Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 10/6/11

As we try to do every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Thursday’s album is #482:

Charles Brown – Driftin’ Blues: The Best of Charles Brown

This suave, impeccably tasteful blues pianist/crooner was sort of the missing link between Nat King Cole and Jimmy Reed – outside of the church, this is where soul music got its start. This 20-track reissue from the mid-90s collects sides from 1945 through 1956. Ironically, Brown remains best-known for a cheesy Xmas song, Merry Christmas Baby. But this also has his first big hit, Driftin’ Blues along with the aptly nocturnal In the Evening When the Sun Goes Down and a killler version of Get Yourself Another Fool. There’s also the surprisingly subtle Trouble Blues, the brooding Black Night, Seven Long Days, and Evening Shadows along with somewhat more upbeat stuff like Please Don’t Drive Me Away and Count Basie’s I’ll Always Be in Love With You. Brown gets extra props for being a major influence on both Elvis Costello and LJ Murphy. Here’s a random torrent via Rukus Juice.

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October 6, 2011 Posted by | blues music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eric Clark Channels Liszt at Trinity Church

Isn’t it ironic that some of the most technically skilled musicians are sometimes the most soulless? One would think that the higher degree of proficiency a musician has, the greater the ability to communicate the most minute shade of emotion or complex idea. Sadly, that’s often not the case. Franz Liszt still gets pigeonholed as one of those technicians, somebody who wasted notes like a broken hydrant wastes water, and that’s too bad. Pianist Eric Clark’s virtuosic yet minutely nuanced performance of Liszt works today at Trinity Church validated any argument that Liszt’s soul matched his chops.

Much of Liszt may be fiendishly difficult to play, but Clark began counterintuitively with a masterfully spacious, thoughtfully paced take of Spozalizio (Italian for “wedding,” inspired by Raphael’s Marriage of the Virgin), setting the tone with its High Romantic warmth and lyricism. This was echoed a bit later in two settings of Petrarch sonnets (nos. 104 and 123), originally written as songs. The former manages to reach back to Bach as well as foreshadow the Electric Light Orchestra, with its swelling, alternating major and minor chords; the latter is a nocturne, Clark returning to the sensitive, judicious pacing of the first work. It’s not often that audiences get to hear the thoughtful side of Liszt: kudos to Clark for delivering it with grace and, if anything, understatement.

The piece de resistance was Apres Une Lecture De Dante (After Reading Dante), a hybrid sonata/fantasia, as the composer described it, that alternates a trip through hell with starlit, glimmering passages offering hope for an entirely different outcome in the afterlife. This was trademark fire-and-brimstone Liszt – literally – and Clark took the crowd along for a long, cinematic, chromatically-charged thrill ride interrupted memorably by the occasional rapt evocation of heavenly bliss.

Clark ended the program with Liszt’s arrangement of themes from Mozart’s Don Juan. That he would tackle it at all was brave; that he would pull it off flawlessly was an astonishing athletic feat. But as music, it was boring. For one, the source material is schlock to the core (one of Liszt’s dayjobs was playing the hits of the day, or the era, to rowdy concert hall audiences). And even the great Liszt would eventually run out of gas. It doesn’t take a close listen to hear how methodically – and after awhile, utterly predictably – he built little breaks in between the incessant pyrotechnics to give his fingers a bit of a rest from the rapidfire staccato octaves up the scale, meticulously pointillistic chromatics runs downward and roaring, torrential crescendos. And every one of those devices is employed to the point of overkill: there should be a drinking game where somebody has to chug whenever one of them appears. But the crowd gave Clark a standing ovation, and he had an encore ready – something he’s had to get used to by now, now doubt. It turned out to be a stormy, distantly Chopinesque prelude that only offered respite for his right hand, not his left. The way he did it, it almost looked easy.

October 6, 2011 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 10/5/11

As we do pretty much every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Wednesday’s album was #483:

The Maddox Brothers & Rose – On the Air

Some of this is corny but a lot of it is hilarious, and you get the picture that even when the band is being serious that they’re secretly laughing at you. Fred, Cal, Cliff and Don along with sister Rose, the star of the show are represented here by their very first radio broadcast, from 1940, plus another one from 1945 which on one hand is something else entirely, but also shows how well they had their act together when they first began. Their best stuff, the “hillbilly boogies,” foreshadows rock music, with its shuffle rhythm and lyrical innuendo: Hold That Critter Down, Small Town Mama, If You Ain’t Got The Do-Re-Mi, The Gold Rush Is Over and Too Old to Cut the Mustard among the best of them. There’s also rustic stuff like I’ve Rambled Around, bluesy stuff like Meanest Man in Town and Fried Potatoes and some requisite country gospel – Gathering Flowers For The Master’s Bouquet – and cowboy songs among the 40 tracks here. If you like this you might also like the 1961 compilation The World’s Most Colorful Hillbilly Band, Vol. 2. Here’s a random torrent via the always rocking Rockin Gipsy.

October 6, 2011 Posted by | country music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment