New York Music Daily

Global Music With a New York Edge

New York City Live Music Calendar for July and August 2015

This calendar isn’t even close to being completely updated. It’s gonna take until the end of the July 4 weekend to get everything for the later part of the month up here. Of all the regular features at this blog, this is by far the most labor-intensive. It’s always about a 72-hour project…but that’s what long weekends are for!

You might even want to bookmark this page and check back regularly to see what’s new, considering that there are new events added every day. There’s a comprehensive, recently updated list of places where these shows are happening at New York Music Daily’s sister blog Lucid Culture.

This is not a list of every show in town – it’s a carefully handpicked selection. If this calendar seems short on praise for bands and artists, it’s because every act here is recommended if you like their particular kind of music. Many different styles to choose from here, something for everyone.

Showtimes listed here are set times, not the time doors open – if a listing says something like “9ish,” that means it’ll probably start later than advertised. If you see a show listed without the start time, that’s because either the artist, their publicist or the venue in question sent incomplete info – those acts are usually listed last on a particular date.  Always best to check with the venue for the latest information on set times and door charges, since that information is often posted here weeks in advance. Weekly events first followed by the daily calendar.

On select Thursdays and Saturdays, an intimate, growing piano music salon on the Upper West Side featuring iconoclastically insightful, lyrical pianist Nancy Garniez – a cult favorite with an extraordinarily fluid, singing, legato style – exploring the delicious minutiae of works from across the centuries.  Sugg don $30 (pay what you can), delicious gluten-free refreshments, beverages and lively conversation included! email for info/location.

Mondays at 6 PM global jazz chanteuse Gracie Terzian – whose axe is the harp ukulele – plays her chaming low-key originals and classics at the rooftop bar at Hotel Hugo, 525 Greenwich St (Vandan/Spring), free for happy hour, no minimum

Mondays at 7 PM multi-instrumentalist Dennis Lichtman’s popular western swing band Brain Cloud at Barbes followed at 9:30 PM by a variety of south-of-the-border-style bands playing cumbias, boogaloo, salsa, maybe all of the above.

Mondays at the Jazz Standard it’s all Mingus, whether with the Mingus Orchestra, Big Band or Mingus Dynasty: as jazz goes, it’s arguably the most exhilarating show of the week, every week. The first-rate players always rise to the level of the material. Sets 7:30/9:30 PM, $25 and worth it.

Also Monday and Tuesday nights Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks, a boisterous horn-driven 11-piece 1920s/early 30’s band play Iguana, 240 W. 54th St ( Broadway/8th Ave) , 3 sets from 8 to 11, surprisingly cheap $15 cover plus $15 minimum considering what you’re getting. Even before the Flying Neutrinos or the Moonlighters, multi-instrumentalist Giordano was pioneering the oldtimey sound in New York; his long-running residency at the old Cajun on lower 8th Ave. is legendary. He also gets a ton of film work (Giordano wrote the satirical number that Willie Nelson famously sang in Wag the Dog).

Mondays nights at 9 PM charismatic Romany singer Eva Salina and her amazing, psychedelic band play high-voltage dub-tinged jams on classic themes from across the Balkans at Sisters Brooklyn, 900 Fulton St. (Washington/Waverly), Ft Greene, C to Clinton-Washington, free

Mondays at the Vanguard the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra – composer Jim McNeely’s reliably good big band vehicle – plays 9/11 PM, $30 per set plus drink minimum.

Mondays at 10 PM there’s been quite a buzz about acoustic songbird Angela McCluskey and saxophonist Paul Cantelon’s weekly residency at the third stage at the Rockwood, with a rotating cast of high-quality special guests. It’s expensive: $15 plus a $10 drink minimum very strictly enforced.

Also Mondays in July Rev. Vince Anderson and his band play Union Pool in Williamsburg, two sets starting around 11:30 PM. The Rev. is one of the great keyboardists around, equally thrilling on organ or electric piano, an expert at Billy Preston style funk, honkytonk, gospel and blues. He writes very funny, very politically astute, sexy original songs and is one of the most charismatic, intense live performers of our time. It’s a crazy dance party til past three in the morning. Paula Henderson from Burnt Sugar is the lead soloist on baritone sax, with Dave Smith from Smoota on trombone, with frequent special guests.

Tuesdays in July, 8:30 PM the George Gee Swing Orchestra play surprising new arrangements of old big band standards at Swing 46, 349 W 46th St,  $15

Tuesdays in July clever, fiery, eclectic ten-piece Balkan/hip-hop/funk brass maniacs Slavic Soul Party  at 9 PM at Barbes. Get there as soon as you can as they’re very popular. $10 cover.

Tuesdays at around 10 Julia Haltigan and her band play 11th St. Bar. A torchy, charismatic force of nature, equally at home with fiery southwestern gothic rock, oldschool soul and steamy retro jazz ballads, and her band is just as good as she is.

Wednesdays in July and August, 6-8 PM a large percentage of NYC’s top accordionists descend on Bryant Park, playing their own stuff at various points throughout the space. Look out for Jenny Luna playing Turkish classics on 7/1; avant jazz/klezmer star Shoko Nagain on 7/15; haunting Balkan/Romany chanteuse Eva Salina and also indescribably good Japanese Balkan band the Dolomites on 7/22; and Gregorio Uribe doing cumbias on 8/5, just for starters.

Wednesdays in July, 8:30 PM guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg (of Dr. Lonnie Smith’s band) leads a trio at the Bar Next Door, $12.

Wednesdays at 9 PM Feral Foster’s Roots & Ruckus takes over the Jalopy, a reliably excellent weekly mix of oldtimey acts: blues, bluegrass, country and swing.

Thursdays in July starting on the 9th, 7:30 PM spine-tingling art-rock/avant-garde/chamber pop singer Carol Lipnik – pretty much everybody’s choice for best singer in all of NYC – with hypnotically luminous pianist Matt Kanelos – at Pangea on 2nd Ave. btw 11th/12th Sts, $20. Several special guests are promised, including the amazing Rachelle Garniez on the 9th.

Fridays at 5 PM, adventurous indie classical string quartet Ethel (Ralph Farris, viola; Dorothy Lawson, cello; Kip Jones, violin; and Tema Watstein, violin) play the balcony bar with a rotating cast of interesting special guests at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, free w/museum adm.

Fridays in July at 9 Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens play oldschool 1960s style gospel at the Fat Cat.

Saturdays in July at 4 PM at Bargemusic there are impromptu free classical concerts, usually solo piano or small chamber ensembles: if you get lucky, you’ll catch pyrotechnic violinist/music director Mark Peskanov and/or the many members of his circle. Early arrival advised.

Saturdays in July, 6 PM jazz guitarist Anders Nilsson leads a series of ensembles at Barbes: a revamped classic or two, rhythmic intensity, consistent tunefulness and plenty of lively interplay

Saturdays eclectic compelling Brazilian jazz chanteuse Marianni and her excellent band at Zinc Bar, three sets starting at 10 PM.

Sundays there’s a klezmer brunch at City Winery, show starts around 11:30 AM – 2 PM, $10 cover, no minimum, lots of good bands.

Every Sunday the Ear-Regulars, led by trumpeter Jon Kellso and (frequently) guitarist Matt Munisteri play NYC’s only weekly hot jazz session starting around 8 PM at the Ear Inn on Spring St. Hard to believe, in the city that springboarded the careers of thousands of jazz legends, but true. This is by far the best value in town for marquee-caliber jazz: for the price of a drink and a tip for the band, you can see world-famous players (and brilliant obscure ones) you’d usually have to drop $100 for at some big-ticket room. The material is mostly old-time stuff from the 30s and 40s, but the players (especially Kellso and Munisteri, who have a chemistry that goes back several years) push it into some deliciously unexpected places.

Sundays in July, 8:30 PM purist guitarist Peter Mazza – who gets the thumbs up from bop-era legend Gene Bertoncini – leads a series of trios at the Bar Next Door.

7/1, 8 PM one of NYC’s most charmingly edgy voices and clever, terse tunesmiths, Tamara Hey at the Slipper Room, $10

7/1, 8:15 PM cult favorite Americana soul songstress Dina Regine followed by dark, smart, edgy post-Velvet rock songwriter and former Band of Susans guitarist Anne Husick playing the album release show for her new one at Sidewalk

7/1, 8:30 PM all-female UK lo-fi/punk/garage band Pins – sort of like the bastard child of the early Go Go’s and Wire play the Mercury, $12 adv tix rec

7/1, 8:30 PM bassist Lauren Falls leads an imaginatively arranged all-female octet with four singers playing a Joni Mitchell tribute at Cornelia St. Cafe, $10 + $10 min.

7/1, 9 PM Dervisi feat. guitar god Steve Antonakos play “exotic Greek gangsta blues” at at Troost in Greenpoint

7/1, 9 PM tango dancing with music by all-star Argentines Trio Milonguero: Pedro Giraudo, bass – Ariel Iud, bandoneon and Maurizio Najt, Drom, $17 includes a beer!

7/1-2, 10ish 90s relevant hip-hop icon Talib Kweli with a full band at Brooklyn Bowl, $20 adv tix a must

7/2, 7 PM tuneful, anthemic, intense neoromantic/indie classical ensemble the Founders play the album release show for their auspicious new debut at the big room at the Rockwood

7/2, 7 PM long-rnnning, perennially tuneful janglerockers/powerpopsters Bubble at the small room at the Rockwood

7/2, 7:30 PM high-energy, politically-fueled Mexican rockers Las Cafeteras at the Linclon Center Atrium, free, early arrival advised

7/2, 8 PM this blog’s new favorite songwriter, unselfconsciously haunting, richly lyrical great plains folk noir chanteuse Ember Schrag – whose recent adventures in dark psychedelic rock have been pretty amazing – at Hifi Bar, free

7/2, 8 PM dark, charismatic, mischieviously witty literate keyboardist/chanteuse Rachelle Garniez followed at 10 by Up and Down Hands, a jazz tribute to Pakistani film music at Barbes

7/2, 8 PM intense indie classica/art-song chanteuse Haley Fohr a.k.a. Circuit des Yeux followed at 9 by postrock chamber ensemble Bing & Ruth at Subculture, $12 adv tix rec

7/2, 9 PM psychedelic reggae-funk band Mad Satta play the album release show for their new one at Drom, $10 gen adm

7/2, 10 PM 10 PM intense, fearless Romany/Balkan chaunteuse Eva Salina and her allstar brass/accordion band at Friends and Lovers

7/2, 10ish ex Bee & Flower bandleader/bassist Dana Schechter’s haunting, intense, grimly cinematic instrumental project Insect Ark play the album release show for their new one at St. Vitus

7/2, 11 PM noiserock legends Blind Idiot God at Paperbox, $10

7/3, 5:30 PM the Night Owls – Lee Feldman‘s piano trio inspired by Vince Guaraldi, Horace Silver and Ramsey Lewis – at the Bartow-Pell Mansion, 895 Shore Road, Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx

7/3, 7 PM an African reggae festival at Drom with Sekou Bolomba, Martin & Terry, Oxygen Box Band, Allinor and others, $10 adv tix rc

7/3, 9:30 PM irresistibly charming oldtimey harmony/swing band the Ladybugs play the album release show for their new one at Joe’s Pub

7/3, 10 PM psychedelic, surfy, vallenato-influenced groovemeisters Los Crema Paraiso at Barbes

7/4, 8 PM the intriguing, piano-driven Alejandro Zuleta Vallenato Collective followed at 10 by upbeat Sinaloa-style Mexican mariachi/ranchera brass group Banda de los Muertos at Barbes

7/4, 8:30 PM lof-fi Balkan punks Stumblebum Brass Band at the Mercury, $10 gen adm

7/4, 9 PM an abbreviated lineup for Unsteady Freddie‘s monthly surf rock extravaganza at Otto’s with the Twang Twisters, all the way down from Binghamton, followed at 11 by tageless, jangly, purist NY originals the Supertones

7/5, 7:30 PM  soaring, brilliant singer Magda Giannikou’s lush, sweeping, pan-Mediterranean art-rock/chamber pop/jazz group Banda Magda at Pier 1 on the upper west, free

7/7, 8 PM singer/guitatarist Mia Wilson’s haunting, blues-infused, angst-ridden, psychedelic project with brilliant lead guitarist Quincy Ledbetter, the Bright Smoke at C’Mon Everybody, 325 Franklin Ave. (Clifton Pl./Greene Ave), Bed-Stuy, G to Classon Ave

7/7, 8 PM Yonder Mountain String Band at Brooklyn Bowl, $25, notice how their ticket prices have come down now they’re not playing Live Nation venues!

7/8. 6:30 PM PM Ramzi Aburedwan and the Dal’Ouna Ensemble in a U.S. Premiere Tour, with special guests vocalist Lena Seikaly, percussionist Tareq Rantisi, ‘oudist Ziad Ben Youssef, and accordionist Edwin the book launch for Sandy Tolan’s “Children of the Stone: The Power of Music in a Hard Land”, chronicling Aburedwan’s rise from stone-throwing Palestinian poster boy to world-famous oudist and composer at le Poisson Rouge, $20 adv tix rec

7/8, 6:30 PM clever, wry, popular newschool honkytonk crooner Hayes Carll at the Mercury, $20 adv tix a must. He’s back there on 7/22 an hour later, same price, same deal, better get your tix soon.

7/8, 7 PM edgy, sometimes unexpectedly dark, reggaeish grooves with the Afri-Garifuna Jazz Ensemble outdoors on the steps at the Brooklyn Public Library, free

7/9, half past noon hypnotically spiky West African grooves with Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba at Metrotech Park in downtown Brooklyn, free

7/9, 5 PM popular retro dance bandleader Felix Hernandez’s Rhythm Revue at NJPAC’s Theater Square, One Center St,, Newark, free, 5 minutes from the Path station

7/9, 8 PM catchy, fun ska/Caribbean groove band the Brown Rice Family play the album release show for their new one From Havana to Kingston at Drom

7/9, 9 PM haunting noir soundtrack guitarist/loopmusic composer Ben Von Wildenhaus with guest vocalists Clara Kennedy and Scott Matthew, resonator guitarist Zeke Healey and violist Karen Waltuch at Troost in Greenpoint

7/9, 9 PM acerbic female-fronted funk band Eliza & the Organix – feat. swirly alto sax player Kristen Tivey –at Rock Shop

7/10, 10ish hypnotically undulating Israeli/Eastern European dancefloor grooves with Balkan Beat Box at Brooklyn Bowl $17 adv tix rec

7/10, 7 PM high-energy, sardonic, horn-fueled Argentine ska-punk band Los Autenticos Decadentes at Prospect Park Bandshell

7/10, 10 PM lyrically brilliant, noirish, swamp punk/Americana rockers Shanghai Love Motel at the Parkside

7/10, 10:30 PM Mac McCarty & the Kidd Twist Band play their fiery, sometimes unexpectedly poignant Pogues-ish punk and folk noir at Sidewalk

7/11, 3 PM mighty horn-driven soul/circus rock band No Te Va Gustar, Ximena Sariñana – who does an unconvincing, suspiciously halfhearted corporate ranchera-rock thing – and meat-and-potatoes (carne y papas?) four-on-the-floor stadium rocker Vicentico at Central Park Summerstage

7/11, 6 PM Iraq war veteran and insightful Memphis Americana songwriter Bryan Hayes at Sidewalk

7/11, 8:30 PM newschool powerpop icons the New Pornographers at Prospect Park Bandshell

7/11, 9 PM Afrobeat legend/drummer Tony Allen leads Jungle By Night, a psychedelic groove band arguably as good and a lot more diverse than the Fela groups he worked with way back in the day, at Rough Trade

7/11, 9:30ish edgy, politically aware NYC Romany/latin/ska rockers Karikatura at give a mighty kickoff to their upcoming west coast tour witha show at Mehanata

7/11, 10 PM countrypolitan maven and fearlessly funny oldschool honkytonk outlaw Dale Watson at Bowery Ballroom, $16 adv tix rec

7/12, noon-5 PM the annual Bastillle Day celebration on 60th St. with performances by the Chorale Arpège from Martinique, the Franco-American electro/pop/swing band Ginkgoa, the Hungry March Band, insanely good street food, crepes, etc., face painting for the kids, it’s a lot of fun.

7/12, 3 PM a rare Cape Verdean triplebill: Dino D’Santiago, Mayra Andrade and the Cesária Évora Orchestra at Central Park Summerstage

7/12, 6 PM devious oldschool C&W/rockabilly parodists Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co. at Caracas Arepa Bar 106-01 Shore Front Parkway, on Rockaway Beach

7/12, 8ish a screening of the ferociuosly relevant, elegaic anti-gentrification documentary Sound & Chaos: The Story Of BC Studio followed by a performance by legendary producer/dark psychedelic rocker Martin Bisi and his band with with Bob Bert (Sonic Youth), Algis Kisys (ex-Swans) and many others tba at Littlefield, $10\

7/13-15, 8 PM legendary performance artist Penny Arcade debuts her new show Longing Lasts Longer, a witheringly hilarious, hauntingly poignant critique of gentrification and the ongoing death of artistic communities in New York at Theatre for the New City, 1st Ave (9/10), $15

7/14, 7:30 PM a Boston Symphony Orchestra chamber ensemble plays Nielsen’s Wind Quintet plus works by Mozart and Brahms at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park, free, early arrival advised

7/15, 7 PM the ageless George Clinton & his latest P-Funk incarnation at Queensbridge Park. 7/16 they’re at NJPAC’s Theater Square, One Center St,, Newark, free, 5 minutes from the Path station

7/15-16, 7/9 PM dazzlingly eclectic, witty B3 jazz organist Brian Charette leads his trio with Will Bernard and Rudy Royston at Smoke, $15

7/15, 9 PM cleverly hilarious newschool honkytonk crooner Hayes Carll at Rough Trade, $20

7/16, noon fiery fiddler Alicia Svigals‘ Klezmer Express at St. Marks Park, 2nd Ave and 10th St., free

7/16, half past noon George Clinton & P-Funk at Metrotech Park in downtown Brooklyn, free. Never seen the funk legend before? Wanna save forty bucks and not have to deal with the crowds? This is your place.

7/!6, 7 PM the increasingly darker, more Americana-oriented, wickedly lyrical Linda Draper at Sidewalk

7/16, 7;30 PM purist, socially conscious roots reggae cult favorite Taj Weekes & Adowa at Bric Arts, free, yes I!

7/16, 7:30 PM Algerian trance/groove band Gnawa Diffusion at the Lincoln Center Atrium, free

7/16, 8:30 PM smart, low-key guitar-fueled Ameripolitan tunesmithing: Robbie Fulks and Redd Volkaert play two sets as a duo at Union Hall, $15

7/16 a killer noir/Nashville gothic twinbill; haunting, intense, wickedly tuneful songwriter Jessie Kilguss and her band and the similarly simmering, menacingly lyrical sounnds of Karla Moheno at Hank’s. Kilguss is also at the American Folk Art Museum at 5:30 on 7/31.

7/16, 9:30 PM Malian desert rock guitar shredder Vieux Farka Toure at Prospect Park Bandshell

7/16-17 the Midwestern Willie Nile: dramatic, Celtic-tinged anthemic four-on-the-floor rockers the Ike Reillly Assassination at the Mercury

7/17, 7:30 PM the film Son of the Sheik with a live score by Alloy Orchestra and Ghost Train Orchestra at Prospect Park Bandshell

7/18, 4 PM nuevo salsa songwriter Jose Conde’s band Ola Fresca at FDR Park on Roosevelt Island, free

7/18, 7:30 PM cult favorite noirish crooner Joe Henry at Prospect Park Bandshell

7/18, 9ish dark Murder City garage/punk girlband the Detroit Cobras at Brooklyn Bowl, $15

7/18, 10ish period-perfect early 70s-style Aussie stoner art-rock/proto-metal band Mondo Drag at St. Vitus. You’ll think you’re at a Nektar concert

7/18 edgy dark Americana/ghoulabilly bassist/singer Jessica Lee Wilkes – of the Dirt Daubers – leads her own band at the Rockwood

7/19, 7 PM Ken Waldman – Alaska’s fiddling poet, joined by guitarist Charlie Shaw and some surprises followed by Americana guitarist Diana Jones,and then Bobtown – arguably the best, most eclectic and inarguably the most harmonically rich folk noir group around – at the Jalopy, $10. Waldman also leads a workshop there at 4 for $20 which includes a copy of his album.

7/21, 2 PM bouncy Polish folk tunees with the Glukh Polka Band at Flushing Town Hall, free

7/21, 7:30 PM pianist/songwriter Rachel Mason’s creepy, cinematic, historically rich multimedia art-rock suite The Lives of Hamilton Fish at Anthology Film Archives, with live vocals. She also plays with her band at Joe’s Pub on 7/26 at 7.

7/21, 7:30 PM the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra plays works by Haydn, Wagner and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park, free, early arrival advised

7/21, 8:30 PM wild, intense, frequently satirical newgrass/oldtimey hellraisers the Dustbowl Revival at Union Hall, $8

7/21, 10 PM cult fave British alt-country/cowpunk predecessors the Mekons at Bowery Ballroom, $25

7/22, 7 PM hypnotic, entrancing ghazal chanteuse/bandleader Kiran Ahluwalia at Madison Square Park

7/22, 8 PM moody acoustic soundtrack-style atmospherics with the Inner Banks at Union Hall, $10

7/22, 8:30 PM what’s left of legendary soul studio band the Muscle Shoals All-Stars with guests Bettye LaVette and Sam Moore at Damrosch Park out back of Lincoln Center

7/23, noon powerhouse percussionist Annette Aguilar & the Stringbeans septet mash up latin and Brazilian jazz and sounds from around the world at St. Marks Park, 2nd Ave and 10th St., free

7/23, half past noon high-voltage Houston gospel-funk band the Jones Family Singers at Metrotech Park in downtown Brooklyn, free

7/23, 9 PM atmopsheric singer Sandra Liliana Vasquez’s downtempo/trip-hop/art-pop band SLV – who are incredibly fun, kinetic and psychedelic to watch live – at Joe’s Pub, $15

7/24, half past noon the magically haunting, soaring all-female Mariachi Flor de Toloache at Madison Square Park

7/24, 5 PM the Queens Symphony Orchestra‘s brass section plays a program TBA at Flushing Town Hall, free

7/24, 7 PM torchy, Lynchian Guatemalan soul chanteuse/songwriter Gaby Moreno on the plaza at Lincoln Center

7/24, 10 PM psychedelic powerpop/new wave rocker Mike Rimbaud – arguably the closest thing to the Clash we have in NYC right now – at Nublu

7/24, time/price TBA legendary Japanese/Balkan/circus rock band the Dolomites at Bizarre Bar, 12 Jefferson St. in Bushwickm, J/M to Myrtle Ave.

7/25, 2-6 PM Rudy Bishop’s Young Acolytes Symphonic Steel Orchestra ccompany a Guyanese dance celebration at 2806 Newkirk Ave. between E. 28th and 29th St. in Flatbush, free

7/25, 3 PM New York’s Chinese American Arts Council put on an explosive performance of traditional music, dance and acrobatics on the plaza at Lincoln Center

7/25, 5 PM Niger’s desert rock guitar powerhouse Bombino at Central Park Summerstage

7/25, 3 PM golden age hip-hop cult favorite Big Daddy Kane finally makes it to Central Park Summerstage after toiling year after year in parks all over Brownsville and Staten Island

7/25 Django Haskins’ creepy circus rock/Waitsian oldtimey band the Old Ceremony at Joe’s Pub

7/26, 1-5 PM celebrate Eid al-Fitr with all sorts of cool music and tasty food at the 9th Annual Arab American Bazaar in Bay Ridge at Shore Road Park, use the entrance at 79th St. and Shore Rd.

7/26, 2 PM charming French chanteuse Violette and her ensemble La Vie En Rose bring a blend of chanson, Golden Age swing, American standards and Jazz/Pop at Flushing Town Hall, free

7/26, 7 PM timeless 60s folk icon Judy Collins at Damrosch Park

7/26, 7 PM the Newman & Oltman Guitar Duo with special guests Denis Savelyev (flute) and Jorge Torres (guitar) at Mannes School of Music 150 W 85th St, $25/$15 stud/srs

7/27, 7:30 PM amazing, intense Kansas City mother/son duo Madisen Ward & the Mama Bear – who mash up haunting blues, front porch folk and classic soul – at Joe’s Pub, $15, get your tix now because this will sell out.

7/28, 9 PM  beloved, adventurous young orchestra the Knights play play music by de Falla, Gluck, Ravel and more modern composers at Bryant Park, free

7/29, half past noon the eclectic Balkan/latin/New Orleans Underground Horns at Madison Square Park

7/29, 6 PM Ehren Hanson (tabla) + Abhik Mukherjee (sitar) play ragas at the Rubin Museum of Art, free w/museum adm

7/29, 7PM lush, eerie, psychedelic, Lynchian southwestern gothic/Tex-Mex band Orkesta Mendoza at Damrosch Park out back of Lincoln Center

7/29, 9ish conscious Rasta dub reggae sensation Jah9 with sound system Dubtronic Kru at SOB’s, $20

7/30, 7 PM Brazilian rainforest band Forró in the Dark plays John Zorn followed by Cyro Baptista’s Banquet of the Spirits and explosive Brazilian percussion troupe Letieres Leite & Orkestra Rumpilezz in their U.S. debut with special guests pianist Arturo O’Farrill and trumpeter Steven Bernstein at Damrosch Park out back of Lincoln Center

7/30, 7 PM Mexican punk rockers Los Seis Pistos – who channel three decades of scorching guitar fury – at Bowery Electric, $7

8/1, 1 PM Bulgarian songstress Vlada Tomova‘s haunting, enchanting, otherworodly Bulgarian Voices Trio on the plaza at Lincoln Center

8/1, 4 PM the Night Tripper himself, Dr. John at Central Park Summerstage: get there when the doors open at 3.

8/1 third-wave ska/soul/blues cult favorites the Slackers play the Rocks Off Concerrt Cruise aboard the Nautical Express, boarding at 6 PM, sailing at 7 PM from Pier 36 – 299 South St,  $30 adv tix avail. at the Rocks Off office out behind the heliport at 23r d St. and the East River or the Highline Ballroom box ofc.

8/2, 1 PM sitar virtuoso Ikhlaq Hussain on the plaza at Lincoln Center

8/2, 3:30ish kitchen sink Brazilian/C&W/funk/New Orleans band Nation Beat‘s Carnival Caravan featuring Cha Wa and Nação Zumbi at Central Park Summerstage

8/2, 6:30 PM iconic, enigmatic noir countrypolitan/torch jazz songwriter/bandleader Eleni Mandell at the Mercury, $10

8/4, 7 PM 80s salsa romantica nostalgia with Tito Nieves at East River Park

8/4, 7:30 PM the amazing East Coast Chamber Orchestra play works by Biber, Francesco Geminiani and Tschaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C major, at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park, free, early arrival advised

8/4, 7:30 PM 80s hip-hop nostalgia with Kool Moe Dee, Rob Base, Biz Markie and Dr. Roxanne Shante at Wingate Field in Crown Heights, watch your back.

8/4, 11 PM Penelope Houston‘s recently revitalized, legendary first-wave punk band the Avengers play their first-ever Brooklyn show at the Bell House, $18 adv tix req., if this doesn’t sell out, something’s seriously wrong with this city

8/5, 5 PM the Queens Symphony Orchestra’s string section plays a program TBA at Flushing Town Hall, free

8/5, 8:30 PM swirling avant garde ensemble Dither Guitar Quartet with guitariists Mark Steward and Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, plus Yo La Tengo, plus possibly lots of jamming and cross-pollination at Damrosch Park out back of Lincoln Center

8/6, 7 PM 60s latin soul legends Ray Lugo and the Boogaloo Destroyers with special guests powerhouse trumpeter Pete Rodriguez plus Richie Ray and Joe Bataan – with special guests of his own – at Damrosch Park out back of Lincoln Center

8/6, 9 PM the Thurston Moore band at Bowery Ballroom, $17 adv tix req

8/7, 8:15 PM sardonically funny, lyrically brilliant Beatlesque/Costelloesque powerpop songwriter Walter Ego followed by Mac McCarty & the Kidd Twist Band playing their fiery, sometimes unexpectedly poignant Pogues-ish punk and folk noir at Sidewalk

8/7, 8:30 PM recently resurgent 70s roots reggae vets Third World at Prospect Park Bandshell

8/7, 8:30 PM gospel night with long-rnnning legends the McCrary Sisters and the Fairfield Four at Damrosch Park out back of Lincoln Center

8/8, 2 and 4 PM gorgeously slinky, period-perfect 1950s-style Egyptian film music revivalists Zikrayat at Queens Library at Broadway, 40-20 Broadway, Long Island City

8/8, 3 PM the Quebe Sisters play their harmony-driven Americana on the plaza at Lincoln Center

8/8, 7:30 PM the all-star Watkins Family Hour featuring Sean & Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek, Fiona Apple, Don Heffington, Sebastian Steinberg, Aimee Mann, Pokey LaFarge, and special guests play am acoustic version of Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited in its entirety at Damrosch Park out back of Lincoln Center

8/9, 3 PM popular Americana/gospel artist Iris DeMent on the plaza at Lincoln Center

8/9, 4 PM groovemistress/cellist/singer Marika Hughes & Bottom Heavy at East River Park

8/9, 7 PM popular countrypolitan songwriter Lyle Lovett and his Large Band at Damrosch Park out back of Lincoln Center

8/11, 7:30 PM reggae lite and dancehall hits with Maxi Priest and Gyptian at Wingate Field in Crown Heights, watch your back

8/13, 5 PM salsa legend Jose Alberto “El Canario” and band at NJPAC’s Theater Square, One Center St,, Newark, free, 5 minutes from the Path station

8/13 African roots reggae crooner Rocky Dawuni at SOB’s. 8/14 he’s at the Lincoln Center Atrium

8/14, 8:30 PM smart, original, lyrically-fueled, intricate newgrass band Cricket Tell the Weather at the third stage at the Rockwood, $10 + $10 drink minimum strictly enforced

8/15, 2 and 4 PM, intense, fearless Romany/Balkan chaunteuse/accordionist Eva Salina airs out her repertoire of haunting, otherworldly Romany and Jewish folk songs at Queens Library of Forest Hills, 108-19 71 Ave, Forest Hills

8/18, 5ish the king of the literate, surrealist downtown NYC rock anthem, Willie Nile in the parking lot out back of City Winery, free

8/20, 5 PM imaginative, colorful guitarist/reedman Art Baron leads his combo at FDR Park on Roosevelt Island, free

8/21, 5:30 PM haunting, stark, lyrically brilliant gothic Americana duo Mark Rogers & Mary Byrne at the American Folk Art Museum

8/21, 9ish the Oliver Lake Big Band at Marcus Garvey Park

8/22, 3 PM the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival with saxophonist Camille Thurman, drummer/bandleader/personality  Jeff “Tain” Watts and B3 organ groove legend Dr Lonnie Smith at Marcus Garvey Park

8/23, 3 PM the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival with retro crooner Michael Mwenso, luminously lyrical pianist Myra Melford and pyrotechnic alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa‘s Parker tribute, Bird Calls at Tompkins Square Park

9/2, 7 PM this era’s state-of-the-art retro soul band, Lake Street Dive at Central Park Sum

John Kelly Winds Up His Memorably Tragicomic Performance Piece on Governors Island

The foreshadowing of Jarrod Beck‘s masterfully surreal, decaying, apocalyptic steampunk set design for John Kelly‘s latest performance piece, Love of a Poet, intimated a cruelly ominous fate for its protagonist. Based on Robert Schumann’s Dichterliebe song cycle setting of lovelorn Heinrich Heine poems, Kelly’s piece is a grimly tragicomic study in self-absorption. In typical multimedia fashion, Kelly employed projections of an alter ego of sorts, ghostly images of a girl strolling through a black-and-white Blair Witch-style set, at either end of the set while he sang and performed the suite with his usual nuance, operatic flair and lithely muscular grace.

Pianist Christopher Cooley opened with blackly menacing, minimalist motives, building to an aptly murky, riveting ambience from which Kelly arose, literally, from flat on his back, just beyond the sold-out crowd’s sightline. From there the two worked a dynamically rich tension, both singer and pianist sometimes veering into rubato, each following the other, raising the level of angst and fullscale alienation.

Kelly is an artist who likes to push himself to the limits of how he portrays a character, both physically and on an emotional level, and this performance was no exception. Tragic historical figures are favorites of his. This interpretation of the doomed poet offered suspense – was he going to bury himself alive, drown himself, stab himself, all of the above, or survive it all? – as well as Kelly’s signature wry humor. A brief, anachronistic bit involving a laptop was irresistibly funny. Even more so was the suite’s most vaudevillian number, a blackly droll little song whose gist was, in case any of you think that all this nonstop heartbreak is funny, it happens every day…and it’s gonna happen to you! There was a physical element to that which made it all the more priceless, but it’s too good to give away. Throughout the piece, Kelly worked from the soaring top to the eerily resonant bottom of his famously vast vocal range, singing in both the original German as well as in English, cautiously and then frantically weighing just how much torment an artist can take…or simply subject himself to.

Originally written to be performed at what is now the Governors Island ferry terminal, at the Battery, this new set took advantage of its new digs in the performance space on the lower level of the building just to the right of the Manhattan ferry landing on the island itself. The audience whisked themselves in, slowly, single file, being made to wade through gusty sheets of plastic. Was this more eerie foreshadowing? An immersive prelude to the struggle of the poor poet to maintain his santity?

Yesterday’s performance here was the final one, at least for now, although there are several other intriguing upcoming concerts on Governors Island, including the world premiere of a new large-scale composition by Serena Jost and Matthew Robinson for fifty-piece cello orchestra, outdoors on July 25 at 3 PM outdoors at the southwest corner of Fort Jay.

Tamara Hey Represents for Real New Yorkers at the Slipper Room

The dichotomy that runs through Tamara Hey‘s music is edgy, funny, picturesque New York-centric lyrics set to catchy, upbeat tunes with a purist pop sensibliity. Likewise, she balances the crystalline, unselfconscious charm of her vocals with what can be devastatingly amusing, deadpan between-song commentary. Her music has special resonance for those who consider themselves oldschool New Yorkers: Hey is sort of a songwriting Woody Allen of the Lower East Side…minus the celebrity and the ugly backstory. She’s playing the Slipper Room (Orchard and Stanton, upstairs over the big tourist restaurant) on July 1 at 7:30 PM; cover is $10.

And because there’s always an element of surprise when she plays live, she’s worth seeing more than once: this blog managed to catch a grand total of three of her shows over the past year at the Rockwood. One was a solo gig; two were with melodic bassist Richard Hammond, who managed to do double duty as rhythmic center and lead player, no easy feat. And the songs ran the gamut. One of the most charming numbers was Oscar & Bud, a vivid, minutely detailed portrait of a retired ex-showbiz couple who happen to be the narrator’s key people (i.e. they’ve got her spare keys – it’s a New York thing). That song looked back to vintatge Tin Pan Alley.

But Hey likes to mix it up. Drive, with its soaring chorus, 9/11 reference and get-me-the-hell-out-of-here theme, looked back to new wave, as did Miserably Happy (title track to her cult classic powerpop album), which evoked Blondie’s Dreaming. The rambunctiously pulsing, doo-wop tinged Alphabet City, a shout-out to familiar LES haunts which have lately been disappearing one after the other, took on a bittersweet quality. Likewise, We Lean on Cars, a snapshot of middle-school North Bronx anomie circa the early 90s. Hey and Hammond also ran through some more wrly entertaning snapshots of city life: David #3, weighing whether or not to succumb to the allure of a Mr. Wrong, who happens to be a Red Sox fan; Mexico Money, a droll tale of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat; and You Wear Me Out, a clever number about how macho guys sometimes turn out to be the most insecure ones. The C-Note may be long gone, Lakeside Lounge too, and Cafe Pick-Me-Up is moving to East 7th Street, but Tamara Hey still represents for the neighborhood.

And when she’s not playing gigs, she’s busy running Alphabet City Music, who offer economical and informative courses in guitar and applied music theory for players of all levels. This blog covered her introductory music theory course last year and found it both immensely challenging and also immensely useful. By the way, just in case anyone might assume ulterior motives, i.e. sucking up to the prof, to explain why this blog has been at so many of her recent shows, let’s set that record straight. The course was offered during the summer; two of those shows were in the fall and one was this past January.

Hauntingly Atmospheric Art-Rock Instrumentals from Brilliant Bassist Dana Schechter’s Insect Ark

Dana Schechter is one of this era’s great bass players. Her sinewy, biting low-register lines brought an unexpected elegant and grace to Michael Gira’s Angels of Light. After that, she led the hauntingly cinematic Bee & Flower. Her latest project, the richly atmospheric art-rock instrumental band Insect Ark with Taurus drummer Ashley Spungin, might well be her darkest yet. They’re headlining at St. Vitus on July 2 at 11 PM; cover is $10. Dead Kennedys-influenced Pennnslvania hardcore/punk band the Abandos open the night at 8 followed by Pawns – good luck finding them on the web – and then keyboardist Shari Vari’s 80s-tinged darkwave pop project Void Vision.

It’s amazing how much density, and mighty majesty, and how many cumulo-nimbus textures Schechter gets out of just lapsteel, keys, bass and drums on the new album, Portal/Well. What’s most impressive is that Schechter plays all of the instruments herself. The title track sets the tone, a steady, ominously atmospheric dirge, dark washes of lapsteel and keys shifting through the picture, distorted chords lingering and then rising in a dense, grey mist, aching to break free.

The Collector builds from a creepy tritone synth loop with a minimalist bassline that brings to mind early Wire, picking up steam as it bends and sways, and ends up back where it started. Lowlands is a miniature, awash in sustain from slow-burning lapsteel. The album’s most epic track, Octavia, opens as an opaque, Richard Wright-like minimalist-yet-maximalist mood piece and takes on a deep-space grandeur as layers and layers of lapsteel cut through the mist, then create their own. The miniature that follows, Crater Lake, is the most straight-up Eno-esque atmospheric piece here.

Taalith – a reference to an eerily portentous Isabelle Eberbardt short story about a drowning – could be described as slowcore spacerock, anchored on the low end by growling bass and at the top by drifting sheets from the lapsteel: the Friends of Dean Martinez taking a slow, syncopated stroll on Pluto. Parallel Twin, with its doppler effects and unexpected drum accents, is the most cinematic and suspenseful, picking up with some tasty, chromatic bass chords: it’s the closest thing to Bee & Flower here. The final cut, Low Moon is the droniest and most surreal, its stygian waves contrasting with almost droll, lo-fi synth oscilations. Only one of the tracks – The Collector – is up at Insect Ark’s Bandcamp page, but there are a handful of similarly brooding, intense singles there, and more stuff at Soundcloud as well. And it almost goes without saying that Schechter is the rare artist whose work is always worth owning. If you want more info on this, one of the few reliably good music blogs, The Obelisk did a good piece on the band.

Lucinda Williams: Tipsy But Not Phoning It In at Prospect Park

Lucinda Williams was wasted last night. Then again, that’s her vocal shtick – that low, raspy drawl always sounds like she’s half in the bag. The giveaway at her Prospect Park Bandshell show was the looseness, the long jams that her fantastic band burned through (and sometimes didn’t seem sure about where Williams wanted to wrap them up), and when she talked to the audience. At least she threw a shout to Bernie Sanders into her ramble, which drew the most applause of the evening – until she lit into an ill-advised encore of Neil Young’s Keep on Rocking in the Free World, complete with Bon Jovi-style backing vocals, anyway. But the crowd loved that too.

And the boozy, dissociative approach worked. Williams may have had a cheat sheet held together with binder clips, but she wasn’t phoning anything in. When she finally got to Essence, the “I’ve been waiting in this bar” part of that big, gorgeous chorus was pure, straight-up authenticity. Likewise, the cynical TMI of Those Three Days, its wounded narrator snarling about“You found a hole and then you came.”

They opened with a stark, almost otherwordly, Howlin Wolf-inspired Something Wicked This Way Comes. Brilliant lead guitarist Stuart Mathis’ searing, blues-infused lines on Righteously evoked peak-era Mick Taylor, then bassist David Sutton built to a stomping conclusion with some neat chordal work. Then Mathis went into acidic swamp-rock mode for Buttercup, where he stayed for most of the set, beyond his sparsely jangly twelve-string lines on Drunken Angel.

Arguably the best song of the night was a new one, the bitterly swaying adolescent alienation anthem West Memphis, from Williams’ double-cd set Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone. The biggest hit of the night, at least til the FM radio rock covers of the encore, was a crushing doom-metal version of Unsuffer Me, so slow that it raised the question of whether the band had resurrected an obscure number by Black Sabbath or Sleep.

By the time the band got to Lake Charles, Williams was the picture of forlornness, abandoned and forsaken and drowning her sorrows. Then the songs got even sadder with the the vamping 2 Cool 2 Be Forgotten. From there, the band picked up the pace with a slinky take of Are You Down, part early Tom Petty, part Santana, drummer Butch Norton dueling it out with Mathis during a lively, latin-flavored doublespeed jam. After that, a new one, Foolishness, made a platform for more jamming and randomly caustic commentary on current events, Williams defiantly telling the crowd one thing that freedom means to her is that she can drink and drug however much she feels like.

Later numbers included another new one, Protection, which wasn’t much more than a one-chord jam; Get Right with God, which was more blues than gospel; and an expansive, rather haphazard, bluesily swaying take of Joy.  This year’s schedule of free outdoor shows at the Prospect Park Bandshell includes movies and plenty of other stuff besides just music, which as usual is a mixed bag. The next really enticing concert there is on July 10 at 7 PM with popular, humorous, brass-fueled Argentine ska-punk band Los Autenticos Decadentes.

Nathaniel Rateliff Reinvents Himself as a Kick-Ass, Original Soul Bandleader

What do you do if your singer-songwriter career stalls out? Reinvent yourself as an oldschool soul bandleader, maybe. Nathaniel Rateliff did it, with the same results as when Phil Niekro switched out the fastball for the knuckler, or when James Brown moved from behind the organ to take over the mic. Rateliff’s show last night, at a private event for media on the Lower East Side with his inspired new band the Night Sweats, was irresistibly fun, an auspicious kickoff to what’s becoming a marathon summer tour (dates are here).

The Alabama Shakes are just the tip of the iceberg: as any club booking agent knows, the retro 60s soul craze just refuses to stop, and Rateliff is the latest to catch the wave. On one hand his songs – vamping two-chord verses rising to even catchier, anthemic choruses – hardly pave any new ground. And a cynic might assail him for recycling riffs that any bar-band musician knows by heart. What makes Rateliff different is that he’s an excellent, distinctive lead guitarist. Playing through a reverb pedal turned up most of the way, his shivery, practically feral solos took the energy to redline every time and elevated the songs above the level of generic. And he doesn’t waste notes, either.

The band is excellent, too. Second guitarist Joseph Pope III distinguished himself with his fluency in vintage Memphis licks, and a hard-hitting, chord-chopping solo on the night’s last number. The bassist held down a steady, swinging groove in tandem with drummer Patrick Meese, who pushed the songs with a hard-hitting stadium rock drive. And organist Mark Shusterman harmonized meticulously with the two-man horn section, tenor sax and trumpet blending to deliver a sound a lot more hefty than you would think just three instruments could produce. This wasn’t Muscle Shoals, 1969 – it was state-of-the-art, 2015.

That being said, their style of soul rocks pretty hard and doesn’t go near jazz. They got to halfway through the set before they even hit a minor chord – after all, this is party music. But they do everything possible to keep the audience entertained, opening one number a-cappella with what sounded like five-part harmonies (everybody in the band sings, well), and bedeviled the audience (and themselves – this is a work in progress) with a series of trick endings. A slow nocturnal groove toward the end hinted at the Stones’ Gimme Shelter, but didn’t go there, instead rising to a more optimistic, animated peak, capped off with a searing Rateliff solo. They finally slowed down for a ballad in 6/8 right before the last song, which turned out to be a licketysplit shuffle possible titled Sonofabitch. If ithat in fact is the title, it will be a hit with every English-speaking six-year-old when it hits youtube, which it inevitably will. Be the first sonofabitch on your block to party to this band and bring your significant other.

Organist Christopher Houlihan Plays an Exhilarating, Insightful Program in Chelsea

Organist Christopher Houlihan has world-class chops and the kind of passion that most people who tackle playing the king of the instruments have in abundance. Houlihan’s strength is that he’s able to communicate that passion, not just with fast fingers and feet, but by engaging the audience with plenty of insight into both craft and history. At his Chelsea concert Thursday night at Holy Apostles Church, he recounted the tragic tale of composer Louis Vierne, who collapsed at the console at Notre Dame and landed on the very bottom pedal, serenading the audience with an ominous drone for more than a minute until someone figured out something wasn’t right and discovered his lifeless body. That incident is well known to fans of the organ repertoire; Houlihan also shared several other gloomy facts about the composer, whose symphonic cycle he played to much acclaim both in the organ demimonde and beyond it a couple of years ago. And then he followed with three movements from Vierne’s Symphony No. 4.

Houlihan explained that these would be somewhat uncharacteristic for the typically turbulent, sometimes wrathful Vierne, and they were: a mutedly balletesque take of the Menuet, a lively yet meticulous romp through the Romance and then the finale, which returned with a roar to emotional terrain more familiar to the composer.

Bookending the concert with pieces by Bach made sense, considering the darkly baroque colors of the organ. Houlihan described the popular Prelude and Fugue in E Minor, BWV 548 as a series of kaleidoscopic variations that went off on innumerable interesting tangents, then backed that up with a rippling, steady attack, making imaginative use of high woodwind voicings on the first part of the fugue. In a clever bit of programming, he also bookended a transcription of Brahms’ choral prelude No. 11 – the composer’s saturnine final work – with an early piece, the Prelude and Fugue in A Minor, an ambitious exercise in counterpoint.

Houlihan likened Henry Martin‘s Prelude and Fugue in B Flat Major to “what Gershwin would have done with a prelude and fugue,” and he was right on the money with that too. The world premiere of a commission from Michael Barone of NPR’s Pipedreams, from a series of twelve of those pieces in every key, after Bach, it turned out to be an intriguingly orchestrated series of circling phrases that eventually loosened with a ragtime-inflected flair. At the end of the program, the crowd – an especially large one – gave Houlihan a standing ovation and wouldn’t let up until he’d come back for the encore. The organ world needs more ambassadors like him.

The Grasping Straws Release Their Savagely Intense, Tuneful New Album at the Mercury

New York band the Grasping Straws have been through a lot of changes, but their latest incarnation is absolutely spine-tingling. Their ambitious debut ep – streaming at Bandcamp – introducd them as a rainy-day, jazz-tinged, jangly project in the same vein the Cardigans or Comet Gain. Their forthcoming album takes the energy up several thousand volts – wow! Frontwoman Mallory Feuer blends an otherwordly, raw, bluesy edge with the fearlessness of pre-meltdown Courtney Love, both vocally and guitarwise, instantly putting this group on the map as one of New York’s most distinctive, individualistic, exciting new bands. They’re playing the album release show on June 30 at 10:30 PM at the Mercury/ Sultry punk-folk-soul siren Liah Alonso – formerly of politically fueled rockers Left on Red – opens the night at 9:30 PM. Cover is $10.

Although there are some identifiable influences in the band’s sound, Fiona Apple first and foremost, their sound is unique. Feuer’s chords ring out with a reverbtoned, enigmatic edge, her vocals wailing, murmuring or occasionally rising to a goosebump-inducing scream with a sardonic lyrical bite while hard-hitting drummer Jim Bloom holds the songs to the rails. Sam Goldfine – formerly of popular alternative rock road warriors Beast Make Bomb – completes the picture as the band’s latest addition. Recorded in analog to two-inch tape, the album’s production has an immediacy that captures their rollercoaster live show.

The jaggedly catchy opening track, State of Affairs reflects the disarray left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the year Feuer, a native New Yorker, founded the band. She switches gears with the ghostly, stark intro to Home, building to an uneasy, acidic vintage Sonic Youth grit. Just a Memory welds wounded, blues-infused paisley underground psychedelia to a late 80s Seattle assault.

Bloom pushes How Will I Grow with a scrambling punk rock pulse; Feuer’s indignant vocals channel Heart’s Ann Wilson as second guitarist Rob Krug adds acid blues textures. Feuer takes Say It Ain’t So up to a frantic doublespeed attack, then flips the script with Your Face, which begins as a hauntingly spare reflection drenched in natural reverb, then rises to a shatteringly epic peak (listen to those multitracked screams at 2:17 – bone-chilling!). The final cut, Don’t Hold Your Breath, looks back to the enigmatic, jazz-inflected vein the band mined in their early days. First-class tracks wall to wall with this one: put it on the shortlist for best full-length debut of 2015.

Chris Dingman Releases His Richly Nocturnal New Album at WNYC”s Greene Space

Chris Dingman isn’t just a talented jazz vibraphonist: he’s a brlliant tunesmith. He probably scored his album release gig with his band the Subliminal and the Sublime this June 26 at 7 PM at the Greene Space because he wrote a popular WNYC radio theme that everybody in the organization knows, so nobody could say no to the idea. Cover is $15 and worth it: if magically enveloping, dreamy music is your thing, go to this show and get lost in it.

Truthfully, Dingman could probably write a catchy radio theme in his sleep. For this project, he’s assembled a crew of cutting-edge New York talent – Loren Stillman on alto sax, Fabian Almazan on piano, Linda Oh on bass, Ryan Ferreira on guitar and Justin Brown on drums – to play a warmly nocturnal series of longform compositions that in a previous century could be spliced into familiar tv themes, or film sequences. The opening track, Tectonic Plates works off a resonant, simple, echoing melody built by bowing the vibraphone, rising from the quietest, shifting shades to a balmy sax passage. Ferreira’s guitar switches from ambience to chords only as it ends.

The epic Voices of the Ancient is a throwback to the late 70s with its wavelike, dynamically shifting rhythm, Stillman taking centerstage judiciously. Much of Dingman’s work has a saturnine ambience, and this seventeen minute-plus piece is a prime example. From the intro, bassist Linda Oh manages to be both an anchor and a marionette simultaneously, Dingman and Almazan supplying a hypnotic glitter and then backing away as a 70s neon-jazz theme coalesces and then takes a long trajectory upward, Ferreira’s pinging guitar leading the way. They take it out with a long, gentle, steady postlude worthy of any Times Square documentary circa 1977.

The album’s gently but insistently cinematic centerpiece, The Pinnacles, rises from an intricately below-the-surface piano-and-vibraphone confluence of currents, making way for Stillman’s balmy sax. Dingman’s judiciously resonant lines bring to mind Milt Jackson, Stillman following a more offcenter tangent as Brown pushes the group to transcend 70s hippie tedium. And suddenly, just when you least expect it, there’s a long, pulsing moment of terror.

The lingering, expansive outro makes a comfortable segue into the album’s conclusion, All Flows Forth, with its gentle syncopation, insistent alternating rhythmic accents and interlocking, pointillistic polyrhythms. On the way out, the band swings it and sways it, emphatically and memorably. In an era where the Bush family, their collaborators and apologists are buying up global water assets, Dingman’s wary naturalistic themes make more sense than ever.

Gracie Terzian: Lightning in a Bottle

There was a construction crane over Gracie Terzian‘s head. But she didn’t seem stressed – and as it turned out, it didn’t fall, or drop a megaton load on her.

OK, it wasn’t directly over her head. Any angst she might have been feeling, swaying in front of her jazz quartet earlier this evening in the corner of the rooftop bar at the new Hotel Hugo on Greenwich Street just north of Spring, was probably coming from a much closer place. Looking south toward the financial district, the crane was in the background directly behind her. Metaphorically loaded New York image, perfectly crystallized, 2015.

Although she’s comfortable singing jazz standards, Terzian distinguishes herself by writing her own songs. Watching her, the restlessness was visceral, a carefully channeled intensity just waiting to bust out. And there was more than a hint that she would be more at home under lower lights, on a bigger stage. Granted, this was a night where just about everybody wanted out of their skin and into a walk-in fridge. “Waited twenty years before I could breathe,” she sang in her disarmingly straightforward, airconditioned alto – another perfectly extemporaneous, metaphorical moment.

Young jazz chanteuses tend to throw themselves in an audience’s direction, but not Terzian. She opened the night’s first set with her original Saints and Poets, a dare to anyone to match her individualism and willingness to go out on a limb. She gave the song a low-key allure, but left the door ajar for menace to enter the room, bending her blue notes with a nonchalance that could have gone totally Lynchian but didn’t. Much of her material was taken from her auspicious debut album, including Love Rest, where she deftly built a jazz waltz out of an oldschool soul vamp. And the cajolery in the casually cheery bossa-jazz number Sleepwalker had a dark undercurrent: “I sleepwalk, I apologize” – yikes!

Terzian’s band is the New Dominion, since everybody in the group hails from the Washington, DC area. Old Dominion, New Dominion, cute, huh? But cuteness doesn’t factor into Terzian’s songwriting or stage presence, or for that matter, the band. The rhythm section – bassist Charlie Himel and drummer Graham Doby – gave her a lithe, slinky backdrop and guitarist Brett Jones supplied every hip voicing in the book, shifting dynamically without any worry whether the extended family assembled on the banquette or the trio of soccer hooligans on the balcony were in on the magic the group were working to create. Terzian closed the set with Exit Strategy, its tense contemplation of a breakup channeled through brooding chromatics and unexpected key changes that flew off the page.

Terzian and the New Dominion continue their residency throughout the summer every Monday night starting at around 6:30 PM at Bar Hugo on the roof of the Hugo Hotel, 525 Greenwich Street just north of Spring, just a few blocks from either the C/E to Spring St. or the 1 to Houston. To call this place laid back is an understatement: there’s plenty of fancy food and drink available, or you can just chill and watch the clouds from the balcony.


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