A couple months ago, CultureCatch posted a One-Take acoustic performance by Anna Rose. It's good in its own intimate way, but it doesn't come close to suggesting the power she wields when playing with her band -- power that was on full display at Rockwood last week.
Singing and, for a while at least, playing rhythm guitar, Rose was backed by a tight trio of lead guitarist Tyler McDiarmid, bassist Jamie Bishop, and drummer Jordan Pearlson. The general mood of the evening was set on the first song, an ominous, droney tune with a minor-chord progression over which McDiarmid played a bright arpeggio figure and Rose's low-register, bluesy, vibrant vocals cut through. After a bridge that expanded the chord palette, McDiarmid unleashed a wah-wah solo, but everything was concise. The next song was the one in that One-Take, "Show Me Your Hands," but here built on a gritty blues-rock riff. The band's cohesiveness showed in the stop-time tacet at the end of each verse.
Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno has led a multi-faceted life. To modern rock fans he's perhaps best known as the imaginative producer of U2's, David Bowie's, and Talking Heads' most adventurous work, and secondarily remembered as an early and eccentric member of Roxy Music. To new age and techno fans, he's the de facto inventor of the ambient music genre. Pop fans can thank him for the best work by James, Coldplay, and Ultravox. Punk fans owe him one for No New York's introduction of the four most iconic No Wave Bands. Read more »
Marla Mase: Speak [Deluxe] (True Groove)
I have rarely been as excited -- or intimidated -- about writing a review. For a writer to suggest that he is speechless would not simply be an oxymoron, but also a quick route to ending his career. So I will speechify, knowing that my words are unlikely to match the feeling behind them: extreme admiration, bordering on awe.
With few exceptions (Zappa, The Church, some folk music), I have never been a fan of "spoken word" or "talk-sung" songwriting. [N.B. I am not including rap and its relatives here, since they are a different kettle of fish.] To my ears, almost all such writing comes across as either "forced," unintentional parody, or downright cringe-worthy. A writer needs to have a particularly special gift to put across this type of writing in a meaningful and listenable -- to say nothing of compelling -- way. Marla Mase has that gift. In spades. Read more »
Today is the second annual International Jazz Day. Last year I put together a list of albums for the occasion. This time around, a dozen of my favorite jazz compositions.
James P. Johnson: "Carolina Shout" Read more »
The original U.K. (1978) was almost unquestionably the greatest "supergroup" (i.e., made up of known musicians from other top-flight groups) in rock history. The first iteration consisted of Bill Bruford (Yes, King Crimson) on drums, John Wetton (King Crimson) on bass, Eddie Jobson (Frank Zappa) on keyboards and violin, and Allan Holdsworth (Soft Machine, Gong) on guitar. Read more »
The Man Who Anticipated Our Present in 1967
In 2000, when I was the Classical Editor at CDNOW.com, I interviewed Morton Subotnick at length -- so much length, in fact, that my boss complained that I ran a two-part feature on a guy he'd never heard of whose name, he said, sounded like that of a dentist. Well, as much as I loved that job and that boss, I was right about the importance of Morton Subotnick. He was one of the first computer-music composers to find a broad audience. Among the earliest electronic composers to use electronic instrument designer Donald Buchla's modular voltage-controlled synthesizer rather than wave generators and tape-manipulated sounds, Subotnick broke away from the highly abstract formulas and structures of academically respected electronic music by including sections with regular rhythms, which pointed to the future of electronic music.
Among the seminal progressive rock groups of the late '60s and early '70s, Yes has undergone its share of personnel changes. The group started out with Chris Squire (bass), Peter Banks (guitar), Jon Anderson (vocals), Bill Bruford (drums), and Tony Kaye (keyboards), and released two albums, the eponymous Yes, and Time and A Word. Banks either left or was fired (it depends on who you believe), and was replaced with Steve Howe. [N.B. Peter Banks passed away in March 2013.] This new line-up produced just one album, The Yes Album. Read more »
He's a New York City legend, at least among some of us: A small African-American man on the subway who announces that he's an alien who needs money to repair his broken-down spaceship so he can return to his home planet, who then plays screaming avant-garde jazz alto saxophone until people donate. Sometimes he's dressed in a flamboyant outfit, complete with cape, that makes him look fresh out of the Sun Ra Arkestra; sometimes he makes do with a pair of antennae wobbling on his head. Read more »
There is an apocryphal story that Wendy Griffiths -- the primary singer/songwriter for Changing Modes -- initially "had no intention" of making her songs public. Five albums, two EPs, dozens of shows throughout the Northeast, and one M.E.A.N.Y. award (Musicians and Emerging Artists of New York) later, I can only say that I am happy she did not relegate her "bedroom tapes" to a shoebox in a closet.
Ms. Griffiths identifies her influences (at least on this album) well, particularly PJ Harvey and Blondie. However, the music on In Flight is quite a bit more "progressive" than that: there are whiffs of such prog-rock artists as Renaissance, The Decemberists, and even Frank Zappa here. Indeed, the most appropriate word I can find to describe Ms. Griffiths's music is: quirky. And I mean that as a very sincere compliment. Read more »
Helen Reddy’s performance at B.B. King Blues Club in Manhattan, last weekend, was utterly magnificent in every way. I left the venue floating on a cloud--and that afterglow is still with me. Ms. Reddy, who in the 1970s created hit-after-hit and went on to appear in theater both on Broadway and London’s West End, has recently returned to performing after a decade’s hiatus. Read more »
There are two definitions of "progressive" with respect to music. One is the progression of a band: how it develops over time, finding itself, setting its style (assuming it finds one), channeling its influences, etc.
The other is a genre of rock music, one which I have defined as "a mindset, a conscious and deliberate approach to writing rock music based on certain elements, which usually include some or all of the following: incorporation of Western (classical, jazz et al), Eastern (Indian, Middle Eastern, et al.) and/or 'world music' (African, Latin, et al.) influences; use of non-standard (for rock) chord progressions; use of odd and/or shifting time signatures; use of non-standard (for rock) instrumentation (from sax, flute, or violin to sitar, bagpipes, or African percussion); an 'orchestral' (i.e., scored) approach to arrangement; extended compositions, often including extended instrumental passages; virtuoso musicianship, often including extended solos; lyrics that tend toward the esoteric or fantastical and/or include numerous literary references; and the use of keyboards (Mellotron, synthesizers, etc.) and the recording studio itself to create effects, textures, and atmospheres." Read more »
The quintessentially American story of classical piano hero Van Cliburn -- the Texan who at the height of the Cold War won the first Tchaikovsky International Competition in Moscow, when he was 23 years old, received a ticker tape parade in New York City on his return (as shown at left), made the first million-selling classical album, and (mostly) retired at age 44, having shrewdly invested his earnings in real estate -- is told in carefully balanced detail in Anthony Tommasini's lengthy obituary for The New York Times. Read more »
Dreamers, like the worlds they inhabit, come and go, leaving a profoundly vague impression in their wake. Kevin Ayers was never a major star. His songs were simply too idiosyncratic to garner mass appeal, but like many for whom fame was largely an irritant of the creative process, he exerted a greater influence than he imagined or really cared for.
Morrissey is now viewed as the quintessential English pop icon, but the soil he sprang from was gritty, working class, and Northern. The product of an inner city education system, his brand of Britishness is not as universal as it might appear to outsiders. There are many variations of the national characteristic, and Ayers had a colonial, distractedly comfortable middle-class one. sullied by his public school incarceration, and the memory of distant sunshine from a childhood spent abroad. A slightly surreal confection of Nick Drake, Noel Coward, and country house fop, he was a dandy, a stunning presence, who indulged in all the privileges and excesses his arch demeanor allowed as the '60s teetered into the '70s. Read more »
I was hesitant to post this personal anecdote for fear of coming across as self-aggrandizing. However, as Dusty reminded me, "a good story is a good story." So....
Sometime between 1982 and 1984, I wrote some music for a memorial song for John Lennon. I had no lyrics yet, but I felt the music was pretty solid: very Beatle/Lennon-esque. In early 1985, while waiting for class in the cafeteria of City College, the lyrics suddenly came pouring out -- all at once. I skipped class, went home, put the lyrics to the music, tweaked it a little, and the song was done: "song for John" was complete. Read more »