Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Monty Alexander Feels the Spirits at Trinity Church

Pianist Monty Alexander told the crowd at his show at Trinity Church today that “Last year I hit that golden number called 78.” He was referring, of course, to the 78 RPM record, the vehicle that spread the golden age of jazz around the world.

No one would have known his age if the man who has come to personify Jamaican jazz hadn’t mentioned it. In a dynamic, rising and falling hour and a half onstage with bassist Luke Sellick and drummer Jason Brown, he fired off crystalline cascades, vigorous rhythms and an reaffirmed his status as first-ballot, inimitably quotable hall-of-famer. “If I stop playing the piano, I confuse the spirit.”

One early highlight was an Ellington tune with a lyrical bowed Sellick solo, then a misterioso drum break which Alexander leapt out of to reassert the lively mood with his pointillistic ragtimey descents, The dubwise segue into Bob Marley’s Forever Loving Jah was the first of the reggae-jazz remakes that came to define Alexander’s career for awhile in the 90s and zeros. This one gave him a chance to hit harder on the low end. Brown’s shamanic rimshots and Sellick’s grit on the low end completed the picture.

Alexander follow a series of hymnal variations to a an immersive resonance, then worked his way up into No Woman No Cry. The ornate High Romantic eight-chord fakeout midway through this spare, unadorned reinvention was the high point of the show. A series of phantasmagorical flourishes were also hardly expected in the jump blues version of A Night in Tunisia that followed, as were were Brown’s flashy rudiments.

Moments of unease also persisted but then receded as Alexander built a spare swing on the next number, Renewal. He mentioned how the cultural diversity of his native country mirrors this one in Out of Many, One People, his insistent, optimistically climbing riffs reaching a light-fingered reggae groove

Hope, as Alexander and Brown saw it this time out, began with a regal drama and, then the pianist mined stern, ambered 19th century gospel phrasing. The trio followed with a spacious take of Besame Mucho, picked up with a swing, and then merged minor-key bite in the blues boogie Slappin’, which Alexander dedicated to the piano teacher he’d fled when she slapped his finger with a ruler.

The trio brought the ambience down with River, another Alexander original, rising from mystical glimmer to a lithely understated reggae groove driven by Sellick’s dancing arpeggios. They closed with what seemed to be a determined, percussive mashup of Ray Charles’ What I Say and When the Saints Go Marching In.

Advertisement

December 4, 2022 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inspiration and Rapture From Harpist Edmar Castaneda in a Sonically Challenging Downtown Space

At his concert today at St. Paul’s Chapel downtown, harpist Edmar Castaneda told the small crowd huddled together in the wintry chill under the balcony organ that he was sick of playing “For computers.” The audience seconded that observation and roared their approval when he’d fire off sparkling cascades, playing brisk melody lines against supple basslines, bending the body of his instrument for a wah-wah effect, or slamming the strings at the end of a song like the inside of a piano to cap off a big coda. But lockdown-era cabin fever aside, at this show Castaneda felt the room’s nature reverb and focused more on rapture and resonance than the pyrotechnics he’s best known for.

His wife, singer Andrea Tierra, marveled at how the Financial District had revitalized itself in the years since she’d walked around the neighborhood during the somber, acrid aftermath of 9/11. “”We always have to fight…New York always has to keep coming back, I think this is a very important message in this part of the city,” she emphasized.

Airing out her understatedly powerful, expressive alto voice, she channeled a distant angst as her husband rose from a suspenseful pulsing, verdant intro to a slow, spiky, bolero-tinged ballad, possibly titled Me Voy Llorando. It was a prime example of the individualistic blend of latin jazz and nueva cancion he’s made a name for himself with – and has played with his wife, whom he instantly fell in love with at a jam session in Queens eighteen years ago.

Tierra introduced a more spare, dancing tune, Cancion Con Todos, as a message of unity for all the people of the Americas, giving voice to citizens struggling for peace, The group – which also included incisive soprano saxophonist Shlomi Cohen and a terse, purposeful drummer – took the song bouncing, doublespeed, with an insistent solo out.

Castaneda played solo on Hecho (“Acts,” a Biblical reference), bringing the atmosphere up from guarded hope to starrier, more rhythmic terrain and a graceful, reflective ending. From there, he brought the rhythm section back to close the set with a wildly flurrying, merengue-flavored tune, Fresh Water, bristling with modal intensity over staggered, strutting syncopation.

November 29, 2022 Posted by | concert, jazz, latin music, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Smart, Dynamic Debut Album and a Bed-Stuy Show by a Rising Star Saxophonist

It was mid-May, 2021 – eighteen months ago, but it feels like a lifetime. At that point in time, no one in New York knew whether indoor concerts that weren’t clandestine would ever exist in this city again. Fortuitously, photographer Jimmy Katz had been scheduling a series of free outdoor jazz shows in Central Park, moving from one location to another in search of the ideal spot.

One of those locations was a clearing a few blocks north of the 82nd Street entrance on the west side. Mark Turner had played an unselfconsciously gorgeous set with a trio up on the hill to the south the previous afternoon. This particular day, a twentysomething tenor saxophonist with a muscular style was volleying her way through a handful of classic Coltrane tunes, out in front of a chordless quartet. Who was this fiery yet thoughtful player?

As it turned out, it was Julieta Eugenio. Even more serendipitously. she stuck around. She put out an album, Jump – streaming at Spotify – and has a gig coming up on Dec 6 at 9 PM at Bar Lunatico with the rhythm section on the record, Matt Dwonszyk on bass and Jonathan Barber on drums.

On the record, Eugenio is more reserved than she is onstage: either way, she doesn’t waste notes. The opening number is titled Efes – a shout-out to the delicious Turkish lager beer, maybe? No Turkish flavor in this one, but sizzling trills, a shout-out to an iconic Paul Desmond riff, and a lot of judicious use of space as Barber reaches for textures and surprise punches from around the kit. Meanwhile, Dwonszyk runs catchy, spring-loaded riffage, holding the center and firing off a wryly colorful solo midway through.

Eugenio opts for a balmy approach in the album’s title track, Barber prowling among the cymbals this time, Dwonszyk again serving as incisive anchor. There’s striking contrast between her spare, reflective lines, Barber’s carnivalesque drive and Dwonszyk’s bounce in La Jungla.

Eugenio stays in misty, even more spacious mode in the fond, vivid ballad For You. Racoon Tune turns out to be a warmly ornamented, latin funk-tinged number and a long launching pad for Eugenio to dance here way up to a percussively burning bass solo.

The version of Flamingo here is a samba, Dwonszyk working a supple, long-limbed pulse over an altered clave as Eugenio clusters and then backs away. She builds brooding, modally-infused resonance over a similar groove in Another Bliss, the album’s most darkly striking number, which the band take down to a mysterious whisper at the end.

Eugenio reinvents Billie Holiday’s Crazy He Calls Me as an opiated, expansive jazz waltz until Dwonszyk breaks the spell with his sober solo out. The group hit a pensive drive with Snowbirds, the bandleader in enigmatic mode again, Barber holding back from chewing the scenery with his boom-and-splash. It’s the best song on the album.

The trio close with the similarly moody Tres: it’s an ambience that suits these three well. Eugenio is really someone to keep your eye on.

November 26, 2022 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Viscerally Transcendent New Album and a Bed-Stuy Gig From Pianist Eri Yamamoto

Pianist Eri Yamamoto survived a hideous attack to make a beautiful record. In the early days of the 2020 lockdown, Yamamoto was assaulted on a Brookyn street. Her attacker mistook her for Chinese (she’s Japanese) and accused her of unleashing the Covid virus (which seems to have been manufactured in China, but was invented in a North Carolina bioweapons lab). This is the kind of incident that takes place when a society is divided and conquered, when orange-haired demagogues step to the podium to make divisive anti-Asian statements.

Although Yamamoto is a streetwise New Yorker – she honed her chops back in the 90s at the gritty Avenue B Social Club – the assault left her so shaken that she began wearing a purple wig and shades to hide her features.

But she transcended the attack, to the point where for the first time, she sings on record. Her new album A Woman With a Purple Wig is streaming at Bandcamp. She’s playing Bar Lunatico on Nov 30 at 9 PM.

On the album, Yamamoto reflects on the grimness of 2020, but also offers hope for the future. She opens the first track, Challenge, with a series of biting, brooding arpeggios over the low-key, lithe groove of bassist David Ambrosio and drummer Ikuo Takeuchi. With a calm determination, she expands from the center, building almost imperceptibly to a handful of jaunty flourishes. Takeuchi churns around as Yamamoto chooses her spots and then returns with a sober baroque focus before handing off to Ambrosio’s punching, dancing lines.

“One day I bought a wig on the internet, my favorite color,” she sings over a brisk, tightly wound stroll on the album’s title track: “Only twenty bucks…did you know that a purple wig has a special power?” Sarcasm reaches redline until Yamamoto runs the song’s chilling central mantra: it will resonate with anyone who’s been targeted for violence. It’s impossible to think of a more powerful jazz song released this year.

Ends to Start reflects Yamamoto’s hope that we will emerge from the ongoing reign of terror to create a better world, the intricate piano/bass polyrhythms in a tight interweave as Takeuchi shifts subtly between waltz time and a steady clave. Again, Yamamoto’s lines are spacious and reflective, up to a puckish crescendo and an eventual;y restrained majesty following a flurrying bass solo.

She returns to the mic for Colors Are Beautiful, a slow, catchy, allusively gospel-tinged singalong salute to ethnic diversity. Her gentle but bright oldschool soul riffage quickly falls away for a hushed bass solo over misty cymbals as Sounds of Peace gets underway, then she works through a pensive series of gospel-inspired variations.

Track six is titled Shout, a sleekly undulating, blues-infused number with lively extrovert drums. Yamamoto closes the album with Internal Beat, her most complex and animated postbop-style tune here, fueled by Takeuchi’s colorful accents.

November 25, 2022 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pianist Mike Holober’s Lavish, Dynamic Song Cycle Offers Optimism and Positivity When We Really Need It

Pianist Mike Holober is best known as a composer of picturesque, often breathtaking big band jazz. But along with his role creating cinematic charts for the NDR Bigband, he’s also a jazz songwriter. Fortuitously, he managed to record his latest album, Don’t Let Go live in concert at Aaron Davis Hall uptown in the fall of 2019, right around the same time that Event 201 was taking place. A project for his Balancing Act septet, it’s a lavish fourteen-part song cycle streaming at Sunnyside Records. Holober is providing an rare, intimate look at how this sausage gets made in a duo set with soprano saxophonist Charles Pillow at Mezzrow on Nov 30, with sets at 7:30 and 9 PM. Cover is $25 cash at the door.

Needless to say, this symphonically thematic suite seems very prescient considering what’s transpired over the last 32 months. It begins with Breathe Deep, a lustrous dawn theme in the shape of a gently syncopated canon, Holober’s piano slowly taking over from Marvin Stamm’s trumpet, Dick Oatts’ alto sax, Jason Rigby’s tenor sax and Mark Patterson’s trombone. Chanteuse Jamile takes centerstage to introduce the first of the songs, Morning Hope, a challenge to wake up, question, and “clear away the lies.” Holober’s piano foreshadows that promise, handing off to Mike McGuirk’s dancing bass solo over drummer Dennis Mackrel’s lithe, muted rimshots. Bright, balmy trumpet and warmly cantering piano against hazy vocalese fill out an optimistic picture.

Jamile offers wise advice to stay on the side of love in Four-Letter Words, a verdantly swaying, syncopated number, Oatts’ solo outlasting a bit of a storm. He switches to soprano for a blazing intro to Kiss the Ground, a bnrner with circling horn riffage over driving pedalpoint: “It ain’t coming round again,” Jamile warns before Mackrel takes it out unexpectedly.

Burnin’ Daylight begins warily, then brightens with Patterson’s spacious solo over an altered latin groove, Holober returning to an earlier, casually determined theme, Jamile cautioning us to keep our eye on the ball. There’s a similar trajectory from unease to distantly New Orleans-flavored ebullience in A Summer Midnight’s Dream. Necessary, the conclusion, allusively speaks to issues of personal sovereignty over a pouncing, icepick rhythm, with incisive solos from trombone and the saxes

Holober opens the second disc with I Wonder, his judicious, icily Messiaen-tinged solo introducing a slightly more driving variation on the initial cantering theme as Jamile channels her refusal to concede to fear. Although You’re a Long Way from Home has folksy, pastoral tinges, the unease persists despite Patterson’s genial, low-key solo.

Mackrel’s misty brushes underpin Holober’s spacious piano, Jamile tracing a trail of betrayal in You Never Know, Stamm adding a bittersweet, lingering solo as the rhythm subtly shifts into swing. Smile Slow, a summery interlude for Holober and Rigby, sets up Letting Go, a lilting, bossa-tinged ballad with a judicious but opaque soprano sax solo at the center.

Holober weaves the first disc’s jumping final theme into Touch the Sky, with more of a tropical bounce and a lively two-sax conversation: it’s the album’s most entertaining number. The concert ends with Don’t Let Go, Jamile asserting that “Things are better than they seem” and holding out hope over Holober’s tersely undulating melody, Rigby bringing in an inviting, final cloud cover. More jazz artists should make live albums like this one.

November 24, 2022 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Colorful, Frequently Rapturous Brooklyn Celebration of Yuko Fujiyama’s Music

Last night at Roulette an innovative, inspired cast of Japanese and Americana musicians played a fascinating salute to Yuko Fujiyama, concluding a two-night stand in celebration of the composer and pianist’s individualistic work. The dynamic shifts from animated, incisive, typically somewhat minimalist melodies, to hushed rapture and occasional controlled pandemonium, mirrored a distinctly Japanese sensibility more than the tonalities did.

Solo behind the drumkit, Tetsu Nagasawa opened the evening with an elegant hailstorm on the cymbals. Slowly moving to a coyly noirish rattle, he reached toward gale force, lashing the shoreline before descending to a muted rain on the roof that eventually drifted away. Following a steady, rather hypnotic upward trajectory, he then brought the ambience down to a hushed, shamanic ambience spiced with majestic cymbal washes.

Pianist Sylvie Courvoisier then joined him, adding a few judicious plucks over a distant rustle before introducing a staggered, minimalist pedalpoint. Eerie clusters alternated with simple, emphatic rhythmic gestures. Nagasawa signaled a detour into a flickering jungle; a good cop/bad cop high-lo dynamic ensued over a circular rumble. Courvoisier pounced and threw elbows, then she coalesced into a climb that mirrored the opening drum solo as it decayed to silence.

After the intermission, a cross-pollinated ensemble of Do Yeon Kim on gayageum (the magical, warptoned Korean zither), Satoshi Takeishi on drums, Ned Rothenberg on reeds and Shoko Nagai on piano took over with an improvisation that began with a little furtive prowling around and grew more agitated, Kim’s circling riffs leading the way up to an insistent, pansori-like vocal attack.

A bit of a blizzard gave way to rapturous deep-space washes fueled by Rothenberg’s desolate clarinet, Nagai adding icily spacious glimmer. Gently skipping piano anchored crystalline clarinet curlicues, Rothenberg and Nagai converging in dark circles as the other two musicians looked on but eventually edged their way in. Trails of sparks flickered off; Nagai, who’d moved to a small synth, hit a backwards loop pedal; the spaceship reappeared and everyone got in but chaos ensued anyway.

Rothenberg’s eventual decision to pick up his shakuhachi brought a return to woodsy mysticism, from which Nagai, back on piano, led the ensemble on a long scramble. A cantering forward drive and an unexpected turn into neoromantic rivulets grew grittier as Nagai brought the music to a forceful coda.

For the night’s concluding number, Fujiyama took over on piano, bolstered by additional flute and trumpet, with Nagai moving to accordion. Yuma Uesaka conducted. A brief, lustrous introduction set up Fujiyama’s judicious, otherworldly, Messiaenic ripples: mournful late 50s Miles Davis came to mind.

Pensive trumpet amid gingerly romping piano and an uneasy haze were followed by Kim’s graceful bends. which introduced an interlude that quickly grew squirrelly and eventually frantic.

Rothenberg’s emergence as voice of reason was temporary. Uesaka stopped the works, then restarted them as more of a proper upward vector, with flutters from the flutes and two drummers. The allusive charge down to a final drift through the clouds made a fittingly magical conclusion.

The next concert at Roulette is November 27 at 8 PM with John Zorn’s New Masada Quintet; you can get in for $35 in advance.

November 22, 2022 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Theo Walentiny Takes the Crowd on a Magical Mystery Tour of a Historic Downtown Space

Houses of worship tend to be less than optimal for music that’s fast or percussive. Earlier today, pianist Theo Walentiny and his trio sized up the natural reverb of the late 18th century architecture of St. Paul’s Chapel downtown and turned it into a fourth bandmate in a resonant, immersive performance that was often nothing short of eerie.

Throughout their hour onstage, Walentiny chose his spots for occasional rivulets, cascades or variations on circular clusters over a stygian, resonant lefthand. Until the final number, moments where he picked up the volume were few, and packed a punch when they occurred. Drummer Connor Parks rarely rose above a cymballine mist until the second half of the show while bassist Tyrone Allen matched Walentiny’s moody modalities, sometimes shadowing the piano, sometimes essentially taking over from the drums during the show’s most briskly swinging moments.

They reinvented Billy Strayhorn’s Chelsea Bridge as a murky kaleidoscope punctuated by a stern, loopy march motif and rainy-day upper register that Walentiny took into icily starry Messiaenic territory. The original after that pulsed with a muted suspense over a racewalking shuffle groove, Walentiny building tension with subtle variations on insistent, judiciously spaced clusters, loosening every so slightly into a more casual if wary stroll with a chilly reflecting-pool piano solo at the center.

From there Walentiny built the next number up from more of those circling clusters (that appears to have really become a thing in jazz conservatories these days), gingerly moving outward from a center to distant echoes of regally pugilistic McCoy Tyner and a quasi Giant Steps interlude with stabbing close harmonies. Parks in particular was masterful on this one, building a tabla-like atmosphere that lingered and left the crowd speechless for several seconds at the end.

From there the group parsed a forlorn, Birmingham-era Coltrane style tone poem of sorts: Walentiny hinted that he might go in a more lively direction but opted against it as Allen’s minute microtones edged upward. They closed with another original, Splattered Current, Parks finally cutting loose with his toms to underpin Walentiny’s stern pedalpoint in contrast to bright but meticulously space righthand accents and a few sizzling flurries. Either way, it was a magical tug-of-war with the sonics bounding and booming off the walls.

The final jazz concert at St. Paul’s Chapel this month is at 1 PM on Nov 22 with harpist Edmar Castaneda and his trio. Admission is free; be aware that you will be asked to empty your pockets as if you were at the airport if you want to get in. So far they don’t make you take your shoes off.

November 15, 2022 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Thoughtful, Understatedly Gorgeous Live Album From Eric Vloeimans and Will Holshouser

Trumpeter Eric Vloeimans and accordionist Will Holshouser‘s new album Two for the Road – streaming at Bandcamp – is yet more proof that more artists should make live records. The duo recorded it about a year ago while on tour in the Netherlands. Vloeimans has a richly lyrical resonance which is ideally suited to this unorthodox duo format, and Holshouser – a connoisseur of Punjabi music – has found a similarly simpatico sparring partner. There’s lots of unselfconscious beauty here, whether you call this pastoral jazz, or new classical music, or folk tunes for that matter.

Vloeimans opens Tibi Gratias, a stately, gentle canon, with a wafting solo; later, Holshouser builds it to a lush, steady chordal drive. The miking on the accordion is fantastic and captures the entirety of Holshouser’s range, including the lows that some accordion recordings miss out on. In general, he gets more time in the spotlight here than his collaborator.

There are three “innermissions” by Vloeimans here, all composed during the 2020 lockdown. The first makes a good segue, the two slowly working their way out of waltz time to more trickier syncopation, an unexpectedly murky accordion interlude and a gorgeous, distantly flamenco-tinged conclusion.

Deep Gap is even more straightforwardly bright: it could be a Civil War-era march with moments of unexpectedly puckish humor. The duo continue in a playful vein with Innermission 12 as they build around a goofy quote, Holshouser spiraling and blipping steadily, Vloeimans picking up the pace. The good cheer continues in the bluesy waltz Innermission 2, Vloeimans choosing his spots with a New Orleans flair.

The two musicians remain in 3/4 time to reinvent a Muppets movie theme as a spare, surprisingly pensive, terse ballad. They take more of a charge into the album’s most expansive track, Redbud Winter, lithe trumpet over puffing, emphatic accordion with echoes of Indian music. Holshouser introduces an enigmatically balmy waltz interlude followed by a jaunty contrapuntal conversation before they bring it full circle.

They emerge from a bit of a haze to minimalist variations on a slowly staggered ballad theme in MoMu and follow with Innermission 9, working an insistent bounce over a moody, vampy 70s soul-inflected tune. It has more bite than anything else on the album, Vloeimans picking up with his jovial arpeggios as the two wind it out.

To Louis seems to be a homage to someone beyond the obvious, a slinky 6/8 tune where Vloeimans ranges from hazy, to incisive, to some of the album’s most soaring moments. Variations on a tensely rhythmic, Indian-flavored theme alternate with balmy balladry in Innermission 1l, then the two musicians make catchy reggae out of it. They close with a lullaby.

November 6, 2022 Posted by | classical music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Dave Brubeck Rarity Finally Surfaces After More Than Half a Century

It was the night of November 12, 1967 and Dave Brubeck was pissed. He had a sold-out show to play at the Konzerthaus in Vienna and his saxophonist, Paul Desmond, was AWOL.

Desmond’s battle with the needle was an open secret by this time, but he’d always been able to manage his addiction. This time, he’d overdone it – and his bandmates had no idea where he was. This was especially problematic because Desmond was so central to the classic Brubeck quartet’s sound: it meant they’d have to come up with a completely different set and leave out many of their biggest hits.

Brubeck may have been just as worried as he was angry, and whatever the case, the situation lit a fire under the pianist as well as bassist Eugene Wright and drummer Joe Morello. The result ended up being captured on tape. It’s the only known recording of the three jazz icons playing as a trio. Fifty-five years later, it’s finally available and streaming at Spotify.

They open with St. Louis Blues, Morello hinting at a loose-limbed cha-cha before Wright swings the changes and the bandleader works a sardonically phantasmagorical edge. Wright quotes from the Broadway tune I’m Going to Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair in a long, scrambling solo: a sarcastic band-insider joke, as the liner notes allude.

Brubeck picks up on that in One Moment Worth Years and peppers his precisely punchy attack with even more quotes, when he isn’t making Messiaenic modes out of New Orleans riffage: it’s erudite but savage in places. Wright chooses his spots as he works variations on the melody line: vaulted into the spotlight, he delivers.

Morello gets centerstage with an especially exuberant take of Swanee River. By now, everybody’s having fun despite the circumstances, particularly as Brubeck stays focused on playing good cop against some pretty ridiculously vaudevillian drumwork.

He works his way gingerly into a bittersweet, lingering intro to La Paloma Azul, then Morello lures him into understatedly jaunty blues with some steadily misty cymbals. The trio mine the thorny rhythmic complexity they knew well, first waltzing insistently into Someday My Prince Will Come before Brubeck jabs and spirals against the beat. They close the show with a scampering, no-nonsense version of Take the A Train

Unlike untold “rediscoveries” from European tours of the era, the recording quality is excellent

Desmond ended up rejoining the band the following night in Paris – where the group picked up like they never left off, musically at least, and recorded another, completely different live album The Last Time We Saw Paris.

October 4, 2022 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dan Kurfirst Brings His Tranquilly Kinetic, Meditative Grooves to a Perfect Outdoor Spot

Said it before, time to say it again: drummers always pull together the best bands because everybody wants to play with the good ones. Dan Kurfirst is the latest to take centerstage with his new album Arkinetics, streaming at Bandcamp. He’s immersed himself in both Middle Eastern and Indian music, so his beats are especially well informed by touch along with unlimited kinds of boom. He’s bringing this project to the ongoing series of city garden shows on Oct 2 at 4 PM in the space at 129 Stanton St. east of Essex: the lineup includes Rodney Chapman on sax, Alexis Marcelo on keys, John Merritt on bass and Roshni Samlal on tabla. The afternoon opens at 1:30 PM with the tersely propulsive duo of Aquiles Navarro on trumpet and Tchesser Holmes on drums, followed at 2:30 by, pianist Albert Marquès’ Freedom First project featuring the poetry of unjustly convicted death row inmate Keith LaMar, and then at 3:30 singer Lisa Sokolov.

On Kurfirst’s new album, Daniel Carter plays trumpet and winds, with Damon Banks on bass, otherwise the group is the same. A handful of the tunes have samples from mystic and author Alan Watts, reflecting Kurfirst’s longstanding meditation practice and interest in spirituality. The opening number, Peace In is set to a catchy, syncopated piano-and-synth backdrop by Fima Chupakhin, with a voiceover ending with Watts’ observation that “The godhead is never an object of its own knowledge.” What’s your take on that?

A gently churning drums-and-tabla piece sets up the delicately qawwali-tinged Meditation Groove, with balmy Rhodes by Marcelo and trumpet from Carter: Silent Way Miles with delicate Indian tinges. This sets the stage for much of the rest of the album.

The lingering, Bob Belden-esque nocturnal ambience continues, Carter beginning on flute and then switching back to muted trumpet in Birth Beats 1, set against Marcelo’s saturnine glimmer.

Banks’ catchy, loopy trebly chromatic riffage anchors Ghost Killers as Kurfirst and Samlal circle around an artfully orchestrated series of crescendos from Marcelo’s Rhodes while Carter raises the anxious ante with his sax. Dreamscape is aptly titled: with the hypnotic tabla, Kurfirst’s elegant brushwork and Carter’s balmy sax, it could be a Bill Withers backing track.

Kurfirst follows the trippy, shamanic drumscape Two Chants with Not Yet, Carter’s modal sax floating uneasily over Banks’ tightly clustering, catchy bass variations and Marcelo’s spare, atmospheric lines. The group bring the album full circle with a benedictory full-band version of the opening number.

September 27, 2022 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment