Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

The Jamie Begian Big Band Grins and Pushes the Envelope

Big Fat Grin, the new album by the Jamie Begian Big Band delivers everything a modern big band jazz outfit ought to: it’s a treat for anyone who goes for an intricate mesh of textures and a BIG, boisterous, ecstatic yet cerebral sound. Begian, a guitarist, takes a backseat here to the charts (there are cuts on which he doesn’t play at all). His game plan – to have fun, in a smart way – is a rousing success in every sense of the word. Fans of Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, the Alan Ferber Nonet and similar cutting-edge largescale ensembles have a lot to sink their ears into here. A sense of the unexpected pervades everything. Begian gets maximum impact out of the powerhouse sonics because of the dynamism of the arrangements, often pared down for just a couple of voices, or even a single instrument, so when the band takes it up all the way, the effect can be breathtaking. Another neat thing about this band is that it’s not all about the blare, either – the low end doesn’t get neglected, especially when Max Seigel is anchoring it with his bass trombone alongside Dave Ambrosio’s prominent bass. A handful of tracks here work permutations on a repetitive, circular theme, often moving the voicings around in an unpredictable rondo. Begian also frequently employs collage-style charts, intricate overlays of individual instruments that fan out kaleidoscopically, a device that’s as fascinating to follow as it is original and innovative.

The centerpiece here is a four part suite titled Tayloration, the most retro of the compositions. Tracking a persistent, three-note pulse through several permutations – murky low-register explorations lit up by a gruff Jeff Bush trombone solo, an altered bossa segment, a slow, sly boogie and swing passages that contrast vividly with the underlying simplicity. The album’s opening track, Funky Coffee is basically an orchestrated funk groove. The entire crew’s in on it, making it contagious to the extreme, with a characteristically terse, bluesy Marc McDonald alto solo. The following cut, Halay is essentially a one-chord jam, variations on a fanfare over a swaying bass pulse, with a brightly lyrical, klezmer-tinged Dimitri Moderbacher clarinet solo. The most counterintuitive track here is Patience, which begins by cycling an eerie chromatic theme, individual voices pairing off against the bass, and ends up matching an insistently serious horn chart against the woozy grin of Begian’s slide guitar. A gentle, bucolic number, Suddenly, Summer Falls features balmy flute from Moderbacher and solo flugelhorn from Jason Colby, followed by some surprising but perfectly devised Memphis-style soul guitar. The album ends with the title track, a blast of surprises including a truly hilarious false ending. The Jamie Begian Big Band play the Bahai Center, 53 E 11th St between University Place & Broadway on Tuesday, July 20 at 8 PM.

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July 18, 2010 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Song of the Day 7/18/10

Just eleven more days til our best 666 songs of alltime countdown reaches #1…and then we start with the 1000 best albums of alltime. Here’s Sunday’s song:

Elvis Costello – Brilliant Mistake

Ironically, this lyrical masterpiece – a continuation of the scathing anti-conformist kiss-off theme he first honed to perfection on New Amsterdam – is the only remotely interesting track on the otherwise forgettable King of America album from 1986. The link above is a live take from Milwaukee’s Summerfest some 23 years later.

July 18, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hipster Demolition Night II at Glasslands

This would have been the best rock show of the year if it hadn’t been so physically taxing. Thursday night, an atrocious sound mix and hundred-ten degree heat (the club has no air conditioning) couldn’t stop four excellent bands. Hipster Demolition Night III moves to Public Assembly in August, which has both air conditioning and much better sonics, an auspicious move for both musicians and fans, especially those who stuck around in the sweatbox this time out. The Anabolics opened. This band just gets better and better with every gig, it seems. Frontwoman/guitarist Anna Anabolic ran her Gibson through a vintage Vox amp for some of the most delicious natural distortion you can possibly imagine: in their finest moments, they sounded like the Dead Boys. Other times they resembled another first-rate female-fronted garage band, the Friggs (whose frontwoman Palmyra Delran happened to be playing Maxwell’s the same night). Anna’s chirpy vocals were buried in the mix most of the time, as were the bass player’s agile, fluid Rickenbacker lines. The drummer took a few vocals but never got the chance to cut through either. At least the songs were good: the ferocious Dead Boys-ish anthem they played early in the set, the Go Go’s-style girl-group punk song Bad Habit and the ghoulish Kill for Thrills that they closed with. They’re at Bruar Falls on August 1.

Jay Banerjee & the Heartthrobs were next. Banerjee is the creator of Hipster Demolition Night and really knows his way around a retro janglerock song. They have two Rickenbacker guitars in the band, which usually means a feast of ringing overtones; this show only hinted how good they’d sound with in a club with a competent sound engineer. Lead player Jason Szutek was obviously working hard, but most of what he played got lost in the sonic sludge. With the guitars abetted by some neat upper-register, melodic bass work, the band battled through a couple of powerpop numbers that could have been the Raspberries if those guys had been born right around the time they were making records. Several more echoed the way the Jam would amp up old R&B hits; a couple of tasty, jangly ballads had more than a few echoes of the Byrds. They closed with an ecstatically fun cover of the Beatles’ You Can’t Do That.

If the Gaslight Anthem could actually write a song, they might sound something like Wormburner. The anthemic New Jersey five-piece powerpop band blasted through one fiery, smartly lyrically-driven anthem after another. Escape is a constant theme with them (any surprise, considering where they’re from?). Early in the set, one of their janglier numbers, Peekskill, chronicled an aimless trip up and down (mostly down) along the Hudson, from one dead-end town to another, through power outages and worse. A cover of Guided By Voices’ Teenage FBI perfectly evoked its contempt and frustration at pressure to conform; their closing version of the Undertones’ Teenage Kicks was tighter and ballsier than the original. In between they threw in a catchy ba-ba-ba pop song, but done as the mid-80s Ramones might have done it, a couple of big midtempo stomps, and a long, drawn-out version of Interstate, their towering, distantly Springsteenish highway alienation anthem, their lead guitarist switching to bass and doing some tremendously interesting, melodic work with it (it was hard to hear much of anything else in the din, let alone their charismatic frontman’s lyrics). Interestingly, they also contributed the night’s lone, caustic anti-trendoid moment [From day one, we were pioneers here in refusing to use the h-word, even though Banerjee thinks that’s a mistake. He thinks that the more overtly hostile slur, “trendoid” plays into their “esthetic,” if you can call it that, because the word’s robotic connotation mirrors what they’d most like to be. He’s probably right.] Wormburner once shared a rehearsal space with the Rapture, and when they moved out they liberated one of the Rapture’s keyboard stands. That this stand was being used to support a keyboard being played by an actual human being (the rhythm guitarist) was a point that resonated with the crowd.

Muck & the Mires headlined. The moptopped, redshirted heirs to the throne occupied for decades by the Lyres and the Fleshtones, this era’s kings of garage rock were as fun as always. They mixed up a bunch of songs from their most recent album, Hypnotic one along with some older crowd-pleasers. Drummer Jessie Best and bassist John Quincy Mire kicked out a boisterously slinky British Invasion beat while frontman/rhythm guitarist “Muck” Shore and lead player Brian Mire punched and clanged over it with just enough vintage tube amp distortion to add a tinge of danger: considering how hot it must have been onstage by the time they went on, it’s surprising that nothing caught fire, at least in a literal sense.

Shore alluded to having Kim Fowley in the merch booth, which may or may not have been true, although Fowley did produce the new record. A couple of songs had a Jeff Beck-era Yardbirds rattle and clatter; the rest of the set smartly mixed up punch riff-rockers, jangly midtempo tunes and a couple with a ghoulabilly feel. The best song of the night was one of the set’s early ones, Do It All Over Again, a dead ringer for a Lyres classic circa 1981 with its snarling, insanely catchy chorus. By the time they finally called it a night, most of the crowd, withered by the heat, had escaped into the relative cool of Kent Avenue. Public Assembly in August has never looked so good.

July 18, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment