Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Blues in Space at Sullivan Hall, NYC 4/29/09

“One more song, and make it snappy,” the sound guy snapped, clearly audible through the PA as the trio Blues in Space stared back, mystified. They’d had no more than 25 minutes onstage. Obviously the guy wasn’t a metal fan because if he was he would have been raising both hands high with devil’s horns: for half an hour, the band pummeled the audience with a metal show worthy of Ozzfest. Surprisingly, most of their ornate instrumental pyrotechnics were delivered by cellist Rubin Kodheli, also of hauntingly beautiful minimalist chamber rock band Edison Woods. This being his project to cut loose and wail, he made the absolute most of it, running his axe through a series of dense, echoey effects to replicate something of a guitar tone. He’s been able to translate every metal guitar technique to the cello, other than tapping (cello strings don’t get enough resonance for that). And in case you were wondering, he did break a string, proving very adept at throwing on a new one (plenty of practice, no doubt). Jimmy Page-style vibrato, a million searing, supersonic blues licks, crunchy Pantera-style rhythm, he did it all. The drummer, who’d held a steady thump all night, finally got to cut loose on the (unexpectedly) last song of the set, where the guitarist also finally took a solo on his SG, proving as aggressively tasteful as his bandmates as he wailed through a flurry of lightning blues progressions. If metal is your thing you need to see this band, end of story. Blues in Space play Sat May 16 at the Rockwood (no joke!) at one in the morning, which seems to mean the wee hours of Sunday the 17th.

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May 4, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Serena Jost and Matt Kanelos at le Poisson Rouge, NYC 4/29/09

A particularly well-conceived art-rock doublebill. Both performers are people whose music lives between the lines, thriving on subtlety, understatement and ellipses rather than grand gestures. Serena Jost, when she’s not dabbling in modeling or getting work as a sidewoman (she’s a classically trained cellist who did time in Rasputina), leads a semi-rotating cast of characters through a vast landscape that spans the world of classical balladry, artsy pop, surf music, no-wave funk and straight-up rock. Wednesday night at le Poisson Rouge she had the benefit of keeping things fairly austere and low-key since she had a great sound system at her disposal. This time out she had the melodic Rob Jost on electric bass, multi-instrumentalist Rob DiPietro playfully and artfully handling the drums and in place of her regular axeman Julian Maile she had Pete Galub (just reviewed here leading his own band) handling lead guitar duties while she alternated between cello, piano and acoustic guitar.

Galub transformed the group, bringing the melodies front and center while adding an artsy, early 70s tinged bluesy feel that ran the gamut from plaintive to towering and majestic. The most dramatic moment came on the bridge during the long partita I Wait where Galub took Maile’s Dick Dale-ish lines deep into the Middle East, tossing the baton to Jost with a flourish where she grabbed it, held on for dear life and kept the revelry going. Then he took the usually stark Almost Nothing and added a vivid solo, part fiery blues and part big ornate ballad, that wouldn’t have been out of place in the Ian Bairnson playbook. Jost had been singing with her usual full, round and inscrutable clarity – she’s so direct that it would be impossible for there to be no subtext – but picked an insistent new ballad to cut loose and wail, as she did on another new one which she played on cello. Cellists don’t usually let their hair down to this extent, but Jost did.

By the time frequent Jenifer Jackson collaborator Matt Kanelos and his band the Smooth Maria hit the stage, the tables had all filled up, depression or no depression, a heartwarming sight. Nice to hear him cut loose on vocals, too, unadorned, casual and unaffected, much like the opening act. Backed by an excellent lead guitarist with a noisy edge as well as a subtle, swinging rhythm section, he alternated between acoustic guitar and piano, playing mostly new songs from the band’s brand-new cd Silent Show. While Americana is his fallback space, many of his songs have an undercurrent alternating between tastefully jazzy complexity and an almost minimalist, purist classical sensibility. The influences combine to create a dreamy yet focused, frequently poignant late summer atmosphere, replete with longing for something that doesn’t always overtly make itself known. Like Jost, Kanelos can be hard to read, all the more reason to listen closely. 

The big 6/8 piano ballad Rain evoked early 70s Pink Floyd (circa Obscured by Clouds), hypnotic and eerily edgy, Kanelos going completely rubato as it built to a big crescendo and then subsided to the point where he could step back in without any altercations. The night’s opening number, Abandoned Town reminded of middle-period Wilco with its “we won’t go back, we won’t go” insistence and noisily ringing crescendo of guitar chords. Another number felt like Chet Baker doing southwestern gothic, Kanelos and his lead player taking turns playing off and then on the beat as it wound down at the end. The crowd, quietly attentive to the end, went crazy for an encore and after a wait that didn’t bode well, were rewarded with a nostalgic ballad that Kanelos played solo on piano.

May 4, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment