Robin Eubanks & Mental Images with Corey Glover at the Iridium

by Nick Stubblefield

Robin Eubanks

Robin Eubanks left, Corey Glover, right. 

One of my favorite things about jazz music is just how malleable the genre actually is. It encourages extensive creative expression and experimentation without limits. The only "rule," is to break the rules. Trombonist Robin Eubanks presented a show at the Iridium this week that bent the jazz genre in a fun and funky way, and he did so with a laid-back style all his own. 

Eubanks opened the show with a lengthy, soulful solo that more than demonstrated his prowess on the instrument, but he played with that kind of tasteful restraint that mainly comes from maturity. He kept things spiced up with plenty of self-controlled laptop-based effects -- mainly delays and distortions -- which gave it a bit of a hard-rock edge. Occasionally, Eubanks would tap out a little groove on electronic drum pads, too. Fitting, as the show was in part promoting his 2014 release Klassic Rock, Vol. 1, a collection of classic rock covers done in a jazzy style. Eubanks, along with his quartet, Mental Images, played a fast and fluid unnamed jazzy opener before a segue into something slower and lush. The group's talents were on full-display.  

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Mumford & Sons Stopover with "Gentlemen of the Road" in Seaside Heights

Gentlemen of the Road, Seaside HeightsLast week, I was starting to regret not going to this weekend's Bonnaroo in Manchester, TN, mostly because Mumford & Sons, who canceled their scheduled appearance when I attended two years ago but canceled due to bassist Ted Dwayne's emergency brain surgery, are back on the bill this year. But, life has a funny way of working out, and when I arrived at my parents' Jersey Shore house last Friday for a family reunion, everyone was asking me if I'd heard about Gentlemen of the Road.

"What's that?"

"It's Mumford & Sons new festival. They and a bunch of other bands are playing in Seaside Heights this weekend."

"Are you serious?"

I pulled out my laptop, went online and saw that, yes, Mumford & Sons would be playing Saturday night on a stage set up directly on the beach, right next to the boardwalk where I'd ridden the Tilt-a-Whirl and played Skee Ball as a kid, literally three miles from my parents' house. And, tickets were still available. A quick StubHub search, and before long I had purchased a wristband for well below face value. I was giddier than a kid with a fistful of arcade tickets. 

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"Joan of Arc at the Stake" at New York Philharmonic

by Steven Pisano

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Photo by Chris Lee.

Oratorios are a tricky business. On the one hand, it can seem unsettling for a symphony orchestra to present an oratorio, which has a great deal of purely spoken dialogue not accompanied by music. And yet, because the drama is usually more suggestive than explicit, there is often not enough “action” for an opera company to produce it without it seeming skimpily staged. (Peter Sellars' St. Matthew Passion with the Berlin Phil was a rare exception to the rule.)

The New York Philharmonic’s final production of the season is Swiss composer Arthur Honegger’s 1930s oratorio, Joan of Arc at the Stake (Jeanne d'Arc au Bûcher). This week's four performances have all been sold out for some time, presumably thanks to the presence of Academy Award-winning actor Marion Cotillard in the title role. Cotillard is spellbinding as Joan, the young “Maid of Orleans” who led France to victory in an important battle of the Hundred Years’ War, only to be captured and burned alive at the stake. Watching Cotillard's performance on Wednesday, I knew I was in the presence of something very special.

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The Leftover Cuties at The Living Room

 

Leftover Cuties, Living Room
The Leftover Cuties
, in town from Los Angeles, performed an intimate set at The Living Room on Tuesday, mixing classic swing and pop with modern songwriting. It felt like you had been transported to a mid-century smoky lounge, with Shirli McAllen's sensual voice filling the room and hot piano licks keeping you dancing in your seat.  (Of course, this was Brooklyn, so no one was smoking and everyone had probably just finished their kale.)  McAllen sings like she grew up living and breathing classic American music, even though (spoiler alert) English is actually her second language.  Her ukulele playing complimented her voice perfectly, fitting like a glove into the Leftover Cuties sound.

With Austin Nicholsen (bass) and Stuart Johnson (drums) holding down the rhythm section, the band swung all night.  Nicholen’s “upright banjo bass” gave the band a unique sound and aesthetic, but Johnson’s throwback drum was like something out of the world’s coolest 1920’s New Orleans swing band.  Their super-tight feel laid down a blanket of groove while Mike Bolger provided the hot jazz flavor on piano and trumpet.  Bolger is reminiscent of an early days piano man, right at home on either a stage or a crowded basement.

The true measure of a great song is how quickly and firmly it gets stuck in your head, which was certainly true of “Sunnyside,” which I'll be humming to myself for awhile.  On the classic “You Are My Sunshine,"  the heavy minor feel captured the tragic essence of one of America’s most classic love songs, that’s actually all about heartbreak and loneliness.

 The Leftover Cuties have a few more dates left in the Northeast!