Early April Concert Highlights: Doug Wieselman; Jolie Holland; Nels Cline Singers w/Jeff Parker

As usual, I’ve been seeing too many concerts to review, but I thought I’d take a night off and cover a few highlights of the last couple of weeks – just pulling out my very favorite performances among the ten or so bands/performers I’ve seen.

The first really great set I saw in April was Doug Wieselman‘s solo performance at a house concert. I think he performed music exclusively from his recent album, From Water, which features pieces he wrote after being inspired by specific bodies of water. Some have obvious inspirations like “Pacific 1″ and “Pacific 2,” and some had more involved explanations – like “Train” which was inspired by the train that goes along the Hudson River (which is the one I take to my parents’ house, so I know it well – it’s beautiful) and even as far afield as “Kepler-22b,” which is an exoplanet that astronomers believe has a lot of water on it. Mr. Wieselman performed on solo clarinet and some electronics/pedals.

I found this music to be particularly enjoyable in such an intimate and friendly setting. It was so easy to fully focus on and lose yourself in the sound. I’ve seen him play a few times before, but this set felt really special.

Later that week I went with a friend to see Jolie Holland. Kind of a nice musical segue, because although these two concerts could hardly be more different, Doug Wieselman played a lot on her most recent album, Wine Dark Sea. And the lion’s share of her setlist was from that album, including one of my favorites, “Saint Dymphna.”

For this particular live set, she had an unusual lineup featuring three electric guitars and no other instruments (although one guitarist swapped out his guitar for a harmonium on a couple of songs). Electric guitars are one of my favorite instruments, so I thought it made for a pretty fun band. It was a short-ish set, but the setlist was very well-chosen and included a new song that I really liked. After hearing it, I’m already looking forward to the next album! (She tends to go a few years between albums, but hopefully I don’t have to wait TOO long for it.)

Edit for a late addition: My friend Mike W. sent me this great pic he took at the Jolie Holland concert from our vantagepoint at the corner of the stage:
Jolie Holland at the Bowery Ballroom

On Saturday I went to see a couple of sets at the Stone – Nels Cline Singers plus Jeff Parker, playing the music of Scott Amendola. The Nels Cline Singers’ current lineup is Nels Cline on guitar, Scott Amendola on drums, Trevor Dunn on upright bass, Cyro Baptista on percussion, and for one night only they had guitarist Jeff Parker as a special guest (you may know him from the band Tortoise). I’ve seen them a couple of times before, and I thought they were good, but was never blown away. This time? Seriously amazing. So much fun, so much energy, all the band’s talent coming out at once. It’s making me dust off my latent fantasies of going up to Victo Fest this year, just because they’re playing there with some particularly cool guests, and they were SO GOOD on Saturday night I just want to see more of them ASAP. Dang.

I can’t even find anything on Youtube or anywhere that even seems like the same category of performance as what they did on Saturday, so I’m not going to bother posting a link. But definitely check them out live if you have a chance.

There are lots of great upcoming NYC gigs in the next few weeks… New York Live Arts has great-looking shows from composers/musicians like John Zorn, Eyvind Kang, Laurie Anderson, Arvo Pärt, Pauline Oliveros, etc. and there are some last-minute discount tickets as low as $15. There is another Jazz and Colors festival at the Metropolitan Museum, which I really enjoyed in January. Wadada Leo Smith’s week at the Stone is coming up. Snakeoil at the Jazz Standard. The Bad Plus at the Blue Note. A solo set from Marc Ribot at Symphony Space. Sean Rowe at Mercury Lounge. A couple of cool-looking Sunday night shows at The Skinny on Orchard Street. And one I am particularly excited about, the premiere of Erik Friedlander’s new solo album, “Illuminations,” at Dixon Place on April 26. You can find all the details on my concert calendar here.

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