Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Jay Banerjee’s New Album Slashes and Clangs

Cynical janglerock heaven. Jay Banerjee may be best known at the moment as the creator of Hipster Demolition Night, arguably New York’s best monthly rock event, but he’s also a great tunesmith. On his new album “Ban-er-jee,” Just Like It’s Spelled, he plays all the instruments, Elliott Smith style (aside from a couple of a couple of harmonica and keyboard cameos, anyway). Drawing deeply on the Byrds, the Beatles, the first British invasion and 60s soul music, Banerjee offers a slightly more pop, more straightfoward take on what Elvis Costello has done so well for so long, crafting a series of three-minute gems with a biting lyrical edge. The obvious influence, both guitar- and song-wise, is the Byrds’ Roger McGuinn – like McGuinn, Banerjee plays a Rickenbacker. The tunes here are brisk, with an impatient, scurrying pulse like the Dave Clark Five, with layers of guitar that ring, jangle and chime, throwing off fluorescent washes of magically glimmering overtones as only a Rickenbacker can do.

Lyrically, Banerjee goes for the jugular, sometimes with tongue in cheek but generally not. These are songs for guys. Banerjee’s characters, if they are in fact characters, have no stomach for drama, no patience for indecisive girls holding out for men they’ll never be able to measure up to. And these women don’t get off easy. The funniest and most spot-on cut here is Long Way Home: what the Stooges’ Rich Bitch was to Detroit, 1976, this one is to Brooklyn, 2010, a brutal dismissal of a “dress up doll with a goofy drawl” who finds that she’s no match for New York heartlessness. By contrast, Just Another Day (not the McCartney hit, in case you’re wondering) is equally vicious but far more subtle. Banerjee lets the gentrifier girl’s aimless daily routine slowly unwind: finally awake by noon, “She tells herself if life’s a game, it isn’t hard to play/’Cause all you lose is just another day.”

A handful of the other tracks have obviously pseudonymous womens’ names. Dear Donna, the opening cut, sarcastically rejoices in pissing off the girl’s mother – via suicide note. Kate is rewarded for having “too many feelings” with a memorable Byrds/Beatles amalgam. Lindsay won’t be swayed by any overtures, and her shallow friends may be partially at fault: “They said you pray that I just find someone desperate/Lindsay, all that they say, already I could have guessed it.” Another cut manages to weld the artsy jangle of the Church to a Chuck Berry boogie, with surprisingly effective results. There’s also the early 60s, Roy Orbison-inflected noir pop of Leave Me Alone; See Her Face, the Byrdsiest moment here; and the clanging 60s soul/rock of No Way Girl. Fans of both classic pop and edgy, wounded rock songwriters like Stiv Bators have plenty to sink their teeth into here.

With his band the Heartthrobs, Banerjee rocks a lot harder than he does here: your next chance to see them is the next Hipster Demolition Night at Public Assembly on December 9, starting at 8 with the garage rocking Demands, then Banerjee at 9 followed at 10 by psychedelic rockers Whooping Crane and then oldschool soul stylists the Solid Set. Cover is seven bucks which comes out to less than $2 per act: did we just say that this might be New York’s best monthly rock night, or what?

By the way, for anyone lucky enough to own a turntable, the album’s also available on vinyl.

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December 1, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Isabelle O’Connell’s Dark, Deep Reservoir

Irish pianist Isabelle O’Connell’s new album Reservoir is compelling collection of dark, serious solo pieces by contemporary composers from her native land. It’s a mix of the deceptively simple and the rigorously difficult, performed with a grace and dignity that does justice to the intensity of the compositions. The title track, by Donnacha Dennehy, is particularly gripping. With its incessant quarter-note insistence and interlocking astringent chords, it’s evocative of Louis Andriessen and it’s also obviously very difficult to hold on a steady course. O’Connell meets the challenge with a steely resolve. Big, by Ian Wilson, is a smallscale partita with distant echoes of Brahms, moving from a big chordal introduction to scurrying righthand against an incisive staccato, finally winding out on a hypnotic circular phrase. O’Connell follows that with Jane O’Leary’s aptly titled miniature Forgotten Worlds and its terse, rippling glimmer. Seoirse Bodley’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North, a spacious narrative, grows from austerely rustic to more lively as the journey through the brush finally reaches its destination.

John Buckley’s Three Preludes gleam with a bracing disquiet, the first a series of methodically paced, off-center arpeggios; the second, an eerie, chromatically-charged waltz; the third more stately and Chopinesque. Three pieces (nos. 10, 11 and 13) from The Klippel Collection by Brian Irvine offer both satirical and straightforwardly Romantically tinged melody as well as a deliciously Satie-esque prelude of sorts. And Philip Martin’s Along the Flaggy Shore is desolately creepy, a spaciously wintry scene that ends with a single note of vocalese – a ghost, maybe?

There’s also some humor here as well. Elaine Agnew’s Seagull is a playful yet dignified salute to the shorebird – it stops and starts but also gazes out to sea with a wistful poignancy, then takes a briskly tense, perfectly executed walk up and down the beach. And Jennifer Walshe’s Becher is a genuinely hilarious pastiche of dozens of famous intros and outros from Beethoven, Scott Joplin, the Verve, Chopin, and perhaps most amusingly, Grieg, who really gets a sendup here as one of his most famous motifs gets sent up the scale and morphs into the Beatles. O’Connell plays the segues absolutely deadpan and absolutely tight – it’s impossible to resist pausing and then rewinding because the jokes are flying by so fast.

December 1, 2010 Posted by | avant garde music, classical music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Manhattan Organist Makes a Mark at St. Thomas Church

This is how decisions are made around here: one contingent thought a concert so close to the site of the impending dead-tree ceremony would not be a good idea. The other argued for it: dead trees be damned, we’re going. As it turned out, the dead tree was somewhere enroute and the tourists hadn’t made the surrounding streets any more impassable than usual. That was Sunday, when Mark Pacoe – Director of Music at St. Malachy’s Church/The Actors’ Chapel on 49th St. – brought his fast fingers and smartly intuitive sensiblity to the organ at St. Thomas Church a few blocks from home.

He started out on the back organ, warming up with a brief series of pre-baroque variations on a hymn by Sweelinck, following with a stately take on the Largo from Bach’s Trio Sonata in C Minor (BMV 526) on the resonant low woodwind stops. Buxtehude’s Prelude, Fugue and Ciacona (BuxWV 137) is more matter-of-fact and less cutting-edge than a lot of his material, but the work is still far ahead of its late 1600s vintage: Pacoe took his time with it, resisting the urge to air it out, maximizing the dynamics.

On the church’s more powerful front organ, that sense of dynamics took centerstage absolutely brilliantly in the Allegro from Charles Widor’s Sixth Symphony. It’s a warhorse of the organ repertoire, everybody plays it, but Pacoe made it stunningly fresh by bringing it back to its roots. The backstory here is that the composer himself recorded it at breakneck speed so as to fit as much of it as possible onto a 78 RPM record – and maybe to reaffirm that at age 88, he could still shred in the organ console. However, when Widor wrote it, he took care to mark that it should not be played too fast. Pacoe’s steady, deliberate pacing delivered its slowly, inexorably building crescendos with a rich suspense that powerfully enhanced its ultimate drama. On a similar note, he’d preceded that movement with the Cantabile from the same symphony, this time giving a little extra oomph and shine to its airy atmospherics rather than simply letting them linger. Also on the program was Peter Eben’s Hommage a Dietrich Buxtehude, an attempt to construct a medieval North German style prelude and fugue using astringent modern tonalities and blustery pedal passages, a strangely captivating hybrid that Pacoe lit into with gusto.

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

Album of the Day 12/1/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Wednesday’s album is #790:

Dolly Parton – Little Sparrow

If you’ve followed this list as we’ve been rolling it out (or as it’s been unraveling, as somebody here put it), you’ve probably noticed an absence of classic country albums. That’s because so many great country artists were singles artists. Their albums tend to have a few good cuts surrounded by lots of filler: songs written on the fly by the producer, or included as a favor to the producer’s out-of-work friends, that kind of thing. Here’s one that’s not. Dolly Parton had written a ton of good songs by the time she put this one out in 2001, the second in a series of extremely successful acoustic albums that saw her return to her bluegrass roots. It’s a loosely thematic Nashville gothic album of sorts with a supernatural theme, its centerpiece the whispery witch’s tale Mountain Angel, followed by the winsome, compelling Marry Me. She’s always been known for wacky covers (she’d do Led Zep the next time out); this one has an actually excellent, unrecognizable version of Shine by Collective Soul (featuring Nickel Creek), and a surprisingly effective cover of Cole Porter’s I Get a Kick Out of You. There’s also the soaring, plaintive title track and a lickety-split Seven Bridges Road; a version of I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby that’s even bouncier than the original; the ballads A Tender Lie and The Beautiful Lie (thematic, you see); the Irish traditional song Down from Dover, and the country gospel mainstay In the Sweet Bye and Bye to wrap it up. Dolly sings her heart out and the energy is contagious: the band sound like they’re about to jump out of their shoes with joy in places. Here’s a random torrent.

December 1, 2010 Posted by | country music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments