Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Banjo Player Jayme Stone Explores Lush, Global Jazz and Classical Sounds

Jayme Stone is the world’s most adventurous banjo player. His previous album World of Wonders explored music from across the centuries from Bulgaria, Ireland, Brazil, Germany and Italy, to name a few places. His album before that was a collaboration with Malian Kora player Mansa Sissoko  As you might expect from someone with such a global appetite, the theme of his latest album The Other Side of the Air is travel. While the banjo is a featured instrument on several of the tracks, others focus more on Stone’s eclectic compositional skill. It turns out that he’s also adept at modern big band jazz and indie classical as well as the innumerable other styles he’s parsed over the years. Is there anything this guy CAN’T do?

What’s also interesting is that there’s hardly a hint of bluegrass here: more often than not, Stone’s banjo sounds more like an African lute – which, when you think about it, it is. A couple of tracks here revisit Stone’s African fascination, one a bounding number with  Rob Mosher on tenor sax, Andrew Downing on bass and Nick Fraser on drums, the other a catchy tune with echoes of both the blues and Malian folk, no doubt inspired by Stone’s work with Sissoko. The Cinnamon Route features Stone and the band along with a chamber orchestra, imagining the spice trade as it makes its way from India, through the Middle East, to North Africa. Kevin Turcotte’s trumpet gets a lively conversation going with the banjo as they cross the Mediterranean and reach anthemic heights.

The rest of the album mines a vivid third-stream milieu. Sing It Right, one of Stone’s first compositions, works an uneasy circus rock theme, Stone plinking steadily as the orchestra rises and falls, nocturnal and enveloping, Mosher adding jaunty soprano sax as the arrangement grows to a lush exuberance a la Chris Jentsch.  A Poet In Her Own Country makes a sharp contrast, an allusive, pensive  theme. exchanges of voices within its tight arrangement. Debussy Heights reminds more of Schubert with its triumphant baroque-tinged counterpoint and cinematically pulsing crescendo.

The album’s centerpiece is This County Is My Home. an even more cinematic, four-part concerto for banjo and chamber orchestra by Downing, who conducts. A droll but disquieting cartoonish theme recurs throughout its eclectic segments, including but not limited to a brisk but wary march, a bit of a ragtime stroll, minimalist banjo passages over nebulous strings and winds, a brief, apprehensive solo banjo interlude and a long, dynamically charged, blustery, carnivalesque coda. The other tracks here are Alexander Island, a  stately banjo-and-strings miniature, and a nocturnal version of the Tennessee Waltz, with just the banjo, rhythm section and sax. You want eclectic? Look no further. Stone and a somewhat smaller ensemble than he has on this album are at Joe’s Pub on Aug 11 at 7:30 PM for $15.

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August 5, 2013 Posted by | classical music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 8/21/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1.

Sunday’s album was #527:

Curtis Eller – Wirewalkers and Assassins

2009 was a particularly good year for music – if you’ve been following this space, you’ll see we’ve been mining it quite a bit lately. This is Curtis Eller’s latest and best album – he plays banjo and happens to be one of the finest lyrical songwriters of our time. His specialty is fiery, minor-key, bluesy songs full of historical references and punk energy. This one has his very best one, the apocalyptic After the Soil Fails; the New York-centric Sugar for the Horses; the grim party anthem Sweatshop Fire; the chillingly summery, hallucinatory Hartford Circus Fire; the sardonic Firing Squad; the gentle, blackly humorous country sway of the Plea of the Aerialist’s Wife, and the wrenchingly haunting, whispery Save Me Joe Louis, its title taken from what were reputedly the last words of the first man (who was probably wrongfully convicted) to be executed in the gas chamber. It hasn’t made it to the filesharing sites yet but it’s still available from Eller’s bandcamp, where you can hear the whole thing.

August 23, 2011 Posted by | blues music, lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jayme Stone’s Banjo Travels Around the World

Jayme Stone’s new Room of Wonders is his dance album. Taking a page out of Bach’s French Dance Suite (which he plays here as an energetic, practically punk duo with bowed bass), the virtuoso banjo player and an inspired cast of characters romp through some imaginative new arrangements of traditional dances from around the world. Stone wanted to get jazz-quality players and put them together, but not as soloists, to see what kind of sparks would fly. The main group here consists of Casey Driessen of Abigail Washburn’s quartet on violin, Grant Gordy from Dave Grisman’s band on acoustic guitar and Greg Garrison on bass.

They open with the surprisingly pensive Krasavaska Ruchenitsr, a tricky Bulgarian tune in 7/8 time. Ever wonder what a banjo sounds like playing a horn line? You can find out here. Driessen follows Stone and counterintuitively takes it down rather than hitting a crescendo. Next they tackle a couple of Irish dances, the first darkly bristling, the next one more cheery. Vinicius, a shout-out to Vincius Cantuaria, mines the same kind of suspenseful restraint, with a tasty, buoyant trumpet solo from Kevin Turcotte, drummer  Nick Fraser holding down a samba beat when the song isn’t going off into the clouds for an extended, atmospheric break.

Moresca Nuziale, an original wedding theme, keeps the wary, apprehensive vibe going – it’s the last thing most people would want at a wedding, which might make sense since the couple whose wedding the song debuted at broke up six months later. They follow that with Andrea Berget, a stately, wistful Norwegian tune that’s ostensibly a polka, then the Bach, then Stone’s captivating, Tunisian-inspired title track, lit up with some understatedly dramatic cymbal work from Fraser and a jazzy guitar solo. The rest of the album includes a spirited take on Bill Monroe’s Ways of the World, another Bulgarian tune with Driessen contributing cello-like tones on low octave fiddle, and the upbeat Troll King Dom Polska, featuring Vasen’s Olov Johansson on the autoharp-like nyckelharpa. Eclectic? Yeah, you could call it that. Stone will be at le Poisson Rouge on 3/16 at 7 PM opening for the reliably awesome, frequently haunting Las Rubias del Norte.

March 12, 2011 Posted by | classical music, country music, folk music, gypsy music, irish music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Janus Gets You Coming and Going

Like the mythical character, indie classical trio Janus looks in two directions, forward and backward. Backward, with a genuinely lovely, often baroque-tinged sense of melody; forward, with a compellingly hypnotic edge occasionally embellished by light electronic touches. This is an album of circular music, motifs that repeat again and again as they slowly and subtly shift shape, textures sometimes floating mysteriously through the mix, occasionally leaping in for a sudden change of atmosphere. Many of the melodies are loops, some obviously played live, others possibly running over and over again through an electronic effect. Either way, it’s not easy to follow flutist Amanda Baker, violist/banjoist Beth Meyers and harpist Nuiko Wadden as they negotiate the twists and turns of several relatively brief compositions by an all-New York cast of emerging composers. A series of minimalist miniatures by Jason Treuting of So Percussion – some pensive, some Asian-tinged – begin, end and punctuate the album, concluding on a tersely gamelanesque note.

Keymaster, by Caleb Burhans (of Janus’ stunningly intense labelmates Newspeak) is a wistful cinematic theme that shifts to stark midway through, then lets Baker add balmy contrast against the viola’s brooding staccato. Drawings for Mayoko by Angelica Negron adds disembodied vocalese, quietly crunching percussion and a drone that separates a warmly shapeshifting, circular lullaby methodically making its way around the instruments. Cameron Britt’s Gossamer Albatross weaves a clever call-and-response element into its absolutely hypnotic theme, a series of brief movements that begin fluttery and grow to include a jazz flavor courtesy of some sultry low flute work by Baker. There’s also the similarly trancelike Beward Of, by Anna Clyne, with its gently warped series of backward masked accents and scurrying flurry of a crescendo, and Ryan Brown’s Under the Rug, which builds matter-of-factly from sparse harp and banjo to a series of crystalline crescendos with the viola. Gently psychedelic, warmly atmospheric and captivating, it’s a great ipod album. It’s out now on New Amsterdam Records.

November 28, 2010 Posted by | avant garde music, classical music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Roosevelt Dime Have Oldschool Fun with Vintage Americana

This one’s a lot of fun. Anchored by Andrew Green’s spiky banjo and Hardin Butcher’s soaring, smartly tuneful trumpet and cornet, Roosevelt Dime’s lineup is pretty unique today, although eighty years ago banjo-and-horns bands were pretty common. Their aptly titled new album Steamboat Soul sets set vintage 1960s-style soul or country songs to wry, clever arrangements that go back another forty years or so, sometimes with hokum blues or dixieland tinges. All this falls somewhere in between Preacher Boy, the 2 Man Gentlemen Band and the Wiyos. Weaving in and out of period vernacular and accent – “a pack of tobacco and a late night pay phone call,” and so on – they set a vibe that varies from laid-back to boisterous. All the songs here have the immediacy and warm interplay of a live album, Seth Paris’ clarinet and saxophones interweaving with the trumpet, pulsing along on the laid-back beat from Eben Pariser’s bass and Tony Montalbano’s drums.

The opening track, with its rapidfire lyrics, has an almost hip-hop feel, with a sweet clarinet solo: as long as the singer’s got his booze and Johnny Cash on the turntable, he’s content. The second cut, Where Did You Go kicks off with a semi-truck horn and ends with a siren: in between, it’s a swaying hokum blues that reaches for a sly Mississippi Sheiks vibe.The band motor through the fast banjo shuffle What a Shame as the kick drum boots it along, then chill out with the easy calypso vibe of Sway. Jubilee is a rousing second-line tribute to “the funkiest joint in town” and its hard-drinking house band. And Digging Song is absolutely brilliant, a spot-on swipe at trendoids with an oldtimey tune but contemporary references, as is the next track, Slow Your Roll, snidely referencing pretty much every Brooklyn neighborhood to suffer the blight of gentrification.

But it’s the soul songs here that really set them apart from the rest of the oldtimey crew. Wishing Well takes a Willie Mitchell-style Memphis shuffle back in time, a clever sendup of a golddigging girl (or one who wants to be a golddigger, anyway). Helpless has more of a ballad feel; the wistful Long Long Time reaches for the rafters with a lush, crescendoing string arrangement. The album winds up with Spikedriver, a biting update on an oldtimey railroad song. Fans of Americana music from across the decades have a lot to sink their teeth into here.

November 11, 2010 Posted by | blues music, country music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Jeremy Udden’s Plainville at Bryant Park, NYC 6/2/10

Sax player Jeremy Udden’s most recent album Plainville is a warm, often offhandedly beautiful collection in the same vein as Bill Frisell’s Americana jazz. Tuesday night at Bryant Park, Udden (pronounded oo-DEEN) and his five-piece combo worked smartly counterintuitive, unexpected variations on wistful, nostalgically bucolic themes. It was the first concert we’ve worn earplugs to in a long time, a necessity that on face value seems absurd considering that Plainville’s music is contemplative and generally quiet. More about that later. With Pete Rende alternating between accordion and electric piano, Eivind Opsvik on bass, Bill Campbell on drums and sub banjoist Noam Pikelny clearly having a lot of fun taking the place of Udden’s usual collaborator Brandon Seabrook, they included a handful of new cuts alongside the older material along with a pulsing, riff-driven, tensely allusive Pharaoh Sanders cover.

The highlight of the night, unsurprisingly, was Christmas Song, the poignant jazz waltz that serves as the centerpiece of the Plainville album. Pikelny opened it, tersely, letting the band bring in the embellishments, Opsvik’s central solo beginning plaintively but growing vividly uneasy, like a family gathering where everybody knows it’s time to leave but never does. The album’s title track, named after Udden’s Massachusetts hometown, evoked early Pat Metheny with its bittersweet-tinged melody and long accordion intro by Rende. A new composition, Portland turned on a dime from simple riff-driven vamp into a brooding, wary ballad with a Wild Horses feel, courtesy of a brief and almost brutally terse soprano sax solo from Udden. And Opsvik’s muscular groove pulsed over Campbell’s modified bossa beat to anchor Udden’s cleverly playful flights on a number about the street the composer grew up on. In a way, it was a perfect match of music and early summer ambience, but in another way it was just the opposite. Remember those earplugs? They became a necessity with the first distant but still earsplitting shriek of the first alarm sounding as the bus at the stop around the corner opened its doors. Count this as our last Bryant Park concert, kind of sad considering what a great run this location had in the early 90s with all the jazz festivals here during the summer months.

June 4, 2010 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Podunk, BFE – Get Your Hole Ready

Editor’s note – thanks to Jayne for the heads-up about this one

From Portland, Oregon comes this consistently funny, sometimes hilarious album of bluegrass/grasscore punk songs. The cd cover shot is a pretty skyscape through what looks like a doorframe, like in some Caribbean travel brochure – until you realize that it’s the view upward from the bottom of a grave. If you’re wondering what the BFE in Podunk, BFE means, that’s Bum Fuck Egypt which says a lot about how this sounds. The instrumentation here is bristly and tasty with banjo, mandolin, guitar, and upright bass along with drums on some of the cuts. Some of the songs are so fast that it sounds like the band is scrambling to catch up, which only adds to the mayhem (although the playing is really good, especially for a crew who obviously don’t take themselves all that seriously). The lyrics mostly concern alcohol and sex, not necessarily in that order. A father-son duo pass the time at the local 24-hour bar; a sympathetic friend tries to lure a jumper down from the ledge with a beer (“I know you’ve got tears to cry, but he’s not your kind of guy”), and in the best of the cheating songs, the guy who first appears to be a sensitive listener type proves to be a lying, cheating SOB just like all the rest. Another ends up going home from the bar with the wrong person (whose name turns out to be Earl). Then there’s the woozy dude with holes in his memory a mile wide, except for his jailhouse tattoo. The one song with an obscenity in the title turns out to be a really nice instrumental. And the best song on the album ends with a Dolly Parton style litany of dead icons, except that these guys are all in hell, Lefty Frizzell, Tupac, Townes Van Zant, Keith Richards – “oh yeah, he’s not dead yet.” When the jokes get old, the tunes will keep your toes tapping: the drunker you get, the better this probably sounds.

January 5, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Curtis Eller European Tour Dates – Fall 2009

Fiery, lyrical banjo-playing hellraiser Curtis Eller is off to Europe for another tour, playing a mix of stuff from his most recent Wirewalkers and Assassins (very favorably reviewed here) plus new songs. The schedule:

NORWAY:

Friday, 9 October

Lister Blues Club (full band)
w/ Daniel Eriksen and Slade
8th Avenue Bar, Brooklyn Sq.
4560 Vanse
Farsund, Norway
http://www.listerbluesclub.no/
Saturday, 10 October
Fan It (solo show)
6453 Kleive
Kleve, Norway
+47 91 37 07 53
http://www.fanit.no//
Sunday, 11 October
Langesund Bad
3970 Bamble Badevejen 4
Langesund, Norway
+47 35 97 35 29
http://www.langesundbad.no/default.asp?Folder=4686&IdEvent=1591
Monday, 12 October
Rallarhuset (solo show)
Storgata 22a
3660 Rjukan, Norway
+47 95 27 59 24

Wednesday, 14 October
John Dee (solo show)
w/ Vider Busk
Torggata 16
Oslo, Norway
+47 22 20 32 32
http://www.rockefeller.no/index.html?bb=J
Thursday, 15 October
Buddy Scene (full band)
w/ Daniel Eriksen
Amtmand Bloms, Gate 4
Drammen, Norway
+47 32 82 14 00
http://www.buddyscene.no/
Friday, 16 October
Kafe K (full band)
w/ Daniel Eriksen
Storgata 174-C
Porsgrunn, Norway
+47 35 55 99 00
http://www.kafek.no/
Saturday, 17 October
Bø Vertshus/Grillen (full band)
w/ Daniel Eriksen
Bogata 61
Bø Norway
HOLLAND:
Tuesday, 20 October 8:00pm
De Nieuwe Anita
Frederik Hendrikstr 111
Amsterdam, Netherlands
http://www.denieuweanita.nl/
Wednesday, 21 October 7:30pm
The Delicatessen
Sumatrastraat 32
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Friday, 23 October 10:30pm
Patronaat Cafe’
(Katzenjammer post show)
Zijlsingel 2
Haarlem, Netherlands
(023)517-5858
http://www.patronaat.nl/
BELGIUM:
Saturday, 24 October 8:00pm
Secret Hero House Concert
Ghent, Belgium
http://www.myspace.com/secretheroconcerts
for reservations e-mail: piere18@hotmail.com

October 5, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review – Tall Tall Trees

This is a bunch of New York jazz cats playing their own original take on country and bluegrass. It’s way better than that designation might imply. Banjoist/singer Mike Savino and drummer Mathias Kunzli comprise the rhythm section in innovative pan-Balkan string band Ljova & the Kontraband; guitarist Kyle Sanna arranged Jimi Hendrix’s Machine Gun for chamber orchestra, among other achievements, and bassist Ben Campbell plays with the Double Down Swing Band. In addition to the expert musicianship you would expect from a crew like this, Tall Tall Trees deliver funny, rustic original songs with an up-to-the minute satirical edge: these guys have a hair-trigger bullshit detector aimed straight at posers and status-grubbers.

Their best one is a truly universal anthem that anybody who’s ever worked for a living can relate to: “You don’t need this shit!” Savino pointedly reminds us. “In the middle’s the blues, and the end is the place you will likely be screwed.” There’s also the bluesy, rustic Appalachian-tinged The Ballad of Sallie Mae: the woman who done him wrong pressured him into signing on the dotted line, and now she’s got the house. And his student loan’s ninety days overdue. But all he can think of is the good old days. Similarly, Bubble Gum is an amusingly irreverent, banjo-spiced slap at commercialism: “Let me take a ride on the bottom of your shoes!”

The Spaceman in the song here is a fish out of water who just wants to go home – but if he can’t get off this planet, he’s willing to mate with an earthling. The songs are as diverse as the band members’ projects: among the rest of the tracks are a bouncy, sarcastic slide guitar boogie; a silly faux early 80s new wave ditty; a gently swaying, hypnotically swirling Stereolab-style number, and a hilarious, minutely detailed ballad about romancing the girl working the counter at the local Chinese takeout joint. It’s all a lot of fun: play this at a party and expect to see smiles and get plenty of “who are those guys?” Tall Tall Trees play Pete’s on Fri Aug 14 at 10.

August 12, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 7/27/09

We do this every Tuesday. You’ll see this week’s #1 song on our Best 100 songs of 2009 list at the end of December, along with maybe some of the rest of these too. This is strictly for fun – it’s Lucid Culture’s tribute to Kasey Kasem and a way to spread the word about some of the great music out there that’s too edgy for the corporate media and their imitators in the blogosphere.  Every link here except for #1 will take you to each individual song.

1. Livia Hoffman – Friday

This is one of those great “finally the weekend’s here” numbers that manages not to be trite. Watch this space for upcoming live dates – this one’s unreleased.

2. Curtis Eller – Sugar in My Coffin

One of the great NYC rockers of this era – it just happens that the banjo is his axe. “The drinks are getting weaker with every round they serve.” He’s at Banjo Jim’s on 7/30 at 10

3. The French Exit – Bones & Matches

Typically haunting, wrenching, eventually explosive lament from NYC’s best noir rock crew. They’re at Local 269, 269 E Houston at 9 on 7/29

4. The Brooklyn What – For the Best

Characteristically snarling, smart punkish song from their first album (their new ep Gentrification Rock is killer too).  They’re at Don Pedro’s on 8/7 on an amazing bill with Escarioka, Palmyra Delran and others.

5. Rescue Bird – Montauk

Catchy, artsy country tune with an autoharp and glockenspiel! They’re at Spikehill on 7/30 at 8.

6. Carrie Clark – Josephine

Smartly soaring, Rachelle Garniez-esque oldtimey cabaret song. She’s at Spikehill on 7/30 at 9

7. Andrea Wittgens – Everything Is Relative to You

Clever, catchy, Greta Gertler-ish artsy piano pop tune. She’s at Spikehill on 7/30 at 11

8. Naomi Shelton & the Gospel Queens – What Have You Done

Killer minor-key oldschool gospel tune. They’re at Prospect Park Bandshell on 7/30 at 7:30 opening for Burning Spear

9. Rev. Vince Anderson – Don’t Think Jesus

Country music as liberation theology dating from the waning days of the Bush regime. He’s at at 55 Bar on 7/31 at 10.

10. Ansambl Mastika – Gde si Bre

Characteristicaly wild horn-diven Balkan dance. They’re at Mehanata on 7/30 at 9.

July 28, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., music, concert, New York City | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment