New York Music Daily

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Tag: dance music

Timbalero Tito Rodríguez Jr. Celebrates His Iconic Salsa Bandleader Dad’s Legacy of Party Music at Lincoln Center

This past evening, veteran bandleader and percussionist Tito Rodríguez Jr. led his thirteen-piece band at the Lincoln Center atrium, in a celebration of the centennial of his late father’s birth. It was the younger Rodriguez’s first time time here since 2019, when the long-running, mostly-monthly series of salsa concerts ground to a halt before Christmas, and were then stalled out by a big water main break on Broadway. We know what happened after that. This show was was billed as a tribute to the Palladium in the mid-50s, where Machito, Tito Puente and the elder Rodríguez held court, reflected in a setlist and an oldschool vibe that would make a dedicated salsa record crate digger’s mouth water.

Rodríguez Jr. played pretty chill on his timbales throughout the show, setting the stage from the first number, spiced with Carmen Laboy’s smoky baritone sax and a straightforward, emphatic piano solo that hit a rumbling peak. They kept the web of rhythms elegantly undulating under the blaze of brass, a six-piece percussion section in front of two trumpets, trombone, the bari sax, piano and bass.

They slunk from carnivalesque hi-de-ho rumba to sunnier territory and then back in the second number, then picking up the pace with a lightly bouncing version of Rodriguez senior’s catchy anthem, Chevere, lit up with the light/dark contrasts of the brass against the baritone. That dynamic would resonate throughout the rest of the night, continuing with a more ramshackle take of Pajaro Lindo.

The singers in the band flirted with a pretty brunette recording video from the front row while the oldsters in the sold-out crowd, many of them from the projects a couple of avenues to the west, swayed and twirled further toward the back. Meanwhile, the orchestra returned to vampy 50s dance-craze call-and-response rumba with another hit, featuring a tantalizingly abbreviated trumpet-and-baritone duel. Kitty-boom, kitty-boom!

Mujer Erotica was next, the band working variations around a stark Dave Brubeck-esque piano riff to close the first set. They opened the second with another retro hit, Mama Guela, then hit a more jazz-inflected, untethered groove with a wry, cynical edge echoed in the sarcastic horn outro. The best song of the night, Bilongo came toward the end of the set, a smoky, Andalucian tinged, chromatically charged anthem. Tumbling minor-key riffage gave way to a couple of cheery two-chord Cuban-flavored numbers to wind up the night.

The next free concert at the Lincoln Center atrium on Broadway south of 63rd is April 27 at 7:30 with a popular return guest, maverick violist and film composer Ljova Zhurbin with his Trio Fadolin and his whole family, including his electrifying singer wife Inna Barmash as well as his parents, Alexander Zhurbin and Irena Ginzburg, who bedeviled the authorities throughout a pretty wild career in the Soviet Union. The classical concerts here don’t sell out as fast as the salsa dance parties, but arriving early couldn’t hurt if you want a seat.


Holy Hand Grenade Bring Their Dynamic, Catchy Afrobeat Grooves to Bushwick

More and more good New York bands who were around before the totalitarian hammer fell in March of 2020 are reemerging intact, and one of the most smartly danceable ones is Holy Hand Grenade. The Afrobeat group, led by tenor saxophonist Lynn Ligammari and featuring a cast of horn players alongside keyboardist Chris Doyle, guitarist Timothy James, bassist Ronald Lanzilotta, percussionist Marcus Farrar and drummer David Palazola have a show coming up on March 24 at 9 at Alphaville. The Bushwick venue seems stuck in one of those goofy dollars-and-cents cover charge schemes, meaning that it’ll cost you $14 cash if you round it up a quarter or so.

The band’s latest single is The Chase, with rapidfire Ethiopian-flavored horns over a brisk latin-flavored shuffle beat, spare lingering guitar and punchy organ. With all the lulls and swells, it could be a Mulatu Astatke cover. Speaking of which, the single before that, from the fall of 2020, is the band’s otherworldly, psychedelic version of his classic Yekermo Sew, which rises from a floating suspense to a darkly majestic peak.

In 2019, the band released their debut album, Celebrate Not Separate, which is also up at Bandcamp along with their other releases. It’s a fantastic record: the riffs are catchy, the solos are succinct and you can dance to everything on it.

They blend cumulus-cloud keys, skeletal guitar and bright horn bursts in the vampy first cut, This Life. Warm brass, understated soul/funk guitar and starry keys percolate through the trickily rhythmic second track, The Follow Through. Bumping Into Strangers – a thought that would generate endless paranoia just months after the song was released – has a tight, brisk pulse, Doyle’s psychedelic cumbia-flavored keyboard solo at the center.

Delicate surf guitar and balmy tropicalia waft through track four, Look, as the Ethiopian ambience drifts in from the distance. The horns get brighter and the percussion rumbles further to the forefront along with the chugging bass and guitar in the album’s title cut. Then Ligammari cuts loose with her sax in the aptly titled Summer Joy, up to a fiery, insistent Ethiopian peak and then back down.

The band get whispery and spare but then take a suspenseful upward trajectory in Projections, with a thoughtful, smoky Ligammari solo. They close the record with Be Easy, a surprisingly cohesive mashup of edgy Ethiopiques and balmy Brazilian flavors.

Slow, Slinky Psychedelic Cumbia Grooves From Locobeach in Queens

By ten in the evening, the back room at the Brooklyn bar had filled up with undulating bodies. The swaying groove from the drums and the sinister, spare reverb guitar mingled with the torrential textures, and swoosh and warp and wah-wah from the two little keyboards that Locobeach bandleader Josh Camp bent over patiently, like an alchemist trying to find a sonic secret that had disappeared in Peru around 1983.

Silhouetted in red neon, twisting little knobs to get the optimum psychedelic glimmer or wash, he played as if he had a whole pipe organ at his disposal instead of maybe a couple dozen notes on the mini-synths with the maze of pedals and effects underneath. Meanwhile, everybody kept dancing.

Slowly and suspensefully, the group behind him worked their way up into the familiar minor-key broken chord, and the song that everybody had come out for: Sonico Amazonico, the national anthem of cumbia. As usual, the band took their time with it, mutating from that basic bassline to more enigmatically floating textures that Camp took deeper and deeper into dub territory.

This could have been a Locobeach show in 2017, or for that matter a moment from either of the two years of their semi-regular monthly residency. This blog was in the house for a half dozen of them: after a few years, memories start to blend into each other. One of the group’s more experimental moments was a Monday night in November of 2018 when one or more members were AWOL. One of the guys who pulled a pickup band together asked out loud what they ought to call themselves. “Loco Bitch?”‘

The good news that is that they survived the lockdown and have a gig at 9ish on Feb 24 at at Bar Freda in Ridgewood; cover is $10. They released their more psychedelic and dubwise debut album in 2019, which has some straight-up oldschool disco as well as the kind of cinematic groove-scapes that guitarist José Luis Pardo plays in his other band Los Crema Paraiso.

Locobeach’s latest single is Isabella, a brisk, bouncy tune where singer Cheo Pardo relates a tongue-in-cheek post-gig encounter with a girl who is, um, not what she seems. Camp’s horror-movie intro basically gives it away, but it’s still a good story.

Fearless Microbiology Expert Dr. Jessica Rose Creates a Party Playlist For the Noncompliant

Dr. Jessica Rose is one of the world’s foremost experts on the VAERS database of vaccine injury and death in the US. Despite the seriousness of her research, she has a devastatingly deadpan sense of humor and a sleuth’s determination to figure out where the data is and what it tells us. She’s also one of the most lucid and entertaining writers on subjects ranging from microbiology, to biostastistics and lipid nanoparticles. She documents her research (and her surfing adventures, and her cats) on her Substack page. You should subscribe!

And like a lot of the fighters on the frontline of the freedom movement, she’s an interesting and original musician. Keyboards are Rose’s axe. Like her writing, her instrumentals have a quirky charm and a devious sense of humor. Most of them you can dance to: Rose is definitely a bon vivant. There’s a ton of her work up at Bandcamp as a free download, and if this kind of stuff is your thing, you should grab it while it lasts.

Somehow, between conferences and interviews and writing scientific papers with Dr. Peter McCullough, Rose has found time to make a short album, titled Thank Him For His Email and Cut Him Off. It has three tracks: a wryly loopy march, a funky strut and a piece where she multitracks polyrhythmic piano and organ before taking it in a minimalist dubstep direction.

Rose’s previous albums are also a lot of fun. The oldest album up at Bandcamp, going all the way back to 2012, is There Will Be Words (one of the free downloads). This one actually has words. Rose’s determined individualism comes across in a mix of bouncy, playful themes that echo Bjork, Goldfrapp, Tom Tom Club and vintage Kraftwerk, infused with catchy, diversely textured riffage and occasional airy, multitracked vocals. One of the more sweeping, orchestrally majestic instrumentals has bass, flute and an irresistibly funny lakeside scene. There are also shamanic percussion interludes, an ominous tableau with flaring guitar, some trip-hop, a loopy gnawa tune and an empowering rap about being in this for the long haul. Was that prophetic or what?

True to the title, There Are No Words – another 2012 release, and a free download – is pretty much all-instrumental. There’s a trio of catchy New Order-style dancefloor jams, a couple of action movie-style themes, and a bit of what could be a medieval chorale.

Inertia, a 2014 release, is very sarcastically titled: the beats come flying out of this one. There’s a lot of late 70s Tangerine Dream and Alan Parsons sequencer influence, with an epic twelve-minute salute to transgression to close it out. And Rose picked up right where she left off with a couple of singles she released in March, 2020: the consistent theme throughout her music seems to be to party for our right to fight.

La Banda Chuska Put a Darkly Psychedelic New Spin on a Classic Cumbia Sound

La Banda Chuska played their first-ever gig on a Monday night in October, 2019 at a Brooklyn venue known for eclectic and unpredictable programming, One of the band members explained that their big influence was Los Belkings, one of the most surf-inspired of the great Peruvian psychedelic cumbia bands from the mid-to-late 1960s. These Brooklynites slunk and wafted their way through a handful of that band’s more ornate, psychedelic instrumentals, but they also played a bunch of originals that ranged from short and punchy to lush and cinematic. Calmly and intricately, these guys (and women) really slayed with a sound that’s hardly ever heard this far north: when were they going to play next?

We know what happened next. The good news is that the band survived the lockdown to release a debut ep at Bandcamp last spring. They’re playing second on one of those sprawling multi-band bills that Drom puts on every January as part of the annual booking agents’ convention. Whether that convention served any useful purpose before the lockdown is a useful question, but it always resulted in some great shows. This Jan 14, the group are hitting the stage there at around 8:30 PM, preceded by Greek surf band Habbina Habbina, who open the night at 7:30. Perennial party favorites Slavic Soul Party play their funky Balkan/hip-hop/Ellington mashups afterward at 9:30, then at around 10:30 Red Baraat’s fiery bhangra soul trumpeter Sonny Singh leads his band. After that, Mafer Bandola plays bouncy Venezuelan joropo llanero, around half past midnight Iranian violinist and bandleader Mehrnam Rastegari leads her group, with electroacoustic drummer Ravish Momin’s Sunken Cages doing their woomp-woomp dancefloor thing to close out the night. If you have the stamina for it, this could easily be the best concert lineup of 2023: general admission is $20.

The first song on the debut ep is Cumbia Chuska. Adele Fournet plays a pulsing, vaguely sinister progression on her organ, then a guitar – that’s either Sam Day Harmet or Felipe Wurst – comes in with an ominous spaghetti western riff over the undulating groove from bassist Abe Pollack and drummer Joel Mateo. Accordionist Erica Mancini floats in, then one of the guitarists hits his fuzz pedal. This is creepy fun!

Track two is Surf en CDMX, a catchy mashup of Ventures spacerock and uneasy Peruvian chicha with a deliciously clangy guitar interweave. The women in the band join voices in Arcoiris, which is not a bright rainbowy theme but a ghostly, airy, keyboard-driven undersea tableau that rises to a big guitar-driven peak and then a wry Fender Rhodes solo out.

From there they segue into Cine Olaya, where they do something predictable yet irresistibly fun with a slow, broodingly vampy chicha vamp. The final cut on the record is Playa Privada, a surreal mashup of the B-52s, Los Crema Paraiso and maybe the Police. We need more from this imaginative, original crew.

Get Your Reverb Fix This Saturday Night at Otto’s With the Surf Junkies

One of the most telling signs of how the plandemic turned New York into a second-rate artistic hub is how venues are reacting. Take Smalls jazz club, for example. For decades, they had two acts a night plus the midnight jam session. These days, the headline artist is also responsible for the jam, and where a monthly gig there used to be reserved for an elite few, bandleaders are playing two or three shows a month there now.

That paradigm works all the way down the line to Otto’s, where the monthly surf rock show used to feature as many as five acts. This month’s installment there on Nov 5 has only three. The night starts at 8 with a mystery band who call themselves Drip 2.0 and could go either way, but the groups afterward are excellent.

Headliners the TarantinosNYC, who play at 11-ish, have been around since the zeros and have evolved into a surprisingly sleek, cinematic outfit that match their name. The Surf Junkies, who play in between at around 9, just put out a debut short album, streaming at Bandcamp,

The Washington, DC quartet of guitarists Max Gonzo and Larry Atom, bassist El Kabong and drummer Vic Vegas obviously do not take themselves seriously, as befits a surf band, but their original songs are dope.

They build the opening track, The Tube, from a funky strut to a big anthemic payoff that wouldn’t be out of place in the Ronnie Earl tunebook.

The band blend subtle latin influences into the tightly wound Barrel Pounder and close the record with Surfer’s Lament, awash in spare, enigmatic, wide-angle chords over a slow clave beat.

Every surf band plays Tequila, but….do you have to record the damn thing? At least this version has more slashing guitar work than most groups give it. It’ll be interesting to see what else they have up their sleeves this Saturday night. Word to the wise: if you don’t know the club, they have an ID scanner and use it on everybody. Like, everybody: if you’re 90 and on a walker, expect to be carded. Bring your passport since ID scanners don’t work on passports, and this is no time to be leaving a trail of electronic crumbs that could wind up on a social credit score.

Sizzling Afrobeat and Gospel at One of the Year’s Best Twinbills to Kick Off September

One of the best twinbills of the year is happening this Sept 1 at 7 PM at an unlikely spot, Baby’s All Right on the south side of Williamsburg, where psychedelic Afrobeat band Super Yamba share a bill with the rousingly soulful Harlem Gospel Travelers. The venue has reopened and the bands’ publicist advises that there are no restrictions; cover is $15 for what promises to be an awesome dance party. The venue webpage isn’t clear on who’s playing first, but it doesn’t matter because both acts are worth sticking around for.

Super Yamba have been one of the best party bands in town for several years. Kaleta, their frontman brings a deep background to the music after getting his start in Nigeria as a sideman with King Sunny Ade and then Fela Kuti in the late 70s.

Super Yamba’s most recent album Medaho came out in 2019 and is streaming at Soundcloud. The title means “big brother,” but in a good way. It’s a shout-out from Kaleta to his older brother, who is tragically no longer with us but was responsible for introducing the bandleader to Afrobeat.

The album is best appreciated as a cohesive whole, ideally with everybody on their feet. Throughout the playlist, organ swirls and blips tightly over strutting bass and drums. The opening number, Gogo Rock has a long, sinuous wah-wah solo from the bandleader. Track two, Mr. Diva has bitingly catchy minor-key brass riffage that Kaleta artfully picks up with his guitar as the song winds along, and a grittily insistent vocal: there’s no mistaking this for a dis!

Briskly stepping rhythms circle through Hungry Man, Angry Man as the organ keens and chirps overhead. The album’s title track is an edgy, practically punk jam with deep-space wah guitar and a clattering, circular groove. The band work a tastily quadrangulated, understated call-and-response from bass, to guitar, to organ and then horns in the next track, Goyitò

The rhythms get trickier in Jibiti, then the band kick into the Super Yamba Theme, pulsing along on the album’s catchiest bassline and stabbing horn interplay. It’s also the album’s most hypnotic interlude.

Adjotò is a big concert favorite and the most intense, careening number here. The band take the album out in a blaze of brass and staccato distorted guitar in La Gueule (Afro-French insult: “shut up”).

This blog has been in the house at several Super Yamba shows, in Brooklyn and Manhattan. The most recent one was a private event in Williamsburg in the fall of 2019; whether playing for the public or just the cognoscenti, they jam like crazy.

The Zoo Berries Bring Their Slinky, Imaginative Funk and Soul Grooves to Long Island City

Have you noticed how suspiciously much the word “lab” is trending, not just when connected with things that escape or are released from labs, but in everything from rehearsal studios, to bands, to music venues? Especially the places with free shows? What’s that all about?

One of those venues, surprise surprise, is a new one, Culture Lab in Long Island City. Even so, there have been a ton of good acts playing on the back of the flatbed trailer in the parking lot there this summer. One of them is the Zoo Berries, who are there on August 26 at 8 PM.

Back in 2018, their bandleader and bassist Ayal Tsubery – also of sizzling Balkan band Tipsy Oxcart – sent over some files. Since everybody in the band had plenty of other projects going on, this group didn’t play that many shows, so those files just sat, and sat, and sat on the hard drive here. But the band’s lone studio release is good!. If imaginative soul and funk sounds are your thing, give it a spin at Bandcamp.

The first number is Back In Time, which the band build from a spare intro, to an easygoing slow jam, then guitarist Nadav Peled (also of ferocious Ethiopiques band Anbessa Orchestra) takes a machinegunning solo, and the energy goes through the roof. Soprano saxophonist Hailey Niswanger’s solo after that is just about as incendiary.

The second track is Brother, a warmly swaying 6/8 oldschool soul groove, Niswanger harmonizing exuberantly with tenor player Arnan Raz before the two diverge and go blasting through the stratosphere as pianist Daniel Meron and drummer Peter Kronrief kick in harder. They follow the same trajectory in Final Decision, an update on a classic, slinky Booker T sound, Peled’s icepick guitar anchoring the groove to where Meron unexpectedly takes it into hard-hitting jazz.

He pulls back to a moody ripple in Shir LeShabbat, a traditional Jewish melody: finally, the bandleader takes a serpentine solo, climbing and then taking the long way down from the top of the fretboard with his nimble hammer-on riffs. The final tune is Acceptance, a real change of pace with its rainy-day intro. But then spoken-word artist Kéren Or Tayar gets on the mic, and Niswanger plays gentle, sustained lines and a few curlicues, and the sun bursts from behind the clouds.

A Rare Surf Rock Triplebill in Williamsburg on the 18th

Beyond the occasional show in the little back room at Otto’s or Freddy’s, there hasn’t been much surf rock in New York since before the 2020 totalitarian takeover. For anyone who misses the days when people in this city had the chance to bounce around to fast, catchy rock instrumentals with reverb guitar and rolling drums, there’s a rare triplebill happening on August 18 at 8 PM at a new outdoor Williamsburg venue, the Sovereign at 173 Morgan Ave. Like a lot of places in town, they’ve been slow to catch the #cashalways wave and in the early going have embraced the weird dollars-and-cents online ticketing fad. Which most likely translates to twenty bucks at the door if you want to see the Jagaloons, Wiped Out and then headliners Messer Chups.

The openers play a mix of originals and classic covers which range from early 60s surf hits to spaghetti western themes. A live set at Otto’s in the spring of 2018 revealed them as a lot tighter than what they have up at Bandcamp: knowing that they made it through the lockdown intact is a good sign just by itself. The headliners are a Russian counterpart to Man or Astroman, except that they have a regular bass player: their cartoonish take on horror surf can get annoyingly kitschy. The biggest attraction on the bill is the in-between band, who have an ep and a bunch of singles up at Bandcamp.

The first one, Waves of Panic, is a great start, a chromatic, Greek-flavored cousin to Misirlou with a little organ mingled in with the guitars. The flip side is No Surfing in the East River, a go-go theme. Those washed up on shore and pretty much went back out to sea in the lost summer of 2020.

Fast forward three months later to when the band put out the aptly titled Bummer Vacation, where they switch on a dime between horror surf and reggae. The band stayed busy and in January of last year put out their first ep, Sweet Almond Eyes, which opens with a doo-wop vocal number, followed by the punchy Shark Attack and then One More Before Dark, an ominously twangy tune with a little Tex-Mex flavor.

Last June, they released another single, Dude, That Was Gnarly, a tasty blend of tremolo-picking and icy reverb-tank pings backed by a pretty sizzling cover of Walk, Don’t Run. The band’s most recent release is the single Reverbology, which makes a good segue and has what sounds like a theremin on it. The b-side (do digital releases have b-sides?) is wryly titled Mellow Out and is the strongest, most darkly unpredictable song they’ve recorded so far.

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

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

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

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