LIC musical talent lines up for stardom

It’s been my privilege over the last two years to listen to a number of highly talented musicians playing at venues just 5 minutes from my door. Two venues, LIC bar (licbar.com) and Domaine Bar a Vins (Domainewinebar.com) have stood out in their offerings: with the pleasing recent addition of music at John Brown Smokehouse and at various bars and restaurants who offer some musical accompaniment to diners and drinkers.

Astoria- born graduate of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, Jeanne Marie Boes (http://jeanneboes.com) has been heard in the LIC  music scene for a while. I’ve listened to her play  at LIC bar and eGarage.tv . Many of her previous recordings have been covers, showing an accurate, stylish voice with good interpretations of other writers’  work. She has a strong soul voice and powerful presentation that makes you listen from the first notes.  Her latest single is, to my knowledge, her only available recording of a song she has written herself.

Jeanne Marie Boes at Webster Hall

“The One”  is a muscular, bluesy song, reminiscent of Amy Winehouse in style and, even more so in Jeanne’s vocal interpretation. This is so much an advance on previous recorded material that it’s as if she has suddenly discovered her voice as a writer and interpreter of her own songs; and had the (well guided) courage to present it on CD. The recording has been expertly self-produced with a full, driving sound that pushes Jeanne’s voice straight across a great mix of,  unbelievably, just three musicians: Jeanne on vocals and piano, and  husband and wife team (from the Queens duo “Ekra”):  Brendon Press (Guitar and bass) and Lee Press(Drums). (http://www.ekrasound.com/)

Jeanne Marie(http://jeanneb.bandcamp.com/track/the-one-single-studio-version)

This single deserves a lot of attention, it has “star” written all over it – so buy it (from bandcamp, or itunes) and tell your friends and catch Jeanne when she’s next playing:

May 24th, 2013 / Greenpoint Gallery Art & Music Series (Brooklyn, NY) 9PM

June 21st, 2013 / Queens Council on the Arts (Astoria, NY) 2PM

June 28th, 2013 / The Giving Tree Yoga Studio (Astoria, NY) 8PM

July 20th, 2013 / Kennedy Plaza “Women’s Day” Event (Long Beach, NY) 12PM

Jeanne plans recording a full length album when she can accumulate the funds, I’m looking forward to hearing this.

jeanne promo
Jeanne Marie Boes

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In my last post I talked about some newly released, or soon to be released, albums from musicians associated with LIC Bar – Niall Connolly, Shelly Bhushan, Natalie Mishell and Anthony Mulcahy.

Anthony had his CD launch party at Rockwood Music Hall last week and showed himself to be a relaxed, highly skilled performer of his own music. He clearly has the warm regard of his band of Taryn Lounsbury (violin and vocal), Jenny Dunne (vocal), Barry Kornhauser (‘cello) and Anthony Crowder (drums), which was augmented by bass-player Brandon Wilde. Brandon produced the album and played on a couple, of tracks on the album “For my Sins” so was very familiar with the music. This was the first time that he had joined the band on stage and his professionalism shone through as he mixed his accurate, percussive bass against the more languid lines of the ‘cello. I’ve had a chance to listen to the whole album now, as well as attending the launch and am continuing to be impressed and urge you to buy it.

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Jenny Dunne and Anthony Mulcahy

Anthony’s music is deceptive. Heard in the background it sounds like nice, folk-style music with clearly Celtic undertones. It’s when you get closer to the words and the way that Anthony sings them that you get a real sense of depth of this man’s appreciation of humankind in all its joy and pain, romance and tragedy. On the album he shares vocal credit with Jenny Dunne (the best singing I’ve heard from her), in solo and in harmonies that are best shown in his immediately memorable song “Soft Spoken“.  Bowed and plucked violin and ‘cello feature on tracks in ways that remind me of some of the music  that is coming out of the bluegrass fusion movement that mixes traditional Celtic/Appalachian with 21st century classical styles from artists like Yo Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer and the Kronos Quartet; listen particularly to the title track, “For My Sins“.

Anthony was initially reluctant to put the track “Cúilín” on the album, not because it is weak, more, I think, that it is a very personal and nostalgic evocation of his childhood experience on a beach where a river meets the sea in his home town. “Cúilín” paints pictures in which we, too, can recall our innocent childhood play, placing it next to “All Our Sins” of adulthood. This track epitomizes Anthony’s gift for language, making this an album deserving of frequent listening, and careful attention to his lyrics.

Anthony Mulcahy and his band at Rockwood Music Hall

Anthony Mulcahy and his band at Rockwood Music Hall

You can buy the album on:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/for-my-sins/id650018901

and:

http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/AnthonyMulcahy

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Some stunning Jazz at Domaine Wine Bar

It never ceases to amaze me how such a small local bar, that sits just over the entrance to the 7 subway Vernon/Jackson station, on the west side, can have such hugely talented jazz musicians in a small space. Last week I caught my old favourites the Broc Hempel, Sam Trapchak, Christian Colemen Trio there the other night, playing with sax virtuoso Greg Ward III. Here’s a few pictures.

Broc Hempel and Christian Coleman

Broc Hempel and Christian Coleman

Christian Coleman and Sam Trapchak

Christian Coleman and Sam Trapchak

Greg Ward III

Greg Ward III

Christian Coleman also contributes his exceptional jazz drumming to a Happy Hour jazz session every Wednesday (5pm-7pm) at local BBQ restaurant John Brown Smokehouse (http://www.johnbrownseriousbbq.com/). He joins local LIC musicians Martin Kelley (Saxophone) and Diallo House (bass) plus guests as “Affinity” for sessions which can be indoors or outside, depending on the weather, in the spacious yard.

The quality of the music is great, as is the food in this casual-style smokehouse environment where you can have stylish domestic and foreign beers, plus everything  you’d expect from an establishment that has, in a short time, become judged one of New York’s best barbeque Joints. the brisket, burnt ends and ribs are superb, as are the moist cornbread and fresh salads.

John Brown Smokehouse has space, and an audience for high quality music. Tell the owners, so that it can become another LIC music venue that will benefit the residents, the businesses and the musicians.

Martin Kelley's Affinity in the Smokehouse  yard.

Martin Kelley’s Affinity in the Smokehouse yard.

Postscript from the LIC Bar – WHO relationship

Regular readers will know that LIC bar suffered in Hurricane Sandy, with the loss of musical gear. The UK rock band “The Who” came to the rescue with the purchase of new gear and the bar repaid the debt with a tribute concert. The concert raised over $7000 for The Who’s charity Teen Cancer. Last week  the cheque was presented to Roger Daltrey by Gus Rodriguez (LIC Bar music promoter) and Rob Basch (who first contacted The Who).

Rob Basch, Gus Rodriguez and Roger Daltrey

Rob Basch, Gus Rodriguez and Roger Daltrey

Last but not least a reminder about Natalie Mishell’s CD Launch at Rockwood Music Hall 2 on Allen Street Lower East Side this Thursday, May 24th, with Julie Kathryn as support.

Natalie Mishell at a Van Morrison tribute at LIC bar

Natalie Mishell at a Van Morrison tribute at LIC bar

Listen to my interview with Natalie and hear some of her music on:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/artist-portrait-natalie-mishell/id523786622?i=153661157&mt=2

and

http://earthsounz.podbean.com/mf/web/396dh/Artist_Portrait_Natalie_Mishell.mp3

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Walking for Pennies

Walking for Pennies with Pauline Pisano and (hidden) Neil Nunziato

Walking for Pennies with Pauline Pisano and Neil Nunziato

Walking for Pennies are LIC- based duo, Neeley Bridges and Andy Jobe. They released their first album “Forget About Wonderland” in October last year after years of making their way as actors and musicians around New York. Credits include: Les Miserables in Vermont, A Christmas Carol at MSG Paramount Theater, The Bitter End in Greenwich Village, the Living Room in Lower East Side and LIC Bar  (www.licbar.com). Their name refers to the times when they have been literally walking for pennies as dog walkers in order to get money together to pay rent; a thankless, poop-scooping task recalled in a song, “Who am I Supposed to Be”, penned by Bridges, on the album.

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Next week the duo expand to a band, with Neil Nunziato on drums, Pauline Pisano on piano and harmonies and Craig Akin on bass, to appear in their first show at the famous Rockwood Music Hall at 4pm on Sunday 17th February.

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Neeley Bridges, like her partner, studied musical theater at NYU and has been on the local music scene since then, with involvement in musicals, writing, performing solo and with bands. She is a talented multi-instrumentalist: guitar, mandolin, flute, oboe, piano and clarinet. These days she most often sticks to guitar and mandolin, which shines on the album, prefering mandolin: saying “guitar is really a guy’s intrument, it’s big!” Her voice is clear and accurate, offering strong interweaving harmonies with Andy’s distinctive higher-register vocal offerings. In 2008 she released a solo album “Devil on my Shoulder” and has written four of the songs on the Wonderland album.

Neeley Bridges

Neeley Bridges

Neeley describes herself as always having been a singer; able to remember melodies and lyrics since she was a small child. She remembers singing along with music on the radio and then reproducing the songs by her herself, including mimicking the vocal styles of singers like Cindy Lauper and Elvis.

Although her parents were not musicians they recognised her abilities and enthusiasms, allowing her to study opera enrol her in a “Magnet” school for “gifted and talented children” in their home town in Northern Carolina, a school which concentrated on teaching the performing arts and in which she was able to develop her voice and acting abilities, as well as her instrumental skills.

Writing

An immersion in music has allowed Neeley to develop her song writing using both traditional and original structures She finds, however, that simple structures are often more memorable, commenting that “People like to know where a song is going”. She usually writes using a guitar, but is finding that she will often develop melodies in her head and will know how they should be accompanied. Her memory for music means that she doesn’t need to sing or play into a recording device and can just hold it in her mind and develop it later.

Unlike her partner Andy she prefers to write whilst moving; whether walking or just around her LIC home. Andy prefers to sit, concentrate and just work it out. They don’t write together, suggesting that their contrasting writing styles militate against that; but they do contribute to each others’ arrangements both in vocal harmonies and instrumental parts.

Andy Jobe

Andy Jobe

Vocally the couple have contrasting voices. Ohio-born Andy has a distinctive high register and tone, with Neeley offering a range of vocal tones for which her formal vocal training, and her childhood mimicking talent, has been excellent preparation. The addition of Pauline Pisano (http://www.paulinepisano.com)as a regular contributor to Walking for Pennies band shows offers a richer, lower register contrast which allows for some beautiful harmonisation. Neil Nunziato, an unstintingly loyal drummer, well known to LIC Bar musicians is also a regular supporter of Neeley and Andy.

Craig Akin (http://www.slapfiddle.com/), too is regularly seen on the New York music scene. in demand for both upright and electric bass.

A background in the theatre has given Walking For Pennies a gift for presentation, which makes for polished and well prepared shows.

Andy and Neeley, like most musicians in New York, have to mix a range of employments in order pay the rent. They are fortunate in that they can offer themselves as a duo, not just in performance but also in children’s educational programs such as LIC Kids (http://lickids.com/),  at a local yoga studio, Pranavah Yoga (www.pranavahyoga.com), and, soon, at the gym at the powerhouse, a local condominium. Together they offer musical enrichment programs for young children in the LIC area as well as providing instrumental and vocal tuition to budding musicians of all ages.

Whilst less involved with musical theatre these days, their training comes to good use with a commitment to “A Christmas Carol’ performances in Denver, Colorado – a semi-regular holiday employment that means that they don’t have to spend long periods apart, often a burden that couples have to bear when they are both entertainers.

The Album

Andy Jobe wrote the title track to their album: “Forget about Wonderland”, an album that demonstrates the talent and real attention to detail of these two musicians. It is a carefully crafted selection of music of different genres, with a country/folk – pop/R&B thread; a mix of guest musicians make for a satisfying mix that sustains repeated listening, both as an album and picking tracks to match a mood. As solo singers they contrast; with Neeley offering  sound which mixes soul with country, whilst Andy pays his respects to a big influence, James Taylor, supported by some nice guitar picking. His voice can be compared to Michael Jackson in its high range and flexibility. As duettists their voices have a combined strength and consistency which shows well in live performance, no auto-tune here!

Check out a perfromance of their song “Nashville”:

In December 2012 Walking for Pennies played at LIC Bar, in a benefit performance for victims of Hurricane Sandy, debuting their single “Hurricane”; the proceeds of which go to Sandy relief.

Check out their website www.walkingforpennies.com for downloads, and take a trip down to Rockwood for their show on 17th.

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,300 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 9 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Back in LIC – excited by the prospects of a summer of music.

I’m just back from a few weeks overseas and am catching up on the local scene. A new feature in  Hunters Point is a little gallery known as 10-10 Studios, at 10-10, 47th Road at Vernon Boulevard (http://www.ten10studios.com). Last night I was just passing and was invited in by the host, offered a glass of wine and was able to appreciate some  very fine photos by Micah Rubin (www.micahrubin.com), in an exhibition called “Uncommon Threads” featuring scenes from South East Asia. The exhibition is short-lived (15-17th June) but I hope that this new artistic venue will continue to flourish.

I note, too, that the studio is hosting a fundraising event for Queens Jazz Overground (http://www.queensjazz.org) this Saturday, 16th June from 7-11pm featuring music by:
Josh Deutsch/Nico Soffiato duo
Brian Woodruff Quartet with Hashem Assadullahi, Amanda Monaco, Mark Wade
Mike Baggetta Trio with Zack Lober, RJ Miller

A visitor from Finland

The LIC bar (www.LICBar.com) occasionally hosts overseas artists, however, to my knowledge Saara Markkanen (http://saaramarkkanen.com) is the first singer from Finland to appear at this respected venue in  Long Island City.

Saara Markkenen (photo courtesy of the artist)

Saara is a singer of rare individuality. Originally from Finland,  she moved to Berlin last year and is touring the US for the first time in June, with her first gig at the LIC Bar on Wednesday 20th June, at 7pm, following that with a tour along eastern USA, ending with an appearance at the Nebraska Pop Festival in Omaha.

Saara has a pure, often unworldly, voice and accompanies herself on the guitar in a self-taught style that can sometimes seems as if she’s playing a harp. Her music has a European folk quality that  at times conveys a kind of chilly innocence. Her language is Finnish so, except for those in her US audiences who are Finnish ex-pats, she will offer what she calls “creative ways ” of explaining her songs, most of which are in her native language. She is touring with cellist Elise Mélinand and a Canadian filmaker who is making a documentary of the the tour.

Unable to meet her in advance of the gig I interviewed Saara using a skype connection whilst she was in a cafe in Gothenburg, Sweden – (so the sound quality is variable).

Check this out by clicking on this link:

Saara Markkanen – interview plus two songs

You can catch more of her music on her website (http://saaramarkkanen.com) and on youtube.

Saara’s tour dates are:

20.6. L.I.C. Bar, Queens, New York
21.6. The Space/The Outer Space,Hamden,Connecticut
23.6. The Barking Dog location in College Park Maryland
24.6. Epicure Cafe in Fairfax Virginia.
25.6. The Garage, Charlottesville Virginia.
27.6. Deep South The Bar in Raleigh, North Carolina.
26.6. Bottega Art Bar & Gallery, Wilmington North Carolina.
28.6. Underbelly, Jacksonville, Florida.
29.6. Dada, Delray Beach Florida.
30.6. Tallahassee Florida.
3.7. Neutral Ground Coffeehouse, New Orleans.
4.7. Artmosphere in Lafayette Louisiana.
5.7. Hopkins ice house, Texarkana,Arkansas
11.7. Nebraska pop festival, Nebraska

New Album from Ryan Roger’s “Amateur Blonde”

Amateur Blonde is a band put together by LIC-based singer songwriter Ryan Roger O’Toole. (Take care if you google “Amateur Blonde”, you’ll get a lot of stuff that is, well, rather different from the well crafted music that this album demonstrates!)

Well known on the Queens and Brooklyn club and bar circuit, Ryan is an energetic collaborator with local music projects and it is not surprising that a band and an album have emerged that celebrate both collaboration and Ryan’s talent as a songwriter and performer.

Amateur Blonde’s first, self  titled, album has sought funding through a local  funding group which includes Gustavo Rodriguez and Brian Meece – “Rockethub” (http://www.rockethub.com/projects/7948-help-release-the-amateur-blonde-record). It credits 9 artists: Ryan himself (Voices, Guitars, Drums, Pianos, Organs & Omnichord); regular Drummer Jeff Gretz, bassist Peter Brendler and pedal steel Philip Sterk; plus drummers Seth Fragomen and Brendt Cole; bass players John Lang and Matthew O’Toole (Ryan’s brother, who also plays the family Dobro), with another LIC regular Anthony Rizzo (of Little Embers) – on Lead Guitar. Of course they don’t all play on all tracks, only Ryan does that, but the mix of players does reflect the mix of styles across the whole album. This is a self-produced album, recorded mainly by Ryan in his home studio, with some help with drum recording from Brian Speaker at Brooklyn Tea Party in Bushwick.

Some time ago, in fact in 1968, CBS released the first ever “sampler” album “The Rock Machine Turns You On” to an eager European market. Half the price of a standard LP the disc featured tracks from a range of in-house Columbia artists including Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Spirit, The Zombies and Tim Rose as well as classically named bands like the “Peanut Butter Conspiracy” and “Moby Grape”.

Amateur Blonde’s first album reminds me of this in its variety of songs and arrangements. Ryan does not stick to one genre and the album benefits from this. There is a real mid-Atlantic 60’s and 70s feel to Ryan’s music, yet this is not retro rock and some of the tracks, such as “Sobriquet” have an Indie feel, even if it quickly moves on to echoes of Lennon rocking New York City in the 1970s. Anthony Rizzo (Little Embers) in his only appearance on the album offers nice jagged guitar work against waves of over-dubbed and overdriven guitars and makes this song a great start to an album that developes nicely from track to track.

Scaffolding” moves away with a not-quite-twangy-enough Duane Eddy-type guitar intro that leads into a drum driven insistent beat and simple guitar riff.  Ryan’s half-hoarse vocals, together with his la-la chorus give us a song that moves like an Chevrolet convertible driving through dusty cities early on a sunday summer morning and heading for the coast.

There’s strong heavy rock too, “Chills” features roaring vocals and a thumping beats with Ryan screaming into the mic in a rough distorted style that has a live late night basement club feel, (even if it does revert to another Beatlesque ending).

“Just Obey”, has a real 60s “Doors” feel, check out this live performance:

“In a minute” is a dreamy atmospheric track in which the harmonised lyrics take center  stage, with the next song:  No Worries”, proving to be another,  winding, atmospheric track that grabs you in its circling harmonies with  a catchy intermittent ringing guitar riff that takes you down subtle passageways.

“Airplane Mode” is, for me, the least memorable song on what is a very good album indeed, it starts with a Coldplay – esq keyboard arpeggio riff that reappears during the track, with soaring wordless harmonies that makes me think that it would suit a video or movie, as it generates a feeling that might better accompanying images. Ryan is, in fact, a  film-maker so this  may well be an appropriate comment! (later comment – this track actually grows on you and improves with repeated listening).

“Waiting Place” has over- and undertones of Pink Floyd with Ryan self-harmonising against a smooth-running river of nicely arranged and recorded guitar, omnichord and pedal steel. “Novocaine” is an effective, memorable track with a catchy riff that takes you through nicely put together harmonies.

The final track “Leaving Time” is a kind of fairground fantasy, with New York as the fairground; boys in leather jackets hanging round subway entrances glancing at skirt through the rain and steaming streets. The excellent mix brings out the strumming omnichord in a ways that urge nostalgia for hot lazy days, and the kind of seaside teenage love affair that, for most, ended up as “Leaving Time”.

This is a really good album, with good songs, great arrangements and production. It’s also an interesting album, worthy of close listening – especially late at night when the party is winding down, with its rocking tracks giving way to a smoother, almost ambient vibe as the mist drifts over your eyes and your brain. I really like albums like this, there is always something unexpected as you move from track to track. I urge you to  buy it!

Catch some pre-release tracks on: http://www.reverbnation.com/amateurblondeand watch out for availability online (

www.amateurblondemusic.com) and at live shows.

Ryan Roger (photo courtesy of the artist)

Gigs to look forward to:

LIC Bar is hosting, on Monday June 25th, three bands that are worth turning up for early to catch a seat. Leah Gough-Copper’s “Human Equivalent”; “Whiskey Spillers” and Mercedes Figueras’  avante garde jazz group Black Butterflies. I have written before about Human Equivalent and Black Butterflies but I don’t think I’ve mentioned Whiskey Spillers (http://www.reverbnation.com/whiskeyspillers), a duo of Corey Lewis and Patrick Ryan (from “Animal Pharm” – http://www.myspace.com/animalpharm). I’m impressed by Corey Lewis, he sings intelligent songs in ways that defy pigeon-holing and with an energy that radiates from his, not especially slender, form.

Corey Lewis

LIC Bar now have regular outdoor events on Sunday afternoons, from 4 until 7, when the  doors of the Carriage House open to create a stage and appreciative drinkers can sit in the sunshine on what usually proves to be a feast of brilliant music.

PODCASTS

Sometime in Long Island City can now be HEARD on podcasts, featuring material from the blog and also a new series of Artist Portraits in which Eric Hathaway talks to local musicians about their life and their music.

Subscribe to these on itunes:

http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/sometime-in-long-island-city/id523786622?mt=2

or directly from Podbean:

First edition: “LIC Bar and the Queens of Queens“:

Listen to this episode
Download this episode (right click and save)

Artist Portrait: Michele Riganese:

Listen to this episode
Download this episode (right click and save)

Artist Portrait: Jeneen Terrana:

Listen to this episode
Download this episode (right click and save)

Attist Portrait: Little Embers

Listen to this episode

Download this episode (right click and save)

Artist Portraits in production include:

Shelly Bhushan, Warren Malone and Matthew Sucich.

Universal Life Church, ULC, We Are All Children Of the Same Universe

More and Even More Music

The last few weeks have offered great musical fare in LIC, some old favourites and some new discoveries. I’ve also had the chance to check out some new recordings. This will be my last blog for a while as I’m off overseas for a  few weeks, so it’s longer………….. .

Blogcast

Check out the first ever podcast of “Sometime in Long Island City” .:- http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/sometime-in-long-island-city/id523786622 or

Listen to this episode

Download this episode (right click and save)

PHOTO EXHIBITION

If you’re n New York check out an exhibition (until mid-June) of my photos of local and international musicians: “EarthSouNZ – A World of Diversity in Music” at Cranky’s French Creole Restaurant (http://www.crankyscafe.com/) on the corner of Vernon Boulevard and 49th Avenue in Hunters Point.

Salif Keita – Great Malian musician and advocate for the rights of alibino poeple.

 

(http://www.salifkeita.us/)

(http://www.myspace.com/music/player?song=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.myspace.com%2Fsalifkeitamusic%2Fmusic%2Fsongs%2Ffolon-69436465)

Jazz

It’s been good to catch up with Anthony Cekay‘s saxophone playing at LIC bar (www.LICbar.com ) for a couple of sessions recently. I’ve heard two late night improvisation sessions with Christian Coleman (drums) and Broc Hempel (keyboard) that I’ve really enjoyed. Readers of this blog will know that I am no expert on Jazz. I’m beginning to appreciate different types of improvisations having heard some that are very “free” to others which slightly free within modes and others which are around established melodies and/or chord progressions. I would put Anthony’s between the last two categories, but am open to contradiction (and education!). These two sessions (one just saxes and drums and the other saxes, drums and keyboard) were interesting and enjoyable. It’s was a pleasure to hear two talented musicians listening intently to each other and producing engrossing music that expressed a range of emotions, especially when you know that it is all improvised.

Anthony Cekay – Improvised jazz at LIC Bar

I’ve also caught Broc Hempel and Christian Coleman playing at Domaine Wine Bar (http://www.domainewinebar.com/), with Peter Brendler on bass and Dave Scott on trumpet. This is a really good venue for this understated kind of jazz. Dave Scott came across as a thoughtful player of intricate music that matched well the playing styles of the other musicians. For those of you who do not know the Domaine Wine Bar (my University of Wine and Jazz) it is a small space that, at most, would house around 45 people (check out my “Jazz in Small Spaces” blog (http://wp.me/p1ZFJu-12). It is not somewhere where you would want to be blown to the back of the room by a pounding bass and tough brass section. As such it suits interesting and well played music in a range of styles,with vinicular accompaniments.

Dave Scott at Domaine Wine Bar

Christian Coleman, Broc Hempel and Peter Brendler

I’ve appreciated the Avalon Jazz Band (http://www.avalonjazzband.com) playing at Domaine. They are a French-style Jazz group who I would hesitate to call a “Band”, which to me sounds like a “Big Band”, which is certainly not the case. They are  Violin (Adrien Chevalier), Guitar (Koran Agan), Bass (Eduardo Belo) and Voice (Tatiana Eva-Marie) a group who offer themselves as a nostalgic look at Paris in the 1940s, playing in a mix of styles that they describe as ” … a bridge between the old world and the new, between French charm and American glam, with just a pinch of burlesque and a spoonfull of swing”.  I liked the Django/Grappelli-style Gypsy swing Jazz, but not so much so much some of the sweetly sung romantic French songs. Fortunately there wasn’t too much of the latter and I enjoyed Tatiana’s singing of standards, with a little bit of scat that showed  off her vocal ability. The guitar and violin playing was very stylish and showed great skill. Bass players rarely come forward but I appreciated the solos that Edourdo offered in the sets that I heard whilst I gave in to the temptation of freshly shucked oysters and a glass of chilled Jurançon, a wine that matched perfectly the Blue Neck Oysters on offer that night from sommelier Chip behind the bar.

Avalon Jazz Band at Domaine Wine Bar


Occasionally in New York you meet people in unexpected places. As a follower of musicians around town I get to know those that have a really distinctive sound. One of these is the combination of Charlie Rauh (guitar) and Concetta Abbate (violin). I first heard them accompanying Ali Silva’s reconstruction of 1940s radio plays at the LIC bar winter “Fireside Ghost Stories” series (check out my blog “Live Radio in LIC” – http://wp.me/p1ZFJu-4X ), where they produced improvised mood music (check Anthony Cekay’s Podcast of this on http://page4music.com/2012/03/18/podcast-ghost-stories-by-lucille-fletcher/) . Then I came across Charlie playing with Mossa Bildner in her musical adaption of T.S.Eliot’s “Four Quartets” (see my “Now and again in Manhattan” post (http://wp.me/p1ZFJu-bL). A couple of weeks ago I went down to LowerEast Side to catch Leah Gough-Cooper’s Human Equivalent (http://www.myspace.com/humanequivalent) in an early evening set at a hideaway little bar (the “Recoup”) and who should I hear playing in the Delauncey Street subway station – Charlie and Concetta.

Charlie Rauh and Concetta Abbate

A few days later I went on to hear them play at LIC bar. I think when I listen to improvised Jazz I’m listening for fragments to which I can relate, whether fragments of melody or mood. If the latter I think I those fragments have to fall on fertile ground. If they dont quite fit my mood of the moment then they fall on stony ground. Not they have to match, it’s great when music can lift me out of the moment. If they jar, though, whether in mood or tonalities or just in the sound the instruments make, then I might be distanced. The latter is not the case  with the music I have heard from Charlie and Concetta. It is interesting and does not jar. even  when the tonalities wander. The styles of the players, and the timbres of the two instruments match well; with Charlie playing with a muted amplified guitar that supports the flight of the fiddle as it winds around melodies, scales and arpeggios.

Queens of Queens

Readers of this blog will know that I have been enthusiastic about the Queens of Queens residency at LIC Bar Wednesday nights during May. So far we’ve had two sessions from Michele Riganese, Shelly Bhushan, Little Embers and Jeneen Terrana; the first where they sang all their own material and the second where they mixed their own songs with songs by other writers. The first was dogged by some technical hitches but the four women showed how much their good humour and obvious cameraderie would get them through. The second show presented them more as a cohesive unit, helped by their agreement to each wear black and not to overcomplicate their instruments by expecting too much from the small PA system: handling four vocal mics on top of guitars proved tricky in session one. In session two they only ever had one guitar, plus keyboard and mic-based instruments like the Melodica and harmonica. The more I hear these women the more I appreciate their individual talents and the chemistry of this combination. It was good to hear old favourites from the singers – including Michele’s “Learn to Love” – as well as classics like Dolly Parton‘s “Jolene” (this must be one of the most played American Country songs ever) and “You’re no Good”, written by Clint Ballard Jnr and associated in the US with Linda Rondstadt and as a hit in the UK for 1960’s Merseybeat band The Swinging Blue Jeans ( I’m slightly embarassed to say that I might still have a 45 of that back in NZ).

Check out Little Embers song from the first show:

Before your name  ( an audio file that should play in your default audio player)

And this video

Julie Kathryn

Regular LIC Bar singer/songwriter Julie Kathryn has just released a new EP of her music, “Broken Love” (http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/julie-kathryn/id366405519   or http://juliekathryn.bandcamp.com). She showcased this at the Rockwood Music Hall on 22 April in a superbly professional show which started an evening of LIC Bar- related musicians, with Brian and Silbin and friends and Toronto-based Freeman Dre and the Kitchen Party ending the night with their mix of European style rock.

Freeman Dre and the Kitchen Party. An exciting band from Toronto who rock the night with their blend of klezmer/circus rock and good time rolling.

On stage Julie shows great skill in relating to her audience and performing finely crafted songs in ways that  show an almost visceral sense of rhythm as she supports herself on guitar or piano and links with the group of fine musicians with which she surrounds herself. So we had cello and violin as well as the usual bass, guitar and drums. Check out this video from Carly Massey.

The EP “Broken Love” has just four songs, each of which is emotionally direct and disarmingly personal. Listen to all four at one sitting and you’ll need to sit back and process for a while. Julie sings with an understated intimate style and an exquisite sense of timing that makes you feel that only you and she are in the room.  “I don’t want you back”  is a  lovely subtle production and arrangement for a nicely crafted and performed song. “Not the Same” – presents a nice change of tempo and mood,  I like the lilting simple child-like rhythms and chorus. “Broken Love“, is a  gently rocking song  with spotlit  bass and sweet downward-flowing guitar arpeggios – a song that anyone who has had a broken first love will relate to, a song of lost, but not forgotten innocence that Julie’s singing so beautifully puts across. The last song, “Let this be” is my favourite, (being an incurable romantic and of a generally melancholic disposition). I challenge anyone to listen to this and not reach for the Kleenex! This EP is a gem that I hope will do a great job of taking Julie a long way in her career.

Julie Kathryn at Rockwood Music Hall, Lower East Side

Rachel Wolf

Now, Rachel (http://rachelwolf.bandcamp.com/)is a performer who will take you by surprise, especially if you have no idea what to expect. I saw her play at the LIC Bar in what, I believe, was her first perfomance there. She stands on stage and plays an Indian portable harmonium that has its origins in instruments carried by Christian missionaries and which were used to accompany those Victorian hymns that were a gift from the Queen to an Empire of cheap labour and raw materials. Not that Rachel sings anything like those often turgid and predictable tunes (not all, I should say). As soon as she opens her mouth you know that this is a young woman of great talent. She has a bluesy soulful sound which reminded me of Adele and Pink, with rich texture and accuracy that knocks you back. You just don’t expect this. It’s not just bluesy though, there’s a Joanna Newsom quality too, not just in the way she sings some of her songs but also in the ways she has crafted her music, a  story-telling aspect that also reminded me of 1960s UK folk group “The Incredible String Band”  especially when they incorporated the girl singers Licorice and Rose (not they had anything like Rachel’s quality of voice. At times I would  have appreciated a little more variety in the accompaniment – the portable harmonium isn’t exactly a Hammond and I think some of her songs could have used that  kind of sound. She sings quirky, original songs, check out “Murder Ballad” –

“I’d have been your lovin’ wife, right ‘til the day you died
But cross me and you’ll cross the river Styx.
I’m young and I’m sweet and I’m ripe as a peach,
But bite too hard you’ll get the bitter pit”

Watch out for this young woman, she has a great future!

Rachel Wolf

Kat Spina

Another bluesy voice comes from Kat Spina (www.katspina.com), a who played a set at LIC bar recently. There she played guitar with a  partner Brian Forbes on nicely wrought and understated Fender Strat. Kat has a good accurate voice and takes care to carry the meaning of the words she sings, whether her own or “covers” such as Dylan’s “It’s all over now baby blue”. (When does a cover become a “standard”?). LIC Bar is not an easy venue at the start of an evening. There might just be a dozen in the audience, and some of those might be the supporters you’ve brought along. Some artists just get on with it and others, who look for affirmation from the audience might feel constrained in their delivery. I sense that Kat was a little restrained in this way. I dont think she’s naturally extravert and the sensitivity of her singing requires a steady confidence that for some is inner driven and for others is a product of audience response. Most singers like to get energy from the crowd, making early evening shows a hard road to take.

I enjoyed hearing Kat and have since appreciated her 2009 album “Engaging the Muse“. This is not an album that makes you go “wow!” It’s more of a sit down and listen, or put-in-the-background work. Kat’s easy singing style comes across as more bluesy than in her LIC Bar set and she has the advantage of a backing band that supports her in a range of songs, all of which (except for a Beatles song – “I’ve just seen a face”) she has had a role in writing. What comes across most with Kat is the quality of her voice, soulful yet not strongly so; accurate, yet not sterile; pleasant to listen to, yet not boring. The album has a rather old-fashioned feel, older than 2009 yet not really dateable in the styles and types of music put across by Kat and her band. The heritage is clearly 60s soul, with bluesy shifts; late night music when you need to relax, not get hyped for a night on the town. The track “Constant” is a nice example of Kat’s songwriting, and more in the style that I heard at LIC bar. It’s mainly guitar and voice, with a touch of sensitive violin from Gwen Laster and background keyboard bass; my favourite on the album. I also enjoyed Kat’s take on the Lennon/McCartney song – “I’ve just seen a face, I can’t forget, the time or place, where we just met” a superb example of their talent for lyrics – cleverly adapted slightly by Kat in a  way that reflects the way a pop song can wedge itself in your own life where the universal meets the personal. I also like the way she takes a new look at the rhythm of what was originally a relentlessly fast moving song from the movie “Help”.

Kat Spina and Brian Forbes @ LIC Bar

Quick Mentions:

Really appreciated Chris Michael at LIC Bar – looks as if he’s going from one bar to another if he passes his final exams!! (http://eatthatguitarchrismichael.wordpress.com/)

Chris Michael in the Open at LIC Bar

And last but not least some photos from Brian and Silbin‘s gig at Rockwood Music Hall:

Silbin Sandovar, Brian Meece and Jeneen Terrana

Brian Reece, Jeneen Terrana and Jens Kramer, violin

Anthony Cekay on Sax

Jeneen Terrana, Danny Mackane and Jens Kramer

Rachel Swaner

COMING UP

 LIC Bar

Wednesday, May 16th
8pm ZOE SUNDRA
9pm MIEKA PAULEY
10pm QUEENS OF QUEENS MAY RESIDENCY

Thursday, May 17th
9pm BRAIN FART COMEDY AND TRIVIA SHOW
w/Stephanie Holmes

Saturday, May 19th
11pm
Fiends and Fools

Sunday, May 20th
5-8pm
Big City Folk Sunday Social
Emily Mure, Kevin Goldhahn, and more

Monday, May 21st
8pm LEIGHANNE SALTZMAN
9pm EMILY WOLF
10pm AYAL TSU BERRY

Wednesday, May 23rd
8pm MEGAN KERPER
9pm FIFE AND DROM
10pm QUEENS OF QUEENS MAY RESIDENCY

Thursday, May 24th
9pm BRAIN FART COMEDY AND TRIVIA SHOW
w/Stephanie Holmes

Saturday, May 26th
11pm
Magic Bones

Sunday, May 27th
LIC BAR’s MEMORIAL DAY FEST!
Live music outdoors in the garden (weather permitting)
from 2-8pm

Monday, May 28th
8pm ROKI SOFI
9pm KAT CALVOSA
10pm BECKY MIMIAGA

Wednesday, May 30th
7pm LAUREN ELDER
8pm MELODY KILLS
9pm SWEET SOUBRETTE
10pm QUEENS OF QUEENS MAY RESIDENCY

Thursday, May 31st
9pm BRAIN FART COMEDY AND TRIVIA SHOW
w/Stephanie Holmes

A Spirit of Musical Community

There are a many singer songwriters in LIC, folk who perform solo or with a band. It’s not unusual to find them doing a solo gig at one place and then being joined by others later in the night at a bar or club in the next district. There are some, though, who have regular collaborations with other singer songwriters and where you see a great chemistry develop between the artists. One of these collaborations is that between Michele Riganese (www.micheleriganese.com), Shelly Bhushan (www.shellybhushan.com), Jeneen Terrana (http://www.jeneenterrana.com/) and Little Embers (http://www.myspace.com/littleembers). These four women are talented artists who all live in the Queens area and who play regularly at venues like the LIC Bar, Spike Hill in Brooklyn and Rockwood Music Hall in Manhattan. They each have their own bands, but you’ll frequently see one or other of them supporting each other on vocals.

The Queens of Queens at the Living Room Dec 2011

This group have played together as the “Queens of Queens” for gigs at the Living Room in Manhattan (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWxi-r7oRKI) and Spike Hill in Brooklyn. For these appearances they built on their experience of supporting each other to perform “in the round” and perform each others’ songs, providing mainly vocal support to the writer of the song.

Jeneen Terrana and Michele Riganese

Jeneen Terrana

Little Embers

Shelly Bhushan

…………………………The Queens of Queens are coming together for the third time to present a series of five “residency” shows at the LIC Bar during May, every Wednesday at 10pm. I have had the pleasure of interviewing these women; to produce both a series of “Artists Portraits”to be available in a few weeks time, and in the production of a brief promotional item. This is a group of four individuals whose characters differ in ways that prompt lively creative cooperation. Watch out for future blogs featuring audio interviews, and perhaps even podcasts!

Good luck to Michele Riganese on her trip to the West Coast, where amongst other gigs she is playing at the Viper Room in Los Angeles on April 1oth.

Little Embers are appearing at Arlene’s Grocery on Friday April 13th and Jeneen Terrana is currently recording.

Congratulations to Shelly Bhushan in doing so well to get into the final group of 5 in the competition to represent Queens in the “Battle of the Boroughs”. You can still catch her performance in on http://vimeo.com/37955065.

Shelly and her band will be appearing at LIC Bar on Wednesday 11th April, don’t be surprised if there are other singersongwriters in support.

Another great combination of singer songwriters is Warren Malone and Niall Connolly. Both hail from the other side of the Atlantic; Warren from the North of England and Niall from Ireland. You can catch more of the Irish in Niall than the Lancashire in Warren, who has more of a North American feel to his songs. Both Warren and Niall have distinctive voices and clear guitar picking styles that lend themselves to collaboration. I caught them both, in duet, at the LIC Bar’s first venture into the open air the Sunday before last. Two out three of the acts were able to perform outdoors before the drop in temperature caused the declining audience to clutch their beer glasses for warmth and we went indoors for the final act of the day. I’ll write more about Warren on another occasion, and review his album (“The Ants ate the Bee“). Suffice it to say that he has great talent and an attention to detail in his guitar playing which makes for beautiful music.

Niall Connolly and Warren Malone in the open at the LIC Bar

Niall and Warren are part of the musician collective “Big City Folk“, who run sessions at LIC Bar on Sunday evenings in the winter months and at Ceol (http://www.ceolpub.com/) in Brooklyn – as well as appearing at various other venues around New York, including, famously, Niall playing a very early Wednesday morning spot at the Red Lion on Bleecker Street (http://www.redlionnyc.com/) at which the artist formerly (and now formally) known as Prince is rumoured to have been seen. Niall sings a range of finely crafted songs with intelligent lyrics that demand attention – whether for their sharp political comment, philosophical musings or their stories of relationships, won and lost. His voice is instantly recognisable, a real advantage in this world of copycat, almost karaoke performers, and his stage manner direct; self assured yet unassertive. He lets his songs speak for themselves.

Recently members of the Big City Folk collective released an album of  Niall’s songs as a birthday tribute; such is the respect he has earned on the local music scene. The album aNiallated” features artists like Warren, Casey Black, E.W.Harris and Don Paris Schlotman (Sky Captains of Industry), and Magic Bones (who are Brandon Wilde and Len Monachello). Bones”. Check it out (and buy) on http://niallconnolly.bandcamp.com/album/aniallated-a-big-city-folk-tribute-to-niall-connolly.

This is a good introduction to Niall’s music as well as being a tribute to the collective musicianship that surrounds him. It shows that his songs stand tall in others’ interpretations. This is not a collection of bland re-interpretations, each musician embeds their own talent and style on the song they have chosen to present to Niall on this album.

Brandon Wilde

Brandon Wilde (http://www.brandonwildemusic.com/) and Len Monachello are freelancers on the local music scene. Brandon plays Bass in Niall’s band, has a recording studio and plays frequent late Saturday night gigs at the LIC Bar (www.licbar.com)with Len as the Magic Bones, a “cover band” that is a duo with an in depth knowledge of the  songs they perform to the late night crowd. You’ll catch Len as a drummer in Niall’s band, or as a guitarist – in Magic Bones he alternates guitar and bass with Brandon. On “aNiallated” they offer a classic cover of Niall’s song “Skin and Bones“, a anthem that has developed into a crowdpleaser and crowd involver in bars everywhere that he plays. Being superb musicians enables Brandon and Len to present a cover that is a true to the original, not just in its notes and lyrics but also in its public bar appeal to simple philosophising that “We are just skin and bones and blood, without love, without love”.

Don Paris Schlotman, E.W.Harris and Casey Black as a trio comprise most of the band “The Sky Captains of Industry” (http://www.reverbnation.com/theskycaptainsofindustry); regulars on the Big City Folk scene. They’re a skilled band who sing sometimes cutting, sometimes offbeat, and occasionally highly comedic songs. On this album they each get a chance to give individual tribute to Niall.

At the end of Sky Captains gigs Don offers a brilliant spoof of early rock songs that is reminiscent of 60s group “The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band” , known best for their “Death Cab for Cutie” on the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour movie,  but see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hcZ4s9cvpw . Usually Don is the bass player, but in this final act of craziness Don hands his bass to Casey, usually the drummer and takes the stage in virtual drainpipes and a relationship with the microphone that is acrobatic, yet verges on pornographic. On “aNiallated” he offers “Summer Dress“a song which is easy to think of as a sideways look at adolescent male fantasies, especially hearing Don singing it, with memories of his teen idol antics still fresh in my mind. This is Don in a Lou Reed meets Johnny Cash mode, with the banjo and reverberating whistling adding to a sense of understated, yet mysteriously present, anarchism. It’s a kind of mix of Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” and “Perfect Day”, with a bluegrass ketchup. But, it might be completely straight and I’ve just coloured it with my own trickster mixer.

Casey Black

Casey Black (make sure you get http://www.reverbnation.com/caseyblack) is well established locally as a powerful singer and songwriter. I have written about him previously and you will know how much I respect his professionalism. On this album he offers his interpretation of  ‘You’ve got to look in to look out for yourself’, a highly personal  song from Niall’s book of most-well-crafted songs. This is taken down to its heart by Casey, his strong deep voice giving the lyrics an intensity that squeezes every bit of meaning from the lyrics.

E.W.Harris

E.W.Harris is the third member of “Sky Captains”. In many ways he comes across as the leader on their gigs, although I hesitate to talk about bands having a leader in this collective context. He is the singer most of the time and plays  a beautiful retro guitar. If not leader he is certainly the man up front. On this album his version of “99 cent dream” is inbued with his liking for scifi effects, ironic statement and the generally offbeat (check out his album “a waste of water and time”  http://www.amazon.com/Waste-Water-Time/dp/B003XE6OTG). This song suits him, in its ironic turns and goes well with the sound effects produced by Harris for this tribute to Niall.

Warren Malone’s contribution to this album is “Inland to Mercy”, a travelling-to-love song  that is actually typically of Warren’s own style and thus suits him well. The line “Oh little bird without a footprint, a measure of the strength of your tiny wings” exemplifies the poetry in Niall’s lyrics.

Other artists on his tribute are Diana Jones, Chris Mills, Chris Michael, Colin Campbell, Justin Storer, Ryan Morgan and David Rynhart. All contribute well in their own ways, only one, Justin Storer, managing to sound a lot like Niall himself when he sings “America”. This is what used to be called a “protest song” :

“In the name of all the chapters, Torn from your history books. America, I love you,won’t you tell me the truth.”

Niall Connolly contemplates driving the Snakes out of America

A jazz virgin in LIC

I know I’ve written about jazz before, (https://sometimeinlongislandcity.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/jazz-in-small-spaces/) but I still feel new to it. LIC is blessed with resident musicians, and some who have the misfortune to live elsewhere and come into town to play. I’ve written before about the venues Domaine wine Bar (http://domainewinebar.com/) which I consider to be my university of jazz and wine; and the LIC Bar (licbar.com), to which I must add Manducatis Rustica (www.manducatisrustica.com), a restaurant I have yet to visit but which hosted the LIC Jazz Alliance (http://www.licja.org/)  jam session on Saturday Feb 25th. LICJA  also have jam sessions at the Domaine every Monday night. You can’t frequent jazz bars for long and remain a jazz virgin!

LIC Bar hosted a jazz evening last Monday, featuring Emily Wolf, (http://www.emilywolfjazz.com) Kat Calvosa (http://www.katcalvosa.com) and The Black Butterflies (www.theblackbutterflies.com) . This was a good, if challenging, mix. I’ve heard Emily before (see Jazz in Small Spaces). She’s an Englishwoman with an American jazz singer for a father and as such her singing comes from a strong tradition of jazz singers whom she will have heard, either live or in recordings. She told us that hearing recordings of Nancy Wilson was a major influence on her embarking on a career as a jazz musician. I like her mix of music, her own material and standards. he standards give us common points of reference and give Emily opportunites to shine through her own arrangements. She varies her performance style in a way that is entertaining but not over the top – suiting the LIC’s intimate atmosphere. She uses scat improvisation very effectively, the voice-as-instrument technique that, I understand, originated with Louis Armstrong. (If you haven’t been, DO go to his house in Corona, Queens, which is now a museum and is just as it was when he lived there, with evocative recordings of him talking – as if he was still there http://www.louisarmstronghouse.org/)

Emily Wolf with bass player Danny Weller

A new member of Emily’s band for the night was Leah Gough-Cooper, a graduate of both the New Engkand Conservatory and Berklee College of Music, but originating from the South Eastern part of Scotland. Leah looks younger but plays older than her years. I was very impressed by her easy fluid style, her sense of movement in the music and her great tone. Unlike some sax players, who move around the room a lot, “performing”, Leah just stood there letting the music speak and move for itself. I really want to hear her again, and will have the chance at LIC Bar on March 12th, when she plays with “Human Equivalent” at 9pm.

Emily’s band also included Jason Yeager on keyboard and Matt Rousseau on drums, a fine combination of players that Emily has created!

Leah Gough-Cooper

Emily’s band also included Jason Yeager on keyboard and Matt Rousseau on drums, a fine combination of players that Emily has created!

Emily Wolf and her quartet

I hadn’t heard Kat Calvosa before. Like Emily she presented a mix of compositions and arrangements, including two compositions from her guitarist, Perry Smith.  I enjoyed the differences and similarities between her and Emily. I especially enjoyed Kat’s arrangement of one of the greatest, and probably most arranged standards, Nat King Cole’s “A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square”, with the guitar offering chord changes that reminded me of Jimi Hendrix at his most lyrical. Kat has a relaxed confident singing style, once again very suited to a bar/club environment. There was nice interplay between her and the musicians in the band (which also included Ross Pederson on drums and Sam Minaie on bass) and, like Emily, she connected well with the audience.

Kat Calvosa and band at LIC Bar

The third band of the night was a 6 piece group led by Argentinian Mercedes Figueras: “The Black Butterflies”. This was quite different music. I was having an alcohol-free night at the LIC Bar (great fruit cocktails, though from Stephanie behind the bar) and felt that maybe I was missing something when listening to this band’s material. I should have been “on” something to appreciate the trance-like tracks they presented, maybe I needed to listen  more intently than I did last thing in the evening. At first I was intrigued: an interesting introduction to the first track played by Tony Larokko on a tiny 5 (?) note zylophone and the smallest balafon (an African zylophone which uses gourds to develop it’s tone) I have ever seen – pentatonic note patterns which the band expanded in a style which said to me “this is going to be music which brings in a great range of musical traditions”. This was an entertaining band to watch as well, especially conga player Bopa “King” Carre and Larokko’s variety of instruments. However, I found that I pulled back from the seemingly random improvisations  for which maybe I was not prepared, or “in the mood”. I think this is another kind of jazz that I need to understand more. Check them out for yourself on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cj9zw5id4UQ . It’s not that I have closed ears (or I think not, having hosted a World Music Radio show for 8 years), and I’m fine with long raga’s, 5 hour operas, Gamelan concerts or wide extemporisations on the Kora.  I need to hear them again.

Mercedes Figueras and Nick Gianni

Mercedes Figueras and Nick Gianni

Virgin Jazz reviews

I’m going to spend a little time now reviewing some CDs, but first an apologia that you can skip if you like.

The Apologia

“What’s this guy doing reviewing Jazz? He doesn’t know his Ornette from his Maynard?” Well that’s true. Since coming to Long Island City I’ve had opportunities to meet, and hear some people who I consider to be really talented and who describe themselves as playing Jazz. Many have been to Jazz school, some more recently than others; some actually teach at Jazz schools, so I guess what they play IS jazz.

I had little exposure to Jazz when growing up, even though my father and his brother were musicians (military band). We didn’t get a proper (i.e. 45 and 33 rpm) record player until I was a teenager, but always had a piano in the house around whcih people would gather at parties and sing everything from “Velia” to (my mother’s party piece) “Stormy Weather”. The latter was probably my only exposure to anything that might be called jazz. British TV and radio didn’t offer much except what in the UK is called “Trad” jazz, played by people like Acker Bilk dressed up in bowler hats and striped waistcoats, with banjos and smiling faces. As a teeneger I became deeply involved in the Blues. This was the time of the British Blues boom. I gave up my piano lessons (I always wanted to change the rhythms of the pieces to something more funky) and took up guitar, queueing for hours to hear Hendrix at the Marquee, Clapton at the club down the road and Peter Green with the only real Fleetwood Mac. Occasionally I might hear some jazz/blues by people like Manfred Mann (especially in their latter “Chapter Three” incarnations) and did actually go to hear people like Rahsaan Roland Kirk, John Dankworth and Cleo Laine on their university circuits. I enjoyed their music but didn’t really understand jazz. As a guitarist I was one of those people who can’t really remember swathes of chords, who prefers to make them up without knowing what they’re called. I’d watch jazz guitarists playing one chord per note, moving up and down the fingerboard and stretching out the fingers in what seemed superhuman chord shapes. “much too hard”, said I, never having had a guitar lesson until middle age.

Over the years I have heard some great jazz artists: Sarah Vaughan, Ornette Coleman (three basses in that band!), Stefan Grappelli as well as other combos that I have come across be accident, and I bought some records and CDs – Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Django Rheinhardt, Duke Ellington etc. Nothing that stretched me, but which I enjoyed and appreciated as very different music than the blues I had grown up with; music that I increasingly recognised as being as complex and skill-requiring as the classical music that is my frequent companion (now don’t get me talking about that!).

So here I end up in Long Island City with two venues that regularly feature jazz (LIC Bar and the Domaine wine bar) and I go along and find that I am starting to really get into this music, not everything mind; but it’s not just the music but also the people, the players whom I photograph and talk to. Some even live down the road! I’ve even been to a jazz club (Jazz Standard’s Mingus Dynasty) in Manhattan and heard music that knocked my socks off (where on earth does than phrase come from?), I end up listening to jazzers live and bringing their CDs home, three of which will be the subject of this blog post.

The Albums

Two of the people that I have seen most around here are Sam Trapchak (bass) and Christian Coleman (drums). I suppose if anyone has turned me onto local jazz it’s these two. There is something about this combination that allows me to get inside the music and appreciate where it’s going. Not technically, but intuitively and emotionally. I’ve heard these two in combination with a range of other players – Broc Hempel – (what a skilled keyboard man he is), Greg Ward (man he’s so talented, his sax will take him to the top one day), local sax player Martin Kelley (a skilled musician and teacher), Anthony Cekay and many talented others!

Broc Hempel

Sam Trapchak

Greg Ward

Christian Coleman

Christian Coleman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both Sam and Christian have CD’s out at the moment, featuring them playing with other musicians and not each other. I’ve also come home with an album from Tammy Scheffer, a singer of great accuracy and flexibility. Whether I’m considered credible enough to review these I will leave to you, the Blogabond (I asked some friends for words to describe you, and that was one suggestion – the other was “Bloggard” but I think that probably better describes me).

I’ve talked about Tammy Scheffer before (see my “Jazz in small spaces” blog post) and you’ll know how I was impressed by her singing and musicianship in live performance. Tammy hails from Belgium via Israel and is a graduate of the New England Conservatory. Her debut CD “Wake up Fall Asleep” features 9 of her original compositions and arrangements for sextet which consists of Andrew Urbina– alto sax, Steve Pardo– tenor sax,Chris Ziemba– piano, Brad Barrett– bass and Ronen Itzik– drums.

Tammy’s style, which involves much wordless singing reminds me of medieval and renaissance music where the singers’ vocal abilities are used to not just express lyrics but also to express the music through variation of sound and rhythm. Music before the 18th century was often meant as a basis for improvisation by singers and instrumentalists, who developed their music skills in learning contexts where this was expected, much like jazz is today and in folk music traditions around the world.  Good examples of this can be heard in recordings by that pioneer of the early music revival, David Munrow (who blew his recorders, crumhorns and cornamuses like a jazzman) and the group L’ Arpeggiatta, appearing at Carnegie Hall in March. I’m also reminded of the vocal interpretations of classical music (especially Bach) presented by the “Swingle Singers” in the 60s and 70s. It would be great to discover whether Jazz schools might also offer studies which place the jazz improvisational tradition with the contexts of both World and European “art” music.

Tammy’s voice is the lead instrument of her sextet; sometimes she’ll use it to sing words but mostly it’s wordless vocalisations of intricate runs, arpeggios and decorations around the melodies, some of which appear to derive from her Hebrew/Israeli heritage (one song , “Home is where my laptop is”  includes a quote from “Nama Yafo”). I’m not sure Tammy’s singing is technically “scat”, which I understand to mean improvised wordless singing. I think that Tammy’s music is a mix of improvisation and music that she has written specifically to sing without words.

In “Kum, Shan”  (“Wake up, Fall Asleep” Tammy sings  Hebrew words which she uses to form the base of her voice-as-instrument extensions of the melodies. A slow hauntingly beautiful melody moves into some more highly charged sax playing before easing off with Tammy’s voice, like a bird flying into the mists. You can see a video of her performing this at the Shrine NYC on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_lbf7GPiUc

I particularly enjoyed “Hakol Yihiye Beseder (Everything’s going to be just fine)”, which starts off with some nice piano from Chris Ziemba before Tammy comes in with some very easy-feeling vocalising, the rest of the band sitting gently in the background. Yes, you really do feel as if everything’s going to be just fine. A good track to end the album.

Tammy Scheffer

This is an album which grows well on repeated hearing. I now prefer to listen to one track at a time, with space between to digest and feel that sense of peace which arises well from Tammy’s singing and the band’s playing. You can download or buy the CD from http://www.tammyscheffer.com/ .

The album “Lollipopocalypse” (http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/samtrapchak), from Sam Trapchak‘s “Put Together Funny” contains the one piece that opened my eyes to jazz here in LIC,  Sam’s composition  “Precious View”. I first heard this played by the Trapchak, (Broc) Hempel, (Christian) Coleman Trio at the Domaine Wine Bar on one of my first visits there. The band on the album here consists of Sam Trapchak on bass, Greg Ward on alto sax, guitarist Tom Chang, and Arthur Vint on drums, so we get a different arrangement, with  sax rather than Hempel’s keyboard.  I love this piece’s early unsettling meandering around rhythm and time signatures with a catchy riff  which is picked up on soloing bass and then smoothing out into more regular melodic solo, (on the album here from Greg Ward’s meticulous soulful alto, riding over the continuingly unsettled rhythm section ). It made so much sense to my untutored ears, I don’t know why, technically, but it did make sense and it is oddly moving.

Precious View doesn’t showpiece the guitar playing of Tom Chang. His musical background apparently includes heavy rock and sometimes you can hear this in solos that take me back to 60’s and 70’s rock/jazz (Zappa especially, but also oddly the Paul Butterfield band’s “East West” experiment; long tracks with “oriental” improvisations). I particularly liked Chang’s composition “On the Cusp of Cancer”; a driving track which allows guitar and sax to snake around and blow the dust from the lightshades.

Five of the seven tracks on Lollipocalypse written by Sam Trapchak and the other two (On the Cusp of Cancer and Tongue and Groove) by Tom Chang. The title track “Lollipocalypse” is a game of two halves, just when you think you are swinging along with nice soaring sax adventures in comes Chang’s screeching chords and jagged edges to push you to the edge of your bar stool and threaten your ability to remain sane, and upright.

This is an album which entertains; it’s interesting, occasionally exhausting and sometimes moving. It stands repeated hearing, not because the tracks are easy listening but because you’ll hear something new every time, such is the variety in the writing and the virtuousity of the players.

The Christian Coleman‘s Trio’s “Pigments” album features Christian on drums, Gavin Ahearn on piano, and Matt Gruebner on bass, with Australian Dale Barlow guesting on Tenor sax. (It’s coming soon to iTunes and cdbaby, in the meantime check out some earlier recordings on http://www.myspace.com/christiancolemandrums, which include Ahearn, together with Chris Riggenbach bass and Mike Dopazo on sax). Three of the four players (Coleman (7 tracks), Ahearn (2) and Gruebner (1) take writing credits in what is, to my ears, more of a mainstream album than Lollipocalypse. It’s Coleman’s drums and Ahearn’s piano that are the stars on this album. Just listen to Coleman’s intricate patterns that dance around the melodies, enhancing the other’s playing – the soloist at the back, a jester and magician painting the stars in the sky and weaving fine webs of percussive lacework around tunes for which he has taken such an important role as writer and leader.

My impressions on having heard this album all the way through on a few occasions is that I occasionally wanted the band to let go a bit more. I liked it better late at night at home, when I don’t need music to lift my energy levels. The second track,  “5th Street Stoop”, starts to swing part way through, and then falls back to a lazy style which suits the music.

I particularly liked the piano playing of Gavin Ahearn – fluid and sharply articulated. His composition “If you were then” is one of my favourite tracks on the album, based around a memorable melody fragment that consists of almost chiming chords. His other composition “Zelenec” is also enjoyable. bass player Matt Gruebner’s single contribution to the writing credits here, “Sere“, is an enjoyable piece that starts with Coleman’s brushes sounding like artful sandpaper on a sailor’s 5 day beard. The a single line piano enters with melody decorated nicely with Gruebner’s bass line and more from Coleman’s exquisite technique.

In fact I have begun listening to this album wondering if I can discern a difference in the way that a drummer writes in comparison to a pianist and a bass player, after all the music of the classical composer Berlioz (a violinist, not a keyboard player but a genius in orchestration) is noticably different to his contemporaries, who would have often written using a piano. Do percussionists think more in rhythms and sound colours; do single line instrumentalists think more in single melodic lines whilst chordal players use harmonies and polyphonic ideas more? This would take further listening and is an example of how my introductions to jazz at the Domaine Bar University of jazz and wine are leading me in interesting directions.

Dale Barlow plays on six of the ten tracks. I thought his tenor playing was well articulated and artful. I found, though, that I wanted to hear more adventure from him. It’s as if, when playing this music, he had to play obediently. Maybe this is something about recording jazz, a music which is part improvisational and part written;  so when you are laying down a track do you hold back in a way that you wouldn’t in a live performance?

Lastly hats off to Christian Coleman for an interesting album with great playing that deserves concentrated listening; yet it also stands in the background at dinner party or social gathering where people want to talk with a smooth jazz background.

Well, congratulations on getting this far down what has been a long blog post. PLEASE comment – I’d love some feedback.