Music Review

ANNIVERSARIES: Reinhold Glière died 50 years ago.

gliere.jpgBorn in Kiev on January 11, 1875, Reinhold Glière claimed to be of Belgian-Jewish descent, though the Belgian part has been challenged (he was born Reyngol'd Moritsevich Glier). The son of an instrument maker, he played violin and studied with Arensky, Taneyev, and Ippolitov-Ivanov at the Moscow Conservatory. His own music proved to be strongly nationalistic. He collected folk melodies throughout Europe and Asia and often chose distinctly Russian subjects for his music. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the remarkably programmatic Symphony No. 3 "Il'ya Muromets." Read more »

The Rachels/The Clogs - Merkin Hall, 29 May 2006


It's rare to close your eyes at a show these days and not be able to distinguish one instrument from another, the sound so carefully constructed and interwoven that images get conjured under closed eyes -- backdrops of foreign places, evocations of heartache and old dreams, where the instruments themselves become almost incidental to the story being told. I'm not talking Enya or New Age meditation music. I'm talking skill, technique, concept and theme, all used to tightly harness in and breathe out sound. Read more »

Beirut: Gulag Orkestra (Ba Da Bing!)

beirut.jpgThis music outfit is the moniker of one Zach Condon of Brooklyn by way of Albuquerque. More to the point, it sports a strong foreign influence of Balkan gypsy music by way of Neutral Milk Hotel (in fact, Jeremy Barnes of NMH sits in on most of the tracks).

Truth be told, the foreign influence gig can be tough to pull off. Once you eliminate the sitars, the bagpipes, and Chinese zither music, there's precious little left that isn't already being used by Peter Gabriel. But Condon & Co, have managed to banish the guitar and stretch those atypical rock instruments with which we are already familiar -- ukulele, accordion, and mandolin -- into something that sounds like, well, Eastern Bloc Milk Hotel. Read more »

ANNIVERSARIES: Benjamin Britten's War Requiem premieres at reopening of Coventry Cathedral on May 30, 1962

brittenIf you'd like to listen to some appropriate music on Memorial Day (which, before we made most of our holidays fall on Mondays or Fridays because corporations like that better, always came on May 30), try this masterpiece. Sir Benjamin Britten wrote it for the consecration of St. Michael's Cathedral in Coventry and dedicated it to the memories of four servicemen who had been friends of his or of his longtime partner, the tenor Peter Pears, for whom one of the solo parts was written. The original Coventry Cathedral, dating from the 14th century, had been destroyed by a German air raid in 1940. Read more »

Bobby Previte: The Coalition of the Willing (Ropeadope)

bobbypreviteDrummer Previte and cast bring us fine candied sturm und drang high-velocity instrumental rock combining edginess with listener-friendly themes. Swaddled in faux-agitprop graphics and packaging, the “super bar band” surges across rock fusion terrain with respectable fervor or moody exuberance, depending on your age. Think Arcana lite, laced with traces of psychedelia and blues; metal Mahavishnu Orchestra.

The Coalition recently opened a show in Portland, OR with Previte’s declaration “we play what we want.” Read more »

Jan Jelinek: Kosmischer Pitch (Scape)

JelinekElectronic music has spawned so many genres and subgenres that only aficionados can keep up. So I’m not sure if Berlin-based whiz kid Jan Jelinek’s (Farben; Gramm) music is properly called Ambient Techno, Laptop, Click-House, or what. If you’re in New York City, go hear him tonight (5/26) at Tonic (107 Norfolk St.) with his group Kosmischer Pitch (Cosmic Pitch), which also includes drummer Hanno Leichtmann (Static, Pole) and guitarist Andrew Pekler (Sad Rockets).

Jelinek’s most recent album, also named Kosmischer Pitch, which came out last year, is definitely music made for listening, albeit generally the loops (boy does this album have loops) create a nice steady beat that you could very slowly and mellowly dance to if you really wanted to, though gentle head-nodding is more likely. Read more »

ANNIVERSARIES: Bob Dylan Celebrates His 65th Birthday on May 24

bobdylanBorn Robert Zimmerman on May 24, 1941, young Bob was inspired by Woody Guthrie, changed his name in tribute to Dylan Thomas, moved to New York City, and became the most culturally important American musical icon of the 1960s. Signed to Columbia Records by the discerning John Hammond, Sr. (a few of Hammond's other signings: Benny Goodman, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen) after creating a buzz on the city's folk scene, Dylan debuted on record in 1962 with Bob Dylan. With only two original compositions, it's not one of his most crucial albums, but it's nonetheless an impressive effort that, after Dylan became popular, introduced a generation to the folk, country, gospel, and blues classics he covered on it, most successfully Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Please See That My Grave Is Kept Clean." Read more »

ANNIVERSARIES: Jazz bagpipes great Rufus Harley born 70 years ago

rufusharley.jpgBorn May 20, 1936 in Raleigh, NC, of African-American and Cherokee descent, Rufus Harley is unique. The turning point of the longtime Philadelphia-area resident's career was the November 1963 funeral of President John F. Kennedy. Harley, then a promising young jazz saxophonist, was fascinated by the bagpipes heard on that solemn day when the regimental pipers of the Black Watch (a Scottish infantry division of the British Army) played in the funeral procession. He went looking for bagpipes, and finally found a set in a New York pawnshop for $120. He made four treasured albums for Atlantic in 1965-70 (Bagpipe Blues, Scotch and Soul, Tribute to Courage, Kings and Queens) and had cameos on albums by Sonny Stitt, Herbie Mann, and Sonny Rollins. More recently he's been heard on fellow Philadelphians The Roots' Do You Want More?!!!??! Read more »

Christian McBride: Live at Tonic (Ropeadope)

christianmcbrideBassist Christian McBride was among the young jazzers who rose to fame, albeit limited, in the brief boomlet of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s as Blue Note and Verve competed to see which could groom the most snappily attired young stars in carefully themed and heavily guest-starred productions that mostly followed in the retro footsteps of the Marsalis brothers. McBride, probably like many of them, was more stylistically adventurous than many of those records allowed him to reveal, although in 2000 he finally unveiled his fusion impulses. Verve dropped him soon after that. After a one-off release three years ago on Warner Bros., he reappears on a more sympathetic label with this three-CD document of McBride’s two-night stand at downtown NYC club Tonic a year ago. Read more »

ANNIVERSARIES: Johann Gottlieb Goldberg Died 250 Years Ago

goldberg.jpgNot many people know who Johann Gottlieb Goldberg was, but plenty of people love Johann Sebastian Bach's Goldberg Variations, and the name is no coincidence. Goldberg (born in Danzig in March 1727) was a talented harpsichordist and composer who studied with Bach's son Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and then with J.S. in 1742-43. The story of Bach's Goldberg Variations goes that a year or two before Goldberg studied with J.S., Bach was asked to compose a harpsichord piece with which the youngster could entertain his patron, Count Hermann Carl von Keyserlingk, a Russian ambassador to the Saxon court. Goldberg had come to Dresden with the count in 1737, and the insomnia-afflicted von Keyserlingk frequently had Goldberg divert him with harpsichord performances during sleepless nights.

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Cast King: Saw Mill Man (Locust)

castkingAnother great rediscovery by the discerning Locust label. In the 1950s, hard-touring Cast King and the Country Drifters recorded eight songs for the Sun label, but never got any further and finally broke up. King left the road life, but kept writing and singing his songs for friends and neighbors around Sand Mountain, Alabama.

Fast forward to 1998, same locale, when a young guitarist named Matt Downer started recording the music made by his grandfather and a friend, then expanded his reach to other veteran Sand Mountain musicians and was told about Cast King, hearing King was a good and prolific songwriter. Read more »

Cassandra Wilson: thunderbird (Blue Note)

cassandrawilsonSome people are acting shocked that some of the tracks on this T Bone Burnett-produced album have discernable beats, and that some of the musicians had to plug their instruments into an outlet. Supposedly this means that Wilson's abandoned what made her great. These people are obviously riding the bandwagon that started rolling with her Craig Street-produced rootsy acoustic albums, 1993's Blue Light Til Dawn or 1995's New Moon Daughter. They're eminently riveting, cherishable records, some of the best of that decade, and with Blue Note/EMI's publicity machine behind them, they vastly (and deservedly) expanded her audience. Read more »

Film School - Mercury Lounge, NYC


Even though Film School is based in San Francisco, it's not a stretch to imagine the American quintet circa late '80s or early '90s, experimenting with wavy distortions and atmospherics in a friend's London or Birmingham basement. Synthesizer drones, feedback-soaked guitars and drifting, faintly Cure-like vocals fill the songs, poking into the grooves of some heavy sponge of a track, full until brimming over with noise. It's no surprise then that their show Sunday at the Mercury Lounge confirmed what frequent listens to their self-titled debut on Beggars suggest: this is a great band, with lots of promise and a love for thickets of '80s noise. Read more »

Carlos del Junco: Blues Mongrel (NorthernBlues)

bluesmongrel.jpgHarmonica. Anyone can play. The considerably smaller slice of humanity sufficiently gifted to make the instrument transcendent includes Cuban-born/Canadian-raised Carlos del Junco. Treading differently, yet on familiar sonic turf, del Junco manages a captivating rearrangement of the furniture down in the mood room. Inspired by a substantial amalgam of masters and thoroughly imprinted with his own indelible signature, the music rolls, tumbles, and is guaranteed pleasure for blues harp fanatics. The rest of you won’t be disappointed either. Read more »

Hot Chip: Coming on Strong (Astralwerks)

hotchip.jpgThere are certain bands that beam with near geeky adulation at their musical influences, their own recordings consequently saturated with borrowed riffs, beats and melodic lines. Rather than being derivative, though, a band’s open adoration can operate like happy contagion, with bands refashioning familiar sounds into fresh, laidback homages. Such is the charm of British electronica four-piece Hot Chip, whose latest record Coming on Strong breathes adoration of the loungey groove, ranging from ’70s disco to early ’80s R & B overtones, with nods to Prince and Stevie Wonder, and some free jazz swirled into the mix. Against this loungey-cool framework, the band stamps on its own nerdy sense of humor, making for an enjoyable contrast of cool meets square. Read more »

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