Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Emily Hope Price at the Delancey, NYC 5/17/10

“I’m in a band called Pearl and the Beard,” cellist Emily Hope Price told the crowd at Small Beast last night.

“Which one are you?” host Paul Wallfisch asked, completely deadpan (his Big Small Beast extravaganza, maybe the best NYC rock show of the year, takes place on Friday at the Orensanz Center – tickets still available as of Monday night).

Price thought about it. “I’m the ‘and’.” And followed with a set of casually quirky art-rock that was as fun as it was virtuosically brilliant. Swaying on her feet instead of sitting down, she started out by building a series of loops – first a bouncy beat, then a cleverly plucked groove, then embellishments, building to ferocious, roaring cello metal – and then a cold ending. She varied her vocals from song to song, moving from a full, plaintive, soul-tinged delivery to one a lot more tongue-in-cheek and more than a little creepy on an oldschool country-style number that she played on tenor guitar. She explained that she’d just toured the south for the first time and gotten the inspiration for it from all the “Jesus Saves” billboards down there. “They don’t have a phone number – you know how billboards have phone numbers?”

Price is in the midst of a 365 project, writing a song a day for a year, ambitious to say the least, and she played a couple of what must be very recent creations, one a slinky cello groove number propelled along by fast broken chords, the other a mini-suite of sorts called War that began sparse and reflectively with judiciously dynamic textures and then grew to a fullscale roar. The audience demanded an encore: she rewarded them with the closest thing to a pop song she did all night. Price somehow finds the time to play frequent solo shows like this as well as gigs with her band, in addition to her daily compositions. Pearl and the Beard’s next NYC-area gig is at Maxwell’s on June 23.

May 18, 2010 Posted by | concert, experimental music, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music, small beast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jazz Sax Player Brendan Romaneck’s Auspicious Compositions Memorialized in a Superb New Album

This is the saddest way jazz legends are born. At age 24, sax player Brendan Romaneck was just about to record his first full-length album. Impressively, he’d put together a first-class band including powerhouse trumpeter Terrell Stafford. Tragically, before recording could begin, Romaneck was cut down in an accident. Four years after the composer’s untimely demise, several of the musicians he’d originally assembled came together to record some of his tunes along with a sensitive collection of covers. Without any context, this is a good jazz album; it’s also a reminder of what the world lost in April, 2005. Romaneck’s compositions  are ablaze with life, color and clever rhythms: he was clearly an artist with talent and passion that could have gone much further than what he left behind. What’s here offers more than a glimmer of greatness.

The songs her feature either Chris Potter or Steve Wilson on sax, Romaneck’s teacher and mentor Keith Javors on piano, Stafford on trumpet and flugelhorn and a rhythm section of Delbert Felix on bass and John Davis on drums. Impressively, the originals are the strongest suit. Romaneck obviously listened widely, as evidenced by Dream Behind the Winter, sounding like Donald Fagen gone latin, busy, bustling Javors piano trading off against balmy Potter tenor in a confidently ambitious arrangement. 3 Steps Ahead of the Spider is a catchy Brubeck-style jazz waltz packed with smart, out-of-the-box devices: suspenseful drums breaking up the piece early on; a leaping, agile piano chart played with gusto by Javors and some arrestingly intense, lightning-fast work by Potter.

The title track, Coming Together is a captivating exercise in circular melody with rousing turns by Wilson, Stafford and Javors, the band playfully running the central hook behind Davis when it comes his turn to step out. The catchy swing tune The Vibe runs from brightly wary Javors piano, to a recklessly allusive Wilson solo, to Felix’ jaunty bass. When the horns follow each other, a phalanx of warriors (or partiers) bounding off to wherever they’re going at the end, the arrangement is exquisite.

The best and most adventurous cut is Minion, Stafford and Wilson’s conversation evocative of what Trane and Dolphy were doing forty years previously, taking turns  maintaining a semblance of sanity while the other gets a chance to vent. At the end, there’s another deliciously blazing horn chart with more devious counterpoint. Another original echoes 70s-era Stevie Wonder, illuminated by a characteristically forceful Stafford solo.

What connection the covers had to Romaneck are not clear, but they’re  also well done. Killing Me Softly with His Song is a clinic in how to skirt a melody and make it interesting; Harold Arlen’s My Shining Hour, which kicks off the album, matches conviviality to a portentous suspense. And Nancy with the Laughing Face emphasizes the ballad’s effortlessly pretty, nocturnal vibe, a casual trio performance by Potter, Felix and Javors. Romaneck’s strength, at least as evidenced here, was not ballads – the two on the cd sound like student works and don’t have the strong, individual stamp he put on his more lively pieces. Now that we have this album, it’s time to hear Romaneck playing his own stuff. It’s a fair assumption that in this day and age, there must be at least a few recordings worthy of at least youtube and quite possibly an album of his own.

November 8, 2009 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Rachelle Garniez at Barbes, Brooklyn NY 11/1/07

Rachelle Garniez is the best thing going right now. She’s a songwriter completely in command of any style she wants to appropriate, as well as being a performer completely in command of any audience, anywhere. She ranks with Iggy Pop and James Brown as one of the great, charismatic live acts of our time. Not bad for a somewhat inscrutable woman whose main instrument is the accordion.

On a big stage, or any kind of stage (this place has none), Garniez will sometimes pull out all the stops. Her roots are punk, her accordion style somewhat cajun-inflected, but when she sees the opportunity she isn’t shy about showing off her spectacular vocal range, belting to the rafters for all it’s worth. Here, she whispered her jokes instead and held back a little on the mic, working the little room masterfully.

Garniez doesn’t confine herself to the accordion, and that’s a good thing because her chops on the piano are downright evil, her hands casually gliding over the changes, making the seemingly endless series of tough, staccato octaves and jazzy, chordal fills that she played tonight look absolutely effortless. It’s hard to imagine a better keyboardist in rock, if you can call what she does rock. Perhaps New York noir would be a more appropriate umbrella to throw over her, not that she’d stay there long, moving from ragtime to saloon jazz to psychedelic art-rock in the span of perhaps a dozen minutes during this evening’s show. Holding all her stylistic leaps and bounds together is an unflinching, utterly spontaneous, darkly bemused vision of a completely absurd, frequently threatening but ultimately conquerable world.

Tonight she began the show pedaling a big accordion chord, going way up into falsettoland with vocalese while guitarist Matt Munisteri (whose surgically smart, incisively minimalist acoustic fills were spot-on all night) slowly built a raga behind her. It eventually morphed into a 6/8 ballad called Tourmaline, the semiprecious stone triumphantly symbolizing everything that’s…not quite there. In a sometimes very roundabout way, Garniez champions the underdog, and this new song from her forthcoming album The Melusine Years is a prime example.

As she switched to piano, she divulged that she’d been hired as a witch for Halloween, which left her with a big dreadlock hanging over the back collar of her pristine vintage dress. “The witch hairspray gives you a very Elsa Lanchester kind of feeling,” she explained, and launched into a comfortable, upbeat country ballad, playing a couple of amusing quotes from pop songs during the song’s ragtimish bridge. There was a bag of Reese’s candy on the piano, which she examined with considerable skepticism. “Made in Pennsylvania. That’s what it says,” she shrugged. “It was here when I got here, so you know it has to be safe.”

The big anthem that followed was the highlight of the night, or the month, maybe, which Garniez opened with a vividly chordal, Asian melody:

After the afterparty
The sun rose oh so quickly
As you stared oh so blankly

And I spoke oh so frankly
So many words to you
So many words to you
I can’t remember a thing

Garniez virtually always sings in character, and by now she has enough of them to populate a small village. But every once in awhile, she drops her guard, and the effect is riveting:

After the afterparty
You hailed me a taxi

And I buckled up for safety
Maybe I’ll live to be an old lady
With lots of big hats and jewelry
And an inscrutable air of mystery

And when questioned about my history
I’ll smile oh so sweetly
And whisper oh so discreetly
I can’t remember a thing

The hurt in Garniez’ plainspoken delivery was visceral, just as much as the sweet taste of revenge at the end of the song. After that, redoubtable upright bassist Dave Hofstra switched to tuba for a bouncy, oldtimey number that she told the audience she’d been lambasted for writing, considering how cynical it is. But no matter: “Have yourself a nice pre-post apocalypse,” she sang triumphantly. If the rest of the material on the new album is remotely as good as what she played tonight, it’ll be one of the decade’s best. Just like her last one. Rachelle Garniez plays the cd release for The Melusine Years at Joe’s Pub on December 22.

November 5, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments