I’ve had a light three weeks of concerts (well, light for me) between two head colds, a sinus infection and a round of antibiotics – yuck! Hopefully now that summer has arrived a couple of months early, the cold and flu season is over. I did manage to push through and get to a handful of shows, though I didn’t feel well enough to write about them until this week.
Erik Friedlander‘s solo set at Dixon Place, premiering his new album “Illuminations,” was a real treat. The new album is a must-hear – I’ve really been enjoying it (you can listen and buy it by clicking here). It reminds me a little of “Volac,” the album he did for John Zorn’s Book of Angels series, but with a bit more of a classical sound. I hadn’t been to Dixon Place before and it was an excellent place to see a very focused and intense solo set, with no distracting noise from the street or a bar. It was a beautiful concert, and I was happy to bring home the new CD afterwards for some extended listening sessions.
Here’s a piece from “Illuminations” that he performed in Krakow:
The same night, and with a slightly overlapping set time, was Trevor Dunn’s band PROOFReaders, with Dunn on upright bass, Darius Jones on saxophone, Nate Wooley on trumpet and Ryan Sawyer on drums. Luckily this show was just a few blocks from Dixon Place at the Skinny, so we were able to scoot over there and only miss a little bit of the beginning of the show. They played a double set of Ornette Coleman tunes, so we definitely got our money’s worth even though we were late (not always a sure thing these days with lots of sub-60-minute sets happening in avant-garde/jazz venues). It was a great opportunity to relax on some comfy couches and take in some high-quality acoustic jazz performed by very talented musicians. What more can a jazz fan ask for?
I don’t think the PROOFReaders have any recordings or videos available to share, but I will definitely go see them again if I get the chance.
Later that week, I was treated to a rare short concert commute with a Marc Ribot performance at Symphony Space on the upper west side (just two subway stops from my Harlem home!). He was performing a solo acoustic guitar score along with Charlie Chaplin’s film “The Kid.” I’ve seen him perform this score before and it’s hard not to love it – he does a great job of bringing out the emotional aspects of the film, which are often lost when 21st-century audiences are watching classic silent films. And the music is just plain beautiful. He hasn’t released the actual score but the closest thing to it is his solo album, “Silent Movies,” which is a masterpiece that you should definitely own – really a unique album, it’s very emotionally expressive yet understated and subtle at the same time.
Sean Rowe‘s performance at the Mercury Lounge that weekend was a nice break from all the jazz and classical concerts I’d been seeing. New York has such a great jazz and new music scene that sometimes it feels like I haven’t seen a plain old rock-and-roll show in a long time. This definitely hit the spot! I’ve seen him at least half a dozen times by now and I think this was my favorite show – no doubt enhanced by the enthusiastic crowd and my front-row-center position. He played a selection of the best songs from his latest album, “Madman,” which is an excellent album, along with his usual smattering of shrewdly-chosen covers, including tunes from Leonard Cohen and Richard Thompson. I didn’t have my camera with me that night, but this is a nice rendition of the song he played for an encore:
That video is pretty good, but he totally blew it out of the water that night, I was really impressed. No matter how many times I see him, I’m always surprised by the energy and humor he brings to live performances. I think with the deep deep voice and the deep deep songs I expect him to be much more serious than he actually is. He’s definitely on my “will see as many shows as he wants to play in my town” list.
Last and certainly not least, we’re two weeks into Zion80‘s six-week residency at Joe’s Pub, and I’ve seen both performances so far. They are a camera-friendly band and I was finally starting to feel better, so I did bring out my camera for the last show.
Zion80 is a big ol’ jazz band and their lineup in this residency has been fluctuating slightly with the availability of their members. The good news is that with so many talented musicians, they can be missing a couple and still be a really strong band. (I can’t even imagine the scheduling required to get eleven people to show up for soundcheck and a show for six Tuesdays in a row… let alone THIS group of eleven people who include a lot of high-demand artists who are in a bunch of bands. Some bands can be laid back, some need a full-time human resources department.) At any rate, the core band consists of Jon Madof, Frank London, Brian Marsella, Yoshie Fruchter, Jessica Lurie, Shanir Blumenkranz, Matt Darriau, Greg Wall, Zach Mayer, Marlon Sobol and Yuval Lion.
Both of the Joe’s Pub shows I saw were a lot of fun – they’re kind of a “can’t miss” band if you like fun jazz. (I realize that “fun jazz” is a genre that exists only in my head, but come on, you know it when you hear it!) I think with weekly performances they’ll just be getting better and better, so grab some tickets before they’re all gone and check them out.
I didn’t manage to get my video sorted out in time for this blog post, but you might spot something on my Youtube channel this weekend when I get some free time. In the meantime here’s an old track from a live set they did in 2012 with special guest Cyro Baptista… who just so happens to be their special guest again at Joe’s Pub on May 26!
Concert preview: Aram Bajakian has got a residency at the Stone coming up next week and there are some very nice-looking performances lined up. He’ll be joined by a lot of great musicians including Jon Madof, Sylvie Courvoisier, Mat Maneri, Shanir Blumenkranz, Joe Morris, Jeremiah Cymerman, Frank London, and lots more. Here’s a short piece from his upcoming solo album, from which he will be performing music on two different nights: