New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: chano dominguez

Epic, Spine-Tingling Spanish Dances and a Queens Show by Fiery Violinist Maureen Choi

Violinst Maureen Choi found her muse when she immersed herself in Spanish music. She likes epics and big, explosive crescendos: her music is not for the timid or people with ADD. Her new kick-ass album Theia is streaming at her music page – and it’s one of the most unselfconsciously adrenalizing records of the year. Her slashing, often Romany and Arabic-tinged compositions rise and fall and leap all over the place, and the fun her band has with them is contagious. She’s playing Terraza 7 on June 29 at 9 PM; cover is $15.

Choi flurries and flares over drummer Michael Olivera’s suspenseful flickers throughout the dramatic intro to the album’s first cut, Dear Paco (Cepa Andaluza); then bassist Mario Carrillo joins the party, pianist Daniel Garcia Diego firing off fiery, Middle Eastern-tinged chromatics.

Phoenix Borealis is a diptych of sorts, hushed luminosity bookending a ferocious flamenco dance with a big explosion of drums and some of the most savagely bowed bass in recent memory. Choi follows the same trajectory in Dance of the Fallen, painting plaintively resonatn lines over Garcia Diego’s elegant chromatic ripples and graceful chordal work.

Canto Salamanchino is a cheery number that shifts in and out of waltz time, between major and minor, with a deliciously pointillistic, chromatic piano solo midway through and an unexpected detour into Chinese pastoralia afterward. Silverio O. Garcia has a hushed, elegaic quality, violin and piano echoing each other’s plaintive riffs. Steady pitchblende menace gives way to acerbic Andalucian flair and a series of crashing crescendos in Sinner’s Prayer

Love Is the Answer is a somewhat muted, almost wrenchingly bittersweet ballad: imagine Chano Dominguez taking a crack at Schubert. Choi kicks off Bok Choi Pajarillo with a big solo that shifts cleverly between Romany intensity and the baroque; from there, it’s a flamenco rollercoaster.

The album closes with its two most towering epics. Septenber the First, the album’s most haunting number, has a persistently uneasy late-summer haziness, part Palestinian-flavored dirge and anguished string-jazz lament. Choi closes the record with Danza Ritual Del Fuego: from an allusive intro that could be Dave Brubeck, through a long Afro-Cuban-inflected interlude, it’s more simmer than fullscale inferno, with a coy false ending. Count this as one of the best albums of 2019 in any style of music.

Chano Dominguez Brings His Saturnine Flamenco Piano Brilliance to Joe’s Pub Friday Night

The annual flamenco festival is happening around town next weekend, and as usual, fiery Spanish pianist Chano Dominguez is part of it. Perhaps better than any musician alive, he blends American jazz with flamenco for all the dark acerbity he can channel – which is a lot. He’s at Joe’s Pub this Friday, March 6 at 7 PM; cover is a little steep, $30, but he’s worth it. In fact, the show actually might sell out, so advance tix are a good idea.

His 2017 solo album Over the Rainbow  – streaming at Bandcamp – is a good introduction. It’s a mix of live and studio takes including both originals and classics from across the Americas. John Lewis’ Django proves to be a perfect opener, Dominguez building a lingering intro until he he adds subtle Spanish rhythm, a series of tasty, slithery cascades and finally some deviously muted syncopation. Likewise, he takes his time with Cuban composer Eliseo Grenet’s Drume Negrita, reinventing it as a balletesque strut rather than playing it as salsa, with a meticulous, downwardly ratcheting coda.

There are a couple of Monk tunes here. Evidence is amusingly tricky, switching back and forth between “gotcha!” pauses and a sagely bluesy insistence that swings just enough to keep it from being a march. Interesingly, Dominguez plays the more phantasmagorical Monk’s Dream a lot more straightforwardly, at the exact same tempo, with spiraling exactitude.

From its spring-loaded intro, to the clenched-teeth intensity of Dominguez’s drive through the first verse, to a bracing blend of cascade and pounce, the real showstopper here is an epic take of Violeta Parra’s Gracias A La Vida. He brings a similar, majestically circling intensity and then some trickily rhythmic fun to Cuban composer and frequent collaborator Marta Valdés’s Hacia Dónde.

The gorgeous take of Los Ejes De Mi Carreta, by Argentinean songwriter Atahualpa Yupanqui, simmers over catchy lefthand riffage, then grows more austere until Dominguez takes it out with a stampede.

His two originals here are dedicated to his kids. Mantreria shifts through intricate spirals, clever echo effects to saturnine, anthemic proportions and then back again. Marcel has a striking, steady, wistful yearning before Dominguez indulges in some boogie-woogie before shifting in a triumphantly gospel-flavored direction.

There’s also a ditty from the Wizard of Oz – no, it’s not If I Only Had a Brain.

The Cat Empire Blazes in Midtown Saturday Night

Saturday night at their midtown stop on their current world tour, eclectic Melbourne, Australia rockers the Cat Empire had a smoke machine onstage, but they didn’t need it. The audience was their smoke machine. There probably hasn’t been so much ganja in the air at a concert anywhere in New York since John Brown’s Body and the Easy Star All-Stars played a doublebill on 4/20 a couple of years ago. On one hand, this band’s music is a lot more energetic than what you’d expect a bunch of stoners to be into: the crowd danced, twenty rows deep, throughout the group’s relentlessly bouncy two hours onstage. On the other hand, as the show went on, it all made sense: the band’s cartoon cat logo emblazoned on a bed of jungle greenery; the frequent departures into slinky reggae and latin grooves; the thicket of percussion, the interwoven harmonies of the three-piece brass section, and the blippy sonics flitting from turntablist Jamshid Khadiwala’s decks.

As it turns out, co-frontman/percussionist Felix Riebl is a better singer live than he is in the studio, probably because he feeds off the crowd’s energy. So is the band’s other frontman, trumpeter Harry James Angus, who plays with much the same electrically jazzy touch as his namesake and sang with an unselfconsciously warm blue-eyed soul delivery. Tight as the band is, they don’t seem to take themselves the least bit seriously: a couple of brief stabs at choreographed stage moves fell apart quickly and haphazardly, and drummer Will Hull-Brown’s one extended solo of the night turned what could have been an easy excuse for a bathroom break into a clever parody of stadium rock excess. Ryan Monro played with an elegant propulsiveness on both electric and upright bass underneath the polymath brilliance of keyboardist Ollie McGill, who switched effortlessly from sardonic Steely Dan jazz inflections, to biting reggae, joyous ska and ominously swirling organ. At one point, he was playing organ in his right hand, piano in his left and blowing into a melodica for extra texture. And his two longest, most extended solos were spine-tingling, the first beginning as Ran Blake noir before warping into Chano Dominguez flamenco jazz, the second quoting from both Ray Manzarek and Rod Argent in a whirlwind of echoey Fender Rhodes raindrops.

As the show went on, the band sped the songs up, slowed them down and bedeviled the dancers with trick endings. Counterintuitively, they closed the set with All Night Loud, a murky organ-fueled tone poem on album that they took doublespeed into upbeat ska. And as energetic as the show was, they mixed up the moods, from the soul-flavored groove of Steal the Light (the title track to their new album), to the fiery latin ska of Like a Drum, the defiantly anthemic “show me the money” sarcasm of Sly, and finally peaked during the encores with their towering, anthemic, Midnight Oil-influenced hit Chariot. “Our instruments are our weapons,” the whole band sang, and as with many of the songs, the crowd joined in.