Jan 162012
 

… I share with you a contemporaneous speech that you probably haven’t heard (of).

Just before Dr. King took the stage to deliver his I Have a Dream speech at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the grandfather of one of my most treasured friends took the podium and delivered this short, stirring, still-apropos address. Since you are all presumably familiar with the former… let me introduce to you, today, the latter:

Joachim Prinz — March on Washington Speech.

Takeaway quote:

When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not ‘the most urgent problem.’ The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.

Joachim Prinz — March on Washington Speech

Joachim Prinz — March on Washington Speech

 Posted by at 1:05 am
Jan 132012
 

Relax, don’t worry—everything will be all right…

…or, at least, no worse than it would be on a Friday by any other name…..

To simultaneously soothe and rile you, here is a lovely duet/duel between F. Zappa and L. Shankar, circa Hallowe’en 1978:


For more information (and audiovisual recollections) regarding the once-wonderful, now NYU student-full Palladium, look here and here and here.

 Posted by at 12:46 am
Jan 112012
 

This past weekend’s onslaught of Music For Fans kicked in to high gear, Sunday, with a glorious reproduction/transmogrification of Brian Eno‘s legendary 1973 album Here Come the Warm Jets.

Make no mistake: presenting one of the most unique, illogical and inexplicably compelling rock albums ever made was no mean feat. Eno himself never attempted its live performance.

This review presumes familiarity with the source material. If you are new to th’ fold, hie thee at once to the closest (or most convenient) purveyor of sonic treasures, open sufficiently wide thy wallet, and plug, posthaste, this most unfortunate of lacunae in your musical preparation.

WNYC Radio engineer, guitarist and et ceterist Rob Christiansen assembled a top-flight core band, comprising:

himself…

Rob Christiansen's well-deserved Frampton moment

Rob Christiansen's well-deserved Frampton moment

Brett Lefferts on keys…

Brett Lefferts (keys)

Brett Lefferts (keys)

Jessica Bruder on six strings…

Jessica Bruder on six strings

Jessica Bruder on six strings

Glenn Mohre on six more strings…

Glenn Mohre on six more strings

Glenn Mohre on six more strings

Roger Paul Mason (bass) and Vince Fairchild (keys):

Roger Paul Mason (bass) and Vince Fairchild (keys)

Roger Paul Mason (bass) and Vince Fairchild (keys)

The visually way-in-the-back, but sonically all-encompassing Bill Bowen on drums…

Bill Bowen (drums)

Bill Bowen (drums)

Ian Peksa on marching and percussives:

Sonic and symbolic, Ian played a mean drum...

Sonically and symbolically, Ian played a mean drum...

And the redoubtable, resplendent and bi-coastal Trouble Dolls on backing vocals, incidental percussion and front-line glam(our):

The Trouble Dolls, (L to R):  Pam Weis, Cheri Leone, Chris McBurney and Matty Karas

The Trouble Dolls, (L to R): Pam Weis, Cheri Leone, Chris McBurney and Matty Karas


Christiansen could have stopped there, and a fine show would have been inevitable. But he, together with producer Dan Efram opted to give us so much more, assembling an inventive roster of guest singers/musicians:

  • Bad Seed, Grinderman-man and Vanity Settee Jim Sclavunos;
  • Jim Thirlwell (Foetus, Wiseblood, Steroid Maximus, Manorexia, &c.)
  • Vernon Reid (Living Colour, Ronald Shannon Jackson/Decoding Society, Black Rock Coalition, lots lots more)
  • Paul Duncan (Warm Ghost)
  • Bryan Scary (Shredding Tears)
  • Dominic Cipolla (Phantom Family Halo)
  • Siobhan Duffy (The Gunga Din, Angels of Light, God Is My Co-Pilot)
  • Travis Morrison (Dismemberment Plan)
  • Rachel Lears (Os Postiços, The Mystery Keys)
  • Sohrab Habibion (Obits, Edsel)

The show was emceed by radio legend, Eno fan and guitarist-of-no-small-stature John Schaefer:

John Schaefer:  a more well-schooled emcee could not be found

John Schaefer: a more well-schooled emcee could not be found


The show touched down with all cylinders firing — Paul Duncan and Bryan Scary captured and projected Needles in the Camel’s Eye‘s abstract urgency, creating a sound that was bigger than the both of ’em:

Paul Duncan (L.) and Bryan Scary (R.): one eye, two needles, no waiting

Paul Duncan (L.) and Bryan Scary (R.): one eye, two needles, no waiting


Next, Trouble Doll Cheri Leone and Dominic Cipolla carried the crowd through Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch, an odd historical-fiction melodrama centering around real-life ostensible-pyrokineticist A. W. Underwood:

Cheri Leone and Dominic Cipolla: no choice need be made

Cheri Leone and Dominic Cipolla: no choice need be made


Getting the next song right was particularly important.

Robert Fripp’s legendary Baby’s on Fire solo, an incendiary assault that beats the listener’s mind and body into submission for three-fifths of the song’s duration, has rightfully earned pride of place in the pantheon of rock guitar expression. Three of the greatest minutes of anything ever caught on tape. Finding a suitable soloist would be no easy task.

In walked Vernon Reid, whose unique right hand position makes it look like he is not so much wielding his axe as clutching a machine gun. The visual metaphor was apt, as Reid brought the fire(power) to his unrelenting solo for the better (and best) part of Baby’s on Fire:

Vernon Reid soloing on "Baby's on Fire"

Vernon Reid lighting Baby on Fire


Pairing Reid’s machine gun etiquette with Siobhan Duffy’s chanteuse stylings was just the sort of counterintuitive coupling that Eno himself would have relished:

Vernon Reid and Siobhan Duffy

Vernon Reid and Siobhan Duffy


Cheri Leone returned to the stage, adding new-millenial nuance to the distraught ’50s nostalgia of Cindy Tells Me

Cheri tells us.

Cheri tells us.

… while the other Trouble Dolls kept the crowd swaying:

3/4 of the Trouble Dolls

3/4 of the Trouble Dolls


Next, Paul Duncan lurched through the discordant angst of Driving Me Backwards:

Paul Duncan, ever-driven

Paul Duncan, ever-driven


On Some Faraway Beach was then sung (more or less) by Travis Morrison:

Travis Morrison, faraway

Travis Morrison, faraway


Suddenly, the stage appeared to have been beset upon by a seven-foot-tall lumberjack in a surprisingly dapper pink suit. ’twas, in fact, Jim Sclavunos, who careened (with equal parts sonic and sartorial aplomb) through the terrifying tale of Blank Frank, by turns howling and hebephrenic:

Jim Sclavunos: Blank Frank's messenger

Jim Sclavunos: Blank Frank's messenger


Dead Finks Don’t Talk brought Siobhan Duffy and Travis Morrison back to the fore.

Ms. Duffy nicely captured the sly coyness of Eno’s original oration. Mr. Morrison had the devil-may-care-bopping-in-place-with-one-hand-in-pocket-and-t’other-grasping-a-brew move down pat, although one wishes he had spent a little more time learning the lyrics, centering his pitch and the like…

Don't talk...

Don't Talk


Next came one of the musical high-points of the evening, viz., a short, sweet, swirling, squelchy, sprawling, spiraling soundscape by Jim Thirlwell, serving as the brain-cleaning segue from Dead Finks Don’t Talk into Some of Them Are Old. It was impossible to divine, from my angle, from what diminutive demon box he called forth these raging spirits:

Jim Thirlwell and tiny, unidentified (but decidedly effective) noisemaker

Jim Thirlwell and tiny, unidentified (but decidedly effective) noisemaker


Following a lovely, lilting flute-and-recorder lead-in, Rachel Lears and Sohrab Habibion harmonized sincerely through Some of Them Are Old

Rachel Lears and Sohrab Habibion: what's old is now new

Rachel Lears and Sohrab Habibion: what's old is now new

… accompanied by a three-way slide-guitar interlude:

Matty Karas and Jessica Bruder: Slides 1 and 2

Matty Karas and Jessica Bruder: Slides 1 and 2

Rob Christiansen:  Slide 3

Rob Christiansen: Slide 3


The album drew to a close in suitably grand fashion, with the band slowly building on the opening riff of Here Come the Warm Jets while a two-man processional snaked slowly through the rapt audience and joined the rest of the band onstage:

Glenn Mohre and Ian Peksa, leading us to the alb's grand conclusion

Glenn Mohre and Ian Peksa, leading us to the alb's grand conclusion

The sound, now a twenty-eight string extravaganza, continued building:

Glenn Mohre, Roger Paul Mason and Rob Christiansen, strings 1 through 16

Glenn Mohre, Roger Paul Mason and Rob Christiansen: strings 1 through 16

John Schaefer and Jessica Bruder: strings 17 through 28

John Schaefer and Jessica Bruder: strings 17 through 28


The song reached its culmination as the Trouble Dolls sang the admittedly nonsensical, albeit strangely moving, lyrics… the heart soared, while the head scratched itself:

Nothing to say... and, thankfully, they said it disirregardless...

Nothing to say... and, thankfully, they said it disirregardless...

Finally, Messrs. Mohre and Peksa returned to the primordial sea from which their procession began:

Glenn Mohre and Ian Peksa: All good (and great) things must come to an end

Glenn Mohre and Ian Peksa: All good (and great) things must come to an end


The album completed, the band soldiered on through four dazzling encores.

First up, Bryan Scary returned to tell the tawdry, under-told tale of The Seven Deadly Finns.

This bawdy beast sits at the midpoint of an aesthetic arc drawn between the Beatles’ “Back in the U.S.S.R. and the Damned’s “1 of the 2.” Bursting with raw punk energy and sung with a lecherous sneer, it prefigured British punk by a good two years. Brimming with sexual double-entendres and cobbling together everything from Japanese erotic torture references to puns on the name of the, er, progenitor, of Systems Theory, it balances (however metastably) erotica with esoterica. Never released on any album, it remains one of Eno’s lesser-known masterpieces.

Although variety is the spice of life / A steady rhythm is the source...

''Although variety is the spice of life / A steady rhythm is the source...''


The altitudinous and grandiloquent Jim Sclavunos returned for a jaunty regaling of Backwater:

Jim Sclavunos: recasting the logistics and heuristics of the mystics

Jim Sclavunos: recasting the logistics and heuristics of the mystics

Jim Sclavunos and the Trouble Dolls: slated for becoming divine

Jim Sclavunos and the Trouble Dolls: slated for becoming divine


John Schaefer and Vernon Reid returned to the stage, for a rousing and raging version of Third Uncle, beginning with a stratospheric multi-guitar rave-up, punctuated by the torrent that was Jim Sclavunos’ manic and propulsive timbales (made possible, apparently, by virtue of his inspired, impromptu, mid-rehearsal purchase of said drums).

Schaefer’s didactic delivery made for a subtle but nice shift from Eno’s original detached recitation. Having listened to the man through the radio box for about thirty (!) years, and being used to his calmly authoritative broadcasting demeanor, it was particularly gratifying to see him command as cacophonous a stage as this…

Jessica Bruder, Bill Bowen, Vernon Reid, Rob Christiansen and Jim Sclavunos:  all Heaven breaking loose

Jessica Bruder, Bill Bowen, Vernon Reid, Rob Christiansen and Jim Sclavunos: all Heaven breaking loose

Glenn Mohre, Jessica Bruder, Bill Bowen and Vernon Reid: more Heaven, more breaking

Glenn Mohre, Jessica Bruder, Bill Bowen and Vernon Reid: more Heaven, more breaking

Eno sayeth: ''There was John...''

Eno sayeth: ''There was John...''


For the dramatic conclusion, Dominic Cipolla and Cheri Leone re-possessed the stage for The Jezebel Spirit, the right funky exorcism rite that concluded Side One of Eno/Byrne’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts album (Remember albums? Remember sides?)

Armed with only his bible, some dangling religious tchotchkes and a bullhorn, Cipolla successfully called Jesus “Out… Out…” and expelled the Jezebel spirit that dwelled deep within Cheri…

… or did he?!?!?

Dominic Cipolla and Cheri Leone: ''Out. Out Jezebel. Come out now!!''

Dominic Cipolla and Cheri Leone: ''Out. Out Jezebel. Come out now!!''

3/4 of The Trouble Dolls and all of Glenn Mohre, keeping the deadliest of grooves

3/4 of The Trouble Dolls and all of Glenn Mohre, keeping the deadliest of grooves

''I break your power Jezebel.  Loosen your hold on her mind...''

''I break your power Jezebel. Loosen your hold on her mind...''


And thusly, the evening ended.

The core group did a heroic job throughout, successfully channeling the many moods of this protean production.

They, and the guest singers and musicians put on a blazing show that successfully captured the anarchy that first forced its way into unsuspecting ears nearly forty years ago. The audience made their pleasure known:

Lost forever in a happy crowd.

Lost forever in a happy crowd.

The bottom line: You should have been there.

With any luck, Messrs. C and E will be bringing this show to your town in time for this grand album’s proper anniversary………………….

 Posted by at 5:37 pm
Jan 082012
 

Friendly coup cum teenage dance party.

Featuring, after about eight minutes, Wobble on drums — rather than sheepishly miming their “hits,” the band rightly embraced the artifice, first by forsaking their prerecorded roles, and ultimately by swapping instruments … An undoubtedly surprised Dick Clark proved to be a very good sport about the whole affair (while the show’s insurance underwriter probably had an apoplectic fit):

 Posted by at 12:28 am
Jan 072012
 

This weekend is and will continue to be replete with bespoke Music for Fans.

First up, last night, NYC’s ambient cognoscenti were treated (literally and figuratively—the show was free) to a lush, luscious, and transportive audiovisual rendering of Brian Eno‘s Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks album in the spacious World Financial Center Winter Garden.

The free event, dubbed The Apollo Project”, was the kick-off of this year’s New York Guitar Festival.

The core of the group consisted of instrumental duo itsnotyouitsme (violinist Caleb Burhans and guitarist Grey McMurray) playing guitar, violin and keyboards, Bob Dylan/Levon Helm/Woodstock Mountains Revue alum Larry Campbell on pedal steel, and Phish bassist Mike Gordon.

The were joined, at various times, by musicians Jeff Parker (Tortoise), Noveller‘s Sarah Lipstate, and veteran master of guitar-texture David Torn. They were accompanied, throughout, by visuals extracted from filmmaker Craig Teper‘s as-yet-unfinished documentary about Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell, “Man in the Right Seat.”

Apollo has always struck me as a unique album, its drifting spacescapes like the empyrean An Ending (Ascent) interspersed among airy country-inflected pieces like the lilting Deep Blue Day. Country music made a strong impression on a young Eno, who listened to American Armed Forces radio as a child in Woodbridge. In Eno’s hands, the Very American form takes on a quintessential, aethereal, almost weightless quality.

In the hands of the Apollo Project musicians, the diaphonous raw material was given propulsive power, lifting and carrying the audience into the lunar, cosmic, Earth-from-afar and occasionally abstract realms depicted on the raised-high video screen.

The main ingredient for me was Larry Campbell’s pedal steel. As I learned, not too long, ago, the mechanics behind creating deceptively-simple-sounding pedal steel parts are incredibly complex (be it on a real or sampled instrument). Campbell’s playing was exhilarating and infused the material with an unexpected vigor and liveliness, whether he was filling the low end with drone, punctuating walls of sound with sharply-plucked high notes, or gently lifting/lowering the audience with perfectly-placed glisses. Free from the tired tropes of ‘new’ country, this pedal steel soared through Terra incognita (or perhaps, using Lunar nomenclature, Mare incognitum)…

David Torn brought some well-controlled, perfectly-manicured feedback and six-string manipulation to the proceedings, sounding in spots like Live at Pompeii‘s Echoes‘ midsection’s David Gilmour, on aestheroids.

This was a wonderful, soothing warm-up for Sunday night’s sure-to-be-raucous Here Come the Warm Jets Tribute at Joe’s Pub.

 Posted by at 12:25 am