Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

A Darkly Translucent Album and a NY Piano Festival Appearance From Laszlo Gardony

That recently revived January jazz spinoff of the annual booking agents’ convention has finally reached the point where it has priced and marginalized itself off this blog’s radar. Meanwhile, there have been some interesting alternatives popping up around town lately. One is the NY Jazz Piano Festival, which distinguishes itself by programming mostly solo performances by artists who excel in that setting. It’s on the pricy side – $30 per set – although if you want to make a daylong or even a weekend-plus marathon out of it, you have that option. The lineup on Jan 15 is especially choice, beginning at noon with the Eastern European-inspired and often haunting Laszlo Gardony. Orrin Evans – who despite the many demands on his time is fantastic solo – plays at 3, with symphonic latin jazz player Dayramir Gonzalez at 4:30, world-class improviser Jean-Michel Pilc at 6, and the reliably lyrical and mercurial Marc Cary at 8. It’s all happening at Klavierhaus, a piano showroom frequently utilized for classical music and recently relocated to 790 11th Ave. at 54th St.

Gardony’s latest album is Close Connection, a trio recording with fellow Bostonians John Lockwood on bass and Yoron Israel on drums, streaming at Bandcamp. Gardony’s melodies are terse and translucent: some of these songs without words remind of early Soft Machine or 70s Morricone film scores, with distant echoes of Bartok’s piano miniatures. The trio open with Irrepressible, built around a catchy, punchy riff-rock theme spiced with incisive blues but also chromatics and uneasy close harmonies that reflect Gardony’s Hungarian heritage.

Bass and drums begin Strong Minds with a simple trip-hop rhythm, then Lockwood builds a muted suspense beneath Gardony’s shifts between emphatic riffage, ripples and occasional phantasmagoria. Gardony peruses the upper registers gently as Sweet Thoughts gets underway, then Israel rises above a piano loop with his misty cymbals and loose-limbed accents.

The group lock in on an insistent vamp in Cedar Tree Dance, Gardony punching into the blues, then backing away for a moonlight half-mile as Lockwood tiptoes and Israel rustles into kicking off a darker dervish dance on the way out. Gardony’s hard-hitting precision remains, aptly, in All That Remains, a moody tone poem of sorts, Lockwood again playing good cop to Gardony’s stern attack.

.Times of Discord – now there’s a theme for 2023, huh? – has a similar, gritty forward drive, Israel taking over the propulsion as Gardony energetically works the brooding passing tones. Then Israel plays kalimba behind Gardony’s melodica in Savanna Sunrise, a goofy, calypso-tinged piece. They reprise it a little later as a subtly gospel-tinged piano number.

Walking in Silence is Gardony at his best, a wintry, somber tune, Lockwood and Israel filling in the edges gingerly over alternately spare and driving close-harmonied piano. Gardony parses some fond, familiar motives with hints of both gospel and calypso in Hopeful Vision, the album’s lone solo tune.

Gardony scampers into tensely syncopated, darkly carnivalesque territory in the aptly titled Night Run: it’s the album’s hardest-charging song. The trio conclude with Cold Earth, a sepulchral tableau where Israel’s flitting, poltergeist flickers mingle with Lockwood’s melancholy bowing and the bandleader’s grim pedalpoint. Fans of melodic European players like Romain Collin and riff-driven improvisers like Rachel Z will love this record.

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January 11, 2023 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Herve Duteil Pulls Out All the Stops Uptown

On one hand, musicians are always highfiving each other in public. But when an artist as imaginative and original as Kent Tritle introduces a fellow organist as having those exact same qualities, that endorsement carries a lot of weight. Yesterday evening at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, concert organist Herve Duteil stepped into the console and delivered a program that was as impressively eclectic as it was thrilling. He began with his own arrangement of the opening theme from Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra. Other organists should track this down: it’s every bit the showstopper it should be. Duteil built a suspenseful wash of murky pedal tones before hitting the big explosive riff, which reverberated throughout the cathedral from the dramatic trumpet stops located in the ceiling. And just for fun, he played the timpani’s bump-BUMP, bump-BUMP on the pedals.

That the rest of the program wasn’t anticlimactic speaks to the quality of the musicianship and diversity of the program that Duteil brought along. He gave Elgar’s Nimrod, from the Enigma Variations an aptly saturnine restraint, after which soprano saxophonist Daniel Glaude joined him for a vivid rendition of contemporary composer Paul Halley’s The Lake. As it rose from plaintive, desolate atmospherics to more lively, wavelike imagery, the two paced it expertly to maximize the cathedral’s cavernous echo sonics: it was as if there was a whole saxophone section playing a rondo along with the organ. On Gabriel’s Oboe, by Morricone, oboeist David Diggs joined Duteil for a rapt, hymnlike version of this well-known (and decidedly un-Morricone-esque) theme from the soundtrack to the film The Mission.

Duteil played the rest of the program by himself. Again, he paced sections of the Bach transcription of Vivaldi’s Concerto in D Minor (from L’Estro Armonico) to match the echo in the space, notably the fugue and then the Largo e Spiccato movement, which became more of a matter-of-fact, guardedly optimistic march. He followed with the rapidfire echoes of the Joseph Jongen Toccata, whose barrage of tradeoffs between hands Duteil said in the program notes would acoustically generate a “pat on the back.” This was an understatement: it’s not every day when a rousing, cascading finale like this one can be so reassuring at the same time. Before its concluding chord had echoed into silence, the large crowd – Duteil’s passionate wizardry has earned him a considerable Manhattan following – exploded in applause and wanted more, but it was time for the church to revert to being a house of worship once again. By the way, fans of organ music should know that Tritle himself will be playing one of these Sunday evening recitals on March 18 at 5:15 PM.

March 5, 2012 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, organ music, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Big Lazy – Postcards from X

Their most cinematic album, on which the most mesmerizing instrumental band on the planet broaden their sonic palette from the usual charcoal and grey to include, perhaps, burnt ochre and dark olive. The album cover looks like a poster for a 60s spy film, with the shadow of a woman running with a briefcase. The case opens to show the woman’s ankle and the briefcase, but it’s not clear if she’s running alongside a wall covered with dying ivy…or if she’s lying on a path in the woods. The visuals couldn’t be more appropriate.

Big Lazy’s first two releases were all menace and suspense, conjuring up images of black-clad figures slipping in and out of the shadows in a 4 AM industrial wasteland, the pavement cold and luminous with late autumn rain. This one, their fourth, is much more diverse. Big Lazy unsurprisingly get a lot of film soundtrack work, and the songs on this album may well be destined for Sundance or Hollywood. Several of them begin menacingly and end on a sunny note, or vice versa, with innumerable twists and turns in between. The album opens with Thy Name Is Woman, virtuoso guitarist Steve Ulrich playing with distortion instead of his usual oceans of reverb. Essentially, it’s a 6/8 blues, propelled by brilliant bassist Paul Dugan’s staccato arpeggios. The next cut, by Dugan, is Walk It Off, opening with bowed bass playing the ominous melody as Ulrich plays the bassline on guitar. All of a sudden, on the second verse, Ulrich launches into some noir jazz as guest keyboardist Ed Pastorini’s Hammond organ kicks in. It’s very 60s. The following cut Glitter Gulch begins with a sexy bassline, like The Fever, with dark, quietly booming drum flourishes and eerie organ. Then it morphs into a Morricone-esque spaghetti western theme. After that, Ulrich returns with more guitar distortion on the brief, skronky Drug Czar.

The cd’s next track, France, is a very funny song, something akin to how Serge Gainsbourg’s 60s backing band might have covered Big Lazy. It’s an uncharacteristically bouncy number with just enough moments of incisive reverb guitar to give the listener pause. Drummer Tamir Muskat (ex-Gogol Bordello) spices the following cut, His Brother’s Wife, with all kinds of metallic percussive effects, with Ulrich and Dugan reverting to the dark, New York noir sound of their previous work until a country-inflected chorus with soaring lapsteel. After that, on Postcard from X, bowed bass carries the melody over plinky, ragtimish guitar. It’s an unusually wistful, pretty song, evocative of the great Southwestern gothic band Friends of Dean Martinez as the lapsteel flies in at the end of the song.

The best song on the album is the lickety-split, minor-key punkabilly theme To Hell in a Handbasket, another Dugan composition. Los Straitjackets or Rev. Horton Heat only wish they wrote something this adrenalizing. After Dugan and Ulrich play their fingers off for a couple of minutes, there’s a brief bass solo and then a gently happy ending. The lone cover on the album is an Astor Piazzolla classic, Pulsacion #4, which most closely resembles Big Lazy’s early work, all macabre chromatics and scary reverb. The cd’s next tune Naked begins with Dugan pedaling a single note over a suspenseful, steady beat, evoking a movie scene where the hero may be having second thoughts. You want to tell him (or her), don’t go back in the house, don’t get in the car with that guy and whatever you do, stay inside the tent. But they don’t, and all hell breaks loose. The album concludes with The Confidence Man, a total 60s spy movie theme, jazzy with staccato bass and tinny organ, its menace building gently at the end of the verse, then breaking through the door when the chorus kicks in.

If this album can reach the people who blast the Vampiros Lesbos soundtrack at parties, that’s where it needs to be. Inevitably, it’ll be a cult classic for decades to come. Be the first person on your block or in your dorm room to turn your friends on to this amazing band. And if you think the occasional lightheartedness of this album might mean that Big Lazy has lost any of the white-knuckle intensity of their live shows, not to worry: check our reviews page for a glimpse of the best show we’ve seen this year, Big Lazy’s cd release at Luna Lounge last month. Classic album, an instant contender (along with Jenifer Jackson’s new one) for best of the year. Five bagels. Pumpernickel (because that’s the darkest kind available).

June 6, 2007 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments