Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Edmar Castaneda Beats the Heat

Wednesday night at Madison Square Park, Colombian jazz  harpist Edmar Castaneda didn’t let the crushing heat and humidity phase him, playing a breathtaking show with Andrea Tierra on vocals, Dave Silliman on drums and Shlomi Cohen on soprano sax. Castaneda is the kind of musician who absolutely blows you away with his intensity and his chops, a hyperkinetic figure playing rapidfire piano voicings, intricate folk melodies, furious volleys of staccato notes and anchoring all of this with nimble, funky basslines that he played on a series of low strings that seemed to be amped separately from the rest of his harp. Wow! Castaneda more than once referred to Silliman as “the man with four hands,” but it might as well have been himself.

The trio of Castaneda, Silliman and Cohen opened with an expansive, slowly crescendoing version of Roomful of Colors (that’s the English translation of a track from his latest album), Silliman artfully weaving between Castaneda’s polyrhythms as Cohen brought the heat up even further with eerie Balkan and klezmer-inflected trills and modal passages. The title cut, Between the Strings was less allusion than head-on intensity, anchored by a vivid, insistent descending progression, Castaneda hammering out plaintive chordal motifs as Silliman and Cohen nimbly rode the composition’s rises and falls. Castaneda held the crowd rapt with a solo rendition of  the epic, anguished but ultimately triumpant Jesus of Nazareth, a showcase for every technique in his book. Then they brought up Tierra (Castaneda’s wife) for a jazzed-up version of a poignant Colombian folk song: with a powerful, mysterious lower register, she introduced a nocturnal ambience that grew dramatic and then plaintive. They closed with a long, animated tribute to Tierra and Castaneda’s native Colombia, a potently effective advertisement for the beauty and appeal of the country, Tierra’s deep-river contralto a powerful contrast with Cohen’s soaring, knife-edge flights. Clearly, their connection to the country is tight, complex and not without considerable longing to return there. Castaneda typically plays the Jazz Standard when he’s in town; watch this space for future NYC dates.

And while we’re at it, a big shout-out to trombonist Art Baron, who played a killer mix of standards and grooves with Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar at St. Marks Park yesterday: hearing Pizzarelli methodically fire off one delicious chordal cluster after another while Baron, tenor player Steve Elson and others took flight overhead was a real treat, especially during their inspired closing number, Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man. Pizzarelli is at Rockefeller Park on 7/13 at 7 PM with a bunch of other jazzcats playing a Jonathan Schwartz tribute.

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July 8, 2011 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 7/8/11

Our exhaustive July-August NYC live music calendar is finally, finally 99% complete…at least as complete as it ever gets, considering that we update it every day.  More new stuff coming soon! Also, as we do every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Friday’s album is #571:

Penelope Houston – Pale Green Girl

Best known as the leader of late 70s punk rockers the Avengers – who were sort of the American Sex Pistols – Penelope Houston subsequently forged out a brilliant career as a much quieter, mostly acoustic tunesmith. She’s literally never made a bad album. Among the many cult classics in her catalog, this 2004 release gets the nod, if only for its consistency all the way through. Aside from the Avengers, it’s her hardest-rocking effort to date, with a late 60s psychedelic pop vibe fueled by gorgeous twelve-string guitar. As you would expect, it’s eclectic, ranging from the hopeful, jangly Take My Hand, to the sad, ghostly Aviatrix, the disarmingly poppy, metaphorically-charged Flight 609, and the quietly savage outsider anthem that serves as the title track. Bottom Line veers from dark reggae to jangly Byrdsiness; Privilege & Gold, Walnut and Snow are bitterly vivid, lyrical Britfolk-inflected laments; the album ends with Soul Redeemer, the searing account of a rape survivor, and a lushly beautiful cover of John Cale’s Buffalo Ballet. This one hasn’t made it to the sharelockers, surprisingly, but the whole thing is streaming at myspace (don’t forget to reload the page after each song or else you’ll be assaulted by a loud audio ad) and it’s still available from Houston’s site.

July 8, 2011 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment