Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: Jenifer Jackson at Banjo Jim’s, NYC 1/21/10

Back from a trip to Austin, Jenifer Jackson’s got a band together again: Greg Wieczorek on drums and Jason Mercer on a gorgeous Danelectro SG copy bass. A couple of songs into the set, beaming, she announces that she’s rediscovered that she actually likes music. She should, with this band. Her songs are pretty and haunting when she plays them solo; with a rhythm section behind her, they are transcendent. She’s a pretty intense guitarist, and this comes across especially on the Ticket to Ride-inflected Down So Low as she wails on the downstrokes, on the beat. The band has re-energized her.

But this is Mercer’s night. Choice, tasteful pieces of broken chords on the slower, country-flavored ballads; slinky slides and bends on the more rocking songs, and every now and then he winds up a crescendo with few sweetly, quietly boomy chords. It’s a clinic in how to play bass and it’s free.

Boo Reiners from Demolition String Band gets cajoled into playing Telecaster on a handful of numbers and the effect is the same. He knows every country lick in the book, but instead he goes counterintuitive with bends and passing tones and immediately the songs go to the next level, and it’s effortless, or at least it looks that way.

The songs, as they always do, run the gamut – the joyous white soul jangleforest of Suddenly Unexpectedly; the practically noir, nocturnal pop of Maybe; a new country song that would elevate Carrie Underwood’s game to the big leagues if she or someone like her could find it and cover it; and a couple of big, hooky, upbeat rockers to close the set. The unrestrained joy shining in Jackson’s voice makes the contrast even more striking when she turns down the lights. Suddenly it doesn’t matter that it’s cold outside and that there’s a long train ride lurking ahead. In a word, transcendence.

Advertisements

January 23, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Jenifer Jackson at Rockwood Music Hall, NYC 5/26/09

Yet another reminder of how the true test of a performer is how they hold up under less than ideal circumstances. In this case Jenifer Jackson was battling some nasty but hopefully short-acting bug, sweating and rallying and ultimately coming out victorious – if she hadn’t told the crowd, hardly anyone would have noticed. Jackson has gotten a lot of ink here and will continue to, because she’s criminally underrated: plainly and simply, most of the songwriters on her level are either dead (Lennon, Jobim, Arthur Lee) or in the accepted canon (Lou Reed, Loretta Lynn, Gamble & Huff). Those references are deliberate because Jackson either draws on or has a song or three resembling all those greats. This show was mostly a mix of newer material from her next cd, which is inching tantalizingly toward completion. Like her most recent song titles – Time, Words, Maybe – she’s mining a strikingly terse, richly lyrical, melodically simple yet minutely jewelled vein. And though visibly struggling, she still toyed with her vocal melodies with an otherwise effortless expertise, harmonizing off her usual vocal line or, at the end of the show, finally breaking into a soaring wail.

Backing her this time out were longtime bandmates Oren Bloedow (of the magnificent Elysian Fields) on guitar and the equally haunting, tasteful Matt Kanelos (who has a brilliantly subtle new album of his own out) on piano as well as her longtime drummer Greg Wieczorek AKA G Wiz who joined her on the last few songs of the set. The newest material continued to be the most impressive: the sadly resolute 6/8 country ballad The Beauty in the Emptying; a jazzier take on early 70’s Carole King, with a cautionary note to seize the day; a hypnotic, Velvets-ish version of the completely un-bluesy Let the Good Times Roll (another carpe diem theme); an absolutely riveting, minimalistically ominous version of the forthcoming Groundward and the best song of the set, Maybe, Bloedow adding a soulful energy to the lyric’s stoic resignation via a masterful series of slides and bends. If the new album is anything like what she played at this show, it’s a serious contender for best of the year in whatever year it comes out. Watch this space for upcoming New York dates.

May 29, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

CD Review: Chris Eminizer – Twice the Animal

“Defiance isn’t too precise, you just aim and fire,” explains Chris Eminizer on his new cd Twice the Animal. But he proves to be a sharpshooter: this is a remarkably smart, intense collection of lyrical rock. Eminizer may play under his own name, but he’s definitely a rocker. Most of the songs here feature lush arrangements with watery electric guitar, occasional keyboards and tersely atmospheric horn and woodwind passages (Eminizer is also a wind player). Recent Peter Gabriel, minus the qawwali influences, is the obvious comparison, both in terms of socially aware worldview and vocal approach: Eminizer sings with a similarly aggressive, frequently nonplussed insistence.

 

The cd’s opening track, the nonconformist anthem Form a Single Line shows off a characteristic, sardonic, smartly crystallized lyricism:

 

I can see for miles in all directions all the time

A side effect of poor design

 

It’s followed by a snide dismissal of online dating shallowness and then the gleefully pounding, bluesy sniper anthem Crack Shot. With its catchy guitars, Rhodes piano and 80s synth flourishes coming out of the chorus, the metaphor-laden Shark Cage (a tribute to the virtues of maintaining a facade) is one of the more overtly Peter Gabriel-inflected numbers here. The intensity reaches a peak on the fiery Ashes to the Sun, a savage rejoinder to the masterminds of 9/11, “Turning back the the pages as an insult to our future selves.”

 

Among the cd’s other standout tracks, there’s the Nick Lowe-ish Move Along Now, a cautionary tale: screw people and it will come back to you. There’s also the vivid kiss-off ballad Thanks for the Call, and the wrenchingly intense concluding cut Float Away, its narrator so habituated to despair and defeat that when karma comes around and something good actually happens, he has no idea how to react. It’s an uplifting way to end this potently unsettling album. Look for it on our Top 50 Albums of the year list in December.

 

Good songwriters never have a hard time getting quality musicians to play their songs, and this cd testifies to that, its contributors including Clark Gayton on trumpet, Jenifer Jackson drummer G Wiz AKA Greg Wieczorek and another compelling performer, Emma Tringali adding her singular vocals to three of the songs.

April 20, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment