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Tag: avant garde music

Live Music Calendar for New York City and Brooklyn For May and June 2022

More concert listings this month than last: hardly critical mass, but live music in this city is becoming a thing again. Hopefully this is a trend: if all goes well, there will be many additions to this calendar throughout the month.

Weekly events first followed by the daily calendar.

Mondays at the Django it’s all Mingus, whether with the Mingus Orchestra, Big Band or Mingus Dynasty: as jazz goes, it’s arguably the most exhilarating show of the week, every week. The first-rate players always rise to the level of the material. Sets 7:30/9:30 PM, $25 and worth it.

5/6, 5/13 and 5/20 at 7:30 PM, and  5/12 at 10:30 PM tenor saxophonist Ken Fowser leads his band at the Django. Jukebox jazz in a JD Allen vein but not as dark and more straight-ahead/groove-oriented: as postbop party music goes, nobody’s writing better than this guy right now, $25

5/1, 8ish offhandedly chilling angst-rock/psychedelic songwriter Grace Bergere followed by Heavy Feather and the Magic Word – who do a good, shambly baby Supergrass imitation – at Our Wicked Lady, “$13.60” meaning $14 at the door

5/2-6, half past noon veteran, melodic 1950s era jazz pianist Bertha Hope plays the house electric model at Bryant Park

5/2, 7:30/9 PM reliably adrenalizing saxophonist Seamus Blake leads a quartet followed at 10:30 by  expansive postbop pianist Miki Yamanaka and her group at Smalls, $25 cash at the door. Blake is back here the next night, 5/3; Yamanaka is back on the 23rd.

5/2, 8 PM an intriguing avant jazz sax-and-guitar duo: Charlotte Greve and Simon Jermyn Duo at Seeds

5/3, 6 PM Avenida B play oldschool Lower East Side-style salsa at Bryant Park

5/3, 6:30 PM guitarist Federico Balducci leads an improvisational trio with bassist Brian Kastan and drummer Mike Pride followed at 7:30 by Alix Tuccp solo on bass trombone at Downtown Music Gallery, free

5/3, 7 PM eclectically rustic newgrass shredders We Banjo 3 at City Winery, $26 adm avail.

5/4. 5:30 PM Venezuelan piano jazz with the Gabriel Chakarji Group at Multi-Use Room A in Pelham Fritz Recreation Center at Marcus Garvey Park, free

5/4, 6 PM the Antoinette Montague Experience play oldtimey swing jazz at Bryant Park

5/4. 7 PM intriguingly brooding Turkish jazz pianist Bilge Gunaydin at the big room at the Rockwood, $15

5/4. 7:30 PM chanteuse Anais Reno fronts the lyrically energetic Pete Malinverni Trio at the Django, $25

5/4, 8 PM Jambalaya brass band NOTUS march into Drom, $10 adv tix rec

5/5, 6 PM Mariachi Real de Mexico who are as playfully rustic as they are regal at Bryant Park\

5/5, 7:30/9 PM intimate trumpet and piano sounds from Dominick Farinacci and Dan Tepfer at Smalls, $25 cash at the door

5/5. 11 PM ferociously dynamic, tuneful,female-fronted power trio Castle Black at Otto’s

5/6, 7 PM fearlessly powerful, outside-the-box South African jazz siren Melanie Scholtz at the downstairs room at the Rockwood,$15

5/7, 7 PM Liftoff Brass Band play New Orleans-style tunes outdoors at Culture Lab in Long Island City

5/7. 7:30 PM Abhik Mukherjee on sitar and Dibyarka Chatterjee on tabla at the Chhandayan Center For Indian Music, $25

5/7, 8 PM a cool surf twinbill at Otto’s with the Chillers and Blue Wave Theory

5/7. 10:30/midnight  feral tenor saxophonist Eric Wyatt and band and then the jam session at Smalls, $25 cash at the door. He’s back on 5/21

5/7, 11 PM trippy, fun psychedelic disco unit Cosmonaut Radio at the big room at the Rockwood, $10

5/8, 1 PM clever saxophonist Paul Shapiro’s Ribs & Brisket Review plays the “music of Mrs. Maisel” at City Winery $25

5/8, 1:30 PM intense retro 60s influenced Nubian funk band Alsarah & the Nubatones and high voltage Mexican folk-punk band the Villalobos Brothers at the bandshell in Forest Park, Woodhaven Boulevard and Forest Park Drive in Queens, J to 111th St

5/8, 5 PM charming/slashing noir cabaret/circus rock duo Frenchy & the Punk outdoors at Culture Lab in Long Island City

5/9-13, half past noon noir-inspired pianist Todd Robbins plays speakeasy jazz and blues at Bryant Park

5/10, 6:30 PM an improvisational triplebill:  Symbiotique with guitarist Michael Eaton, Seth Andrew Davis, Cheryl Pyle and Kule Quass followed at 7:30 by violinist/singer Kate Birch with guitarist Tal Yahalom and then at 8:30 PM guitarist Chris Pitsiokos and Kevin Murray at Downtown Music Gallery, free

5/11, 7:30 PM lyrical, sweeping pianist/accordionist Ben Rosenblum leads his septet at Smalls, $25 cash at the door

5/11, 8 PM  funk-jazz crew the Silver Arrow Band at Drom, free. They’re also here on 5/24

5/12, 6 PM music of the Americas: Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela with classical guitar duo Nilko Andreas and LaMar NYC at Bryant Park

5/12, 6:45 PM not a music event but fascinating for the scientifically-minded – a titanically smart lineup with the world’s most widely published cardiologist, Dr. Peter McCullough, holocaust survivor and brilliant historian Vera Sharav and Rabbi Jonathan Rietti lead a panel discussion on where we go from here, at 1437 President St (Kingston/Albany), Midwood, Brooklyn, 2 to Nostand Ave, also livestreamed. Put together by the reliably acerbic and insightful Brucha Weisberger and her team

5/12, 7 PM Afro-Cuban percussion legend Pedrito Martinez leads his rumbling, jazz-tinged salsa project at Drom, $20 adv tix rec

5/12, 10:30/midnight  tuneful oldschool soul/jazz trombonist Dave Gibson leads his quintet at Smalls, $25 cash at the door/ He’s back on the 26th

5/12, 11 PM  high-voltage, violin-driven art-rock/metal band Stratospheerius at Shrine

5/13, noon oldschool Cuban streetcorner salsa with Joaquin Pozo y la Clave Suena at Poe Park, 2640 Grand Concourse in the Bronx, B/D to Grand Concourse

5/13, 7 PM the Bootheel Boss Gobblers play western swing and Americana outdoors at Culture Lab in Long Island City

5/13, 7 PM the 18th annual Hank-o-Rama with an allstar band playing Hank Williams classics. Including but not limited to the Lonesome Prairie Dogs, Lenny Kaye on pedal steel, host Alex Battles, with guest stars Tammy Faye Starlite, Cliff Westfall, Sean Kershaw, Jordan McLean, Lil’ Mo Monica Passin and others at the Cutting Room, $20 adv tix rec

5/14. 11 AM (in the morning) oldschool purist 50s jazz guitar sounds with the John Cooksey Quartet at the Smith houses rec center, 80 Catherine St in Chinatown, walk south from Canal St.

5/14, 1 PM West African jazz beats with Jomion & the Uklos Band at Highland Park in Brooklyn, F to Jamaica

5/14 staggered brass band sets around Brooklyn Bridge Park starting at 2 PM with the L Train Brass Band  at Pier 6; at 2:30 – Sugartone Brass Band at the Visitors Center; 3:10 – Ad Hoc Brass Band playing second line stuff at Pier 4 Beach; 3:15-4:25 – Ad Hoc Brass Band at Pier 4 Beach; 4:25-4:30 – Ad Hoc Brass Band second line to Pier 3 Lawnl 4:30-5:10 – Stoop Kidz Brass Band at Pier 3 Lawn; 5:10-5:50 – Extra Syrup Horns at Pier 3 Plaza

5/14, 7:30/9:30 PM drummer Sylvia Cuenca leads a beast of a band with Brian Lynch on trumpet, Craig Handy on sax and Dave Kikoski on piano at Smalls,$25

5/14, 8 PM soaring oldtime front-porch harmony band the Calamity Janes followed by urban country legend Alex Battles at the small room at the Rockwood. In the big room moody retro new waver Alfonso Velez plays at 7 for $14; in the downstairs room at 9 amazing Middle Eastern-tinged psychedelic instrumentalists Sandcatchers play for $10

5/14, 10:30 PM tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard at Smalls, $25 cash at the door. He’s back here on 5/28

5/15, noon-4 PM the Biophony Festival with various configurations of Metropolis Ensemble-adjacent chamber music groups playing new environmentally-themed works by a vast cast of composers including Charlotte Greve, Claire Dickson and Maria Grand at various locations throughout the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, $18/$12 stud/srs, kids under 12 free.

5/15, noon the annual Greek Jewish Festival opens with the bouncy Elias Ladino Ensemble, followed by the Greek American Folklore Society, the Noga Group featuring oud sorcerer Avram Pengas, captivating bellydancer Layla Isis, psychedelic oud-rocker Scott Wilson & Efendi and the stark, haunting Pontic Firebird (best bandname ever, right?) outdoors at Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue and Museum, 280 Broome St (Allen/Eldridge), Chinatown, B/D to Grand St

5/15, 7 PM Portuguese fado-jazz singer Sofia Ribeiro plays the album release show for her new one at Drom, $20 adv tix rec

5/15, 7 PM often haunting, tuneful, improvisational art-rock pianist Gabriel Zucker at the Red Hook Record Store on Van Brunt before you hit Pioneer; F train to Carroll, exit front of the downtown train, take First Place to when it becomes Summit, go over the footbridge, hang a u-turn at the base of the bridge, continue on Summit to the playground triangle and hang a left. It’s about 15 minutes from the train.

5/16, 5:30 PM the American Symphony Orchestra string quartet performs works by French composers including Debussy and Ravel at Bryant Park

5/16, 7:30 PM perennially vital vocal jazz legend Sheila Jordan with cinematic pianist Alan Broadbent at Mezzrow, $25 cash at the door

5/17, 5:30 PM the ASO Percussion Ensemble“combines Afro-Cuban Batá drumming and poetry with the sounds of contemporary chamber percussion, featuring Imani Winds’ oboist Toyin Spellman-Diaz in compositions by percussionist and composer Javier Diaz” at Bryant Park

5/17, 7:30 PM Romany guitarist Pedro Cortes’ Flamenco Ensemble at the Django, $25

5/17, 9:30 PM fearlessly comedic all-female brass crew the eGALitarian Brass at Drom, $10 adv tix rex

5/18, 10:30 PM haunting Elliott Smith-esque rockers No-No Boy play their song cycle about Japanese Americans in US prison camps during WWII at the downstairs room at the Rockwood, ‘$12

5/19, 6 PM  eclectic pan-latin and Middle Eastern-inflected acoustic songwriter Miriam Elhajli at Pier 3 Greenway Terrace toward the south tip of Brooklyn Bridge Park

5/19, 10:30 PN charismatic, adventurous postbop/avant garde trombonist/crooner Frank Lacy leads a quartet at Smalls, $25 cash at the door.

5/20-21, 7 PM an outrageously cool/weird noisefest at 508 Smith St, in Red Hook just across the canal, $30. Acts include “flaming harp, a fire-shooting brass band. baritone sax and motorcycle double-quartet, a balloon choir and a 500,000 watt tesla coil”

5/20, 7:30 PM the Spanish Harlem Orchestra play the album release show for their blazing new salsa jazz record at Drom, $30 adv tix rtec

5/20, 9 PM Giftshop – the missing link between Blondie and the Distillers – at Shillelagh Tavern, 47-22 30th Ave, Astoria, N/R to 46th St

5/20, 10:30 PM  badass bassist and jazz composer Endea Owens and the Cookout at the Django. $25

5/21, 3 PM an afternoon-long free music festival with short sets by Jeff Rodriguez. goofy ukulele songstress Seann Cantatore, hip-hop artists Jam Young, King ECH, and Too Dapper, scruffily psychedelic female-fronted indie band Loosie, Sara No H and Rao at the laundromat at 50-14 Roosevelt Ave in Woodside, 7 to 52nd St. It’s a clothing drive, bring stuff you don’t need, donations gratefully accepted. Free soap, free cookies while they last

5/21, 6:30 PM moody Greek-flavored jazz duo Christos Rafalides – vibraphone and Giovanni Mirabassi – piano followed by ubiquitously tuneful Spanish bassist Manel Fortia and his band and then poignant, captivating Greek singer Eleni Arapoglou and her Mediterranean band at Drom, $20 adv tix rec

5/21, 7 PM the colorful Yu Nishiyama Big Band at Culture Lab in Long Island City

5/21, 8 PM sitar and tabla – Radhakrishna T – a student of Ravi Shankar -. and Jorge Ramiro at the Chhandayan Center For Indian Music $25

5/21, 9 ish drony thrash band the Expollutants followed by intriguing retro 80s rockers Substitute – like GBH with a chorus pedal – and then the fiercely pro-immigrant, all-female Frida Kills at Our Wicked Lady, $14

5/22. noon new-music marching band Asphalt Orchestra play world premieres by Leila Adu-Gilmore, Jeffrey Brooks, and Kendall K. Williams, with special guest steel pan street band Pan in Motion. They will also perform a new arrangement by Tomeka Reid and Ken Thomson’s arrangement of Once in a Lifetime by the Talking Heads at Bryant Park

5/22, 5 PM elegantly lyrical Slavic jazz guitarist Martina Fiserova at the small room at the Rockwood,

5/22. 7:30 PM Canary Islands flamenco-jazz violinist Tania Mesa and band followed by Tunisian bassist Marwan Allam leading a quartet with Yacine Boulares on sax, wow, at Drom, $20 adv tix rec

5/22, 7:30/9 PM clever, purist B3 jazz organist Akiko Tsuruga leads a trio at Smalls, $25 cash at the door

5/23-24, 5:30 PM the American Symphony Orchestra: Jazz Ensemble – not an oxymoron – with Alexa Tarantino on sax play Nat Kiug Cole and Ellington tunes at Bryant Parka

5/25, 7 PM bizarre segue, good twinbill: psychedelic electric jazz keyboardist Sean Wayland followed by Americana banjo songwriter  Hilary Hawke  at the small room at the Rockwood

5/25. 7:30 PM the best singing pianist (and the best piano-playing singer) in jazz, the irrepressible Champian Fulton  followed at 10:30 (separate $25 adm) by purist jazz chanteuse Samara Joy and her octet at the Django

5/26, 7:30 PM New Bojaira play flamenco jazz  at Drom, $20 adv tix rec Followed at 9:30 (separate $15 adv adm) by pyrotechnic clarinetist Ismail Lumanovski’s ferociously kinetic NY Gypsy All-Stars

5/26, 7:30/9 PM darkly eclectic pianist and Cecile McLorin Salvant collaborator Sullivan Fortner leads a trio at Mezzrow, $25 cash at the door d

5/26, 8 PM agelessly slashing, tuneful janglerock/powerpop icon Willie Nile at City Winery $20

5/27, 6:30 PM American Wild Ensemble, a septet of winds, strings, and percussion, will perform music inspired by Olmsted-designed parks including Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park. The program includes newly commissioned works by composers Oliver Caplan, Nell Shaw Cohen, Michael-Thomas Foumai, Libby Meyer, Ayumi Okada, Justin Ralls, Christina Rusnak, and Ryan Suleiman on the lawn at Ft Tryon Park. The program repeats on 5/28 at noon at the Prospect Park boathouse, Their Boston show last month playing this material was off the hook.

5/27-28, 7:30/9 PM legendary lyrical jazz pianist Bill Mays leads a trio at Mezzrow, $25 at the door

5/28, 6:30 PM a rare chance to see popular Nordic drummer/bandleader Kresten Osgood with trumpeter Herb Robertson and tuba player Marcus Rojas at Downtown Music Gallery

5/28, 8 PM 10-piece chamber orchestra CACEnsemble and the Wendy Osserman Dance Company perform violinist/singer Concetta Abbate’s hauntingly improvisational new suite Laminaria: “fairytale meets noir meets classical music, the story of an underwater shadow ghost emerging from a kelp forest. Laminaria (the Latin word for kelp) is used medicinally to induce labor in women and serves as a metaphor for rebirth, transformation and loss,” at the Park Church Coop, 129 Russell St., Greenpoint, $20, G to Nassau Ave

5/29. 7:30/9 PM charmingly retro Americana jazz chanteuse Sasha Dobson leads a quartet with Peter Bernstein on guitar at Smalls, $25 cash at the door

5/31, 6:30 PM a cool improvisational trio: guitarist Jessica Ackerley, saxophonist Erin Rogers and drummer Henry Mermer followed by trumpeter Darren Johnston and drummer Ches Smith at Downtown Music Gallery

5/31, 8 PM first-wave dreampop legend and Throwing Muses frontwoman Kristin Hersh at City Winery, $20

5/31, 10:30 PM  rustic Cuban country music band Los Hacheros play electric island grooves at the Django

6/8. 7 PM MasterVoices and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s with Shereen Pimentel, soprano and Tariq Al-Sabir, tenor perform works by Mendelssohn, Josquin, Barber and others at Waterline Square Park on Riverside Dr (60/61)

6/11, 7:30 PM the Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra followed by veteran dancehall reggae singer Maxi Priest at Prospect Park Bandshell

6/14, 7:30 PM edgy orchestra the Knights  play a historically brilliant program: new orchestral arrangements of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 9, “Kreutzer Sonata” and Janáček’s String Quartet No. 1, “Kreutzer Sonata”, at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

6/14. 8 PM the NY Philharmonic plays Wagner’s Prelude to Act I of Die Meistersinger, Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with Bomsori Kim as soloist, Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7, and works by young composers in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. The program repeats on the Great Lawn in Central Park on 6/15, in Cunningham Park, Queens on 6/16 and Prospect Park on 6/17

6/24, 7:30 PM oldschool Colombian gangsta sounds with La Cumbiamba eNeYé followed by Colombian vallenato crooner Fonseca at Prospect Park Bandshell

6/25, 4 PM firebrand Guinean feminist rocker Natu Camara followed by Guinean acrobatic troupe Cirque Kalabanté at Prospect Park Bandshell

6/28. 7:30 PM the Handel and Haydn Society, led by violinist Aisslinn Nosky play works by Corelli, Vivaldi, Geminiani, Handel and Charles Avison at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

7/12, 7:30 PM  A Far Cry  play an innovative program of string arrangements of Bartok miniatures plus works by Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, Dvorak, Beethoven and Karl Doty at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

7/14, 7:30 PM imaginative indie classical choir Roomful of Teeth followed by a live interview with avant garde legends the Kronos Quartet at Prospect Park Bandshell

7/16, 8:30 PM slinky soul-influenced psychedelic band Chicano Batman at Prospect Park Bandshell

7/26, 7:30 PM edgy orchestra the Knights & Lara St. John, violin soloist play Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony plus works by Avner Dorman at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

8/2, 7:30 PM  lush, majestic string ensemble the East Coast Chamber Orchestra play works by Adolphus Hailstork, Maureen Nelson and Schubert’s String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, D 810, ‘Death and the Maiden’ at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

Ayumi Ishito Brings an Adventurous, Outside-the-Box Trio to Chinatown

Even in communities that support the arts, jazz musicians often get pushed to the fringes. The last two years’ insanity in New York has exponentially increased that marginalization for artists in general. Tenor saxophonist Ayumi Ishito has been one of the more resourceful players in town: she was one of the first to resume performing during the brief window of opportunity in the summer of 2021, and she’s maintained a steady schedule in recent months playing a lot of out-of-the-way venues as restrictions have been dropped. Her next gig dovetails with both her adventurous improvisational sensibility and her most recent album as a leader. She’s opening a twinbill on April 26 at 6:30 PM at Downtown Music Gallery with soundscaper Damien Olson and Nebula and the Velvet Queen on theremin. They’re followed by a second trio with Aaron Edgcomb on percussion, Priya Carlberg on vocals and David Leon on sax. It’s a pass-the-bucket situation.

Ayumi Ishito & the Spacemen Vol. 1 is streaming at Bandcamp. It’s her most experimentally ambitious release to date, a mix of trippy electroacoustic pieces featuring Theo Woodward on keys and vocals, Nebula and the Velvet Queen on theremin. Jake Strauss doubling on guitar and bass and Steven Bartashev on drums.

Squiggles quickly give way to a collective shimmer and fragmentary acoustic and electric guitar riffs as the first number, Looking Through Ice drifts along, Woodward adding Indian inflections with his vocalese. Beyond the guitar and vocals, it’s hard to distinguish the rest of the instruments – Ishito using her pedalboard here – until Strauss introduces a gently swaying, Grateful Dead-like theme and Bartashev picks up the clave with his echoey tumbles.

Shifting sheets, dopplers and warpy textures drift through the mix in the second track, Hum Infinite. Strauss finds a center and builds around it, on bass; Ishito’s wry, dry bursts evoke a EWI. The group slowly reach toward an organ soul tune, then back away as Ishito emerges acerbically from behind the liquid crystal sheen.

Track three, Misspoke is irresistibly funny, Ishito and Woodward chewing the scenery, impersonating instruments real and imagined. Strauss’ blippy bass and Bartashev’s tightly staggered drumming propel Folly to the Fullest to tongue-in-cheek hints of a boudoir soul tune, Ishito floating overhead,

Night Chant is an entertaining contrast in starry, woozy electronic textures and goofy wah-wah phrasing from Ishito: stoner electro-jazz as fully concretized as it gets. The final cut, Constellation Ceiling, is a launching pad for Ishito’s most amusing indulgences with the wah,, eventually coalescing into a bit of a triumphant strut, We need more unserious improvisational music like this.

Live Music Calendar for New York City and Brooklyn For April and May 2022

Slowly, venues are wising up to the fact that crowds aren’t going to put up with restrictions. Right now it’s mostly jazz clubs who are leading the way, but this calendar continues to grow, slowly: if you’re thinking of going out, you might even want to bookmark this page as there will be additions throughout the month and hopefully beyond.

Mondays at the Django it’s all Mingus, whether with the Mingus Orchestra, Big Band or Mingus Dynasty: as jazz goes, it’s arguably the most exhilarating show of the week, every week. The first-rate players always rise to the level of the material. Sets 7:30/9:30 PM, $25 and worth it.

Thursdays at 7 PM Afro-Cuban percussion legend Pedrito Martinez leads his rumbling, jazz-tinged salsa project at Drom, $20 adv tix rec

4/1 and 4/22 at 7 PM, 4/7 at 10, and 4/16 at 7 PM tenor saxophonist Ken Fowser leads his band at the Django. Jukebox jazz in a JD Allen vein but not as dark and more straight-ahead/groove-oriented: as postbop party music goes, nobody’s writing better than this guy right now, $25

4/1-2, 7:30/9 PM Orbits 4 with pianist Rachel Z, Steve Wilson on alto sax, Jonathan Toscano on bass and Ben Perowsky on drums, wow, at Smalls, $25 cash at the door

4/1, 8 PM ubiquitous, moodily lyrical, politically savvy Irish folk-rocker Niall Connolly at the small room at the Rockwood

4/1, 10 PM tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery leads a quintet celebrating the Mingus centennial at the Django, $25

4/2, 7 PM  ambient guitarist and Bowie collaborator Gerry Leonard a.k.a. Spooky Ghost at the basement room at the Rockwood, $15

4/2. 10:30 PM tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard leads at quartet at Smalls, $25 cash at the door. He’s back here on 4/16

4/2, 7:30 PM Club d’Elf with John Medeski play ramshackle gnawa-funk at Drom, $20 adv tix rec

4/3, 7:15 PM a benefit for Ukrainian refugees on the roof at Our Wicked Lady with short sets by pensive jazz-folk singer Lou Apollon, performance artist Charlotte Righetti, and psychedelic Greek surf rockers the Byzantones, cover is in the neighborhood of $25

4/5, 6:30 PM Nick Panoutsos solo on bass followed by the improvisational sax-drums duo of Colin Fisher and Kyle Hutchins at Downtown Music Gallery, free

4/6, 7 PM the reliably innovative S.E.M Ensemble perform works for ensembles including string quartet, double bass, percussion, and marimba by Morton Feldman, Frederic Rzewski, Alvin Lucier,Petr Kotik, Ana Sokolovic, and Jordan Dykstra, and a premiere by Daniel O’Connor at Willow Place Auditorium, 26 Willow Place (Joralemon/State), downtown Brooklyn, any train to Borough Hall

4/6, 8 PM Melissa Gordon of Melissa & the Mannequins, one of the best purist janglerock songwriters in NYC, at the small room at the Rockwood

4/7. 9ish drony, jangly female-fronted post-Velvets duo Shadow Monster at Our Wicked Lady, $12

4/8, 7 PM haunting folk noir/Americana songwriter Emily Frembgen at the basement room at the Rockwood, $10

4/7, 7 PM vibraphone monster Simon Moullier at the Django, $25. This guy is all about adrenaline – those mallets fly fast and furious.

4/7, 7 PM  tenor saxophonist Tim Ries‘ nonet the Universal Spirits Ensemble = not to be confused with his other band the Rolling Stones – at Drom, $25

4/8, half past noon a celebration of Scottish bagpipe music with Gleadhraich frontman Craig Weir, the Highland Divas and Noisemaker at Bryant Park

4/8, 7 PM haunting folk noir/Americana songwriter Emily Frembgen at the downstairs room at the Rockwood, $10

4/9 starting at 10:30 in the morning Scottish pipe-and-drum bands including the Theater School of Scotland’s band at Bryant Park

4/9, 7 PM trumpeter Alex Norris leads a quintet celebrating the Mingus centennial at the Django, $25. Followed at 10 (separate $25 admission) by bassist Boris Kozlov’s “Electric Mingus Project” with Johnathan Blake on drums which could be truly electiic, or a disaster.

4/9, 10:30 PM feral tenor saxophonist Eric Wyatt and band at Smalls, $25 cash at the door.

4/10, half past noon Scottish bagpipe acts including Whiskey Kiss, New York Brogue and others at Bryant Park

4/10, 7 PM Chontadelia play a wildly energetic marimba-driven take on coastal Colombian folk tunes at Drom, $20

4/10, 7 PM darkly torchy southwestern gothic/Europolitan songwriter/guitarist Miwa Gemini a at the basement room at the Rockwood, $10

4/10, 7:30/9 PM soulful pan-Latin jazz chanteuse Claudia Acuña  leads a trio at Mezzrow, $25 cash at the door

4/11, 7 PM funk-jazz crew the Silver Arrow Band at Drom, free. They’re also here on 4/26 at 8

4/12, 6:30 PM dueling baritone saxes with Jamison Williams and Danny Kamins at Downtown Music Gallery, free

4/13, 8:30 PM a bluegrass summit with Michael Daves and Andy Statman at the big room at the Rockwood, $20

4/13, 9ish drifting, female-fronted dreampop band Punchlove at Our Wicked Lady, $12

4/14, 7 PM lyrical pianist David Kikoski leads a trio with Boris Kozlov on bass and Ari Hoenig on drums celebrating the Mingus centennial at the Django, $25. Followed at 10 (separate $25 adm) by trombonist Conrad Herwig‘s latin/Mingus septet, Herwig is back the next night, 4/15 at 7.

4/14, a good punk and punk-adjacent quadruplebill: 8 PM ish catchy female-fronted powerpop/punk band the Rizzos, the louder and more snide Duke of Vandals, the fiercely pro-immigrant Frida Kill and kinetic no-wavers Weeping Icon at Our Wicked Lady, $12

4/14, 10:30 PM  tuneful oldschool soul/jazz trombonist Dave Gibson leads his quintet at Smalls, $25

4/15, 10 PM cantante MV Caldera sings her high-voltage blend of calypso and tambor at Drom, $20 adv tix rec

4/16, 7 PM trumpeter Philip Harper leads a quintet celebrating the Mingus centennial at the Django, $25

4/17, 7 PM a low-register subset of intricately orchestrated psycho mambo crew Gato Locoat the big room at the Rockwood, $10

4/19, 6:30 PM: a killer free jazz twinbill with trumpeter Thomas Heberer, bassist Joe Fonda and drummer Joe Hertenstein followed at 7:30 by singers Joan Sue and Isabel Crespo with bassists Nick Dunston and Henry Fraser at Downtown Music Gallery, free

4/21, 7 PM Mike LeDonne takes a relatively rare turn on piano  at the Django followed at 10 (separate $25 adm) by purist postbop guitarist Mark Whitfield

4/21, 7 PM pianist Simon Mulligan and cellist Dan Barrett lead a chamber ensemble playing new works at by Catherine Neville, Paul Aljian, Simona Smirnova, David Mecionis, Madelyn Byrne, Eric Heilner, Patricia Leonard, Christopher Sahar, and Anton Rovner’s Mysterious Star, a song cycle on poems by Edgar Allan Poe at the Church of the Transfiguration, 1 E 29th St. $20

4/21, 9ish heavy psych/hard funk trio King Crash at Our Wicked Lady, $12

4/22, 9ish darkly drifting keyboardist/chanteuse Lizzie Loveless and catchy Americana/pop songstress Denitia at Our Wicked Lady, $12

4/22, midnight Elefantkiller – fearless, venomous, politically spot-on New York punks who deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as the Dead Kennedys – at Otto’s

4/23, from noon to 5 PM reggae soundsystens Soul Supreme, Nexxt Level, Super Force, Federation Sound, and Empress Breeze live and in-person at the VP Records store, 170-19 Jamaica Ave., Jamaica, Queens, A to 169th St. Video Music Box legend Ralph McDaniels will also be there doing his thing with special guests including Kool DJ Red Alert and other figures from hip-hop’s golden age.

4/23, 7 PM  iconic low register reedman Scott Robinsonn leads a quartet with Miki Yamanaka on piano celebrating the Mingus centennial at the Django, $25. melodic rising star bassist Endea Owens & the Cookout follow on the bill at 10 (separate $25 adm)

4/24, 7:30/9 PM  the best singing pianist (and the best piano-playing singer) in jazz, the irrepressible Champian Fulton at Mezzrow, $25

4/24, 9ish hard-hitting stoner boogie band Slomo Sapiens at Our Wicked Lady, $14

4/25, 7 PM noir guitar legend Jim Campilongo  at the big room at the Rockwood $15. Downstairs funky Milwaukee new wavers the Violet Hour play at the same time for $10, take your pick

4/26, 6:30 PM a free jazz twinbill: saxophonist Ayumi Ishito with Damien Olson and Nebula the Velvet Queen on theremin, followed by Aaron Edgcomb on percussion, Priya Carlberg on vocals and David Leon on sax at Downtown Music Gallery, free

4/26, 7 PM catchy female-fronted punk band the Neighborhood Brats at Our Wicked Lady, $15

4/26. 10 PM  rustic Cuban country music band Los Hacheros play ancient island grooves at the Django, $25

4/27, 7:30/9 PM imaginative, tuneful bassist Joris Teepe with Leo Genovest on piano and Matt Wilson on drums at Mezzrow, $25

4/28, 7 PM lyrical latin-inflected pianist Helen Sung leads a quartet celebrating the Mingus centennial at the Django, $25

4/28, 7 PM Cuban groovmeister Carlitos Padron & Rumberos Del Callejon play oldschool salsa dura at Drom, $20 adv tix rec

4/28, 7:30/9 PM colorful,  eclectic, paradigm-shifting B3 jazz organist Brian Charette leads a trio at Mezzrow, $25

4/28, 8 PM intense, charismatic oldschool soul belter Sami Stevens at the small room at the Rockwood

4/28, 9 PM ferocious, smartly lyrical soul-rockers No Ice at Our Wicked Lady, $14. Avoid the Nazi opening band The Road to Ruin at all costs: how did they get on the bill?

4/29, 8ish reliably slashing noiserockers Bugs in the Dark at Our Wicked Lady, $14

4/29, 10 PM at Otto’s, a tuneful, oldschool style punk bill: the OC Rippers, a promising new band who remind you of the Dead Boys, at 11 San Diego’s solid, tuneful Slaughter Boys and the more postpunk/hardcoreish No-Heads headlining.

4/29, 10 PM energetic purist tenor saxophonist Craig Handy & Second Line Smith at the Django, $25

4/30. starting at 2 PM in reverse order at Otto’s, an eclectic benefit for the citizens of Ukraine, all donations to benefit Razom for Ukraine, beginning with the acoustic acts and moving on to the bands: headliners Giftshop – the missing link between Blondie and the Distillers – preceded by long-running, wickedly jangly, tuneful Americana rockers the Sloe Guns, Stephanie Marie and Friends, Krispy DeRato, Gary Edward Kiyan, Raising Daughters, Xavier Moll, Lo, Sean Listro, Kassaye Selassie, Adam Najemian, Jason Inyoung Lee, Max Lombardo, Harrison Dolan, and others.

4/30, 3 PM the Bang on a Can avant garde organization returns to NYC with a multi-ensemble mini-marathon outdoors at 300 Ashland Place just downhill from BAM. Among them: epic ranchera/bolero brass crew Banda de los Muertos  at 3  and at 7 Kendall K. Williams‘ steel pan orchestra\

4/30, 7 PM are you hungry for orchestral music but locked out of Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall? Here’s a great evening of symphonic sounds with the Modus Opera Orchestra playing works by Rossini, Bach, Morricone, a world premiere by Guido López-Gavilán, plus Tschaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 at St. Mary’s Church, 1008 49th Ave, Long Island City, just up the block from the Vernon-Jackson stop on the 7 train, $25

4/30. 7 PM mighty Brazilian drumline street band BatalaNYC celebrate 10 years of banging around thunderously at Drom, $12 adv tix rec

4/30, 9 PM ferocious two-guitar oldschool powerpop band Ratstar at the Delancey, $10

4/30. 10:30 PM downtown jazz guitar icon Elliott Sharp leads a trio at the downstairs room at the Rockwood, $20

5/3, 6:30 PM guitarist Federico Balducci leads an improvisational trio with bassist Brian Kastan and drummer Mike Pride followed at 7:30 by Alix Tucci solo on bass trombone at Downtown Music Gallery, free

5/4, 8 PM Jambalaya brass band NOTUS march into Drom, $10 adv tix rec

5/10, 6:30 PM Symbiotique with guitarist Michael Eaton, Seth Andrew Davis, Cheryl Pyle and Kule Quass followed at 7:30 by violinist/singer Kate Birch with guitarist Tal Yahalom and then at 8:30 PM guitarist Chris Pitsiokos and Kevin Murray at Downtown Music Gallery, free

5/15, noon the annual Greek Jewish Festival opens with the bouncy Elias Ladino Ensemble, followed by the Greek American Folklore Society, the Noga Group featuring oud sorcerer Avram Pengas, captivating bellydancer Layla Isis, psychedelic oud-rocker Scott Wilson & Efendi and the stark, haunting Pontic Firebird (best bandname ever, right?) outdoors at Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue and Museum, 280 Broome St (Allen/Eldridge), Chinatown, B/D to Grand St\

5/20, 9 PM Giftshop – the missing link between Blondie and the Distillers – at Shillelagh Tavern, 47-22 30th Ave, Astoria, N/R to 46th St

It might seem premature to include concerts as far away as this summer, but these are outdoors. so even if the dying Kathy Hochul regime tries to bring the lockdown back from the dead, these will probably go on as planned:

6/14, 7:30 PM edgy orchestra the Knights  play a historically brilliant program: new orchestral arrangements of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 9, “Kreutzer Sonata” and Janáček’s String Quartet No. 1, “Kreutzer Sonata”, at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

6/28. 7:30 PM the Handel and Haydn Society, led by violinist Aisslinn Nosky play works by Corelli, Vivaldi, Geminiani, Handel and Charles Avison at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

7/12, 7:30 PM  A Far Cry  play an innovative program of string arrangements of Bartok miniatures plus works by Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, Dvorak, Beethoven and Karl Doty at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

7/26, 7:30 PM edgy orchestra the Knights & Lara St. John, violin soloist play Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony plus works by Avner Dorman at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

8/2, 7:30 PM  lush, majestic string ensemble the East Coast Chamber Orchestra play works by Adolphus Hailstork, Maureen Nelson and Schubert’s String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, D 810, ‘Death and the Maiden’ at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park

Darkness and Drama on Soprano Misha Penton’s New Release

First thought, best thought? Sketchy tags aren’t usually a good way of describing music, but in this case, the note on the folder here containing singer Misha Penton‘s new short album Radiant Poison holds up. “Weird witchy avant goth” was a first observation: “Operatic industrial soundscapes” would be just as accurate. As a bonus, the ep comes in two versions. The audio is streaming at Bandcamp, with matching video at Vimeo.

The first track, Visible Darkness has layers of operatic vocals over similarly echoey, icy ambient accents and textures. The template is much the same in Shore Pines & Spider Silk, George Heathco’s uneasily portentous guitar lingering amidst the shifting sheets of sound and Penton’s arioso leaps. The final number is the title cut, which “rises from the desert” to a redemptive narrative spiced with Heathco’s flaring leads, backward masking, and ominous drumbeats from Chris Becker. Penton is based in Houston: adventurous Texas listeners can keep an eye on her gig page for upcoming performances.

Immersively Rippling Magic From Satoko Fujii and Taiko Saito’s Futari

As marimba player Taiko Saito tells it, pianist Satoko Fujii is the Shohei Ohtani of jazz: a fearsome hitter who is just as formidable on the pitching mound. As the duo Futari, the two musicians put out a magically spacious album, Beyond, last year. Because neither has been able to visit the other due to totalitarian restrictions, they decided to pitch files to each other over the web and then bat them back. They had so much fun doing it that they decided to release these pieces as a follow-up album, Underground, streaming at Bandcamp.

Fujii has always had an otherworldly, mystical side, and she’s gone into that more deeply than ever in the past few years, notably on her rapturous Piano Music album from last year. The title track here continues in that vein, with glissandos, puffy nebulous phrases and ominous drifts beneath a keening drone, Is that bowed marimba, or Fujii under the piano lid? It’s hard to tell. Another layer of mystery, when it comes to who’s playing what, is Fujii’s cut-and-paste vocalese (she also mixed the record).

The album’s second track, Break in the Clouds has puckish accents – Fujii’s prepared piano? – sprinkled throughout Saito’s slow, tremoloing washes of bowed vibraphone. Piano and vibes are distinct in Meerenspiegel, Saito creating a rapt pebbles-in-a-lake atmosphere over Fujii’s stern, emphatic chords and stately cadences. That carefree/serious dichotomy persists throughout most of the record.

Some people will hear the intro to Air and expect to hear Keith Richards’ modal bass riff introducing the Stones’ 2000 Light Years From Home. Instead, what sounds like backward masking gives way to spare, playful pings and bits of melody interspersed with more disquieting textures, then a slow, brightly unfolding melody.

In Frost Stirring, Fujii is grumpy Old Man Winter to Saito’s spring sprite – or Messiaen to Saito’s Joe Locke on the Twin Peaks movie soundtrack. The duo follow the most atmospheric track here, Memory or Illusion with Finite or Infinite, eight minutes of pinging, rhythmically shifting Terry Riley-ish loopmusic.

In Ayasake, after an amusing nightly news theme of sorts, Fujii builds an ominous undercurrent beneath Saito’s resolute blitheness. Saito responds to Fujii’s somber bell-like accents and surreal inside-the-piano swipes with a sepulchral sustain throughout the closing number, Street Ramp, the most striking piece on the album. There’s also a redemptively amusing bonus track, One Note Techno Punks

American Choir and Andalucian Traditional Ensemble Join Forces to Mesmerizing Effect

One of the most fascinatingly original large-ensemble albums of recent months is Words Adorned, the cross-pollinated collaboration between Philadelphia chamber choir The Crossing and traditional Andalucian group the Al-Bustan Takht Ensemble, streaming at Navona Records (click the link and scroll down to the listen button on the left). Donald Nally conducts; the lyrics are in Arabic.

While the tradition of audience singalongs in Middle Eastern music goes back thousands of years, there’s never been an album quite like this: a choral group fond of concept albums with music by contemporary composers joining forces with a starkly dusky, often rustic maqam ensemble. The closest comparison is the Navatman Music Collective, who bring harmony to new Indian music, another otherwise completely harmony-less idiom. Which is not to say that the music here always employs harmonies, but when it does, the effect is striking.

There are two suites on the album. The first is Kareem Roustom‘s new settings of ancient poetry, titled Embroidered Verses, packed with unexpected diversions and false endings. The opening song is Oh People of Andalucia, What Beauty You Have, where suspenseful ripples and flurries from Wassim Odeh’s oud and Hicham Chami’s kanun are quickly joined by the choir. A fleeting, bracing rise from Hanna Khoury’s violin and Kinan Abou-afach’s cello at the end will give you goosebumps.

The second number, a drinking song, begins with a surreal, strutting riff before the chorus and instrumentalists kick in over a jaunty clip-clop rhythm fueled by Hafez Kotain’s percussion. The mix of baroque counterpoint and Arabic maqam modes is surreal, to say the least.

The third segment, a setting of a love poem by Umm Al-Kiram has a gentle, lilting motion, tantalizing accents from the strings, an even more tantalizing Khoury solo and breathtaking contrast between her shivery lines and the crescendoing power of the singers. The bellicose finale begins with a mysterious pulse from the strings, the men of the choir anchoring the most rhythmically complex and harmonically enigmatic interlude here. This time it’s the kanun rippling through the mix which provides the extra bite.

The second suite is Abou-Afach‘s Of Nights and Solace, a collection of poems that begin at sunset and wind up at the break of dawn the following day. Soloist Dalal Abu Amneh‘s assertively articulated soprano blends within an increasingly complex contrapuntal web in the opening prelude, Moonrise.

She brings a visceral sense of longing to the second song, Greet These Faces, over a slinky, gorgeously bittersweet, glittering backdrop, the choir echoing and doubling the melody line: it’s the most hypnotic track here. As you would expect, Forsaken is more desolate, stark and ghostly, the choir using a vast sonic and dynamic range as they rise from basso profundo lows.

A lively but understated instrumental mix of flamenco and dervish dance sets up You Who Left and Passed, blending the playful and the plaintive, spaciousness giving way to robust density. The two groups pack a wild blend of ideas into the rousing, barely two-minute concluding sunrise tableau.

Abu Amneh and the takht ensemble wind up this late-2019 concert recording with When He Appeared, a brisk, stately, haunting song utilizing text by Muhammad Abd Al-Rahim Al-Maslub. It’s rare that music this cutting-edge is just as unselfconsciously beautiful.

A Summery, Psychedelically Loopy World Premiere to Brighten Your Winter

Contemporary music ensemble Wild Up’s world premiere studio recording of Julius Eastman’s Femenine – streaming at Spotify – is playful, upbeat, hypnotic and utterly surreal. Baritone sax – played alternately by Erin Rogers, Marta Tasienga or Shelley Washington – figures heavily as the lead instrument. Bells, played by seemingly the entire ensemble, often anchor a shimmery backdrop. The group perform Eastman’s suite as a contiguous whole, broken up into comfortable individual tracks, some going on for as much as twelve minutes. You could call this the b-side to Terry Riley’s In C.

The introduction, titled Prime, is a dreamy, hypnotic tableau, a series of slowly expanding cellular vibraphone and piano phrases over peaceful ambience akin to a choir of tree frogs. A warm, gospel-tinged melody slowly coalesces as the rest of the orchestra slowly flesh out the vibraphone’s loopy riffs.

The orchestra run a jaggedly syncopated staccato loop in the second segment, Unison as percussion and then baritone sax add occasional embellishments. The title of part three, Create New Pattern, is a giveaway that Eastman’s initial device will be come around again, this time as more of a celebration.

Immersive, churning riffage morphs out of and then gives way again to the initial syncopation in Hold and Return. A cheery, balletesque atmosphere takes over in All Changing, with bells, vibes and eventually flutes at the forefront. Flugelhornist Jonah Levy moves to the front with a carefree, soulful solo as the group dig into the rhythm in Increase, singer Odeya Nini pushing the top end with her vocalese. Eventually Jiji’s guitar gets to add grit over the chiming waterworks, followed by a blissful Pharaoh Sanders-inspired sax interlude.

The group morph into the next part, Eb, with big portentous accents in the lows, sax fluttering and flaring amid the orchestra’s steady circles. The energy picks up significantly in Be Thou My Vision/Mao Melodies, then exuberant echoes of the disco era that Eastman came up in rise in Can Melt.

An unexpected if muted discontent surfaces in the final segment, Pianist Will Interrupt Must Return, everyone fading back into the woods. This is a tenacious, dauntingly articulated recording by a cast that also includes pianist Richard Valitutto; cellist Seth Parker Woods; vibraphonists Sidney Hopson and Jodie Landau; violinsts Andrew Tholl and Mona Tian; violist Linnea Powell; cellist Derek Stein; bell players Lewis Pesacov and music director Christopher Rountree; horn player Allen Fogle; tenor saxophonist Brian Walsh; flutists Isabel Gleicher and Erin McKibben.

Entertaining, Dynamic New Classical Orchestral Works on the Latest Polarities Compilation

The second volume of the Polarities compilations of new orchestral music – streaming at Spotify – came out last summer and is very much worth your time if you like colorful, translucent, robustly performed sounds. To open the album, Pavel Šnajdr conducts the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra in Margaret Brandman‘s Spirit Visions, a “symphonic tone poem.” It’s variations on a catchy, folksy theme straight out of Nashville circa 1972. Brandman sends it goodnaturedly around the orchestra: everybody gets to indulge, especially the brass.

The orchestra’s second contribution here is Kamala Sankaram‘s 91919, playful flourishes contrasting with a nebulous density that no doubt draws on her time working with Anthony Braxton’s large ensembles. Natalia Anikeeva’s terse, astringent viola stands out resolutely against the smoky backdrop and occasional deviously twinkling accent or drumroll. Sankaram’s signature sense of humor comes to the forefront as a goofy march ensues.

The second piece on the album is Beth Mehocic’s Tango Concerto, played in striking high definition by the Zagreb Festival Orchestra under Ivan Josip Skender, with Charlene Farrugia on piano and Franko Božac on accordion and bandoneon, Don’t let the strangely tremoloing strings make you believe that there’s something wrong with the recording: the two keyboardists’ regal introduction quickly brings the first movement down to earth, right up to what could be a sly allusion to a famous Led Zep song.

Movement two has an elegant pas de deux between accordion and piano over increasing deep-sky nocturnal lustre. The muscularly pulsing third movement is where the inevitable Piazzolla comparisons arise, but Mehocic chooses her spots and packs a lot into not much time – around thirteen minutes. It’s inspiring to hear a piece like this that matches the iconic Argentine composer’s outside-the-box sensibility without being imitative.

Stanislav Vavřínek conducts the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra in the album’s three other works. Echo figures filter in over drifting suspense in Larry Wallach’s Species of Motion, rising to a flurrying agitation as the main theme coalesces and winds animatedly through the ensemble. From there the piece is calm without losing brightness. Everybody has a good time with this one – what a fun piece to play!

Does Mel Mobley‘s Labored Breathing allude to a recently ubiquitous divide-and-conquer technique? Probably not, although this ominously colorful piece quickly escalates from brooding resonance to a bellicose intensity that sometimes borders on the macabre. A desolate, fugally-tinged interlude sets the stage for the next skirmish; from there, the suspense doesn’t let up. It’s the most distinctly noirish and most memorable piece on the program.

The final work is Brian Latchem’s picturesque, Dvorakian Suffolk Variations, a relatively brief (ten-minute) viola concerto. A wistful canon sets the stage, soloist Vladimír Bukač following a steady, restrained, baroque-tinged upward trajectory. There’s a rustic, rather lushly dancing passage and then a wry crescendo before the orchestra bring it full circle. Spin this for anyone who might feel daunted finding their way around the new classical scene: it’s as good a place to start as any.

The Muom Overtone Singing Choir Explore Vast, Rapturous Sonic Expanses

Few choral groups explore such a vast expanse of sound as the Muom Overtone Singing Choir. Their extended technique is breathtaking in the purest sense of the word. Neither the sepulchrally wispy highs nor the stygian lows they often reach at the same time exist in most music for the human voice, simply because most people can’t hit those notes. The ensemble’s magical new suite Terra – streaming at Bandcamp – is the first in a planned series of four. The late Maurice White would be delighted to know that the next two are explorations of wind and fire, water being the fourth element.

The suite, performed as a contiguous whole, begins with Eter, a single D note sung in unison until some of the choir reach a couple of octaves lower for a guttural anchor. By this point, harmonics are oscillating in the background. From there the group segue into Astral, slowly coalescing into an aptly drifting theme with gentle massed glissandos and long, sustained notes moving through the sonic picture, a graceful deep-space exchange of voices. Rhythm falls away to a cocooning, enveloping, uneasy morass, then the counterpoint rises again.

The group completely flip the script with Ardhi (Swahili for “earth”), with a joyously cantering, percussive west African groove, mens’ lows and spiraling overtones against the triumphant women overhead. They whisper their way out.

There’s a return to rapt, otherworldly stillness in Akasha (Sanskrit for “ether”). The men in the choir open Sa Mantra (sa being Tibetan for “earth”) with a low, growling chant, riffing on a phrase common to carnatic music and vocal warmup exercises. From there, they build a starkly bluesy minor-key theme.

A plaintively expressive solo by one of the men, like a muezzin’s call, takes front and center over allusively chromatic phrasing in the next segment, Ancestral, before the ensemble kick into a rousing, insistently rhythmic drive. Khörzün (“earth” in the Tuvan language) is where Central Asian choral traditions resonate the most here, via echoing layers of harmonics and a galloping trans-Siberian beat.

The choir close with Gea (the Greek earth deity), a starkly circling violin solo by group member Farran Sylvan James introducing a hypnotic downward drift. There hasn’t been any album like this released in the recent past, maybe ever, reason to look forward to whatever other magic the group can conjure in the next installment.

A Singularly Disquieting Electroacoustic Album From Pianist Peng-Chian Chen

On her latest album Electrocosmia – streaming at Spotify – pianist Peng-Chian Chen explores the intersection of new classical composition with electronics, as well as the many philosophical and real-world implications thereof.

She opens with a set of miniatures, Pierre Charvet’s Neuf Etudes aux Deux Mondes. Enervated motorik bustle, cautious strolls, spare dripping minimalism and a slow ramble through stygian depths are juxtaposed with and sometimes mingled within icy ambience or gritty industrial sonics. There’s sardonic humor as well: a plane crashing at takeoff and the nagging interruption of phone ringtones. Is the point of this that as much as we hate this techy shit, we might as well get used to it since we’re stuck with it? Or that even in the grip of a digital dystopia, there’s beauty in – or guarded hope for – the human element? Maybe both?

Next, Chen tackles Cindy Cox‘s spare, surreal Etude “La Cigüeña” for piano and sampler, its furtive upward flights and uneasy lulls set to a backdrop of what could be whalesong or birdsong. In Elainie Lillios‘ Nostalgic Visions – inspired by a Garcia Lorca childhood reminiscence – Chen throws off dramatic improvisational flourishes, goes under the piano lid for autoharp-like shimmer, chilly minimalism and a murky crush. Some of it gets flung back to her, through a sampler, darkly.

She concludes with Peter Van Zandt Lane‘s electroacoustic partita Studies in Momentum. Steady, glistening, circling phrases mingle with increasingly menancing close harmonies; a devious peek-a-boo theme meets its ghostly counterpart; a tongue-in-cheek, Charlie Chaplinesque march reaches the end at a cold reflecting pool. Chen’s stiletto articulation in the lickety-split, coyly altered third piece is the high point of the record, although the brooding tone poem that follows is just as tantalizingly brief.