Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 10/13/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Wednesday’s album is #839:

The Roots of Chicha 2

This is the first album to make its debut here on this list. Pretty impressive, considering what a major event its predecessor was. In 2007, the first Roots of Chicha anthology not only introduced the world to what, for better or worse, could be called Peruvian surf music: it also spearheaded a revival of chicha music in the land where it was born. Not bad for an album on a small label (Barbes Records) run out of a Brooklyn bar. And where the Roots of Chicha was a good anthology, this follow-up is a great one. More than its predecessor, this is a rock record: the Roots of Chicha focused on the woozy psychedelic cumbias coming out of the Peruvian Amazon in the late 60s and early 70s, many of them with more of a latin sound than the songs here. This focuses more closely on the rock side of the phenomenon, a mix of songs from 1969 through 1981. Some of them vamp out on a chord, hypnotically, all the way through to the chorus. Most of them have a vintage, 1960s timbre, the guitars playing through trebly amps with lot of reverb backed by tinny Farfisa organ and tons of clattering percussion. Many of these have a swaying cumbia beat, but a lot of them don’t. Likewise, a lot of the songs use the pentatonic scales common to Asian music – some wouldn’t be out of place in the Dengue Fever songbook.

The best song here is an absolutely gorgeous version of Siboney, by Los Walkers. It’s sort of the chicha equivalent of the Ventures’ cover of Caravan, a reverb-drenched rock version of a familiar, distantly ominous melody made even more so. Another knockout is Los Ribereños’ Silbando, a vividly brooding minor-key shuffle that foreshadows Brooklyn chicha revisionists Chicha Libre. The best of the chicha bands of the 70s, Los Destellos (see #903 on this list) are represented by a simple, one-chord fuzztone stinger and the Asian-tinged, warped bucolic jam La Pastorcita. Likewise, Los Wremblers contribute two, one more of a celebration than the title would make you think, the other the original version of La Danza de los Petroleros that became a big hit for Los Mirlos. 80s stars Chacalon y la Nueva Crema contribute a catchy workingman’s lament; Manzanita y Su Conjunto have three songs here that showcase their artful ability to switch from Cuban son montuno, to hypnotic acid rock, to catchy cumbia-pop. There’s also a one-chord wonder (well, almost) by Compay Quinto; Grupo Celeste’s scurrying, bass-driven Como un Ave; Ranil y Su Conjunto’s savage, Asian-flavored Mala Mujer; Colegiala, by Los Ilusionistas, an iconic number that was used – albeit in bastardized, almost unrecognizable form – in a well-known television commercial in the 80s; and Los Shapis’ El Aguajal, another famous one. Very little of this has been available before now outside of Peru; much of it was out of print for years in its native land. All of this you can dance to, and like surf music, it’s easy to get completely addicted to it: youtube is a goldmine of chicha. The extensive liner notes to this album are a great place to start. It’s out now on Barbes Records.

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October 13, 2010 Posted by | latin music, lists, Music, music, concert, rock music, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Mavrothi Kontanis at Barbes, Brooklyn NY 4/30/10

Seeing Mavrothi Kontanis at Barbes last night was a time warp back to a secret, revolutionary taverna in an Athens (or Istanbul) of the mind around 1936. Kontanis is an acknowledged virtuoso of the oud, an educator and the author of books on oud technique and is every bit the player you’d expect from someone with that background. The oud has been around forever and has an otherworldly resonance, a distant echo of the millions who’ve put their souls into the instrument over literally millennia. Alongside Kontanis’ soulful reverberation, voilinist Megan Gould and percussionist Timothy Quigley – who seems to be to Barbes what Willie Dixon was to Chess Records’ studio – added textures and lines that matched and then diverged, sometimes hypnotic, other times fiery and intense.

Much of the material they played was taken from Kontanis’ two 2008 cds (both ranked high on our list of best albums that year), notably an irresistibly woozy, sly version of the self-explanatory rembetiko ballad Ouzo. The trio opened with a segue of old songs from Athens and then Smyrna, Kontanis throwing the occasional sharp chord in among his fluid, snaky arabesque lines to raise the energy level, Gould firing off a solo that sizzled with trills at the top of the scale. Another Arabic-flavored one saw the two string players doubling each others’ lines with a casual rapport that bordered on the telepathic. Quigley put down his dumbek (goblet drum) and switched to the boomier riq frame drum on a rearrangement of a swaying, insistently psychedelic bouzouki song from around 1960 – “New for us is 1940,” Kontanis laughed. An audience request was ablaze with Kontanis’ tremolo picking and got even hotter when Gould went soaring over the melee; another rumbled along to a tricky 15/4 beat. Toward the end, they did a winsome number about a heartbroken drunk, finally wrapping up over an hour’s worth of music in a hypnotic, rattling blaze of oud chords, staccato violin and percussion. Plenty of tavernas around town have music but not like this. Mavrothi Kontanis has an intriguing residency coming up at 1:30 PM at the Silk Road exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History on May 9, 23 and 30; he’s back at Barbes on June 11 at 8.

May 1, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Les Chauds Lapins at Barbes, Brooklyn NY 6/19/09

It was both impressive and heartwarming to see how this band has grown. Les Chauds Lapins means “hot rabbits,” literally – in the vernacular, the connotation is a guy who’s hot to trot. Their shtick is reviving old French chansons from the thirties and forties, predominantly from the Charles Trenet catalog. A Gallic icon, Trenet was flamboyant, frequently annoying but also very witty. His repertoire ranged from the odious Douce France (sort of the French equivalent of God Bless America) to dozens of vastly more entertaining and clever songs with a jazzy, theatrical feel, sometimes going completely over the edge into camp. Les Chauds Lapins play them with a knowing, tongue-in-cheek appreciation: former Ordinaires frontman Kurt Hoffman on banjo ukelele or clarinet; ex-Roulette Sister Meg Reichardt on guitar and banjo uke, sharing vocals with Hoffman; Andy Cotton on upright bass, Garo Yellin on cello and a ringer on violin adding a gypsy flair to several selections. The result was as lush and romantic as it was funny: Les Chauds Lapins prefer songs with multiple layers of meaning and they brought all of them out.

What was most impressive is how much their repertoire has expanded since their first album (which made the top 20 on our Best Albums of 2007 list). This time they opened with the coyly swinging Il M’a Vue Nue (He Saw Me Naked), Reichardt managing to hold herself back from completely hamming it up. The high point of their first set was Je Crache Dans L’Eau (I Spit Into the Water), a character study chronicling one unique and peculiar response to rejection, taking it out on fish in the river and marveling at all the ripples a mouthful of saliva can create. The band clearly had a great time with an even more bizarre chronicle, le Fils de la Femme Poisson (The Fishwife’s Son) when it came to the bridge, which is a dead ringer for the Pachelbel Canon. The song was written forty years before Oprah rediscovered it and put the Canon back in the canon (ouch – sorry) – was this a case of reinventing the wheel or a very clever case of theft? Appropriate something previously unknown and you have a perfect crime.   

As a guitarist, Reichardt just gets more interesting, more incisive. Having honed her blues chops in the Roulette Sisters, she’s worked up her jazz side in this project and where she used to comp chords on banjo uke on most of the songs, she’s playing guitar with the same clever incisiveness and love for the low registers that’s so apparent when she plays blues. It was also nice to see Hoffman cut loose with a fiery clarinet solo toward the end of the set – it would be good to see those chops in action more often. And it would have been fun to stick around for a whole second set , but there were drunk people to watch over, the price of some pretty hard pregaming.

June 20, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Bill Frisell and Viola Boldt at Barbes, Brooklyn NY 3/3/09

In a rare duo show with Viola Boldt – a Lucinda Williams sidewoman who plays violin – Bill Frisell reaffirmed his reputation as the most important and most captivating jazz guitarist of our time. In the same vein as his performance on the landmark double live cd East/West, it was a characteristically casual yet absolutely riveting show, like being in his living room. Literally, because Barbes is a small place. It was no surprise that for anyone who arrived close to showtime, it was impossible to get inside the small inner room where the two were playing until at least a half-hour into their long, practically two-hour set. Mixing originals with some surprising covers, the two let the melodies unwind slowly and conversationally, Boldt aptly providing atmospheric, sometimes stark sheets of sound against Frisell’s deliberate, warmly melodic, thoughtfully chordal pacing.

 

Frisell’s style has evolved to the point where it is neither highly ornamented nor particularly flashy. He adheres to the principles of minimalism – not a single wasted note – yet his sound is full, no matter how few notes he may be playing. His tempos were typically slow and ruminative, yet he always remained a step ahead of the listener, using mostly downstrokes and employing nonstandard tuning [sounded like dropped D – anyone at the show actually get close to the stage?]. What was most impressive was that he didn’t even employ his trusty loop pedal, nor for that matter any effects: it was just a man and his guitar and a violinist who understood perfectly what was going on and became an integral part of it.

 

Most of the show featured Frisell’s trademark melodic, invitingly contemplative, Americana-inflected sonic vistas, the high point being a gorgeous, understatedly clanging cover of Ventura by Lucinda Williams. As the outro came around, Frisell grinned and effortlessly worked his way around the scale in a cozy circle of major thirds to end it on a subtly triumphant note. They maintained the upbeat feel on a blues number that Boldt grinningly recounted having to remind Williams how to play. The duo also ran through a tersely ominous series of permutations on the opening theme to Frisell’s superb History/Mystery cd from last year.

 

Boldt is also an excellent singer, delivering tastefully uncluttered, clear vocals on a couple of tunes. And she matched Frisell’s trademark deadpan humor on a playful jam on You Are My Sunshine that they used to close the set. Shows like this are yet another reminder why we New Yorkers stay put, year after year despite all the hassles.

 

Frisell’s upcoming tour kicks off on March 15 at the Continental Club in Austin, returning to NYC on May 12 for a six-night stand at the Vanguard with his Trio featuring Tony Scherr on bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums. Boldt is back at Barbes playing with another excellent Americana-inflected guitarist, Robbie Fulks every Tuesday in March at 7ish.

March 4, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review: Gaucho at Barbes, Brooklyn NY 1/29/09

Gaucho are not a Steely Dan cover band, nor do they wear cowboy hats. According to the band’s website, their name derives from the Romanes equivalent for “gringo,” i.e. they may not have Roma blood but they have the sound down cold. Last night at Barbes the self-described gypsy jazz band out of San Francisco showed off the virtuosity and intensity that keeps them busy with constant gigs in their hometown. For this show, acoustic guitarist/bandleader Dave Ricketts was accompanied by the band’s regular accordionist Rob Reich, in addition to another acoustic guitarist and a sub bassist who got a real workout, expertly and briskly walking the changes.

 

Interplay defines this band. Athough the band frequently played solos around the horn (or at least between the two guitarists) on many of the songs, it was the intricacy of the melodies intertwining among all the instruments that was their most obviously compelling feature. In a mix of Django Reinhardt classics and other similar material, they breezed through a small handful of 6/8 musette instrumentals, bouncing, almost martial dance tunes including the classic Swing 42, and a handful of vocal numbers. Chanteuse Ariel Morgenstern (sp?), a friend of the band was called out of the crowd to deliver a lickety-split version of the oldtimey blues What Will the Neighbors Say, a strikingly authentic French song with a beautifully expansive solo from the second guitarist (and strikingly authentic French vocals), and an aptly dark, anthemic take of Brother Can You Spare a Dime.

 

Throughout the show, Ricketts worked every gypsy jazz trick in the book: fast climbs up the scale against a single reverberating string, big staccato blocks of chords and innumerable lightning-fast arpeggios, a style echoed by his cohort. Reich would deftly insinuate himself into the mix with a fluidly lyrical style, at one point deviously hammering on a trill until the rest of the band realized they’d better get out of the way, fast. The band has 3 cds out, including an intriguing live one. Bay Area listeners who don’t already know this band from their long-running weekly residency at Amnesia and elsewhere have a real treat waiting for them; New York fans reading this and wish they’d caught the Barbes show can still see them tonight (Fri Jan 30) at Drom at 10.

January 30, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review: Skye Steele at Barbes, Brooklyn NY 1/27/09

“I write too many slow songs,” violinist Skye Steele said with a wry grin. Wrong. What this guy absolutely excels at is slow songs. Slow, thoughtful, meditative instrumentals, full of beautiful little intricacies, often absolutely mesmerizing: you can get completely lost in this stuff. Last night at Barbes Steele was backed by an excellent band featuring upright bass, electric guitar and reed player Harel Shachal alternating between clarinet and sax. Most of what Steele writes has a dark, plaintive, hypnotic edge: he goes for atmosphere over ostentation every time, and absolutely nails it. You could call what he writes jazz, although it also embodies elements of classical and Balkan music, with glimpses of rock and even Afro-pop peeking in and showing their faces from time to time.

 

The material they played early in the set had a bracing, big-sky Americana feel in the same vein as Jenny Scheinman’s collaborations with Bill Frisell. A little later in the set, on a far eerier number, Shachal’s clarinet went deep into the lower registers for an ominously fluttery Balkan feel. A handful of their songs were suites, one of them facing off fluid, swoopingly legato bass against the noisy duel of the violin and clarinet; another featured a languidly thoughtful yet tensely wary solo from the guitar. Steele was clearly throwing songs at these guys that at least one of them had never played before, but the group was game and rose to the occasion, taking the old Scottish folksong Black is the Color off into the Great Plains with a wintry, windswept ambience. On their last number, another suite, Steele wound up a tightly compelling passage by playing major over minor for a few bars, adding an especially macabre edge. Steele’s next performance is a quintet show on Feb 5 at le Poisson Rouge on a bill with with Shachal’s excellent, haunting Middle Eastern/Balkan group Anistar.

January 28, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brooklyn’s Best Dance Party

There’s no celebrity dj at Brooklyn’s best dance party. For that matter, there’s no dj. No celebrities, either. No ipod that hasn’t been stowed in a pocket or a purse. And no ecstasy, at least the kind that comes in a pill. Chicha Libre’s weekly Monday night residency at Barbes, where the back room becomes a roiling mass of bodies, gets plenty of press here, as Lucid Culture regulars will recall from our NYC live music calendar. The band actually likes it when people dance! The more people jump around, the better the band sounds. A stop by the club to see how the residency is going found them fantastically tight and more fun than ever: this weekly gig has done wonders for them.

In case Chicha Libre are new to you, at this point in time they are possibly the only American practitioners of chicha, a mostly instrumental style of dance music that originated in the slums of the Peruvian Amazon in the late 1960s when indigenous groups discovered American surf music and psychedelic rock and started playing electric instruments. Many of the bands who played it then called it “green music,” not for the dollars they managed to scrimp together for all that equipment, but for what they were smoking when they played it: this is the most hypnotic style of dance music you’ll ever hear.

Tonight the band ran through a mix of originals and covers, both from their sensational new cd Sonido Amazonico as well as Barbes Records’ anthology The Roots of Chicha, released last year. The way the band plays these songs, they’re full of trick endings: unless you have the cd – which is possible, since it’s all the rage – or you know the songs inside out, it’s hard to be sure if you should keep dancing or not. Tonight just about everybody in the mixed Anglo and Latino crowd was moving around on the floor: even the gaggle of drunks at the back table had their heads bobbing. The other great thing about Chicha Libre is that they improvise a lot, especially keyboardist Josh Camp, who ran his vintage Hohner Electrovox (an electric organ designed to look like an accordion, devised as a marketing ploy to open up the Latin market to the company’s instruments) through a labyrinthine circuit of weird, spacy wah-wah and reverb effects. Their version of the famous Ravel Pavane was as amusing as always, frontman Olivier Conan intoning “Pavane, pavane, pavane,” while trying to keep a straight face (that didn’t last long). Then it was the audience’s turn, grins breaking out throughout the room as everyone realized that the band was taking a stab at the Love classic Alone Again Or. While they gave the intro a bouncy chicha groove, the rest of the song was remarkably true to the original. It’s the closest to Arthur Lee (or Bryan MacLean, for that matter) you’ll ever get at this point in time.

Otherwise, they ran through a powerfully propulsive, surprisingly dark version of Los Mirlos’ Muchachita del Mi Amor, as well as amped-up, surfy takes on Conan’s Primavera en la Selva, Camp’s La Cumbia del Zapatero and the cover Un Shipibo en Espana, the latter three of which are all on Sonido Amazonico. If dancing is your thing, if you don’t go out on Saturdays because all the amateurs are out in full effect, Monday nights with Chicha Libre at Barbes are everything we’ve been saying about them for the better part of a year. This band is at the point where they’re about to outgrow the space here: see them while you can.

April 22, 2008 Posted by | concert, latin music, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Next Stop, Zanzibar: Hold Onto Your Seat!

Sounds of Taraab played Barbes last night. What an amazing band. It shouldn’t be long before this dynamic ensemble starts selling out big concert halls. In the meantime, the packed house in the back room here got to witness an incandescent, frequently transcendent performance. Sounds of Taraab plays East African coastal music, a blend of Levantine dance music and Indian film themes set to African rhythms, sung in Kiswahili. Tonight’s performance highlighted songs with a haunting, slinky, snakecharmer feel along with a few more distinctly African numbers, including a warm, passionate concluding number whose melody echoed what could have been the central hook in a mid-60s American soul music hit. Sudanese vocalist Alsarah held the audience captive with her effortlessly soulful vocals, inducing chills on the few occasions when she went full tilt, sailing into a riveting upper register. Accordionist Ismail Butera is the lead player in this unit, stealing the show with his wildly intense accordion work, a mix of sizzling runs all over the keyboard and big, expansive chords that he would use to build to a screaming crescendo. Oud player Haig Magnookian began several of the songs solo, showing off his dazzling speed and expert command of Arab modalities. Violinist Michael Hess added to the intoxicating mix of textures when he wasn’t being called on for an ethereal, atmospheric solo, and the two percussionists – one, a woman, who played a ceramic jug on one song, and later delivered a sizzling, sultry vocal on a Tanzanian love ballad – kept the audience swaying and clapping along. What a great discovery, and what a treat to witness live. Don’t miss the chance to see them.

And while you may be used to being dismissed or dissed outright at other clubs, consider what happened to the Lucid Culture crew last night at Barbes. Though the place was packed and the waitress had dozens of drink orders to fill, when she noticed that our table was wobbly, she stopped right in the middle of what she was doing and found something to stabilize it. She didn’t have to do that. But she did. Which was really cool. If a waitress at the Living Room noticed you had a wobbly table, she’d probably deliberately set your drinks on it so that they’d spill, and then she’d berate you for anything that landed on the floor.

April 5, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

El Grupo del Verano 2008! Chicha Libre Finally Puts Out a CD

This is the cultural artifact of the summer of 2008. It’s the one album released this year that you want to put on if you’re having a party and you want to get everyone’s attention (or impress everybody with your brilliant and eclectic taste): you’ll get plenty of “who’s that?”s. Readers of this space already know plenty about Chicha Libre’s intoxicatingly good live performances at Barbes throughout the past year: now, the party is available for takeout. On their debut cd, Sonido Amazonico, America’s best (and only) chicha band have revived the amazingly danceable, hypnotic, psychedelic sound that was popular in the slums of the Peruvian Andes thirty-five years ago, while adding their own inimitable vision and wit.

Chicha is what resulted when Peruvian bands first heard American surf and psychedelic rock and then added electric instruments, rock arrangements and Caribbean rhythms to their own sound. What Antibalas did with driving, horn-driven African groove music, what Dengue Fever is doing with deliciously psychedelic Cambodian pop, Chicha Libre is doing with chicha. When frontman/cuatro player Olivier Conan first heard the style, he was hooked, to the point where he found himself traveling to South America to track down as many original recordings as he could get his hands on, as well as the elusive musicians who created it. The result was the fascinating anthology The Roots of Chicha, released last year on his label, Barbes Records.

Chicha Libre’s debut mixes instrumentals and vocal numbers, originals as well as deviously crafted cover songs. While in most surf music the guitars carry the melody, in Chicha Libre’s music it’s usually keyboardist Josh Camp’s vintage Hohner Electrovox (a relic from the 70s which is basically an electronic organ with settings that mimic the sound of an accordion) which serves as the lead instrument. In addition to Conan, the rest of the band includes two percussionists, acoustic bass and Barbes co-owner Vincent Douglas playing reverb-drenched, surfy guitar. The result can be haunting, triumphant, celebratory or absolutely mesmerizing, often all in the same song. While just as in surf music, there’s occasional cheese in places, Chicha Libre thankfully tones it down as much as possible. The vocal numbers (in both Spanish and French) are the most overtly humorous songs on the album.

There are so many great songs here. The title track, a hypnotic yet danceable one-chord vamp that builds to a nasty Douglas solo, and Tres Pasajeros, an ominous train-ride theme written by Camp. The amusing Hungry Song plays with the macho posturing found in a lot of latin music. Their cover of the obscure El Borrachito (The Little Drunk Guy) has the narrator asking plaintively in Spanish, “Why are you making fun of me?”

They take the famous Ravel Pavane and chichafy it, breaking it down into dub reggae at one point, then the band starts chanting “pavane, pavane, pavane,” quiet and deadpan in the background while the guitar solos. Indian Summer tips its hat to Serge Gainsbourg in a big way, Conan and las Rubias del Norte frontwoman Allyssa Lamb doing spot-on early 70s ye-ye harmonies over a slinky spy theme. They also cover Hot Butter’s silly synth instrumental hit Popcorn with a sarcastic, punk edge: the Electrovox is out of tune on the highest registers, and there’s a silly bass solo. And then the band adds their own lyrics, a tribute to corn whiskey and weed. The album ends with its best song, a cover of what is probably composer Erik Satie’s signature work, Gnossienne #1 (you’ll recognize it from a million movie soundtracks). As simple as it is macabre, it’s also extremely difficult to play on the piano because Satie deliberately omitted the time signature, leaving the rhythm completely up to whoever’s playing it. Chicha Libre give it a slightly staggered tango pulse, making it as sexy as it is dark. What else is there to say – this is a great album, a must-own if you like psychedelia, right up there with the Vampiros Lesbos soundtrack and Mass in F Minor by the Electric Prunes. Five maduros con queso. The cd is available at better record stores, online and at shows. Chicha Libre play the cd release tonight at Drom at 10; Las Rubias del Norte open the show at 9.

April 4, 2008 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

QNG Live at Barbes, Brooklyn NY 3/9/08

At first glance, the concept seemed forced and contrived: four attractive, ponytailed women in matching black t-shirts and pants playing rigorously arranged music for recorder. But QNG (as in Quartet New Generation) proved to be much more than just the latest attempt to market classical music as theme-pop, playing an impressively versatile mix of classical and new music with equal amounts of passion, wit, playfulness and rigor. Without a program, it wasn’t always easy to tell precisely what they were playing, but there was a tradeoff: drinks and a nice waitress to bring them! Carnegie Hall suddenly seems boring by comparison.

They began with a baroque work: imagine Scherzo fur Krummhorn by Georg Bohm, if in fact it exists (probably not, but you get the picture). After that, they did a circular, hypnotic modern work, reminding a lot of Chicago downtempo improvisers Tortoise. They followed with the last, unfinished piece that Johann Sebastian Bach ever wrote, a fugue. It’s not one of his major works, but it’s still Bach, melodic with a slightly detached melancholy. The group stopped it cold where it ended, unexpectedly, and after a meaningful pause played the ending composed by one of his sons. The quartet had brought what seemed to be an entire factory floor worth of recorders in various sizes and types of wood, the players sometimes alternating between several within a single song. One was a large, boxy, rectangular wooden instrument capable of of playing chords on notes far lower than one would ever expect from a recorder. At times where the highs were matched by lows, it was as if an organ was playing, testament to the group’s tightly synchronous feel for the music.

They also did an arrangement of a medieval madrigal worthy of Bach along with a new piece by contemporary composer Paul Moravec on the theme of water heating to a boil, whose predictable, long crescendo was quite enjoyable until the end, which was painfully akin to listening to a roomful of teakettles screeching away at full steam. They also played another new piece that annoyed with an incessant pizzicato rhythm until a sudden macabre swell followed by a frenetic chase scene, and then it all became clear: the composer’s simply trying to be Mingus. The group ought to take some liberties with it and give it some muscle in the early going. But all in all, this show was a revelation, the last thing one would ever expect to hear in the back room of a Gallic-themed bar in Park Slope, Brooklyn where QNG earned a rousing ovation for a performance that was as adventurous as it was virtuosic.

The monthly classical series at Barbes, needless to say, is a welcome development. Here’s hoping that they continue with it: early Sundays are usually a wash as far as bar traffic is concerned, so it ought to bring some extra bodies into the place while maintaining Barbes’ reliably high standards.

March 10, 2008 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment