhat rustic, absent any 70s fusion clichés. It builds to a mighty crescendo at the end. I Heart Eye Patch is breezy and playful over a tongue-in-cheek vaudeville beat with a characteristically jaunty yet comfortable Frisell solo. An upbeat piano intro kicks off the aptly titled That’s Delight, eventually joined by the violin.  Ana Eco begins apprehensive and ethereal and grows simply sad and wary – it’s a beautiful song.

 

A showcase for Moran, Hard Sole Shoe bounces along on an almost martial groove spiked with guitar accents until midway through when the horns take over for the piano and the baton is passed to Wieselman…and suddenly it’s floating along comfortably among the clouds. Einsamaller could be a Shostakovich horror movie score,  atmospheric layers of strings building ominously until they’re joined by the horns. It’s a two-part piece, the second opening on a lighter note but getting dark quickly. The not-quite Awful Sad is a pensive ragtime song for violin and piano; Processional, by contrast, is very sad, a slow piano-and-guitar ballad that gets eerier as it goes along, Frisell adding his trademark, bell-like reverb guitar

 

The most cinematic of the cuts here, The Careeners is a boisterous chase sequence. Three Bits And A Horse is brief and somewhat skeletal, its cornet intro building as Frisell kicks around the melody. A Peter Tosh-inflected melody to a staggered reggae beat with some intriguing tempo shifts, Song For Sidiki sends Scheinman flying over the guitar and rhythm section. Then Frisell and the cornet take over. The cd concludes with the thoughtful, ambient Ripples In The Aquifer and the warm open-skies tune Old Brooklyn. This is foremost a treat for jazz fans, but lush with melody that will get pretty much anybody humming along. One of the best albums of 2008, no question. Scheinman’s debut vocal cd, a somewhat rustic collection of Americana songs reviewed here recently, is also worth checking out. The Jenny Scheinman Quartet (featuring Moran, Greg Cohen and Rudy Royston) begins a six-night stand at the Village Vanguard on Oct 28.

October 20, 2008 Posted by | Music, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Kal at Joe’s Pub, NYC 10/19/08

Kal means black in Romanes, the language of the Roma (the nomadic people of Europe formerly known as gypsies). For the band, the word has several shades of meaning, not the least the sense that the Roma experience the same struggle that American blacks face. For example, the father of frontman/guitarist Dragan Ristic was the first openly ethnic Roma to graduate from teachers college in his native Serbia. Last night at Joe’s Pub, the band put on a fiery, pummeling show worthy of Gogol Bordello, somewhat incongruous considering the sedate confines of the club: while they had no trouble energizing the crowd, there was nowhere to dance, and what they played was most definitely dance music. They would have had an easier time connecting at Drom or Mehanata. Behind Ristic and sensational violinist Djordje Belkic were a hot rhythm section, percussion as well as drums, along with button accordion and key accordion. Like their Ukrainian-American counterparts (one of whom they invited onstage to deliver a boisterous rap in the middle of a frenetic dance number), most of what they play is lickety-split 2/4 minor-key dance-rock with Balkan melodies. On vocals, Ristic alternated between Romanes and Serbian (except for one tongue-in-cheek number about a young immigrant willing to marry a 45-year-old woman for a green card).

 

About 60% of the set was brief, barely three-minute instrumentals sprinting along on what was almost a ska beat (Kal would be HUGE on the Warped tour), sparks flying from the fingers of the accordionists and Belkic, whose searing violin runs seemed almost effortless. Watching them fan the flames, it made perfect sense that this band would have the #1 world music cd of the year in Europe a couple of years ago. After starting on the boisterous note that would dominate the night, Ristic brought things down with a beautifully contemplative, slow instrumental replete with innumerable false endings that bedeviled the crowd (and his bandmates), very evocative of the pensive, thoughtful side of Jimi Hendrix (think Little Wing or Castles Made of Sand). Then he brought the temperature back up again.  “There are eight intervals. And four halftones.” He paused for a second.  “That’s all. So what is the difference? Soul. Feeling. Blues.” He paused again. “We play for you halftones.” And they didn’t exactly (the song was another frenetic dance tune with some chromatics on the chorus), but in the vernacular of his fractured English, it was halftone.

 

Along with an uncompromising political awareness, there’s a lot of humor in Kal’s music, and the band did well to translate this for those who didn’t speak their language. The funniest song of the night, at least as far as a non-Serbian could understand, was a somewhat stagy number about a Serbian kid scheming to go to Vienna, where his rich uncle resides. The problem is that he doesn’t have a visa. So he makes one himself, manages to get to Vienna and then bangs on his uncle’s door. The uncle watches through the peephole…and doesn’t answer. 

 

The crowd, a motley mix of thrill-seekers, didn’t overturn any tables, but they did scream ferociously for an encore, which the band began without any violin until Belkic came stumbling out from backstage and in an instant had plugged in and was wailing away as if nothing had happened. Hard to imagine anything more exciting than this happening at this particular club all year long – and a pleasant distraction from watching the weary, battlescarred Red Sox collapse in the playoffs.

October 20, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Song of the Day 10/20/08

Counting them down from #666 all the way to the best one ever. The whole list, getting a little bit bigger every day, is at the top of the page. Today’s song is #645:

Melomane – The Ballot Is the Bullet

The zeros’ counterpart to #655 (Reagan Country by Shattered Faith), this one a dark, sobering minor-key art-rock anthem with a great organ solo and equally homicidal intent (the lyric sheet reads “assassinate the precedent,” but that’s not how the vocals go). Someday soon (1/20/09) this will be a period piece, a brave statement in the face of fascism. In the meantime, we can always hope for a miracle. From the 2007 cd Glaciers.

October 20, 2008 Posted by | Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music | , , , | Leave a comment