Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Debo Band Rock Joe’s Pub, Ethiopian Style

Debo Band (pronounced “debbo”) first crossed our radar via powerhouse Balkan band Ansambl Mastika, who’d shared a bill with them at Don Pedro’s in Bushwick a few months back. In the far swankier yet confining digs of Joe’s Pub last night, it was incongruous watching the band lay down one irresistible groove after another while the practically sold-out house bounced in their seats. Finally, toward the end of the show, a guy sitting just to the right of the stage became the voice of reason, bounding up on his feet, the band’s guest vocalist joining him from about ten feet away onstage as there was no room to get past the tables. What a party this would have been if they’d cleared the floor for dancing.

In over an hour onstage, the eleven-piece band and their special guests from Ethiopia swung and bounced through one hypnotic, slowly crescendoing number after another. Their dapper, black-clad frontman smiled his way through several Amharic-language songs with an unexpectedly disquieting trill in his voice that reminded of John Lydon – did PiL listen to Ethiopian music? You never know. The band’s tuba player did three-on-four as the bassist played snaky triplets along with the rest of the band, which included two tenor saxes, two violins, accordion, Telecaster, drums and a percussionist wailing away on a set of three boomy tom-toms. At one point, one of the tenor players switched to baritone sax and despite the club’s characteristically dodgy sonics, it was low-register heaven.

Several of the songs ran circular, snaky themes that built slowly from hypnotic and swirling to bright crescendos, the saxes and violins hinting at how crazy they could get but never quite going there. One of the violin players had a wah-wah pedal, which he used to maximize the funk on the intoxicatingly catchy, intense minor-key vamp they closed the set with. The trio of guests up onstage with them (whom they’d met at a festival in Zanzibar) energized the crowd with their showy dance moves, one of the women delivering throaty, impassioned, wailing vocals when she wasn’t swaying and undulating, her several heavy, metal necklaces bouncing against her chest and adding yet another texture to the beat. In the middle, they brought it down a little with a reggae-tinged beat, adding some subtle dub echoes; at the end, the crowd screamed for an encore and this time the club gave them one, another bright, catchy, funky vamp that could have gone on three times as long as it did and everyone would have enjoyed it three times as much. If this show is any indication, their brand-new live ep must be amazing.

September 18, 2010 Posted by | funk music, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gabriel Alegria’s Afro-Peruvian Jazz Is Nothing Like What You Might Expect

As you would expect from a latin jazz album by someone named Gabriel Alegria, his Afro-Peruvian Sextet’s new cd Pucusana offers plenty of happiness. But it also has a striking amount of depth. Latin jazz is usually party music, and so is this, but this group covers vastly more emotional terrain, maybe because its influences draw far more from their native Peru than from the islands. In fact, much of this could be called Lima noir. Trumpeter Alegria offers more than a nod to vintage, 50s Miles Davis here, bolstered by Laura Andrea Leguia on saxes, Yuri Juarez on acoustic guitar and vocals, Freddy Lobaton on percussion, Hugo Alcazar on drums, and the Yellowjackets’ Russell Ferrante on keys, with bass duties split between John Benitez and Ramon De Bruyn. The songs here alternate between two kinds of grooves here: lando is the slow, slinky one, festejo the more upbeat.

The best one here is the opening track, Taita Guaranguito, an original arrangement of a traditional criollo melody. It’s not a cumbia, but it has the same kind of dusky slink: not surprising, considering that Alegria cites groundbreaking, eclectic Peruvian band los Hijos del Sol as a formative influence. With its unstoppable midtempo pulse and simple yet potently direct guitar solo, it would make a great surf song (or chicha song). Another standout track is Eva, written by Leguia. Her playing throughout the album is melodic, warmly intimate and stunningly terse: she doesn’t waste notes. Shifting from a brooding intro with muted trumpet to a bossa-pop theme, Leguia’s solo takes a surprisingly phantasmagorical direction, leaving it to Alegria to move the clouds away. Lobaton is a one-man percussion army, notably on another traditional tune, Toro Mata (Dead Bull), a chromatically-charged number rich with interplay, call-and-response, a devious false ending and an incisive bass solo from De Bruyn.

Their cover of My Favorite Things is casual yet intense, coalescing slowly around a bass beat and guest Arturo O’Farrill’s tensely chordal piano, Alcazar searching memorably for a place to settle in, Leguia spiraling down to some insistent Coltrane-influenced riffage. The title track contrasts Alegria’s moody Miles-influenced lines with Leguia’s buoyant excursion out of the rumbling drums. Another original, Piso 19 (The Nineteenth Floor) has a vividly urban , retro 50s bustle; the bouncy, playful Mono de Nazca has Leguia’s expansive solo winding down to echoey solo electric piano and then Benitez growling over a thicket of percussion. They close on a catchy, balmy tropical note with an alternate take of the third track featuring a soul-infused solo from Benitez again. Consider this a stealth candidate for best jazz album of 2010.

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