Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

The Dave Liebman Big Band’s New Album Is Gripping As Always

As Always, the new album by the Dave Liebman Big Band is characteristically rich and diverse, emphasizing lively interplay and striking, upbeat charts played by a first-class ensemble under the direction of saxophonist Gunnar Mossblad. Recorded live in concert in 2005 and 2007 in Colorado and Ohio, it features as many as nineteen players including longtime Liebman associates Vic Juris on guitar, Tony Marino on bass, Marko Marcinko on drums, Jim Ridl on keys and Scott Reeves (who also arranged a couple of the numbers here) on trombone and alto flugelhorn. Liebman’s soprano sax – and occasional flute – sail brightly over the dynamic arrangements. As much as this is a big band album, parts of it are remarkably quiet, which only enhances the intensity when they’re all going full tilt.

It opens with the aptly titled A Bright Piece, soprano sax swirls over big swells, to a funky groove with latin-tinged piano. This group has a sense of humor, a quality that rears its head frequently throughout this set, in this case the use of the bass clarinet soberly introducing a new variation after a bubbly Liebman solo. The title track is intimate despite the frequently blazing charts, with a pensively cinematic buildup to a lyrical ballad dynamics. Its more reflective sections between the big crescendos feature some particularly vivid interplay between Liebman and the piano or guitar.

Anubis is a showcase for the rich, chromatic intensity that Liebman has always excelled at, with some tremendoulsy interesting, subtly shapeshifting work by Marcinko behind the kit, moving almost imperceptibly from a clatter to a rumble. Liebman’s snakecharmer flute intro gets a slinky response from Jeff Nelson’s bass trombone, the band offering tinges of flamenco, funk and finally a baritone sax-driven groove where Liebman, back on soprano, goes flying over it. New Breed, an early 70s tune Liebman did with the Elvin Jones Group is genial, aggressive, cinematic postbop with cameos from just about everybody in the band and plenty of hard-driving, gritty Liebman work that feeds the flames for the rest of the crew to fan joyously.

Inspired by a Monet painting, Philippe Under the Green Bridge is as robust as a tone poem can get, another vivid example of Liebman’s wary chromatics with Charles Pillow on oboe adding an understatedly insistent, apprehensive edge before the fireworks begin and Liebman takes over. The album ends with Turn It Around, a tricky exercise in rhythmic interplay with a wry, twangy Juris solo. Liebman is currently on a five-day stand through 9/11 at Birdland at 8:30 and 11 PM with Steve Kuhn (piano), Steve Swallow (bass) and Billy Drummond (drums). Then he’s at the Blue Note on 9/13; playing the cd release show for his new small-combo cd on 9/17 at 55 Bar, and then the big cd release show for this one with the big band at Iridium on 10/6. Lots of chances to see a guy whose vitality and relevance has never dimmed over the course of a forty-year career.

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September 7, 2010 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

After Ten Years, Ninth House Finally Record Their Masterpiece

Long-running New York rockers Ninth House have been through as many incarnations as David Bowie or Madonna. Over the last decade, they’ve played ornate goth-tinged art-rock, straight-up punk, rockabilly, and even went through a brief jamband phase. Their new album 11 Cemetery & Western Classics finds them digging deep into frontman/bassist Mark Sinnis’ signature Nashville gothic songwriting style, and they’ve never sounded better: track for track, this is the best thing they’ve ever done. It’s a welcome return to the hard-hitting, stripped-down sound they first mined as a three-piece over ten years ago, with the added advantage of now having former Gotham Four frontman Keith Otten on guitar. He’s the best lead player you’ve never heard of, ripping through one intense, fire-and-brimstone solo after another, yet also just as likely to toss off a tongue-in-cheek rockabilly riff or poignant, plaintive washes of sound if a song calls for it, over the rumble and swing of Sinnis and drummer Francis Xavier.

They kick it off angry and bitter with Fifteen Miles to Hell’s Gate – “From New York City, the one that drags me into a hole,” Sinnis rages in between Otten’s alternately sparse and anguished leads. The relentless, doomed, pulsing Funeral for Your Mind features one of the most spine-tingling solos on any rock record this year; the fatalistic, tango-inflected Fallible Friend has a trumpet section that adds a spaghetti western feel, Otten’s savage, sardonic guitar a perfect complement to Sinnis’ cynical lyric. Otten’s countrypolitan guitar blends warmly with Susan Mitchell’s rustic, pastoral violin on the swinging Nashville gothic anthem The Room Filled Beyond Your Door, while When the Light Blinds and You Die takes a gospel melody and imbues it with suspenseful Steve Wynn-style psychedelic atmospherics.

