Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Lavishly Fun Camaraderie with Peter Apfelbaum’s New York Hieroglyphics at the Stone

Sunday night Peter Apfelbaum wrapped up a weeklong stand at the Stone with a sprawling, serpentine, unselfconsciously joyous (and surprisingly tight) performance by his long-running large ensemble the New York Hieroglyphics. It’s a fair guess that crowds outside of New York would pay obscenely to see such a pantheonic lineup, which also comprised trumpeter Steven Bernstein, trombonists Josh Roseman and Natalie Cressman, violinist Charlie Burnham. guitarist Will Bernard, tenor saxophonist Tony Jones, multi-reedman Norbert Stachel, bassist Brad Jones, drummer JT Lewis and singer Abdoulaye Diabate.

They played with the cameraderie of a group that’s existed, if on and off and bicoastally, for forty years, dating from Apfelbaum’s teenage years at UC/Berkeley. They’ve come a long way since the days when they had to rehearse in a local park since they “Couldn’t play if there were adults around,” as Apfelbaum wryly recounted: they were a lot further out back then.

Here the improvisation was more focused on solos and pairs than mass squall. In that context, Bernstein and Roseman played with a resonant restraint, eschewing the ripsnorting attack they could have pursued with this group in past decades. Violinist Charlie Burnham took a long, starkly emphatic wah-wah solo; bass and drums shifted the night’s final number further and further from Malian duskcore slink toward reggae but never actually landed in Kingston as they’d been hinting. Cressman – daughter of the group’s original trombonist, Jeff Cressman – played a clinic in slicing and dicing judicious blues phrases from the top to the bottom of the scale, and later sang a pretty straight-up oldschool 60s-style version of the Prince ballad Sometimes It Snows in April.

Apfelbaum began the set with one of his signature uneasy, acerbic piano figures, later switching to tenor sax as the composition shifted from an emphatically moody, Darcy James Argue-esque theme to something akin to Argue’s big band tackling the kind of Indian tunes that the Grateful Dead were pilfering in the 1960s. A big, bright, brassy false ending was the high point, echoed at the end of the show with a cantabile lustre that left the crowd wondering where the choir was hidden.

Apfelbaum opened that one solo on melodica before handing off its jauntily circling Tuareg rock riffage to Bernard, who turned in a performance worthy of Tinariwen: he really ha a feel for that stuff. In his impassioned tenor Diabate sang the lyric about a genie who hasn’t arrived yet, joined in a celebratory, seemingly impromptu singalong by the rest of the band.

In between, Apfelbaum led the group from tensely syncopated Afro-Cuban piano verses to expansive vistas that finally straightened out closer to Havana than Senegal. Much of this material, he said, is scheduled to be recorded soon: from this performance, it’s definitely ready.

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August 2, 2017 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Bernie Worrell’s SociaLybrium at Metrotech Park, Brooklyn NY 6/10/10

The name of Bernie Worrell’s latest band is an ironic pun: the last thing the legendary P-Funk keyboardist and music director wants is a comatose, complacent audience. The tired workday crowd at the park where Myrtle deadends into Jay in downtown Brooklyn wasn’t dancing, but they were paying close attention. Worrell and his backing trio rewarded them with a characteristically sly, smartly diverse show. The Wizard of Woo doesn’t make a big deal out of it, but he has a couple of degrees from the prestigious New England Conservatory, and that knowledge resonates throughout pretty much everything he plays. Today Worrell did a lot of funk, but he also showed off his jazz chops, and more captivatingly, his jazz ideas: agile chromatic piano runs, incisively terse blues-based phrases, lots of swirling, Jimmy Smith-inflected organ and a devious refusal to land on an obvious resolution at the end of a phrase. Drummer J.T. Lewis kept things terse and rock solid, and bassist Melvin Gibbs was a revelation: he’s come a long, long way from his days in Living Color. Moving from a steady, almost minimal low-register boom to the occasional judicious chord and a bent-string melody here and there, he was welcome wherever he decided to embellish the melody, and he didn’t waste a note. Worrell has no doubt been a good influence. Southpaw Strat player Ronny Drayton has spectacular chops and used them most effectively on the quieter numbers, adding spacy, atmospheric washes, thoughtfully chorded soul fills and even some bracing sheets of feedback out of one of his solos. But when he soloed, it was all gratuitous funk-metal: he’d put the bite on or add garish vibrato where he could have really driven Worrell’s slow crescendos all the way home. Unless Worrell counterintuitively wanted him to play the buffoon (as Worrell himself did a few times with woozy portamento and some even squigglier, oscillating synth textures). You never know with this guy: he’s bright.

Worrell opened solo, playing variations on the Kool Man ice cream truck theme. They shuffled their way through a psychedelic, reggae-tinged vamp titled Rockers Uptown with Worrell evoking Augustus Pablo with some humidly breezy melodica work when he wasn’t adding organ fills. They wound that up with a dub flourish of an outro, led by Drayton of all people. Worrell explained that another number, predictably titled Funk, was a commentary on “world government” and complacency on the part of those who mindlessly accept it. “Put it in the trunk, stash that shit!” he snarled. The best number of the afternoon started out darkly atmospheric, driven by guitar washes and string synthesizer, almost a requiem – and then it got comedic, with all kinds of silly synth fills, and somehow the band made it work. BQE, from the band’s new album started out as a warped boogie but an endless guitar solo made it interminable, like getting stuck in traffic on the way to Coney Island right after the Prospect Park exit. But again, maybe that was the point. When Worrell announced that they were about to do a Buckethead song, that was the signal that it was time to get up and get back to work. For those who regret missing this show, the band is playing the Undead Jazz Festival, with a show at le Poisson Rouge on the 12th at about 9:15.

June 10, 2010 Posted by | concert, funk music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment