Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

MarchFourth Marching Band Is a Magnificent Beast

Where groups like Slavic Soul Party take brass band music to new places, Portland, Oregon’s MarchFourth Marching Band brings blazing brass flavor to funk, ska and occasionally hip-hop. Sometimes they’re sort of like a faster Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, but along with that band’s soul grooves, they also go into salsa and Afrobeat along with innumerable other global styles, with some neat dub tinges. Their latest album Magnificent Beast is party music to the extreme: catchy danceable grooves, big mighty hooks and tight, inspired playing: it’s a good approximation of the fullscale theatricality of the massive, sometimes 20+ piece band’s live show.

Interestingly, they open the album with a crunchy, guitar-driven heavy metal song set to a trip-hop beat. The second track, Soldiers of the Mind goes from funk, to reggae, to rap,with a nice soulful trombone solo and bubbly organ behind it. Delhi Belly slowly morphs into funk from a hypnotically rattling bhangra groove, with fat, noir solos from the trumpet and baritone sax. The tracks that most evoke the Hypnotic Brass guys are Fat Alberta, with its neat polyrhythms and shifting brass segments, and The Finger, a sweet, summery oldschool soul groove.

A lusciously sly oldschool salsa jam with a funny, tongue-in-cheek trombone solo, Sin Camiseta has the bari sax setting off a rousing arrangement that’s part second-line, part ska. The album’s best song, Cowbell, takes the sly, comedic factor to the next level with swirling Ethiopian horns, a smoky, sultry tenor sax solo and then finally a swirl of horns that unexpectedly go 3 on 4 on the outro. Rose City Strut reaches for lushly lurid noir swing ambience with reverb guitar and sometimes bubbly, sometimes apprehensive horns, muted trumpet and clarinet enhancing the late-night ambience in some random alley off a brightly lit avenue. A Luta Continua sets biting, syncopated salsa to an Afrobeat shuffle; Git It All, with its funky pop hook, was obviously designed for audience participation.

Another track full of unexpectedly fun changes, Fuzzy Lentil starts out like swaying, funky halfspeed ska, then takes a punk riff and funks it out with a biting brass arrangement. They end the album with the slowly crescendoing soul epic Skin Is Thin, the only real vocal track here, thoughtfully and poetically contemplating how to survive with “greedy nuts hatching evil plans” all around us – is this a time when “being a mutt is the only way to survive?” Maybe. As party music goes, it doesn’t much smarter or more entertaining than this. M4, as their fans call them, have a Dec 17 show in their hometown at Refuge,116 SE Yamhill; lucky partiers in the Bay Area can see them on New Year’s Eve at the Concourse Exhibition Center, 635 8th St. in San Francisco.

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December 3, 2011 Posted by | funk music, latin music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music, ska music, soul music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Relatively Rare Brazilian Music from Orquestra Contemporânea de Olinda

You’ve done this before. You log on, go to your music, or your itunes, or your limewire and ask yourself, “When on earth did I download this and why?” And ever notice, if you trust your instincts, that the mystery tunes turn out to be really good? A little digging through the email box revealed that this band actually came to us via a publicist who was working their North American debut this past spring: for one reason or another we missed it. Too bad! Orquestra Contemporânea de Olinda sound like they’re an awful lot of fun live. They’re from Pernambuco, Brazil; their speciality is frevo, the region’s blazing brass band sound. But like so many Brazilian groups (or groups from the whole of El Sur, for that matter), they reflect the continent’s amazing melting-pot esthetic. For example, the first track here, a violin-driven instrumental, is basically a calypso tune, but with maracatu percussion and hints of rustic forro music. The next one is a wry, tricky, labyrinthine, psychedelic guitar song with keening horns in the background: Love Camp 7 in Portuguese? And after that they do a soaring, horn-driven roots reggae number. Beyond their geographical location, their multistylistic excellence undoubtedly stems from the fact that they began as the house band at the local music conservatory, Grêmio Musical Henrique Dias, a remarkably community-oriented organization. As faculty meetings go, this one is unusually fun.

The rest of the album is all over the map as well. Duranteo Carnaval sways gently over a hypnotic flute-and-guitar pop vamp; Jogado Peito shifts artfully from octave guitar over a Ramones beat to samba to ska and back again. Ladeira – “Hill” – is a salfsafied samba replete with suspenseful crescendos. The sarcastically titled Nao Interessa Nao – “Not Interested” – is the best song on the album, a blistering ska/Afrobeat instrumental like something the Superpowers might do, fueled by some paint-peeling wah guitar and blazing horns. Suade is a luscious funk/samba song, which they then redo as tingly organ-and-guitar dub. The album wraps up with a fiery samba-rock song, spacy atmospherics and a flute flourish. It’s hard to find stateside, but it’s worth checking with their Brazilian distributor.

And as it turned out, the NY Times covered their show. So we don’t have to feel bad that we missed it.

July 20, 2010 Posted by | latin music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Brother Joscephus and the Love Revival Revolution Orchestra

This is an amazing album, one of the year’s best. It sounds like something straight out of New Orleans around 1966. Frontman Brother Joscephus sings in a warm, inspired drawl that seems to draw just as much from late nights in saloons as it does from the church – it’s a soulful blend of the worldly and the spiritual. His mighty gospel-fueled band, led by The Right Reverend Dean Dawg on piano and organ, features a four-piece horn section, four-piece vocal choir, tastily incisive 60s style soul guitar and a fat rhythm section. Brother Joscephus calls it “secular gospel” – all the passion of a Sunday morning service, with refreshingly inclusive, nondenominational lyrics that run the gamut from a piano-stoked tribute to his New Orleans hometown, to inspirational anthems and a couple of ballads. These songs are long! They stretch out, giving the band a chance to cut loose or hang on a vamp and get the crowd going. Everything here sounds like it was recorded live.

The album opens like a church service, swirling organ and horns setting the ecstatic mood that keeps going for pretty much the whole album. “Can I get an amen?” asks Brother Joscephus, the choir responds enthusiastically and off they go on a fast, slinky gospel groove. The joyous Bon Temps Roulez brings the good times to redline with a Mardi Gras party vibe. More Than I Need works up to an absolutely gorgeous chorus – the great beyond might be beckoning, but Brother Joscephus reminds that we’ve all got a lot of living to do while we’re still here, with an amusing little “sermon” on paradise serving as the break.

Can’t Help Myself is a slow, swaying breakup ballad with a bit of a vintage George Jones country feel, organ passing the baton to the guitar gracefully and wistfully before the horns and the choir pick it up at the end. After that, they’re back to a straight-up gospel groove, and then more of the party vibe with the deliriously fun second-line Bury Me in New Orleans. Interestingly, the best song on the cd might be the big, uncharacteristically dark 6/8 ballad I Won’t Be That Man, bristling with unexpected changes. The eerie intensity doesn’t let up, although the pace picks up again with a highway anthem, the Dr. John-flavored Midnight Moon: “Let the devil come and take me away!” The album ends on a high note with Don’t Give Up on Love, with its sly, Penny Lane-style horn chart. What Chicha Libre’s debut cd was to last year, this one is to 2009: the party album of the summer. Fans of classic gospel, New Orleans soul from Lee Dorsey on forward, and the best soul singers of this era from Sharon Jones to Eli “Paperboy” Reed will love this stuff. Brother Joscephus’ August 7 Rocks Off Concert Cruise is sold out; they’re at Sullivan Hall on 8/14 at 10 with the Rebirth Brass Band.

August 5, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review: Zlatne Uste and Raya Brass Band at Drom, NYC 6/13/09

Big party at Dracula’s castle last night, were you there? Alone in a darkened room, The Count? Not exactly. While not quite the mobscene that the NY Gypsy Festival’s show at le Poisson Rouge was last month, the big Balkan brass band concert last night was well-attended and deliriously fun. It was something of a juxtaposition of the old guard and the young lions of the thriving but still largely under-the-radar New York Balkan underground. The dancing started before the bands did, the dj spinning an auspiciously diverse, pan-global mix of Mehanata-style stuff while a line formed and circled the room, growing longer by the minute. Then Zlatne Uste took the stage. The nine-piece Balkan brass juggernaut – four horns, trumpet, tuba, drum and two saxes – were the first of the New York Balkan brass bands, dating from way back in 1983. Their name means “golden lips,” definitely a boast, but they back it up. “Most of us are older than you are,” their trumpeter somewhat proudly told the crowd. A guy in the crowd kept yelling for them to play his favorite song, the Goran Bregovic hit Kalasjnikov. “Not now!” a fellow partyer grinningly advised. “They always do that later.”

They opened with their darkest number of the night, basically a murky two-chord chromatic dance vamp and then another that was even simpler, serving as a chassis for some darkly intense soloing from the trumpet and sax. Most of the songs were instrumentals, although several band members sang on the vocal numbers, sometimes sharing a line or trading off.  A few were marked by a noticeable shift, opening somewhat wary, the staccato pulse of the horns then growing bouncier and more carefree. As their long, exuberant set went on, the sea of dancers grew, through a bouncy, happy number in 4/4, a bracingly soulful cocek dance and several with far trickier, syncopated rhythms that didn’t phase the dancers a bit. One of the guys in the band sang a drinking song (rakia, the potent Balkan apple brandy featured prominently). The crowd – a diverse mix of expats and Americans – was clearly psyched to hear what were obviously some old favorites. As predicted, they finally did Kalasjnikov, a lickety-split vocal number, one of the horn players leading the crowd in an exuberant “one, two, three, OPA!” to wind up the chorus.

After a lengthy break, Raya Brass Band came out of the back room and secured a spot on the floor, quickly encircled by not one but two lines of dancers. There’s been a buzz about this band lately and it’s well-deserved. Where Zlatne Uste got the party going, these guys took it up a notch. Their sound is looser, far darker and they threaten to fly off the hinges at any second: this band is all about adrenaline, taking the intensity as high as it can go and then adding something on top of that. Clarinetist and sax player Greg Squared – also of the equally intense, somewhat more diverse Ansambl Mastika – is a pyrotechnic player in the Ivo Papasov mold, delivering an endless series of long, careening, wildly flurrying clarinet solos packed with lightning-fast melismas. On the sax, he backed off only a little. Yet it was his achingly terse, minimalist clarinet solo toward the end of the set that was the most intense of all. Trumpeter Ben Syversen is a kindred spirit, blazing through the songs’ eerie Middle Eastern scales while accordionist Matthew Fass (also of Zagnut Cirkus Orkestar) held things together as much as he could, ominously and atmospherically. Sometimes the band would all blast through the same repetitive riff as an ensemble, otherwise barrelling along with the fat, undulating groove of the tuba and drum as trumpet, sax or clarinet cut loose, the songs going on for minutes on end without respite. Eventually, two of the women from the Brooklyn Balkan a-capella quartet Black Sea Hotel (who have a sensationally good debut album just out) joined in and belted a few choruses

By 2 AM, the drunk munchies were kicking in, and the kitchen was still serving food. By the way, these NY Gypsy Festival events are a surefire way to get away from tourists and trendoids. Tourists, if they knew this stuff existed, would think it’s weird and scary (a lot of it is); trendoids, if they knew anything about it, would ridicule it as declasse. There’s nothing more populist than when the band is on the dancefloor and either you’re in the band or you’re unable to escape being drawn into the joyous vortex of dancers around them.

Raya Brass Band is at Mehanata on 6/25 at 9; the 6/27 Turkish Woodstock at Central Park Summerstage at 3 featuring Mazhar-Fuat-Özkan, Painted on Water with Sertab Erener & Demir Demirkan plus the NY Gypsy All-Stars with iconic clarinetist Hüsnü Senlendirici is not to be missed, and afterward the organizers have kept things going with an afterparty at City Winery, Senlendirici playing with the Brooklyn Funk Essentials and more from the Gypsy All-Stars. Is this turning out to be a good summer or what?

June 14, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment