Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 2/28/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Monday’s album is #701:

Parliament – Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome

Big record labels always wanted to eliminate musicians from the equation. By 1978, as disco gained traction, they were doing it with drum loops and primitive samples, and musicians were worried sick. Into the battle stepped George Clinton with this ferocious, deliriously danceable broadside aimed at the music industry and clueless listeners, personified by Sir Nose d’Voidoffunk (i.e. “devoid of funk”). Among other things, this clueless idiot can’t dance, despite the presence of some of the era’s best funk musicians – Clinton, Bernie Worrell, Eddie Hazel and Bootsy Collins. The album’s two big hits, Bop Gun and Flash Light, with its ridiculously catchy Bernie Worrell synth bass hook, have been sampled in a gazillion hip-hop songs. There’s also the caustic, sarcastic Wizard of Finance, the anti-consumerist cautionary tale Placebo Syndrome and the mesmerizing ten-minute title track. Thirty years later, the winner of this battle couldn’t be more clear. Here’s a random torrent.

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February 28, 2011 Posted by | funk music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 11/27/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Saturday’s album is #794:

Funkadelic – America Eats Its Young

Here’s a band that pretty much everybody agrees on. But the two most popular “best-of” music lists up here in the cloud already grabbed One Nation Under a Groove and Maggot Brain. So what’s left? Pretty much everything P-Funk ever did. Here’s one you might not have thought about for awhile. This characteristically sprawling, eclectic, amusing, and frequently scathing 1972 double lp might be George Clinton’s most rock-oriented album, stone cold proof that these guys were just as good a rock act as a funk band. This is the core of the early group: the brilliant and underrated Tyrone Lampkin on drums, Bootsy on bass, Eddie Hazel on guitar and Bernie Worrell on swirling, gothic-tinged organ putting his New England Conservatory degree to good use. A lot of this takes Sly Stone-style funk to the next level: the fast antiwar/antiviolence shuffle You Hit the Nail on the Head; the artsy, orchestrated eco-anthem If You Don’t Like the Effects, Don’t Produce the Cause; and the vicious, bouncy antidrug anthem Loose Booty. I Call My Baby Pussycat is epic and funny; the title track is even more so, a slow stoner soul vamp with a message, an orgasmic girl vocalese intro, and a faux Isaac Hayes rap by Clinton: “Who is this bitch?” The pensive ballad Miss Lucifer’s Love predates Radiohead by 35 years; Bootsy gets down and dirty with an oldschool R&B feel on Philmore. Biological Speculation offhandedly makes the case that if we don’t pull our act together, nature just might do it for us – without us. And it’s got a pedal steel solo?!? The album closes with a politically charged gospel number, the guys in the choir trading verses with the girls. Here’s a random torrent.

November 27, 2010 Posted by | funk music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Bernie Worrell’s SociaLybrium at Metrotech Park, Brooklyn NY 6/10/10

The name of Bernie Worrell’s latest band is an ironic pun: the last thing the legendary P-Funk keyboardist and music director wants is a comatose, complacent audience. The tired workday crowd at the park where Myrtle deadends into Jay in downtown Brooklyn wasn’t dancing, but they were paying close attention. Worrell and his backing trio rewarded them with a characteristically sly, smartly diverse show. The Wizard of Woo doesn’t make a big deal out of it, but he has a couple of degrees from the prestigious New England Conservatory, and that knowledge resonates throughout pretty much everything he plays. Today Worrell did a lot of funk, but he also showed off his jazz chops, and more captivatingly, his jazz ideas: agile chromatic piano runs, incisively terse blues-based phrases, lots of swirling, Jimmy Smith-inflected organ and a devious refusal to land on an obvious resolution at the end of a phrase. Drummer J.T. Lewis kept things terse and rock solid, and bassist Melvin Gibbs was a revelation: he’s come a long, long way from his days in Living Color. Moving from a steady, almost minimal low-register boom to the occasional judicious chord and a bent-string melody here and there, he was welcome wherever he decided to embellish the melody, and he didn’t waste a note. Worrell has no doubt been a good influence. Southpaw Strat player Ronny Drayton has spectacular chops and used them most effectively on the quieter numbers, adding spacy, atmospheric washes, thoughtfully chorded soul fills and even some bracing sheets of feedback out of one of his solos. But when he soloed, it was all gratuitous funk-metal: he’d put the bite on or add garish vibrato where he could have really driven Worrell’s slow crescendos all the way home. Unless Worrell counterintuitively wanted him to play the buffoon (as Worrell himself did a few times with woozy portamento and some even squigglier, oscillating synth textures). You never know with this guy: he’s bright.

Worrell opened solo, playing variations on the Kool Man ice cream truck theme. They shuffled their way through a psychedelic, reggae-tinged vamp titled Rockers Uptown with Worrell evoking Augustus Pablo with some humidly breezy melodica work when he wasn’t adding organ fills. They wound that up with a dub flourish of an outro, led by Drayton of all people. Worrell explained that another number, predictably titled Funk, was a commentary on “world government” and complacency on the part of those who mindlessly accept it. “Put it in the trunk, stash that shit!” he snarled. The best number of the afternoon started out darkly atmospheric, driven by guitar washes and string synthesizer, almost a requiem – and then it got comedic, with all kinds of silly synth fills, and somehow the band made it work. BQE, from the band’s new album started out as a warped boogie but an endless guitar solo made it interminable, like getting stuck in traffic on the way to Coney Island right after the Prospect Park exit. But again, maybe that was the point. When Worrell announced that they were about to do a Buckethead song, that was the signal that it was time to get up and get back to work. For those who regret missing this show, the band is playing the Undead Jazz Festival, with a show at le Poisson Rouge on the 12th at about 9:15.

June 10, 2010 Posted by | concert, funk music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The New England Conservatory Jazz All Star Concert at B.B. King’s, NYC 3/27/10

The New England Conservatory is celebrating its jazz program’s fortieth year – if memory serves right, they were the first established conservatory in the United States to give jazz their official imprimatur, so it would only make sense that by now their alumni list would boast some of the world’s greatest players. Their faculty got to show off their chops (and welcome sense of humor) at the Jazz Standard on the 24th (reviewed here); this particular celebration was a counterintuitively eclectic bill that literally had something for everyone, a series of nonchronological flashbacks between present and various moments from the past, both in terms of the history of jazz as well as that of the conservatory. Ironically, the youngest act on the bill was also the most rustic. Lake Street Dive hark back to the early swing era, a style more vogue in the steampunk scene than mainstream jazz (which is also considerably ironic since their style would have fit in perfectly alongside hitmakers of that era). Rachael Price’s warmhearted, somewhat chirpy vocals blended in perfectly with bandleader/bassist Bridget Kearney’s charmingly aphoristic, period-perfect songs, Mike Olson’s balmy trumpet and Mike Calabrese’s deftly terse drums. Another recent alum, singer Sarah Jarosz (who also proved to be a fine mandolinist) benefited from Kearney and Calabrese’s supple rhythm on a similar original of hers. And Dominique Eade, whose own style runs closer to pop than anyone else on the bill, impressed with a torchy a-capella number.

The piano jazz of the early part of the evening was equally captivating. Jason Moran – who’d joined the faculty just minutes previously – served up an expansive, appropriately lyrical tribute to Jaki Byard, followed by Ran Blake’s purist takes of Abbey Lincoln and Gershwin and a rapturously melodic, hypnotically nocturnal improvisation by Matthew Shipp and guitarist Joe Morris.

And it sure would have been nice to have been able to stick around for Bernie Worrell, one of the NEC’s best-known alums – but we were needed elsewhere (a special shout-out to the young quartet – rhythm section, electric piano and guitar – who played tasteful fusion throughout the press party beforehand at the adjacent Lucille’s Bar).

March 28, 2010 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Sam Sherwin at R Bar, NYC 6/3/10

Sam Sherwin is a guy whose time has come. Actually, his time never went away – the southpaw guitarslinger has always had a gig, whether playing lead with someone else (most memorably with late 90s/early zeros New York noir rock legends DollHouse) or fronting his own band. But with 80s music in vogue more than it ever might have been during that decade, it’s somewhat surprising that there’s a style of music from that era that hasn’t been resurrected yet. On one level, that’s to be expected: the indie rock trendoids who worship that stuff the most are a fearful crowd and shy away from anything that wasn’t popular to begin with. But for those willing to do a little digging, the strain of powerpop that was coming out of New York in the late 70s and early 80s, with its Gotham sarcasm and just enough of a punk edge to give it a leg up on the tamer stuff coming out of other parts of the world, is overdue for a resurrection. That’s what Sam Sherwin plays.

Playing Telecaster and backed by an inspired trio of Jimmy Buffett keyboardist Pete Vitalone, Bernie Worrell sidewoman Donna McPherson on bass and Dena Tauriello on drums, Sherwin’s baritone croon was part menace and part leer, evoking Iggy Pop in his most off-center phase from the days of albums like Soldier or Party. The set mixed songs from his upcoming album Iodine Cocktails along with tracks from his previous cd Dirty Little Secrets. The second song of the night, a snide slide guitar shuffle was a perfect example. Vitalone got up from his piano and strapped on an accordion for a surprisingly direct, even wounded version of the kiss-off ballad You Got It Wrong, from Dirty Little Secrets. A new, bluesy rocker with an early 80s Stones feel possibly titled Long Time Coming could have been an outtake from Emotional Rescue; another one in a similar vein had Sherwin snarling about “licking my wounds at the scene of the crime.” They slowed down the jailhouse rocker Sittin’ on a Bench (a vivid Rikers Island narrative, probably because it’s a true story) with some ominously echoing Rhodes piano; the darkly bucolic, backbeat-driven number they followed with shifted into urban noir territory without missing a beat. They closed with the catchy powerpop anthem Get Close, a showcase for Vitalone’s majestic organ work. Watch this space for information on the upcoming album.

October 8, 2008 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment