Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

The Dred Scott Quartet Get Devious at Smalls

Iconoclastic jazz pianist Dred Scott’s Tuesday midnight residency at Rockwood Music Hall has become a New York legend – and it’s still going on every week. Last Wednesday he and his trio stole away for a quartet gig at Smalls with Ratdog’s Kenny Brooks on tenor sax, a treat for anyone daunted by the prospect of the F train, or any train for that matter, in the wee hours. It was a characteristically rich mix of devious fun and ferocious chops. Scott’s deadpan cool is something of a front: there’s a pretty much unlimited supply of power and joy in his playing, to go along with the clever, occasionally snide humor and the “hmmm, let’s see if anybody in the house gets this” japes. The set was a characteristically memorable mix of tunes. A swinging, Monk-ish new number, Scott alluded, took a cue from Glenn Miller’s Pennsylvania 6-5000: at the end of the verse, the band all shouted, “Sixty-six, six!” The melody was a little creepy but short of satanic, bassist Ben Rubin taking the first solo, reaching for the rafters quickly. Either Scott’s humor is contagious, or he’s found a fellow traveler, the two throwing “are you ready” elbows at each other until Scott took it down to a noir, modal groove, finally hammering against drummer Jochen Rueckert’s pulsing cymbals. From there, they took it absolutely noir with another modal number where Scott worked his way in lyrically, sprinting through a maze of cascades to where Rubin shifted from a boogie bass solo into some bracing swoops. Another Scott tune was gorgeous and plaintive in a Brubeck-meets-Frisell, Americana-tinged vein and served as the springboard for the best solo of the night, from Scott, apprehensively bending and twisting against the rhythm section’s one-two-three assault.

A number by Cleveland saxophonist Ernie Krivda – “The Mad Hungarian – no, that was Al Hrabosky,” Scott mused – had Brooks playing amiably against a cyclical Joe Zawinul-esque melody, Rueckert and then Rubin taking it into jaunty bluesfunk territory against Scott’s big block chords and Brooks’ soulfully nocturnal lines. They wound up the set with what sounded like a couple of seriously altered standards, the first shifting back and forth to doubletime, Scott practically spinning on his bench with a blistering series of torrents, the second with a bustling Weather Report-gone-acoustic vibe where Rueckert wouldn’t let Scott tack on an ending until he was done with an amusing series of crescendos. By now, everybody was in on the fun. And that was just the first set. All this can be streamed at the Smalls site, since they archive all the shows there.

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April 5, 2011 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 10/30/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Saturday’s album is #822:

Carol Lipnik – Cloud Girl

Those of you who follow this list as we count it down with a new album every day might have noticed how lighthearted it’s been in recent weeks. That was deliberate: we didn’t want to beat you to death with one shade of black or grey after another like we did with the Best 666 Songs list that we just finished this past July. But with Halloween coming up, we’re going back to the dark stuff. This one, for example. Coney Island born and bred, noir chanteuse Carol Lipnik walks a tightrope between sinister and sultry. The cover image of this 2006 cd, a shot of the rails of the Cyclone rollercoaster with its “REMAIN SEATED” sign, is apt. Celebrated for her bone-chilling four-octave range, she’s also a multi-instrumentalist songwriter and a regular collaborator with jazz piano great Dred Scott.This is her most phantasmagorical album. It’s got a couple of creepy waltzes – one about cannibalism, another about madness; the playfully lurid Freak House Blues; the macabre pop of Falling/Floating By, and the lushly moody, menacing Crushed. Other songs work dreamy atmospherics for a more distant menace: the lushly beautiful Traveling and the haunting, hypnotic, Radiohead-inflected title track. Lipnik’s been working lately with cabaret/avant garde star singer John Kelly , which gives them about eight octaves worth of vocals put together. Her first two albums before this one, My Life As a Singing Mermaid and the intense Hope Street are more stylistically all over the map – she’s terrifically adept at soul, blues and gypsy music – and also worth getting to know.

October 30, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The NY Phil Shows Their Mettle

Last night’s concert was a tough gig. The New York Philharmonic have played tougher ones, but this was no walk in the park (pardon the awful pun). And guest conductor Andrey Boreyko pushed them about as far as he could, on a Central Park evening where the air still hung heavy and muggy, helicopters sputtering overhead and, early on, the PA backfiring a little. During the sixth segment of a suite from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet (the section where the two lovers finally get together), the strings led a long flurry of sixteenth notes and it was only there that any trace of fatigue could be heard. That they got through it with as much aplomb as they did – and then had enough in reserve to triumphantly pull off the roaring swells of the ominous concluding march – speaks for itself. The Russian conductor’s careful attention to minutiae is matched by a robust (some might say relentless) rhythmic drive. The Phil responded just as robustly, resulting in a mutually confident performance that often reached joyous proportions.

This wasn’t your typical outdoor bill of moldy oldies with a thousand forks stuck in them, either. The ensemble opened with fairly obscure Russian Romantic composer Anatoly Lyadov’s Baba-Yaga, a witch’s tale. With a bit of a battle theme, an elven dance, suspenseful lull and something of a trick ending, it could be the Skirmish of Marston Moor (did Roy Wood know of it when he wrote that piece? It’s not inconceivable).

Branford Marsalis joined them for Glazunov’s Concerto in E Flat for Alto Saxophone and String Orchestra, Op. 109. The textural contrast between his austere, oboe-like clarity against the lush, rich atmospherics of the strings was nothing short of exquisite, through the majestic ambience of the opening section, a couple of perfectly precise solo passages and the comfortable little dance that winds it up. He got the opportunity to vary that tone, shifting matter-of-factly through bluesier tinges on twentieth century Czech composer Ervin Schulhoff’s Hot Sonate. A smaller-ensemble arrangement, the suite ran from genial, Kurt Weill-inflected bounce to more complex permutations that could have easily been contemporary big band jazz (imagine an orchestrated Dred Scott piece).

The big hit of the night, unsurprisingly, was the Prokofiev. The ballet could be summed up as unease within opulence, a tone that resonated powerfully from the opening fortissimo fireball and the bitter, doomed martial theme that follows it, through its stately but apprehensive portrayal of Juliet as dancing girl, a richly dynamic take on the masked ball theme, the cantabile sweep of the two lovers parting, Friar Lawrence’s bittersweetly crescendoing scene, and the irony-charged intensity at the end. There were fireworks afterward, none of which could compare with what had just happened onstage – and which provided a welcome opportunity to beat the crowd exiting the park, and the storm that had threatened all evening but never arrived.

July 15, 2010 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment