Review: Jeremiah Cymerman’s residency at the Stone (Nov 2014)

cymermancropped

Last week the Stone hosted yet another week-long residency that I was really excited to see: Jeremiah Cymerman. I’d never seen him do anything but improvisation sets before this week, so I was very interested to hear some material from his studio recordings and some of the bands he’s put together over the years as well as, of course, more improvisation.

I went to half a dozen sets during the week – solo; Sky Burial; improv benefit for the Stone; improv set with Joe Morris and Sylvie Courvoisier; Pale Horse; and Pale Horse with guests. The solo set was the first one of the week and it turned to be one of my favorites. I wasn’t surprised since I thought his last solo album, Purification/Dissolution, was pretty darn brilliant. You can listen to some by clicking here. (The embed isn’t working, so you’ll have to click through… I know, I know, clicking that mouse button is arduous work.)

It’s not necessarily what you think of when you think “solo clarinet,” and it’s not for everyone, but I think he has a real talent for noise music. I don’t listen to a lot of noise – it’s one of those things I have to be exactly in a certain mood for – but when I am in that mood and I hear something just right, it can be one of the most ecstatic types of music listening. I think of it as musical masochism – noise music lets you float right on the edge of pleasure and pain, pushing you right to the limits of enjoyment. When the composer or musician in question can walk that line perfectly, the listener can have sufficient trust to sit back and fully take it in without being tensed up with a finger on the “off” button in case it goes too far.

It hardly needs saying that it falls in the “not for everyone” category, but for me, Mr. Cymerman is a top practitioner in this particular art form. The first, long piece in his solo set (taking up most of the time he’d allotted) was a prime example – a briliant-bordering-on-genius set of clarinet filtered through enough electronics and effects to make it nearly unrecognizable as an instrument. It was a real education watching him make this music after having heard his albums and having no idea how the music was being made. The complex textures and sounds he was coming up with on the fly were powerful and masterfully done.
(more…)

Review: Mostly Other People Do the Killing (11/9/14)

If you’re into the jazz scene at all, you’ll probably have read something recently about Mostly Other People Do the Killing‘s brand new album, “Blue.” There has been a good deal of controversy surrounding the release, most of which I feel is silly, but I have really enjoyed contemplating some of the questions raised in the process. The concept of the album is that they decided to recreate, note-for-note, as closely as possible, the iconic 1959 jazz album “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis. Some critics and fans seemed to be kind of upset about it, which I find amusing. How upset can you really be at a piece of instrumental music these days?

I find it fascinating in a sort of performance-art way: they managed to closely recreate one of the most iconic jazz albums in the world, but since they removed all aspects of improvisation in the performance – turning it into a piece of music where every intonation and grace note is on the sheet music – it is, in some way, no longer jazz, since most people consider improvisation one of the core principles of jazz. It’s a very strange thing to do, and also kind of pointless, because how many fans are really going to buy an identical copy of an album they either already own or never wanted in the first place? (I assume the number of MOPDtK fans who don’t own “Kind of Blue” because they’ve never heard it are vanishingly small…) It is worth mentioning that all profits from the album are being donated to charity, so at least critics of the concept can’t accuse MOPDtK of trying to profit off of cultural appropriation, yadda yadda yadda.

But I think it is highly successful as a piece of modern art, because it makes you think about all sorts of big philosophical arty questions. I mean, I haven’t even HEARD the album and it has that effect, that’s pretty amazing. It’s probably somehow very meta that I downloaded a review copy and never got around to listening to it. But you can listen to a track here if you can get over all of the existential angst involved: (more…)

Concerts: Cyro Baptista’s residency at the Stone (Nov. 2014)

Ten concerts since I last managed to write a review, terrible blogger shame… but let us talk about the glorious week that was the Cyro Baptista residency at the Stone! I badly wanted to see all six nights, but I slept poorly all week and didn’t have the energy for it, so I only managed three nights and regretted all the ones I missed. The ones I did manage to catch were Beat the Donkey; Banquet of the Spirits with special guest Nels Cline; and Banquet of the Spirits with special guests Peter Apfelbaum and John Lee. (I honestly didn’t choose those three with any real plan, I simply went to the first night and then was too tired to ever go out two nights in a row, so I attended every other night.)

The first night was the one with Nels Cline guesting on guitar and Banquet of the Spirits. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Mr. Cline is the guitarist for Wilco, who are kind of a big deal in the indie rock scene. Naturally, when he plays with a great band in a one-off show at a tiny venue like the Stone, there will be long lines. I showed up about 20 minutes later than I was hoping to, and ended up with a seat in the back corner which was only tolerable because we had a great view of the keyboards. Banquet of the Spirits features Brian Marsella on keyboards, and he’s one of my all-time fave keyboard players, so I was pretty happy in spite of my view otherwise consisting of the backs of people’s heads. Although sometimes that can be interesting, too…

shanirback
(more…)

Review(s): A completely insane week of music, featuring Kenny Wollesen (3x), Marc Ribot, John Zorn, Secret Chiefs 3, and so much more…

For the record, I’ve pretty much given up on trying to review each concert I go to. In the last 30 days I went to 25 shows. Between that and working full time, I haven’t even finished unpacking from my move, let alone found time to blog about all those shows! I’m not sure if it’s best to write about only one in five shows (give or take) or if it’s best to write about more of them, but in less detail. Your feedback on this is encouraged…

Since my last review (a week ago) I’ve seen seven concerts in six venues in two states featuring roughly 20 bands/ensembles. I can’t write about them all, and it’s hard to even know where to start, but let’s go with 6:30PM, last Thursday afternoon. I’d been planning to go to the Stone for a relatively easy evening out, but I was feeling pretty well rested after staying in the previous evening and I made a very last-minute decision to take the PATH train to New Jersey and attend the HONK! festival event at Monty Hall in New Jersey. The main reason I wanted to go was to see Kenny Wollesen‘s band, the Himalayas, who were on the bill. I’ve seen him play vibes or drums or percussion many times, but only once before had I seen him lead a marching band, and it was over-the-top fun. Naturally, I was eager to repeat the experience.

Monty Hall is a new venue and I had never heard anything about it, so when I arrived to find a quite small venue with no seating, plush wall-to-wall carpeting, and a surprisingly liberal BYOB policy (…I’ve heard of “bring your own” but not “greet everyone at the door with directions to the liquor store and a suggestion that they go get something to bring back”), I just shrugged and tried not to think too hard about their carpet cleaning bills. Like pretty much every HONK! event ever, there was a great vibe to the place and the show was massive amounts of fun. There were a bunch of bands, my two favorites (very narrowly, but I’m trying to be brief, here!) were the Himalayas and the Chaotic Noise Marching Corps. CNMC were punky, loud, crazy, and fun. They overflowed off the stage and into the small audience area, making for a very intense and in-your-face set. The Himalayas, with Kenny Wollesen at their helm, were more percussion-focused than the other bands we saw, which I found very interesting. The rhythms seemed more subtle and sophisticated, and I really enjoyed that difference in a show that didn’t have a lot of subtlety going on. The whole concert was a lot of fun and we danced a lot. (Well, I only danced a little, I’m not very good at dancing. But other people danced up a storm and I had fun watching!)

Kenny Wollesen & the Himalayas

Kenny Wollesen & the Himalayas

(more…)

Review(s): My weekend of unrelated music featuring Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer, Tim Berne & HONK! NYC

After being sick last week, I was really in the mood to get out and see some shows this past weekend. I was in luck, because there was a lot of good stuff on the concert calendar. (Did you notice I added an NYC concert calendar to the sidebar? I did. It’s sort of in beta testing right now, but check it out if you’re in the area and let me know what you think.)

First up on Saturday night was the duo of Chris Thile (mandolin, guitar) and Edgar Meyer (upright bass, piano) at Town Hall. I’ve repeatedly had bad luck getting good seats for shows at Town Hall, but this time my ticket karma came through. The show had gone on sale months before I moved to NYC and I’d long ago given up hope of getting any kind of decent seat. But I kept checking back just in case… and about a week before the show: front row dead center popped up on Ticketmaster. Yes, please, and thank you!

I didn’t even really know what kind of music they’d be playing – I was so busy this summer I’m behind on listening to absolutely everything, and I was mostly just going on my friend Mark’s recommendation to see them. I’ve seen Chris Thile a few times before, but was new to the work of Edgar Meyer. Thile is a virtuoso and you can generally expect him to do amazing things, but I was really blown away by Meyer’s bass playing. Holy cow, can that man handle an upright bass! I’ve seen a lot of concerts, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bassist play like that. I found myself watching him almost the whole time. I’m skipping the videos I took myself and giving you something professionally recorded since the audio quality is so key with these two:

They are at the tail end of their U.S. tour, but there are two more dates this week in Ann Arbor and Chicago. Click here for details on the tour and their new album.

Sunday night was a totally different scene: the last night of saxophonist Tim Berne’s residency at the Stone. I’d wanted to catch a couple of nights but wasn’t feeling up to it until the weekend, when he was playing with two different (but similar) bands. The early set was “Decay,” with Tim Berne on sax, Ryan Ferreira on electric guitar, Michael Formanek on upright bass and Ches Smith on drums (because, clearly, I didn’t hear enough of his drumming during his own residency the week before!). The late set was “Cornered,” with those four plus Oscar Noriega on clarinet and Matt Mitchell on piano. These bands were fairly similar to his (relatively) well-known band, Snakeoil, which had played for several nights in a row earlier in the week.
(more…)