John Pizzarelli Trio - Vassar College Skinner Hall - September 9, 2017
Pizzarelli is an artist at the top of his game, this dude has it all, even his guitar has an extra string! Did not disappoint from the opening bars to the encore. Waaaaay smoove, he’s got the vocals down, he’s got the ax chops, he’s got the top-shelf sidemen. He’s got the jazz vocalist wife who was present but did not go on stage (shucks!). Pizzarelli comes from good jazz stock, grew up in the trade, so he’s on a first-name basis with a lot of legends, and has a lot of the inside scoop. And the patter is superb. Favorite of the evening: Louis Armstrong performed at Billy Crystal’s bar mitzvah reception; Crystal’s aunt (or grandmother?) suggesting to Armstrong, “Have you tried clearing your throat?”
Roopa Panesar - Lincoln Center Rubenstein Atrium - September 7, 2017
I’m starting to run out of instruments that I haven’t sketched – this is my first sitar. I’m not sufficiently knowledgeable about Indian music to know who’s got the chops, but it’s clear that Panesar does. And with two Indian drum masters (one from the northern tradition, one from the southern, again don’t ask me which is which). You can tell that this stuff is a truly interactive (somewhat improvised, I’m guessing) goading conversation amongst the players, and I love the glee on their faces when they all get to the same break point together.
Kendra Foster - Lincoln Center Hearst Plaza - August 11, 2017
Foster was on the “little” stage, in many ways much more conducive to my work than the big-assed bandshell, including no waiting on line. I don’t think there was any diminution of quality. In advance, her music totally unknown to me, but I have faith (hard-earned through the years) in the Lincoln Center out-of-doors programming. What I did know was a George Clinton connection (big plus) and a more recent (and grammy-winning!) link to D’Angelo (wary meaninglessness to me). Foster brought the goods, and there was certainly enough of the “you and me, baby” kind of stuff that I guess is the D’Angelo-type genre, but she also dipped into the old-school well a bit and showed strong gospel-ish chops and sensibility. Vocal assistance from Redd Middleton (do I need to say also news to me?) who was no slouch and really unleashed on his featured vocal number.
Charles "Redd" Middleton
Big Sam’s Funky Nation - CHIRP Ballard Park, Ridgefield - August 8, 2017
All I knew about this band going in was basically that it was from New Orleans, led by a former Dirty Dozen Brass Band member (only a vague context for me). So, modest expectations on my part, fearing a lack of sufficient variety to keep me engaged. And the way it started, fervent exhortations to the audience to get up and dance, make some noise, etc. also not my best recipe for assured quality (what, your music doesn’t bring it strongly enough that audience will do these things without the exhortations?). Wrongo! These guys are masters of their instruments with a judicious blend of covers and originals, the latter pulled from a wide variety of pop culture sources including the Beatles. And Sam was not the only big thing about it; the whole 4-piece sound was full & luscious. I was like, “Yes, THAT’s how you play that instrument!” A second horn (sax) was added for one number, but too briefly for me to get the guy.
New policy: I will be providing a link to artist home page when it’s easily obviously available. I’ve been reluctant to do even this (let alone go to social media), as I have no influence on quality control, and I sure ain’t gonna be going back to make sure links are not broken.
Big Sam Williams
The Wild Reeds - Madison Square Park - August 2, 2017
If you gave me a blindfolded listen to The Wild Reeds and asked me where they were from, I’d probably come up with southern California. This LA band has three fronting women, all singer-songwriters, who have found a way to mesh together their creativeness into a unified sound. They have a minor arsenal of instruments, electric or acoustic as need be, to straddle the folk/rock/indie sensibility.
Sketchcrawl #56 – New York City - July 29, 2017
Quite strange to me that there was complete non-overlap of sketchers on this day and from January. So what. I decided to just go B&W, and somehow that gravitated me into doing people more than other scenery. So there’s 3 types: fellow sketchers at lunch, random people, and Central Park buskers.
Cherish the Ladies - CHIRP, Ballard Park Ridgefield - July 18, 2017
This was the fourth time I’d seen this Irish trad supergroup, who never fail to deliver the goods; I finally got around to the sketching. Joannie Madden, the ringleader, is just about the ultimate MC, with a breezy manner of sneaking in praise for accomplishment in introducing her colleagues, and an engaging sense of humor. Plus she’s from the Bronx. Tunes included some original compositions, so it’s not all historical stuff. The act also included not one but two world-class step dancers and a guest singer (O’Riordan) who’s still in college.
Bardekova Ensemble - Woodlawn Cemetery Chapel - July 16, 2017
Woodlawn Cemetery celebrates its (underground) inhabitants with occasional concerts featuring music by composers “residing” there. This one had some Duke, but also some more standard wind ensemble repertory (I’m pretty sure Mozart is not a Woodlawn inhabitant).
Chandler Travis Philharmonic – Kate Gould Park Bandstand, Chatham – July 12, 2017
Anyone who thinks they can categorize Travis’s music is delusional. The selection of blurbs on his web site each sum up his wacky indescribability in different ways, all of them true. My favorite: “The world would be a better place if Travis would only visit more often”. And he has assembled a crew of players who buy into the vision, presenting it with self-assured chops. The size of his ensemble varies according to the nature of the gig; for this one we got the mid-size sextet. Most of the gig was up on the bandstand, but they also descended to walk into the crowd for a few “al fresco” numbers. I loved the song about being a bass drum pedal, with vocal sound effects by basso Boak.
Crabgrass Bluegrass Band - Main Street, Orleans - July 11, 2017
CGBG seems to be the go-to bluegrass band of Cape Cod. There are no unintentional rough edges to ‘em, though they live up to the offhandedness and casual proficiency that by nature prevails throughout the genre. Their repertoire includes all sorts of obscure gems, each with a little story to go with it (I think no originals, though).