New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: wayne tucker

Catchy, Rewardingly Unpredictable Accordion Jazz From the Ben Rosenblum Nebula Project

The Ben Rosenblum Nebula Project’s new album Kites and Strings – which hasn’t hit the web yet – is as unpredictable as it is richly and entertainingly melodic.These songs hit you in waves: lots of long crescendos, with no predictable verse/chorus pattern. Rosenblum plays both piano and accordion here with a remarkable economy of notes, often overdubbing one instrument or another. He likes circling hooks and variations. Sometimes this evokes the Claudia Quintet at their most playful

In the album’s opening number,  Cedar Place, he bedevils the listener with an endless series of rhythmic shifts beneath Wayne Tucker’s jaunty trumpet swing melody. Jasper Dutz’s bass clarinet looms to the surface after a hard-hitting yet hypnotic trumpet-fueled interlude, then he switches to tenor sax, floating and weaving as the brisk swing of bassist Marty Jaffe and drummer Ben Zweig reaches critical mass.

The title track opens with a coyly strutting pairing of Rosenblum’s accordion and Jake Chapman’s vibraphone before the horns float in, then recede for a twinkling solo from the vibes as Rosenblum runs a subtle, flamenco-tinged accordion riff. Tucker’s calm, contented solo signals another brightly methodical upward climb.

Halfway to Wonderland is a bracing gem, veering in and out of waltz time to a hard-hitting piano solo, bass clarinet bubbling away as the rhythm section flurries, True to its title, Motif From Brahms is a wistful chamber jazz piece, the accordion adding cheer and bringing the temperature to a boil over a balletesque pulse following a moody, tersely neoromantic piano solo. The orchestral interweave at the end is tantalizingly brief: Rosenblum could have kept it going twice as long and nobody would be complaining.

The quasi-Balkan Fight or Flight is cartoonish and irresistibly funny, the whole band getting into the picture as guitarist Rafael Rosa flings off his distorted chords and then cuts loose on his own. It wouldn’t be out of place in the Greg Squared catalog.

Roseblum’s accordion sails over spacious, emphatic piano chords as Somewhere picks up from pensiveness toward a sense of triumph fueled by the trumpet, then the bass clarinet signals a shift toward latin territory. The warmly nocturnal ending is a neat, unpredictable touch.

Trumpet and sax build a lowlit exchange over Rosenblum’s dusky glimmer in Philadelphia, an unselfconsciously gorgeous ballad. Slightly restrained joy in solos from bass and trumpet finds a payoff in Rosa’s haphazard coda. Rossenblum keeps the glistening song-without-words ambience going in Bright Above Us, vibraphone adding extra tingle on the high end, guitar blazing a return from the stars, bass reaching for a subtler peak before the whole band ignites.

The horns start out in New Orleans as Laughing on the Inside kicks off with a brisk swing, accordion and then guitar taking the song further outside with echoes of Monk and eventually a devious drum solo. They close with Izpoved, a lingering, wary chorale for horns and accordion. One of the most adrenalizing and enjoyable albums of the past several months.

An Intimate Lower East Side Gig by Haunting Art-Rock Songwriter Joanna Wallfisch

There are two kinds of road songs. The more common ones celebrate freedom, the other celebrate escape. The second track on singer/multi-instrumentalist Joanna Wallfisch’s most recent album Blood & Bone – streaming at Bandcamp – is the other kind. It’s a chillingly propulsive narrative inspired by her 2016 California tour, which she made by bike.

I change my background story
Every time somebody asks
I have worn so many masks…
Winding down the windows
Letting in in the breeze
Breathing in the ashes
Of burning redwood trees
Time moves parallel to motion
It’s a traveler’s disease
We are all escapees

Wallfisch is playing the small room at the Rockwood on Jan 4 at 9 PM, an intimate opportunity to get to know her often slashingly lyrical, individualistic mix of majestic orchestrated rock, elegant parlor pop and jazz.

Jess Elder’s tinkling piano mingles with Wallfisch’s delicate uke and Kenneth Salters’ atmospheric cymbal washes in the album’s optimistic opening ballad, The Ship. Over swooshy organ and surreal electric piano, Wallfisch unleashes years’ worth of pent-up venom in The Shadow of Your Ghost, one of the alltime great kiss-off anthems. “You counted every moment that we spent, like a poor man counts each miserable cent,” she sings with a misty regret – and it only gets better from there. Elder’s titanic organ solo is one of the album’s high points.

The lush sweep of the towering seduction anthem Dandelions, awash in starry keyboard textures, is vastly more optimistic. The brooding counterpoint of the Solar String Quartet float above Elder’s circular, minimalist piano riffs in Anymore, a terse, bitter breakup ballad. The album’s catchiest song, capped off by an ornately gritty glamrock guitar solo by Elias Meister, is Lullaby Girl, which could be peak-era mid-70s ELO. Wallfisch’s allusively imagistic portrait of an unnamed musician’s grimly elusive search for some kind of inner peace packs a wallop.

‘In Runaway Child, Wallfisch builds a coyly detailed, Tamara Hey-esque tale of breaking free,over the boleroish pulse of Pablo Menares’ bass and Elder’s calypsonian toy piano. The group follow the starry, wistful piano-and-cello ballad Summer Solstice with Choices, a chromatically bristling, cabaret-tinged 6/8 anthem. Imagine Linda Thompson fronting Procol Harum: “The witching hour closes in fast…by dancing in circles, we’ll end up in flames.”

The hushed Solitude in a Song – Wallfisch sharing some surprising insights into how she writes – is the album’s most minimalist track. She goes back to cabaret-rock with The Truth, an anxious, brief mellotron-and-piano number. The album’s most traditional, commercial number is Bo Ba Bo; Wallfisch brings it full circle with the title track, Blood and Bone, a dancing, waltzing, Mozartean parlor pop number. Wallfisch deserves to be vastly better known than she is.

Anbessa Orchestra Plays a Killer Barbes Show, Then Heads to Red Hook

One of the most exciting concerts of this summer promises to be the twinbill on July 1 at Pioneer Works at 159 Pioneer St. in Red Hook, where sizzling Israeli-American Ethiopiques groove band Anbessa Orchestra opens for popular Ethiopian jazz bandleader/keyboardist Hailu Mergia. Realistically, there probably aren’t a lot of people outside of Red Hook who are going to go to this, but if you are in Red Hook, get your ass over to the venue and pick up an advance ticket for $20 and save yourself five bucks off the door charge. The show is advertised as beginning at 8, although things usually start on the later side here. The easiest way to get to the venue from downtown Brooklyn is to catch the B61 bus, which runs down Court St. and then takes a right on Atlantic, past Sahadi’s, and will drop you off about a block and a half from the venue.

Anbessa Orchestra played an amazing show at Barbes the Saturday night over Memorial Day weekend. They hit hard right from the start, shifting rhythms artfully from slinky to funkier as guitarist Nadav Peled fired off intricate Malian desert rock hammer-on riffs, the alto saxophonist picking things up with a bluesy, exuberant solo as the band cantered behind him. They hit a punchy, staccato minor-key Ethio-funk groove after that, Peled distinguishing himself as he would do all night, finding interesting places to go on the fretboard throughout what was basically a one-chord jam as the dancers on the floor twirled and bounced.

Fueled by Eden Bareket’s smoky baritone sax, the next number built quickly out of an ominous intro to a brisk, camelwalking triplet rhythm, balmy alto sax overhead. Considering that the blues is African and Ethiopian music is the world’s oldest, it’s no surprise to hear so much blues in this band’s music. What’s most refreshing, and ultimately makes them as catchy as they are, is that they keep things terse and purposeful and don’t overplay. The horns are tight and so is the rhythm section, and when somebody tales off on a solo, they make it count, whether Bareket’s offhandedly wild postbop spirals on this particular number, or the bubbling organ against the ominously looming horns on the similarly funky but considerably more otherworldly tune after that. A biting, puristically bluesy Wayne Tucker trumpet solo and Peled’s clanking, clenched-teeth guitar each built to an explosive peak as the music rose and fell.

The highest point of the night was when Tucker went blasting and trilling to an instant crescendo as the even mightier anthem afterward swelled and then grew quieter, Peled’s deep-desert riffage bobbing and weaving under a tightly syncopated minor-key horn chart, drummer Eran Fink and bassist Tamir Shmerling nimbly negotiating its tricky rhythm, seemingly shifting in and out of focus. Peled took it down to a quiet, darkly majestic solo interlude before the organ and rhythm section pulled it back up into the stormclouds. Then the band completely flipped the script with an easygoing, catchy, major-key, vintage Jamaican-style rocksteady tune. And that was just the first set. These are just some of the flavors they’re likely to bring to Red Hook on the first of next month.