February Live Music Reviews

winter tree

I saw a number of friends’ bands over the last couple of weeks and thought I’d give them all reviews and plugs.

Spanglish Fly, Feb 19, Rose, Brooklyn — I’ve known the leader of Spanglish Fly, trumpeter Jonathan Goldman, for about eight years as he played on the corporate softball team I coached. He led a New Orleans style jazz band for a few years, then lived in New Orleans for a few years and came back and formed this band. These guys are bringing back the boogaloo sounds of Spanish Harlem in the 1960s and 70s mixing mambo, soul, latin jazz, and funk typified by supergroups like the Fania All-Stars. They’re playing live a lot and are highly recommended! See link above for schedule.
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Playing with Buildings and Armory Shows

Stairs, shadows -- SFMOMA
Stairs, shadows at SFMOMA

One of the must-do fun things to do in NYC this summer is visit the Battery Maritime Building where David Byrne has installed an organ that plays the different pieces of an old building. New York Times has a write up with video today.

This reminded me of an episode: My senior year at UCSB, I took part in an “Armory Show” at the SB Armory. I was taking a free-form art class with painter/pianist Dick Dunlap who is probably the sweetest and most soft-spoken professors I ever had. Anyway, he and some friends had invented/built some instruments out of found and new materials and he invited members of this class to play the instruments at a show at the Santa Barbara Armory which is similar to the building where Byrne has his organ in that it’s mostly a giant old room.

I only remember two instruments. The first was the Stringed Tongue Coffin which was a vertical tongue-shaped box with a taut cable strung from the top to a flat sheet of plywood that was attached to the bottom at an angle. By stepping on the plywood you could control the pitch somewhat and play the string by plucking it or with a giant bow made of plumbing hose and wire. I played this instrument as I seemed best at making it loud. (I’m a bass player after all.) The other instrument was the Piano Harp which was stringed guts of a piano bolted to a flat wooden crate. You could either play the strings with mallets or by strumming it like a harp. This was played by my housemate, Craig Dunham. Damn, I wish there was video or even photos of this event. The video of David Byrne’s piece almost brought me all the way back… I just need to remember those other instruments. (Senior moment.)

Unfortunately, I’m going to miss it but this Saturday night to Sunday morning is the Bang on a Can marathon at the World Financial Center. Highly recommended for anyone with even a remote interest in new music.

Music Is a Fuzzy Cathedral

Riverside Church
Riverside Church – fuzzy mode

I lost my camera a couple days ago but I’ll post some rejects.

Eighth Blackbird performed at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall last night. Playing a piece written for them called “Double Sextet” — hence written for 12 musicians — 8bb actually play against a recording of themselves playing the other half of the piece. Neat. All the naysayers who don’t like new music should really see a Steve Reich piece performed live. This rehearsal video of Music for 18 Musicians only begins to convey what it’s like.

The other half of the program, also a New York premiere, was a piece by Bang on a Can. Not as satisfying as the Reich piece and difficult to digest in its variety, it’s still a blast seeing serious musicians having some serious fun, even making their choreographed moves look completely unpremeditated. Ouch, using too many big words.

For an interesting flipside, my friend and I snuck into the main hall to hear Asha Bhosle perform for the Indian glitterati and other fans. Believed to have recorded / sung some 12,000 songs, you could say she’s the Sinatra of India although I don’t think ol Blue Eyes, Ella Fitzgerald, and Tony Bennett combined could touch that number. Anyway, hearing the Bollywood twist on the pop music form after 8bb was like going to hear Olivia Newton-John after a Slayer show. Sugar cookies after jalapeno poppers. I could go on…