Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Nikara Warren’s Black Wall Street Band Make a Trip to the Charlie Parker Festival

Vibraphonist Nikara Warren is iconic jazz pianist Kenny Barron‘s granddaughter. She and her Black Wall Street project are arguably the most cutting-edge attraction on opening night of this year’s Charlie Parker Festival at Marcus Garvey Park on August 27 at around 4 PM. Veteran postbop bassist Buster Willliams and his band, and trumpeter Terence Blanchard with the Turtle Island Quartet follow on the bill.

The Black Wall Street album – streaming at Bandcamp – is yet another project that would have been completed much earlier if not for the 2020 totalitarian takeover. The bandname doesn’t seem to reference the 1921 Tulsa, Oklahoma racist massacre.

On the first track, Heather Grey (BK gritty), Warren looks back to the slinky sounds of 70s Roy Ayers, but brassier and crunchier, her chugging solo handing off to a matching forward drive from her grandfather’s piano.

She moves to the mic for Run Ricky, a scampering, syncopated, cinematic hip-hop-jazz narrative about the murder of a innocent man. After a towering brass break. Warren’s vibes mingle with Corey Sanchez’s guitar as the storm rises from drummer David Frazier, Jr.’s drums.

Warren’s younger sister, soul singer Be.Be takes over the vocals on Mona Lisa, a darkly carnivalesque soul waltz that comes across as a more psychedelic take on Amy Winehouse. Warren builds a low-key, suspenseful solo before the horns burst into Womb Woes, tenor saxophonist Hailey Niswanger reaching an unhinged wail. Sanchez choose his spots against another brassy wall , Frazier tumbling elegantly on the way out.

Trumpeter Stephen “Khemestry” Fowler harmonizes and trades off warmly with Niswanger as the next number, Persistence shuffles along – but damn, those breaks for whistling will get your earbuds out in a hurry. At least Sanchez’s simmering, resonant solo will make you forget that. “The most righteous thing you can do is shake the table,” Warren intones at the end.

Barron returns to the piano for Thick Girls, an altered latin groove with Fowler channeling a lurid intensity out front, Barron’s prowling, stiletto solo contrasting with Parker McAllister’s tersely looming bass. They bring it down to a lingering duo from Warren’s vibes and Paul Wilson’s electric piano at the end.

The suspense-film intro to Ms. Mimi’s Fried Chicken is a false start: it’s a rapidfire DC-style go-go groove: Niswanger’s smoky, chromatic descent out of a blazing sunset is arguably the high point of the record. The group wind it up with an alternate, mistier take of Mona Lisa with Melanie JB Charles on vocals.

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August 20, 2022 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Uneasily Enveloping Sonics in a Midtown Park With Rafiq Bhatia and His Trio

“I want to give you permission to just lie down if you want,” guitarist Rafiq Bhatia said to the crowd who’d gathered on the lawn at Bryant Park for his show yesterday evening with trumpeter Riley Mulherkar and drummer Ian Chang. The latter had just opened with a mildly diverting set of solo loopmusic utilizing a variety of electronic patches.

Bhatia has been a prime mover in electroacoustic music in New York for several years. He, too, had plenty of ghosts in his machines, although it was generally easy to tell what he was actually playing and what was just microcircuitry.

His opening number evoked whalesong and birdsong, spiced with gentle volume-knob washes and harmonic plucks, in a Bill Frisell Jr. mode. Chang, having emerged from the metaverse, iced the sonic sculpture with his cymbals as Mulherkar peeked his way in. Bhatia continued to build a brooding, lingering pastorale as the loops behind him flitted further into white noise.

As the night went on, each player left plenty of room for the other, from acidic clouds of overtones, to echoes of noirish Bob Belden-style post-Miles improvisation when Mulherkar would run variations on his own judiciously circling phrases. Bhatia hit his octave pedal (or octave patch, more likely) for minimalistic bass punches as Chang flitted around gracefully: the chemistry between the two was clear, considering their time together in Son Lux.

Swooshy electronic clouds unleashed a gentle quasi-shower from which Mulherkar goodnaturedly emerged into a gently comedic interlude while Bhatia remained attentive, bent over his mixer. But it wasn’t long before the sci-fi noir ambience returned and the trio built to a cold industrial stomp. As the music rose and then Bhatia brought the show full circle, it was all too easy to imagine that this was just another muggy August evening in Manhattan circa 2019, when dystopia was just a theoretical construct that musicians and writers could have fun with since there was a comforting reality to return to when the show was over.

The next free concert at Bryant Park, on August 26 at 7 PM, could be one of this year’s best. Billed as a “habibi festival,” it features three artists and their groups exploring cutting-edge Middle Eastern sounds: North African dancer Esraa Warda & the Châab Lab, eclectic kanun virtuoso Firas Zreik, and haunting French-Tunisian saxophonist Yacine Boulares’ Ajoyo trio.

August 20, 2022 Posted by | avant garde music, concert, experimental music, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment