Vince Giordano & the Nighthawks – Greenwich Library Cole Auditorium – January 13, 2019
Separating the music from the history is impossible with Giordano’s ensemble (11 pieces!). He’s got the patter down just right, a bit corny, a bit self-deprecating, chock full of historical tidbits that seem to be overflowing from his walking-encyclopedia brain. The group specializes in music from the 1920′s-1930′s, giving it potential for maudlin, but no, this is lively and vital. It’s supported by the choice repertoire selection, with works by (I’m not distinguishing here between “composed by” versus “made famous by” – Giordano could reel ‘em off just like that) Ellington, Biederbecke, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Lunceford (the lively closer, “Rhythm is Our Business” [business sure is swell!]), sufficiently hip for me. Fiddler Stein has been around, was part of the Prairie Home Companion house band, among others.
Youssra El Hawary – Rubenstein Atrium - October 4, 2018
There’s a bit of Arab Spring vibe in El Hawary, but she seems to be more documenting the social fallout of modern Egypt rather than sounding a call to arms. It’s always interesting to see how the stereotypical image of an instrument can get warped by the cultural filter of distant hands. The handout blurb mentioned that she has modified the reed setup of some accordions, to be able to produce the quarter tones that are part of the genre, and which give music of this region (the band is from Egypt) its distinctive not-of-the-west tonal signature.
Youssra El Hawary
Tarek Abdelkawi & Yamen ElGamal
Shadi El Hosseini
Peter Serkin - Cole Auditorium, Greenwich Library - November 25, 2018
Although Serkin plays from a wide-ranging repertoire, here he focused in on the classical-est of the classical, Mozart and Bach. That these lengthy pieces can be memorized is astounding to me. But once certain parts of the brain master that scaffolding, and the muscle memory is in place, then it’s time to become immersed, for a transparency serving the other brain parts that are the source of transcendant wonder! To meld with the Goldberg Variations.
Celebrate Mexico Now! - Rubenstein Atrium - October 18, 2018
Despite not understanding Spanish, I can appreciate the pipes and axes of these two, the passion overwhelming the language barrier. Goust and Gameros are prime examples of the cultural richness surrounding our border with Mexico, and of the need to redirect the immigration discussion.
Busking New York City - October 12, 2018
Special treat of the day: as I was sketching Ajamu, another sketcher was sketching ME at work. And not too shabby a job, Martin Williams! I’m always looking for instruments I haven’t sketched yet, so next treat, there in the subway, The Saw Lady. It don’t sound like anything else, except maybe proto-theremin.
The Saw Lady - Natalia Paruz
"Parker Gambino" by Martin Milliams
Busking New York City - October 4, 2018
Here I witnessed (in Washington Square Park) one of the most astounding musical performances in quite some time. Talk about a different drummer! Percussionist Reggie Pison plays on a collection of buckets, pots and pans, and various metal forms and pieces that clearly have a “real” function in construction & fabrication, perhaps. These he bangs with some crude wooden sticks. The lively and insistent rhythm emerges unfiltered from his soul, as does the rap, more jagged than smoothly flowing, an ongoing conversational monologue indicative of uniquely connected dots upstairs in the cranium. I found it infectious, couldn’t tell if he was addressing me while I sketched, talking to himself about me, or mostly oblivious. He definitely was master of his instrument; by turning a metal form upside down he was able to access a whole new set of sounds, and he had an assortment of them that he rotated into and out of the active configuration. His performance involved a constantly shifting array of sonic offerings, as he flipped this or that piece according to his real-time vision. I was intimidated about asking for the autograph, as it seemed like there would be no break in his stream of consciousness presentation, and there wasn’t! I had to maneuver the book in front of him, he took the pen with one hand while he kept the rhythm going with the other without a break. There was no sense engaging him in small talk, or informing him that his last name is the name of a wasp genus. Weil kept her classical and contemporary offerings brief and to the point, which made them eminently digestible. Cohen & Garvey perform under the moniker “Goin’ Local Duo”.
Martin Cohen & Ann Garvey
Irish Trad - Knox’s Tavern, Ennis - September 19, 2018
One of my goals while holidaying (it gets used as a verb there) in Ireland was to sit in with some trad players, and Ennis is a center keeping the Irish trad alive. Interesting gig structure – the band plays a few numbers, takes a break to get tea or beer, discussed what to do next, resumes, rinse, repeat; so the “sets” aren’t all that long. These fellas (not sure if they had any official group name) graciously indulged me, doing backup to some extent or other on three tunes, two of which were Irish (more pub songs than traditional), which I’d learned for exactly this occasion.
Whiskey in the Jar (Parker Gambino)
Parker at Knox's Tavern, Ennis
C.J. Chenier - CHIRP Ballard Park, Ridgefield - August 30, 2018
Scion of the Chenier zydeco squeezebox family. When you’ve got one guy on washboard and another on tambourines, you know there’s gonna be rhythm splashing all over!
"Young Buck" Tony Stewart
Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real - Damrosch Park, Lincoln Center - August 12, 2018
The headliner for this gig was Margo Price, but darkness descends on Damrosch too early to portray the late act. At least there was enough light to capture Nelson (yes, scion of Willie), who touched all the alt-country bases, including a bit of solo set. He and his band had been the backup for a Neil Young tour.
Bill Saxton – Grant’s Tomb - August 8, 2018
Saxton also runs his own salon-style live jazz joint in Harlem; he’s an institution!