Concert review: John Zorn’s Masada Book Three: Book of Beriah – part two (3/19/2014)

(If you missed the first half of this review, you can find it by clicking here!)

After stretching our legs during the 15-minute intermission, I settled back in my seat for the next ten bands. Well, I say “my” seat, but technically I was sitting in someone else’s seat, because my friend M. tipped me off to a no-show empty seat, front row dead center. Yeah, I’ll take advantage of that, thank you! It was a very nice change of pace seeing everything except the keyboards, instead of nothing but the keyboards.

The first band in the second set that really wowed me was the trio of Loren Sklamberg (vocals, accordion), Frank London (trumpet) and Uri Caine (piano). Out of all the bands we heard that night, this one had the most klezmer at its heart. (This seems relevant as the Book of Beriah concert was part of the Newish Jewish Music Festival.) Frank London gave us a bit of an explanation before the beginning of the piece, saying the name of the piece, “Kelim,” which is “part of the kabbalistic-mystic concept of how the world was created” inspired them to use this particular text, which I think he said was Yiddish. Even without being able to understand the lyrics, I thought the piece was hauntingly beautiful with a very Old World feel. Really loved London’s trumpet on this piece.

Next up was Abraxas, a band that regular readers of my blog will be familiar with. Shanir Blumenkranz is the bandleader and gimbri player, accompanied by Kenny Grohowski on drums, and two electric guitar players: Aram Bajakian and Eyal Maoz. While the band was setting up and getting plugged in, some joker in the audience yelled out “What IS that thing?” This prompted John Zorn to grab the mic and retort, “A gimbri, you fool!” which got a laugh out of the audience. I especially liked the intro to their piece which had some really cool atmospheric guitar work over a melodic bass line (well, gimbri line).

mark-abraxas(Abraxas. Photo courtesy of Mark Kirschbaum.)

After Abraxas, we got to hear Mephisto – which (as Zorn explained) is usually called “Mephista,” but apparently the substitution of a male drummer (Jim Black) made them decide to alter the (more…)

Concert Review: Marc Ribot y Los Cubanos Postizos, Edmar Castaneda (NYC, 6/10/2013)

On Monday I went to the second concert of my four-day NYC vacation: Marc Ribot y Los Cubanos Postizos at Le Poisson Rouge on Bleecker Street. The first time I ever saw that band was at the very same venue in 2009, and to this day it stands as one of the most fun concerts I have ever been to, so I was very much looking forward to a repeat performance. Every time I’ve seen them, the band has had a different line-up – this time we had a fairly pared-down version: Marc Ribot on guitar; Anthony Coleman on keyboard; EJ Rodriguez on percussion; Brad Jones on bass; and Cougar Estrada on drums.

The Cubanos Postizos are sort of a genre unto themselves – I guess I’d have to call it Cuban jazz put in a blender with punk, a dance party, and that distinctive Ribot guitar flavor. What comes out of that blender is an awful lot of fun. Happily, Le Poisson Rouge removed all the tables and chairs from the main floor to make room for those of us who wanted to do some dancing – I’ve seen the Cubanos at a nice, seated venue and it just doesn’t feel right…

Mr. Ribot started the evening with a bang, saying: “You may have noticed something: there’s no chairs! There’s no tables! SO YOU BETTER DANCE!” Then he let out a wordless shout (out of sheer enthusiasm, from the sound of it) and launched into the fast-paced and light-hearted Los Teenagers Bailan Changui from the Cubanos’ debut eponymous record. After treating us to 15-20 minutes of fast music to get our feet moving, they shifted down a gear and played a more slow-burning song, Fiesta en el Solar, from the same debut record, and then Dame un Cachito Pa’Huele from their followup album, “Muy Divertido!” After a few more dance-friendly tunes, they moved into one of my very favorites: Aurora en Pekin. The studio version of that is not just one of my favorite Cubanos tunes, or one of my favorite Ribot pieces, but really one of my favorite all-time pieces of music ever. Pure perfection. Naturally, when I realized they were playing it, I filmed it, and since I had gotten there really early, waited in line in the pouring rain for 40 minutes, etc., etc., I was right at the edge of the stage in front of Marc Ribot:

Also included in that video is (more…)