Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Concert Review: iLa Mawana at Sullivan Hall, NYC 5/6/10

Here’s a fun band to check out this summer if you can figure out how to spell their name (you have to wonder how stoned whoever came up with that one was). iLa Mawana play all different kinds of roots reggae – upbeat anthems, slow grooves, sweet ballads and some psychedelic dub – and do all of it well. Late on a weeknight, they kept the Sullivan Hall crowd in the house and had everybody swaying through a 40-minute set that could have gone on for twice as long if the club had let them. Bassist Ryan Hinchey was perfect, supplying fat, chronic low end just a hair behind the beat like Family Man Barrett did in the Wailers. Drummer Sammy Wags had the one-drop down cold but also had a lot of different beats up his sleeve, especially on the faster numbers, abetted by a nimble conga player stashed toward the back of the stage. Organist Jason Moore added funky blips and bleeps when he wasn’t washing away the River of Babylon with a river of his own; guitarist Dave Rosen didn’t get the chance to step out much, but when he did he showed off a warm, understated Steve Cropper soul style. Singer Gianpaolo Blower goes for casual and laid-back – this band is all about good vibes – with some brassy, spot-on high harmonies from the band’s friend Sarah, who came up from the audience to join them for the second part of the set. They segued from their slinky opener, Dub Electa into a quick romp through a hypnotic one-chord jam, then into another original featuring a casually bluesy solo from their excellent alto sax player (their three-piece horn section added a welcome brightness over the trance-inducing pulse of the bass). Shifting chords hypnotically until it was practically impossible to find the beat – just moving anywhere at this point felt good – Tree Dub gave their trumpeter a chance to choose his spots.

The title track to their forthcoming new album Soldiers of Sound was as dubwise as they got, bringing it down with simple yet dizzyingly effective reverb guitar. The set wound up with a couple of fast, bouncy numbers, Frankly and Mortal Motion and closed with the big, spiritually charged Karmaland that wound down to just a tasty keyboard solo over the bass and drums at the end. If roots reggae is your thing – from the classics to current-day stars like Groundation and Meta & the Cornerstones – iLa Mawana (there – got it right) will hook you up. The cd release show is at Harpers Ferry in Allston, MA on 5/15; summer tourdates below.

May 07 – Greene, NY – Headyfest

May 08 – Narragansett, RI – The Wheelhouse

May 15 – Boston, MA – Harpers Ferry

May 20 – Miami Beach, FL – Purdy Lounge

May 21 – Sarasota, FL – Pastimes Pub

May 26 – Gainesville, FL – Backstage Lounge

May 27 – Orlando, FL – Plaza Theatre

May 28 – Panama City Beach, FL – Reggae J’s

May 29 – Satellite Beach, FL – Sports Page

May 30 – Sebastian, FL – Captain Hiram’s Resort

June 01 – Austin, TX – Flamingo Cantina

June 06 – Huntington Beach, CA – Gallagher’s Pub

June 16 – Portland, OR – Mt. Tabor Theater

June 17 – Arcata, CA – Jambalaya

June 18 – San Francisco, CA – Mojito

June 19 – San Francisco, CA – The Mezzanine

June 26 – Block Island, RI – Captain Nick’s

June 27 – Block Island, RI – Captain Nick’s

July 08 – Westerly, RI – Paddy’s Beach

July 16 – Rochester, NY – Dubland Underground

Aug 27 – Ithaca, NY – Castaways

Also worth knowing if Afrobeat is your thing – the massively funky, horn-driven 12-piece band Emefe, who played before iLa Mawana were also a lot of fun and had a lot of people dancing.

May 7, 2010 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, reggae music, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Anguile & the High Steppers at Shrine, NYC 5/9/09

Good times and good vibes in Harlem on a Saturday night with African-flavored roots reggae by Anguile & the High Steppers. The band was excellent, bass and drums holding down a fat riddim, excellent percussionist with a dubwise feel, terse Telecaster player running his guitar through a watery chorus effect, jazzy keyboardist and bandleader Anguile, from Gabon via Paris, out front. He’s a big guy with a casual, comfortable stage presence, singing in both French and English, sometimes both in the same song, decked out in a white robe over a black t-shirt and fatigue pants. The band jammed their way jazzily into what seems to be their theme song, Negre Blanc – this being a multiracial band, the song is not sarcastic but simply explanatory. Anguile’s lyrics fit the traditional roots mold: respect for all races and mother Africa, with considerable emphasis on the spiritual. But the most fervent ones were always set to the catchiest, most upbeat tunes, keeping everything irie.

A call for racial equality (titled Afrique, Ecoute-Moi maybe?) had a punchy, Exodus-style intensity. Anguile related that how when he was a child, he asked his grandmother where his name came from. She replied that the original Anguile was a slave trader. He was happy to announce that through some internet sleuthing, he eventually learned that Anguile was the Gabonese leader who freed the slaves there.

Cocol Gnom Bi grooved along on a jazzy two-chord vamp reminiscent of vintage Aswad. Dieu Connait Ton Nom (God Knows Your Name) was bouncy and bubbly, as was the aptly titled Party Party (not the Costello song), spiced with carefree solos by the keyboardist and then Anguile, who would pick up a melodica from time to time. Their best song was the slow, hypnotic, trance-inducing, Burning Spear-inflected Change Ton Pas (Change Your Ways). They closed their first set with their darkest number, building from an eerie organ intro to a ominous four-chord verse that would have worked as well in a mid-70s British art-rock song as it did here. Finally at the end (this band’s songs are long!) they cut loose with the drums and the wah-wah guitar kicking up a storm. Anyone who loves roots reggae, the old or the new or just any kind of hypnotic, psychedelic music ought to check these guys out.

May 10, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment