Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Skye Steele at Barbes, Brooklyn NY 1/27/09

“I write too many slow songs,” violinist Skye Steele said with a wry grin. Wrong. What this guy absolutely excels at is slow songs. Slow, thoughtful, meditative instrumentals, full of beautiful little intricacies, often absolutely mesmerizing: you can get completely lost in this stuff. Last night at Barbes Steele was backed by an excellent band featuring upright bass, electric guitar and reed player Harel Shachal alternating between clarinet and sax. Most of what Steele writes has a dark, plaintive, hypnotic edge: he goes for atmosphere over ostentation every time, and absolutely nails it. You could call what he writes jazz, although it also embodies elements of classical and Balkan music, with glimpses of rock and even Afro-pop peeking in and showing their faces from time to time.

 

The material they played early in the set had a bracing, big-sky Americana feel in the same vein as Jenny Scheinman’s collaborations with Bill Frisell. A little later in the set, on a far eerier number, Shachal’s clarinet went deep into the lower registers for an ominously fluttery Balkan feel. A handful of their songs were suites, one of them facing off fluid, swoopingly legato bass against the noisy duel of the violin and clarinet; another featured a languidly thoughtful yet tensely wary solo from the guitar. Steele was clearly throwing songs at these guys that at least one of them had never played before, but the group was game and rose to the occasion, taking the old Scottish folksong Black is the Color off into the Great Plains with a wintry, windswept ambience. On their last number, another suite, Steele wound up a tightly compelling passage by playing major over minor for a few bars, adding an especially macabre edge. Steele’s next performance is a quintet show on Feb 5 at le Poisson Rouge on a bill with with Shachal’s excellent, haunting Middle Eastern/Balkan group Anistar.

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January 28, 2009 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , ,

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