Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Rocking the World with John Koprowski

Singer John Koprowski’s Five Years That Rocked the World, 1964-1969 is the rare cabaret show that’s both family-friendly and edgy. That may seem like the world’s biggest oxymoron, but Koprowski (abetted by musical director and perennial MAC awardwinner Tracy Stark) has put together a somewhat stagy revue that tells the story of the Sixties via an informative, sometimes predictable but often counterintuitive mix of rock and pop songs from the era (and a little afterward, if you count the Kinks and the Grateful Dead). It’s a rock show for cabaret rooms at this point: with some work, it would have legs on Broadway, as last night’s performance at the Laurie Beechman Theatre more than hinted. Eric Michael Gillett’s direction keeps the show moving along briskly: between songs or medleys, Koprowski’s narration comes across in the style of a low-key, friendly AM disc jockey with a casually encyclopedic, historical awareness of oldies rock that transcends the trivia usually associated with those songs.

This isn’t some anonymous pit band phoning in Abba covers for the umpteenth time, either: Stark, a luminous pianist, strikes an imaginative balance between the hippie inspiration of the originals and an artsy, frequently harder-rocking edge. Eclectic guitar virtuoso Peter Calo and the incomparable Susan Mitchell on violin bring serious downtown cred, backed by a rhythm section of Owen Yost on bass and Donna Kelly on drums along with Wendy Russsell and Cindy Green on vocals. Koprowski projects a friendly, knowing I-was-there vibe: a comedic explanation for why he’s able to remember it comes around when he explains how much of his friends’ time and energy was consumed by the ever-present search for drugs (a subject that he tackles deftly and then deflects, something that parents will appreciate).

There are some transcendent moments here. Russell and Green give Koprowski a lurid backdrop to eerily explode out of with a gimlet-eyed menace on an absolutely chilling, gothic reinterpretation of Creedence’s Bad Moon Rising. Mitchell’s sizzling gypsy-blues solo on a Hendrix-inspired All Along the Watchtower (which Calo caps off with a surreally savage one of his own) is worth the price of admission alone. Mitchell and Calo also unearth the rustic country song beneath Arlo Guthrie’s Coming Into Los Angeles, then segue effortlessly into the Byrds’ Fifth Dimension (that band, along with Dylan, is an obvious favorite here). Koprowski’s strongest moment, a bitterly declamatory take on Phil Ochs’ I Feel Like I’m Fixing to Die Rag, is again set up by Green and Russell, this time with deadpan cruelty, a potent evocation of the antiwar struggle, not to mention the sheer body count of the Vietnam War. The nascent gay liberation movement is also addressed via a winking version of the Kinks’ Lola. Among the rest of the songs, including hits by the Mamas and the Papas, Country Joe and the Fish, the Jefferson Airplane and the Beatles (a spot-on version of Revolution lit up by Calo’s overdriven guitar against Stark’s warm, flowing chordlets, and a less successful version of With a Little Help from My Friends), the only dud is America, a shaggy-dog story from the Paul Simon songbook that comes across as something like a Pinataland outtake.

Koprowski is funny, humble and sings the songs in context, something that a younger singer might not be able to pull off so effortlessly. But to a millennial generation raised on autotune and American Idol (and their long-suffering parents), it couldn’t hurt to bolster Koprowski’s vocals, which are those of a survivor, dents and all. Consider: the people who wrote these songs were all in their twenties. To relegate Green – a versatile, tremendously compelling talent – to the occasional harmony is a mistake (was she a last-minute addition to the cast?). Likewise, the show would benefit from considerably more time in the spotlight from Russell: her quietly crescendoing lead vocal on Janis Ian’s plea for racial harmony, Society’s Child, is unselfconsciously poignant. Obviously, with shows like these in their early stages, rehearsals all too often are limited, but since so many of the original versions of these songs featured all sorts of vocal harmonies, the opportunies that the presence of Russell and Green – and Stark as well – offer are tantalizing, and with a little work could be every bit as compelling as the instrumentation. With a little more help from his friends, Koprowski could take this to a much bigger stage.

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May 3, 2012 Posted by | concert, drama, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music, theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2012 Undead Jazz Festival Calendar – This Year’s a Good One

This year’s Undead Music Festival opens Wednesday, May 9th with their signature multi-venue marathon night featuring over two dozen combos at three West Village venues (le Poisson Rouge, Sullivan Hall and Kenny’s Castaways). A noteworthy development this year is the presence of Melissa Caruso Scott and John Scott, the creative forces behind Tonic, the fertile and sorely missed Norfolk Street haven for improvised music of every stripe. In memory of that scene, the Scotts have assembled a Tonic reunion show at le Poisson Rouge featuring Sex Mob, White Out, Yuka C. Honda, Elysian Fields, Billy Martin and others. Here’s the May 9 lineup:

LE POISSON ROUGE:

6:45 Heather Greene & Ursa Minor

7:45 Jamie Saft’s New Zion Trio

8:15 The Rufuseniks with Ted Reichman, John Hollenbeck & Reuben Radding

9:30 Billy Martin Improv with Shelley Hirsch, Erik Freidlander, and more TBA

10:00 Dougie Bowne’s Peninsula

10:30 Yuka C. Honda’s EUCADEMIX

11:00 White Out w/ Bill Nace

11:30 Elysian Fields

12:00 Steven Bernstein’s Sex Mob

12:30 Ben Perowsky’s Moodswing Orchestra with TK Webb, Danny Blume and Michael Blake

1:00 Vernon Reid, Calvin Weston and Jamaaladeen Tacuma Trio to close the show!

KENNY’S CASTAWAYS:

7:00 Secret Architecture

8:00 Ohad Talmor’s Newsreel (w/ Dan Weiss, Miles Okazaki, Shane Endsley, Jacob Sacks, Matt Pavolka)

9:00 Nate Wooley Quintet (w/ Josh Sinton, Matt Moran, Eivind Opsvik, Harris Eisenstadt)

10:00 Greg Ward Trio (w/ Joe Sanders, Damion Reid)

11:00 Chicago Underground Duo (Rob Mazurek, Chad Taylor)

12:00 Joe Sanders (w/ Pat Carroll, Rodney Green)

1:00 Val-Inc

SULLIVAN HALL:

7:30 Kris Davis Trio (w/ Michael Sarin, Eivind Opsvik)

8:30 Positive Catastrophe

9:30 Stabbing Eastward (Ryan Sawyer & Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio)

10:30 Tony Malaby’s Paloma Recio (w/ Ben Monder, Drew Gress, and Flin van Hemmen)

11:30 Chris Dingman’s Waking Dreams (w/ Loren Stillman, Fabian Almazan, Ike Sturm, and Jared Schonig)

12:30 Gerald Cleaver’s Black Host (w/ Darius Jones, Brandon Seabrook, Cooper-Moore, Pascal Niggenkemper)

1:30 Jonathan Finlayson & Sicilian Defense (w/ Shane Endsley, Miles Okazaki, Keith Witty, Damion Reid)

Friday, May 11th is Night of the Living DIY, emphasis on the wilder side of improvisation. Each show has a suggested $10 donation which includes a beer for every $10. The lineup is:

Seeds – 617 Vanderbilt Ave, Ft. Greene: solo performances from Jacob Garchik (trombone / computer), Miles Okazaki (guitar), Greg Heffernan (cello / computer), Dan Weiss (drums), Ohad Talmor (tenor sax), Jacob Sacks (Rhodes) + special guests

35 Claver – 35 Claver, Bed-Stuy: Noah Garabedian’s Big Butter & Egg Men + Why I Must Be Careful + First Cousins Once Removed (Adam Schatz, Danny Fisher-Lochhead, Jonathan Goldberger, Skye Steele) + Arts & Sciences

IBeam – 168 7th St., Gowanus: Denver General (Kirk Knuffké, Jonathan Goldberger, Jeff Davis) + Goldberg Variations for String Trio (Miranda Sielaff, Kristi Helberg, Andrea Lee) + The Four Bags (Brian Drye, Jacob Garchik, Mike McGinnis, Sean Moran)

Big Snow Buffalo Lodge – 89 Varet St., Bushwick: Nate Wooley + The Home Of Easy Credit (Louise Dam Eckardt Jensen & Tom Blancarte) + Talibam + Vavatican

ShapeShifter Lab – 18 Whitwell Place, Gowanus: Travis Sullivan’s Bjorkestra

Andrew D’Angelo at 58 N 6th St.,, Williamsburg: featuring artists from Denmark, Norway + Sweden + the group GNOM (tube, drums, trombone) + D’Angelo on bass clarinet and alto saxophone; MERGER with Andrew N D’Angelo and Kirk Knuffke + Spontaneous Constructions featuring many great NY improvisers: Greg Ward, Jeff Lederer, Kirk Knuffke, Josh Sinton, Dan Weiss, Josh Roseman, Hilmar Jensson, Adam Schatz, Kenny Warren, Jesse Stacken, Skye Steele, Jonathan Finlayson, Andrew D’Angelo and more

The festival winds up on Saturday, May 12th with a night of round robin duet improvisations at the 92YTribeca featuring a total of 17 artists in random order, beginning with a solo improvisation and then a parade of others joining in succession. Artists include Mark Helias (bass), Brandon Seabrook (banjo / guitar), Hilmar Jensson (guitar), Allison Miller (drums), Amir Ziv (drums), Mike Pride (drums), Bob Stewart (tuba), Cooper Moore (piano), Miles Okazaki (guitar), Marika Hughes (cello), John Hollenbeck (drums), Matthew Mottel (keys), Fabian Almazan (piano) and others TBA.

Advance single-day tickets are available now for the May 9 show at the Poisson Rouge box office for $25, ($30 day of ), with tickets for May 11 and 12 available soon. For diehard festivalgoers, the best deal is the festival pass which gets you into all the shows, May 9-12 for $55 including that lame 90s jam band you may or may not remember who’re playing in Fort Greene. Single-night tickets will also be available each night at the participating venues.

May 3, 2012 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, New York City | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment