Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Eric Vloeimans’ Fugimundi – Live at Yoshi’s

In terms of lush, exuberant melody, this is without question the most beautiful album of the year in any style of music. Warm, plaintive, sometimes soaring, sometimes contemplative, this live recording by Dutch jazz trumpeter Eric Vloeimans, guitarist Anton Goudsmit and pianist Harmen Fraanje – just out on Challenge Records – captures a characteristic, richly memorable performance. If you get the chance to see this group, don’t pass it up. One part jazz, one part late 19th century Romanticism, with influences from the pampas of Argentina to the Portuguese coast, their style is indelibly unique. What a treat it must have been to be in the club the night this album was made. Yet for all the accessibility, there’s both an elusiveness and an allusiveness to the melodies that draws the listener in: any sense of contentedness is matched by an equivalent longing.

Goudsmit’s guitar opens it eerily, gently tremolo-picking a flamenco melody, Vloeinams finally adding a stately old world beauty, nostalgia balanced by poignancy. They make their way into a playful stop-and-start over what’s essentially a soul-pop song, Vloeimans employing his trademark shifts in intonation. The trio segue seamlessly into the third track, March of the Carpenter Ants, moving through a wary, chromatically-charged Vloeimans solo to a fascinating section akin to a film shot with three cameras onto a single screen a la the Woodstock documentary. Insistent, separate yet together, it’s a moment that screams out for the replay button. That, and headphones.

Goudsmit builds the fourth cut, Ernesto from a minimal intro to a darkly Robbie Krieger raga-inflected passage echoed by piano and trumpet, then shifts into suspenseful tango mode with an understatedly anguished David Gilmour feel that Vloeimans picks up on and takes to its logical crescendo. The next cut, Phillip works a pastoral, Jenny Scheinman-style melody into a gorgeously catchy theme with heavy Ellington overtones. Vloeimans finally goes all the way up on the wings of his glissandos and then down again on the gracefully choreographed Weimar blues Harry Bo, moving optimistically to centerstage against fatalistic piano and guitar. The other tracks on the album include a couple of blues numbers, the first of which morphs cleverly into a pop ballad, the second with a Georgia on My Mind feel with jaunty trumpet and spiky guitar. The only miss here is Somewhere Over the Rainbow, an exercise in implied melody, the trio taking care to skirt its central theme when what they should have done is left it off the set list entirely. Lucky fans can see Eric Vloeimans’ Fugimundi play September 27 at the Rotterdam International Jazz Festival.

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September 12, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Matthew Grimm & the Red Smear – The Ghost of Rock n Roll

This is hands-down the funniest album of the year. It might also be the best. Matthew Grimm is the populist that Springsteen probably wishes he still was – over a pummeling highway rock backdrop, one part Social Distortion stomp, one part turbocharged Bottle Rockets barroom roar, he drops one direct hit after another on religious fanatics, Wall Street swindlers and the system that allowed them to take power in the first place. If the Dead Kennedys had survived Tipper Gore’s assault and traded in the surf rock for Americana, they might sound something like this.

Like Stephen Colbert, Grimm’s satire knows no bounds. He’s been as formidable a social critic as songwriter since his days in the 90s and early zeros fronting twangy New York rockers the Hangdogs and this time out he spares no one, and despite the full-frontal assault he’s a lot subtler than it might seem. The first cut on the cd is typical, hardly the self-effacing narrative the title, My Girlfriend’s Way Too Hot for Me, might suggest: it’s a raised middle finger at the yuppie who has everything but the hot girlfriend and who just can’t seem to be able to buy the piece of ass who would complete his collection. Grimm makes it clear how aware he is that it’s always the smart guys who get the hottest girls (and vice versa). Lead guitarist Jason Berge mimics an air-raid siren as Grimm has a laugh or five at the expense of doomsday Christians on the next cut, the Bodeans-ish Wrath of God.

Hang Up and Drive is a late-period Hangdogs song, a deliciously unleashed barrage of invective against the kind of guy who doesn’t exactly need those three tons of steel and glass to chill out in the left lane at 60 MPH while he calls his wife. The even funnier and characteristically spot-on Ayn Rand Sucks explores the righteous world of a rich suburban girl who brags about her fondness for the “Nazi skank” on her Facebook page: “Mein Kampf by any other name is Mein Kampf.” If that realization doesn’t get you, you won’t get this album. The best song on the album – and maybe the best song of the decade – is a savage, anthemic kiss-off to George Bush titled 1/20/09. “I know you won’t be troubled with states of reflection/Still a cloistered and dull trust-fund kid,” Grimm rails. “But maybe one shiny day, we’ll see each other again in the Hague.” The album’s exhilaratingly optimistic final cut, One Big Union is just as catchy and just as fiery an anthem, and it’s been picked up by more than one political campaign as a theme song.

Even the less politically-charged tracks here have a remarkable social awareness. The title track does double duty as an evocative examination of working-class drudgery and how people somehow manage to make it through the day fueled by tunes from realms people who have never opened their ears have never seen. There’s also Cry, which manages to be sympathetic while reminding a heartbroken girl how much better off she is than the rest of the world, and the less sympathetic Cinderella, where Grimm turns both barrels on a woman looking for soap opera-style yuppie contentedness and ends it by hitting on her. And he also proves himself adept at hip-hop during the break on White, which might be a parody:

Who thinks Sarah Palin’s smart? Who still watches MTV?

Who thinks sitcoms are funny and reality shows are reality?

Who deducts hookers, cooks the books and burns the paper trail?

Grifted away your 401K, won’t ever spend a fuckin day in jail?

I don’t wanna be white anymore

Turning in my Amstel Light, my golf clubs and my gun…

Look for this one high at the top of our best albums of 2009 list at the end of the year. Iowa-based Grimm and his band’s next show is an acoustic gig at Tornado’s, 1400 3rd St. SE in Cedar Rapids on October 1, sharing the bill with Sarah Cram.

September 12, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 9/12/09

Every day, our top 666 songs of alltime countdown gets one step closer to #1. Saturday’s song is #319:

Bob Dylan – Not Dark Yet

Hypnotic existentialist masterpiece from his big comeback album Time Out of Mind, 1997, curmudgeonly yet poignant:

I was born here and I’ll die here against my will

I know it looks like I’m moving, but I’m standing still

Every nerve in my body is so naked and numb

I can’t even remember what it was I came here to get away from

Don’t even hear the murmur of a prayer

It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there

Mp3s abound but you’ll have to sift through some dodgy live stuff.

September 12, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment