Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Paul Wallfisch, Sally Norvell, Ken Stringfellow and Kerry Kennedy at the Delancey, NYC 4/16/09

Through the bottom of a wine glass, darkly, emerge images of Thursday night that no hastily scribbled, largely illegible notes could bring any closer into focus. Wine may be essential to a civilized life, and it’s become sort of the official drink of Small Beast, Paul Wallfisch’s weekly residency/salon/show at the Delancey. No disrespect to all the beer and whiskey drinkers out there – there was plenty of that too. Paul Desmond once said that the ideal tone was the musical equivalent of a dry martini, but for Wallfisch it probably equates to a ballon of good bordeaux. Even though the club was a mob scene, the room emanated a comfortable red wine buzz instead of the usual beery obnoxiousness that you find at the other bars on the Lower East.

 

It was the usual treat for cosmopolitan people both rootless and rooted. “Is anybody actually here to listen?” Wallfisch asked guilelessly, a couple of songs into his solo set at the piano. Many of them had no doubt come out for once-and-future REM sideman Ken Stringfellow’s first New York show in five years. Others dug in and watched Wallfisch respond with an especially menacing cover of Stan Ridgway’s Town Called Fate along with a long version of the snarling anti-fascist gypsy dance How, from his band Botanica’s Berlin Hi-Fi cd. The he brought up a longtime collaborator, Sally Norvell for a too-brief set of noir cabaret including some of the tracks they’d done together on the marvelous 2003 cd Choking Victim. Most of the noir cabaret chanteuse crowd project an icy distance, but Norvell was just the opposite, the bitter drama in her voice drawing the crowd in, banishing whatever evil spirits might be lingering.

 

Stringfellow followed with a long, long set of pleasantly melodic, smartly tuneful guitar pop, moving from the little stage across from the bar, to the inner room in the back, to the middle of the floor and maybe even on top of the bar too (the memory starts to get fuzzy right about here). Then it was back to the noir with Kerry Kennedy. Putting her on the same bill with Norvell was a smart move because the two share a love of the darkness yet project a disarmingly down-to-earth, warm stage presence. Kennedy was actually nervous: “We have another order for two glasses of red wine,” she entreated the bartender. Then with Wallfisch on piano again – this was his third set of the night – they validated Kennedy’s status as headliner. Without their usual drummer to propel the keys, two electric guitars and upright bass, they were a lot quieter than usual and a little loose, but with the added benefit of allowing Kennedy’s beaujolais voice to pour brightly through the mix. Kennedy not only writes achingly dark, southwestern gothic-tinged songs, she also collects them and has unimpeachable taste, whether in an understated version of the haunting James Jackson Toth ballad One from the Mountain, an impressively relaxed version of the Little Annie/Wallfisch collaboration Because You’re Gone and a handful of originals. Of those, the 6/8 ballad Wishing Well got an especially poignant treatment, and Dive, a duo with just piano and vocals, allowed Wallfisch to show off some surprising honkytonk chops. This from a guy who never met a chromatic or a gypsy motif he could resist. By two in the morning, the crowd hadn’t dispersed yet, but after an evening of galleries, this, wine and more wine and then a precipitous decline into the harder stuff, it was time to see if the trains were still running.

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April 18, 2009 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, small beast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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