LJ Murphy Loses a Keyboardist But Wins the Audience

by delarue

There was a sad undercurrent to LJ Murphy‘s ferocious show Saturday night at the Parkside: pianist Patrick McLellan is leaving for St. Louis. As Brooklyn gets more and more gentrified, the brain drain continues. Murphy never has to look far for top-level talent for his band – McLellan’s predecessor, since relocated to New Orleans, was Willie Davis – but this is a major loss to the New York music scene. McLellan took out all the packing and pulling-up-roots stress on the piano keys. The most intense number of the night was Mad Within Reason, which at its lurid core is a Weimar blues strut: McLellan flung jazz tropes like three-on-four rhythms and jaggedly atonal, jackhammer chords into the mix. The best song of the night was probably Fearful Town, where McLellan and guitarist Tommy Hoscheid gently and elegantly exchanged creepy, lingering noir tonalities as Murphy drew a morosely surreal portrait of a post-Giuliani East Village of tourist traps and the grotesqueries who congregate there.

Murphy’s new drummer Jacob Cavell was a good match for McLellan, with his counterintuitive flair and jazz flourishes: he’s a good addition to the band. With McLellan’s icepick intensity and Hoscheid’s blend of Stax/Volt and Memphis licks, the fact that the band didn’t have a bass player (Nils Sorensen on tour with his other band, popular Americana roots band Brothers Moving) didn’t matter. Meanwhile, Murphy put down his guitar and crooned through a stern, severe version of Doc Pomus’ Lonely Avenue into a deviously puckish take of Stormy Monday and then back. The catchy new wave jangle of Imperfect Strangers, the plaintive Muscle Shoals groove of Comfortable Cage and the deceptively upbeat, anthemic Pretty for the Parlor – a deliciously twisted Long Island serial killer ballad – were also in the mix. Since his legendary two-year residency at the old C-Note a few blocks further north, Murphy has typically played at least one Saturday night show in the neighborhood every month: watch this space.