Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

A Tantalizingly Enigmatic Trio Album From Ambitious Keyboardist JP Schlegelmilch

Multi-keyboardist JP Schlegelmilch is the not-so-secret weapon in psychedelic noir surf band Hearing Things, who are playing a welcome return gig at Barbes on March 1 at 10 PM. Previously, he distinguished himself as the only pianist to record an album of solo transcriptions of Bill Frisell works. His latest release, Visitors – streaming at Bandcamp – is an intriguingly uncategorizable trio record with guitarist Jonathan Goldberger and drummer Jim Black. The three don’t have any gigs coming up together, but Schlegelmilch is playing with psychedelic lapsteel monster Myk Freedman‘s band at Barbes on Jan 30 at 8. Goldberger will be leading one of his groups at Pete’s on Feb 2 at 5 PM followed by drummer Tim Kuhl, whose pointillistic soundscapes shift from Claudia Quintet tableaux to trippier, more hypnotic vistas.

The not-so-secret weapon in Schlegelmilch’s trio is a vintage Yamaha organ, popular with 70s bands and a favorite of Sun Ra. Here, it’s used more for atmosphere and as an anchor rather than as a lead instrument. Schlegelmilch’s eerily keening, Morricone-esque textures don’t come to the forefront of the first song, the title track, until Goldberger has done some enigmatic scenery-chewing over Black’s cascading waltz beat.

Goldberger introduces the second track, Chiseler with a gritty, syncopated pedalpoint as Schlegelmilch and Black build rhythmically shifting variations, part Sonic Youth, part Raybeats, part downtown 80s guitar skronk, up to a neat squirrelly/atmospheric contrast. The album’s most transparent track, Ether Sun has a slow, anthemic Frisellian bittersweetness, with lingering spacerock ambience. Corvus hints at mathrock and then Big Lazy noir cinematics, Goldberger finally cutting loose with some jagged tremolo-picking over the organ’s waves as Schlegelmilch builds increasingly icy textures.

Lake Oblivion is a diptych. Imagine a more rhythmically challenging, Daydream Nation-era Sonic Youth with an organ: that’s the first part, decaying to a grim drone and then back. The second has an altered motorik drive, Goldberger’s lingering phrases and dying stompbox flares and flickers beneath the organ’s steady, blippy riffs until it coalesces as a postrock anthem.

The album’s most epic track, Terminal Waves has a vast windsweptness punctuated by a bell-like dirge melody, Goldberger’s resonant lines building to a frenetic, metallic scream. The closing miniature shows how versatile the Yamaha can be, in this case both a mellotron and a vibraphone. Whether you consider this jazz, postrock, psychedelia or film music, it’s all good.

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January 27, 2019 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another Great, Tuneful Pastoral Jazz Album From Old Time Musketry

Old Time Musketry‘s 2012 album Different Times was one of that year’s most enjoyably original debuts in any style of music. The group’s second release, Drifter – streaming at Bandcamp – solidifies their presence at the front of the pack of pastoral jazz groups along with the Claudia Quintet, Hee Hawk and Jeremy Udden’s Plainville. For those who don’t have family obligations or such this Eastover (Passter?) weekend, the band are playing the album release show on April 5 at 8:30 PM at Cornelia St. Cafe; cover is $10 plus a $10 minimum.

Multi-reedman Adam Schneit and accordionist/pianist JP Schlegelmilch write the songs – and they are songs in the purest sense of the word. The kinetic, purposeful, often funky rhythm section comprises bassist Phil Rowan and drummer Max Goldman (who plays with a similarly colorful, individualistic flair in pianist Danny Fox‘s long-running trio).

The album’s opening track, February March, has unexpectedly trad tinges, although the extended technique and carnivalesque flourishes that open it offer no hint to where this jaunty strut is going. From New Orleans or thereabouts, the quartet takes it outside, then back, cleverly expanding on a tight steel-driver rhythm. Meanwhile, Schneidt takes a balmy, carefree but terse flight overhead.

The album’s high point, Kept Close is sort of the Claudia Quintet with more straight-up rhythm, building out of a resonant, minimalist piano theme to moody neoromantic pastoral colors; Schneidt’s insistently straightforward, midrange alto sax solo is adrenalizing, to say the least. From there they hit some tricky, funky metrics with the quirky Odd Ray, sort of a mashup of Rudresh Mahanthappa and Guy Klucevsek, before returning to a swaying, bucolic feel with the album’s title track, accordion and alto sax interweaving as they do throughout much of the album.

They follow the twisted, Monkish miniature Weird Waltz with The Turtle Speaks, a triumphantly cinematic anthem -there’s no need to stress if you’ve got a hard shell! Guest trombonist Brian Drye builds lushly bronzed harmony in tandem with the accordion and Schneidt’s clarinet as the song rises more animatedly than you’d expect from a lowly pond reptile.

The aptly titled Pastorale is a showcase for Goldman’s majestically suspenseful rumbles and cymbal work: a brief bolero-ish interlude after a spiraling accordion solo is one of the album’s most unexpected treats. Two Painters, a partita of sorts, bookends a funkily minimalist, Steve Lacy-ish theme with wary, melancholy-tinged atmospherics. The final number, Transmitter Park captures a caffeinated Flyover America workday angst, through a shuffling, funky theme to one of the group’s signature catchy choruses; this particular day ends well. Another triumph from a group with chemistry and strikingly vivid tunes, who should be vastly better known than they are.

April 4, 2015 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pianist JP Schlegelmilch Reinvents Bill Frisell

Among his many projects, multi-keyboardist JP Schlegelmilch plays in the eclectically tuneful Old Time Musketry, whose debut album Different Times  was ranked among the top fifteen jazz releases of 2012 here last year. His latest album, Throughout: The Music of Bill Frisell, reinterprets compositions from across the career of this era’s greatest jazz guitarist. That these works would translate so well to piano almost goes without saying: Frisell is unsurpassed as a tunesmith. What’s most impressive and enjoyable here is that Schlegelmilch gets it: the lyricism, the bittersweetness, the darkness and also the wit. Most of the material comprises smaller-ensemble pieces from the mid-80s through the 90s, the period where Schlegelmilch probably fell under the composer’s spell.

Throughout, from Frisell’s collaboration with Petra Haden, opens the album, simple lingering rainy-day harmonies edging steadily through shifting shadows, an angst-fueled, elegantly waltzing nocturne. Rag – from the Is That You? album – is a particularly apt choice for piano, veering from lively, precise, Brubeck-esque precision to a more aberrant groove as the song picks up steam. Another track from that album, Twenty Years, the oldest one here, works a brooding modal vamp. Resistor, dating from the 1984 Rambler album, gets reinvented with a suspensefully witty minimalist syncopation and lefthand stride allusions. Hangdog, from Frisell’s 1991 live album, gets a similar, more melodically and rhythmically free treatment before Schlegelmilch gives it a dancingly phantasmagorical, Frank Carlberg-esque edge

There are three tracks here from Frisell’s landmark 1994 album This Land. Jimmy Carter Pt. 2 is reinvented as a hypnotic staccato bounce – this is the Habitat for Humanity Jimmy Carter, busy putting up shingles. Monica Jane gets a somber gospel noir interpretation, while the title track gives Schlegelmilch a lot of territory to cover and he does, from Lynchian modal ripple and gleam to a panoramic pastorale.

Child At Heart and Beautiful E – a diptych from 1991’s Where in the World – sees Schlegelmilch building guitarlike sustain with a rippling staccato attack before winding down to a judiciously resonant lyricism and then up again with a towering, majestic intensity: it’s the most breathtaking track here. The album winds up with a stunningly straightforward, haunting take of the Elvis Costello collaboration Deep Dead Blue, going deep inside to find its pitchblende core. It’s a brilliant way to end this fascinating and often riveting album, a good segue with Frisell’s just-released Big Sur.

July 4, 2013 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Gorgeously Tuneful Debut from Old Time Musketry

If you’ve been waiting patiently for the Best Jazz Albuns of 2012 page here, don’t worry, it’s coming. One of the reasons we wait til the end of the year is to catch gems like Old Time Musketry’s first album, Different Times: it’s this year’s best jazz debut by a country mile. Melodic contemporary sounds don’t get any more interesting, or downright catchy, than this.

The album ha a distinct northern New England flavor, no surprise considering that the group’s composers, multi-reedman Adam Schneit and multi-keyboardist JP Schlegelmilch grew up there. Each contributes a blend of warm and wintry, bucolic and often wistful themes interspersed with boisterous freely improvised interludes and a handful of jaunty romps. As the music blog Step Tempest was quick to observe, the obvious comparison is saxophonist Jeremy Udden’s Plainville (an album whose influence is vastly underrrated). There are echoes of Bill Frisell here as well. The group is propelled by the terse bass work of Phil Rowan and drummer Max Goldman, whose blend of New Orleans and Balkan rhythms is a breath of fresh air and adds welcome voltage to the slower material.

The opening track, Star Insignia, is akin to Udden doing the Velvets. Beginning as an accordion march and rising to a nocturnally pulsing overture, it’s the catchiest of the nine tracks. Playing alto sax, Schneit takes his time reaching from elegant legato to aching grit over Goldman’s hypnotically insistent cymbals, Schlegelmilch anchoring them with a stygian swirl. Parade sets an easygoing New Orleans piano shuffle under Schneit’s uneasy Udden-esque changes, Goldman reaching almost into tumbling vaudevillian territory in contrast to the gravitas of Rowan’s solo. The title track teases with a syncopated bounce bookending a free interlude highlighted by cleverly divergent tangents from Schlegelmilch’s piano and Schneit’s alto.

There’s a persisent if distant sadness to Cadets, another march, its autumnal Charles Ives colors possibly alluding to those kids’ ultimate destination, maybe: cannon fodder? The most stunning track here, Hope for Something More justaposes Schlegelmilch’s creepy piano lines – half Ran Blake, half Floyd Cramer – against Schneit’s morose clarinet, with keening funeral organ and echoey Omnichord building otherworldly ambience. Then they find the inner Serbian in Henry Cowell’s Anger Dance, improvising a march in the middle that’s as disquieting as it is nonchalant.

Highly Questionable reminds of the work of the great Macedonian accordionist Jordan Kostov, with its sudden shifts from bouncy to apprehensive and a nebulous, misterioso Schlegelmilch accordion solo. Likewise, Underwater Volcano mixes New Orleans and eastern European elements into a funky, echoey Rhodes piano tune. The album ends with the most Udden-influenced track here, Floating Vision, a slowly swaying ballad with hints of dub from multitracked keys.

Old Time Musketry play the album release show on Jan 27 at 8 PM at  the Firehouse Space, just around the corner from Pete’s at 246 Frost St. in Williamsburg.

December 19, 2012 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Minerva Weighs Out Smart Headphone Jazz

Jazz trio Minerva’s new album Saturnismo is a lot of fun: it’s headphone music. Drummer/bandleader Carlo Costa is a first-class colorist. A rough guess is that he’s hitting his hardware here about 80% more than he plays on the actual drum heads. JP Schlegelmilch on piano and Pascal Niggenkemper on bass are tremendously thoughtful, often minimalist. Everyone contributes compositions. Tempos are generally on the slow side but sometimes just the opposite; the emphasis is on subtlety rather than volume or overt displays of chops. The vibe is free and conversational: throughout the album (especially the expansive, spacious Nocturnal Patterns) it seems as the group is trying to play as few notes as possible. Melodies are alluded to more than stated outright, sometimes rather amusingly. Compositions, such as they exist here, provide a somewhat skeletal architecture for conversations, slow crescendos and subtle dynamic shifts; the chemistry veers from conspiratorial to friendly jousting.

The opening, title track is a diptych, with the band slowly feeling their way in, up to a simple piano theme that they then deconstruct, bass artfully holding it together as the piano and drums diverge, with some neat rhythmic tricks. Part two is austere, otherworldly and often stunningly chilling, bass and drums tentatively sensing their way around the piano melody that hints at the macabre but doesn’t quite go there, which only enhances the suspense. The second track starts with the quietest of overtones, prepared piano – or is that a toy piano? – adding spare accents until it takes on a slyly creepy broken music-box feel, tinkly piano paired off against bowed bass. The third cut is more traditionally melodic, a deconstructed ballad of sorts, the band – Costa in particular – having a great time playing hot potato with the central hook.

Dream Machine is aptly titled, ethereal but with a muffled, mechanical rhythm, Costa brightening it with nonchalantly clinking color. The trio’s sense of humor comes front and center with Let’s Go I Don’t Know, a swing tune interrupted. Plateau, which follows in a more cynical vein, could be a parody of a ballad with the band tiptoeing around the theme. More space than melody, Nocturnal Patterns is something akin to jazz on Pluto, where one of their years is centuries of ours: it’s more a series of pregnant pauses interrupted by melody than the other way around, and the suspense is unrelenting. The real stunner here is Moth, a sparse, stark Satie-esque jazz waltz, Schlegelmilch’s coldly sparkling ripples and insistent clusters doubling on and off with Niggenkemper’s terse pulse, Costa throwing in an unexpected fanfare midway through. The album closes on a more upbeat, accessible note with the sly tiptoe funk of Clessidra and then the plaintively catchy beauty of Battle Cry, a tune which wouldn’t be out of place in the early Steely Dan catalog. Minerva play the cd release show at Cornelia St. Cafe on May 17 at 8:30 PM: it should be just as entertaining and unpredictable as the album.

May 15, 2011 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment