New York Music Daily

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Category: dance music

An Upbeat New Album and a Loisaida Release Show by the Spanish Harlem Orchestra

One auspicious development here in New York is that we are seeing several groups whose performances were banned during the 2020-21 lockdown beginning to reemerge. Before March of 2020, the Spanish Harlem Orchestra were leaders in keeping the flame of oldschool salsa dura alive, while adding their own brassy spin on a sound that in many ways defined this city for so long. Even better, they have a brand new album, Imágenes Latinas – streaming at Spotify – and a record release show this May 20 at 7:30 PM at Drom. Adv tix are $30, which is five bucks less, in a more salsa-centric space, than their previous release show at the old Jazz Standard several blocks to the north.

All the singers – Marco Bermudez, Carlos Cascante and Jeremy Bosch – kick in right off the bat on the first number, Llego La Hispanica,,over the blaze of trumpeters Maneco Ruiz and Alex Norris, and trombonists Doug Beavers and Juan Gabriel Lakunza. Mitch Frohman’s baritone sax smokes in the background, bolstered by bassist Jerry Madera as bandleader Oscar Hernandez’s piano tumbles elegantly. The percussionists – timbalero Luisito Quintero, conguero George Delgado and bongo player Jorge Gonzalez – are slinky and pretty chill on this one, but they will all cut loose later on.

The album’s title track, a shout-out to immigrant determination, gets a deliciously spare, noir-tinged intro before the brass blasts in. Bosch contributes the cheery, undulating Vestido de Flores. After that, their catchy take of De Mi Para Ti makes a good segue, echoing Manny Oquendo and Conjunto Libre, a persistent influence throughout the record.

Romance Divino, a Hernandez original, has a more pop-oriented 80s salsa romantica vibe but with a classic-style arrangement. A steady, salsafied take of the bolero Como Te Amo makes another good segue, with a tastily shifting brass chart.

Frohman opens Hernández’s Mambo 2021 with a blithe flute solo, then switches back to baritone and completely flips the script, followed eventually by a tantalizingly brief timbale solo from Quintero. Sentimiento y Son has a rustic bomba rhythm but also the sophistication of the group’s home turf.

Likewise, Cuando La Hispanica Toca is an update on a smoky, vintage Machito cha-cha sound. The group slow down a little for the plush, balmy but moodily modal clave ballad Mi Amor Sincero and stay on that tip to close the album with La Musica Latina. We took this group for granted for so long: good to have them back.

Edgy Chromatics and Slinky, Otherworldly Sounds at This Year’s Greek Jewish Festival

The most esoterically enticing concert of the year so far is tomorrow afternoon, May 15 outside a Chinatown synagogue. Not all the music at this year’s annual Greek Jewish Festival is either Greek or Jewish, but it sure is good. It’s a lineup worthy of Golden Fest, the festival of Balkan and Balkan-adjacent sounds which for the better part of forty years has been one of this city’s most deliriously entertaining annual events.

This somewhat smaller but auspicious lineup begins at noon with the bouncy Elias Ladino Ensemble, followed by the Greek American Folklore Society band, the Noga Group featuring oud sorcerer Avram Pengas, bellydancer Layla Isis, psychedelic oud-rocker Scott Wilson & Efendi and the stark, haunting Pontic Firebird (best bandname ever, right?) headlining at 5. The Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue and Museum, where all this takes place, is at 280 Broome St. between Allen and Eldridge; the closest train is the B/D to Grand St.

The last time this blog was in the house for one of Wilson’s shows, he was playing with an excellent Middle Eastern pickup band on the back of a flatbed trailer at the 2018 Atlantic Antic street fair. Before that, it was a lot of fun to catch his set with his somewhat harder-rocking, electric group Efendi the previous January in one of the side rooms at Golden Fest.

There’s a little bit of that show up at the recently resuscitated Free Music Archive available as a free download, along with a full set from four years earlier. That one is a tight mix of mostly well-known habibi dance standards from the 1950s and earlier. It’s not clear who’s in the band, but there’s a kanun rippling away, an electric guitar, percussion and what could be Wilson’s custom-made triple-necked axe which is part oud, part baglama and part saz. The recording quality is excellent, without much audience noise. Wilson hits the stage (or the sidewalk) tomorrow afternoon at four.

Kiko Villamizar Puts Out a New Socially Conscious Psychedelic Cumbia Album

Guitarist/bandleader Kiko Villamizar gives the listener plenty of food for thought with his new album Todo El Mundo, streaming at youtube. There’s a lot of impressively relevant subject matter for a party record. If you like your cumbia with some oldschool punk rock edge and bite, this is your jam.

But this isn’t any ordinary party record: in its ramshackle, ferocious way, it’s a throwback to the classic chicha music of the early 70s, when not all the songs were about drinking and partying and chasing women. Much as Villamizar’s songs are psychedelic and danceable, he’s been addressing issues like anti-immigrant bigotry and the threat of environmental destruction since the beginning of his career.

Villamizar is Colombian by heritage: he sings in Spanish, and even though there are plenty of serious songs on the album, he hasn’t lost his surreal sense of humor. He also asserts himself on guitar more than he ever has, right from the start with the opening track, Tuya Tuyita, a classic psychedelic cumbia in a Juaneco vein, burning with distortion over the flurrying groove from bassist Greg Goodman and drummer Michael Longoria, with Beto Cartagena on caja vallenata. The gist of the song is taking ownership of your life, for better or worse.

Villamizar turns up the surfy reverb on Siembra el Maiz, a trippy reminder that it’s time to start planting seeds if we want to create something better. Guest Victor Cruz’s gaita hembra reed flute wafts through the clang of the guitar and the thicket of percussion in the album’s title track, a swaying, electrified take on coastal Colombian bullerengue which addresses the ironies in how people native to the Americas are the first to be imprisoned by la migra.

Guru is not a an Indian theme but a biting funk-tinged latin soul groove. Flor de Maracuyá is a rambunctious tribute to the passion flower that’s ubiquitous in climates further south. Villamizar fires off some pretty wild guitar spirals in Papa Soltero, then mashes up a classic chicha sound with cheery bullerengue in La Caravana.

The best song on the album is Tiempo de los Cucuyos, a slow, slinky, elegantly careening number that poses some provocative questions about how the earth might be trying to wake us to how we need to take care of her. Later, the band wind their way through El Grillo, the record’s most amusing and crazed track. They close with Lelolai, which is funny for completely different reasons.

The Spy From Cairo Keeps Making Deliciously Serpentine Middle Eastern Dub Sounds

For more than a decade, one-man band Moreno “Zeb” Visini has been making wildly psychedelic dubwise Middle Eastern dance music under the name The Spy From Cairo. Oud and saz lute are his main axes, but he’s also adept at keyboards, guitar, bass and drums. As usual, he plays everything with expertise and a wry sense of humor on his new vinyl record Animamundi, streaming at Bandcamp.

He was able to record the album in his home country of Italy despite the fascist restrictions which are still in place there, since he does all the music himself with a little transcontinental input from talented vocalists on the web. The central message is freedom. If there are bouncy castles at the rallies in Rome, this is the kind of stuff that freedom fighters (and their kids) could re-energize with. There are a ton of flavors on this record, all held together by lusciously chromatic maqams.

He gets off to a strong start with the title track. a brisk Egyptian reggae tune built around a catchy, scampering, biting oud lead track. Daf frame drum booms in the background, “Information of creation is stored in our DNA,” a rasta explains in the voiceover at the end. No doubt!

Asssembled around a catchy chromatic riff, Beautiful Baraka, featuring Adil Smaali is a chaabi-reggae-rap mashup with a couple of keyboards trading off in a wry call-and-response. Black Sea comes across as a trebly dub plate with wah-wah oud. Visini balances another slithery, catchy oud riff against microtonal roller-rink organ in Cosmic Pasha, then takes a deep plunge into Middle Eastern cumbia in Criminal, with Mambe Rodriguez taking a coy turn on vocals.

Divination has a more enigmatic Balkan-flavored tune, but Visini works anthemic string synth riffs into it. He goes back to a brisk cumbia groove, adding layers of cifteli lute and a scrambling oud solo in Extraterrestre, featuring Andalucian vocalist Carmen Estevez. Hamsa Shuffle has lusciously microtonal violin and a blippy, hypnotic cumbia sway, while Mizmirized has otherworldly zurna oboe and a swaying rai beat.

Visini ripples and pings his way through Qanun in Dub, a reggae tune and one of the most unselfconsciously gorgeous tracks on the record. Seeds of Culture is a loopy Indian-flavored song with snakecharmer ney flute over a rai rhythm and an unexpectedly bristling oud outro (is there such a word as “oudtro?”). The final cut, Ya Wuldani features guests Fatou Gozlan & Duo Darbar and is arguably the most psychedelic, dubwise number. It’s awfully early in the year to be talking about the best albums of 2022, but this is one of them.

The Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio Return With a Funky New Record

It was the dead of summer, 2018, the sunset blasting the lawn at Wagner Park just north of the Battery. On a makeshift stage under a canopy in the middle of the park, the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio fired off plenty of solar flares on their own. The organist bandleader edged out from catchy riffs to roaring rivers of sound and some smoky funk. It was good to see guitarist Jimmy James getting the chance to take off and air out his bottomless bag of riffs more than he does on record, with a purist, 1960s blues intensity. If New Yorkers stay strong and continue to defy New Abnormal restrictions, maybe someday we can look forward to seeing this beast of a band play here again.

They’re one of the most purposeful, adrenalizing and hardworking groups on the jamband circuit. It’s heartwarming to see that they emerged intact after the crippling lockdowns of 2020, with a new album Cold As Weiss streaming at Bandcamp. The album title refers to their new drummer Dan Weiss, also of psychedelic soul band the Sextones

The new album opens with Pull Your Pants Up, a not-so-subtle reminder to James to quit half-mooning the rest of the band during shows. It’s a catchy, more amped-up take on the classic Booker T sound, Lamarr scrambling and cutting loose with washes of chords,

Track two, Don’t Worry ‘Bout What I Do is slower and slinkier, with James running an edgy, Freddie King-flavored hook, expanding upward to a big wailing peak and a savage collapse from there.

I Wanna Be Where You Are is an irresistibly catchy late 60s soul groove, Lamarr playing a part that most groups of that era would have given to a horn section. They slow down for Big TT’s Blues, a ba-bump roadhouse theme, Lamarr choosing his spots and then spiraling over James’ smackdown staccato reverb chords. James bends his way through a wry solo afterward.

Get Da Steppin’ has a bright, upbeat Meters feel, then the band slow down for Uncertainty, James spotting Lamarr’s big chords with spare staccato licks. The guitarist takes over the rhythm as Lamarr lubricates the melody in Keep On Keeping On, the album’s funkiest tune.

The best track is Slip N Slide, James’ tasty web of vintage soul chords mingling with Lamarr’s reggae-tinged organ. James breaks out his wah pedal for This Is Who I Is, the album’s most psychedelic jam.

The trio’s next show is March 10 at 8ish at Proud Larry‘s, 211 S Lamar Blvd. in Oxford, Mississippi. Cover is tba: shows there with national touring acts run in the $15-20 range.

Dance Back in Time to a Happier Place with the Gabriel Evan Orchestra

One of the funnest albums to come over the transom here over the past several months is the Gabriel Evan Orchestra‘s latest release, Global Entry, streaming at Bandcamp. The inside of the album booklet shows the bandleader lounging in the shade of a ramshackle backyard in South Williamsburg, where this blog’s predecessor was born in 2007. Aldo’s, and the Southside Lounge, and Rock Star Bar, and innumerable neighborhood fixtures from that time are long gone. But this hot jazz group capture not only the excitement of that era, but of another tropically influenced moment in this city about ninety years ago.

They model themselves after the John Kirby Sextet, the popular 1930s group whose specialty was wry jazz arrangements of classical pieces. Fans of the Ghost Train Orchestra will love this stuff. Trumpeter John Zarsky wafts and buzzes amid the bright harmonies of the bandleader’s alto sax and Joe Goldberg’s clarinet over the sotto-voce pulse of pianist Joe Kennedy. bassist Ben Fox and drummer Michael Voelker. All that’s missing is a comedic Spike Jones rap.

Rumba Azul. the first of two 1930s hits by the Lecuona Cuban Boys, has a dixeland flair balanced by a beat that’s practically reggae. The other is the closing number, Rumba Tambah, following a similar trajectory from a lively bounce to more wary tonalities and back: the group really nail that style’s primitive, minimalistically trebly sound.

For Arabian Nightmare, Evan takes a Charlie Shavers arrangement of a famous Rimsky-Korsakov theme which completely changes the beat and adds a cheery midsection: that piano rhythm, veering from quasi-reggae to mambo, is hilarious. South 5th Street. one of a couple of Evan originals. has a brisk, brassy swing along with carefree clarinet and piano solos before Zarsky romps in with his mute. Evan’s other tune here is Negotiations of South Williamsburg, a slinky hi-de-ho mashup of the Ravel Bolero and a nifty. scampering klezmer tune.

The band go into stripped-down calypso jazz for Diane (Tropical Moon), a vehicle for Zarsky’s soulful trumpet. They make fond midtempo swing out of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band’s Singin’ the Blues and play Ellington’s Jubilee Stomp with an apt, hokum blues-influenced jubilation in their brief solos.

The band use the same jaunty template for Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes. Then they bring the lights down for an undulating, coyly ornamented take of Henry Mancini’s Lujon. From there, Shavers’ Effervescent Blues, done with a strut and choo-choo riffs, makes a good segue..

High-Voltage Catalan Dances and Party Tunes From Fenya Rai

Fenya Rai play high-voltage Catalan folk and Romany dance tunes with a rock rhythm section. Their sound is more unscripted and less flamenco-oriented than the Gipsy Kings, less self-referential than Gogol Bordello, although in their own irrepressible way they’re every bit as punk. Their latest album Placa Major – meaning “town square” – is streaming at Spotify. It’s a party in a box. Jordi Jubany plays guitar, with Jaume Martínez on accordion, David Tudela on bass and on Roger Montalà on drums

The opening number, Pastor Cabrer is a gruffly bouncy, upbeat tune that could be the Pogues singing in Catalan – or a bluegrass tune, for that matter. Sometimes party music sounds a lot alike no matter where it comes from. Joan Reig is the boisterous guest vocalist.

Jaume Arnella sings the similarly upbeat Les Rondes del Vi with a gruff, wintry delivery, in contrast to the spritely acoustic guitar. Francesc Ribera a.k.a Titot takes over the mic on La Fonda de Cal Xai, a briskly pulsing minor-key Romany tune. He returns a bit later to sing El Rector de Collbató, a klezmer-tinged tune with moody, resonant clarinet from Aura Roca along with stabbing accordion. Playing electric guitar, Albert Ibarra trades off some biting riffage of his own.

Bat de Sol is where the flamenco comes simmering in, with the expressive Arturo Gaya on vocals and Clara Colom on diatonic accordion. Adrià Dilmé joins the vocal harmonies in the cheery, pastoral cumbia El Vi de la Terra. Ibarra’s spiky guitar adds a wild psychedelic tinge to Quin Enrenou, another cumbia bounce.

Baixeu al Carrer, a swaying accordion tune, has sly guy/girl harmonies: it could be the roots of a Venezuelan cumbia hit from the 60s. The band pick up the pace even more with Els Tres Xicots, a big scampering banjo anthem.

There are mariachi horns on El Gall Negre, which could be a Mexican banda hit with a lickety-split sprint out at the end. The band go back to cumbia for album’s final track, El Tiexidor, a singalong drinking song.

Rare Unreleased Psychedelic Funk and Jamband Sounds From a New York Gone Forever

It’s a sweltering night on New York’s Lower East Side in June of 1987: summer has gotten off to a scorching start. Inside CBGB, there’s a good crowd, and they’re in a dancing mood. High on the stage, drummer Bobby Previte lays down a colorful clave. Elliott Sharp and Dave Tronzo play skronky, smoky guitar funk. Bassist Dave Hofstra is too low in the mix, and bandleader Wayne Horvitz adds layers of woozy keyboard textures. It’s the missing link between Defunkt’s jagged dancefloor attack and sprawling mid-70s Can. About four and a half minutes in, the song ends cold.

That’s the opening number, This New Generation, on Horvitz’s fifteen-track initial release in a series of archival recordings, Live Forever Volume 1, The President NY Live in the 80s, streaming at Bandcamp. It’s a party in a box. From the perspective of the Orwellian nightmare that 2022 has been so far in this city, what an incredible time and place that was. The door guy at CB’s never bothered to ask customers to show ID, never mind a vaxxport or a muzzle. And if vaxxports had existed in 1987, the crowd would have laughed him off and bumrushed the stage. For the young people of the Reagan era, everybody’s bullshit detector for authoritarianism was set to stun. How far we’ve fallen since then.

The rest of the album is a period piece. In his extensive liner notes, Horvitz avers to how messy and uneven some of it is, but there’s no question this band could jam their asses off. There are also a handful of rare studio recordings as well as a quartet of songs from the earliest incarnation of this snarkily named ensemble, The President of the United States of America, from a CB’s show five years earlier.

The next song is Bring Yr Camera. Tronzo slips and dives and tenor saxoponist Doug Wieselman soars over a gritty groove that could be a 1960s incarnation of the Crusaders. After that, These Hard Times foreshadows what Susie Ibarra would do with Filipino kulintang music, albeit with a harder edge.

There are two versions of Andre’s Mood here. The first is from that 1987 set, a tumbling, blippy, downtown New York take on what the Talking Heads were doing with Burning Down the House. The second is a more skittish, Afrobeat-flavored studio recording with Horvitz’s organ further to the front.

Likewise, there are two takes of Three Crows, a swaying, midtempo funk tune. The live version has a reggae bassline from Hofstra and a snazzy handoff from Wieselman to a jagged Sharp solo; the studio take is a little faster. The final song from the live set is Ride the Wide Streets, which veers further toward frantic punk-funk.

The rest of the studio material here is on the techy side, focusing on Horvitz’s incisively layered, punchy keyboard riffs. There’s Serious, which prefigures that expansive Afrobeat jams of bands like the Brighton Beat, and Science Diet (a reference to cat food), which is short and snarling.

The 1982 CBGB tracks are the most expansive and jam-oriented here. Despite a completely different lineup – Stew Cutler on guitar, Joe Gallant on bass and Dave Sewelson on alto sax – they’re testament to the consistency of Horvitz’s vision. The appropriately titled On and On is basically a reggae tune with a couple of big screaming peaks. Horvitz dedicates the more Booker T-flavored Flat on Yr Back to the sound guy – hmmmm!

Kevin Cosgrove is the guitarist on the two earliest live numbers. Of Thee I Sing is the most haphazard one here – hearing Sewelson’s sax through the board with all that reverb on it is a trip, as are Horvitz’s synth settings. The final number, Boy, is a surreal mashup of New Orleans second-line groove and abrasive no wave. All this is reason to look forward to what else Horvitz has lying around for the next installment.

An Organ Jamband Dance Party With WRD

Robert Walter has been a fixture on the jamband circuit pretty much since it existed. The perennially energetic organist distinguishes himself with his purposeful, vintage soul-infused playing: you’ll never hear him do Emerson, Lake & Palmer or Medeski, Martin & Wood. His latest instrumental project is WRD, with guitarist Eddie Roberts and drummer Adam Deitch. Their wickedly catchy album The Hit is streaming at Bandcamp. Although the instrumentation is totally 60s, the songs are a mix of the retro and the here and now.

The opening number, Judy has punchy blues-infused organ, Deitch rattling out a shuffle beat, and choogling guitar back in the mix, Roberts firing off a chicken-scratch solo. That pretty much sets the stage for the rest of the record: it’s best experienced as a whole in a place where there’s room for people to get up and dance.

The trio are good with titles: the second track is Sleep Depraved, Walter shifting between 70s soul-style minor seventh chords and punchy hip-hop-influenced riffs, Roberts chopping his way up to a fierce peak. He breaks out his wah for Chum City, which has a lot going on for a mostly one-chord funk jam with guest saxophonist Nick Gerlach.

Bobby’s Boogaloo is more Booker T than, say, Joe Cuba. The band nick a famous pseudo-Mexican theme from the 50s for Poison Dart, while Red Sunset is a latin-tinged seaside highway theme.

How meditative is Meditation? Not very – this early 70s-style Herbie Hancock-style Blaxploitation vamp’s going to pull you up on your feet no matter how relaxed you are. Happy Hour is not the LJ Murphy classic but a rapidfire early JBs style hard funk workout. The bluesy Hot Honey is an amped-up take on Booker T, with a clustering, smoky sax solo.

There are hints of a big Isley Brothers hit (and an Edgar Winter cheeseball) in Corner Pocket. The band close with the album’s most extended, loose-limbed jam, Pump Up the Vallium: they’re going to need more than one of those to wind down from this relentlessly adrenalizing record.

Yet Another Dynamic, Funky, Multistylistic Album From Protean Guitarist Will Bernard

Will Bernard is the rare musician who can write about what he does with as much articulacy as he plays. Now, that could be taken two ways, but Bernard is a guitar polymath who seems to have just as much fun in the worlds of straight-ahead jazz, Booker T style soul grooves, psychedelia, and slinky, funky organ lounge sounds. His latest album Ancient Grains – streaming at Posi-Tone Records – pushes the envelope as far as that last category is concerned. It was tempting just to plagiarize his descriptions of the tracks, but that would be cheating. This album is a party in a box. Here we go!

Bernard calls the opening number, Dry Land Tourist, a cruising song. That’s an interesting way to look at it. Unless you listen closely from the beginning, it’s hard to find the beat – although drummer Donald Edwards’ rhythm is rock-steady, it’s almost like everything is on the “one.” Bernard and organist Sam Yahel play sparely and incisively: this is dance music.

Bernard is very good with titles. To what extent does the album’s title track reflect the nutritional value of heirloom grains like, say, tef or hominy? It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that this tightly swinging quasi-shuffle is soul food, although bacon and home fries come to mind more than yemesir wat. But maybe that’s just a cultural association, considering that this style that originated in the south and midwest.

The trio play Five Finger Discount – a triumphantly percolating salute to the joy of thievery – with a shuffling 5/4 beat. Then they hit a lithe, brisk pulse in Pleasure Seekers, a California Highway 1 tableau. The George Benson that Bernard alludes to here is the young, hungry, edgy version; Edwards mists up the car windows with his solo.

With the fond, gospel-tinged, panoramic ballad Stone Valley, Bernard sends a shout-out to his dad, who built the family home in what was then very rural California. The guitarist calls Trilobite a ” mood piece for a rainy carnival day.” which nails the contrast between the jaunty Brazilian beat and the moody, resonant changes.

The lone cover here is a Monk tune, Boo Boo’s Birthday, Bernard giving the melody line some extra bite, Yahel having fun shifting the rhythm over Edwards’ practically defiant forward drive. Likewise, there’s a hard swing to Mazurka Tree, distantly inspired by Chopin, whose Slavic dances Bernard would play on piano in his younger days.

Edwards gets to volley and chew the scenery in Temescal, a lickety-split salute to Bernard’s old Bay Area stomping ground. Ironically for a party album, the most gripping track is the gorgeously drifting Right As Rain, awash in cumulo-nimbus organ and Bernard’s spare, sitar-like slide guitar. The group close the record with Wake Up Call. “This song doesn’t sound difficult but it requires a certain alertness to play it,” Bernard confides. Actually…yeah, the syncopation in this part-boogaloo, part brooding reggae-inflected tune is tricky, but the trio keep the slinky groove rolling close to the ground.