Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Epic, Spine-Tingling Spanish Dances and a Queens Show by Fiery Violinist Maureen Choi

Violinst Maureen Choi found her muse when she immersed herself in Spanish music. She likes epics and big, explosive crescendos: her music is not for the timid or people with ADD. Her new kick-ass album Theia is streaming at her music page – and it’s one of the most unselfconsciously adrenalizing records of the year. Her slashing, often Romany and Arabic-tinged compositions rise and fall and leap all over the place, and the fun her band has with them is contagious. She’s playing Terraza 7 on June 29 at 9 PM; cover is $15.

Choi flurries and flares over drummer Michael Olivera’s suspenseful flickers throughout the dramatic intro to the album’s first cut, Dear Paco (Cepa Andaluza); then bassist Mario Carrillo joins the party, pianist Daniel Garcia Diego firing off fiery, Middle Eastern-tinged chromatics.

Phoenix Borealis is a diptych of sorts, hushed luminosity bookending a ferocious flamenco dance with a big explosion of drums and some of the most savagely bowed bass in recent memory. Choi follows the same trajectory in Dance of the Fallen, painting plaintively resonatn lines over Garcia Diego’s elegant chromatic ripples and graceful chordal work.

Canto Salamanchino is a cheery number that shifts in and out of waltz time, between major and minor, with a deliciously pointillistic, chromatic piano solo midway through and an unexpected detour into Chinese pastoralia afterward. Silverio O. Garcia has a hushed, elegaic quality, violin and piano echoing each other’s plaintive riffs. Steady pitchblende menace gives way to acerbic Andalucian flair and a series of crashing crescendos in Sinner’s Prayer

Love Is the Answer is a somewhat muted, almost wrenchingly bittersweet ballad: imagine Chano Dominguez taking a crack at Schubert. Choi kicks off Bok Choi Pajarillo with a big solo that shifts cleverly between Romany intensity and the baroque; from there, it’s a flamenco rollercoaster.

The album closes with its two most towering epics. Septenber the First, the album’s most haunting number, has a persistently uneasy late-summer haziness, part Palestinian-flavored dirge and anguished string-jazz lament. Choi closes the record with Danza Ritual Del Fuego: from an allusive intro that could be Dave Brubeck, through a long Afro-Cuban-inflected interlude, it’s more simmer than fullscale inferno, with a coy false ending. Count this as one of the best albums of 2019 in any style of music.

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June 21, 2019 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chano Dominguez Brings His Saturnine Flamenco Piano Brilliance to Joe’s Pub Friday Night

The annual flamenco festival is happening around town next weekend, and as usual, fiery Spanish pianist Chano Dominguez is part of it. Perhaps better than any musician alive, he blends American jazz with flamenco for all the dark acerbity he can channel – which is a lot. He’s at Joe’s Pub this Friday, March 6 at 7 PM; cover is a little steep, $30, but he’s worth it. In fact, the show actually might sell out, so advance tix are a good idea.

His 2017 solo album Over the Rainbow  – streaming at Bandcamp – is a good introduction. It’s a mix of live and studio takes including both originals and classics from across the Americas. John Lewis’ Django proves to be a perfect opener, Dominguez building a lingering intro until he he adds subtle Spanish rhythm, a series of tasty, slithery cascades and finally some deviously muted syncopation. Likewise, he takes his time with Cuban composer Eliseo Grenet’s Drume Negrita, reinventing it as a balletesque strut rather than playing it as salsa, with a meticulous, downwardly ratcheting coda.

There are a couple of Monk tunes here. Evidence is amusingly tricky, switching back and forth between “gotcha!” pauses and a sagely bluesy insistence that swings just enough to keep it from being a march. Interesingly, Dominguez plays the more phantasmagorical Monk’s Dream a lot more straightforwardly, at the exact same tempo, with spiraling exactitude.

From its spring-loaded intro, to the clenched-teeth intensity of Dominguez’s drive through the first verse, to a bracing blend of cascade and pounce, the real showstopper here is an epic take of Violeta Parra’s Gracias A La Vida. He brings a similar, majestically circling intensity and then some trickily rhythmic fun to Cuban composer and frequent collaborator Marta Valdés’s Hacia Dónde.

The gorgeous take of Los Ejes De Mi Carreta, by Argentinean songwriter Atahualpa Yupanqui, simmers over catchy lefthand riffage, then grows more austere until Dominguez takes it out with a stampede.

His two originals here are dedicated to his kids. Mantreria shifts through intricate spirals, clever echo effects to saturnine, anthemic proportions and then back again. Marcel has a striking, steady, wistful yearning before Dominguez indulges in some boogie-woogie before shifting in a triumphantly gospel-flavored direction.

There’s also a ditty from the Wizard of Oz – no, it’s not If I Only Had a Brain.

March 6, 2019 Posted by | jazz, latin music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The French Exit and More Live in NYC 5/13/09

A good night for music started early at the Jazz Standard, currently playing host to an adventurous bunch of Catalan jazz artists. The club has been getting plenty of props here because they’ve earned it – with an ambience that rivals any swanky joint in town and a purist sensibility that respects all the classic jazz styles while reaching out to newer artists, they’re everything that both the Vanguard and the Stone should aspire to be. Thursday night’s early show for the media and the blogosphere kicked off with a long solo piano cameo by Chano Dominguez, whose claim to fame is transposing flamenco guitar to the piano. With an understated, percussive intensity, he played cleverly and directly with more than a hint of his early rock roots. Augusti Fernandez followed, also solo at the piano, delivering an absolutely transcendent, modally infused nocturne, a relentlessly uneasy piece that stayed just this side of total anguish. His show was last night, but if piano jazz is your thing, get to know him. The regularly scheduled act was unfortunately even more anticlimactic than expected, a Knitting Factory style unit with sax, drums and a bunch of electronics. As usual, if some machine’s doing it for you, your music invariably sounds like you get it from the bottom of a long black tube. The Spaniards remain at the Jazz Standard through the weekend: adventurous listeners should check out the calendar (see our current live picks)

From there it was down to Local 269, the latest and predictably upscaled version of the old Meow Mix space. As good as Fernandez had been two hours earlier, the French Exit were the highlight of the night, their dark, murkily beautiful reverb guitar-and-keyboard sound absolutely impossible to turn away from. Henri Harps’ richly metallic washes of chords rang out over Mia Wilson’s understatedly ornate, anguished piano arpeggios, drummer Bryan Sargent’s subtle accents quietly and effectively maintaining the intensity. Their songs burned like a pine pitch torch, slow and smoky but inexorably blazing, Wilson’s soul-simmered, wounded vocals impressively clear in the mix. There’s a hypnotic feel to pretty much everything they do: after awhile, the songs become pretty much impossible to dissect because they draw you in so deeply. Wilson’s lyrics were characteristically savage: “No, this won’t hurt,” she sang with an almost gleeful sarcasm in a new one, Bones and Matches, pounding and ferociously insistent over a repetitive piano hook. “Let me in, let me in,” she implored on the following number. They closed with a towering, majestic, organ-fueled version of Bad Sign, which might be their signature song, building to an explosion of distorted organ and reverb guitar as the chorus kicked in. Are the French Exit the best live band in town? They’re unquestionably one of them. If the darkness calls to you, so will their songs.

May 15, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment