Music Review

Video of the Week: FKA twigs - M3LL155X

British singer, songwriter, producer and dancer FKA twigs has released a brand new EP entitled M3LL155X (Young Turks), that features five songs, four of which -- "Figure 8", "I'm Your Doll", "In Time", "Glass & Patron" -- are accompanied by a video directed by FKA twigs herself. The four film pieces form one continuous FKA twigs-directed work, cementing who she is as an artist with an aggressive statement conceptualizing the process of feeling pregnant with pain, birthing creativity and liberation. She breathes a quiet but potent energy into every frame. One of the freshest musicians on the scene today.

ANNIVERSARIES: Mal Waldron Born 90 Years Ago

Malcolm Earl "Mal" Waldron was born on August 16, 1925 in New York City. His father worked for the Long Island Rail Road. Mal started taking classical piano lessons at age seven and, inspired by his love of jazz, also learned alto saxophone. He earned a B.A. in Music from Queens College, with the G.I. Bill (he'd been drafted in 1943 and served for two years, fortunately not seeing combat) paying for his tuition. He worked in jazz, blues, and R&B contexts and made his first recording in 1952 as a member of Ike Quebec's band. In '54-56 he was part of Charles Mingus's Jazz Workshop and recorded with Mingus. Waldron went out on his own as a leader at the end of 1956 with the album Mal/1 on Prestige and quickly became one of the prolific label's house pianists. The following year he added to his workload the position of Billie Holiday's accompanist, which garnered him more attention; he stayed in that position until her death in mid-'59.

There was a break in his career following a 1963 heroin overdose that caused a mental breakdown and left him with the shakes to the extent that he could not play the piano. There was temporary brain damage affecting his speed of thought, so even after he had re-taught himself how to play by listening to his own records, for a while he couldn't improvise. He compensated for this mental deficit, while it lasted, by writing out his solos in advance.

Song of the Week: David Gilmour - "Rattle That Lock"

One of my favorite guitarists, ever, is releasing his fourth solo album, Rattle That Lock, on September 18th on Columbia Records. Until then we get to groove on a catchy new single that would not have sounded out of place on The Wall album. Has Mr. Gilmour been hanging out with Nile Rodgers? This is not the laid back "muzak" grooves of the On the Island. This is David showcasing his Fender Stratocaster guitar magic. Pre-order it here!

ANNIVERSARIES: Pat Metheny Born 61 Years Ago

Happy birthday to Pat Metheny (born August 12, 1954), one of the few jazz superstars of the past four decades to combine commercial success and critical plaudits. After paying his dues in Gary Burton's band (which he joined at age 19), Metheny put out his first album in 1976 and by the time of his third release two years later was gaining crossover radio play. Though the style of his eponymous band was smooth and tuneful, Metheny had a firm basis in jazz and straight-ahead guitarist gods such as Jim Hall (with whom he eventually recorded a fine duo album).

The Watkins Family Hour - Lincoln Center

Saturday night was a perfect summer evening for free Americana music at Lincoln's Center Damrosch Park as part of the Annual Roots of American Music, Americanafest NYC. The evening featured two of the genres rising stars. The headliners played two sets with the first half of the set featuring mostly original tunes by former Nickel Creek members Sean and Sara Watkin's new band The Watkins Family Hour. They and their extraordinary band entertained a robust crowd of New Yorkers and tourists alike. One of my favorite songs of the evening was their beatiful take on the Grateful Dead's "Brokedown Palace." And co-vocalist Fionna Apple's original song "A Mistake" was quite moving. Yes, she's one of the members of this band.

Video of the Week: Church of Betty - "Endure"

NSFW. So simple that it will hypnotize, but that's always been the case with many of NY-based Chris Rael's Church of Betty tunes. His new single "Endure" (from longplayer Swirled World) channels the raga spirit of George Harrison. The video directed by filmmaker/photograhper Jasmine Hirst has an edgy, East Village experimental quality that perfectly exploits the overall tone and texture. 25 years in and Church of Betty can still thrill.

American Composers Declare Independence from Europe

When I was growing up, New York 's best (now long-defunct) classical radio station, WNCN, played only American composers' music each Fourth of July. With the classical world dominated by Europeans, this was a welcome and educational corrective. In the history of American music, independence wasn't achieved until the 20th century; 19th century composers such as John Knowles Paine and George Whitefield Chadwick studied in Europe and blatantly imitated European models. Listening to their music "blind," few would guess they were Americans. There was Revolutionary War-era vocal writer William Billings, but his originality was more a lack of proper technique. Continuing WNCN's tradition, here's a look at true American classical music.