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Category: jazz

A Viscerally Transcendent New Album and a Bed-Stuy Gig From Pianist Eri Yamamoto

Pianist Eri Yamamoto survived a hideous attack to make a beautiful record. In the early days of the 2020 lockdown, Yamamoto was assaulted on a Brookyn street. Her attacker mistook her for Chinese (she’s Japanese) and accused her of unleashing the Covid virus (which seems to have been manufactured in China, but was invented in a North Carolina bioweapons lab). This is the kind of incident that takes place when a society is divided and conquered, when orange-haired demagogues step to the podium to make divisive anti-Asian statements.

Although Yamamoto is a streetwise New Yorker – she honed her chops back in the 90s at the gritty Avenue B Social Club – the assault left her so shaken that she began wearing a purple wig and shades to hide her features.

But she transcended the attack, to the point where for the first time, she sings on record. Her new album A Woman With a Purple Wig is streaming at Bandcamp. She’s playing Bar Lunatico on Nov 30 at 9 PM.

On the album, Yamamoto reflects on the grimness of 2020, but also offers hope for the future. She opens the first track, Challenge, with a series of biting, brooding arpeggios over the low-key, lithe groove of bassist David Ambrosio and drummer Ikuo Takeuchi. With a calm determination, she expands from the center, building almost imperceptibly to a handful of jaunty flourishes. Takeuchi churns around as Yamamoto chooses her spots and then returns with a sober baroque focus before handing off to Ambrosio’s punching, dancing lines.

“One day I bought a wig on the internet, my favorite color,” she sings over a brisk, tightly wound stroll on the album’s title track: “Only twenty bucks…did you know that a purple wig has a special power?” Sarcasm reaches redline until Yamamoto runs the song’s chilling central mantra: it will resonate with anyone who’s been targeted for violence. It’s impossible to think of a more powerful jazz song released this year.

Ends to Start reflects Yamamoto’s hope that we will emerge from the ongoing reign of terror to create a better world, the intricate piano/bass polyrhythms in a tight interweave as Takeuchi shifts subtly between waltz time and a steady clave. Again, Yamamoto’s lines are spacious and reflective, up to a puckish crescendo and an eventual;y restrained majesty following a flurrying bass solo.

She returns to the mic for Colors Are Beautiful, a slow, catchy, allusively gospel-tinged singalong salute to ethnic diversity. Her gentle but bright oldschool soul riffage quickly falls away for a hushed bass solo over misty cymbals as Sounds of Peace gets underway, then she works through a pensive series of gospel-inspired variations.

Track six is titled Shout, a sleekly undulating, blues-infused number with lively extrovert drums. Yamamoto closes the album with Internal Beat, her most complex and animated postbop-style tune here, fueled by Takeuchi’s colorful accents.

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Pianist Mike Holober’s Lavish, Dynamic Song Cycle Offers Optimism and Positivity When We Really Need It

Pianist Mike Holober is best known as a composer of picturesque, often breathtaking big band jazz. But along with his role creating cinematic charts for the NDR Bigband, he’s also a jazz songwriter. Fortuitously, he managed to record his latest album, Don’t Let Go live in concert at Aaron Davis Hall uptown in the fall of 2019, right around the same time that Event 201 was taking place. A project for his Balancing Act septet, it’s a lavish fourteen-part song cycle streaming at Sunnyside Records. Holober is providing an rare, intimate look at how this sausage gets made in a duo set with soprano saxophonist Charles Pillow at Mezzrow on Nov 30, with sets at 7:30 and 9 PM. Cover is $25 cash at the door.

Needless to say, this symphonically thematic suite seems very prescient considering what’s transpired over the last 32 months. It begins with Breathe Deep, a lustrous dawn theme in the shape of a gently syncopated canon, Holober’s piano slowly taking over from Marvin Stamm’s trumpet, Dick Oatts’ alto sax, Jason Rigby’s tenor sax and Mark Patterson’s trombone. Chanteuse Jamile takes centerstage to introduce the first of the songs, Morning Hope, a challenge to wake up, question, and “clear away the lies.” Holober’s piano foreshadows that promise, handing off to Mike McGuirk’s dancing bass solo over drummer Dennis Mackrel’s lithe, muted rimshots. Bright, balmy trumpet and warmly cantering piano against hazy vocalese fill out an optimistic picture.

Jamile offers wise advice to stay on the side of love in Four-Letter Words, a verdantly swaying, syncopated number, Oatts’ solo outlasting a bit of a storm. He switches to soprano for a blazing intro to Kiss the Ground, a bnrner with circling horn riffage over driving pedalpoint: “It ain’t coming round again,” Jamile warns before Mackrel takes it out unexpectedly.

Burnin’ Daylight begins warily, then brightens with Patterson’s spacious solo over an altered latin groove, Holober returning to an earlier, casually determined theme, Jamile cautioning us to keep our eye on the ball. There’s a similar trajectory from unease to distantly New Orleans-flavored ebullience in A Summer Midnight’s Dream. Necessary, the conclusion, allusively speaks to issues of personal sovereignty over a pouncing, icepick rhythm, with incisive solos from trombone and the saxes

Holober opens the second disc with I Wonder, his judicious, icily Messiaen-tinged solo introducing a slightly more driving variation on the initial cantering theme as Jamile channels her refusal to concede to fear. Although You’re a Long Way from Home has folksy, pastoral tinges, the unease persists despite Patterson’s genial, low-key solo.

Mackrel’s misty brushes underpin Holober’s spacious piano, Jamile tracing a trail of betrayal in You Never Know, Stamm adding a bittersweet, lingering solo as the rhythm subtly shifts into swing. Smile Slow, a summery interlude for Holober and Rigby, sets up Letting Go, a lilting, bossa-tinged ballad with a judicious but opaque soprano sax solo at the center.

Holober weaves the first disc’s jumping final theme into Touch the Sky, with more of a tropical bounce and a lively two-sax conversation: it’s the album’s most entertaining number. The concert ends with Don’t Let Go, Jamile asserting that “Things are better than they seem” and holding out hope over Holober’s tersely undulating melody, Rigby bringing in an inviting, final cloud cover. More jazz artists should make live albums like this one.

A Colorful, Frequently Rapturous Brooklyn Celebration of Yuko Fujiyama’s Music

Last night at Roulette an innovative, inspired cast of Japanese and Americana musicians played a fascinating salute to Yuko Fujiyama, concluding a two-night stand in celebration of the composer and pianist’s individualistic work. The dynamic shifts from animated, incisive, typically somewhat minimalist melodies, to hushed rapture and occasional controlled pandemonium, mirrored a distinctly Japanese sensibility more than the tonalities did.

Solo behind the drumkit, Tetsu Nagasawa opened the evening with an elegant hailstorm on the cymbals. Slowly moving to a coyly noirish rattle, he reached toward gale force, lashing the shoreline before descending to a muted rain on the roof that eventually drifted away. Following a steady, rather hypnotic upward trajectory, he then brought the ambience down to a hushed, shamanic ambience spiced with majestic cymbal washes.

Pianist Sylvie Courvoisier then joined him, adding a few judicious plucks over a distant rustle before introducing a staggered, minimalist pedalpoint. Eerie clusters alternated with simple, emphatic rhythmic gestures. Nagasawa signaled a detour into a flickering jungle; a good cop/bad cop high-lo dynamic ensued over a circular rumble. Courvoisier pounced and threw elbows, then she coalesced into a climb that mirrored the opening drum solo as it decayed to silence.

After the intermission, a cross-pollinated ensemble of Do Yeon Kim on gayageum (the magical, warptoned Korean zither), Satoshi Takeishi on drums, Ned Rothenberg on reeds and Shoko Nagai on piano took over with an improvisation that began with a little furtive prowling around and grew more agitated, Kim’s circling riffs leading the way up to an insistent, pansori-like vocal attack.

A bit of a blizzard gave way to rapturous deep-space washes fueled by Rothenberg’s desolate clarinet, Nagai adding icily spacious glimmer. Gently skipping piano anchored crystalline clarinet curlicues, Rothenberg and Nagai converging in dark circles as the other two musicians looked on but eventually edged their way in. Trails of sparks flickered off; Nagai, who’d moved to a small synth, hit a backwards loop pedal; the spaceship reappeared and everyone got in but chaos ensued anyway.

Rothenberg’s eventual decision to pick up his shakuhachi brought a return to woodsy mysticism, from which Nagai, back on piano, led the ensemble on a long scramble. A cantering forward drive and an unexpected turn into neoromantic rivulets grew grittier as Nagai brought the music to a forceful coda.

For the night’s concluding number, Fujiyama took over on piano, bolstered by additional flute and trumpet, with Nagai moving to accordion. Yuma Uesaka conducted. A brief, lustrous introduction set up Fujiyama’s judicious, otherworldly, Messiaenic ripples: mournful late 50s Miles Davis came to mind.

Pensive trumpet amid gingerly romping piano and an uneasy haze were followed by Kim’s graceful bends. which introduced an interlude that quickly grew squirrelly and eventually frantic.

Rothenberg’s emergence as voice of reason was temporary. Uesaka stopped the works, then restarted them as more of a proper upward vector, with flutters from the flutes and two drummers. The allusive charge down to a final drift through the clouds made a fittingly magical conclusion.

The next concert at Roulette is November 27 at 8 PM with John Zorn’s New Masada Quintet; you can get in for $35 in advance.

Sweet Megg Brings Her Imaginative, Dynamic Take on Western Swing to a Familiar Williamsburg Haunt

Where Bob Wills started with country and blues and added jazz to the mix to create western swing, singer Megg Farrell starts with swing jazz as a starting point for her latest album, My Window Faces the South, streaming at Bandcamp. It’s a party album, but it’s also an innovative mix of vintage styles. She’s keeping her cowboy hat on for her next gig on Nov 26 at 9 PM at Skinny Dennis. For those who might dread Williamsburg on a weekend night, consider that a lot of the contingent who make that neighborhood such a miserable place will probably still be out of town for Thanksgiving.

Sweet Megg, as she’s known, switches effortlessly between the many types of oldtime Americana she’s explored from the start of her career about ten years ago. She reaches down for a low-key, mistier take on Patsy Cline in the opening number, Faded Love. Fiddler Billy Contreras fires off a deliciously slinky solo midway through, trumpeter Mike Davis and saxophonist Ricky Alexander punching in with bright harmonies over the groove of bassist Dennis Crouch and drummer Chris Gelb.

The band blend dixieland flair and a little jump blues over an oldtime swing beat in the next track, Hesitation Blues. There’s an accordion along with Chris Scruggs’ steel guitar on a balmy version of I Can’t Stop Loving You; then the band pick up the pace with There’ll Be Some Changes Made, with Contreras’ fiddle, Alexander’s clarinet and Scruggs’ scrambling steel front and center.

The album’s title track gets a sly cha-cha intro and some spiraling ragtime piano from Dalton Ridenhour before the horns and the steel pair off. The tricky intro to Sentimental Gentleman from Georgia is there to fake you out: Farrell and the band make hi-de-ho country out of it, if you can imagine that.

They really nail a hazy, wistfully nocturnal atmosphere in their lush, enveloping version of Stardust, fueled by Ridenhour’s steady C&W piano. Farrell and Alexander harmonize in an oldtime swing-infused take of I’ve Got a Feeling I’m Falling as Contreras flickers in the background. And they have fun reinventing the Tennessee Waltz, first with just Farrell’s vocals over animated slip-key piano, then Scruggs comes in sailing overhead.

Likewise, Ridenhour and Gelb give an incisive, imaginative drive to Those Memories of You. They close with Trouble in Mind, Farrell and the group stretching further out into the jazz that brought them here. On one hand, almost all of the songs here have been done to death: credit this inspired cast for breathing new life into them.

Theo Walentiny Takes the Crowd on a Magical Mystery Tour of a Historic Downtown Space

Houses of worship tend to be less than optimal for music that’s fast or percussive. Earlier today, pianist Theo Walentiny and his trio sized up the natural reverb of the late 18th century architecture of St. Paul’s Chapel downtown and turned it into a fourth bandmate in a resonant, immersive performance that was often nothing short of eerie.

Throughout their hour onstage, Walentiny chose his spots for occasional rivulets, cascades or variations on circular clusters over a stygian, resonant lefthand. Until the final number, moments where he picked up the volume were few, and packed a punch when they occurred. Drummer Connor Parks rarely rose above a cymballine mist until the second half of the show while bassist Tyrone Allen matched Walentiny’s moody modalities, sometimes shadowing the piano, sometimes essentially taking over from the drums during the show’s most briskly swinging moments.

They reinvented Billy Strayhorn’s Chelsea Bridge as a murky kaleidoscope punctuated by a stern, loopy march motif and rainy-day upper register that Walentiny took into icily starry Messiaenic territory. The original after that pulsed with a muted suspense over a racewalking shuffle groove, Walentiny building tension with subtle variations on insistent, judiciously spaced clusters, loosening every so slightly into a more casual if wary stroll with a chilly reflecting-pool piano solo at the center.

From there Walentiny built the next number up from more of those circling clusters (that appears to have really become a thing in jazz conservatories these days), gingerly moving outward from a center to distant echoes of regally pugilistic McCoy Tyner and a quasi Giant Steps interlude with stabbing close harmonies. Parks in particular was masterful on this one, building a tabla-like atmosphere that lingered and left the crowd speechless for several seconds at the end.

From there the group parsed a forlorn, Birmingham-era Coltrane style tone poem of sorts: Walentiny hinted that he might go in a more lively direction but opted against it as Allen’s minute microtones edged upward. They closed with another original, Splattered Current, Parks finally cutting loose with his toms to underpin Walentiny’s stern pedalpoint in contrast to bright but meticulously space righthand accents and a few sizzling flurries. Either way, it was a magical tug-of-war with the sonics bounding and booming off the walls.

The final jazz concert at St. Paul’s Chapel this month is at 1 PM on Nov 22 with harpist Edmar Castaneda and his trio. Admission is free; be aware that you will be asked to empty your pockets as if you were at the airport if you want to get in. So far they don’t make you take your shoes off.

A Thoughtful, Understatedly Gorgeous Live Album From Eric Vloeimans and Will Holshouser

Trumpeter Eric Vloeimans and accordionist Will Holshouser‘s new album Two for the Road – streaming at Bandcamp – is yet more proof that more artists should make live records. The duo recorded it about a year ago while on tour in the Netherlands. Vloeimans has a richly lyrical resonance which is ideally suited to this unorthodox duo format, and Holshouser – a connoisseur of Punjabi music – has found a similarly simpatico sparring partner. There’s lots of unselfconscious beauty here, whether you call this pastoral jazz, or new classical music, or folk tunes for that matter.

Vloeimans opens Tibi Gratias, a stately, gentle canon, with a wafting solo; later, Holshouser builds it to a lush, steady chordal drive. The miking on the accordion is fantastic and captures the entirety of Holshouser’s range, including the lows that some accordion recordings miss out on. In general, he gets more time in the spotlight here than his collaborator.

There are three “innermissions” by Vloeimans here, all composed during the 2020 lockdown. The first makes a good segue, the two slowly working their way out of waltz time to more trickier syncopation, an unexpectedly murky accordion interlude and a gorgeous, distantly flamenco-tinged conclusion.

Deep Gap is even more straightforwardly bright: it could be a Civil War-era march with moments of unexpectedly puckish humor. The duo continue in a playful vein with Innermission 12 as they build around a goofy quote, Holshouser spiraling and blipping steadily, Vloeimans picking up the pace. The good cheer continues in the bluesy waltz Innermission 2, Vloeimans choosing his spots with a New Orleans flair.

The two musicians remain in 3/4 time to reinvent a Muppets movie theme as a spare, surprisingly pensive, terse ballad. They take more of a charge into the album’s most expansive track, Redbud Winter, lithe trumpet over puffing, emphatic accordion with echoes of Indian music. Holshouser introduces an enigmatically balmy waltz interlude followed by a jaunty contrapuntal conversation before they bring it full circle.

They emerge from a bit of a haze to minimalist variations on a slowly staggered ballad theme in MoMu and follow with Innermission 9, working an insistent bounce over a moody, vampy 70s soul-inflected tune. It has more bite than anything else on the album, Vloeimans picking up with his jovial arpeggios as the two wind it out.

To Louis seems to be a homage to someone beyond the obvious, a slinky 6/8 tune where Vloeimans ranges from hazy, to incisive, to some of the album’s most soaring moments. Variations on a tensely rhythmic, Indian-flavored theme alternate with balmy balladry in Innermission 1l, then the two musicians make catchy reggae out of it. They close with a lullaby.

The Ragas Live Festival 2022, Part 2: Hits and Misses

This year’s return of the 24-hour-plus Ragas Live festival of Indian music and related sounds was so epic that it requires two parts to reasonably digest. The frequently rapturous first half was reviewed here yesterday. The second part was also often transcendent, with some issues.

Let’s tackle those and then get to the good stuff. You’re never going to see fusion jazz on this page: with rare exceptions, good jazz is basically acoustic music. So if you enjoyed the tropical midnight act and the interminable Moroccan fusion interlude yesterday afternoon, glad you had a good time.

It would have been fun to catch sitarist Abhik Mukherjee‘s set to begin the second half of the marathon. Who knew that a trip for coffee a little earlier in the morning would also have turned into a marathon, a much less enjoyable one.

Back at Pioneer Works, bansuri flutist Jay Gandhi took an absolutely harrowing detour, running variations on a haunting, wary chromatic theme with Ehren Hanson on tabla for what seemed the better part of an hour. Beyond Gandhi’s breathtakingly liquid, perfectly modulated sine-wave attack, the somber mood was impossible to turn away from. These are troubled times: nobody has channeled that with such subtle power in recent months as these two. Which made their clever and allusive permutations on a bouncy nursery-rhyme-like riff afterward such a stark contrast. And yet, the darkness lingered, if at a distance.

Trumpeter Amir ElSaffar, whose most recent specialty has become oceanic Middle Eastern big band jazz, followed with about an hour of brooding electroacoustic sounds. Starting off on a labyrinthine rack of analog synthesizers, he rose from enveloping ambience to an achingly gorgeous, regal solo trumpet fanfare in a moody Iraqi maqam. Next, he looped an austere, baroquely churchy organ processional, then employed it as a backdrop for a constellation of santoor riffs which echoed Gandhi’s pervasive angst. He wound up the set on vocals with a similarly cautionary clarion call, more or less.

Another santoorist, Vinay Desai kept the angst at redline with a saturnine tribute to the late, great Shivkumar Sharma, who left us this past spring. We don’t know for certain if the lethal Covid injection took him out. With Vivek Pandya on tabla, the two musicians developed an absolutely gorgeous, elegaic, allusively chromatic theme and variations. Remaining mostly in the midrange, Desai rose for the great beyond with a somber glimmer before bringing it down to a dirge and the tabla entered. As the hour went on, Desai’s ripples off the walls of the space echoed into a galactic drift. Eventually, the duo took the theme skipping into the stars, a sober but energetic farewell to a pioneer.

ElSaffar returned for a second turn on santoor, joining percussionist Zafer Tawil and violinist Sami Abu Shumays behind impassioned veteran Iraqi crooner Hamid Al Saadi. After the sober, stately initial march, the maqam singer would begin the rest of the set’s expansive numbers with darkly dynamic, rubato intros, one leading to a surprisingly subtle call-and-response with ElSaffar. A little later, the group made their way into a swaying, ebullient major-key tune with a starkly contrasting santoor-and- violin break. They closed with undulating, biting chromatic theme with even more lusciously intertwined santoor and violin and a machinegunning coda.

Violinist Arun Ramamurthy gets credit for the festival’s most pyrotechnic performance, a role he’s become accustomed to. This time out he had his Indian jazz trio with bassist Damon Banks and Sameer Gupta on drums. This was the symphonic Ramamurthy: in the boomy space, with the natural reverb bouncing off the walls, he was a violin army. Banks would typically shadow him, Gupta inventively doing a nimble churning groove with tabla voicings on his kit, as the bandleader made his way through a rising and falling epic in tribute to his ancestors, to moments of icy ambience as well as frequent excursions through the bluesy raga riffs that he likes to mine in this context. Nobody knows how to draw an audience in with foreshadowing and judiciously spectacular slides and stabs better than Ramamurthy.

After that it was dance time. All-female Moroccan trance-dance ensemble group Bnat el Houariyat, featuring New York’s Esraa Warda took over the stage and then stomped and twirled and spoke power to male hegemony.

In her New York debut, singer/dancer and mystic Parvathy Baul brought ancient archetypes to life in a fervent but utterly unselfconsciously spiritual set of Bengali ritual songs. Showing off a soulfully soaring, meticulously melismatic, carnatically-infused voice which took on a grittier edge as her set went on, she sang innumerable mythical metaphors and cheerily translated them for the English-only crowd. Moving from ecstasy to tenderness and then an acerbic insistence, she cut loose and reminded that crowd that the truth is like a lion. All you have to do is set it free. Or words to that effect. Let’s hope there’s a Ragas Live festival in 2023.

Sinister Sunday Singles

This blog’s raison d’etre is not “plandemic, 24/7.” After awhile, staring into that abyss is just torture. Since March of 2020, New York Music Daily has tried to be a source of musical solace grounded in reality.

But this is Halloween month. So far, loyal readers, you have been spared the really grisly stuff. Today’s mix of singles, noteworthy news items and short video clips is a brief overview of where the world is now in what Mark Crispin Miller calls “Operation Herod.” Globally, approximately twenty million people have been murdered in the deployment of the bioweapon farcically marketed as a Covid vaccine. This blog predicted this ongoing holocaust in the fall of 2020; here’s a view of some of the perpetrators, along with a few tunes. It’s about fifteen minutes of sound and occasional fury. Click on author or artist names for their webpages, click on titles for audio, video, a snarky meme or a quick read.

Not photoshopped or altered: this is the most troubling admission of guilt so far by the corpse-in-chief. Scroll down to the second video – (thanks to Celia Farber for this). “The people laughing is proof the experiment worked. A man of power in a blue suit in a crowd of people who perceive themselves to be below him in social hierarchy will laugh at whatever he says, because “charm” induces trance. And powerful Democrats are Gods. And we give Gods our children, as sacrifice.”

Here’s one of the best-ever live tv Brandon gaffes, perfectly timed for election season. It’s not quite Gates saying that vaccines can reduce the world population by 15%, but it’s close. Thanks to 2SG on Substack for this.

Emerald Robinson: “The U.S. government created the COVID virus. The U.S. government created the COVID vaccines. The U.S. government got a patent for Luciferase tracking proteins to be used in the vaccines. The U.S. government allowed dangerous DNA vaccines to be produced without proper safety trials. The U.S. government illegally forced our military to get injected with an “emergency use authorization” drug never approved by the FDA. The U.S. government worked with Big Tech companies to censor Americans who told the truth about the COVID vaccines. The U.S government forced ordinary Americans into getting injected with these experimental vaccines too. The U.S. government then fired any employee or contractor who refused to take their non-FDA approved drugs — and coerced private companies into doing the same thing. All the conspiracy theories are coming true.”

Bodybuilder Doug Brignole went on record about putting his life on the line for the Covid shot. “If it doesn’t kill me, I told you so.” Then it killed him. Did he predict his own death? Investigative journalist and philosopher Tessa Lena gives you a free pdf of his fateful words.

A wearable meme; Hillary Killary‘s “Wanted For Murder” multicolor t-shirt with an image of Fauci either on the front or the back. “Whoever is standing behind you on the supermarket checkout line will be forced to see it.”

Send this to anyone who supports lockdown restrictions as we get into the winter of our discontent: Michael Osterholm shoots straight on masks on Rogan, March 10, 2020: “They’re not effective at all,” in 53 priceless seconds via Sage Hana.

Amy Sukwan, Thailand-based novelist and queen of memes, says the Eagles were right: we are all prisoners here of our own device;

Elephants in the room, princesses and peas and other fables recast via freedom fighter Super Sally in the Philippines

Bobby Sanabria‘s latin jazz band back Jenn Jade Ledesna in her nuanced conga interpretation of the classic Edgar Allen Poe poem The Bells: Darwin Noguera on piano, Andy Eulau on bass, Peter Brainin on sax.

Songwriter Matt Brevner speaks to hope for the future in More of Us over a trip-hop beat with a string section: “Please don’t be part of the problem.” Free download.

And here’s the new VanDongen preprint that’s gone viral, in case you didn’t see it. As Dr. David Martin has been saying since 2020, here’s more conclusive proof that Covid-19 has bioweaponeer Ralph Baric’s fingerprints all over it, from his gain-of-function work at the University of North Carolina lab. Download the free pdf for future study and evidence.

Let’s end this with something positive. Dr. Pam Popper may be best known as the founder of Make Americans Free Again, but she’s also an animal lover. “Animals aren’t property, they’re companions, they’re our roommates and our best friends!” In about four minutes, she shares a new study which confirms that cats and dogs have emotions measurable in oxytocin levels. Start the video at the 3 minute mark.

A Dave Brubeck Rarity Finally Surfaces After More Than Half a Century

It was the night of November 12, 1967 and Dave Brubeck was pissed. He had a sold-out show to play at the Konzerthaus in Vienna and his saxophonist, Paul Desmond, was AWOL.

Desmond’s battle with the needle was an open secret by this time, but he’d always been able to manage his addiction. This time, he’d overdone it – and his bandmates had no idea where he was. This was especially problematic because Desmond was so central to the classic Brubeck quartet’s sound: it meant they’d have to come up with a completely different set and leave out many of their biggest hits.

Brubeck may have been just as worried as he was angry, and whatever the case, the situation lit a fire under the pianist as well as bassist Eugene Wright and drummer Joe Morello. The result ended up being captured on tape. It’s the only known recording of the three jazz icons playing as a trio. Fifty-five years later, it’s finally available and streaming at Spotify.

They open with St. Louis Blues, Morello hinting at a loose-limbed cha-cha before Wright swings the changes and the bandleader works a sardonically phantasmagorical edge. Wright quotes from the Broadway tune I’m Going to Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair in a long, scrambling solo: a sarcastic band-insider joke, as the liner notes allude.

Brubeck picks up on that in One Moment Worth Years and peppers his precisely punchy attack with even more quotes, when he isn’t making Messiaenic modes out of New Orleans riffage: it’s erudite but savage in places. Wright chooses his spots as he works variations on the melody line: vaulted into the spotlight, he delivers.

Morello gets centerstage with an especially exuberant take of Swanee River. By now, everybody’s having fun despite the circumstances, particularly as Brubeck stays focused on playing good cop against some pretty ridiculously vaudevillian drumwork.

He works his way gingerly into a bittersweet, lingering intro to La Paloma Azul, then Morello lures him into understatedly jaunty blues with some steadily misty cymbals. The trio mine the thorny rhythmic complexity they knew well, first waltzing insistently into Someday My Prince Will Come before Brubeck jabs and spirals against the beat. They close the show with a scampering, no-nonsense version of Take the A Train

Unlike untold “rediscoveries” from European tours of the era, the recording quality is excellent

Desmond ended up rejoining the band the following night in Paris – where the group picked up like they never left off, musically at least, and recorded another, completely different live album The Last Time We Saw Paris.

Since Brubeck and his great quartet have since gone to the great concert hall in the sky, this is today’s installment in the ongoing, daily Octoberlong Halloween celebration here. You will hear more about other dead people here as the month goes on.

Dan Kurfirst Brings His Tranquilly Kinetic, Meditative Grooves to a Perfect Outdoor Spot

Said it before, time to say it again: drummers always pull together the best bands because everybody wants to play with the good ones. Dan Kurfirst is the latest to take centerstage with his new album Arkinetics, streaming at Bandcamp. He’s immersed himself in both Middle Eastern and Indian music, so his beats are especially well informed by touch along with unlimited kinds of boom. He’s bringing this project to the ongoing series of city garden shows on Oct 2 at 4 PM in the space at 129 Stanton St. east of Essex: the lineup includes Rodney Chapman on sax, Alexis Marcelo on keys, John Merritt on bass and Roshni Samlal on tabla. The afternoon opens at 1:30 PM with the tersely propulsive duo of Aquiles Navarro on trumpet and Tchesser Holmes on drums, followed at 2:30 by, pianist Albert Marquès’ Freedom First project featuring the poetry of unjustly convicted death row inmate Keith LaMar, and then at 3:30 singer Lisa Sokolov.

On Kurfirst’s new album, Daniel Carter plays trumpet and winds, with Damon Banks on bass, otherwise the group is the same. A handful of the tunes have samples from mystic and author Alan Watts, reflecting Kurfirst’s longstanding meditation practice and interest in spirituality. The opening number, Peace In is set to a catchy, syncopated piano-and-synth backdrop by Fima Chupakhin, with a voiceover ending with Watts’ observation that “The godhead is never an object of its own knowledge.” What’s your take on that?

A gently churning drums-and-tabla piece sets up the delicately qawwali-tinged Meditation Groove, with balmy Rhodes by Marcelo and trumpet from Carter: Silent Way Miles with delicate Indian tinges. This sets the stage for much of the rest of the album.

The lingering, Bob Belden-esque nocturnal ambience continues, Carter beginning on flute and then switching back to muted trumpet in Birth Beats 1, set against Marcelo’s saturnine glimmer.

Banks’ catchy, loopy trebly chromatic riffage anchors Ghost Killers as Kurfirst and Samlal circle around an artfully orchestrated series of crescendos from Marcelo’s Rhodes while Carter raises the anxious ante with his sax. Dreamscape is aptly titled: with the hypnotic tabla, Kurfirst’s elegant brushwork and Carter’s balmy sax, it could be a Bill Withers backing track.

Kurfirst follows the trippy, shamanic drumscape Two Chants with Not Yet, Carter’s modal sax floating uneasily over Banks’ tightly clustering, catchy bass variations and Marcelo’s spare, atmospheric lines. The group bring the album full circle with a benedictory full-band version of the opening number.