Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Song of the Day 5/3/10

The best 666 songs of alltime countdown continues every day, all the way to #1. Monday’s song is #87:

Radio Birdman – I-94

Regrettably common American experience set to a savage, chromatic garage-punk tune –  kid discovers that college has ruined his old friend:

I bought you a case of Stroh’s
You never drank ’em down
You keep drinking Rolling Rock
You know I can’t hang round

This was 1979. Stroh’s wasn’t owned by Coors or available much further east of Michigan, and this being before the age of microbrews, beer lovers couldn’t get enough of it. Rolling Rock, on the other hand, had already become a staple of fratboy bars from Massachusetts down to the Carolinas. The song is on the classic Radios Appear album – as you might have noticed by now, most of the songs on that record are on this list.

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May 3, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: The Salvatore Bonafede Trio – Sicilian Opening

Italian jazz pianist Salvatore Bonafede blends diverse classic styles and pensive European melodies along with the occasional rustic Sicilian accent into a strikingly memorable, hummable mix on this new cd. In the style of another eminently catchy current composer, JD Allen, pretty much everything here clocks in at under five minutes, sometimes considerably less. Yet as indelible as the compositions are, the playing is impeccably tasteful and understated – if anything, these guys could cut loose a lot more if they felt like it.

The album opens with a jaunty New Orleans theme, quoting Brubeck liberally early on. According to the liner notes, the second cut is ostensibly Arab-influenced, but it’s basically a swaying, moody two-chord vamp into a catchy, bluesy chorus. Track three, Ideal Standard memorably addresses issues of communication or lack thereof via Bonafede’s tensely judicious minor-key phrasing. Bassist Marco Panascia maintains the vibe, voicing a solo that builds intensity as it follows Bonafede’s lines even as it brings the volume down to the lower registers. The trio follow that with a slow, expressive quasi blues, drummer Marcello Pellitteri deftly bouncing accents off the piano’s bass notes.

The warmly cinematic seventh track paints an Americana-inflected tableau evocative of the late Danny Federici’s solo work. Of the two covers here, Blackbird is a song that should be retired – no matter what Bonafede does with it, which isn’t straying particularly far from the original, you are only waiting for the moment to arrive when it’s over. But with his version of She’s Leaving Home, Bonafede really captures the understated exasperation and unspoken rage in the McCartney original. The other tracks include a tribute to Palermo that builds to the closest approximation of a scream that there is here; a hypnotic Dr. John homage, and a casually swaying number that blends gospel with an updated, martial WC Handy vibe. The album creeps up on you if you’re not paying attention – that’s how strong the melodies are.  The liner notes have an earnestness that’s often hilarious, like they’ve been babelfished backwards and forwards. Somebody get these guys a translator that speaks…that is to say, one with a voice that isn’t computer-generated.

March 5, 2010 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Concert Review: Charles Evans and Neil Shah in the Bronx 2/28/10

It’s hard to get any more oldschool cool than the duo show by Charles Evans and Neil Shah last night. It was sort of the Bronx equivalent of a house concert, the cutting-edge jazz duo playing in essentially what was the banquet hall of one of New York’s first coop apartment complexes, tucked into a world-that-time-forgot enclave just off 181st St.

Evans struck almost a batter’s stance with his baritone sax, tensed, swaying and ready to hit one out of the park (which he did, over and over again) while pianist Shah calmly delivered a seemingly nonstop series of eerie, otherworldly tonalities, some of the mostly gorgeously creepy sounds heard in any of the five boroughs recently, many of them from their new cd Live at St. Stephens. Some of the crowd, seemingly spooked by the duo’s flickering pitchblende sonics, left during the intermission: the brave souls who remained were rewarded with a far jauntier second half.

Evans’ instantly identifiable sound makes masterfully macabre use of chromatics when he’s not being polychordal, i.e. using majors, minors and every conceivable variant in rapid, often hair-raisingly intense juxtaposition with each other. Possibly for that reason, the opening segment seeemed like an endless series of miniatures, a soundtrack to a midnight spelunking expedition that tantalizingly offered the occasional distant glimmer amidst the blackness that would reappear in a split second, only to disappear for what seemed minutes on end. In places Shah would play minimally, pedaling a single staccato bass note, other times throwing off murkily fluid chromatics while Evans used the entirety of his instrument: nebulous, breathy, atonal passages; strange, acidic harmonics; then hammering out alternately impatient or playful percussion on the valves. Evans is an unsurpassed master of textures, giving most of the choicest, darkest melody to the piano but picking it up at the least expected moments. Shah’s lone composition of the night, What Is It Not, combined the otherworldly spirit of much of the rest of the material while adding a boisterous post-bop edge, Evans going off on a rapidfire solo over a long, hypnotically circling Shah motif that they gracefully faded out.

Their version of Mono Monk (a decidedly stereo composition having nothing to do with Thelonious Monk) saw Evans playing breathy, swaying and thisclose-to-completely-unhinged over Shah’s diabolically terse chromatics. By contrast, a cover of the Jan Roth composition Die Fliegenden Fisch (The Flying Fish) offered up expansive, late-night bluesiness underscored with what by now had become an expected sense of menace. It was a welcome display of fearlessness and refusal to compromise, to do it their way.

The concert series is a neighborhood thing- they don’t have a website, and the program didn’t include an email to sign up for a mailing list. Their next concert features cellist Leigh Stuart and others playing baroque to modern (Bach, Beethoven and Brian Coughlan) at 6 PM on March 28 at the Lounge at Hudson View Gardens, 116 Pinehurst Ave. off 183rd St., two blocks from the north exit at the 181st St. A train station.

March 2, 2010 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment