New York Music Daily

Global Music With a New York Edge

Month: August, 2017

Castle Black Bring Their Towering, Magnificently Dark Roar to Arlene’s This Saturday Night

If you run a music blog, it’s especially validating to watch an artist or an act deliver on the promise of their early days.  A couple of years ago, power trio Castle Black weren’t all that tight, and they were still getting the hang of their instruments. But it was obvious they had something that most rock acts in this city don’t have: fearlessness. For one, they don’t fall back on all the lazy indie rock guitar cliches – the moveable chords, the open chords, the pilfered New Order and Cure licks – that all the richkid Bushwick bands use. Do Castle Black even know what a cliche is? OK, last Friday night at the Well, there were a couple of choruses during the band’s blistering, careeningly triumphant release show there for their latest short album Trapped Under All You Know that were pretty Ramonsey. But all punk bands do that.

Otherwise, it was impossible to tell was coming next, except that it was bound to be loud and hard and intense – and catchy. At the release show at Matchless this past winter for their video Dark Light, guitarist Leigh Celent was starting to really flex her chops as the savage lead player she’s always wanted to be. This time out, she was that person – and bassist Lisa Low is flexing too, with a lot of riffs instead of just a booming low resonance. Drummer Matt Bronner, who was the best musician in the band when they first started, now finds himself propelling one of the most powerful and interesting bands in town.

Celent is really cutting loose on the mic now too. She finally unleashed that wounded wail in all its vengeful glory in the night’s best song, in fact one of the year’s best songs, Broken Bright Star, through all sorts of permutations. finally bringing it full circle to the haggard, elegaic blown-tube opening riff. Watching as the band built steam from from there, through the bitterly anthemic Sabotage, the serpentine, jaggedly noisy Dark Light and then Next Thing, echoing 70s Patti Smith, was just as much fun.

A new number, Man on a Train followed an unpredictable path of doomed late-night imagery. Low’s suspenseful epic-Buzzcocks rumble as Rise slowly got underway gave Celent a long launching pad to burn out of. They ended the show with some of their catchiest numbers: Blind Curtain, which sounded like powerpop Blondie on steroids; Seeing in Blue, the new album’s opening track, smoldering with Fender Twin amp roar and machete postpunk riffage; and the sardonically funny classic punk encore, One Track Mind. Castle Black will probably do a lot of this at their next Manhattan gig this Saturday night, September 2 at 10 PM at Arlene’s. Cover is $10.

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Roopa Panesar Brings Her Concise, Purposeful, Individualistic Sitar Virtuosity to Lincoln Center Next Week

Roopa Panesar is one of the most highly regarded rising stars of Indian classical music. While she isn’t personally responsible for breaking the gender barrier as a sitar player, male sitarists still outnumber women by a wide margin. Panesar is bringing her dynamic technique and unselfconsciously vivid, intense solos to the atrium space at Lincoln Center on Broadway just north of 62nd St. on Sept 7 at 7:30 PM to inaugurate this season’s new program of artists taking traditional raga sounds to unexpected places. Because this is a free show, the earlier you get there, the better your chances of getting a seat.

An early look at her forthcoming second album reveals all sorts of  treats. One of Panesar’s signature traits that jumps out at you from the first few precise, propulsive phrases from her sitar is how tersely she plays. If Panesar likes to indulge audiences in long, expansive nocturnes to lull everybody into a trance state, that isn’t evident here. She doesn’t even open this in a traditional vein with an alap (improvisation). Right from the start of the first suite, Ramdas Ji, similarly low-key tabla is present.

Panesar’s sparse, lingering, deep-sky searching motives and deliciously subtle echo phrasing shift to a brisk, more insistent, series of precise, crescendoing cadenzas: again, she holds back from ecstatically shivery bent-note intensity until she really wants to drive a point home.

The next-to-last section brings the initial brooding mode into close, pensive, vividly desolate focus, then the rhythm comes in and Panesar veers offcenter for a few bars: the effect is subtle but stunning. Then she takes the theme out with a vengeance.

Raga Gujri Todi begins more tenderly. Panesar blending a wide-angle vibrato into her precise phrases. As the music rises, it’s here that she finally begins to build a hypnotically kinetic backdrop, tabla eventually taking over the fast trance beat, the two instruments winding it up with a triumph that’s so catchy it’s almost a singalong.

If JD Allen’s concise, hard-hitting three-minute tunes can be called jukebox jazz, this is jukebox raga: no wasted notes and one catchy riff after another. Much of Panesar’s work is also characterized by another, more subtle innovation: live, she plays with both south Indian tabla and the louder, boomier north Indian mridangam, two drums rarely found together in this context.

A Rare Brooklyn Residency By the Best Singing Pianist in Jazz

Lately there’s been a lot of top-drawer jazz popping up in some unexpected places. When Bar Lunatico in Bed-Stuy booked the Jazz Passengers for a weekly residency, that sent a signal. Likewise, the cavernous Williamsburg beer garden Radegast Hall books many of this city’s best swing bands, but it’s not known as a listening room – and if you’ve witnessed the din there on the weekend, you know why. But that’s not always the case.

This September, the venue has booked pianist/singer/composer Champian Fulton for a Monday night, 8 PM weekly residency that resumes September 18. If you’re a serious jazz fan and you’re on a budget – the venue doesn’t charge a cover – you’d be crazy to miss this. If Manhattan is easier for you, she’s also at Smoke on Sept 7 with sets at 7:30, 9 and 10:30. 

Watching her figure out where she was going to go, in a spit-second, pensive smile on her face a couple of weeks ago at her first night at the Brooklyn venue was great fun – and a revelation. Fulton is known as a singer. Dinah Washington is the obvious influence – Fulton’s 2016 album After Dark got a big thumbs-up here, as did her 2017 all-instrumental release, Speechless. The former is a subtle reinterpretation of songs that other chanteuses tend to mimic rather than putting their own stamp on. But while nuance is what distinguishes Fulton’s vocals, she’s got fire in her fingers. Not to disrespect Diana Krall’s piano chops, and Karrin Allyson is a much better pianist than she typically lets on, but there’s no other singer in jazz with chops as fast and fluid as Fulton’s  Nor is there a pianist with her speed and prowess who’s equally gifted on the mic.

Through almost a full two sets, she only played one instrumental, a percolating postbop shuffle to open the night – understandable considering that most of the acts here have vocalists. The rest of the set was mostly standards, which also makes sense considering where she was. It was what Fulton did with them that separates her from thousands and thousands of loungey acts around the world. For example, was she going to follow that snarkly little curlicue with another devious glissando? Yessssssss. Maybe one more time? Nope. She’d already moved on to a big hammering series of downward chords.

“Every gig is a good gig,” she mused between sets. Confident words – or just the daily routine for one of the great wits in jazz, who makes no secret how much fun she’s having onstage. Her rhythm section shuffled and swung tersely and tightly behind her as she made her way through one eclectic intro after another: hard blues into Bessie Smith’s After You’ve Gone, plaintive classical balladry into April in Paris. Then she’d take flight over the entire span of the keyboard, trickly highs to looming lows, slowly building to a crescendo and then back at times. Like her vocals, the musical jokes were subtle, but there were a lot of them, quotes from other tunes as well as unexpected peek-a-boo phrases and more. See for yourself next month.

Joshua Garcia Brings His Harrowing, Relevant Tunesmithing to a Cozy West Village Spot

When describing a singer-songwriter, the term “troubadour” is typically misused to the most ridiculous extent possible. Most of the culprits are part of the corporate publicity  machine, or those who still kiss up to it, probably because they’ve been kissing up to it for so long that they’ve forgotten that it has nothing left for them. But that’s another story.

In the Middle Ages, the troubadours – a French word – were the CNN of Europe. Making their way precariously from town to town, through thickets of bandits – with whom they undoubtedly shared more than we’ll ever know – they carried news, and rumors, and often outright falsehoods about what was going on in the wider world. For some mead and a meal and a bed, they’d keep the night going with drinking songs and sex songs, and maybe there’d be a jam session at the end. Relics of this ancient ritual persist in bars around the world.

The obvious conclusion is that in the age of CNN, there’s hardly a need for troubadours. But in an era when so much news is no more reliable than the apocryphal tales spread by well-traveled, hardworking guys picking up bits and pieces of information here and there and weaving them into a semi-plausible whole, maybe we need to rethink that conclusion. That’s where somebody like Joshua Garcia comes in.

Garcia sings in a strong, confident baritone that harks back to the more purposeful folk voices of the 1950s folk revival: in other words, he isn’t trying to be Dylan or, for that matter, John Mayer. Likewise, his guitar picking is steady, and fluid, and fluent in several bluesy styles. He writes in images: rather than telling you what’s going on, he gives you an audio movie to figure out. He’s got a deadpan sense of humor that can be very grim, which makes sense considering who’s in the Oval Office right now.

At his show at the American Folk Art Museum a couple of weeks ago, you could have heard a pin drop. “I’m not used to playing for so many of you,” he grinned, but that will change. His songs are topical, but in the style of a Spike Lee movie rather than a news program. The best one was That’s the Way You Drop a Bomb, a matter-of-fact, picturesque account of what the crew of the Enola Gay were told to expect on their way to and back from killing hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese civilians. An old story, no question, but one with immense relevance when fire and fury drip from greedy lips at White House news conferences.

Garcia opened his set with an aphoristic catalog of things that he was going to buy. Some were concrete, many of them were grandiose, and eventually he came to the point where he’d mention a few of the things he wasn’t going to buy. Those, he’d leave to you. Guess what they were.

He also played a couple of brooding narratives about immigrant life. The first and more allusive one looked at the dismal daily routine of his Mexican-American immigrant grandmother, a California factory worker in the 1950s. The more harrowing one, a chronicle of spousal abuse was unselfconsciously tender and dedicated to his mom. Obviously, domestic violence is hardly the exclusive domain of immigrants or working people, but there’s no question that societies where prosperity is not monopolized by a robber baron class have lower rates of violent crime. Garcia didn’t say any of that outright: he let his song speak for itself. He closed the set a-cappella, a brave move that worked like a charm on the crowd.

His next gig is a short set at 7 PM on Sept 2 at Caffe Vivaldi followed eventually at 8 by Jeremy Aaron, a good acoustic guitarist who writes socially aware topical songs, and then clever, playful swing/oldtimey Americana accordionist-singer Erica Mancini at 8:30. 

And the weekly Free Music Fridays series at the American Folk Art Museum – Manhattan’s best and arguably most popular listening room for pretty much all styles of acoustic music – resumes on September 22 at 6 PM with acoustic Americana tunesmith Rodrigo Aranjuelo. and gothic Americana duo Thoughtdream 

Coolly Enigmatic, Purist Jazz Chanteuse Dorian Devins Brings Her Reinventions to Her Usual West Village Haunt

Singer Dorian Devins works the cool side of jazz. Subtlety is her thing: if you detest over-the-top things in general, you will love her style. Her uncluttered, often disarmingly direct mezzo-soprano delivery brings to mind misty torch singers like June Christy and Julie London (Devins once conceived of a multi-artist tribute night that would be called I Am Not Julie London). Which speaks to Devins’ deadpan, often devastating sense of humor, something that sometimes makes it into her performances depending on how sedate the venue is. Some of her latest full-length album, sardonically titled Imaginary Release  is streaming at her music page. She’s at Cornelia Street Cafe on August 31 at 6 PM leading a quintet; cover is $10 plus a $10 minimum.

The album is a mix of standards, the classic instrumental joints that Devins loves to pen her own lyrics to, and a handful of choice originals. She and her group open with Benny Goodman’s Lullaby in Rhythm, Devins’ artful climb from guarded hope to quiet triumph contrasting with Tom Christensen’s jaunty tenor sax and Paul Gill’s dancing bowed bass over the low-key swing of pianist Lou Rainone and drummer Taro Okamoto. Her first lyrical reinvention here is Wayne Shorter’s Conundrum, an aptly enigmatic ballad with Rainone’s glittering piano and Christensen’s terse flute over Okamoto’s bossa-tinged groove.

The lustre of Richie Vitale’s flugelhorn in tandem with the flute introduce a balmy, matter-of-factly optimistic take of Leonard Bernstein’s Some Other Time, Gill’s fluttering bass solo handing off to Rainone’s gleaming neoromanticisms. Then they pick up the pace, remaking Duke Ellington’s I’m Gonna Go Fishin’ as a brisk, understatedly biting jazz watlz with soaring solos from Vitale on trumpet and Christensen on tenor to match Devins’ leaps and bounds.

The album’s best and most deviously entertaining track is Satie-ated – damn, there goes another good title! It’s a distantly bolero-esque remake of Erik Satie’s Gymnopede No. 1. “Here and there the distant glare that burns me/I hope there’ll be a time my mind returns me,” Devins broods, echoed by Christensen’s moody oboe. Resolution, a Devins/Rainone co-write, opens with a similarly modal gravitas and rises to a shuffling entreaty to come down from the clouds and have some fun, Christensen’s tenor spirals handing off to Rainone’s terse flourishes.

Devin’s coy vocals contrast with the nocturnal groove of Jobim’s So Tinha de Ser Com Voce: it’s closer to straight-up clave jazz than dreamy bossa, Rainone adding a welcome bluesy tint. Devins’ final original is the pensive jazz waltz Lament for the Moon, Christensen’s mournful oboe and Rainone’s expressive piano echoing the metaphorically-charged tale of a satellite who’s completely lost in daylight hours.

They do Hidden Treasure, by jazz-inflected 70s British rock band Traffic, as an uneasy clave tune and stay in tropicalia mood for a bossa take of 60s folksinger Tim Harden’s Misty Roses, Tom Hubbard’s pinpoint bass contrasting with swooping flute. The album winds up with a genially swinging, bittersweet take of Billie Holiday’s The Moon Looks Down and Laughs. This is Devins’ most eclectic and strongest release to date – and she’s got another ep, City Stories, just out and up on Spotify, too.

Rajasthani Caravan Bring Their Ecstatic Punjabi Party Spectacle to This Year’s Cutting-Edge Drive East Festival

As the lights went down for Rajasthani Cavavan’s wild, ecstatic performance at this year’s Drive East Festival at Dixon Place last night, the sound of bagpipes filtered in from outside. Was there a Scottish theatre piece going on in an adjacent room? As it turned out, no. Dressed in a traditional North Indian outfit and a bright red-and-green-patterned turban, Taga Ram Bheel walked in playing surreal, austere close harmonies on a wooden double-reed instrument, the murali. For about twenty seconds, it was exotic sonic bliss. Then he calmly turned around and walked out.

The audience laughed nervously. Was this it? Meanwhile, a sharp sword and what looked like a giant candleholder sat in the middle of the floor. What kind of mayhem had there been in the night’s previous dance perrformance…or was about to happen?

Group leader Katrina Ji answered that question about half an hour into the spectacle. Backed by the four-piece Ustad Arba Music Group alternating between several high and low register percussion instruments plus drony twin flutes and harmonium, she put the sword between her teeth – blade side out –  and crowned herself with the metal object. And then slowly, in one seamless motion,  slunk to the floor on her stomach and grabbed her ankles from behind. And then wiggled her eyebrows at the crowd.

That magical murali finally made a second appearance much later in the show, during a catchy, swaying, bouncy traditional dance number. Concerts earlier in the week at this vast annual showcase for classical sounds from across the Hindustani subcontinent  were about transcendence and emotional intensity: this was a party. Percussionists, Imamddin and Firoze Khan made that clear right from the start with a droll, irresistibly funny rhythmic conversation between clickety-clack castanets and boomy dholak double-headed drum. Harmonium player Jalal Khan drew the crowd in with his rapidfire lefthand phrases and expansive, dynamic vocal range, finally hitting some high notes at the end that you wouldn’t expect a dramatic, powerful baritone to be able to reach. His colleague in the dholak was his shout man on the vocals  – if you buy that hip-hop reference – holding down the lows, the two indulging in a lot of jousting.

The group peppered the mix of swaying, bouncy songs from both northern India and Pakistan with a balmy love ballad and a big dramatic anthem. Most of the lyrics illustrated a series of amusing battle-of-the-sexes scenarios. The lilting tunes had an irrepressible cheer: the Punjab, at least as these guys depict it, is a party place. The only thing that felt strange was to be sitting and swaying rather than being out on a dancefloor.

Meanwhile, Ji went through several costume changes, including one with a series of bells down her left leg, and played jaunty, tinkling melodies on them with a couple of bells slung around her wrists. Midway through the set, the group explained how they’d convinced the American-born Ji – a longtime devotee of Rajasthani music – to enlist them as her backing band. Since then the group has become more of a collaborative effort.

For the final part of the performance, they brought up Pakisani crooner Junaid Younus for what he said was the first collaboration between a star of Coke Studio (the Pakistani counterpart to Soul Train) and a Rajasthani group. Despite having never performed together, they sparred and traded riffs through a mix of languages and styles ranging from Punjabi Indian to Pakistani qawwali and finally wound up the night with an ecstatic singalong: even the non-Punjabi speakers got involved after Younus egged them on.

The Drive East Festival comes to a close today, August 27, with a marathon series of music and dance performances starting this afternoon at 2 PM with the riveting, lavish sounds of the only Indian carnatic choir in this hemisphere, the Navatman Music Collective; $20 tix are still available as of this hour. There are also two ambitious, stylistically cross-pollinated performances afterward for those who know something about or take an interest in Indian dance traditions. And Rajasthani Caravan’s next stop on their current tour is tonight at 7:45 PM at the Philadelphia Ganesh Festival at Baratiya Temple, 1612 County Line Road in Chalfont, Pennsylvania; admission is free with a wristband, so get there early.

Dos Santos Anti-Beat Orquesta Join New York’s Best Psychedelic Tropicalia Bill this August 31

New York’s best psychedelic cumbia show of the year so far is happening this August 31 at the Bell House at 10 PM, where Chicago’s Dos Santos Anti-Beat Orquesta and Austin’s Money Chicha are playing a twinbill. Advance tix are a ridiculously good $12 and still available at the venue as of today. It’s not clear who’s playing first, but that doesn’t matter because both bands are reputedly amazing live.

Money Chicha’s wildly trippy debut album got a feverish thumbs-up here recently. Dos Santos’ latest album, Fonografic –  streaming at Spotify – is a party in a box.  The opening cut, playfully titled Epilogue, begins as a boomy, dub-inflected, staggered waltz fueled by woozy low-register wah guitar, then the twangy chicha melody comes in and gets spun through a funhouse mirror of effects. All of a sudden, Alex Chavez’s blippy organ hits a brisk, minor-key cumbia shuffle!

The tropicalia funk of El Puerto de Animas echoes their tourmates’ heavy cumbia sound, Daniel Villarreal-Carrillo’s drums and Jaime Garza’s bass building to a dizzying, polyrhythmic slink, the twin wah guitars of Chavez and Nathan Karagianis echoing in the mix, Peter Vale’s congas anchoring the otherworldly groove. By contrast, Cafeteando! puts a brass-spiced update on vampy, salsa-influenced late 60s/early 70s jungle cumbia, in the same vein as Juaneco Y Su Combo.

The bittersweet exchange of wah-wah and guitar clang in Santa Clara will remind chicha purists of Los Destellos at their most expansive, classic early 70s best, with a long jaunty trombone solo that takes the song into psychedelic salsa territory. Then the ominously galloping Camino Infernal/Phantom Weight mashes up spaghetti western, surf rock, chicha and Led Zep. 

The band save the best and most straightforward chicha track, Red, for last. Built around a gleefully creepy organ riff, it could be a vintage Los Mirlos number, at least until the band make psychedelic Chicano Batman soul out of it. If a wild, brain-altering dance party is your thing, get your ass to the Bell House on the last day of the month.

Bird With Strings Reinvented Live at the New School

Wednesday night the New School auditorium on 12th Street drew a sold-out crowd for a live recreation of the Charlie Parker With Strings albums that transcended the originals. Sixty-plus years after they came out, the controversy hasn’t dimmed. Some see the two records as vital cross-pollination and a paradigm shift, others dismiss them as schlock and an ugly precursor to the syrupy orchestration that ruined a whole bunch of Sinatra and Wes Montgomery records. The involvement of Mitch Miller as orchestrator only bolsters that second argument.

The genesis of the albums is clouded as well. Conventional wisdom is that Charlie Parker, a huge Stravinsky fan, wanted to record with an orchestra. Was it time constraints, lack of label money, or the fact that Miller wasn’t able to round up an orchestra either capable or willing to play bebop, that explains why the songs chosen for the album are standards rather than Bird originals? We’ll never know for sure.

What was most strikingly rewarding about this performance was how much more present the strings were, compared to the original, rather tinny analog recordings (scroll down for a list of the talented up-and-coming New School students who pulled off this mighty feat). And as conductor Keller Coker told the crowd with not a little pride, this group swung the hell out of the music. For many students on the classical track, that’s a genuine stretch.

The role of Bird himself – thankless task? Monumental challenge? – was assumed by alto saxophonist Dave Glasser, who approached it with unselfconscious bliss. All but a couple of these songs are ballads, a showcase for Bird in what was becoming increasingly rare lyrical mode, and Glasser gave them every bit of elegance in his valves, more than ably channeling those graceful blue notes. He also duetted amiably and eruditely with guest trumpeter Frank Owens on a bouncy Dizzy Gillespie number – the lone tune on the program that wasn’t on the original albums.

The most striking performance was the lone number written specifically for the original sessions, Neal Hefti’s Catskill bossa nova Repetition. Dynamic shifts were strong and seamless when the orchestra would kick in or out. Oboeist Dave Briceno played Milller’s own parts with a crystalline clarity that surpassed the originals, and pianist Michael Sheelar contributed nifty, dancing solos when given a tantalizingly brief few bars. Alongside him, bassist Joshua Marcum and drummer Adam Briere walked, shuffled and swung tirelessly, in period-perfect early 50s mode.

And big up to the rest of the orchestra: violinists Daniel Zinn, Nathalie Barret-Mas, Sesil Cho, So Young Kim, Chloe Kim and Yukiko Kuhara; violists Hsuan Chen and Seo Hyeon Park; cellists Juie Kim and Mark Serkin; horn player Josh Davies, harpist Skyla Budd and guitarist Nick Semenykhin.

This performance was part of this year’s Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, celebrating its 25th anniversary as a New  York institution. The festival continues tonight at Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem at 7 with saxophonist Camille Thurman and her combo, followed by stellar reedwoman Anat Cohen’s Tentet

An Ecstatic North American Debut By Colombian Legend Emilsen Pacheco with Bulla En El Barrio at Lincoln Center

In his North American debut at Lincoln Center last night, legendary Colombian bullerengue bandleader Emilsen Pacheco – the guy who wrote the Ibuprofen Fandango  brought his relentlessly energetic personality and wry sense of humor to a sold-out audience of expats from his native Colombia along with many cognoscenti from the New York music scene (Innov Gnawa’s Samir LanGus and saxophonist Aakash Mittal were both spotted in the crowd). Backed by Bulla En El Barrio, New York’s only bullerengue group, Pacheco validated the herculean effort it took to get him here. Lincoln Center impresario Viviana Benitez explained that a grant from APAP and a Colombian record label, among others, were involved.

It was definitely a painkilling show. The men and women of the group took turns twirling in front of the band over hypnotic, echoing handmade drums (tambor alegre and tambor llamador) and handclaps, and quickly got the audience involved. Isn’t it funny how in this age of corporate hail-mary passes at monopolizing live music, it’s the most interactive, ancient styles that always draw the biggest audience response?

Bullerengue is the oldest African style of music in Colombia. Like its distant cousin gnawa, it’s a hypnotically pulsing call-and-response style with origins in sub-Saharan Africa. At this show, that meant an ever-increasing choir responding to Pacheco’s vocal riffs, demands, implorations and exaltations – and eventually, his masterful, hard-hitting beats on the drums. After he’d highfived the crowd on the way in, he held down the left side of the stage, swaying and half-crouching, decked out in a colorful print shirt and straw hat. It was a deliriously inspired collaboration, party music reflecting transcendence over the rigors of coastal working-class life and through centuries before, on another continent.

“I’m the guy for you,” was the message Pacheco used to get the party started. As the show built steam, the rhythms shifted through brisk triplets to a trance-inducing four-on-the-floor, to trickier polyrhythms from the group’s percussionists. Love, seduction, drinking and the precarious state of Colombian coastal family life were common themes: Pacheco and the group seem to love all of them equally.

Eventually, Bulla En El Barrio leader Carolina Oliveros  – a protege of Pacheco during her time in Colombia – took over the mic and led the choir, which by now seemed to be half the audience. Once Pacheco had taken a seat behind the drums, it seemed that the giant wave of swaying bodies in front of the stage knew all the words by heart – and they responded just as feverishly to Oliveros’ originals. She explained that Pacheco is one of the few remaining keepers of the bullerengue flame – this was “A dream come true,” she said, thanking Benitez for believing in the craziness of staging a show like this in New York in 2017.

If you missed this party, Pacheco and the band are at C’Mon Everybody this Saturday, August 26 at 9ish; cover is $12. Then they’re at Barbes at around 9:30 PM on the 28th and on the 29th they’ll be at Terrazza 7 in Queens at 8 for $20. 

Aakash Mittal Pulls Together an Amazing Band to Reinvent Some Unexpected Tunes

Alto saxophonist Aakash Mittal surveyed the scene from offstage, sometimes with a smirk, sometimes with his eyes closed, lost in the music at Rockwood Music Hall last week. This time he had his serious impresario hat on, and the band he’d pulled together was killing it. To his far right, pianist Arcoiris Sandoval drove hard to a crescendo, valkyrie fingers voicing wide-angle, upwardly cascading chords. Bassist Ray Parker shifted in a second from stark. bowed washes into a late 70s Ron Carter-style racewalk. Drummer Alex Ritz made a different, similarly devious shift, from triplets to a jazz waltz. Trumpeter Brad Goode was also chilling at that moment, having tickled the audience with his leperchaun glissandos and fleeting swoops and chirps, when he wasn’t inviting a harbor mist in with his looming, lustrously sustained muted phrases.

That was just the first song. They didn’t even hit the head – it was Straight, No Chaser – until the final chorus. With a lyricism that was as subtle as it was striking, Mittal had opened it with a vivid bhangra riff, but the attack was the opposite of the kind of wind-tunnel pyrotechnics that another Indian-inspired altoist, Rudresh Mahanthappa, would probably have made out of it.

Throughout the group’s tantalizing hour onstage Mittal relished the role of protean instigator, reaffirming his position as one of the most mutable, versatile saxophonists in New York. That opening riff and variations were gentle but bright and brassy, in a Jackie McLean vein. After that, Mittal went into balmy mode, but with a brisk, Birdlike, bluesy focus. Then he brought some gruffness into the picture as the band built steam.

It’s very rare to see Mittal playing standards – he usually plays his own intricate, dynamic material which frequently references or interpolates classical Indian themes.. Yet he also calls for more individual input than most bandleaders do: assembling the exact core of personalities for a specific blend of jousting and unexpected thrills seems to mean as much to Mittal as the tunes themselves.

And everybody delivered. Goode – a Chicago-based player who gets here too infrequently – switched effortlessly between daunting extended technique and solitary deep-night Miles, whether playing with a mute or not. Parker and Ritz delivered a percolating, floating swing early on, then Parker played chiller, Ritz following with one nifty peek-a-boo turn through his hardware and cymbal bells after another until everybody was smiling. Then he found a clave and hung with it, through the night’s best number, All the Things You Are – even when he went back to the hardware department. Meanwhile, Sandoval flashed lowdown roadhouse blues, austere Chopin and bright, condor-winged chords that brought to mind Luis Perdomo.

After all that,  the group made a rapturously closing tone poem of sorts out of You Don’t Know What Love Is. Mittal’s next gig is on October 22 at 4 AM (yes, in the morning) at the Rubin Museum of Art as part of Brooklyn Raga Massive’s allnight festival. Tix for the 4 to 7 AM time slot (probably the hottest part of the night) are $30.