Concert(s) review: Marc Ribot residency, part one (1/28-30/2014)

This week Marc Ribot is in residency at the Stone in New York City, playing six nights in a row with a variety of other performers in addition to some solo sets. I hope at this point that anyone reading this blog doesn’t need an introduction to Ribot since he’s my favorite musician and I write about him all the time đŸ˜‰ I didn’t think I could deal with writing six blog posts in six days so I’m grouping them into three or four posts that hopefully don’t seem too random. For this first post I’m going to talk about the duo performances in the first few days of the residency, with Marc Ribot performing in tandem with Charles Gayle, Frances-Marie Uitti, Jason Moran, and Roy Nathanson.

We’ve been getting to every show nice and early in order to secure front row seats for the best view:

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The first set on the first night was the duo performance with Charles Gayle, who played both upright bass and piano. I hadn’t heard his music before so I came in with no idea what to expect. I think I liked the piano half better (maybe just because I like pianos in general – eight years of lessons leaves a mark!) – overall the set was on the challenging side, which I liked because it was the first set of a six night run and we were all ramped up, excited and ready to listen to anything. This was one of my favorites from that set:

The second set on both the first and second nights was cellist Frances-Marie Uitti. I hadn’t seen her before, but I had been warned by a friend that she doesn’t like people taking videos of her performances, so I don’t have any video footage to share. But they were both amazing sets. Challenging, dynamic, rich, really great stuff. She used a particularly cool technique with (more…)

Concert review: The Deadly Gentlemen’s Ball (Peter Rowan, The Deadly Gentlemen, Joy Kills Sorrow, Chris Eldridge & Julian Lage) (1/25/2014)

Saturday night was the first-ever Deadly Gentlemen’s Ball, a one-night bluegrass festival hosted at the Sinclair right here in my hometown of Cambridge. The Deadly Gentlemen are a local bluegrass-ish band, and they were playing host and curator for the whole night as well as contributing a couple of sets of great music. The other acts on the bill included a duet of Chris Eldridge and Julian Lage, a band called Joy Kills Sorrow, and the Boston-born bluegrass legend Peter Rowan.

First up was Julian Lage & Chris Eldridge – I’d seen each of them separately (with Gary Burton and the Punch Brothers, respectively) and thought they were both excellent guitarists, so I was looking forward to seeing them perform together. They did a great set (maybe even my favorite of the night) with music representing a variety of genres (mostly on the bluegrass< --->jazz spectrum), some instrumental and some with vocals. As an encore they did a lovely version of “Someone to Watch over Me,” which I filmed in spite of a rather chatty crowd:

The next band to (more…)

Concert review: Kayo Dot (T.T. the Bear’s, 1/19/2013)

Late Sunday night found me at a Kayo Dot concert at T.T. the Bear’s in Cambridge. (Luckily the Middle East Downstairs was closed for the night, so we didn’t have to deal with any sound bleeding through the floor like we did the last couple of times I went there.) I think I’ve seen them once before opening for the Secret Chiefs 3, but there were two opening bands that night and the one I saw never mentioned the name of the band, so it’s only 50/50 that it was them. (Note to musicians: If you’re too “metal” to talk to the audience, put up a sign or something…) At any rate, this time I am definitely sure that I saw them. I even have photographic evidence:

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The main reason I went to check out the band was that I’d been hearing a lot of good things about Kayo Dot’s new release, Hubardo, mainly from a couple of friends of mine who have excellent taste in music. Genre-wise they’re kind of… I dunno, prog-metal-avant-something, I guess. Pretty heavy stuff. There are a few tracks from it streaming on Bandcamp, like this one:

I got there in time to catch part of an opening band, Bent Knee – I didn’t know anything about them beforehand, but (more…)

Concert review: Winter Jazzfest Marathon (Jan. 10-11, 2014)

This weekend I attended both days of the Winter Jazzfest marathon in Greenwich Village. It’s a festival that has a unique appeal to those of us who are particularly manic about concerts; it’s basically an all-you-can-eat buffet of live music held in a bunch of venues in Greenwich Village. For one relatively low price you can run around and hear as many bands as you can stuff in your ears in the time allotted. Most sets were 45 minutes with a few double-length sets here and there. (I took it relatively easy and caught eleven ensembles plus the “round robin” duo improvisation set.)

This year was the tenth anniversary of Winter Jazzfest and featured a huge amount of bands (more than ninety). It was, of course, impossible to see them all, and there were some tough decisions to be made. We’d been warned by friends about previous years having long lines and big crowds at some venues, so we simplified our schedule a bit and tried to do multiple sets in the same venues as much as we could (without sacrificing the bands we most wanted to see). I spent most of my time in the NYU Law venue and the Judson Memorial Church, which was a pretty cool-looking room:

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(That’s Ches Smith on the left and Shahzad Ismaily on the right, during Ceramic Dog’s late-night Saturday set.)

The funny thing was that after I simplified things and tried to make my schedule less ambitious, I somehow ended up seeing (more…)

Concert review: The Bad Plus (12/31/2013)

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Welcome to my ten-days-too-late review of the concert I saw on New Year’s Eve! My memory’s gone a bit fuzzy, so it’ll be short, but it was such a great show that I didn’t want to skip the review entirely. The show was the Bad Plus’s annual New Year’s show at the Village Vanguard. The Bad Plus (Ethan Iverson – piano; Reid Anderson – bass; David King – drums), originating in Minneapolis, have been around for a little over ten years and have eight studio albums to date.

I decided to go to this show on fairly short notice after some other concert plans fell through, and I think I must have gotten one of the last tickets as it was sold out soon afterward. Figuring it would be tough competition for good seats, I got in line outside early enough to snag one of the four front row seats when they let us in. I had about an hour to kill before the actual show started, which I mostly spent waiting for a truly terrible cocktail. But when the music started, I was able to forget about my drink and just enjoy myself. I was seated in a perfect spot and the music was excellent and a lot of fun.

I’ve naturally forgotten all of the song titles at this point, but they were playing a significant amount of brand new material which was consistently outstanding. At one point the bass player made a joke along the lines of “That’s right, you paid hundreds of dollars to see us tonight and we’re playing material we’ve barely rehearsed!” Some of them they’d only played for the first time during that night’s sound check. I guess that’s the sign of a great jazz band – so much of the strength of the music comes from the improvisational skills of the players that even a relatively unrehearsed piece can be fantastic.

I sneaked a quick video during the second set, figuring that since the Village Vanguard had managed to run out of sparkling wine by 10PM on New Year’s Eve, they owed me a favor:

They’re coming to Boston in a couple of weeks and I might just have to go see them again, although the venue is in such an annoying location to get to via public transit I haven’t quite convinced myself. At any rate, aside from the Boston dates they’re also playing some other dates in U.S. and Europe, which you can see by clicking here.

BONUS MATERIAL: I posted another short video from this show on the Concert Manic Facebook page. (FYI: All the cool kids are following us on Facebook. Just saying.)

Today I’m heading off to the last couple of nights of Winter Jazz Fest, where I will gorge myself on all sorts of great music and hopefully nothing terrible will happen (…I’m having one of those weeks. Seriously, how often do you get into a phone conversation where someone says “Wait, I didn’t catch that – did you say you were HACKED or ATTACKED?” and your answer is “Both. On the same afternoon.”). I’m traveling light and might not bring the full complement of recording gear, but hopefully I will have at the very least some fun photos and stories to share next week.