Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Trumpeter Nate Wooley Tackles the Deceptively Simple Challenges of a Michael Pisaro-Liu Solo Piece

It’s rare that an album of music for a solo wind instrument is of much interest to anyone beyond those who play it. There are notable exceptions. Wadada Leo Smith has put out several breathtakingly beautiful solo trumpet albums. Peter Evans’ solo trumpet work is more spectacularly breathtaking (and electronically enhanced). And Natsuki Tamura’s solo trumpet albums are a lot of fun for those who appreciate his renegade extended technique and irrepressible sense of humor.

Nate Wooley is probably not the first trumpeter you’d think of doing a solo record, especially considering his dense and bracing recent output with his Columbia Icefield project. But he has a solo album (for trumpet and sinewave), a recording of Michael Pisaro-Liu’s longform, minimalist composition Stem-Flower-Root. It hasn’t hit the web yet, although there’s a live version from 2017 up at Soundcloud. The calm and unhurried development of the work might be reflected in Wooley’s upcoming gig on July 5 at 6:30 PM at Downtown Music Gallery, where he’s playing with Cuban saxophonist Hery Paz and drummer Tom Rainey. Jazz bassist Henry Fraser and Americana violinist Cleek Schrey make an intriguing duo afterward at 7:30; it’s a pass-the-bucket situation.

Pisaro-Liu’s work requires Wooley to sustain a series of simple tones using subtly different timbral approaches, and a changing series of mutes. If a reveille or fanfare could exist on Pluto, this triptych would be both. But it’s not all warmly immersive reflection: there are a few moments where the harmonies edge into unexpectedly acerbic territory, and there’s a joke about two thirds of the way in which, intentional or not, is too good to spoil.

The album also comes with a chapbook designed by Jessica Slaven, where in similarly uncluttered prose, Pisaro-Liu raises many provocative philosophical questions. Some are eternal, some more specific to the piece. To what extent does the architecture of musical composition mirror the symmetry of nature? Can a composition, or for that matter, a whole genre, have a genuine personality? What improbable practical lessons can be gleaned from music as rigorously structured and focused, yet as comfortably atmospheric as this?

The composer and performer also share an interesting dialogue concerning both the nuts and bolts of playing it, along with some of the philosophical ramifications.

July 3, 2022 Posted by | avant garde music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Haunting, Picturesque Portrait of an Iconic Black Sea Port by Ukrainian Pianist Vadim Neselovskyi

Over the past ten years, Ukrainian pianist Vadim Neselovskyi has built a career out of writing brooding, evocative songs without words that draw equally on jazz, the High Romantic classical tradition and 21st century composition. He takes the inspiration for his new solo album Odesa: A Musical Walk Through a Legendary City – streaming at Bandcamp – from Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. It’s a colorful, picturesque, and aptly stormy portrait of the pianist’s home turf.

He opens his salute to the city’s railway station with a turbulent, stygian lefthand, rising to a bouncing but emphatic drive with hints of Tschaikovsky and a bustling minor-key folk dance. As the train moves out of the city, the ride calms and the tormented mood lifts on the wings of Neselovskyi’s righthand accents. Ultimately, the message is hopeful: you can’t keep this train off the rails for long.

Winter in Odesa is a steady, icy stroll, Neselovskyi’s glistening melody rising and falling canonically. Potemkin Stairs, inspired by the famous city landmark, has a thorny, intricate, frequently crosshanded melody, its rippling variations echoing late 70s art-rock as well as Herbie Hancock’s Rockit. Neselovskyi fires off lightning upper-register clusters over a strutting lefthand in Acacia Trees, drawing on a famous movie theme by Odessan composer Isaac Dunaevsky.

There’s similarly rapidfire articulacy but also lingering disquiet in Waltz of Odesa Conservatory, a shout-out to Neselovskyi’s teenage alma mater. October 1941 is an outright chilling tableau that commemorates the massacre of Jews there at the hands of the Nazis: machine gun fire. civilians falling left and right and after a pregnant pause, a stunned wisp of what could be a playground song. It’s one of the most harrowing pieces of music released in recent months.

He lifts the mood with Jewish Dance, a diptych with a bright, allusively chromatic intro that grows more glittery, percussive and North African-flavored. It brings to mind the work of Lebanese composer Tarek Yamani.

My First Rock Concert is Neselovskyi’s playfully contrapuntal, incisively kinetic tribute to defiant Russian rock songwriter Victor Tsoy and his new wave hit Blood Type (and also Jimi Hendrix, maybe).

As he winds up the album, Neselovskyi references Mussorgsky with a couple of brief, grimly bounding interludes, the second to introduce the final cut, The Renaissance of Odesa, a pensive, muted pavane that offers (very, very) guarded hope for the future once the twin nightmare of the Putin invasion and the Zelensky dystopia is over.

Neselovskyi starts a European tour at the end of the month. Those interested in how he plays similarly moody but more postbop-influenced material can catch him as part of drummer Christian Finger‘s trio tomorrow, July 3 at the Blue Note with sets at half past noon and 2:30 PM; cover is $15.

July 2, 2022 Posted by | classical music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Elegant Party in Central Park with the Handel and Haydn Society at the Naumburg Bandshell

Every year, a new generation of classical music fans discovers the annual series of free Naumburg Bandshell concerts in Central Park, which ran uninterrupted for 114 years until the disaster of 2020. Judging from the crowd last night, there’s no shortage of younger supporters to continue the tradition where all the seats fill up as much as an hour before the concert.

This time out was a deep dive into the baroque, with violinist Aisslinn Nosky leading period instrument ensemble the Handel and Haydn Society through an intricate and intuitive performance of what was essentially party music for the ruling classes of Europe right around the time the formerly Dutch colony across the pond was starting to get restless. If Woody Allen had been a figure from around the turn of the 18th century, this is probably what he would have been listening to (and maybe playing – clarinetists abounded in those days).

The ensemble opened with Corelli’s Concerto Grosso in D Major, with a bit of a hush and what seemed like a striking emphasis on steely pedalpoint as much as the equally insistent exchanges of contrapuntal voicings. The crowd immediately responded after the first movement. Likewise, the lushly emphatic bowing in the second movement, which the group quickly turned into a lively dance with a Vivaldiesque series of flurries on the way out.

That boisterous energy set the stage for the rest of the night. The group followed with 18th century British composer Charles Avison’s Scarlatti-inspired Concerto Grosso No. 5 in D Minor, digging into the stately rhythm of the first movement with gusto and an inspired bluster when the score permitted. Nosky shifted from sharp-toothed articulation to an elegant legato sway in the second movement and the waltzing conclusion.

The piece de resistance was Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in A minor, RV 356, a romp where Nosky rose from a practically conspiratorial, sotto-voce understatement to an incisive precision matched by a welcome, raw attack echoed by the group’s low strings (and a couple of planes passing overhead to bolster the low end). Was the second movement just hazy ambience? Hardly. The group held those resonant notes for dear life, 1711-style, at least until bursting out on the wings of Nosky’s fugal attack.

Geminiani’s Concerto Grosso after Corelli, Op. 5, No. 5 in G Minor, from 1727, got a matter-of-fact, energetic sway and contrasting lushness (as well as a vividly plaintive interlude) before the sprightly country dance in the second movement.

After the intermission, the group flipped the script with Corelli and his Concerto Grosso in B-flat Major, Op. 6, No. 11, a gently emphatic pavane introducing tightly choreographed scurrying and a second movement where the pregnant pauses early on took the audience completely by surprise.

Harpsichordist Ian Watson was called on for his most prominent role of the night in Handel’s Concerto Grosso in F Major, Op. 6, No. 9. The strings maintained a bouncy tenacity through the composer’s endlessly permutating volleys and then surprisingly poignant exchanges before the lively, contrastingly stately waltzes afterward

The final piece on the bill was Geminiani’s Concerto Grosso in D Minor, La Follia, after Corelli, Op. 5, No.12, Nosky foreshadowing the low strings’ intense response (and drawing a spontaneous burst of applause from the crowd) with her rapidfire work in the opening movement. Through the tradeoffs between lulls and liveliness, it was the most sophisticated piece of the night, and the crowd roared their appreciation.

This year’s Naumburg Bandshell concert series continues on July 12 at 7:30 PM with chamber orchestra A Far Cry playing an innovative program of string arrangements of Bartok miniatures plus works by Dvorak, Beethoven, Franghiz Ali-Zadeh and Karl Doty. Take the 2 or 3 to 72nd St., walk east and get there early if you want a seat.

June 29, 2022 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Max Richter Playfully Reinvents an Iconic Vivaldi Suite – Again

A decade after reinterpreting Vivaldi on his playfully innovative Recomposed album with the Britten Sinfonia and violinist Daniel Hope, keyboardist Max Richter has opted to revisit lucrative territory with his latest project The New Four Seasons. Violinist Elena Urioste and the Chineke Orchestra join the composer, who unobtrusively plays a vintage Moog synth as well as sprightly harpsichord on the new vinyl record, streaming at Spotify.

Is this art-rock? The avant garde? Modern classical? Ambient music? A little, or sometimes a lot of all of those labels come into play here. Spring is reconstituted in four parts, the other seasons in three. Frequently, Richter’s cuisinarted baroque barely resembles the original. All the same, it’s playful, sometimes affectingly pensive music and draws the listener into his allusive treasure hunt.

Birdsong-like strings chatter and flutter over a somber loop from the basses as Spring begins, shifting to a steady, often hypnotic pavane. Richter lets the composer’s hushed anticipatory riffs from Summer resonate; from there, he makes a striding march out of it and then brings it down to a suspenseful summer-evening pulse. The conclusion, with Urioste going lickety-split, is a visceral thrill.

The goofy quasi-flamenco syncopation of the intro to Autumn borders on the ridiculous, but Urioste’s quicksilver volleys quickly take charge. Richter’s shift to sheer luxuriance is a welcome contrast, as is the stately harpsichord movement and the kinetic conclusion. 

Winter is where Richter reaches furthest into the avant garde, notably with the microtonal introduction kicking off a memorably blustery, symphonic sweep. Urioste’s wary lyricism and then her precise run through the closing labyrinth take centerstage as the suite winds up. 

Where can you hear Vivaldi around New York this summer? Tonight, June 28 at 7:30 PM at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park, where Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society, led by violinist Aisslinn Nosky play works by Corelli, Vivaldi, Geminiani, Handel and Charles Avison. Get there early if you want a seat.

June 28, 2022 Posted by | classical music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gordon Grdina’s Powerful, Haunting Nomad Trio Move Into the East Village Tonight

The best jazz show in New York tonight, June 27 is at Drom at 7:30 PM where guitarist Gordon Grdina plays with his brilliant Nomad Trio, pianist Matt Mitchell and drummer Jim Black. If you don’t already have your $15 advance ticket, it’ll cost you $20 at the door, and it’s worth it.

Over the last few years, Grdina has been on a creative tear rivalled by few artists in any style of music. This trio is one of his most rewarding projects: the conversational rapport and singleminded focus of Grdina and Mitchell is all the more striking considering how thorny and sometimes outright haunting Grdina’s sound world can be. Monk and Charlie Rouse had the same kind of rapport in a similar context.

Grdina’s latest Nomad Trio album, Boiling Point is streaming at Bandcamp. It’s a jazz sonata, more or less, a theme and variations. Not all of this is relentless, but when it is, it’s riveting. They open with the title track. Grdina runs an allusively menacing, loopily syncopated riff, Mitchell working his way from eerie chromatics to match his bandmates in a brief, phantasmagorical march. Grdina builds squiggly, defiantly unresolved clusters as Mitchell expands into the shadow world and eventually the two meet at the top of this twisted double helix while Black keeps this mad procession on the rails. Oh yeah, there’s a false ending. Damn, this is good!

Track two is Parksville. Grdina scrambles solo, sans effects, to open it, then Mitchell’s close-harmonied pavane and Black’s loose-limbed swing enter the picture. Each unwinds his tether further from the circle – as is typical for Grdina, the choreography is very specific but draws on the strengths of the supporting cast to bring the picture into focus.

The first of the album’s two big epics – something these guys excel at – is Shibuya. Mournful tolling-bell atmosphere from Mitchell against Grdina’s hypnotic pedalpoint grows more insistent and brightens a little, The shift in the bassline from guitar to piano is a neat touch, as are Mitchell’s pointillistic accents. An icily starry calm descends, Mitchell a lone hurdy-gurdy man on a frozen lake. From there Grdina and Black reprise the album’s grimly marching trajectory.

Grdina switches to oud for the longest piece here, Cali-lacs, which takes shape as a mesmerizing, hazy mashup of mysterious, fluttery Arabic maqams and disquietingly glittery piano ripples. Halfway in. Black gingerly brings back the march, Mitchell bolstering the drive with stern lefthand.

The moment where Mitchell rises out of a red herring of a rather trad, solo Grdina guitar interlude to a fanged, Mompou-esque bell choir in Koen Dori is venomously priceless; Grdina turns up the distortion and brings back the album’s most lushly memorable thematic variation.

The trio close with All Caps, bringing this Mission Impossible full circle. One of the best jazz albums of 2022, by a guy who may have more than one of them in him this year. Stay tuned.

June 27, 2022 Posted by | jazz, middle eastern music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Welcome Return For a Tuneful, Popular Vibraphonist

Over the past decade or so, Behn Gillece has established himself as one of the most consistently interesting vibraphonists in postbop jazz. He’s Posi-Tone Records‘ go-to guy on the mallets, both as a leader and sideman. He has a great ear for an anthem, writes intricate but translucent and imaginatively arranged tunes and has a remarkably dynamic attack on his instrument. He’s leading an intimate trio with Bob DeVos on guitar and Steve LaSpina on bass tonight, June 23 at Mezzrow, with sets at 7:30 and 9 PM; cover is $25 at the door.

Gillece’s latest album is Still Doing Our Thing – streaming at Bandcamp – which came out during the black pit of the spring 2021 lockdown and never got the exposure it deserved. As usual, the lineup draws on the Posi-Tone A-list: Art Hirahara on piano and electric piano, Boris Kozlov on bass and Rudy Royston on drums. Both musicwise and titlewise, the material reflects an unbridled exuberance, cabin fever unleashed on instruments, but also a wariness that the nightmare of the past twenty-seven months isn’t over yet.

The album’s opening number, Extraction is a cleverly edgy, pointillistic swing shuffle: on one hand, it’s funny to hear Gillece rippling and dancing across the pads on a real vibraphone as Art Hirahara plays chill chords in the background on an ersatz one, in this case a Fender Rhodes. All the same, it’s enlightening to hear the not-so-subtle difference.

Gillece holds the center with his dazzling, circular phrasing as the band stomp out the syncopation in the second tune, Rattles, Hirahara shifting to acoustic piano, Royston taking a characteristically careening climb to a clever false ending.

The album’s title track has a warm mid-70s Stevie Wonder feel spun through a rapidfire cyclotron of notes from both Gillece and Hirahara. Gillece gives Blue Sojurn a lingering, balmy intro, then turns it over to Hirahara’s expansive, lyrical neoromantic phrasing before conspiratorially edging his way back in.

Royston flutters on the rims in his tune Glad to Be Back, fueling a subtle upward drive from an easygoing vamp to increasingly incisive changes beneath Gillece’s steady ripples. Outnumbered, by Kozlov has an eerie, dystopic, late-period Bob Beldenesque vibe, with his tense electric accents anchoring maroinettish chromatics from Gillece and then Hiraraha’s Rhodes.

The pianist returns to acoustic mode for his methodically unfolding tune Event Horizon, building an anticipatory sway with Nicole Glover’s misty tenor sax in the background. Are we on the brink of something dangerous? It would seem so.

The last three songs on the album are by the prolific Gillece. Back to Abnormal is a striding, allusively swing tune, Royston getting a chance to cut loose and set off an unexpectedly menacing coda. The band waltz emphatically through Going On Well and its anthemic, latin-tinged changes. The final cut is an expansive, vampy, summery soul tune, Don’t Despair. It’s a heartwarming way to end this.

June 23, 2022 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Slinky, Sophisticated Organ Jazz That Might Have Slipped Under the Radar

Dr. Pam Popper, who has emerged as one of the brightest lights  since the 2020 lockdown, has made a big deal of the fact that no matter how disturbing the current situation becomes, we can’t afford to let our joie de vivre be stolen from us. And what’s better to lift our spirits than funky organ jazz? Jared Gold, one of the most sophisticated organists in that demimonde, is leading a trio tomorrow night, June 22 at Smalls, with sets at 7:30 and a little after 9; cover is $25 cash at the door.

Gold has put out plenty of good albums of his own: his 2012 release Golden Child is the most distinctive and in its own defiantly thorny way, maybe the best of the bunch. A record that’s probably closer to what he’s likely to deliver in a venue like Smalls is guitarist Dave Stryker‘s slinky but urbane Baker’s Circle, streaming at Bandcamp (Gold has been Stryker’s main man on organ for quite awhile). Like a lot of albums that came out during the dead zone of the winter of 2021, it’s flown under the radar, which is too bad because it’s a great party record.

The first of Stryker’s originals here is the opening track, Tough – a briskly shuffling, catchy, soul-infused Styker original full of precise, warmly bending guitar lines, bright tenor sax from Walter Smith III and subtle flashes from across drummer McClenty Hunter’s kit. Gold stays on track with the band in his solo, with his steady blues riffage.

There’s lithely tumbling latin flair in the second track, El Camino, matched by Smith’s precise, chromatic downward cascades, Stryker’s drive toward a spiraling attack and a tantalizingly brief Gold solo.

Smith and Gold harmonize tersely over the tricky syncopation of Dreamsong, the bandleader channeling a late 50s soul-jazz vibe over lurking, resonant organ. They make tightly strutting swing out of Cole Porter’s Everything I Love, with carefree yet judicious lines from both the bandleader and then Gold. The lone Gold tune here is the aptly titled, scampering Rush Hour, with rambunctious solos from Smith and then Stryker.

The quartet rescue Leon Russell’s early 70s tune Superstar from the circle of hell occupied by groups like the Carpenters, then launch into the title track, the last of the Stryker originals. No spoilers about what jazz classic that one nicks: percussionist Mayra Casales adds subtle boom to the low end.

Likewise, they play Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues as a tightly straight-up clave tune with Stryker’s spikiest work here, Gold’s edge in contrast with Smith’s balmy approach. Stryker finally goes for Wes Montgomery homage in Love Dance, by Ivan Lins. They close the record with Trouble (No. 2), a reworking of the old Lloyd Price hit that while short of feverish, owes a lot to Peggy Lee.

If you’re wondering what the album title refers to, it’s a shout-out to Stryker’s mentor and guitar teacher David Baker.

June 21, 2022 Posted by | funk music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, soul music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Disarmingly Direct, Evocative, Intimate New Album From Jazz Stylist Melissa Stylianou

Singer Melissa Stylianou may be best known as a member of the irrepressible trio Duchess, who with her bandmates Amy Cervini and Hilary Gardner just won the Jazz Journalists of America’s award for best vocal group of the year. This blog has found some of those writers’ picks to be on the timid side over the years, but not this one: the three women earned it.

Stylianou is also a solo artist, and has a fascinatingly intimate new trio album, Dream Dancing, streaming at Bandcamp.This is one of the glut of records which were recorded in 2019 and on track for a 2020 release but shelved when the arts were crushed in the 2020 global takeover. What’s extraordinary is that it features ageless guitarist Gene Bertoncini at the top of his game on a nylon-string model. For one, there isn’t a lot of acoustic guitar jazz, and there also aren’t many octogenarians with the effortless fluidity and gravitas that Bertoncini brings out here. Stylianou’s characteristically eclectic approach results in a lot of freshness to this collection of standards.

She opens the album, way up toward the top of her expressive range with Sweet and Lovely, Bertoncini ranging from spare, spiky clusters, sinuous bends and the occasional chordal flurry as bassist Ike Sturm holds down a spring-loaded swing.

She brings equal parts uncluttered directness and mist to If You Never Come to Me against a backdrop of balanced Bertoncini downstrokes along with spare leads and subtle harmonies from Sturm. That directness packs an understated punch in Stylianou’s understatedly angst-fueled delivery, hope against hope, in My Ideal.

She ranges from wryness to cheery determination in It Could Happen to You, a duo with Sturm setting a chugging pace across the range of the bass. She vocalises over Bertoncini’s thoughtfully expansive chords and methodical arpeggios in For Chet, a Chet Baker homage. Stylianou finds herself centered amidst a more bustling swing in Perdido and switches to lilting Portuguese for a lilting take of Corcovado.

Stylianou and Sturm return to a jaunty bass-and-vocal duo for the blues Time’s A-Wastin’. She and Bertoncini explore a more rubato, expressive approach in My One and Only Love and close the record with a version of It Might As Well Be Spring, coalescing from an acerbic, enigmatic intro to a triumphant but harmonically bracing swing.

Stylianou’s next New York gig is the album release show at Mezzrow on Aug 7 at 7:30 PM; cover is $25 cash at the door.

June 17, 2022 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Knights Make History With Beethoven and Janacek at the Naumburg Bandshell

Last night at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park was a welcome return for one of New York’s most enduring cosmopolitan traditions. This was a particularly clever installment. It’s been done before: pairing Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata with Janacek’s String Quartet No. 1, “Kreutzer Sonata.” A Naumburg Concert favorite, chamber orchestra the Knights worked several levels of meta with new symphonic arrangements of both: the former a chart by violinist Colin Jacobsen, the latter a collaboration between his brother Eric and Knights horn player Mike Atkinson.

Orchestral scores for both works go back as far as Tschaikovsky, who did it with Beethoven. Likewise, there have been plenty of programs pairing both of the original pieces. But yesterday evening’s concert might have been the first time two orchestral versions of both have been played on the same bill. It turned out to be as colorful as expected, considering the ensemble’s penchant for surprise.

They opened with a Colin Jacobsen piece, playfully titled Kreutzings, rising from dizzyingly dissociative layers through jaunty microtonal glissandos from around the ensemble, to a coyly contrapuntal waltz. Flickers of each of the night’s main composers bubbled to the surface occasionally as the strings joined in precise, steady eighth notes while winding their way out.

Jacobsen, celebrating his birthday, served as soloist in the Beethoven. Crisp, elegant cheer interchanged with a little suspense and a bustling freshness that veered toward the raw side in the opening movement, confirming how well this material lends itself to orchestral sweep and majesty. Jacobsen quickly went for silkiness and ran with it amid anxious Vivaldiesque counterpoint. The restless thicket of low strings toward the end was a particularly juicy moment for the orchestra to sink their teeth into.

As if by design, a passing airplane introduced the andante second movement, bubbly woodwinds picking up the pace considerably before Jacobsen took over with a fine-toothed staccato. The bristling energy never dissipated, through lushness and a coyly pulsing bounce beneath the violinist’s spirals, flurries and animated pizzicato. Interestingly, the finale was on the spare and restrained side, despite the velocity: an urbane party that earned a contrastingly raucous standing ovation.

After the intermission, the ensemble tackled Anna Clyne’s Stride. Echoing the concert’s opening number, fleeting hints of Beethoven percolated amid tense close harmonies and microtones over a striding tempo flecked with rather suspenseful lulls and a long trajectory up to an anthemic, Dvorakian coda. Clyne doesn’t usually go for fullscale High Romantic: turns out she excels at it. This was a revelation.

Janacek’s first quartet follows the drama and familial mischegas of the Tolstoy tale, giving us an extra level of meta. Furtive Balkan chromatics quickly receded for an aching lushness and unexpected pageantry in the opening movement, only to reappear in a tensely gripping, Bernard Herrmann vein. Giving the anxious conversation in the third movement to the woodwinds paid magnificently poignant dividends on the way to an equally memorable stampede out. The ensemble encored with flutist Alex Sopp leading the group through a lickety-split, buoyant arrangement of a Taraf de Haidoucks Romany dance tune.

For those who missed the concert, the Knights managed to record the Beethoven and Janacek in February 2020, just under the wire before the fateful events that would crush the world a few weeks later. The next Naumburg Bandshell concert is on June 28 at 7:30 PM with the Handel and Haydn Society, led by violinist Aisslinn Nosky, playing works by Corelli, Vivaldi, Geminiani, Handel and Charles Avison.

June 15, 2022 Posted by | classical music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Danny Holt Tackles the Fiery, Lyrical Music of a Legendary David Bowie Pianist

Many years ago, this blog’s adoptive owner had what turned out to be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see David Bowie in concert. As far as bucket-list shows go, this was at the very top.

It was a huge disappointment. The long-since-razed Roseland Ballroom in midtown Manhattan had notoriously bad, boomy sound. The Thin White Duke didn’t play guitar, the setlist was mostly forgettable 1990s material, and he had that awful, florid guitarist who played with him in his even more forgettable Tin Machine project.

One of the few upsides to the concert was that it was the first time that Bowie had performed with pianist Mike Garson since the 1970s. And Garson seemed to be jumping out of his shoes to be playing the gig, firing off one elegant, rapidfire cascade after another. Fast forward to 2022: Garson is making a rare Manhattan small-club appearance at Mezzrow on June 19 at 7:30 PM with Don Falzone on bass and Billy Mintz on drums. Cover is $25 cash at the door, but this could be an instance where you might want to make a reservation in advance.

One Garson album that fans need to hear actually doesn’t have Garson on it. He came up with the material while improvising on a Yamaha Disclavier (the digitally-empowered precursor to the Steinway Spirio). Pianist Danny Holt plays those transcriptions on his latest release, Piano Music of Mike Garson, streaming at Spotify. Most of them could be considered preludes, or suites of them.

Holt opens dramatically with the aptly titled Homage to Chopin and Godowsky, a look back at the kind of daunting, lyrical rivulets and meticulously articulated chords Garson wowed the crowd with at that Roseland show all those years ago. The second track, a Bowie homage, is a fondly Asian-tinged fugue of sorts.

There are fifteen other pieces on the album, spanning a characteristically wide swath of styles. Rampaging art-rock gives way to thorny Ligeti-esque interludes, labyrinthine passages that could be Schumann or Janacek, insistently rhythmic moments that come across as High Romantic Steve Reich, and a warmly inviting nocturne or two..

Needless to say, Garson’s skills creating this kind of intensity out of thin air are undiminished, and Holt deserves equal credit for having both the good taste and chops to deliver Garsons’s icepick lefthand and intricately harmonized two-handed passages with equal flair and precision.

June 12, 2022 Posted by | classical music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment