Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Mighty Swing from Trombonist Ryan Keberle’s Big Band Living Legacy Project

Trombonist Ryan Keberle recently commented in the New York City Jazz Record that music educators like himself ought to spend more time figuring out how to get their students to find “the zone,” where they can improvise at the highest level. One way to do it was how Keberle did it at Hunter College last night with his Big Band Living Legacy Project, surrounding himself with a crew of big band jazz legends, many of whom had mentored him or inspired him to transcribe and learn solos they’d played on albums over the past several decades. With this group, Keberle spent most of his time conducting rather than soloing, but when he did – especially during his own luminous, Gil Evans-ish arrangement of Summertime, which he sheepishly told the crowd he’d decided to reinvent as a trombone feature – he very tersely and poignantly headed straight for “the zone” and stayed there. And no wonder. Who wouldn’t be inspired to take it to the next level, surrounded by the players onstage?

This is an amazing band. The show was mostly upbeat swing blues tunes, the majority from the Basie book, with a trio of numbers associated with Ellington along with boisterous, brass-fueled takes of JJ Johnson’s Say When, Thad Jones’ Big Dipper, Sy Oliver’s Looselid Special and the old Benny Goodman chestnut King Porter Stomp. Scott Robinson stood in for Goodman, as Keberle wryly put it, with his whirling clarinet and then his blues-infused tenor sax work. Baritone saxophonist Joe Temperley (of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra) showed off a period-perfect, mile-wide tremolo on an achingly lyrical take of Ellington’s I Like the Sunrise, from the Iberian Suite. James Zollar delivered crescendos that ranged from sizzling to droll from behind his mute alongside his fellow trumpeters Bob Millikan, Earl Gardner and Greg Gisbert. Altoist Jerry Dodgion got a couple of soulful spots late in the show, up front in the sax section alongside Billy Drewes and Bill Easley.

Watching bassist Rufus Reid move from the simplest pedalpoint on the oldest numbers to a majestic stroll on the more recent material was a capsule history of big band jazz rhythm. Likewise, Carl Allen’s trip through beats from across the decades, from shuffles on the ride cymbal through more artful, unexpected ka-THUMP syncopation on the more blazing tunes, while pianist Alan Broadbent colored the songs with ambered blues tones and the occasional misty interlude way up in the highest octaves.

Bass trombonist Earl McIntyre – whose mighty gravitas anchored the Arturo O’Farrill band’s sensational show a week ago at the Apollo – drew plenty of laughs as he faked out the crowd with pregnant pauses in a romp through Thad Jones’ The Deacon, one of the Basie tunes. His fellow ‘bone guys Mike Davis and Clarence Banks also got time in the spotlight later on, no surprise considering who the bandleader was. The highlight of the set might have been a richly gospel-inspired take of Mary Lou Williams’ wickedly catchy Blue Skies. Or it could have been the majestic version of Ellington’s Such Sweet Thunder, or the nimble, incisive run through Isfahan a few numbers later. With this kind of material and these kind of players, you just sit and sway in your seat and take it all in and remain grateful that you live in an era where people still play this kind of music – and pass it on to another generation.

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May 20, 2014 Posted by | concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 12/11/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Saturday’s album is #780:

Louis Jordan – Let the Good Times Roll: The Anthology 1938-1953

Like the Sonny Boy Williamson anthology on this list (see #835), this one gets the nod over the dozens of other Jordan releases out there simply because it has more songs: 46 in all over two cds. It’s as good a place to start with as any if you want to get to know the guy that many feel invented rock and roll. Actually, that was probably Link Wray – Louis Jordan was the king of 1940s jump blues who inspired guys like Bill Haley and later, Elvis. A charismatic, wildly energetic performer, bandleader and saxophonist, his boisterous, cartoonish and sometimes buffoonish songs have a tongue-in-cheek lyrical sophistication that sometimes gets forgotten as the party gets underway. Which he doesn’t seem to have minded at all: he sold a ton of records that way. All the hits are here: What’s the Use of Getting Sober; Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby; Caldonia (later appropriated by B.B. King and dozens of others); G.I Jive; Ain’t Nobody Here but Us Chickens; Jack, You’re Dead; Five Guys Named Moe; Choo Choo Ch ‘Boogie; Open the Door, Richard; and of course the title track. It’s also got the funny sequel I’m Gonna Leave You on the Outskirts Of Town, the topical WWII home front number Ration Blues, a blues version of the old mento standard Junco Partner, Saturday Night Fish Fry (later redone by B.B. and then by Tony Bennett, as Playing with My Friends), and Ella Fitzgerald singing Stone Cold Dead in the Market. Here’s a random torrent.

December 11, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christabel and the Jons Heat Up The Night

Knoxville, Tennessee’s Christabel and the Jons ran through one slinky, swaying swing shuffle at Banjo Jim’s last night. “I can feel the electricity in the air,” frontwoman/guitarist Christa DeCicco observed. She didn’t mean the dancers twirling  on what passes for a dance floor in front of the stage – she meant the cool autumn night. “I can tell some broken hearts are about to be mending.” Potent observations from someone whose songs celebrate romance in all its difficult, exasperating forms. Consider: in the summer, your brain is so fried it’s impossible to make the right choices. Fall, on the other hand, is snuggle weather: that, and a whole lot more. Not that there’s anything wrong with a fling: “Give me a room full of men like you, and I’ll get closer to you,” she sang on one particularly seductive track from the band’s most recent studio album Custom Made for You. But there’s a depth, and a bittersweetness to her songs that resonates just much as her sultry vocals.

The band was tight beyond belief, drummer Jon Whitlock switching between brushes and sticks when the pace picked up, locked in with the swinging rhythm of the upright bass and DeCicco’s acoustic guitar, multi-instrumentalist Seth Hopper moving expertly from violin, to trumpet, to mandolin and back again, sometimes in the same song. DeCicco announced that for the first time in her life, she’d successfully haggled with a street vendor. “It was a crack pipe,” cracked Whitlock. The audience riffed back and forth with the band: whatever she’d scored (probably something to wear) had cost her ten bucks.

A couple of songs pulsed along on a bossa beat, including a vivid bon vivant’s lament punctuated by a soaring trumpet solo. Back to Tennesee featured the band on deadpan, jump blues-style call-and-response vocals – what were they looking forward to when they get back from their 12-hour drive? “Black cherry ice cream.” DeCicco told the crowd that their forthcoming album was going to be all brooding ballads, resulting from a “dark night of the soul.” But a couple of cuts, one of them titled You’re Gonna Miss Me, Baby were as jaunty and irrepressible as the rest of the set. Even the somewhat sarcastic Boy Crazy, with its minor-key gypsy-jazz vibe, wouldn’t concede an inch. DeCicco’s voice has a tinge of smoke and a casual allure that goes straight back to Billie Holiday, but she’s got a somewhat defiant optimism that’s uniquely her own: this band isn’t one of those Snorah Jones wannabe projects. For those who can’t wait for the new studio cd, the band has an online-only live album available at their site.

October 4, 2010 Posted by | blues music, concert, jazz, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Songs of the Week 8/31/09

We do this every Tuesday (usually – remember a couple of weeks ago?). You’ll see this week’s #1 song on our Best 100 songs of 2009 list at the end of December, along with maybe some of the rest of these too. This is strictly for fun – it’s Lucid Culture’s tribute to Kasey Kasem and a way to spread the word about some of the great music out there that’s too edgy for the corporate media and their imitators in the blogosphere. Pretty much every link here will take you to each individual song.

1. The Oxygen Ponies – Villains

Quiet yet venomous rock anthem dating from the waning days of the Bush regime. From their amazing new cd Harmony Handgrenade.

2. Christabel & the Jons – Florida

Dark, quirky, fun oldtimey swing tune in the Jolie Holland mode. They’re at the Jalopy Theatre on 10/1.

3. Taxi Amarillo – Donde Has Estando

Jangly rock en Espanol anthem. They’re at BB King’s on 9/7

4. Kofre – El Muerto

Ska en Espanol. Also at BB King’s on 9/7.

5. The Scratches – I Take the Shape of My Container

BOAC style pop – funny.

6. Mark Sinnis – That’s Why I Won’t Love You

Quietly snarling, gospel-flavored kissoff anthem recorded live at Pete’s. From his forthcoming 2010 cd.

7. Ninth House – Jealousy

Speaking of which…this is the album version with Randi Russo on harmonies. This is a psychedelic live version.

8. Kerry Kennedy – Golden Calves

Beautiful as-yet unreleased atmospherics from the NYC southwestern gothic chanteuse. She’s at Small Beast at the Delancey on 9/14.

9. Telephone – In Paris

A funny anti-tourist rant, in English, by the iconic punk-era French rockers. “In Paris we piss in the street.”

10. Smoothe Moose – War Pigs (remix)

Woozy electronicized cover, you can’t help but smile. Various members of the Tortoise-esque collective play the release show for their latest mixtape at Public Assembly on 9/3 at 9.

September 1, 2009 Posted by | lists, Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: From the Archives: S’Killit at Chicago Blues, NYC 7/4/96

Happy 4th!

The party started before noon and continued in Westchester at my girlfriend’s sister’s place. We then moved to a generic Mexican restaurant that her sister and husband were very fond of. Tequila flowed all afternoon. Somehow we made it back to the Metro North train, to the 6, to my place in Gramercy Park where homegirl promptly passed out. It was a nasty, humid, sweltering day, not a hint of breeze anywhere. But I wasn’t finished yet. By myself, I slogged down to 14th St. and 8th Ave. to Chicago Blues, which was surprisingly open, and even more surprisingly, the place was about half full, an enthusiastic crowd gathered toward the front of the club by the stage. S’Killit was in mid-set. They were a blues band fronted by an excellent piano player named Rusty Cloud, and had their full horn section.

The bars and lounges off the interstates from Maine to California abound with bad white blues bands, but S’Killit wasn’t one of them. Their main distinguishing feature was good songwriting. Cloud (who was Southside Johnny’s keyboardist for a time) wasn’t much of a singer, but he knew how to lead a band, how to work a crowd and wrote knotty, intricate, jazz-inflected songs. And when he was feeling more than he was thinking, he could play his ass off. The band used to play around town a lot during the early to mid 90’s and developed something of a following for their tunes and their impressive, jazzy improvisation, perhaps something akin to vintage Tower of Power without the Latin influences. Though it was an early show for them, on a holiday, the band was into it. I was about to leave just as they were about to begin their second set, but I heard the intro to Blue Fever (the title track to a cd they would release almost ten years later, still available at the cdbaby link above) and returned to the bar. It’s a long, slowly crescendoing, minor-key blues epic, the kind of thing they did best, so I thought it would be worth sticking around for at least this number. The only problem is that the place smelled like vomit. Which is why I’d wanted to leave in the first place. Strange: this wasn’t Doc Holliday’s. Chicago Blues pulled some pretty upscale acts sometimes, the sound was superb, and the place was always well-maintained.

After the song, I went outside (for a breath of fresh air – in those days, you could smoke in bars). But the smell lingered. All of a sudden it occured to me what the problem might be. I bent over and looked at my shoes, realizing what must have happened: someone had gotten sick in the bathroom at the Mexican place, and in the condition I was in, I was oblivious. No wonder the crowd was gathered at the front of the club: they’d seen me come in and wanted to get as far away as possible. That explains why the waitress was hanging at the end of the bar, watching the show. But I went back in anyway. An attempt to do a little cleanup in the bathroom proved pretty futile. The waitress kept bringing beers which I kept drinking, and in my condition this was not a good idea. How I managed to catch myself, pull myself together and stand up, in the split second before my face went into free-fall into my pint glass is something I’ll never know. If memory serves right, the slow stroll home was punctuated by a stop at the Twin Donut on 14th and 6th Ave.

July 4, 2007 Posted by | concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment