Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Magic Number’s Album Is Everything You Would Expect

From their name, Magic Number’s album Yeah Yeah Yeah is what you’d think it would be: upbeat and fun. It’s also absolutely unique. Eclectic violinist Zach Brock, jazz bassist Matt Wigton and drummer Fred Kennedy have joined forces to create a new genre: violin funk. Crisp and rhythmic, it’s a lot closer to jazz than James Brown, although it shares the Godfather of Soul’s split-second precision and fondness for simple, memorable hooks. Much of the time, Brock adds to the thicket of beats with spiky pizzicato plucking. Wigton plays as much judicious melody as Brock, and Kennedy’s smart, frequently minimalistic yet attention-grabbing colors and riffs are absolute magic: each instrument is completely equal in this unit.

The title cut kicks it off on a jaunty note: Brock gives it a staccato bounce on the first verse, plays steady eighth notes over a tricky rhythm, then it shifts to more of a dance. The rhythmic trickiness keeps going with Summer Dance, which morphs into what’s essentially a funk waltz, down to a brief cymbal splashfest and then goes halftime. Their version of You Don’t Know What Love Is, by contrast is moody and distantly bluesy, in fact almost trip-hop, finally picking up with vocalese as it winds out.

A bucolic, syncopated theme, Sno’ Peas gets going with brisk bass and matter-of-factly rattling drums, a chugging funk style bass solo and builds to the jazziest interlude here so far, up to a soaring, Jean-Luc Ponty-esque cadenza. The slow, pensive Brooklyn Ballad defines this album: incisive bass and terse, nimble drums trade textures beneath a judiciously sailing violin crescendo, then down and out gracefully. The hook-driven Golden Nuggets gives Wigton a chance to cut loose on the funk until Brock steps on it, gets everybody to chill out and then takes it out with a sly early 70s psychedelic soul feel. The anthemic Man of the Light pairs off Wigton’s prowling bass against Brock’s airy blues allusions, Kennedy bringing the intensity up with his cymbals. The album closes with In the Dark, Kennedy’s greatest shining moment among many where he finally gets to go up all the way and crash around after an eerie interlude with glockenspiel that builds intensity until it finally explodes. It’s a great headphone album. Brock is highly in demand as a live player: his next gig is on May 12 at 6 PM at Temple Israel, 112 E 75th St..

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May 7, 2011 Posted by | funk music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Smart, Eclectic Themes and Tunes from Steve Hudson

We usually don’t do pleasant and pretty. That’s not to imply that pleasant, attractive music is necessarily any less entertaining or intelligent than the troubled, melancholic stuff we gravitate toward, both as a matter of personal taste and because of this site’s ultimate agenda. Since it’s a lot easier to get exposure for pleasant, accessible music than for darker material that tends to scare people off, that’s where we come in. But once in awhile something comes over the transom here that’s so disarmingly fun that it’s impossible to resist: the Steve Hudson Chamber Ensemble’s new Galactic Diamonds album is a prime example. It’s a good-naturedly eclectic mix of third-stream jazz with a catchy, quirky pop edge, similar to the more western side of Skye Steele’s adventurous solo work. Hudson plays piano, joined by fellow multistylists Zach Brock on violin, Jody Redhage on cello and vocals and Martin Urbach on drums and percussion.

The opening track sets the tone for the rest of the album, a playful hybrid tango/jazz waltz with inspired, conversational interplay between the instruments, the highlight being a jaunty, ragtimey, Stuff Smith-style violin solo. Redhage is basically the bass player here, delivering an undulating groove most notable on the circular Afrobeat-tinged Speak Out and the vivacious, Jean Luc Ponty-esque title track, where she supplies soulful vocalese as well. Often the piano and violin join on rustic, wistful Americana themes, whether the aptly titled Keep It Simple, the gently expansive ballad PG which eventually morphs into a tricky, moody Brubeck-style theme, or Wanderin’, a memorable, nocturnal waltz. Hudson intersperses clever allusions and quotes from the Fab Four on the lyrical Song for John Lennon, joined by a soaring Brock toward the end. He also plays melodica on the tricky bolero Para, and Wurlitzer on the self-explanatory, Herbie Hancock-ish Funky Hobbit. The album winds up with its most ambitious piece, Mingus Moon, a long, shapeshifting, latin-inflected piece with a rich web of intermingled contributions from all the instruments. Hudson gets around: he’ll be at Chamber Music America in New York next month, then in Alaska where in May, with saxophonist Claire Daly, he’ll be premiering a work dedicated to explorer Mary Joyce.

December 26, 2010 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment