Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Woo-Sug Kang at the Organ at St. Thomas Church, NYC 1/17/10

One of the many great things about the (mostly) weekly series of organ recitals at St. Thomas on Fifth Avenue is the diversity of the performers: it’s literally a parade of talent from across the country and around the world. Woo-Sug Kang hails from New Zealand; home to him these days is Bloomington, Indiana. His program was characteristically eclectic and brilliantly performed, a mix of canonical and Capricornian material.

He opened with Maurice Durufle’s reconstruction of Charles Tournemire’s famous “Victimae Paschali” improvisation, working the dynamic shifts dramatically so that the fire-and-brimstone of the main theme would resonate to maximum effect. He then took a breather with a selection from the Bach Klavierubung, which is a workbook, and this one was a pleasant if generic exercise in counterpoint.

Then Kang went eerie and atmospheric with Louis Vierne’s Claire de Lune, which is about as far from Debussy as you can imagine. Vierne was legally blind, so perhaps appropriately this is moonlight through a glass, ambiently and darkly. He followed with Vierne’s Naiades (Water Nymphs), all phantasmic upper register rivulets. New Zealand composer Douglas Mews’ Gigue de Pan made a splendid segue, beginning playfully on the flutes but turning phantasmagorical and menacing within the span of a minute, what was practically a jig morphing in seconds flat into a sinister pedal figure. Kang did wonders contrasting the nasty little fugue and then the wonderfully oscillating cascade that took the piece up and out. He closed with Australian composer Graeme Koehne’s Gothic Toccata, a smartly assembled series of permutations on an insistent, circular phrase which eventually goes completely wrathful when given a workout on all the stops. Cleverly, the piece ends with a massive five-chord coda a la the Bach Toccata in D but with Messiaen-esque voicings. What a pleasant discovery – there will no doubt be more of these here this season, with Sunday recitals continuing through the end of May.

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January 17, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Craig Chesler’s New One

Craig Chesler’s main gig is rhythm guitarist in Tom Clark & the High Action Boys, one of the best roots-rock bands anywhere. He’s also been a fixture on the New York oldtimey scene for awhile. This cd gives him the chance to show off not only his clever, often tongue-in-cheek grasp of several Americana styles along with several richly evocative takes on 1960s British psychedelic pop: fans of second-generation bands like XTC, Love Camp 7 and Brian Jonestown Massacre ought to get the references. It reminds somewhat of a recent album by another A-list NYC sideman, Homeboy Steve Antonakis’ solo effort. In a way, this is sort of an audition reel that proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that this guy knows a whole bunch of different genres inside out and plays them with taste and a good sense of humor.

The best song on the album is the brisk Nothing Out of Something, sounding like an early 70s Ray Davies country song. Likewise, the wistful This Should Be My Summertime wouldn’t have been out of place on the Kinks’ Village Green. The one cover here is an aptly rapt version of Beautiful Night by Amy Allison. The rest of the cd includes – are you ready? – a shuffle like Wilco in an especially poppy mood; an oldtimey crooner song with ukelele and a string section; a similar one with more of a hillbilly feel; some shuffling 60s Britpop like the early Move; a stagy glampop song that could have been a radio hit for Queen; a bizarre, swinging piano pop song with a long break for solo ukelele; more proto-glampop; more oldtimey crooner stuff;and the rueful ballad with harmonies straight out of ELO that closes the album on a lushly pretty note.

Chesler plays the cd release show for this one at Banjo Jim’s on Jan 23 with Amy Allison opening the show at 8; seemingly half of the good musicians in town are on the bill with Chesler afterward. Memo to the musician re: the album title – dude, what were you thinking?

January 17, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Concert Review: The Snow’s CD Release Show at Joe’s Pub, NYC 1/16/10

Lucinda Black Bear open the night. They’re not bad. It’s always good to see a band start to realize their potential. They start with a couple of quiet 6/8 ballads that could have been ELO outtakes. The songwriting is getting closer to the level of the musicianship, which with all the strings and a killer rhythm section, is pretty stupendous. The bass player is doing all kinds of interesting things but he’s so low in the mix that you have to watch his fingers, which is a crime in a space like this. Quentin Jennings, late of Melomane, contributes some incisively memorable piano. The crowd seems have a collective case of cabin fever, just glad to be out of the house for a few hours. They love the band.

The Snow take the stage for the cd release show for their new one I Die Every Night with a three-piece reed section including Tony Jarvis, from main songwriter Pierre de Gaillande’s other project, Bad Reputation, playing bass clarinet. Hilary Downes, who will prove to have pretty much taken over fronting the band, is on piano. The first number is lush, artsy, with a funky rhythm and a bluesy horn break after the chorus. The lyrics are characteristically smart:

There’s a hole in the ice

There’s a hole in your heart

But the hole is greater

Than the sum of the parts

They play their signature song The Silent Parade, the band’s big 6/8 epic about the snowstorm to end all snowstorms. It’s more restrained than usual: that they resist turning this into gleeful grand guignol is impressive. There are sarcastic la-la-la’s and then some faux-blithe off-key whistling by Gaillande at the end.

Downes sings Undertow with her usual inscrutably sultry precision. It’s a clever, sarcastic narrative about a drowning. They follow that with Fool’s Gold, which welds an oldschool soul verse to a darker, more European chorus. And then a rather haunting, low-key number on which Gaillande switches to accordion, which as it blends with the horns enhances its noir cabaret plaintiveness.

Handle Your Weapon is pulsing and insistent – encouragement, maybe, for a would-be suicide to keep going. It’s hard to keep track of all the metaphors. “Soon it will be daylight.” Then they do Shadows and Ghost, by Downes and bring out every bit of its understated phantasmagoria, Gaillande tossing off a casual southwestern gothic guitar solo.

Moral Debtor, by tenor sax player Dave Spinley, is a tango. Long and Strange pulses along on a rumbling latin drumbeat. The guy/girl harmonies are gorgeous; Gaillande adds another twangy noir guitar solo that ends all too soon. They close with a darkly swinging Serge Gainsbourg-inflected pop song. The sold-out crowd wants more but the room has to be cleared for the next act, Bassam Saba of the NY Arabic Orchestra and his ensemble. The line outside grows longer and longer – no surprise, they’re really good.

After a show like this you need a drink to reflect and take it all in and remember the finer points.The party starts at Lakeside where Tie Me Up, the world’s only Spanking Charlene cover band are about to play all the hits: When I’m Skinny, Where Are the Freaks, Stupid Stupid Me (actually it’s really just Spanking Charlene playing their own stuff). And then vodka catches up with one of us and we end up missing the band – too bad, they sounded good from outside the bar.

January 17, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Song of the Day 1/17/10

More reviews, etc. momentarily. Til then, as we do every day the best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues all the way to #1. Sunday’s song is #193:

The Kinks – Rock n Roll Fantasy

Gorgeously catchy backbeat anthem, and a vivid reminder why sometimes musicians deserve to take themselves seriously. Their fans need them! “Don’t want to spend my life living on the edge of reality!” From the Misfits album, 1976, not to be confused with the Bad Company atrocity of the same title.

January 17, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment