Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Paul Wallfisch, Little Annie and the Miren at the Delancey, NYC 5/28/09

After next Thursday’s show (6/4/09 with Alice Texas and Darren Gaines & the Key Party), Small Beast will be moving from Thursdays to Mondays upstairs at the Delancey starting June 22 for the rest of the summer, then back to Thursdays in the fall. The official explanation is too many conflicts with private parties scheduled in the upstairs space: too many clueless tourists completely baffled and possibly annoyed by music far too edgy for the average New Jersey suburbanite is probably closer to the truth. More about that later.

As regular readers and Beastophiles know by heart, Botanica frontman Paul Wallfisch opened the show as usual, solo on piano, fiery and intense as always. You never know what you’re going to get, week in, week out. This time the set was rich with songs from recent Botanica albums along with a fast take on Wallfisch’s cohort, smoky-voiced noir cabaret singer/personality/legend Little Annie’s Because You’re Gone. Eventually he brought up the drummer from the Miren, the next act, for what’s become the Small Beast theme, Eleganza and Wines. Without missing a 7/8 beat, the guy added a triphop vibe, bringing out every bit of slinkiness and sexiness in the album version (there are two, from Berlin Hi-Fi, the second with a string quartet). Even though the room was pretty empty, Wallfisch couldn’t resist coming out from behind the Beast (in tune, as it has been lately, a particularly pleasant development) and leading the crowd in a clapalong in an odd tempo. If the tourists hadn’t all gone straight up to the bar on the roof, there no doubt would have been some odd looks – we’re getting to that.

The next act, the Miren, an avant-jazz trio utilizing sax, guitar, both upright and electric bass and drums, were great fun. Their first song sounded like Morphine gone post-bop, bassist Ben Miller wailing on some big chords. The next piece layered trippy guitar effects over a 6/8 groove; after that, Miller switched to electric bass for a murky mood piece, then a growling, lumbering King Crimson-inflected number with squealing sax. Their last number set James Blood Ulmer-inflected fractured blues to a strolling, bass-driven 6/8 beat. This was their debut gig together, and Miller intimated that this might also be their last. If that’s true, that’s too bad.

Then Wallfisch brought up Annie, looking “very Chanel,” as the petite chanteuse noted sarcastically from behind a big floppy hat and huge onyx earrings. She’d been stuck in traffic and was obviously perturbed: “Apparently if you live in midtown, everybody thinks you’re a tourist now.” Her cab driver had tried to sleazily cajole her into letting him take her via a lengthy detour up Sixth Avenue, so she’d put a quick stop to that. “The television in the back of the cab looked like William Burroughs put it together,” she groused, noting how expensive a distraction it could be for unwary passengers. When it comes to September songs, Little Annie is the standard of the world, and she brought out several, casting shadows against Wallfisch’s vividly shiny, coloristic piano. Beside You, Beside Myself was characteristically pensive; Before You Got Carried Away, a requiem, played up the black-humor angle. Her obviously autobiographical, aptly amusing catalog of bad behavior, The Other Side of Heartache was pretty straight-up this time out. As the set went on, the volume of tourists passing on their way to the stairs picked up, including a couple of openly derisive fratboys (the same thing had happened to the equally formidable Larkin Grimm a few weeks ago). “I’m gonna shoot you and then beat your ass,” Annie threatened. The heckling continued from the bathroom. Annie stopped, mid-song and looked around, exasperated. “Honey…I can’t do this,” she said to Wallfisch.

“That’s ok,” he replied calmly. The duo took a few seconds’ breather and then kept going. Eventually one of the goons returned and mumbled an apology.

Annie would have no part of it. “Are you in the service? Did you get dishonorably discharged?” Finally, she forgave the fool, who retreated to the rooftop CEO’s-and-secretary-ho’s party. From there the mood brightened; the crowd, such that there was – Annie’s sold out two consecutive shows at Joe’s Pub and is a star in Europe, but apparently those crowds don’t venture below Houston – screamed for an encore and were rewarded with a tongue-in-cheek, festively beachy number.   

Those curious as to what Small Beast is all about can read all the Lucid Culture reviews of past shows. This being New York’s edgiest weekly music series, this is our usual Thursday night destination – until we switch to Mondays, which will be great because then that frees up Thursdays for other stuff for us, at least until the fall. Come out on June 4 at around 9 and see what you’ve been missing.

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May 30, 2009 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, small beast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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