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Tag: soul music

Martina Fiserova Brings Her Individualistic, Soulful Tunesmithing to the Lower East

From the mid-teens until the 2020 lockdown, Czech-born songwriter Martina Fiserova was a familiar presence and a distinctive voice in the New York small club scene. Her tunesmithing is sophisticated, purposeful and defies categorization, with elements of oldschool soul, chamber pop, 90s trip-hop and jazz. She plays electric rather than acoustic guitar, likes short songs and sings in strong English in an unselfconsciously direct, uncluttered voice. Since the lifting of restrictions, she’s back on the live circuit, with an early show tonight, May 22 at 5 PM at the small room at the Rockwood.

Like so many artists whose career was put on ice by the grim events of March 2020 and afterward, Fiserova hasn’t put out an album in awhile. Her most recent release, Shift, came out in 2015 and is still up at Bandcamp: it gives you a good idea of the many angles she comes from. She’s got a great band behind her: Brian Charette on organ and piano, and her fellow Czechs Tomáš Baroš on bass and Dano Šoltis on drums. In addition to guitar, Fiserova plays tone lyre, slate xylophone, bronze metallophone and keys.

She opens with Silver Streams, a slow, catchy, minimalist ballad awash in water imagery, that picks up with an unexpectedly funky pulse fueled by a cheery, blues-infused Charette piano solo. Track two, Crater is a hypnotically clustering number in 12/8: “The sleep is broken, tears are stuck in my throat… unseen forces, the pain spreads like white sheets…”

Song For Brian, a swaying, pensive number contrasts Charette’s strikingly direct piano with Fiserova’s more enigmatic guitar lines. “The sound of a breaking heart is stronger than a storm,” she muses in the intro to Cold, then the band leaps into a brisk, bracing offbeat shuffle, Charette on soul organ

She follows Misunderstanding, a slinky, low-key organ swing tune with Invisible Blood, the band slowly edging their way into waltz time as Charette adds iciness behind Fiserova’s elegant fingerpicking and more of that loaded water imagery.

An unlikely flock of pigeons serve as inspiration for the next track, And Fly!, Fiserova offering plainspoken, inspiring encouragement to leave fear behind. Little did she know when she recorded it how relevant this song would become five years later!

She keeps the fearless theme going in My Wind, with its rhythmic twists and turns. from jazz into oldschool soul and back on the wings of Charette’s organ. He blends organ and blippy Rhodes piano in Chasm, a brisk, twinkling, motorik soul tune that could be the album’s catchiest track. Then Fiserova completely flips the script with Silver Moon, rising from an understatedly dark, squirrelly free jazz intro to a big, soaring anthem. The final cut is the pensive, airily wary Closer. Since the album came out, Fiserova has pursued a more straightforward, guitar-driven sound: she is likely to take the volume up a notch at the Rockwood gig.

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

Sami Stevens Brings Her Blue-Flame Soul Intensity to the Lower East Side

Sami Stevens was sixteen when she sang the national anthem at Fenway Park. That’s a gig that’s just as difficult to get as it is to pull off. If there’s video evidence, it’s well hidden, which is too bad. It’s a fair bet that she hit it out of the park, sometime around the tail end of the Tito Francona era, in the years when the Red Sox were struggling to sustain the level they’d reached after their 2007 world championship.

More recently, Stevens has become one of the most electrifying singers in New York. She’s the not-so-secret weapon in faux-Italian psychedelic soundtrack band Tredici Bacci, and before the lockdown held down a popular residency at the Parkside in Ditmas Park. She’s back at an old haunt, the small room at the Rockwood in a couple of days, at 8 PM on April 28.

Stevens put out the full-length album And I’m Right in 2017 with her band And the Man I Love, which is still up at Bandcamp. The production is refreshingly oldschool, organic and features a full band with horns, shades of early Lake Street Dive. Stevens’ songwriting isn’t constrained to four minutes or less, and her songs are spiced with thoughtful sax solos and keyboard work (Stevens plays piano; it’s not clear if that’s her on the record). The title track to that one is a good indication of the kind of simmering intensity she channels onstage, a big, wounded, gospel-tinged struggler’s anthem in 6/8 time.

Stevens works a slinky/slashing dichotomy in Over and Over, another catchy, expansive ballad. She takes a more breathily expressive approach to Baby Blue, a retro Bill Withers-style tune, then follows a simmering, gospel-fueled upward trajectory in Where Will I Find My Best Friend. Then she picks up the pace with A Child They Said Was Mine, a parable of urban disquiet that rings just as true now

There’s also the catchy, steady self-empowerment strut Learn to Love, with its fluttery horns and starry keys; She Is God, a spine-tingling, impassioned shout-out to everyday female determination; and a slightly truncated single version of the title cut. If you missed this the first time around, it’s one of the most imaginative, purist albums of soul music released in the past several years.

Stevens’ most recent release is a short album, Make Your Mind, which she put out in the fall of 2020 and is also up at Bandcamp. In general, it’s more low-key, trippy and neosoul-oriented.

Sunday Singles – A Bombshell and a Movie This Time

In times like these, everybody is being called on to think outside the box, this blog included. That’s why today’s list of brief items includes a hilarious short film, a sobering little news bulletin and a schoolgirl speaking truth to power. As usual, click on artist or author names for their webpages, click on titles for audio or video.

Let’s start with the bombshell, which some of you have undoubtedly seen by now since Project Veritas is the #1 most-watched channel on Telegram. Until now, we haven’t seen a lot of big pharma whistleblowers, but this leaked Zoom call from the bowels of AstraZeneca on December 3,. 2020 is damning as hell. In the context of pitching a monoclonal antibody product as a potential Covid treatment, CEO Pascal Soriot cops to the fact that “There are millions of people in the world that will need a protection that cannot be coming from a vaccine.” Kaboom. Nuremberg 2.0, here we come.

Now a break for music with one of this blog’s alltime favorites: Everything But the Girl doing Little Hitler, a soaring, soulful anthem from their lavishly orchestrated 1986 album Baby the Stars Shine Bright Tonight.

Just to be clear, EBTG singer Tracey Thorn is being sarcastic when she sings “Every woman loves a fascist.” The thirteen-year-old Australian girl in this anonymous Rumble video clearly doesn’t, as she elegantly and articulately rips Klaus Schwab a new one. Who says all the kids today are sheeple!

For practically two years now, Dr. Pam Popper – author of the very first plandemic expose, COVID Operation and founder of Make Americans Free Again – has been putting out an endless series of easily digestible short videos on the news of the day. This one is not meant to scare but to inform. As she explains, there’s a “smart” health card currently being developed by a sinister coalition including Microsoft, Salesforce.com and, surprisingly, the Mayo Clinic. To cut to the chase, it’s a platform for a communist Chinese-style social credit scheme, scheduled to be deployed on a state-by-state basis. As of today, Arizona, Nevada and Utah are already on board, with West Virginia, Oklahoma and South Carolina close behind…unless, of course, people refuse to comply.. Deets in brief at Popper’s must-watch Rumble channel.

OK, now that we’ve gotten most all of the serious stuff out of the way, here’s a very funny short film. In just under thirty minutes, Doc Tracy is a venomously amusing mashup (and sometimes a parody) of The Matrix, Project Veritas and film noir in general. Listen as none other than Dr. Simone Gold chews the scenery in her role as a quasi-Switch! Watch as our hero tracks down the real-life Kristina Lawson, head of the California Medical Board, who as it turns out isn’t even a doctor! You can’t make this stuff up.

Pianist Rachel Z Brings a Great Lineup to Smalls Tonight

We are in the most bizarre time for live music in New York history. At this point, a small handful of jazz clubs are leading the way back to normalcy, catering to all New Yorkers without apartheid restrictions. Among the herd of elephants in the room is the brain drain out of town, where all but the most obstinate or destitute among us got the hell out within weeks of the March 2020 totalitarian takeover. So there are all kinds of unexpected faces popping up where they might not have before the lockdown.

One intriguing show that might not have taken place at Smalls in 2019 is happening there tonight, April 2, where pianist Rachel Z and her band Orbits 4 wrap up their two-night stand with sets at 7:30 and around 9 PM. It’s a great lineup, with Steve Wilson on alto sax, Jonathan Toscano on bass and Ben Perowsky on drums; cover is $25 cash at the door

The last time anybody from this blog was in the house at a Rachel Z show was eons ago, at a Winter Jazzfest afternoon in the Carnegie Hill area, where despite the early hour she and her Trio of Oz treated the crowd to a thoughtfully energetic set whose high point was a biting instrumental cover of the Police’s King of Pain.

If you’re thinking of checking out the Smalls gig, one album that might offer a hint of what they’ll be up to is bassist Scott Petito’s 2018 release Rainbow Gravity – streaming at Bandcamp – which features Rachel Z along with a rotating cast of talent, mostly from the jazz world.

Petito tends to favor a a dry, blippy, slightly oscillating tone, plays with a lot of guitar voicings and has a flair for the cinematic. A lot of this material looks straight to about forty years ago. Case in point: the album’s opening track, Sly-Fi. which has an easygoing, period-perfect early 80s Crusaders soul/funk vibe. David Spinozza’s guitar flares in sync with Bob Mintzer’s tenor sax over David Sancious’ alternately light-fingered and atmospheric keys, with a cheery sax solo at the center.

That template sets the stage for much of the rest of the record. On The Sequence of Events, Rachel Z adds welcome gravitas with her spare, thoughtfully incisive piano, as the bandleader takes a snappy solo way up the fretboard. Balsamic Reduction is an echoey Fender Rhodes soul song without words set to a straight-up clave beat, livened with• Mike Mainieri’s vibraphone and Spinozza’s chipper flamenco/blues solo. The group revisit a similar vibe – pun intended – a little later, in the album’s title track

The Sanguine Penguin is a brisk postbop swing jazz tune, Petito doubling the bright riffage from Mintzer and trumpeter Chris Pasin over Peter Erskine’s subtle drum accents, a cleverly leapfrogging piano solo at the center. Masika is both poignant and funny, Petito playing guitar lines through a flange and a sitar pedal over an otherwise unexpectedly brooding, west African tinged theme.

He and drummer Jack DeJohnette team up to build suspense in Dark Pools, an ominous soundscape. The group go back to a rather dark take on Hollywood Hills boudoir funk with Helicon, then work a pleasantly sleepy, twinkling groove in Lawns. Petito winds up the record with a gamelanesque duo with DeJohnette.

Fun fact: the album title is a concept from quantum physics which posits that the universe is more the result of a big drift rather than a big bang. The corollary is that its ever-increasing expanse may be more hospitable to life than we previously thought.

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

Individualistic Soul Band Brandi & the Alexanders Make a Welcome Return to the New York Stage

For the last few years prior to the lockdown, Brandi & the Alexanders were one of the most musically interesting retro soul bands playing around New York. Frontwoman Brandi Thompson is more about subtlety than wounded wail and the group behind her – guitarist Nick Fokas, bassist Eric Wendell, keyboardist Ethan Simon and drummer Eric Gottlieb – punch in with a drive that’s closer to classic 70s sounds and four-on-the-floor rock than hip-hop. In the studio, they keep their songs on the short side and have a great sense of humor. The tunesmitbing is strong: the songs are catchy without falling back on cliches. And Thompson doesn’t autotune her voice either!

They’ve put out a couple of records: the most recent one is How Do You Like It, which came out in 2018 and is streaming at youtube. The band are making a return to a familiar stage, the big room at the Rockwood – which has recently reopened without restrictions – on March 25 at 8:30 PM. Cover is $10.

The album opens with the title cut, a kiss-off anthem that’s a mixture of slinky psychedelic soul and hard funk, Thompson picking up with a gritty vindictiveness at the end. The second track, Higher is a catchy, tightly pulsing, harder-rocking take on late 60s Motown.

I’m in Love is funkier, with blippy electric piano and a little gospel bridge. The band slow things down with Jealousy, a simmering piano ballad in 6/8 time built around an icy chorus-box guitar riff and swirly organ. After that there’s a surprise, a slow, swaying 90s G-funk inspired cover of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid that’s just plain hilarious

They pick up the pace with Running Around, an brisk update on a familiar minor-key soul-blues theme from the 60s. “I’m so sick of these goddamn love songs,” Thompson scowls in the next number, a trip-hop strut with growling guitars and some amusing voiceovers.

The album’s hardest-rocking song is Drama Queen: just when you think the band are going to expand on the guitar multitracks, or launch into a long solo, they end it cold. Likewise, they wrap up Pulling Me Down, a catchy mix of airy keys and wah-wah guitar grit, in under three minutes.

“Luck ain’t got nothing to do with it,” Thompson asserts cynically in Lucky as the band rise from a slow wah-wah groove to a surreal, squalling sax break and a big coda. She reaches for extra venom in Shapeshifter, a vindictive, imaginatively orchestrated blues tune about a real femme fatale. The band wind up the album with Bad Love, a slow, gospel-tinged 6/8 ballad, Thompson working the dynamics for all they’re worth and finally kicking out the jams. Good to see these guys still together and playing at a time when so many others have been scattered across the country – or across town.

Eclectic Soul, Jazz and Funk Tunesmithing From Saxophonist Alison Shearer

Alto saxophonist Alison Shearer comes out of a jazz background but also writes genre-busting songs that bridge the worlds of soul, psychedelia and funk. Her debut album View From Above is streaming at Bandcamp. Her attack is nimble, purposeful, and her songs tend to be on the bright side. Shearer’s not-so-secret weapon here is keyboardist Kevin Bernstein, who fleshes out the material with layers of organ, Bernie Worrell-ish synth patches, electric and acoustic piano.

The first track is On Awakening, a cheery, kinetically loopy interweave of Shearer’s dancing sax and Marty Kenney’s blippy bass over Bernstein’s woozy P-Funk-ish keyboard layers, drummer Horace Phillips providing a solid footing. Shearer builds her mistily propulsive solo to a triumphantly emphatic series of closing riffs

Celestial has brightly circling sax hooks over a well-worn singer-songwriter progression that Bernstein quickly expands with his pointillistic piano, shreddy guitar voicings on the synth kicking off a cheery, singalong Shearer solo. The next tune, Cycles is a lithely dancing Hollywood Hills boudoir soul tune balanced with some neat triangulations between electric piano, sax and Wayne Tucker’s trumpet

Miranda Joan sings Breathe Again, a crescendoing, occasionally gospel-tinged soul-jazz ballad reflecting a hope to emerge into renewed freedom and optimism.

Shearer uses the vampy. swaying Toni’s Tune as a launching pad for catchy, misty soloing, bookeneded around a doublespeed bridge. “Art is dangerous,” a voiceover reminds, “Because dictators, and people in office, and people who want to control and deceive know exactly the people who will disturb their planning.” Take that, Klaus Schwab!

Tucker returns for tightly syncopated. bittersweet harmonies in Three Flights Up, anchored by Bernstein’s twinkling, resonant Rhodes. Jonathan Hoard, Vuyo Sotashe and Chauncey Matthews interchange on vocals in Big Kids; Bernstein plays somber neoromantic piano and Susan Mandel provides shivery cello behind a sobering sample of Martin Luther King commenting on police brutality.

Hattie Simon’s cut-and-pasted vocals float over a gentle, wistful, spare soul backdrop in Purple Flowers. The best song on the album is Dawn to Dusk, Shearer shifting from a stark, loopy Ethiopiques theme to swirly psych-funk and back. She winds up the album with Gentle Traveler, a warmly catchy song without words: the contrast between carefree sax and pensive cello is a neat touch.

Shearer doesn’t have any unrestricted gigs coming up, but Tucker is leading a quintet at Smalls tonight, March 17 at 7:30 PM. The trumpeter has a fiery side but is just as much at home in balmy Afrobeat-flavored sounds, and he likes to croon. The club is open again with no restrictions; cover is $25 at the door.

Singles, Amusement and Inspiration for Mid-March

Today’s self-guided playlist is about a half hour of great songs, some snarky comedy and useful information. Click on artist names for their webpages, click on song titles or descriptions for audio/video.

Top of the list today is Austrian group the Mona Lisa Twins I Bought Myself a Politician, a venomously funny oldtimey-flavored swing parable of the plandemic. The video is great too. “Who would have thought I’d bring the whole world to its knees?” Thanks to Mark Crispin Miller – the other New York Music Daily – for passing this on.

Here’s a succinct, blockbuster two-minute clip by former BlackRock hedge fund manager Edward Dowd, whose analysis of insurance industry all-cause mortality data reveals how the Covid shot killed more young people in the second half of 2021 than were killed in ten years in the Vietnam War. Data like this is what’s going to crash Moderna’s stock value down to zero.

It would have been nice to be able to save this next video for the annual Halloween month celebration of all things creepy, but it can’t wait. This is the World Economic Forum‘s three-minute promo for their planned facial recognition tech-based Known Traveler Digital ID, scheduled to be rolled out in Canada and the Netherlands in 2023. It’s a platform for a Chinese communist-style social credit scheme. Forewarned is forearmed! Thanks to Unacceptable Dr. Jessica Rose, astute analyst of VAERS data, for passing this along

Here’s a beautiful off-the-cuff nine-minute video of the reliably poetic Dr. Paul Alexander – the Linton Kwesi Johnson of the freedom movement – with fearless native New Yorker Dr. Pierre Kory chatting with Laura Lynn at the Freedom Convoy encampment in Maryland after a productive and peaceful day.

Soul songstress Dee Ponder‘s latest single Poor Man has sparkly, expansive retro reverb guitar over a trip-hop beat, up to a surprising late-Beatles outro. “Who’s gonna listen to a poor man’s pain?” The final mantra is Freedom! Fun fact: she’s a former public defender from Rochester.

Paper Citizen‘s Heart on Fire juxtaposes quirky techy verse, catchy swirly chorus and an unselfconscious sense of humor from frontwoman/multi-instrumentalist Claire Gohst

Julia Gaeta‘s Weight of You is dense late 80s/early 90s goth as Siouxsie would have done it: uncluttered and merciless.

Eclectic, Imaginatively Arranged Soul Stylings From Lunar Noon

On her new album Symbolic Creature – streaming at Bandcamp – multi-keyboardist/songwriter Michelle Zheng a.k.a. Lunar Noon contemplates the empowerment that the act of questioning triggers, and how we assign meaning to otherwise completely random objects and events. The takeaway, she seems to say, is up to us.

Many but not all of the tracks could be classified as soul music. Zheng likes textures, a mix of the organic and the icily techy, plus layers of vocals, recorded over the web with a rotating cast of players in the summer of 2021. She cites Susanne Sundfor as a major influence, reflected by the wide range of styles covered here. Flickers of Chinese folk music sometimes bubble to the surface, whether melodically or in the choice of instrumentation. Some of the song titles reflect a Japan trip Zheng took which seems to have ended badly.

In the album’s brief opening number, Rabbits, as she sees them, are gospel creatures, in a slow waltz awash in strings The second track is Ginkgo, a trip-hop number with stark cello, koto, and operatic backing vocals, a more ornate take on what Fiona Apple was doing in the mid-zeros.

Blippy keys contrast with washes and pulses of sound in track three, Peregrine; then, picturesque percussion and harp percolate through The Rain, which becomes more of a soul-infused rain dance.

Anywhere, a jaunty soul strut, has artfully assembled layers of starry electronic keys. Provenance has an elegant sweep beneath Zheng’s achingly soaring vocals; Ash gets more of a robotic, psychedelic atmosphere.

Cold cyborg vocals contrast with the lushness of Suspension. Zheng shifts gears with Meteor, its spare, shuffling beat anchoring a tune that hints at warmly enveloping soul balladry. The same spareness persists in Alchemist, up to a catchy, determined lead vocal and a big, driving piano solo: it’s the album’s most forceful song.

Another strong track is Yellow House, a chamber-pop waltz with classically-inspired piano. The best and catchiest song is Daylight, a big art-rock anthem where Zheng switches between lingering bittersweetness and an energetic sway. Hypnotic cell-like piano riffs permeate the closing cut, Gold, which brings to mind early My Brighest Diamond. It will be interesting to see which of these many directions Zheng decides to follow in the coming months or years.