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An Individualistic, Intriguing New Album and an Outdoor Afterwork Show From Singer Miriam Elhajli

Songwriter Miriam Elhajli has carved out a distinctive sound that draws equally on jazz, 70s South American nuevo cancion and levantine sounds, reflecting her Venezuelan-Moroccan heritage. She cuts loose with an expressive, constantly mutable voice, likes fingerpicking her acoustic guitar in odd tunings and writes intriguing, thoughtfully imagistic lyrics. Her latest album The Uncertainty of Signs is streaming at Bandcamp. She’s playing an outdoor show on May 19 at 6 PM at the secluded terrace at Pier 3, toward the southern tip of Brooklyn Bridge Park. It’s a good setting for her verdant, rustic yet original songs. When the park was first landscaped, there was a joke going around that it had been designed as a staging area for an invading guerilla army to hide in the shrubbery. Those in search of more peaceful pursuits here can take the A or C to High St., go down to the Fulton Landing and hang a left.

Interestingly, the first three songs on the record are in 6/8 time, more or less. When the Whirlwind Fades Out fades in with a whir from Cedric Easton’s drums, a growling drone from Ike Sturm’s bass and a brightly gorgeous, pointillistic solo from Firas Zreik’s kanun. Elhajli pulls the band into an elegant, anthemic sway with her steady fingerpicking and jazz-tinged vocals. “You should know better than to run toward that which falls,” she cautions.

There’s a subtle, conspiratorial mystery juxtaposed with a soaring angst in the second track, Tres Bocio, Elhajli’s voice rising from hints of the Middle East to a rousing, wordless crescendo, vibraphonist Chris Dingman adding lingering textures.

“I know the kingpin is an illusion, and I know we must not forget to sing in unison,” she asserts in Grayscale, which begins as a stark, Appalachian-tinged ballad and drifts further into an enigmatic contrast between dramatic vocals and a hazy backdrop. She revisits that same dichotomy a little later in Marble Staircase, Zreik’s rippling kanun setting up an otherworldly, tremoloing hulusi flute solo from Jake Rudin

Locusts Circumference is closer to Joanna Newsom-style freak-folk: it’s not clear what “quiet implosion” Elhajli is referring to. The strings of the Kasa Quartet waft and sail over Elhajli’s lattice of acoustic guitar and her full-throated, crescendoing vocals in Gold & God, an allusively jubilant salute to genuine human kindness.

The flute returns and flutters in Spiral Solutions, a brief, energetically circling number where Elhajli seeks to “recognize the unrecognizable.” Bracing, swooping strings permeate Bulk Flow: “Got two scissors and a match…I lost my spirit so I split to another land,” Elhajli relates over a lushly rustic, open-tuned, antique Britfolk-style melody.

She picks out a ringing web on electric guitar in Another Butterfly Ordeal. The next-to-last track, Cosmos is more of a jazz tone poem: “The unseen stays unseen,” Elhajli sings, “Pay attention, the cops encircle us, they don’t know what we’re up to.”

She winds up the record with In Your Arms, Familiar, a mutedly unsettled tableau reflecting a “state of utter hypnosis” where “everything is crushable” – sounds a lot like 2022, doesn’t it?

A Hotrod of a Band Headlines This Year’s Greek Jewish Festival

More about today’s annual Greek Jewish Festival at the Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue and Museum at 280 Broome St. in Chinatown: the headliners, Pontic Firebird, hit the stage at 5 PM. Not only do they have one of the coolest bandnames ever, they’re also a party in a box. They play a wildly adrenalizing mix of traditional Greek Mediterranean dance tunes that sometimes echo the eerie chromatics of rembetiko gangster music, and the Smyrnika sounds that permeated the underworld in that part of the globe in the decades after World War I.

This blog most recently caught Pontic Firebird in action at the 2018 edition of Golden Fest, which for years has been arguably the most exciting annual concert in New York (the 2020 edition took place as usual. that January; there was also an abbreviated, outdoor 2021 edition, but none so far this year). You can download the band’s 2018 set there at the recently and unexpectedly restored Free Music Archive, as well as a longer show from four years earlier. Let’s give that one a spin, shall we?

Frontwoman/violinist Beth Bahia Cohen first leads the group through a raw, rustic, trickily rhythmic dance that veers from minor to major and back and sounds more like Greek hill country music than it does Mediterranean. The group members aren’t listed, but there’s also oud, boomy standup drums and bass in the mix.

Oud and violin double the melody line over pouncing syncopation in the next number, followed by a hypnotically loopy one where Cohen goes flying into some spine-tingling spirals when least expected. The fourth track starts starkly and auspiciously and suddenly cuts off – hey, it’s a field recording, that happens sometimes. The group wind up the set – or at least what’s here – with their edgiest, most chromatically bristling number.

The rest of the bands on today’s bill are also excellent. If you can get out of the house early enough, you can catch the whole lineup, which starts at noon with the bouncy Elias Ladino Ensemble, followed by the Greek American Folklore Society band, the Noga Group featuring brilliant oudist Avram Pengas, bellydancer Layla Isis and then psychedelic Middle Eastern oud player and bandleader Scott Wilson & Efendi at 4. Take the B or D to Grand St.

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

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

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

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

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

Mamak Khadem’s Rapturous New Album Transcends Tragedy and Loss

One of the most capriciously cruel effects of the post-2020 lockdowns was the separation of families from ailing, elderly parents. Because of totalitarian travel restrictions, singer Mamak Khadem was unable to return home to her native Iran to see her father before he died: divide-and-conquer taken to a particularly sadistic extreme. Khadem channeled her grief into an often wrenchingly beautiful, immersive tribute, Remembrance, streaming at youtube.

Although the album is characteristically eclectic and spans many genres, it’s 180 degrees from the exuberance and exhilaration of her previous release The Road, a 2016 brass-and-string fueled mashup of Balkan dances and classical Persian poetry. For whatever reason, this is more of an art-rock record.

The sound is more desolate and enveloping, sculpted largely by multi-instrumentalist Jamshied Sharifi, guitarist Marc Copely and cellist Chris Votek, with many other musicians contributing. Khadem sings in Farsi, opening with the title track. Mickey Raphael’s forlorn, bluesy minor-key harmonica is an unexpected touch in this slowly swaying setting of the Saadi Shirazi poem, Copely’s multitracks and Khadem’s imploring, melismatic vocals flickering over Sharifi’s atmospheric backdrop. It brings to mind peak-era, mid-zeros Botanica.

Khadem rises from a wary tenderness to fullscale angst in Mina, a brooding, drifting setting of a Saied Soltanpour text lowlit by Sharifi’s piano and Benjamin Wittman’s clip-clop percussion. Khadem goes to the Rumi repertoire for the lyrics to Entangled over dissociative, rhythmic layers of vocals, cello and wafting synthesized orchestration.

Khadem takes a backseat, contributing vocalese to Across the Oceans, Coleman Barks narrating the Rumi poem over a loopy, simple backdrop with spare contributions from Roubik Haroutunian on duduk and Ivan Chardakov on gaida bagpipes. Dead and Alive begins more calmly, in a pastoral Pink Floyd vein, then Copely pulls the energy skyward. It’s an apt poem for this point in history: one of its central themes is to be open to serendipity.

Khadem sets an emotive Fatemeh Baraghani poem to a starkly gorgeous traditional Armenian theme in Face to Face, Mehdi Bagheri adding ravishing, spiraling kamancheh fiddle. Copely plays spare resonator guitar behind Khadem’s warm, hopeful delivery in Messenger, Sharifi turning up the enveloping keyboard ambience. The final cut is Don’t Go Without Me: Barks’ English narration is especially poignant considering the circumstances, as is Khadem’s gentle, wounded interpretation of the original. As her harmonies rise in the distance, the effect is viscerally heartbreaking.

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

Anouar Kaddour Cherif Releases an Inimitably Gorgeous North African Album

Anouar Kaddour Cherif’s axe is the mandola, the gorgeous, woody-toned North African lute, akin to an oud with a larger body and expanded upper register. The Algerian expat’s latest album Djawla – streaming at Bandcamp – is a deliciously edgy mashup of North African Arabic music and Balkan jazz. Cherif’s songs are unpredictable: dirges burst out into scampering, deftly syncopated dances and vice versa when least expected. It’s closer to chaabi or Turkish diasporic styles than it is jazz, and his quartet play briskly but with a striking economy of notes: noodling not allowed here. There’s really nothing quite like this out there.

In the opening track, Sans Pap the group take a slinky chromatic riff, go scampering, then slow it down, the mandola and Clément Meunier’s tersely looming bass clarinet over the lithe, understated pulse of Antoine Brochot’s bass and Hannes Junker’s drums.

Meunier’s aching, desolate, duduk-like upper register flutters over Cherif’s spare riffage as the group slowly make their way into Albatross over an ominous bass drone. Eventually they pick it up – and suddenly the bird breaks free of its shackles! Was this inspired by the Baudelaire poem maybe?

Likewise, Cherif backs away from his scrambling opening taqsim for more plaintive bass clarinet to introduce Savage Butterfly, then the band scramble and team up for bristling chromatic harmonies over a tricky dance beat. Brochot opens Call of the Night with a mysterious, skeletal solo before Cherif’s Lynchian chords enter from the shadows, only to back away, leaving just the rhythm section and low-key vocals.

Neatly orchestrated echo effects shift between instruments in Sirocco, a return to tight, rapidfire syncopation, with a break for spare, misterioso solo mandola. The band hint at the Pink Panther theme, slowly building Automne Occidental into a slow North African noir blues and then a briskly circling, vampy theme.

A True Lie is an ingenious, seemingly halfspeed take on what would otherwise be a lickety-split dance tune that would be just as much at home in Macedonia or Turkey as Algeria. Virgule – French for “comma” or “decimal point,” depending on context – is the loopiest and most rhythmically straightforward track here, with playful exchanges between the instruments. The group wind up the record with Amiret Erriyam, a loping, stately anthem in the biting Arabic hijaz mode with a tasty microtonal bass solo at the center.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haunting, Starkly Resonant Middle Eastern-Flavored Sounds From Singer Christiane Karam

Singer/percussionist Christiane Karam has built a unique and darkly captivating body of work that blends Middle Eastern and Balkan music, jazz and European art-song. Like Sarah Serpa, Karam gravitates toward subtly expressive, wordless vocals. She covers a deceptively impressive among of ground, from aching highs to somber lows. She’s good at surprise, pulling crescendos out of thin air. Her new album Nar – Arabic for “fire” – is streaming at Bandcamp.

A dramatic flurry of cymbals. whirring bendir, and haunting cello in the hijaz mode kick off the title track, Karam adding gently rhythmic vocalese, pianist Vadim Neselovskyi parsing spare chords over a lithe but slinky groove from bassist Peter Slavov and drummer Keita Ogawa. Karam rises to a defiant triumph, then dips to a a more muted, visceral sense of longing

The album’s second number is Halla Fayat, a catchy, pensive waltz punctuated by a brooding ,melismatic cello solo, a tersely elegant bass solo, somber reflecting-pool piano and the occasional big cymbal splash

In Last Snow, she runs spare variations on a three-note riff, then cuts loose with an unexpected crecendo, Neselovskyi building icy ambience over a steady, sparse sway. The group diverge and then regroup, only to fall away to an eerily dissociative ending.

Karam’s experience leading a Balkan choir informs her minutely nuanced ornamentation in Petlite Payat over a skeletal cello/bass intro and then a shivery, soberly resonant backdrop.

The album features two spoken-word interludes.. “Where I come from, everything is deadly, everything hurts…we revolt, we rebel, we try, we want to live,” the Beirut-born Karam asserts over a percussive, atmospheric tableau. In the second, she exchanges guardedly hopeful, simple riffs with the piano as it grows more rippling and intricate.

Scrapy, droning low strings contrast with Karam’s plaintive, soaring vocals as the album’s most epic track, Beirut gets underway, Karam smacking a tapan standup drum for extra bite on the beats. Starkly echoing atmosphere falls apart violently, Karam tries to pull it up with simple, concise melody, but darkness pervades and descends, percussive metal flickering amid an increasingly torrential whirlpool. From there Neselovskyi amd Slavov rise to a staggered, insistent pulse as Alatrash swoops and wails. The shivery, macabre wartime tableau right before the end is absolutely chilling.

Karam sings the woundedly crescendoing ballad Peine in French, spare piano and bass triangulating subtly with the drums. The album’s most insistently haunting song is Paneen, a bitterly poetic escape anthem: it could be a late 60s Procol Harum cut with Arabic lyrics and a woman out front.

Karam goes back to vocalese in Voyage, gracefully lilting waltz with a punchy bass solo, starrily psychedelic piano and warily descending, snarling cello curlicues. Then she flips the script completely with the album’s airiest, most playful track, Btihi Ala Bali.

Karaam and Ogawa join forces for a percussive, flamenco-infused attack to open Faramdole, which quickly calms to a pensive minor-key ballad, then a darkly circling, turbulent interlude and an increasingly tongue-in-cheek drum break, The band wind up the album with a reprise of the opening theme. This gorgeous record is on the shortlist of the best and most original albums of 2022 so far.

Poignant, Gorgeous New Songs For Viola Da Gamba on Almalé’s New Album

Pilar Almalé’s axe is the viola da gamba. It’s an unusual choice for an original songwriter, especially since most of the repertoire for the instrument is from the baroque era and before . Almalé has an expressive voice, uses the gamba for both cello-like sustain and basslines, writes strong melodies and reinvents older material with considerable flair. Her new album, Hixa Mia (My Daughter), released under her last name, is streaming at Spotify. She has a fantastic, similarly adventurous band. Violinist Thomas Kretszchmar and guitarist Alex Comín blend terse, imaginative jazz and Romany influences without cluttering the sound, percussionist Fran Gazol adding flamenco and Middle Eastern grooves.

Almalé opens the album with the title track, a catchy, Andalucian-flavored, poignant minor-key anthem with a swaying, levantine-tinged groove and a stark, jazz-inflected violin solo. You could call this folk-rock, or Romany music, or something fresh and new. The string harmonies on the slow, gently syncopated second track, simply titled Passacalle, are stark, rich and reedlike, a close approximation of an accordion. Comín bobs and weaves and chooses his spots, whether with feathery tremolo-picking, big lush chords or carefree single-note jazz lines.

She opens A la Luna, a gorgeously slinky, trickily rhythmic Turkish-inspired number, with a broodingly bowed solo, bringing a visceral sense of longing to the lyrics. Kretszchmar subtly builds his solo to a searing peak.

Pianist Lucas Delgado plays carefully articulated, somber lines in Flow My Tears, a moody, klezmer-esque ballad which Almalé sings in low-key, cadenced English. The group veer between brisk Romany-flavored jazz, a moody ballad and the baroque in the instrumental Blue Lamento. It makes a good bridge to Folias Gallegas, an upbeat, Celtic-tinged circle dance with an austere, baroque-flavored solo gamba break midway through.

La Patetica, a solo gamba piece, comes across as a stormy mashup of Tschaikovsky and a Bach cello suite. Almalé launches a-cappella into the album’s final cut, Los Guisados, a rousing, rustically waltzing anthem that rises out of an unexpected lull to a tantalizing white-knuckle restraint. It’s unlike anything else released in the last several months. Fans of music from the Straits of Gibraltar to the Black Sea will love this stuff.