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October 2012

Music for Voice: Metropolis Ensemble at (le) Poisson Rouge

by Craig Brinker

Photo Credit: Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Andrew Cyr, founder and conductor of the Metropolis Ensemble, brought together a well-rounded set of composers to share three new vocal works this past weekend at (le) Poisson Rouge, including a dynamic reimagining of Berlioz's Romantic song cycle,  Le Nuits d'Ete, by six diffrerent composers.

First on the program was Mohammed Foirouz's Audenesque, a setting that mixed texts of W.H. Auden's "In Memory of of W.B. Yeats" and Seamus Heaney's poetic memorial to Joseph Brodsky, "Audenesque." The strong performance was led by the talented mezzo Kate Lindsey, who calmly navigated the virtousic vocal part with quick dynamic and registerial changes. Foirouz wove many different moods and styles throughout the work, choosing his orchestral colors with care and always making sure the text remained the primary focus.  

The evening's centerpiece, a modernization of Berlioz's song cycle Le Nuits d'Ete, showcased the work of six new composers and a passionate performance by soprano Kiera Duffy. In his remarks before the performance, Andrew Cyr cited the parameters given to the composers: Berlioz's melodies must stay intact, but that the accompaniment could be recomposed without restriction. The results, however, were a mixed bag.

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CMJ: Hype Machine Handpicked at Brooklyn Bowl

by Craig Brinker


Danish singer-songwriter Søren Løkke Juul kicked off Wednesday night's Hype Machine Handpicked show at Brooklyn Bowl, playing slow, meandering ballads under the moniker Indians. Juul delivered songs that were broad in scope and gesture yet light on rhythmic momentum, his sweeping vocal lines arched over swathes of electronic textures. While tinged with melancholy, his songs were also wide-eyed and hopeful, without a trace of cynicism. They are perhaps too earnest for American audiences in general, but especially the inattentive collection of Brooklynites that populated the venue.

The Neighbourhood is a five-piece band from California that puts a hip-hop spin on the standard minimalist-indie formula. Through their quick rise to Internet prominence, the band has garnered an aura of mystery, but despite playing an enthusiastic set full of catchy, radio-ready pop songs, the performance had a quality of artifice; there was a massive wall of showmanship between the audience and the lead singer. While certainly catchy, the songs consistently felt overwrought and contrived.

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CMJ Day 5: Fuzz Showcase at 59 Canal St.

by Laura Wasson Metalleg Upstairs Bar Fuzz CMJ 2012

Metalleg at the Fuzz Showcase at 59 Canal St. (Photo credit: Laura Wasson)

After the industrial rap shenanigans of the previous evening, I decided to end my CMJ 2012 experience with something I knew I'd enjoy: good, classic rock in a Chinese karaoke bar on Canal St. Although some music friends had mentioned 59 Canal St., I had no idea what to expect other than that there would probably be some vaguely Far Eastern decor and definitely music videos with subtitles. As I made my way inside the venue for the Fuzz showcase, I spotted a regular or two amongst the unwashed rockers. They seemed a bit confused.

While the venue was unconventional, tiny, and terribly lit, it was ideal for an intimate evening with a slew of talented bands and the accompanying wall-to-wall crowd of friends and fans. Metalleg's energetic set kicked off the evening on an infectious punk note. Combining Ted Nugent’s guitars and swagger with the Ramones' fast and repetitive song structure, Metalleg was a tour de force of fun that got the entire room moshing and jumping around. Songs like “I Bleed A Lot” and “Hard” featured the sort of hilariously off color lyrics you might expect and it was refreshing to see a group that didn’t take their “rock” cred too seriously. More acts should take note of that.

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Christian McBride and Inside Straight at Columbia University

by Dan Lehner


By now, bassist Christian McBride’s Inside Straight has pretty well established itself as the leading exponent of swinging music. What also needs to be said about the quintet, however, is how much stylistic and emotional diversity it can provide. The common thread in McBride’s band is that everything feels good–the lock-up in both the rhythm section and the sax/vibraphone frontline is tight and cookin'–but at the opening of Miller Theater’s concert series at Columbia University, the group still managed to push the concept of rhythmic clarity into several different idioms.

Of course, in the kingdom of swing, the medium-tempo blues still reigns supreme, and Inside Straight naturally made the most of it. On Milt Jackson’s “S.K.J.," vibraphonist Warren Wolf wrung as much bluesy inflection and varied articulation as humanly possible out of his instrument, non-discriminately switching between simple ideas and fleet bebop. Alto saxophonist Jaleel Shaw injected more keening, pitch-bent wails than are usually heard from the otherwise cerebral player, sometimes limiting his chorus to one or two heavily bent resolutions. During McBride’s gospel-drenched “Used ‘ta Could," pianist Peter Martin covered left-hand bass duties, giving McBride the chance to get vocalistic with a bowed solo that groaned and trilled in a swaggering triple time. 

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