Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

An Electrifying, Psychedelic Debut by Anderson Henderson White

It wouldn’t be fair to let the month go by without mentioning the debut performance of Anderson Henderson White at Zirzamin a few weeks ago, following the Sunday Salon put on by Lucid Culture’s sister blog New York Music Daily. Baritone saxophonist Paula Henderson seems to be the sparkplug for this exciting new trio, who blended groove and funk with mysterious free improvisation. Her fellow Australian, the Dirty Three’s Jim White on drums was his usual counterintuitive self: it’s hard to think of a drummer who’s so consistently interesting to watch as this guy, alternating between cymbal bell-tones and atmospherics of all kinds, shamanistic rattles of the hardware and rock-solid groove, all the while adding off-kilter accents on the rims and whirring brushes on the snare. He’s a one-man drum orchestra.

Rev. Vince Anderson has made a name for himself in both the roots of jazz (you should hear him covering Howlin’ Wolf), and sounds that sprung from jazz (a more dedicated Billy Preston acolyte never existed), so plunging face first into free jazz is a natural progression for him. He was just as fascinating to watch, making minute adjustments on his Nord Electro keyboard for reverb and distortion, through a long, murky, wall-bending pitchblende interlude on the lowest keys before rising with an acrid, acidically bluesy minimalism as he adjusted the timbres to cut through the fog of cymbals and Henderson’s own nebulous ambience. Her most memorable moment came on one of her signature, sly go-go vamps, part purist bluesmistress, part coy seductress, part dancefloor maven just as she was for the better part of a decade in her cult favorite baritone/bass/drums trio Moisturizer. Some baritone players use the instrument for droll humor, others like a bass; she knows how sexy the baritone is and works it like a charm. White is the magic ingredient that holds it all together. Anderson plays every Monday night with his deliriously fun, funky jamband the Love Choir (in which Henderson has played since the 90s) at Union Pool at around 11:30 PM; White plays with a lot of people, considering that everybody wants to play with him.

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June 30, 2013 Posted by | concert, funk music, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Album of the Day 12/15/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Wednesday’s album is #776:

The Dirty Three – She Has No Strings Apollo

The Dirty Three haunt the fringes where jazz, rock and film music intersect. Their tense, brooding, often haunting soundscapes rise and fall as Warren Ellis’ violin mingles with Mick Turner’s guitar while drummer Jim White colors the songs with all sorts of unexpected tinges, often leaving the rhythm to the other musicians. They’ve never made a bad album. This one, from 2003, is a popular choice, and it’s as good as any. Alice Wading sets the stage, slowly unwinding and then leaping to doublespeed. The title track builds from pensive to purposeful to downright dramatic; Long Way to Go with No Punch is truly long, roaring and atmospheric. The best-known track here, No Stranger Than That nicks the piano lick from Shepherds Delight by the Clash, followed eventually by a memorable duel between Ellis and Turner with a Dave Swarbrick/Richard Thompson alchemy ; the last two tracks segue from a whisper to a scream. Here’s a random torrent.

December 15, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Jaimeo Brown’s Transcendence Earns Its Name

Wednesday night at Smalls Jaimeo Brown’s Transcendence made their debut – or one of their debuts. The drummer hedged a bit, but whether or not this was their first-ever gig, this is definitely a new unit, one that won’t stay under the radar much longer. Brash as their name is, they lived up to it, which makes sense in that the trio includes guitarist Chris Sholar and the redoubtable JD Allen on tenor sax. Seeing Allen in such an intimate venue was a rare treat, and as usual he found his vector and took it to its logical destination. It’s hard to imagine a musician or composer right now whose emotional intelligence is firing on this level: if GPS actually worked, JD Allen would be GPS. This unit base their songs on old Alabama spirituals. The concept seems to be how long, and how deep they can take those stately, often harrowing ideas and motifs. This time out, that meant all the way to the center of the earth, which turned out to be a warm but not scorching place, aware of a hell that might have been and that still resonates even if it no longer exists.

They’d brought along a friend who doubled on harmonium and vocals. Their first number set the tone for most of the night, a thoughtful, often minimalist exploration of a single wounded, brooding minor-key blues mode that went on for what seemed like half an hour. Sholar held it together with washes of sustain when he wasn’t adding the occasional offhandedly snarling, reverb-tinged motif. Allen played it serious and mysterious when he wasn’t developing slightly lighter earthtone tinges with some casually rippling ornamentation. As usual, he didn’t waste a note. Brown is a colorist in the Jim White mold, taking the lead as much or more than the guitar and sax. Even when he went off on a tangent, loosening the reins to where Allen and Sholar could also go peering into darker, more distant corners, he was a man on a mission. Whether playing with mallets or sticks, his touch on the drum kit was deliciously nuanced: guys who play as many beats as this guy don’t usually make them count, or count by as many minute, deftly placed fractions as he does.

About midway through the show, Allen seized on a motif and worked his way into the terse, foreboding, chromatically charged intensity of the theme from his now-classic I Am I Am album, casually slashing around for a couple of verses before stepping back to take in Sholar’s hypnotic atmospherics. They flipped the script for about fifteen minutes of a warm, optimistic, minimalist vamp punctuated by judicious accents by all three; later, Sholar introduced a troubled four-chord descending progression that took on the feel of a Beatlesque ballad before Brown started alternating rhythms and taking a long, inexorably crescendoing solo while Sholar built a trancey, Indian-flavored series of loops that led back into the gospel-powered mystery, enhanced by Allen’s wistfully expansive lines. And while Alabama superseded India in this particular show, it’s interesting how this project has come together at the same time as Vijay Iyer’s ascendancy, and drummer Sameer Gupta’s hypnotic Namaskar project. If Jaimeo Brown’s Transcendence never goes beyond this stage, to see them now would give you a piece of history: twenty years from now, jazz fans will be bragging that they saw this show even if they didn’t.

November 20, 2010 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Concert Review: Secretary Feat. Big Boss/Nina Nastasia & Jim White at Mercury Lounge, NYC 10/3/07

Secretary is Moisturizer frontwoman and baritone sax player Paula Henderson’s Hollywood soundtrack side project. Or at least that’s what it sounded like tonight, like Angelo Badalamenti covering Moisturizer. Hollywood would do well to seek her out. As she made a point of reminding the audience, everything she writes is a true story. The resulting compositions, whether the utterly unique dance-rock that she plays with Moisturizer or the quieter, more atmospheric works she played tonight, all have a narrative feel, and it’s often very compelling. Or very funny. Or both simultaneously.

 

Although for Secretary gigs she hides behind a pair of spectacles and a vintage secretary suit, Henderson didn’t bother trying to shed the slightly coy, deviously witty Moist Paula persona that she assumes at Moisturizer shows. Maybe that’s just who she really is. Big Boss is a new addition, a sharp-dressed man busily multitasking on a laptop and mixer, occasionally contributing trombone, keyboards and even turntable scratching on one song. Although Moisturizer is defined by playfulness and fun, and that sensibility isn’t lost here, the quieter, more downtempo tunes Henderson does in this project afford her a chance to explore more thoughtful, pensive terrain. Tonight she played lead lines on her bari sax as Big Boss ran the tracks, most of which are on the excellent debut Secretary album. They opened with a sultry, jazzy, unreleased number perhaps titled 37 Again, Henderson’s achingly torchy, jazzy melody playing against a dense mix of textures created by playing sax through a bunch of garageband patches and then mixing everything. Later she did the balmy, ambient South Carolina Holiday, the long, playful Mouse (which is actually about chasing a mouse around the apartment), the catchy Latin dance tune Mofongo Raincheck and a somewhat classically-inflected fanfare, live sax playing call-and-response with harmonies using several different textures. Toward the end of the set, she did a lively new number called Mushrooms with Strangers that wouldn’t be out of place at a Moisturizer show. The evening’s most amusing moment was another new one called The Perfect Boss. Henderson played repetitive, staccato riffs while the computer run a shrieking, metallic wash of noise that sounded like Suicide or something from Metal Machine Music. If that’s the perfect boss, one can only wonder what the boss from hell sounds like.

 

Nina Nastasia sold out the room. It had been ten years since she’d played here, she said, “When I was…18.”

 

“Not,” she said under her breath, barely audible. She may wield an acoustic guitar but she hardly fits the singer-songwriter mold. You’ll never hear a Nina Nastasia song in a credit card commercial. Tonight she played mostly new material from her album with Dirty Three bandleader/drummer Jim White, her only backing musician. He was amazing: no wonder everyone wants to work with him. Using a flurry of rimshots, cymbal splashes and boomy tom-tom cascades, he orchestrated her often grimly minimalistic songs with both precision and abandon. Often he’d leave Nastasia to hold the rhythm as he’d accelerate or slow down, or play deftly off the beat. There are only a few drummers in rock who are in his league, perhaps Dave Campbell of Love Camp 7/Erica Smith renown or Linda Pitmon from Smack Dab and Steve Wynn’s band.

 

In the years since she first played here, Nastasia has developed a seemingly effortless fingerpicking style on the guitar. Hearing the new songs stripped down to just the guitar and drums was a revelation: it was instantly clear where the melodies for all the layers of strings and keyboards on her albums come from. I found myself playing orchestrator, imagining violin, viola and cello parts. One of the great keyboardists of our time was in the audience and was overheard raving about how good the piano on the new album is.

 

Nastasia has also become an excellent singer. That creepy little voice she had when she put out her landmark 1999 debut, Dogs (whose title track she played tonight, to much applause) is still there when it needs to be, but in the intervening years she’s learned how to belt. And project, with an anguished wail that serves her songs, particularly the new ones, spectacularly well. Her earlier material was typically noir urban tableaux; now, she’s taking on more abstract, universal emotional territory, though her vision remains the same, as bleak, angst-driven, desperate and sometimes exasperated as it’s always been. The dark glimmer has become a gleam. If this show is any indication, the new album is a must-own.

 

The only problem tonight (one hopes uncharacteristically) was the sound. The sound guy was playing annoying, effeminate computer-disco over the PA before Secretary went on, and predictably mixed the backing tracks from the laptop louder than Henderson’s sax. Bad mistake. Then Nastasia’s guitar started to generate a lot of low feedback, perhaps because it needed to be amped high in the mix and she didn’t have one of those little rubber thingys that fits into the sound hole. Where was Freddie Katz when we needed him.

October 8, 2007 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments