Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 8/14/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Sunday’s album is #534:

New York City: Global Beat of the Boroughs

This 2001 Smithsonian Folkways release may be a long series of ludicrously bad segues, but multicultural party playlists don’t get much better than this. It’s predominantly latin and Balkan music played by obscure but frequently brilliant expatriate New York-based groups, although other immigrant cultures are represented. While the tracks by Irish group Cherish the Ladies and klezmer stars Andy Statman and the Klezmatics are all excellent, it’s surprising that the compilers couldn’t come up with the same kind of obscure treasures they unearthed from Puerto Rican plena groups Vienta de Agua and Los Pleneros de 21; or Albanian Besim Muriqi’s scorching dance tunes; or stately theatrical pieces by the prosaically titled traditional groups Music From China and the Korean Traditional Performing Arts Association. There are also rousing Greek and Bulgarian romps from Grigoris Maninakis and Yuri Yunakov, respectively; a soulful suite of Lebanese songs by crooner Naji Youssef; and even a spirited if roughhewn version of the Italian theme for the Williamsburg “Walking of the Giglio,” a big wooden tower paraded through the streets by a large troupe of hardworking men every August, among the 31 fascinating tracks here. Mysteriously AWOL from the usual sources for free music, it’s still available from the folks at the Smithsonian.

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August 14, 2011 Posted by | folk music, gospel music, gypsy music, irish music, latin music, lists, middle eastern music, Music, music, concert, New York City, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Afrobeat Orchestra Chopteeth Makes an Amazing Live Album

More bands should make live albums. They sound better than protools bedroom recordings, it’s infinitely cheaper to make one onstage than in the studio, and for the kinds of bands whose energy level jumps when they hit the stage, it’s ideal. That’s what Washington DC-based 14-piece Afrofunk orchestra Chopteeth did, and they couldn’t have made a better choice. They’re huge in their hometown, having won a Wammie (Washington Music Award) for the last two years; this should suss the rest of the world to the head-bopping power of their dancefloor grooves. What makes their sound unique is that they spice their hypnotic Afrobeat vamps with  latin sounds along with the occasional detour into soca or hip-hop.

The opening track, JJD (meaning Johnny Just Dropped – worn out from dancing maybe?) is typical. Basically, it’s a bracing, minor-key two-chord jam that builds up with catchy baritone sax, some wild trombone and then a mind-warping acid-rock guitar solo, drenched in reverb, kicking in the dance vibe with the wah-wah until the vocals finally come in about five minutes in. They keep the bounce going with another long vamp, Festival, with breaks for intense alto sax, thoughtful trumpet and a hypnotically echoing, blippy guitar solo. Didjeridoo does not include that particular instrument: it’s a slinky, swaying Afrobeat take on early 70s stoner funk with an absolutely delicious, psychedelic distorted reverb organ solo followed by sultry bari sax.

With its snaky guaguanco beat and salsa-jazz vibe, Jiin Ma Jiin Ma goes straight to the roots of Afro-Cuban music. There’s also what’s essentially a warm, upbeat reggae tune set to an Afrobeat rhythm; a long funk vamp that reminds of the Doors’ Peace Frog, of all things (it’s great!); a tasty Puerto Rican plena dance; a fiery Fela cover with crazed blustery trumpet matched to growling sax; and the closing number, Traitors of Africa, which hits a peak with a wildly distorted electric piano solo that some bands might have edited out, but these guys kept because the energy is so high. If you can’t dance to this then you need to check your pulse. Chopteeth are on tour later this year, hopefully coming to a town near you.

March 9, 2011 Posted by | funk music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Marta Topferova – Trova

Czech-born, New York-based chanteuse/songwriter Marta Topferova has carved herself out a niche as a first-class avatar of latin music. Her new cd Trova (a Cuban style, though she explores considerably more terrain here) is quite a change from the pensive melancholy that runs throughout much of her previous work. It’s a mix of oldschool latin styles with a Caribbean tinge, like something out of San Juan, 1955, recorded with her band at an old farmhouse outside Prague fresh off a European tour. The album features Topferova on guitar and cuatro along with big band leader Pedro Giraudo on bass, Aaron Halva on tres and accordion, Roland Satterwhite on violin and Neil Ochoa on percussion. It’s got a quiet joy that simmers and bubbles over once in awhile for extra flavor. Frequently, the star of the show here is Satterwhite (formerly with Jenifer Jackson and also Howard Fishman), whose imaginative, casually intense phrasing adds an unexpectedly biting edge to some of the quieter material. As is typical throughout the cd, its unexpected moments are subtle but compelling, as in the case of the infectious opening bomba, Juligan, a nocturnal street scene whose central character, a bum, turns out to be something completely different. And yet the same.

She follows that with an effervescent, percussion-driven dance tune, a stately, delicately pensive tango and a symbolically charged midtempo number rich with chordal jangle and gorgeous acoustic textures. Largo el Camino (The Long Road) winds along on a catchy, swaying four-bar hook and a couple of nice introspective tres solos, the latter closing the song on an optimistic note.

Descarga de la Esperanza (The Hope Jam) is hypnotic, like the Dead gone latin and acoustic. Madrugada (Dawn) is a pretty, sad waltz with a buoyant Satterwhite solo, one of those kind of songs that, thirty years ago, would have had record executives scheming over the prospect of a crossover international hit. Topferova saves her grittiest vocal for the tricky Argentinean changes of Entre a Mi Pago Sin Golpear (Come On Over and Don’t Knock), Satterwhite’s jovial fiddle adding contrast.

The cd winds up with the vividly lyrical La Amapola, inspired by a poppy native to Czech Republic, showcasing Topferova’s seemingly effortless ability to shift between styles; the dusky las Luciernagas (Fireflies) and an old bolero cover usually sung by a male vocalist. Topferova puts her own spin on it, a woman in an arranged marriage displaying quiet defiance. This album has the same kind of rustic quality that spurred the Bachata Roja Legends’ surprise crossover success and could just as easily resonate with anglo as well as latin audiences. Not bad for Czech expat for whom Spanish was a second language. She’s at Barbes on Jan 22 at 10.

January 3, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment