Lucid Culture


Yet Another Ambitiously Fun Album and a Couple of Smoke Dates from Organist Brian Charette

Brian Charette gets a lot of ink here, partly because he’s been so ubiquitous. He’s gone back to his original instrument, the piano for some gigs including a turn with erudite, infectiously charismatic chanteuse Audrey Bernstein, as well as leading his own organ jazz groups. And he keeps putting out albums, all of them infused with his signature wit and penchant for pushing the envelope out of the organ jazz ghetto. If you’re down with the B3 jazz cult, toe-tapping gin lounge grooves are great fun, but like his fellow A-list organists Barbara Dennerlein and Jared Gold, Charette keeps reinventing the genre. His latest release, Alphabet City – most of which is streaming at Posi-Tone Records – is a characteristically eclectic, fun mix. of tunes. He’s doing a two-night album release stand uptown at Smoke on July 15 and 16 with sets at 7 and 9 PM; cover is just $15, which is a real deal at this place. And if the prix-fixe menu doesn’t match your requirements, you can always hang back at the bar where the sound is just as good as it is in the rest of the room.

The album is a trio session with Will Bernard on guitar and Rudy Royston on drums. You probably wouldn’t associate Royston – another increasingly ubiquitous guy – with this kind of music, but his extrovert drive is a good match for the bandleader’s sense of humor. The album kicks off with East Village, a bubbly, bustling shuffle with a subtly carnivalesque undercurrent – which makes sense considering what’s happened to the neighborhood. The band follows that with They Left Fred Out, a catchy, jauntily syncopated soul-jazz strut with characteristic Charette wit. After that, West Village, a suave swing number, has a similarly erudite, nonchalant Bernard solo at the center – and toward the end, Charette throws a few jabs toward the snobs.

Royston proves to be the perfect sparring partner for Charette’s boisterous, googly-eyed ELP riffage in the sardonically titled Not a Purist. Sharpie Moustache, a funky shuffle with a droll Zombies quote and a gorgeous oldschool soul chorus, might be a Jimmy Smith homage – remember how he had that retro facial hair thing going on?

Bernard’s sparkly hammer-ons move front and center as the latin-tinged vamp Disco Nap gets underway. The album’s best and most riveting number is Hungarian Major, a creepy, chromatically fueled, genre-defying piece, Bernard’s bell tones glimmering against Charette’s funereal Balkan syncopation. Is this Eastern European art-rock? Romany jazz? Circus music? How about all of the above?

After the sly, satirically-infused previous two downtown New York numbers, Avenue A has a disarming wistfulness set to a calm clave groove. Damn, back when the LES was Loaisaida, it sure was a lot of fun, wasn’t it? Likewise, Detours, a catchy swing anthem, leaves no doubt that taking the long way this time around was the right move, Bernard’s catchy, looping riffage setting the stage for Royston to rumble.

Charette contrasts murky atmospherics and woozily loopy pedal lines with a deadpan, lackadaisical pop hook throughout Split Black – a psychological term for how borderline personalities go off the deep end.  A hazy southern soul-tinged waltz, White Lies brings to mind similar low-key collaborations between Jimmy Smith and Jim Hall. The album winds up with the oldschool 60s-style shuffle The Vague Reply, both Bernard and Royston getting plenty of room to raise the energy level. By now, it’s clear that Charette doesn’t give a damn – he’s going to do what he always does without any regard for limitations. Best case scenario is that he brings some new fans into the organ demimonde while managing to to drag the purists into his camp without any kicking and screaming.

July 12, 2015 Posted by | gypsy music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 6/1/09

We do this every week. 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 will take you to each individual song.


1. The Jazz Funeral – Goodnight (Is How I Say Goodbye)

Gentrification and greed as metaphor for the end of a relationship in this fiery janglerock masterpiece – the political as very personal. They’re at Ace of Clubs on 6/6 at 8.


2. Edison Woods – Praises & Scrutiny

The latest single from the forthcoming Wishbook Singles cd by the world’s best 6/8 band, lush and haunting as usual


3. Tessa Souter – You Don’t Have to Believe

Dark jazz siren with eerie Middle Eastern and flamenco tinges. She’s at 55 Bar at 6 on 6/12.  


4. Marni Rice – Priere

Noir accordionist/chanteuse. Haunting, with a string quartet. She’s at Small Beast at the Delancey on 6/25 around 10.


5. Black Sea Hotel – Dimjaninka

Haunting hypnotic Bulgarian folk tune arranged for four voices by Brooklyn’s own Bulgarian vocal choir. They’re at Union Pool at 9 on 6/4


6. Jo Williamson – Sheepish

Tuneful bittersweet and soulful, like Cat Power without the vocal pretensions.


7. Veveritse Brass Band – Samirov Cocek

Typically blistering Balkan madness. They’re at Union Pool on 6/4


8. Barbara Dennerlein with Emily RemlerStormy Monday

Scroll down to the middle of the page for this amazing clip from German tv, 1986. Dennerlein – maybe the greatest organist of our time – is her usual amazing self but it’s the late Emily Remler’s offhandedly savage yet obviously opiated solo that makes it.


9. Mattison – Yver

Beautiful electric piano triphop tune, Greta Gertler meets Bee & Flower. They’re at Duck Duck, 161 Montrose btw Graham & Humboldt at 5 PM on 6/7 for Bushwick open studios.


10. The Courtesy Tier – Set Things Right

Blistering, noisy bluespunk from this guitar/drums duo. They’re at the Rockwood on 6/4 and the Delancey on 6/6

June 2, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Barbara Dennerlein – Spiritual Movement No. 2 – Live

This is what you get when you turn one of the greatest jazz organists of alltime loose in a church with a big, magnificent organ. It might sound extreme to call Barbara Dennerlein the J.S. Bach of organ jazz, but she is unquestionably an artist of extraordinary power, imagination and astonishing technical mastery. Deviously funny, intensely emotional, attuned to the most minute shifts in feeling yet given to titanically grand gestures, Dennerlein is constantly challenging herself. On this live album, she plays the massive, four-manual, 63-stop organ at the restored Kaiser Wilhelm Church in Berlin. While her background is jazz, elements of classical, rock, film soundtracks and straight-up blues all play an important role in her writing. As with all live pipe organ performances, there’s plenty of technique on display here, but what really stands out is the sheer out-of-the-box imagination of Dennerlein’s arrangements and the intelligence of her compositions.


The concert opens with The Unforgettable, a pure blues set to a fast walking bassline, essentially a Hammond B3 groove-jazz song arranged for church organ with an ending that takes the crowd completely by surprise. On the B3, Dennerlein’s claim to fame is her ostentatious use of the bass pedals (she likes to solo on them, frequently using them to carry the main melody), and while this song features a lot of pedal work, what’s most striking is that she keeps it minimal and tasteful. Here, it’s all about textures and subtlety, not gratuitous showmanship.


The second track, the R&B-inflected Always Remember opens ambient and pretty, building from thoughtful explorations in the right hand to a warm, reassuring melody over a richly chordal groove. After that, I-797 is a clinic in the kind of fun you can have with a 2-chord vamp in a church with basically infinite volume at your disposal, literally pulling out all the stops. The next song, the sardonically titled Funkish is a showcase for the use of echo: it’s next to impossible to play funk on an instrument with so much sustain, so Dennerlein uses staccato bursts of sound to literally play off each other. Nicely crescendoing, eventually frenetic bluesy solo too!


The high point of the album is New York Impressions. This richly melodic suite begins somewhat rapt – which is interesting, because Dennerlein doesn’t exactly come across as someone who’s easily intimidated – before becoming more expansive, and yes, exploratory. How ironic that it would take someone from Germany to capture the essence of so much of what New York is all about: majestic, playful, epic, ambitious, optimistic, and packed with delightful minutiae, Dennerlein clearly gets it. There’s even a long, amusing quote from the Toccata in D. The concert wraps up with the stately, slightly ominous blues Farewell to Old Friends, a predictably tongue-in-cheek cover of Satisfaction and the slowly, warmly burning Home is Where My Heart Is.


Obviously, this is a treat for jazz fans, but the audience for this cd should be vast: anyone with a sense of adventure is strongly encouraged to check this out. That, first and foremost, is what Barbara Dennerlein is all about. Well-known in organ jazz circles here, Dennerlein is huge in Europe. This should help earn her the American audience she deserves.

October 10, 2008 Posted by | Music, Reviews | , , , , , , | 1 Comment