Lucid Culture


Matt Darriau Brings One of His Edgy, Slinky Projects to a Bed-Stuy Gig

One New York artist who was ubiquitous before the lockdown, and whose presence was conspicuously absent during the last fifteen months, is eclectically edgy multi-reedman Matt Darriau. The longtime Klezmatics clarinetist did some outdoor gigs earlier this year; he’s back to the indoor circuit this July 19 at 9 PM at Bar Lunatico, where he’s leading his Yo Lateef project with Santiago Liebson on piano, Peck Almond on trumpet, Arthur Kell on bass and Steve Johns on drums, While the band was conceived to reinvent the work of distinctive jazz bassist Yusef Lateef, lately the group more closely resemble Darriau’s sometimes slashingly Balkan-tinged Paradox Trio.

There’s some pretty lo-fi audio of their most recent Brooklyn gig up at youtube (you’ll have to fast-forward through about the first ten minutes of the band bullshitting before it’s showtime). At this gig, Liebson’s piano got switched out for Max Kutner’s guitar, his unsettled chromatics echoing Brad Shepik’s work in the Paradox Trio. You can watch the group having fun with long, slinky, brooding quasi-boleros, a circling, soukous-tinged flute tune and a triptych where Darriau finally gets to cut loose, switching between Bulgarian gaida bagpipe, tenor sax and clarinet.

He’s gotten plenty of press here over the years, most recently with the Klezmatics, backing cantors Chaim David Berson and Yanky Lemmer at Central Park Summerstage in 2017. The time before that was for a Brooklyn Raga Massive event the previous November, where he spiraled and wafted through a series of Indian carnatic themes with oudist Brandon Terzic.

There was also a December, 2015 Brooklyn small-club gig with a serpentine, Middle Eastern-flavored group he called Du’ud since they had two oud players (Terzic and Brian Prunka). Yet some of the shows Darriau played before then, and didn’t get any press for here, were just as darkly sublime.

There was his Who Is Manny Blanc project, who play the sometimes eerily surfy, sometimes crazily cartoonish music of Manny Blanc, whose 1961 album Jewish Jazz is impossible to find and iconic among diehard crate-diggers. There were also a couple of more Balkan-flavored gigs with his Gaida Electrique band, where he focuses more on the chromatically slashing bagpipe tunes. That takes us all the way back to 2015. All this is to say that if you haven’t been watching the guy ripping it up onstage since then, there’s no time like the present,

You could also call this a long-overdue mea culpa for not having covered all those shows, That’s what happens sometimes when you go out intending to focus on the music, run into friends at the bar, and it’s all over. What a beautiful thing it is that here in New York, after sixteen months of hell and deprivation, we finally have that choice again. Let’s never lose it.

July 12, 2021 Posted by | gypsy music, jazz, klezmer, Live Events, middle eastern music, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Jeff Holmes Quartet Gets Tuneful and Thoughtful

Calling a jazz album “mellow” is usually the kiss of death. But consider: Birth of the Cool is a mellow album. So is Kind of Blue. For that matter, so is a lot of Time Out. The Jeff Holmes Quartet’s new Miles High release Of One’s Own follows in that tradition: tuneful and laid-back, with a nonchalant, warm camaraderie between the musicians. Though there are many subtle shades here, it’s a reminder that darkness isn’t a prerequisite for depth.

As lively as some of the music becomes, the band plays singlemindedly: pianist Holmes, reedman Adam Kolker, bassist James Cammack and drummer Steve Johns lock into the vibe, always on top of the moment when it’s time to chill. Holmes has a gift for writing lyrical songs without words: every one of his originals here is strong. The best of them is One for C.J., a deliciously catchy, understated cha-cha jazz hit, Kolker evoking his best work with Ray Baretto’s band with his swirling, smoky, chromatically fueled bass clarinet. Another standout is Rose on Driftwood , Kolker again on bass clarinet, Cammack and Johns artfully shifting the rhythm from a circular Ethiopian groove to a latin funk vibe while Holmes works vivid light/dark dichotomies.

That kind of slow, almost imperceptible trajectory to an unexpected crescendo happens again and again throughout the album. They take Toby Holmes’ Waltz #3 from warm ballad mode to more pensive, fueled by Kolker’s thoughtful, allusively bluesy tenor sax and then Cammack’s spacious bass solo, but then go up and out on a high note. It makes a good setup for Holmes’ title track, a clinic in judicious crescendos that winds up with a much more minimalist, goodnaturedly wry outro.

Macaroons reaches for a Bill Frisell/Jeremy Udden Americana jazz catchiness, building toward a ragtime-inspired feel, while The Senses Delight, a gentle ballad, stays far enough aloft to escape the tender trap, both Holmes and Kolker (on tenor here) both careful not to overstate their case. By contrast, they play Poinciana with a surreal, midsummer balminess, spacious and suspenseful – it’s a great song to begin with, and they really nail it, Holmes’ careful precision echoed by Cammack while Johns casually develops a slow samba pace. A carefree take of John Abercrombie’s Labour Day and a rather triumphant version of the Rodgers/Hammerstein standard So Long, Farewell complete the picture, an attractive one in every sense of the word.

November 14, 2012 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment