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Winter Jazzfest Marathon 2017: Friday Night

by Dan Lehner

There was a sense of freshness in the air as the first night of the Winter Jazz Fest Marathon kicked off on Friday. The first real snowfall blanketed car windows, the first few days of 2017 were helping ease away the emotional drag of 2016 and the ever-expanding roster of artists and venues participating in the WJF lineup reminded us that there are people working hard and creating challenging, joyous and diverse music and plenty of people who want to see it happen. WJF also helped us prepared politically and emotionally for the coming Trump years by declaring a theme of social justice that permeated through its literature and testimonials from its artists.

Dayme Arocena made an explicit plea for US audiences to engage with the next generation of young Cuban musicians during her band's set at Le Poisson Rouge, and they more than backed that case up with their performance. Arocena's music has an old history - its imbued with a rich variety of Afro-Cuban musics from both the island and the motherland - but her conception also has a 21st century attitude, with vocoders, odd-meters and Arocena's stuttering vocal effects punctuating the rhumba phrasing. Ever the ambassador for her country's traditions, Arocena graciously showed the audience the diversity of Cuba's dance music landscape through guajira and cha-cha stylings, powered by her alluring and rich vocal style.

In an example of parallel cultural journeying, New York actually has its own version of the Cuban traditional music, interpreted by its numerous salsa bands like Spanish Harlem Orchestra, who played at the New School Friday night. SHO's modus operandi is relatively humble - they have a old school Nuyorican sound and just try (and succeed) to swing as hard as they can - but they're not without their specialties. Their music tastefully inserted jazz chordal substitutions a la Eddie Palmieri and the vocal harmonies between Carlos Canscante, Jeremy Bosch and Marco Bermudez was rich and meaty. Bosch also had an added surprise up his sleeve, getting into a flute battle with Mitch Frohman, in which Frohman was surprisingly evenly matched.

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Preview: Salt Cathedral | Annie Hart | Slow Club at Le Poisson Rouge

Mark this Thursday (11/10) on your calendar for a healthy serving of moody, synth-induced sounds at Le Poisson RougeSalt Cathedral is a Futurepop male/female duo hailing from Colombia whose music "has a strange, evocative bite even as it mines a lot of familiar-sounding sources" (Pitchfork). Juliana Ronderos’ voice is gentle and romantic, contrasting the sharpness of the chords that flow along with her.

Annie Hart’s name might sound familiar if you’ve ever given the trio Au Revoir Simone a listen. While her sound isn't that much different than the synthpop we all love from ARS, Annie’s solo songs definitely have more of a rock ‘n’ roll streak through them.

Finally, Charles Watson & Rebecca Taylor have been creating easy listening jams as Slow Club since 2008, but laced with sounds that evoke darker, heavier emotions. A great example is “Where the Light Gets Lost,” off of their most recent album, One Day This Won’t Matter Anymore.

Tickets are $20 and are available at the LPR box office or online.

Nordic Noir at (le) Poisson Rouge

by Robert Leeper  

ACME: Ben Russell - Violin; Yuki Resnick - Violin; Caleb Burhans - Viola; Clarice Jensen - Cello

Last Thursday at (le) Poisson Rouge, the excellent American Contemporary Ensemble presented music by Danish composers. Titled Nordic Noir,” the three pieces on the short program evoked expansive landscapes and shards of memory or sound. Behind the quartet, two large video monitors gave visual representation to the music - hypnagogic images of rain spattering a window, or a giant blinking eye.

Carsten Bo Eriksen’s five movement Memory Pieces consisted of works written in 2014 and 2016 re-contextualized to be movements of a single piece. The work calls to mind a quilt of fragmented stories and barely remembered histories, beginning with dissonant tones in the piano unfolding over a string motif that increased with a gentle insistence. The beguiling harmonies and descending chord progressions were beautiful. The recorded sounds of wind, presumably whipping across Danish landscapes, created a distinctive atmosphere.

In Frans Bak’s Music of the North, the ACME string quartet was awash in electronic manipulations creating a unique, richly textured atmosphere. Dense chords and swiftly flowing melodies were presented as re-imagined themes from his work as composer for the TV crime dramas The Killing and Doctor Foster.

Ejnar Kanding’s Sensitive Shades was a patchwork of noises, cries and ululations from the strings, interwoven with dark electronic bass lines. At times it was more lyrical, with plaintive, folk-tinged lines stretched over somber, spare accompaniments. ACME ably traversed a spectrum of emotions, from languid introspection to fevered intensity, with gorgeous tone and an intensity that brought the concert to an exciting end.

the public domain: Performance Day

Steven Pisano

As I walked up Broadway from the A train on Saturday morning, something felt different. I'd made this walk countless times before, usually rushing to catch a curtain at the Met, the Phil, City Ballet, (or Opera RIP). But, this was the first time I'd made this walk as a performer, and I felt that mix of giddy anticipation and nervous energy that every singer, dancer, musician, or actor feels when they're heading to their first - or in this case, only - performance.

I didn't really have much reason to be nervous. After all, we had prepared for this day for four weeks, some for even longer. We knew the music, we had rehearsed the movements, we even got a sense of what the whole thing would sound like. Now, we just needed to go out and do it.

"It", of course, was the public domain, which we were set to perform in public for the first time on the Josie Robertson Plaza later that afternoon. But, there was still work to do, and all 1,000 of us were told to report to Geffen Hall no later than 11:30 am. A representative from the NYPD told us that rain was in the forecast, in which case the performance would not be rescheduled. He then offered detailed instructions about what to do in the event of an attack, or other unexpected incident. "These are the times we live in, folks." 

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