New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: mojo mancini

Delicious Noir Sounds from Beninghove’s Hangmen

If Marc Ribot’s noir stuff is your kind of thing,  Beninghove’s Hangmen are heaven. They call their music “creeptastic grinder jazz for the masses,” which is an understatement. Creepy, chromatic B&W movie tunes; a shot of gypsy punk; a hit of klezmer hash; a blast of surf music; a bite of punk jazz; a dash of ska…and the chase is on! Is the bad guy gonna get away? Hell yeah! Unsurprisingly, some of their music has made it to tv and film: with Big Lazy in mothballs, Steve Ulrich expanding a long way beyond his signature noir style and Mojo Mancini only playing infrequently, Beninghove’s Hangmen take over centerstage as New York’s most cinematic noir band. Alongside bandleader/saxophonist Bryan Beninghove, Rick Parker plays trombone, with Eyal Maoz and Dane Johnson on guitars, Kellen Harrison on bass and Shawn Baltazor on drums. Their album came out this past spring and it’s killer, streaming in its entirety at bandcamp.

Much as this has all the standard issue noirisms – reverb on the guitar, minor keys, devils’ chords, suspenseful press rolls on the drums – it’s not cartoonish. The angst and the menace are visceral. They leap into it with the first track, simply titled Jack Miller, a twistedly swinging chromatic theme, the guitars plowing through every garbage bag in the gutter, trombone shadowing Beninghove’s gritty tenor sax. Then they slow it down to a sway with distorted wah guitars, sax intermingling to the point where it’s impossible to tell who’s playing what. It’s pure evil and it sets the tone for the rest of the album.

Interestingly, there are three waltzes here, and they’re all excellent. Reve Melodique is a pretty musette that goes creepy as the guitars kick in, then dreamy and ghostly and finally macabre as the trombone takes over. Reject’s Lament is the most haunting of the three, Beninghove’s smoky alto sax over reverb-drenched, jangling guitars, crescendoing to an agitated horror as the guitars pick up with a blistering, tremolo-picked bluesmetal solo from Maoz as Johnson grimes it up a la Ribot. Hangmen’s Waltz reaches back for a murderously Lynchian ambience, just trombone, drums and guitars setting an ominous backdrop until the rest of the band finally comes in about halfway.

The rest of the album is eclectic to the extreme. There’s Tarantino (A Tarantella), a scurrying surf/ska song that morphs into skronky no wave, and The Puppetmaster, a cruelly satirical stripper theme featuring an absolutely twisted, meandering solo by Parker. Sushi Tango jarringly alternates between a slow, resolute tango and a surprisingly bubbly dixieland theme, while H Bomb, arguably the best song on the album, is a Balkan brass tune done as horror surf, like the Coffin Daggers might have ten years ago, solos around the horn growing increasingly unhinged. There’s also Quatro Loko, a punk salsa tune with a memorably pensive Parker solo that Beninghove uses as a launching pad to take the song completely psychotic; a noisy, grimy boogie blues titled Roadhouse; and the suspenseful, shapeshifting tone poem that closes the album. It’s hard to keep track of all the great albums that have come out this year, but this has to be one of the ten best. Big shout-out to Jeff Marino of amazing oldschool soul band the One and Nines for the heads-up about these guys.

Little Genius on the Loose at the Rockwood

At her Soundcloud site, Marilyn Carino calls her new Little Genius album “electronic soul,” but it’s a lot more soul than electronic. Her show Tuesday night at the Rockwood took awhile to set up: with her two keyboards, and her big Gibson hollowbody guitar, and a live rhythm section, it was obvious that this was going to be a real concert, not karaoke. You could compare the former frontwoman of Brooklyn downtempo/chillout group Mudville to Amy Winehouse or to Bjork, but Carino’s a thousand times more diverse than the first one and a lot more focused than the other. Alison Goldfrapp is another singer who comes to mind, but she can’t match Carino for unadulterated, lurid sultriness. And for all the raw sensuality in her delivery, Carino can also be incredibly subtle.

This was a trippy show. The tight, purist rhythm section of jazz bassist Ben Rubin (of Dred Scott’s group) on upright bass and Shawn Pelton (of cinematic noir soundscapers Mojo Mancini) on drums launched into a hypnotic backbeat as Carino spun webs of coldly moody, processed keys that contrasted with the slyly beckoning feel of her vocals. The catchy second song of the night set Carino’s voice against eerie roto organ moving in and out of the mix and a couple of trumpet solos that took it out triumphant and satisfied. Another had Carino building a lazy indie tune out of a single brooding, acidic guitar chord; later, she delivered hushed, suspenseful yet raw gospel-tinged soul over thoughtfully minimalist, echoey Rhodes electric piano.

A couple of the trip-hop numbers, including one that opened with a cascade of rainstorm piano before the textures got all woozy, had a darkly mesmerizing intensity: they wouldn’t have been out of place on the live Portishead album. They hit a cool Jazzmatazz vibe toward the end of the set, a hip-hop artist joining them to elevate the laid-back atmosphere as the trumpet soared. They closed with a deliciously noir, jazzy tune and then an old Mudville song, just bass, drums, trumpet and Carino’s bracing come-hither allure.

As entertaining as this show was, there were unwanted distractions. A pair of drunken Eurotrash couples – a girl at the bar chatting up a much older guy, and a coked-up greybeard by the window with his rent-a-date, talked loudly, nonstop, throughout the concert. Which was too bad – the Rockwood doesn’t usually draw that kind of crowd, especially when there’s a good band onstage.

Thad Debrock Makes a Mark at the Rockwood

Last night at the Rockwood Thad Debrock put on a guitar clinic. It was as much a clinic for the ears as the fingers. Debrock is a professional musician – he’s played in pit bands for musicals and is highly sought after as a sideman. He’s also a refreshing exception to the rule that the best sidemen often aren’t so good at coming up with their own material. There are plenty of players who can mimic one iconic style or another, but Debrock takes it to the next level. Not only did he evoke a little Chet Atkins, and Wes Montgomery, and John Leventhal (the cerebral, eclectic guitarist from Mojo Mancini and Rosanne Cash’s band), and a lot of Hendrix: he incorporated those ideas, and a whole lot more, into a style that’s all his own.

Debrock plays with great nuance, sharp precision and has blistering speed when he wants to use it, but he didn’t go past midtempo until late in the set. Instead, he shifted imaginatively through one texture after another: judicious jangle, a little distorted skronk, blithe jazzy octaves, twangy noir, graceful Nashville lines, boisterous Bakersfield and finally some screaming Dick Dale tremolo-picking late in the set. Like Marc Ribot, he can play pretty much anything, but where Ribot goes for creepy and sometimes noisy, Debrock tends to go for contemplatively incisive and atmospheric. He sang a couple of terse pop tunes early on and used his loop pedal to add hypnotic background. A bit later, a “tribute to Hendrix” was the furthest thing from what that idea generally conjures up: instead, Debrock went from Wes, to a couple of methodically bluesy verses of Summertime, to where he timewarped a famous Jimi riff and ended up in otherworldly Bill Frisell big-sky territory. Wow!

Another highlight of the show was a romp through a Buck Owens instrumental (doesn’t it kill you when the name of the tune is on the tip of your tongue, you plug in, call your surf music maven friend, play the hook into the phone and still end up without a title?). But instead of doing it straight-up country, Debrock did it with a biting, staccato, jazzy Chet Atkins edge. Then he hit his distortion pedal and launched into a biting salsa-flavored tune that pinned the intensity meter in the red when he started chopping at his chords furiously. Debrock’s rhythm section was tremendous as well. The bassist played with what looked like a gorgeous hollowbody Les Paul copy that provided a darkly snapping, trebly bite, and a drummer whose artful brush and mallet work included probably everything you can do with a pair of cymbals other than saw on them: the whooshy sonics, elegant boom of the toms and devious fills in some of the many spaces that Debrock left open were as fun to watch as they were to hear. There was a lull when a corporate singer-songwriter with one of those generically cheesy, hoarse, phony-sensitive vocal styles took a brief turn behind the mic, but even then Debrock stayed on task, adding a gorgeous country-flavored turnaround to the first song that wasn’t enough to rescue it, but at least it gave it a gentle splashdown instead of an awkward crash-landing. He’s been doing a Wednesday residency here on and off for several months now: if guitar is your thing, he’ll inspire you.