Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Song of the Day 1/28/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Thursday’s song is #182:

Dan Bryk – City Of…

In a Toronto of the mind, Canadian-American rocker Bryk sets the stage for the most amusing and heartbreakingly accurate state-of-the-music-world address ever recorded. It rocks, too. From his superb 2009 album Pop Psychology.

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January 28, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 1/27/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Wednesday’s song is #183:

The Rolling Stones – Gimme Shelter

Yeah, the studio version is great, but the best was the one the band played at Altamont (Bill Wyman on bass rather than Keith), growling with a menace that even by these guys’ standards was intense. Look for an Italian bootleg from the 90s, incorrectly titled the Gimme Shelter soundtrack (it isn’t – all it has is the Stones songs on the movie soundtrack, but those alone are transcendent).

January 27, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: The City Champs – The Safecracker

Dance music doesn’t get any better than this. Sounding like they just got off the train from Memphis, 1968, the City Champs lay down an irresistible hip-twisting groove in the same vein as classic soul instrumentalists like Booker T & the MGs, the Meters, the late Willie Mitchell and the Bar-Kays. The production values are strictly oldschool – this may be a cd but it sounds like a vinyl record, warm and glowing with Hammond organ and tersely tuneful soul guitar, propelled with muscle and swing by veteran Memphis soul/blues drummer George Sluppick. Yet as retro as the production is, this isn’t just a homage – guitarist/bandleader Joe Restivo adds an understatedly jazzy virtuosity while the southern flavor flows from organist Al Gamble’s Leslie speaker. Sometimes the guitar will build to a crescendo or wrap up a solo and then hand off to the organ, sometimes vice versa, and sometimes – this is the best part – everybody grooves together.

The title track is an edgy, gritty crime movie theme that wouldn’t be out of place in the Herbie Hancock songbook, circa 1970. Takin’ State is a strutting staccato dance shuffle, Restivo slipping and sliding with a carefree, sly Steve Cropper feel. The low-key, George Benson-inflected jam Love Is a Losing Game has the guitar handing the reins over to the organ to bring the lights down and steam up the windows – maybe love’s not such a losing game after all.

Poppin’ bounces along on a catchy New Orleans blues guitar riff that boils over and then simmers as Sluppick gets the cymbals cooking, then the organ picks it up and blazes. The funkiest track on the album is The Whap-a-Dang, organ swirling in, Booker T style, after Restivo’s pimpmobile solo. Pretty Girl sounds like George Benson covering a sultry midtempo, Hugh Masekela hit; the cd closes with Coming Home Baby, a head-bobbing Stax/Volt blues groove which is a dead ringer for a Booker T hit from around 1964 except with more expansive guitar. Soul music lovers and jazz guitar fans alike will love this. The City Champs are at Highline Ballroom on Feb 26 with the North Mississippi All-Stars, wear comfortable shoes. They’re also in the new documentary I Am a Man, which you can stream here.

January 26, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Heekyung Lee at the Organ at Central Synagogue, NYC 1/26/10

Korean-American Heekyung Lee, AGO scholar and assistant organist at Tuscaloosa, Alabama’s University Presbyterian Church, delivered an elegantly paced performance marked with smart subtleties and a ruthless attack on the keys and pedals when she needed it.

She opened with the upbeat Bach Prelude and Fugue in C Minor (BWV 546), a popular standard and solid opener with its steady call-and-response in the prelude followed by the the more apprehensive sway of the fugue that follows. Then she switched gears with two Jean Langlais works from his Neuf Pieces suite: the ambient, sometimes even minimalist Chant de Paix and the mighty, towering, surprisingly ominous Chant de Joie. This particular kind of joy seems something of a response to something less joyful, and Lee let it loose with a vengeance. After a breather with a hypnotic and frankly sleepy Sweelinck theme and variations on a hymn, it was back to the fire and brimstone, yet with the kind of precision and articulation necessary for a Max Reger piece, in this case the mighty Introduction and Passacaglia in D Minor. The forceful crash and burn of the intro rattled the interior of the sanctuary, giving way to the artful, fugal flow of the Bach-inspired second half. She closed with a showstopper, Bertold Hummel’s Alleluja. Messiaen-esque in its rapt, awestruck, somewhat horrified intensity, it’s a partita featuring a neat little flute passage over atmospheric pedals midway through, as well as a theme that borders on the macabre with its severe tonal clusters and recurs with a portentous triumph at the end. With its breathless staccato contrasting with big sustained block chords, it’s not easy to play, and Lee nailed it.

This particular recital was one of the bimonthly Prism Concerts, programmed by noted organist Gail Archer, which take place here at half past noon on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month. It’s a great way to reinvigorate if you work in midtown and can sneak out for awhile, and (shhhhh, don’t tell a soul) almost like having your own free, private concert.

January 26, 2010 Posted by | classical music, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 1/26/10

Til the next post, as we do every day the best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues all the way to #1. Tuesday’s song is #184:

Bloodrock – DOA

The web abounds with dumb sites which cite this bloodcurdling nine-minute dirge about a plane crash as one of the worst songs ever written. The studio version was a surprise 1972 radio hit for this otherwise forgettable Texas “hard rock” band, but it’s the version on their live album from the same year that’s the classic, ambulance siren sample woven into organist Stevie Hill’s lines as he steals a melody straight out of French organ composer Jehan Alain’s notoriously macabre Trois Danses.

January 26, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Gil Morgenstern’s Reflections Series at the Rubin Museum of Art, NYC 1/24/10

Violinist Gil Morgenstern‘s imaginative multimedia Reflections Series is one of the most original and interesting cultural events bubbling around the surface of the radar here in New York. Beginning at the Rubin Museum of Art a couple of years ago – with this season’s series continuing there through April 25 – Morgenstern’s vision was to create programs that semi-thematically blend chamber music with theatre, visual art and/or literature. Since the Rubin Museum is currently hosting the first-ever public exhibit of Carl Jung’s legendary Red Book, it only made sense to put together a bill that linked to Jung, even if tangentially through the work of Sylvia Plath – who as it turns out was a rather enthusiastic advocate of the archetypal archetypist.

As memorably as Morgenstern and pianist Donald Berman played their dream-themed mix of Schubert, Sibelius, Cage and Enesco, it was Elizabeth Marvel who held the crowd rapt with a powerful, vivid and strikingly nuanced evocation of Plath. Reading from a diverse selection of prose, sometimes solo, sometimes over the music, Marvel’s portrayal gave the doomed writer an energy that bordered on manic-depressive, a brightness and unselfconscious joie de vivre that made her darker moments and the foreshadowing thereof all the more ominous. From rapt, early morning connect-the-dots dream interpretation, to divaesque yet genuine alienation brought on by the nightmare to end all nightmares, to a delectably deadpan reading of a Plath story about a woman jousting with her husband’s overactive imagination and its brutally ironic consequences, Marvel was…well, you guess the word. She’s no stranger to theatre devotees – she’s won Obies and done everything from Shakespeare to Tennessee Williams to tv, so it’s hardly a stretch to imagine how easily she could springboard this role into a one-woman show. It would bring down the house.

The musicians were no less inspired in what was essentially a dusk-to-dawn sequence. Both Morgenstern and Berman are best known as advocates of new music, yet they sank their teeth just as avidly into the pre-Romantic material on the bill. Morgenstern’s incisive staccato right before the coda of Schubert’s Fantasie Suite beautifully reprised the understated portent of Berman’s chords opening the first movement, and his subtle vibrato added glimmer and warmth to the composer’s nocturne Night and Dreams. Georges Enesco’s Impressions of Childhood got an appropriately varied treatment: an uneasy country dance; a nervous lullaby; the brooding beauty of Wind in the Chimney, and a couple of pastoral miniatures. The most nightmarish moment was John Cage’s Dream, Berman’s piano casually colliding with Morgenstern’s effectively acidic textures.

Fortuitously, the Reflections Series has expanded across the United States and beyond, with performances from Florida to Italy – the next one here is April 25 featuring music of Poulenc with readings from Dante’s Inferno. And the Red Book continues to be on display at the Rubin Museum through February 15. The other current exhibits are also worth a look, notably the Indian, Nepalese and Tibetan religious and mystical paintings, mandalas, sculptures and miniatures. Free day is Friday starting at 7 PM.

January 25, 2010 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

CD Review: The Fools – Lost and Found

In case you might be wondering, this is not the 80s Boston band The Fools, of Psycho Chicken notoriety. These particular Fools, singer/guitarist Jen Tobin and bassist Uchenna Bright, play strikingly direct, lo-fi, sometimes folky janglerock songs with casual vocals, guitar and bass and occasional understated enhancement from accordion, bells or keys. Bright’s bass gets a growly tone that cuts through more like a guitar, adding terse accents that work perfectly in this setup. A lot of this comes at you through a wall of reverb like an old jazz record from the 50s. These songs get under your skin when you least expect it, they’re so tuneful.

The album is a mix of pensive and more upbeat material, the first song, Lullaby kind of anything but, yet it’s catchy, wistful and has a nice clang to it. Bright’s bass is there to cut through and elevate the tunes on the insistent pop song The Great Whale and the big 6/8 ballad Always Tomorrow. A Good Day picks up the pace with a garage rock edge; Cosmic Love is darker, more contemplative. One brief cut – the Fools keep them short and sweet – hints at country; another has more of an indie feel. There are also six “bonus” tracks which seem to feature Tobin solo, notably the memorably downcast Folly. It’s a good rainy day album, something to pick you up without bashing you too hard. They’re at Glasslands on the 30th at 10ish.

January 25, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 1/25/10

Til the next post, as we do every day the best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues all the way to #1. Monday’s song is #185:

The Rolling Stones – Fool to Cry

Slow, haunting, Curtis Mayfield-inspired ballad from the underrated 1975 Black & Blue album, all those layers of electric piano, organ and synth absolutely gorgeous.

January 24, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., music, concert, New York City, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Amy Allison at Banjo Jim’s, NYC 1/23/10

Amy Allison is all business tonight. She usually has a running conversation going with the audience by the second song of the show, but this time it’s all about those songs. That there’s as much talent in the crowd (a cellist, pianist and chanteuse all arriving within the span of about a minute) as there is onstage says a lot about the quality of the music: Allison’s biggest fans are her peers. Behind her are Lee Feldman on piano and Jon Graboff on acoustic guitar. Both are making up most of what they’re playing as they go along – jazz musicians do this all the time, but to see Allison’s wry, gemlike country and Americana-pop songs serve as a launching pad for this kind of interplay is pretty special. The two guys watch each other: Feldman hints at honkytonk but doesn’t really go there, landing instead on a richly chorded, somewhat noir early 60s pop style (what Roy Orbison would have done with that guy in the band, one can only wonder). Graboff has done stretches in Allison’s band and has some parts worked out – when he doesn’t, he’s adding a bassline as a countermelody when she goes up the scale, or weaves in between piano chords. With Allison playing rhythm guitar, it’s a textural feast.

The sound is great: she can relax and use every nuance, pull back a little and say a lot. And she does. The best song of the night is Dream World, beautiful, bittersweet and awfully dark. In the crowd, the cellist leans over and whispers to the adjacent bass player: “Half of her songs are about sleep!” Those songs are actually about escaping – and that’s what Allison is offering tonight, lots of solace, some knowing vocals and songs that the crowd can sing to themselves on the way home.

Craig Chesler has assembled seemingly half the talent on the Lower East Side to play his new album all the way through afterward. But we’ve already reviewed it – it’s good – and as claustrophobia sets in with every new arrival, it’s time to head west toward Lakeside.

January 24, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 1/24/10

Wow, the possibilities a new modem opens up! Back to the daily countdown as we chronicle the best 666 songs of alltime all the way to #1. Sunday’s song is #186:

The Dead Kennedys – Too Drunk to Fuck

Not only is this one of the funniest songs ever written, it’s also one of the alltime great garage rock hits. And also the #1 song of the year in Finland, 1981 – must be all that vodka. “Take out your fucking retainer, put it in your purse!”

January 24, 2010 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment