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REVIEW: my crazy music-filled NYC trip in March 2007

17th Mar 07 (Sat) 4 comments

Wow… today is my “first day off” from a show since last Friday (2/9)…

Here’s how NYC “for business” played out on the “for enjoyment” sense of it…

SATURDAY 3/10
I arrived in town at 11:30am. Checked in, and then headed up to “scout out” the Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater as that’s where MASADA was playing that night. While I was there, I got word that there were two free jazz shows going on that afternoon that were sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of U.S. Department of State. It was apparently spreading jazz music to 3rd world countries, and this was the coming home show. I love jazz, and I love how sometimes governmental bodies put good money to use for the arts. It seems weird how we seem to only export bombs lately. Jazz is better than bombs, but less than food and medical aid. I guess I should just be glad that is wasn’t bombs or Christina Aguilera instead of jazz.

Anyway, the Ari Roland Quartet was the free 1pm show. Great quartet, not unlike some quartets that I like… more straight jazz, flashy but not experimental (IMO). Enjoyable, but not mind blowing. “Safe jazz,” if you ask me. Their drummer was pretty good. My favorite song was the one penned by their piano-player. The Cultures of Rhythm was the free 3pm show (both of these free shows were at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola at Lincoln Center). COR were a bit more interesting. It was a jazz quartet, but “bouncier.” And it featured djembe, drums, hammond organ and a trumpeter. Trumpet usually excites me more than safe saxaphone jazz. Anyway, this band (Culture of Rhythm) had a great vibe. Very enjoyable…

After these free shows, I was pooped… and headed back to my hotel in Chelsea for a nap. The evening show was Masada and Cecil Taylor at Lincoln Jazz Center’s Rose Theater. This was Masada’s last show ever. I drove down to Raleigh, NC, last fall to see tham at Duke. This show, they amazed even more. Masada has many incarnations (as do many of John Zorn’s projects), but the standard acoustic quartet of John Zorn on alto sax, Dave Douglas on trumpet, Greg Cohen on bass, and Joey Baron on drums is the true Masada band. Masada tunes are all written by John Zorn… he’s written upwards of 300 one-page melodic tunes. These one-page 16-bar songs become the framework for jazz improvization. While some of it becomes quite adventurous and “avant-garde,” it still remains very melodic — which can be scarce for John Zorn material. Anyway, the four members of Masada were ON that night. It was truly a beautiful hour+ of music. I’m sad that it’s their last show as this original quartet, but I’m glad that I got to see them twice. I didn’t stick around for Cecil… I had other shows I wanted to fit in…

I took the subway from Columbus Circle (near Central Park) all the way down to the Bowery… walked about a mile to get to the Stone (an avant-garde music space) and made it just in time to see the Joe Morris Trio. It was basically a guy (Joe Morris) noodling on a guitar while another guy (Daniel Levin) was noodling on a cello and another guy (Michael Evans) was noodling on a drumkit. Udon!

I was toying with the idea of heading way the fuck back uptown to Lincoln Center for the 11:30pm show for Kenny Werner‘s Lawn Chair Society. I dig the CD (and it features trumpeter Dave Douglas and saxaphonist Chris Potter), but I didn’t have tickets and thought it’d be sold out, and I knew Dave Douglas wasn’t playing in the band that night (and I had just seen Chris Potter play a few weeks earlier in Cincinnati). It was rainy and I didn’t find the subway stop where I left it last; so I walked about 2 miles to Union Center (my pedometer was upwards of 11 miles walked that 1st day — it got about half that every day afterwards). My sleepy head won out and I crashed back to my hotel in Chelsea eventually…

Oh, speaking of crashing… they had 7th Ave closed from 27th St to 23rd St most of the day on the Saturday and Sunday that I showed up because they were filming chase scenes for the upcoming Borne Ultimatum. I didn’t catch a peek at anyone famous (Matt Damon or anyone), but it was interesting to see how they blocked a major road off for the better part of the weekend. The secondary chase seemed to happen right outside my window (on 25th St)… it’ll be weird to see when that movie comes out if I recognize any of the street stuff…

SUNDAY 3/11 I had a lazy and cheap Sunday… went to the Downtown Music Gallery’s free shows (they do them every Sunday). I spend a lot of coin at DMG for avant-garde jazz; so I figured I’d take in some free stuff. At 6pm, I saw Jason Stein (sax from Chicago) and Mike Pride (percussion from Brooklyn) toy around with some sounds. It was pretty intense, and very much avant-garde. I dug it. Next up (7pm) was Susan Alcorn on lap-steel. It was mesmerizing, entrancing, but uninviting. It really zoned me out for a good 45 minutes. Very much avant-garde lapsteel. At least it wasn’t country, eh? rolleyes.gif

I was gonna catch two shows at the Stone after these free DMG shows, but I was worn out. Susan Alcorn fried my brain, or perhaps it was watching Jesus Camp that afternoon. Scary shit, that movie was…

MONDAY 3/12 Lazy Monday… I think I walked down to WTC and Statue of Liberty this morning, but I forget. That may have been Sunday morning (and then after got a shot of Johnny Walker Red at Elliott Smith‘s XO hangout). I didn’t pay for the ferry to Ellis Island… eh. Monday dinner was delightful. I caught some good thai grub with who law enforcement officers refer to as the “great-hatted bootlegger.” Keith was catching a Steve Earle show with a friend and we met up prior. Good food and conversation. Afterwards, I hussled out to the Jazz Standard (I forget what part of town). Brian Bromberg’s Downright Upright All-Stars were about 20 minutes in to their sold-out show, but the gate keeper let me sneak in to the standing-room-only part of the club. The club wreaked of pork and bbq sauce, but I guess that’s better than pork and bbq sauce and smoke… gotta love the smokin’ bans. Dave Weckl played dums for this band, and I had heard of his name before. Anyway, they played more accessible jazz (not safe, but not avant-garde). Very enjoyable stuff… I picked up their CD on the way out. I then headed to the Village Vanguard, and was gonna try to see the Village Vanguard Orchestra (a big band). They didn’t take credit cards at the door and I didn’t wanna shell out a lot of cash; so I quietly left and went back to my hotel. I was tired anyway…

TUESDAY 3/13 This was a Tonic night. I’m a big Ikue Mori fan… she is a laptop soundscape musician. Very avant-garde (‘cept her Painted Dessert is my favorite and it’s more traditional song structured). Anyway, Ikue Mori was playing a show with Briggan Krauss (on sax) and Jim Black (on percussion). It was quite avant-garde and was led by Briggan mostly. Ikue could have been there or not for all I know/care. Eh. Jim Black’s drumming was fantastic, but not drumming in the stricted sense. He played a lot of scraping movements along the cymbals… he also used a cello bow on the cymbals… he also covered his toms and snare with literally t-shirts to get a really muffled sound. It was weird, but good. The 10pm Tonic show was Ellery Eskelin (on sax), Lisle Ellis (on laptop and upright bass) and Erik Deutsch (on piano). I’ve enjoyed Ellery Eskelin’s guest spots on various jazz CDs I own. The show was good, but too dissonant for me at that point of the night; so I only stuck around for half of their set before heading back to the hotel.

WEDNESDAY 3/14 I opted out of the ambient-metal band ISIS. I love their sound, but just saw ’em a few months ago opening for Tool. I went back to Tonic instead for two bands that became the better choice. I saw Inlets and Edison Woods. Inlets was fantastic. It is fronted by Sebastian Kruger (who has played on My Brightest Diamond CDs). He is a multi-instrumentalist and has some great songs. He also has a dandy falsetto. Both his physical appearance and music sound bring to mind Jude and Sufjan having hot-n-nasty sex in your living room and popping out Sebastian as their “love-child.” So, yeah, in short, Inlets sounds like a man-on-man love-child. He washed up before getting on stage, mind you. Oh, and his EP is available FOR FREE at http://luvsound.org/. For Free. Next up was Edison Woods, which was a band much like Elysian Fields, yet maybe not as sultry. Their main vocalist/pianist didn’t have the best vocals ever, but their background vocalist had some operatic amazingness going. She should have been the lead vocalist. Oh well… the band also had cello and some brass and drums. I dug ’em… not as much as Elysian Fields, though. I’m bummed… Elysian Fields is playing at Joe’s this coming weekend. Keith, you should check Elysian Fields out. They’re Over the Rhine-y-ish…

THURSDAY 3/15 Thursday was one of the shows I was looking forward to the most (outside of the Masada show). Secret Chiefs 3 and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum at the Bowery Ballroom. I got there early enough, as I knew that SC3 was going on first, and they also had some limited edition vinyl singles that were rumored to be going quick on the SC3 board. I snagged my vinyl sets and a t-shirt. Trey Spruance (mastermind behind SC3 and Mr Bungle) was manning the table along with bassist and multi-instrumentalist Jason Schimmel (of SC3, but also in Estradasphere). My vinyl & t-shirt order total came up to a “magical number” per Trey. I just nodded in agreement and said “yeah.” I had no fucking idea what he was talking about… maybe because it was divisible by 9 or something. or maybe his brain is fried. Anyway, the artwork for the SC3 vinyl singles is kewl.

The show was anti-climatic. I mean, when I saw Estradaphere (a brother band of SC3’s) last year in Bloomington, they blew me away. Secret Chiefs 3 should have blown me away. The first three songs were utterly sloppy, though. By the 4th song, they started venturing into “known” territory and it sounded great. By the end, they had it going pretty good, but again, it was weird that it just wasn’t up to the level of tightness and musicianship that Estradasphere showed. I think Trey’s been off the road for too long… he hasn’t toured consistently since the Mr Bungle days. I think it showed. Also, they had two violinists (Anonymous 13 and Timb Harris)… I never knew A13 was a girl… but both she and Timb were good, but not as good as Timb was on the last Estradasphere tour. Other than the drums and basses, SC3 also busted out the Oud, Sas, Sarangi, Esraj, and probably even a Jalebi or two… and Trey doesn’t play any normal guitars… they’re all butchered and tuned oddly to some middle-eastern scale or something. It’s quaint.

Regardless of the seeming sloppiness at the beginning, it was still a fun evening… it was good to see SC3 play some great tunes like “Dolores Strike,” “Personnae: Halloween,” “Bereshith,” “Assassin’s Blade,” “Ship of Fools (Stone of Exile),” and definitely “Renunciation.” I only stuck around for a bit of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum’s set. They don’t do much for me on record (or live). I’d say the “Renunciation” encore and the vinyl singles (money directly into Trey’s hand) were the highlights.

FRIDAY 3/16 I saw a wonderful show at the Bowery Ballroom by Blackfield (Porcupine Tree’s Steven Wilson and Israeli popstar Aviv Geffen). I’ve posted a review in the blog as well. The opener was Jordan Rudess (of Dream Theater). I feel truly outraged at any elephant that lost its life to make pianos used by Jordan.

I think of any of the bands I saw… my wife (and others who aren’t into the avant-garde stuff) would have liked Masada, the Downright Upright All-Stars, Inlets, and Blackfield. SC3 was a bit too strange, even though she likes some of their recorded stuff.

Time for bed… biggrin.gif

~Dan

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