Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Song of the Day 3/18/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Thursday’s song is #133:

The Sex Pistols – Pretty Vacant

“And we don’t care!!!!” With all those layers of guitar, Chris Thomas’ production turned the band into a punk orchestra. The link above is a live clip from their 1996 reunion tour.

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

Art Review: The Spiritual and the Simian at the Jewish Museum

There are two strikingly different but captivating new exhibits up at the Jewish Museum (1109 5th Ave., enter on 92nd St.) for you to enjoy. The more serious one exhibits three iconic poststructuralists’ works rarely seen outside the space for which they were commissioned, the Congregation B’nai Israel Synagogue in Millburn, New Jersey. In 1951, Robert Motherwell, Herbert Ferber and Adolph Gottlieb were called on to deliver A) a rather striking, symbolically-charged wall-size painting, B) a vividly optimistic, ur-1950s lead-on-copper sculpture that foreshadows Frank Stella and C) a floor-to-ceiling quilt designed by Gottlieb, woven with respect to tradition by the women of the congregation. These were all cutting-edge then and it’s fascinating to see them here today, out of context.

Now for the fun, family-friendly part. For those of us who grew up with Curious George and retain happy memories of his misadventures, the exhibit on H.A. Rey and his wife Margaret is pure nirvana – and it’ll resonate with curious kids a little older than Curious George age who haven’t come to the point where they consider those books babyish. And it wasn’t Hector Aquiles Rey from Mexico or the Dominican who wrote them – it was the former Hans Augusto Reyersbach, a German Jewish emigrant who narrowly escaped the Nazi invasion of Paris with his wife, making the thousand-mile trek to Lisbon via bicycle before embarking for Brazil and then New York. As it turns out, he’s the model for the Man in the Yellow Hat (Reyersbach hispanicized his name while working in Brazil); Margaret was the inspiration for Fifi, later renamed Curious George by an American editor. Very interestingly, she was the mastermind behind the stories. There are sketches, original illustrations and rare photos by Margaret along with an especially poignant exchange of correspondence between H.A. Rey and his editor in London, carried on from stops along the way (the Reys never stopped writing and working on stories, and evidence of this actually saved them from suspicion by the authorities on several occasions).It’s truly an exhibit for the H.A. Rey completist – the museum has their passports, their visas, their address books, everything but their luggage (much of that, sadly, was lost somewhere between Paris and Lisbon). There’s also a cozy nook for little ones to play, with copies of the books in question. The whole thing adds an entirely new dimension to a Curious George style “narrow escape.”

The exhibits run concurrently through August 1. Museum hours are Saturday-Tuesday 11 AM-5:45 PM, Thursday 11 AM-8 PM and Friday 11 AM-4 PM. Free day is Saturday.

March 17, 2010 Posted by | Art, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: The Rough Guide to Arabic Lounge

Sometimes the Rough Guide albums have funny titles (how about the Rough Guide to Blues Revival, released in…2009?!?) For those of you who are wondering what on earth this one could be, good news, it’s not really a lounge album at all. Rather, the Rough Guide to Arabic Lounge is a compilation of some of the most interesting, cutting-edge, genre-blurring Middle Eastern flavored music from around the globe, along with some gorgeously familiar traditional sounds. As with the other Rough Guides over the past year, this one is a twofer including an excellent bonus cd by Algerian gypsy-rai songwriter Akim El Sikameya and his band.

If you’re a fan of this kind of stuff, the compilation will stretch your ears. The huge Lebanese hit Al Guineya by Ghazi Abdel Baki that opens it sounds like Leonard Cohen in Arabic, a tango with balmy sax, tasteful fingerpicked minor-key acoustic guitar and Abdel Baki’s sepulchral vocals. Hymn of the Sea by Palestinian chanteuse Rim Banna is slinky trip-hop with accordion and upright bass, evocative of a Stevie Wonder hit from the 70s. Lebanese oud virtuoso and longtime Marcel Khalife sideman Charbel Rouhana contributes Ladyfingers, a violin-and-oud instrumental like the Gipsy Kings. Arabic chanteuse Soumaya Baalbaki is represented by a beautiful habibi jazz song, followed by Emad Ashour’s solo cello taqsim, bracing, intense and in a maqam (scale) that’s not stereotypically Arabic.

Ishtar, of Alabina fame has a characteristically gypsy-inflected levantine dance-pop tune, contrasting mightily with trumpet innovator Amir ElSaffar’s almost bop-jazz instrumental and its boisterous conversation between his quartertone trumpet and a low-register ney flute. Mohamed Sawwah offers a murky piano-and-vocal ballad; there’s also Middle Eastern inflected Cuban son by Hanine y Son Cubano, an Iraquicized oud version of Johnny Guitar by the late oud legend Munir Bashir; the haunting, lush Jordanian harmonies of Dozan; a tersely fiery bouzouki solo by Mohamed Houssein, and Azzddine with Bill Laswell doing a gypsy melody as Morroccan trip-hop with spacey vocoder vocals!

The Akim El Sikameya cd is worth owning by itself and makes a nice bonus. The obvious comparison is Manu Chao, El Sikameya drawing on the native Algerian trip-hop rhythm with frequent gypsy guitar or accordion accents and more modern touches like oud played through a chorus box on the first track, and downtempo, loungey electric piano on another. They start one song out with what’s essentially Egyptian reggae, quickly morphing into a brisk gypsy dance; the later part of the album features some absolutely chilling, beautiful violin work. Another strong effort from the Rough Guide folks, who have really been on a roll lately and should definitely be on your radar if you’re a world music fan.

March 17, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 3/17/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. It would be just too bandwagonesque to put up something by, say, the Pogues today, so you’ll have to make do with a Brit. Here’s #134:

Siouxsie & the Banshees – Icons

The centerpiece of the band’s 1979 WWI-themed Join Hands album kicks off with the rumble of cannon fire behind a fiery wall of guitar. And then the bass comes in and they’re off. “Icons feed the fires, icons falling from the spires!”

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