A couple of tracks here date from the band’s landmark 2000 album Swim in the Silence. The Head on the Door-era Cure-style pop of Down Beneath is more swinging and carefree than the original, while Your Past May Come Back to Haunt Me, a genuine classic the first time around, trades lush 80s ambience for a raw, wounded intensity.

The album also includes a couple of covers: Lost Highway owes more to the Psychedelic Furs than it does Hank Williams, Mitchell adding unexpected flair with her violin, while guest pianist Matt Dundas gives a honkytonk edge to the Social Distortion-style stomp of Johnny Cash’s Blue Train. The album ends on a high note – as high a note as a song this morbid can hit, anyway – with the chaotic, sprawling country ballad 100 Years from Now, Sinnis announcing that when his time is up, he wants to be buried with a bottle of whiskey. Ninth House play the cd release show for this one on Sept 24 at midnight at UC 87 Lounge, 87 Ludlow St. between Delancey and Broome with free admission before 11.

September 7, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Mysterious Darkcho Album Is Back in Print

What a beautiful, haunting, sad album. Some might call it indie klezmer. The Darkcho album is old Hasidic cantorial music set to sparse acoustic or electric guitar with occasional trumpet or accordion. Not much is known about this. It was independently released as a very limited edition in 2004 and is now available from Shemspeed as a name-your-own-price download (a hard copy is ten bucks and well worth it). Who are these guys? From a look at the duo credited on the album, an extensive search for guitarist David Brook turns up nothing musically related. There is a Jonathan Harkham who has recorded acoustic Americana guitar music as “Johnny Bigtime,” who may be responsible for the Hebrew vocals here. The mystery only adds to the appeal. Traditional Jewish themes have long been staples of pop music – listen to anything released in the US prior to 1910 and it probably has a klezmer influence. And every surf and ska band knows Hava Nagila and plenty of others too, so this isn’t as far outside the mainstream as it might seem.

The slow instrumental Mah Lecho sets the tone for what’s to come, trumpet sailing mournfully over nimble, terse acoustic guitar and then accordion. The sad waltz Ki Hinei adds quiet noir tremolo guitar, followed by a klezmer theme redone with rustic Appalachian harmonica. The familiar, haunting theme Mizmor L’David is reimagined as spaghetti western; Brook’s guitar hammer-ons add a tinge of country to Eilu V’Eilu Omrim, and then the trumpet jumps in for an instant crescendo. The rest of the album takes on a feel that’s both stately and otherworldly: the expansive, accordion-driven title track; the slow, funereal Rachamono; the simple Anim Z’meiros, where the instruments all double the vocal line; the gentle Keili Ato, which builds from soft guitar folk to a march, and the concluding cut, a more sparse reprise of the King David theme. The somewhat lo-fi, reverb-toned production enhances the ghostly ambience. And the beauty and raw soul of the melodies transcends any religious connotation: this could be a smash hit far beyond the small if enthusiastic klezmer demimonde.

September 7, 2010 Posted by | folk music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Album of the Day 9/7/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Tuesday’s album is #875:

The Cure – Seventeen Seconds

The popular favorite, and deservedly so, is the quirkily charming Boys Don’t Cry; the goth crowd tends to gravitate toward Pornography, another splendid if completely different album. This is the missing link between the two. The cold gloom of its atmospherics foreshadowed the goth direction they’d take for the next few years, but there’s also a catchy pop sensibility that never falls over the edge into the cloying sound that would define the band’s other side, starting in 1986 with Head on the Door. This is their second album, from 1980, bassist Simon Gallup locking with drummer Lol Tolhurst for a tightly wound, propulsive beat (calling it a groove would be an overstatement) beneath Robert Smith’s icy jangle and affectless vocals. The title refers to how long the brain can maintain consciousness after the heart stops beating. A pensive, cinematic instrumental miniature sets the tone for each of the album sides; side one has the big hit Play for Today and a bit later on, the moody, furtive In Your House. Side two has the brooding, somewhat epic A Forest and At Night as well as M, arguably their best song, seemingly a reference to the serial killer role played so unforgettably by Peter Lorre in the Fritz Lang film. Here’s a random torrent.

September 7, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment