Thornetta Davis - Rubenstein Atrium - May 10, 2018
Davis is Detroit’s Queen of the Blues, and there’s no mistaking that – I told her that she must have gone to Aretha-school. Her band provides a full sound to give heft to go along with her amazing pipes. Some covers, some originals. The featured instrumental soloist was guitarist Washington, and he had all old-school and classic blues styles covered; the others copped a few dregs here & there to good effect.
Sly Scott & Greg Glassman
James Jamalot Anderson
Four-Ever Yours String Quartet - New York Botanical Garden - May 5, 2018
This was a NYC Urban Sketchers event, in conjunction with a few other things going on at the NYBG. So what do I do? Go to the garden and don’t sketch any of the flowers! Instead, I noticed live music, and I was socked in. This quartet had a mix of genuine classical and pop-reformulated for SQ, which was a nice blend. There was so much I didn’t recognize, or did but couldn’t place, but alas, no set list.
Four-Ever Yours String Quartet
Downtown Comes Uptown - Rubenstein Atrium - April 26, 2018
Because uptown isn’t sufficiently alt-; there’s a feeder program from Rockwell Music Hall so that the uptown crowd doesn’t have to descend into the hurly-burly (I’m projecting here, having never been to Rockwell). Four musical acts performing a sampler of three tunes each – hardly enough time to do sketch justice to the ensembles, but I like the challenge of the impossible. Opener McFerrin is yes, daughter of famed Bobby (and likewise performs barefoot). This was a powerhouse “solo” a capella presentation, using a voice-looping gizmo (I’m not up on all the latest) to build a chorus of her lovely pipes. Next was the trio House of Waters featuring a hammered dulcimer jam session. Third was solo John Fullbright, and the closer was Elizabeth & the Catapult (sorry drummer, no time left for you) with some nice evanescent tunes of sophisticated compositional complexity folded into a pop sensibility.
Ignacio Rivas Bixio
Shamisen and Shakuhachi - Greenwich Library - April 22, 2018
I had no clue how to title this post – “Japanese Music” seemed too crass. So I named it for the musical instruments. What an intriguing presentation – the fruit of the Otozawa Project, dedicated to promoting traditional Japanese music, disseminated by “cultural envoys”. And while the instruments and garb were surely traditional, it seemed that many of the pieces were relatively recent – some from the second half of the 20th century. There were a lot of contemplative spaces and dynamics to appreciate in the selections, as Honjoh and Obama took turns applying their own personal touches in solo pieces and duets. The shamisen (strings made of silk!) is played with what has to be the world’s biggest guitar pick.
Arturo O’Farrill Sextet - Bronx Library Center - April 14, 2018
This is a family affair, and a royal jazz family to boot. Arturo is already the second generation of O’Farrill players, and he’s brought along two sons into the business. Yes, this music has got a Cuban soul (and some requisite percussion), but it is not at all clichéd, and to me is primarily jazz for improvisation; I would be surprised if these players knew exactly where things were going at the start of each piece – a number of which are original compositions. But they sure went places! Hardly anything is as gratifying as when an old master at peak (in this case Arturo) provides a safe place for the next generation to flourish, and I detect no nepotism drawback in this case. It’s an honor to witness the torch-passing, not that Arturo’s going away any time soon.
Busking New York - Kenny John - April 11, 2018
I’m afraid that Kenny might be playing the same song all day. He was one of those buskers who was trying to give money to me! Is that the upside or the downside of my shabby attire?
North County Harp Ensemble - Mahopac Library - March 18, 2018
A little preview of heaven here. Six harps resonating together, totally captivating. A somewhat Gallic-leaning repertoire in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.
Hawai’i - February 2018
Various forces conspired to prevent me capturing any Hawaiian musicians on this trip, though there were a few artisans “performing”.
Volcano Farmers Market
Donny McCaslin & Jason Linder - Greenwich Library - January 7, 2018
These two mainstays of NYC’s jazz scene have a long collaborative history (including work on David Bowie’s final album), though the duo format has not been the main thrust. Nice chemistry and listening to each other while improvising. Sometimes the lights stay on in the Cole Auditorium (and I can work in color, even watercolors), sometimes not. On this day it was “not”, all I could see in front of my face was Sharpie, so I went with that as plan C!
Sunny Jain’s ExtravaJAMza – Rubinstein Atrium December 14, 2017
This was a hodgepodge that worked really well. Basically, percussionist Jain invited his various musical friends (and that’s quite a diverse assemblage of musical friends!) to come perform with him in various configurations. So, there was a rotating cadre of personnel on stage, making it difficult for me to anticipate how long each would be available and how to allocate finite sketch time. So be it. Part of the evening’s theme was the metaphor of cooking, which got quite literal as samples of Jain’s culinary skills were passed out amongst the audience. Much as I would have like to nosh in this manner, it was too much to manage while frantically trying to focus within my chrono-calculating frenzy.