Monday, October 8, 2007

Weekend Roundup

Something Old

And by old, I mean not new. Meaning this past Thursday's Jazz Gallery hit was the third show of Darcy James Argue's Secret Society I've seen and I have yet to get bored. The gig proved to be a great to start to a very full weekend of show-going.

Darcy has the right idea by letting fans download his music for free. I did just that, this past spring with the intent of spying on the competition. My evil plan backfired as I was slowly converted to a hard core fan. I say slowly because it did take several listens for me to really get to know the beauty in his melodic lines, the intensity of his anti-swing drum stylings, and the intricacies of the linear writing which together, construct the labyrinth of sound which defines his music.

He calls this music "steampunk big band." But to me, there is too much depth in each tune to be called punk. This is proved by songs like Habeas Corpus, dedicated to Maher Arar, a Canadian wireless technology consultant who was the victim of racial profiling, and the more personal tunes, Chrysalis, and my personal favorite, Transit. You say "punk," I think of my 6th grade trumpet players (whom I love dearly!). Likewise, you say "big band," and I think of folks like my dad expecting to hear Glenn Miller with minimal soloing.

What I enjoy most about Secret Society shows, in addition to the writing, is the superb quality of the band. You'd expect 5 trumpets to be a bit much, but with players like Ingrid Jensen in the line up, the brass section as a whole knows when to be subtle and when not to be. The woodwinds are not to be outdone. Thank you Erica vonKleist for playing the flute in TUNE, and leading the section in blending those annoying doubles. With a strong rhythm section to root the band in place, and superb solos across the board, this band does not get old.

But don't take my word for it. Visit Darcy's blog for the full set list and band line up as well as free downloads (unless you feel so inclined to make a very much appreciated donation) and see for yourself.

And speaking of Darcy...

Something New

It was thanks to him that I got to partake in an afternoon of completely new (to me) music.

I know hardly a thing about the indie rock scene, but this past Saturday gave me the chance to hear for myself a fair share of non-mainstream music. This mini festival, held at Randall's Island and hosted by the Bowery Presents, was headlined by Arcade Fire and LCD Soundsystem. Also in attendance where the bands Wild Light, Les Savy Fav, and Blonde Redhead. For more educated reviews, go here, here, here, and here. Continue on for my own newbie impressions.

My favorite out of the five was Blonde Redhead. With a Portishead meets Bjork sentimentality, I found the melodies sensual and the grooves hypnotic. I really dug their use of electronic manipulators on their voices, in which the lead was shared between Kazu Makino and Amedeo F. Pace. Like the other bands, I had not heard of these guys before, but as it turns out, my sister shared the stage with them at the Black Cat back in her Estella's Muse days! Crazy, small, indie world...

Part of my enjoyment of Blonde Redhead could be that the band's stoic, more serious stage presence was a refreshing change from its prelude, Les Savy Fav. A kind of cracked out vaudeville, frontliner Tim Harrington did more entertaining than music making as he pushed his way through the sardine packed audience, stealing cake which he later threw back into the audience in between sessions of stripping and rubbing his naked belly. The musician side of me tried to listen to the rest of band, but the insecure, shy, high school freshman side overtook as I cringed in fear that Tim was gonna find me in the crowd and do something utterly embarrassing to me as he did to the guy a few people in front of me. Later, when I listened to the band's MySpace, I did not recognize those clips, which I actually liked, from what I heard on Saturday. I guess it all depends on what you personally want out of a show. Entertainment (read: awkward discomfort) or music.

If it is music you expect, the opening act Wild Light is after your vote. Or at least after some listeners. Their admission to being recent graduates of "new band 101" won me over as did their lighter, fresh tunes. Give them a few more years, and we'll probably be hearing them on Grey's Anatomy.

As the afternoon wore one, the sun set, offering no relief, sadly, to the heat, which only increased as the crowd grew denser and excitement for the headliners mounted.

LCD Soundsystem was the penultimate performance of the evening. Let me tell you, the audience LOVED these guys! And for good reason- their performance had such high energy that I myself could not help bouncing around to the highly percussive (and very loud) uber synthesized grooves. Immediately, I loved the contrast between the long, simple vocal lines against the crazed rhythms of the first tune. When their set ended, I felt sorry for the closing act, for I could not see how another band could possibly enthuse the crowd in such a musical frenzy as these guys did.

My worry was for naught; when Arcade Fire's set started with projected videos and sophisticated lighting illuminated the many musicians and instruments on stage, I began to understand the hype surrounding the band. It was definitely sensory overload as the band played their heartsout in what became a light show sing-a-long. I spent most of the set craning my neck to see exactly which of the instruments where playing, as I could not quite HEAR, despite the wall of sound blasting in my ears. Sadly, I never was really able to make out the bass sax (who also doubled on french horn!), trumpet, clarinet, or violins which undoubtedly created an interesting layer to the already dense organ, guitars, percussion and unison vocal choruses. I could, however, learn a lesson or two on how to write a simple, addictive melodic hook, such as the "we are the world" crowd uniter, Wake Up (could you imagine the members of congress standing on the steps of the Capitol building singing this anthem?!).

It was a long day of music, but an enjoyable one, and a nice break from the normal jazz-only live shows that I have been in attendance to as of late.

Speaking of jazz...

Something Borrowed

Thanks Nad, for lending me the following jazz CDs to spruce up my listening:

Lim Mi Jun In The Rain

Geoffrey Keezer Falling Up

And now for something completely different...

Something Blue

My dad would be so proud of me, for this past Sunday, I went to church! Admittedly, I did not go on purpose.

When Sara invited me to hear her play in Ike Sturm's premiere of his Jazz Mass, I assumed it was a concert, held in a church as music often is, and I'd be listening to a recital of sacred jazz music in the form of a musical mass, something along the lines of Ellington's Sacred Concerts.

Imagine my surprise as I walked into Saint Peter's to face a congregation of jazzers and then some! Apparently, this Lutheran Church has quite the jazz initiative, and if anything was to bring me back to the fold, it could well be Ike's music.

The mass was set for 50 voices, 10 strings, and a sextet of voice, trumpet, saxophone, piano, guitar, bass, and drums. The premiere was part of a Jazz Festival Celebrating 42 years of Jazz Ministry and honoring none other than, Dr. Billy Taylor, who was present at the mass.

I really enjoyed the six sections of the mass, which I am so used to hearing sung in Latin by a monotone Catholic priest, played instead with thick jazz harmonies and inspiring solos by Ingrid Jensen (for the second time this weekend) and saxophonist Laren Stillman. The congregation seemed to really enjoy the music, and perhaps a new audience will be introduced to the genre.

I admit to partial zoning out during the spoken parts of the mass and did not feel comfortable enough to recieve communion, but this spiritual celebration was a lovely close to a weekend of high energy, extreme music participation.

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