Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Gonzo Pianist Dred Scott Grows Up?

Over the past two decades, pianist Dred Scott has earned a rabid cult following for his gonzo, noir-tinged style. His long-running weekly midnight residency at Rockwood Music Hall with his trio – bassist Ben Rubin and drummer Diego Voglino – is legendary, and was immortalized on a live album in 2007. Scott further enhanced his reputation for darkly surreal erudition as a member of pyrotechnic art-song chanteuse Carol Lipnik’s band. His latest album, Dred Scott Rides Alone – streaming at Bandcamp – is a departure in that Scott plays all the instruments including bass and drums, and more than competently. There’s also more solidity here than in his relentlessly restless past. He’s playing the album release show tomorrow night, Oct 13 at 8:30 PM at the third stage at the Rockwood with his trio; cover is $12

The new album is Scott’s most concise, straightforward and arguably tuneful release to date. The shuffling first track, Coal Creek Road is a gospel-tinged, animatedly crescendoing pastoral theme: imagine Bruce Hornsby playing in Steely Dan instead of the Dead. With the second number, Wonder, Scott pairs glistening variations on an impressionistic theme with pointillistic bass: the flickering cymbal work as the piece falls away, down to a tersely dancing piano solo, is choice, hardly what you’d expect from a guy whose usual axe is the 88s. The crescendo up from there is even more striking.

Gateway – a St. Louis shout-out, maybe? – has an easygoing second-line rhythm underpinning variations on a catchy gospel-infused riff. Likewise, Flying Bighorn has a hard-hitting gleam over a steady vamp, shifting in and out of straight-up swing as Scott navigates further from the center, finally returning to a circling, gracefully tumbling piano-drum outro.

Remember PN has a verdant, Pat Metheny-ish early-spring chill, Scott shifting from spare, stately chords to an altered jazz waltz, a tersely punchy bass solo and then a remarkably spare one on the piano where he finally rises to cluster and lustre.

Wistful Waitsian blues piano variations and airy string synth textures permeate Consolations, over a steady midtempo sway that grows funkier and bluesier. It’s closer to the wry sensibility Scott has made a name for himself with over the years.

Wild Turkeys is classic, rollocking Scott, a jubilantly haphazard New Orleans shuffle tune: again, he showcases his prowess as deviously capable drummer and bassist as well as on the keys. The album winds up with Goodbye America, a bittersweetly workmanlike, saturnine Donald Fagen-ish stroll that was no doubt inspired by recent events. Throughout his Rockwood residency, Scott really used to pack ‘em in, so if you’re going to the release show, it couldn’t hurt to get there early. Hint: beat the lines and use the Orchard Street entrance.

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October 12, 2018 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Strange Girls Sing: Rachelle Garniez, Carol Lipnik and Little Annie at Galapagos, Brooklyn NY 12/9/09

The concert was billed as “Strange Girls Sing.” Which was something of a misnomer. Rachelle Garniez, Carol Lipnik and Little Annie aren’t really that strange at all, they’re just a reminder – and a harbinger – of an era where quality rather than trendiness or effeteness is celebrated. The way Galapagos is set up, it holds only a fraction of the people a similar warehouse-sized club would, yet all the same it was heartwarming to see all the pods and tables fill up as the night got underway. People, there is a renaissance in bloom and this particular evening was a prime example.

Rachelle Garniez never plays anything remotely the same way twice. Part steampunk goddess, part noir cabaret chanteuse, she’s just about the most quotable performer out there – yeah, she’s been reviewed here a few times before, but that’s because she always makes good copy. She took the stage solo with her accordion. “It must be nice to be an ice queen, colder than ice cream but not as sweet,” she mused. “This little song is about hypothermia…when hypothermia sets in, everything begins to look wonderful.” With that, she launched into the swinging country anthem January Wind, its blithe, Hank Williams-esque tune belying the anguish of the lyrics.

After that, she went into a digression about frogs, how their hibernation so closely resembles a death state, and how some of them ooze a chemical with psychedelic properties. And followed that with the bluesy Medicine Man, squeaky vocalese giving way to the out-of-control orgasmic wailing on the album version – but only for a little while. Then she switched to piano and lit into an Asian melody that gradually took shape and became the tongue-in-cheek yet viscerally poignant letdown anthem After the Afterparty. My House of Peace, her most recent single on Jack White’s label, made a good contrast with its carefree barrelhouse stomp, but the atmosphere turned ominously warmer quickly with the snide apocalypse anthem The Best Revenge, ending with characteristically understated drama, a little boy cluelessly enjoying himself while the thermometer rises yet another notch. She encored on accordion with the single most scathing song of the night, People Like You, as much a tribute to a dangerous, infinitely more interesting New York gone forever as it is savage dismissal of the clueless, pampered children and their developer collaborators whose attempts to turn the city into a suburban mall town have been tragically successful. “You could sleep on Rockaway Beach,” she related. “Back in the day they didn’t have SPF in suntan lotion – a handful of sand from Rockaway Beach from back in the day would hook you up with your minimum RDA.” And then launched into the song’s breezy Rickie Lee Jones swing.  In the middle, she sarcastically imagined sitting across from a member of the permanent-tourist class: “I like you in spite of those times you were looking over my shoulder to see if there was someone more important in the room.”

Carol Lipnik’s roots are similar, and her phantasmagorical, carnivalesque songs often take on a defiantly freakish, punk edge, but lately she’s been equal parts sideshow siren and mystic (notably in her ongoing collaboration with John Kelly). This time out she brought along a reverb pedal which she’d hit when she really wanted to drive a crescendo home, when the uppermost reaches of her four-octave  range weren’t enough. Backing her was the reliably gripping Dred Scott on piano, in particularly terse mode – as adventurous as his own darkly tinged jazz compositions can be, he held back to what was necessary and in doing that left a powerful mark.  Lipnik opened with the noir waltz Last Dance and immediately took the energy level to redline, vocalizing a lightning-fast, Coltrane-esque melisma somewhere in the stratosphere. Scott, dressed in his best Raymond Chandler coat and fedora, brought considerable suspense to a newer number, My Firefly. The rest of Lipnik’s happily hourlong set alternated between an offhanded savagery – as in the casually eerie drowning anthem When I Was a Mermaid – and rapt, soulful ecstasy, subdued a bit with considerable gentleness on the hypnotic Two-Headed Calf. It may be headed for the museum tomorrow, Lipnik related, “But tonight it is alive and in the north field with its mother.” She wound up the set with the utterly macabre Cuckoo Bird, Scott playing minor against major for the first verse, and then an audience-participation version of the Michael Hurley (and more recently, Cat Power) cult classic Werewolf, coming down in front of the stage to lead the crowd in a gleeful howl-along.

“You know the sad clown? I’m the opposite. Crying on the outside, laughing on the inside,” Little Annie explained (not surprisingly, Garniez has described herself the exact same way). Annie and her longtime conspirator, Botanica keyboardist Paul Wallfisch had just returned from another European tour, and she was running on endorphins, creating a carnival of soul that would only get more dadaesque as the evening went on, and it did, for over an hour. With her contralto growl, she’s been described as something akin to a white Eartha Kitt, and she was dressed for the part in perfectly matching black skirt, heels, hat and shimmery black jacket. “Tomorrow we’ll all have wines and we’ll all be fine…Lenox Avenue, Coney Island and Istanbul will all be rolled into one,” she explained in a rapidfire rap number that could be her version of The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. Her peppy little beachside tableau where people “shake their Bootsy Collins in the sand” revealed itself as a vicious anti-trendoid diatribe about wealthy New York newcomers “speaking loudly on their cellphones making plans…we do not read the papers because they’re depressing and we do not understand.”

The rest of the show mixed several requiems with a varying tongue-in-cheek quality along with a long digression about the karmic consequences of reporting misbehaving cabbies to the Taxi and Limousine Commission, a little straight-up noir cabaret (the Kid Congo Powers collaboration Good Ship Nasty Queen) and another rap number, Wallfisch taking a rare opportunity to play acoustic guitar onstage and proving as incisive as he is on piano. Annie marveled at the shaggy carpet that was making her work twice as hard when she kicked up her heels: “If I had a bedroom this is what I’d put on the floor.”

“You have a bedroom?” Wallfisch seemed surprised.

“No, that’s for people who sleep,” Annie replied, and then they resumed the show with a gospel-inflected number, more noir cabaret, a cover of the old pop standard Smile, the offhandedly defiant post-rehab broadside The Other Side of Heartache, a segue into Strange Love and by now it was past midnight and nobody had left.

December 21, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: The Dred Scott Trio with Strings at Smalls Jazz Club, NYC 6/10/09

Jazz with strings – what a great trend this could be! Guitarist Gene Bertoncini turned in a lushly beautiful set with a string quartet at the Jazz Standard back in March and this was even better. The Dred Scott Trio’s weekly Tuesday midnight residency at Rockwood Music Hall is now over four years old, at the point where legendary status starts to creep in, and this show in the more spacious, comfortable downstairs confines of Smalls reaffirmed that eventuality. Scott’s a fast, sometimes pyrotechnic pianist in the Kenny Barron mode, but more playful and stylistically diverse, as adept at ballads as he is barrelling along at full throttle. There’s a fearlessness and a completely out-of-the-box sensibility in his playing and his writing that ultimately goes back to punk rock. This show was typical in that Scott, bassist Ben Rubin and drummer Tony Mason, lushly augmented by an all-female string quartet, aired out pretty much every weapon in the arsenal.

They opened with a swinging original, Apropos of Nothing, vividly lyrical strings doubling the intro’s syncopated hook, then accentuating the end with a fast, staccato eight note passage. Wayne Shorter’s Nefertiti, a genial, pretty straight-up bluesy number vastly benefited from the sweep of the strings. Scott had named another original Mojo Rhythm after a friend’s kid of the same name (you have to wonder about guys like that), a striking, intensely rhythmic number with Mason kicking up rolling thunder, Scott swaying and stomping through the opening melody, Rubin bringing in the crescendo on the chorus as the strings ably doubled it. And then Scott and Rubin yelled “Fuck you!” in unison. It was the only lyric of the set. An unsettling violin solo appeared amidst the pandemonium but without amplification, was pretty much lost in the melee.The cheesy eighties hit Let’s Get Physical was redone as a bossa tune with some tastefully incisive fills by Scott, ironically the evening’s least physical number.

Best song of the night was Bobo, the nickname for a California town Scott had spent some time in as a kid, a plaintive, Dave Brubeck-esque jazz waltz lit up by an absolutely gorgeous eight-chord head that screamed out to be brought back, again and again. And finally, it was. Scott then brought up longtime co-conspirator Carol Lipnik (whose show at the Delancey earlier this spring had to have been one of the year’s most transcendent live moments so far) for vocals on a cover of Brian Eno’s By This River. Warmly and inclusively, backed only by Scott’s piano, the occasional minimalist bass note or cymbal touch, her vocalese took the crowd way out to a different place (she’s going to Yaddo in a couple of weeks – maybe that had something to do with it). The band wrapped up the set with a scurrying, somewhat apprehensive tableau taken way up by a Scott solo, furiously and intricately working vast permutations of a walk down the major scale. If you haven’t seen this band yet, they’re at the Rockwood every Tuesday – you have no excuse.

June 11, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review: Carol Lipnik and Spookarama at the Delancey, NYC 4/2/09

Yet another good reason why the weekly Small Beast Thursday shows at the Delancey are the musical event of the week: a chance to see both Paul Wallfisch of Botanica and Dred Scott play back-to-back. It’s hard to imagine a more fascinating piano doublebill (in this case particularly apt, since the Small Beast in question here is the club’s 88-key spinet that somehow survives week to week). Since Wallfisch hosts the salon/concert series and also serves as the opening act, he gets a lot of ink here. Suffice it to say that he was in typically provocative, darkly incisive mode. He’s taken to covering a new song by another major artist also playing on the same night every time out. This time, in tribute to Marianne Faithfull (playing for megabucks in the West Village), he did It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue in addition to plenty of his own stuff including the fiery, politically charged How which this time around became an audience-participation number. Wallfisch does not acknowledge any fourth wall: attend this show and you are always in danger of becoming part of it, an especially enticing prospect for those who enjoy living dangerously.

 

Next on the bill was Carol Lipnik, the extraordinary and unique noir chanteuse who hasn’t played out in awhile. We covered her exquisitely beautiful but sonically disastrous show at the Spiegeltent downtown last fall. As it turned out, a member of last night’s audience was also in the vicinity that October night and had equally bitter memories of watching another performer, in her case John Kelly, being drowned out by the woomp-woomp-woomp blasting from the adjacent tent where the women onstage were undulating and taking off their clothes. But nothing like that happened last night (as far as anyone could see – if anybody was disrobing, they’d found a private place). Her voice awash in eerie reverb, Lipnik seemingly went into a trance, turning the loud, chatty crowd at the bar silent and riveted.

 

Backed by just her longtime keyboardist Scott (who also leads a spectacularly good jazz trio), she delivered a mix of both darkly familiar and new material, by turns phantasmagorical, carnivalesque, gleefully macabre and irresistibly compelling. With her red hair swaying behind her and the hint of a devious grin, Lipnik does not exactly look the part of someone who delights in mining the darkness, but that’s her home turf. She started out low, ominous and strong, at the bottom of her range with Scott playing a hypnotic, minimalist melody on a little synth organ he’d brought along. On the Tom Waits-ish Freak House Blues, she lept several octaves, seemingly to the top of her formidable four-octave range in a split-second as Scott played macabre major-on-minor behind her. When she sang “Take my life, please, take my will” as The Last Dance with You rose to a crescendo, it was impossible to look away. A couple of times – particularly on the darkest song of the night, the brand-new, literally morbid Cuckoo Bird – the two bedeviled the audience by stopping cold, mid-phrase. They also took the Michael Hurley cult classic Werewolf (also covered brilliantly by Sarah Mucho) and redid it as a swinging singalong before closing with a hypnotic, soulful retelling of the Rumi poem Don’t Go. Lipnik’s next show is at the Rockwood on Tues Apr 28 with Scott at 11, followed by Scott and his trio at midnight. 

 

Not to overstate the issue, but this is typical of what happens on Thursday nights at the Delancey. Next week’s show features another chanteuse, Larkin Grimm, whom Wallfisch insists is the next great voice to come along. Come out and find out for yourself. Or miss it at your peril.

April 3, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, small beast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Carol Lipnik at the Spiegeltent, NYC 10/30/08

Icons by Siouxsie & the Banshees played over the PA minutes before multistylistic siren Carol Lipnik and her sensationally good pianist Dred Scott took the stage. That was a good and particularly apt omen. The opening act had played a Screamin’ Jay Hawkins song: “I love Screamin’ Jay Hawkins!” exclaimed Lipnik, “And he’s in my monitor!” That was also an omen of an unfortunately altogether different kind.

 

The sound system was fine after that momentary glitch, but there would be bigger problems. Lipnik comes across as someone who literally inhabits her songs. That she was able to channel the carnival of souls in them without losing focus or her characteristically playful intensity speaks volumes about the quality of her artistry. For one, it was about forty degrees inside the tent: you could see your breath. Then three songs into the set the “whoomp, whoomp, whoomp” began, all but drowning out Lipnik and the piano. When the Spiegeltent first made it to American soil, it was a stand-alone building. Now there’s a whole Spiegelburg of them out behind South Street Seaport, and one of them’s a strip club. So when whoever was onstage was doing the bump ‘n grind, the synthesized bass rose to jet-engine levels. Lipnik’s fans should have demanded their money back.

 

When she was audible, she was mesmerizing. Thursday’s show spotlighted only one side of her: this was the noir cabaret set (she’s also equally good at old-school soul and gypsy-inflected rock). As a singer, Lipnik’s calling card is her spectacular four-octave range, and she gave the audience plenty of thrills – when she went up the scale, they screamed for more. But her greatest strength is that her vocals always serve her songs. She only pulls out the big crescendos when she absolutely needs them, and this show saw her inhabiting a strong, confident lower register about eighty percent of the time (which made the thrills and chills all the more thrilling and chilling). Her first number had her casually tossing off a sinister, almost supersonic trill, as if she’d decided to school the theremin in the opening band.

 

Scott gave the boisterous second number, You’re My Firefly a stomping beat with his feet and kept perfect time. Much of Lipnik’s catalog is phantasmagorical and carnivalesque (which makes sense for someone born and raised in Coney Island), and the actually rather touching Two-Headed Calf perfectly capsulized that feel. Two of her songs included references to drowning someone, including the Weimar blues When I Was a Mermaid and a riveting number told from the point of view of the Creature from the Black Lagoon that featured some spectacular vocalese.  

 

“Chaos is the master, but I don’t mind,” she intoned matter-of-factly on Freak House Blues, Scott playing its eerie, wobbly melody on synthesizer. Then the two brought up guitarist Pete Wyer (who has a new cd just out on Thirsty Ear) for a couple of vivid, Rumi-inspired numbers, the second of which was based on a poem that goes something like “I’m in love with you, I’ve already drunk the poison – what’s the use of candy?” After a tongue-in-cheek yet haunting tune about “mole people” living deep in the bowels of the city, they closed with a Brian Eno song. The audience wanted more but didn’t get it, perhaps just as well considering the pretty much omnipresent thud from next door. Carol Lipnik plays the Zipper Theatre on Dec 4 at 8, a vastly more accommodating, comfortable space where her unique, rich and strangely beautiful stylings (and her fans) can count on getting the respect they deserve.

November 3, 2008 Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Reviews | , , , , , | 1 Comment