New York Music Daily

Love's the Only Engine of Survival

Month: August, 2022

Hyuna Park Brings Her Melodic, Artfully Composed Piano Jazz to an Outdoor Gig in Queens

Pianist Hyuna Park writes vivid, translucent songs without words. Like a lot Korean-born jazz artists, she’s equally informed by the High Romantic as well as traditional American sounds. And she tells a great story. She had the good fortune to release her latest album Her Morning Waltz – streaming at Bandcamp – in 2019, with bassist Myles Sloniker and drummer Peter Traunmueller. She’s playing an early-evening outdoor gig on the trailer out back of Culture Lab in Long Island City on August 14 at 5 PM.

She opens with the album’s title track, taking a solo, Debussy-esque first verse before the music grows more spacious as the rhythm section come in and the trio develop a genial, spare jazz waltz. Park’s penchant for subtle but emotionally impactful thematic variations really pays off at the end.

Track two is titled The Boy From Ipanema. Park builds around the famous tropical tune, then veers further outward and upward as Sloniker pedals a catchy latin soul riff. She traces an eventful trajectory in Flight of Migrants, from graceful triplet clusters to a mighty peak, then a momentary, minimalistic calm before the drama resumes.

Park leaves the narrative path for some unbridled bounding around in The Stars Fell on Seoul: with Traunmueller’s loose-limbed solo, this is a real meteor shower. Her incisive chords contrast with a gentle clave swing in They Can’t Take That Away From Me, the most expansive number here; Park’s long descent to a quiet, reflective tableau is one of the album’s high points.

Driving in New York, as Park sees it, involves a lot of potholes and lane changes: just when it seems the coast is clear, here comes that clown trying to beat the light! It’s the funniest track on the record.

Park flips the script with The Way to the Stars, an unselfconsciously gorgeous, Chopineque ballad. She opens Grandpa’s Clock as a fond, catchy reflection, shifts into funkier territory, her incisive pedalpoint over a somber, bowed Sloniker solo. Then she goes on a scramble to coalesce with a coy chime riff before a return to the saturnine second theme: time clearly left some ravages behind.

Park takes her time, solo, with the album’s soberly rippling, pensive concluding tableau. She deserves to be vastly better known and is someone to keep an eye on.

Underground System Bring Their Playful Jams to a Dance Party on the Hudson

Over the last few years, Underground System have built a reputation as a ferocious party band. Singer/flutist Domenica Fossati is every bit as tirelessly entertaining to watch dancing out in front of the band as she is on the mic. The group are bringing their distinctive, psychedelic mix of Afrobeat, hard funk and other eclectic dancefloor sounds to an outdoor show on August 12 at 7 PM at Pier 45 on the water in Chelsea. Take West 10th St. to the river.

The band’s latest vinyl album is an ep, Into the Fire, streaming at Bandcamp. The title track is a coy mashup of early 80s tech-funk – think Midnight Starr or Jah Wobble’s collaborations with Holger Czukay – with harder chicken-scratch guitar textures and spicy horns as the jam goes on. Fossati finally goes spiraling upward into the Milky Way with her flute.

Track two, He Said She Said, is harder-edged, fueled by guitarist Peter Matson and drummer Yoshio Kobayashi. Singing in Spanish, Fossati needles a dude who’s just a party-pooper: like the first track, there’s a very 80s feel to this. After that, the band get swirly and ethereal but keep the groove going just as steady in Desnuda. The ep also includes interestingly organic-flavored remixes of the first and last songs. If you have the space at your place or on your rooftop to throw a dance party this summer, this will keep everybody on their feet.

Singles to Start Your Week With a Smile…and a Mystery Song

OK, maybe with a snarky smile. If you know this blog, you know the drill. Memes to make you laugh, then a self-guided playlist, then maybe something serious to keep us grounded. Click on artist names for their webpages, click on titles for audio and/or visuals. About 25 minutes worth of tunes. Make sure you use a browser like Brave to block the ads at the youtube videos.

Who says the future is so scary? Fran Leader, one of the leaders of the UK anti-fracking movement, shares a vision of “the good reset” – in case you’re wondering, the punchline is at the bottom.

Is it Halloween already?” via El Gato Malo.

Artist Anne Gibbons has a good reason why all pregnant women should join the “rat race” to the DNA-altering Covid injection!

One of the few New York bands who date back to the late zeros and are still going strong, Changing Modes have a new video for Days, a characteristically acerbic, shapeshifting anthem: “These are the days I never spent with you.”

Does anybody recognize this song? If you know the answer, hit the comment button at the bottom of the page. Thanks! It’s a gorgeous orchestral arrangement of an old Hasidic nigun. Via Brooklyn’s #1 freedom fighter Brucha Weisberger, chronicling the ongoing holocaust in Israel.

“If the evidence points back, then why would they screen it?” Lula Wiles‘ frontwoman Mali Obomsawin asks in Television, the Boston band’s swaying psych-folk takedown of corporate media duplicity and false dichotomies.

Crone’s Abyss Road starts out like a peak-era 90s Versus-style downstroke anthem and goes back ten years to a heavier sound. Killer guitar solo!

Denial, by Onyria makes a good segue, a catchy, dystopic stadium rock stomp.

The devil is in the details in Mary Bragg‘s new single, Panorama, an allusive Crowded House-like haunter: “A real life diorama, to a starry-eyed pollyanna.”

Who would expect an oldschool 6/8 honkytonk ballad with a weird shoegaze interlude? But it works. Here’s Suzannah’s Losing Side of Town.

Finally, let’s get the word “philanthropath” into general circulation. Margaret Anna Alice, one of the great freedom fighters who sprang up in the wake of the 2020 totalitarian takeover, came up with that description for Gates, Soros, Bloomberg and the rest of the reptile oligarchs. She also shares the creepy depopulation scene from the late great Rik Mayall’s last film, One by One (scroll down)

A Vivid, Richly Textured New Middle Eastern Jazz Album From Todd Marcus

Along with Amir ElSaffar and Ibrahim Maalouf, Todd Marcus is one of this era’s great paradigm-shifters blending jazz with traditional Middle Eastern sounds. Like ElSaffar, Marcus came to his Middle Eastern roots from the jazz side; he’s also one of very few bass clarinetists to lead a large ensemble. He debuted his latest recorded suite, In the Valley, to a packed house at Smalls in late 2017 and recorded it on his latest album, The Hive, about a year and a half later. Like so many other great records originally slated for a 2020 release, it’s just out now but hasn’t hit the web yet. If luscious low-register textures and edgy chromatics are your thing, you can catch Marcus back at Smalls again, leading a quartet on August 11 with sets at 7:30 and 9 PM. Cover is $25 cash at the door.

In general, the album is a portrait of Cairo and its relentless energy. Pianist Xavier Davis provides an icy, spacious solo intro to the first number, Horus. On one hand, the interweave of the horns – Alex Norris on trumpet, Alan Ferber on trombone, Greg Tardy on tenor sax and Brent Birckhead on flute and alto sax – brings what could have been a classic Mohammed Abdel Wahab arrangement for strings into the here and now. Bassist Jeff Reed and drummer Eric Kennedy slink and then kick up a storm behind the bandleader’s mentholated articulacy, then a punchy Norris solo. The band take it out with a series of allusively levantine conversations. This city is a pretty wild place.

Staggered but regal counterpoint, stately brass flourishes, and a restless, Mingus-esque urban bustle alternates with moments of calm throughout the album’s title track. Ferber chooses his spots as the rhythm section picks up more weight; Kirk negotiates the passing tones, matched masterfully by Tardy as he reaches for the sky.

Cairo Street Ride is a salute to city cab drivers’ agility behind the wheel, the brass drolly revving toward redline before giving way to precisely orchestrated exchanges, a portrait of controlled chaos. Reed racewalks precisely over an increasingly latin-tinged backdrop: control cedes to chaos and then back as the vehicle weaves from lane to lane.

Final Days descends in a flash from a bright intro to a somber, wintry reflection on farewells to people and places, anchored by Davis’ steely sway. A dirge punctuated by portentous, unresolved rises drops even further to a wistful, spare Marcus solo that becomes an angst-filled, restrained salute.

The final number is In the Valley, a Valley of Kings tableau with a Gil Evans sweep and majesty, from murky lows all the way up to the top of the pyramids, a majestic march loosening with a reflective swing. Tardy’s tantalizingly modal solo over increasing turbulence is one of the album’s high points. Davis glides with a quiet triumph to an expertly articulated, labyrinthine coda from the full ensemble. Marcus’ albums typically end up on this blog’s best-albums-of-the-year list and this one also earns that distinction.

A Blazing Big Band Album and a Low-Key Trio Show From Pianist Steven Feifke

If you’re interested in checking out a musician in an intimate setting, why would you want to listen to his big band album? Because it shows how far he can take an idea and keep it interesting. Steven Feifke’s first big band album, Kinetic – streaming at Spotify – was one of those thousands of releases which were on track to come out in 2020 but didn’t hit the web until a year later…and still pretty much went down the memory hole. And that’s too bad, because Feifke’s compositions are ambitiously tuneful, colorful and have a sly sense of humor. For now, you can catch the pianist leading a trio on August 10 at Mezzrow, where he’s doing two sets at 7:30 and a little after 9; cover is $25 cash at the door.

The band – a revolving cast of characters – open the album with the title track, the bandleader spiraling and stabbing right off the bat with a chromatic snarl echoed by blasts from the brass. Leading a frenetically bluesy drive, he sets up a hard-hitting solo from trumpeter Gabriel King Medd followed by a vaudevillian couple of breaks from drummer Ulysses Owens.

Trumpeter Benny Benack III’s smoky muted lines kick off the cinematic, noir-tinged Unveiling of a Mirror, baritone saxophonist Andrew Gutauskas handing off briefly to Alexa Tarantino’s flute. After Benack takes his plunger out, the group hit a brassy swing, dip into some gorgeously gusty Ellingtonian harmonies, then tenor saxophonist Sam Dillon picks it up again. The intro is 180 degrees from what you might think.

Misterioso rising energy also pervades The Sphinx, although there is a good, long joke early on. Alto saxophonist Lucas Pino chooses his spots, sometimes coyly during a lull; the tensely pulsing, Mingus-esque drive toward to another counterintuitive coda is one of the album’s high points. Veronica Swift sings the first of the standards, Until the Real Thing Comes Along, anchored by ambered shades of low brass, more black-and-tan reed harmonies and a sotto-voce swing from bassist Dan Chmielinski. Alto saxophonist Andrew Gould’s flurries against shifting banks of brass and reeds brings the tune to cruising altitude.

Feifke takes a tantalizingly brief, McCoy Tyner-esque opening solo in Word Travels Fast, a playful latin-tinged shuffle, spiced with devious quotes and animated solos from Medd, Pino and drummer Jimmy Macbride through to the album’s most anthemic coda.

Bright brass, shifting meters, a soaring Gould solo and a fiery flurry of individual voices over Feifke’s stern forward drive threaten to go off the rails but never quite do in the next track, Woolongong, It also has the album’s best joke.

Feifke’s big band version of Nica’s Dream is brisk and latinized; Benack goes from goofy to gruff as Tarantino shadows him. Swift returns to the mic over a hypnotic pedalpoint as a gorgeously dynamic stride through On the Street Where You Live gets underway. Trombonist Robert Edwards’ good cheer sets up Gutauskas’ ruminative solo as the blaze flares and flickers behind him.

The goofiest number here is Midnight Beat, which seems to be a satirically beefed-up take on cheesy 80s funk-fusion. Dillon takes centerstage in the warmly benedictory finale, Closure. It’s a memorable project from a cast that also includes trumpeters Max Darché and John Lake, trombonists Jeffery Miller, Armando Vergara and Jennifer Wharton, guitarist Alex Wintz, drummers Joe Peri and Bryan Carter.

Mary Fahl Reinvents Iconic and Obscure Art-Rock and 70s Songs

Like so many people around the world over the past year, singer Mary Fahl was dealing with the loss of two of her family members – her mom, and also her sister. To cope, the former October Project frontwoman immersed herself in music which had left an indelible mark on her early years, and the result was the album Can’t Get It Out of My Head, streaming at Spotify. That title is deliberate: the iconic ELO song is the centerpiece of this rare covers collection that’s worth hearing. Fahl is playing the album release show at City Winery on August 9 at 7:30 PM; you can get in for $22.

It’s a collection of ten songs, and an occasional return to the chilly, atmospheric, occasionally gothic-tinged October Project sound. The first is the title track: Jeff Lynne’s sweepingly orchestrated, bittersweet original set the stage for the rest of the classic 1974 Eldorado album. Reduced to lowest terms, it’s about being unable to unsee something. Is it ELO’s symphonic grandeur that imbues their version with so much hope, the blinding flash of discovering pure existential freedom? And is it Fahl’s sober, restrained vocals against her bandmate Mark Doyle’s elegant, pensive layers of guitars and keyboards that seems to more strongly underscore the tortuous inaction of the second verse, and crushing philosophical weight of the third? Or does this just reflect the zeitgeist, the horrors of the world post-March 2020? It’s never safe to read too much into artistic intention: Lynne always said he was ok with whatever interpretation a listener gave a song if it helped them somehow. Clearly it helped Fahl.

If Can’t Get It Out of My Head is about piercing the veil of maya, Comfortably Numb is the reverse of that. Fahl completely reinvents the song as a sinister seduction, speeding it up as Doyle becomes a low-key, one-man Pink Floyd.

Fahl does the album’s final cut, Richard Thompson’s The Great Valerio as spare, drifting, hypnotic trip-hop: it’s the real comfortably numb here, and the closest thing to the October Project. How does she manage to remake the Moody Blues’ Tuesday Afternoon? By finding its inner ghazal, stretching her voice to its formidable low limits! The sweep of the string section – violinists Edgar Turmajyan, Jonathan Hwang, Neomi Miloradovic and Joe Davoli, violist Jessica Tumajyan and cellist Kate LaVerne over Josh Dekaney’s elegant drums complete an exotically symphonic tableau.

Fahl and Doyle recast Nick Drake’s River Man as subtly turbulent Supertramp-style keyboard art-rock. Fahl’s cover of the Stones’ Goodbye Ruby Tuesday looks back to late 60s Marianne Faithfull, but with considerably more energy (and a great inside orchestral-Stones joke). Likewise, Fahl takes the Mamas and the Papas’ Got A Feelin’ to a simmering chamber-pop intensity: Lou Reed could only have wished to have coaxed half as much power out of Nico on the Chelsea Girl album. Fahl also infuses her take of Neil Young’s Don’t Let It Bring You Down with welcome, wary energy.

The last two songs are more obscure. Fahl sticks with epic grandeur in Judy Collins’ Since You’ve Asked, then channels hope against hope throughout George Harrison’s Beware of Darkness: “It’s not what you are here for,” Fahl implores. There aren’t many rock cover albums that are worth hearing, but like Mary Lee Kortes‘ take on Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, this one’s in very select company and one of the best albums of 2022 so far.

The Monomatics Ride the Waves Into the East Village This Saturday Night

Practically ever since Otto’s Shrunken Head took over the former Barmacy space, they’ve had surf music there. Tiki bars have come and gone in this city and at this point Otto’s seems to be the only one left – if this long, narrow former home to an independent pharmacy even qualifies as a tiki bar.

The big issue with Otto’s is that the weekend door guy has an ID scanner and employs it mercilessly, even on the elderly (you might be surprised to see how many of the elderly frequent Otto’s). Bring your passport, since scanners don’t work on passports. Now more than ever, we need to be careful not to leave any kind of electronic trail of where we go, what we buy and who we hang with.

The latest surf show there is this Saturday night, starting at 8 with an act called the Reverb Kings. They may or may not be a cover band like the headliners, the Wraycyclers, who play Link Wray tunes. The middle act, the Monomatics – an up-and-coming, mostly-instrumental Brooklyn trio – are the most intriguing. They’ve got two promising short albums up at Bandcamp, released just before the 2020 lockdown.

The better of the two is the Last Night ep, which came out in December of 2019. Guitarist Donn Denniston chooses his spots, playing with a vintage tube amp sound – reverb and cheap distortion – in the opening number, Race Towards Death, a horror surf tune.

The band slip out of an early 60s-style R&B theme into a loping desert rock groove in the second track, Lost Woman (for Devra). Denniston sticks with running catchy riffage in the brief Focus on Sanity, followed by Alan Vega, a shout-out to the late Suicide frontman, everybody in the band off in his own individual time zone more or less.

The band wind up the ep with Rough Pass, built around a series of tritones; Strychnine, a punk song with no relation to the Cramps tune; and Pearl’s Dance, a decent stab at a noir stripper theme. If surf rock is your thing, this could be your chance to get to know these guys before they bust out of triple-A for the majors.

The East Coast Chamber Orchestra Provide a Lush, Sweeping Coda to This Year’s Naumburg Bandshell Concerts

Yesterday evening was this year’s final installment of the newly resumed and increasingly popular Naumburg Bandshell concerts. Needless to say, it’s been heartwarming to see attendance continuing to grow like it has in the last couple of weeks, although considering how this city was deprived of live music for the better part of the past two years, that turnout is hardly a surprise.

Self-directed string ensemble the East Coast Chamber Orchestra opened their own return to the bandshell with Adolphus Hailstork’s Sonata di Chiesa, a series of variations on allusively gospel-tinged themes. The orchestra quickly shifted from a stern march to a triumphant hymnal swirl with violin and cello front and center in majestic, restrained interplay which grew more carefree. A lively, buoyant dance interlude gave way to what might be termed a balmy southern soul pastorale which resonated in the early evening mugginess hanging over the park.

Slowly and methodically, the ensemble brought the theme down to the cellos out of a Dvorakian wariness, then rose with more than a hint of stately plainchant that grew more lush and windswept. The orchestra took it out with a return to a triumphant waltz.

Next on the bill was a triptych bookending a pair of rare Peruvian renaissance songs around a Josquin lost-love canon, arranged for strings by Maureen Nelson. Matching sumptuous sweep with an icepick precision from the violins, these fifteenth-century pieces reflected European grace more than any discernible indigenous influences.

The orchestra wound up the evening with a vigorous, richly dynamic, Mahlerian arrangement of Schubert’s String Quartet No. 14, “Death and the Maiden.” A stiletto grace underpinned the initial heroic theme: the first of the series of blustering riffs from the cellos, before the false ending, packed a visceral wallop. The effect was much the same again after the group returned from a comfortably lulling counterpoint.

It didn’t take long for the orchestra to bring that anthemic edge back after the initial ballad theme in the andante second movement, where the heroine is reassured that she shouldn’t fear the reaper.

Awash in wistful lushness, the third movement rose to a High Romantic angst that a mere four strings couldn’t have hoped to match. Impressively, the coda was as balletesque as it was symphonic. They encored with an unhurried arrangement of the Bach chorale Schmucke Dich, o Liebe Seele, raising it to a plushness considerably beyond the spare version which is a staple of the organ repertoire.

One issue that needs to be resolved for next year, which wasn’t a significant problem earlier this summer, was when a Parks Department truck with a shrieking backup alarm interrupted the end of the Peruvian baroque suite…and then returned during one of the concert’s quietest moments. Stupidity? Sadism? There are two ways to deal with that issue. It couldn’t hurt for the organizers (and the New York Philharmonic, whose Central Park shows have been just as rudely interrupted) to get the word out to those behind the wheel. A simpler solution would involve a pair of wire cutters.

The Budos Band Bring Their Undulating Menace Back Home to Staten Island

Most bands tend to mellow out as they get older, but Staten Island’s Budos Band went in the opposite direction. They started out playing a psychedelic blend of Afrobeat with frequent Ethiopiques tinges and then brought a macabre Black Sabbath influence into the mix. They’re got a free outdoor concert coming up on August 4 at 7 PM on their home turf at Corporal Thompson Park, which is close to the Snug Harbor Cultural Center. If you’re not a Shaolin resident, be aware that it’s a good half-hour on foot: hang a right, for starters, after you exit the ferry terminal.

Their latest album Long in the Tooth, arguably their most concise, catchiest release yet, came out during the dead of the 2020 lockdown and is streaming at Bandcamp. This time out the ghosts seem to be dancing in the courtyards of haunted castles on the Ethiopian coast rather than in gloomy Albion. The group open with the title track, guitarist Tom Brenneck building an ominous surf tune way down at the bottom as organist Mike Deller’s keening Farfisa lines float overhead, baritone saxophonist Jared Tankel the smoke peeling off the fire from Andrew Greene’s trumpet.

Track two, Sixth Hammer perfectly capsulizes the direction the band’s taken in the last few years: menacingly looping Sabbath chromatics over a cantering Ethiopian rhythm fueled by the funereal funk of the percussion section: Brian Profilio on drums, John Carbonella Jr. on congas, Rob Lombardo on bongos and Dame Rodriguez on everything else.

They slink their way through the tantalizingly brief Snake Hawk, which could be Beninghove’s Hangmen playing Mulatu Astatke. Then bassist Daniel Foder spaces out his boomy chords to punctuate Dusterado, a slower, organ-fueled oldschool noir soul groove.

The horns take over with otherworldly Ethiopian chromatic riffage over a go-go flavored pulse in Silver Stallion. Haunted Sea could be what an Ethiopian horn band might have done with a dark Dick Dale theme a half-century ago. Then the band shift from dark vintage soul to a brassy Afrobeat blaze in The Wrangler.

Brenneck – who sticks with a vintage, gritty tube-amp reverb sound here for the most part – kicks off Gun Metal Grey with his distortion turned up to breaking point, the horns swooping in with a brooding resonance. To what extent is there bullshit in the next track, Mierda De Toro? The joke seems to be the resemblance to a famous surf song, reinvented as a cantering groove built around a catchy descending bassline.

The most straightforwardly trad Ethiopian themes here are Budonian Knight and the closing cut, Renegade, Deller’s funeral-parlor organ and Brenneck’s icepick wah guitar building to a surreal dubwise break and then back. How great is it to have these amazing, darkly individualistic instrumentalists playing live shows again!

The Creepiest, Most Prophetic Music Video of the New Wave Era

These days it’s getting harder to differentiate between predictive programming, satire and actual news. Whatever the case, this 1990 video by Heaven’s Magic singing Watch Out For 666 will give you chills.

Did Bill Gates have this on loop in his office at Microsoft? Did this obscure Christian band – who put out a couple of strange and disquieting cassette albums in 1985 and 1994 – have deep state connections? Or, was whoever wrote this bouncy, Orwellian synthpop song (uncredited on the cassette) simply paying more attention to what was going on in Silicon Valley than anyone else? Why does the President in the video look so much like John Kerry?

There’s more. Take three minutes to watch the video for their 1985 single Cathy Don’t Go (scroll to the bottom at Edward Slavsquat’s brilliant and insightful news blog). The technology is slightly more retro – barcodes instead of QR codes – but the scene in the doctor’s office is pricelessly prescient.

The band’s backstory is just as troubling. A studio-only project, their songs originated on the Music With Meaning Show, which broadcast from Greece in the late 70s through the mid-80s. The program was produced by the Family, a Christian cult notorious for child abuse, and whose founder’s son murdered the woman who had molested him. Much of the program music has been archived at Soundcloud and ranges from a Stonesy rock song about sex in heaven (you really can’t make this stuff up) to an epic nuclear apocalypse narrative, 20 Minutes to Go, sung in part by a little girl.

These people may have seen Klaus Schwab’s New Abnormal coming a mile away, but their story reminds how the enemy of our enemy is not always our friend.