Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 2/6/11

Back from a whirlwind Philly weekend – what a party that was. Congratulations to all you Green Bay Packers fans. More new stuff tomorrow. In the meantime, as we do every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Sunday’s is #723:

Max Steiner – Casablanca: Original Soundtrack

Great movie, but how about that score? “Play it one more time, Sam.” It’s got boogie woogie blues, it’s got jazz standards (As Time Goes By), it’s got classic French chanson (Parlez-Moi d’Amour, recently resurrected by Les Chauds Lapins), period perfect for 1942 with a stunningly eclectic, global sensibility. The Middle Eastern and North African-tinged moments, fleeting as they may be, are arguably the high points of the soundtrack. Along with Erich Korngold, Max Steiner was one of Hollywood’s busiest film composers from the 30s through the 50s – he even had a pop hit with the instrumental Theme from a Summer Place, which has survived as a staple of the surf rock repertoire. What’s most notable about this score is how much of a mash-up it is: true to the classical world he came out of, Steiner alternates two main themes and then follows with endless, clever variations on them all the way through. Cynics might scowl at the weepy strings in heart-tugging moments – but the scene where Bogey says bye to Ingrid Bergman tugs harder than most. If you’re looking for just the score, it’s here (you’ll have to register; it’s free); the whole movie is here.

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February 6, 2011 Posted by | classical music, lists, Music, music, concert, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Memoriam – Billy Cohen

One of New York’s most talented emerging musicians, guitarist and composer Billy Cohen died this past June 29 after a long battle with cancer. He was 23. A founding member of the charismatic rock band the Brooklyn What, Cohen was an integral part of their original three-guitar sonic cauldron, and also served as one of the group’s main songwriters. Both his guitar work and his compositions on the band’s landmark first album, The Brooklyn What for Borough President, offer a cruelly tantalizing glimpse of an already formidable talent that would have only grown, had he lived.

As a guitarist in the band, Cohen played with an edgy, brash intensity that both meshed and contrasted with John-Severin Napolillo’s purposeful powerpop sensibility and Evan O’Donnell’s slashing lead lines. Cohen was extremely adept at abrasive noise, yet was gifted with an uncanny sense of melody that he’d often employ when least expected, as demonstrated by his purist lead work on The In-Crowd and We Are the Only Ones. The shapeshifting, focus-warping song Soviet Guns illustrates another, more abstract side of his compositional skill. Cohen was also responsible for the delectably unhinged scream on the song Sunbeam Sunscream.

A musician’s musician, Cohen listened adventurously and widely throughout his life, immersing himself in styles ranging from garage rock to contemporary classical music, cinematic soundscapes and tongue-in-cheek mashups. At Brooklyn’s Edward R. Murrow High School, Cohen played guitar in the jazz band as well as in the Brooklyn rock band Ellipsis; afterward, he attended the State University of New York at New Paltz, where he majored in Music Therapy and Music Composition. A song from his Ellipsis days as well as two atmospheric keyboard pieces, and a couple of clever, satirical mashup videos – including a direct and very funny one featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger – are all up on his myspace page.

Cohen’s uncompromising originality, creativity, absurdist humor, fondness for the Kinks (he picked out the band’s signature cover song, I’m Not Like Everybody Else) and devotion to his beloved New York Mets lifted the spirits of his bandmates and friends and left an indelible mark. The surviving members of the Brooklyn What are playing a memorial show for Cohen at Bowery Poetry Club on August 13.

July 21, 2010 Posted by | music, concert, New York City, obituary, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments