Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Paul Wallfisch, Julia Kent and Carol Lipnik at the Delancey, NYC 10/12/09

Monday night was typical Small Beast – gauche as it may seem to review the same event week after week, the simple fact is that this is the best regular rock night in New York. Maybe the world. And it’s free. As usual (last week was an exception), Botanica frontman Paul Wallfisch opened the night solo on piano. He’s the kind of player who is frequently at his best as a response to some kind of adversity, in other words, when he has something to transcend. Last night, by contrast, he was clearly in a good mood, a welcome opportunity for the crowd of cognoscenti to hear some of his warmer, slightly more carefree, gospel-flavored material: the title track to Botanica’s forthcoming album; the hypnotic Beauty Is; a version of the Paul Bowles lyric Etiquette, which he’d set to an aptly pensive tune; a noir cabaret number by Baby Dee; a typically jaunty version of Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man and an absolutely psychedelic Ray Davies cover on which he was joined by the evening’s next act, cellist Julia Kent.

Yet another reason why Small Beast is so cool is how effortlessly it’s balanced in terms of gender: women have been the stars lately and this evening continued that trend. Kent – who did time in Rasputina and has an exhaustive symphony orchestra and chamber music background – is a first-class composer in her own right, playing a hypnotic set of expansive originals. Typically, she’d pluck out a playful bassline and then loop it, adding layer after layer of frequently haunting ambience over it much as the Quavers do live. To do this is far more complicated than it seems – your timing has to be spot-on, and Kent’s was. The effect was riveting and frequently cinematic. Moving from trippy, echoey and atmospheric to stark and haunting, she evoked composers as diverse as Jenny Scheinman and Shostakovich. The best piece of the night grew strikingly darker as its second movement kicked in; her final number layered squalling insistence over swaying, casually pretty arpeggios.

Then Carol Lipnik and her longtime cohort, pianist Dred Scott – whose Tuesday midnight shows at Rockwood Music Hall have become the stuff of legend – took the stage and took the volume up a notch. With her spectacular four-octave range, Lipnik barely requires amplification, and this time out she’d brought along a reverb pedal that she used to give her big crescendos even more firepower. As expected, the audience was rapt. Scott didn’t waste a note as he moved from the noir swing of The Last Dance, through the macabre tango pulse of When I Was a Mermaid, the playfully minimalist psychedelicism of You’re My Firefly and the hauntingly plainspoken sympathy-for-the-freak narrative Two-Headed Cow. Lipnik moved and swayed effortlessly from a wail to a devious smirk to what sounded like a wildly phasing human theremin. As one knowledgeable member of the crowd was quick to discern, wherever Lipnik was, she was invariably in the moment. Lipnik’s collaborations with Scott and also with John Kelly are ongoing – watch this space for updates. It would have been fun to stick around and see what the next act, violinist Rebecca Cherry and her nine-piece band had up their collective sleeves, but the F train was about to turn into a pumpkin and that’s no way to get home.

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October 13, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, small beast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Jenifer Jackson at Rockwood Music Hall, NYC 10/11/09

Jenifer Jackson is back. Not that she ever stopped playing or writing songs – the good news is that her self-imposed exile in Austin is over and she’s returned to Gotham. Sunday evening’s set mixed quiet triumph with some aptly chosen late-summer mood pieces along with some of the tremendously impactful new songs she’s been working up over the last few months. If you haven’t seen Jackson in awhile and you think you know her, the answer is that you really don’t – whether she’s working harmonies off the melodies of audience favorites like Summer’s Over or End of August, or emphasizing  the tropical feel (or the rock feel) of an older number, she’s grown to the point where it’s always a crapshoot where she’ll end up. The only given is that it’ll be a good place.

As much a triumphant homecoming as this may have been, pianist Matt Kanelos underscored everything with a gritty chordal tension, completely in sync with the restlessness, unease and occasional outright angst of Jackson’s songwriting. His gentle honkytonk work on the rather sweet country ballad The Beauty in the Emptying (on Jackson’s forthcoming album) contrasted with the clenched-teeth insistence of the somewhat ironically titled Let the Times Roll (another unreleased, hypnotic gem), the ominously minimalist Groundward and the menacing Blair Witch imagery of Maybe, which was definitely the most intense song of the set.

To end the show, Jackson put down her guitar and over Kanelos’ crisp and incisive chords, put her own spin on I Say a Little Prayer for You. She may have learned it from the very first album she ever owned, Aretha Now – “For the longest time I thought that was her name,” Jackson revealed – but her interpretation was a whole lot more bossa than brass and played up its nuances for all they were worth. She’s back at the Rockwood in November and you ought to see her there.

October 13, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment