Dr. Dog and The Knights at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn!

DSC00267I had other plans for Saturday, so Friday was my last opportunity to stop by BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! this summer, where Philly rockers Dr. Dog were joined by openers The Knights and a local gospel choir for an extended set. While their music owes a lot to The Flaming Lips, Pavement, and other 90's indie bands, they have their own infectious energy, propelled by Toby Leaman's urgently delivered vocals and Soctt McMicken's strong guitar work.

Thanks, BRIC, for another amazing summer at the bandshell - though there's more great music to be had this fall at BRIC House in downtown Brooklyn, including the BRIC JazzFest in October, shows by The Knights, and more. I just wish I could walk home from there.

More pics from Friday's show on the photo page

Herbie Hancock and the Robert Glasper Experiment at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn!

Herbie KeytarAt 76, it would have been enough for the legendary composer/pianist/bandleader Herbie Hancock to just show up at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! last Thursday night. Along with saxophonist and keyboardist Terrace Martin, guitarist and vocalist Lionel Loueke, bassist James Genus, and drummer Trevor Lawrence Jr., Herbie knocked it out of the park for a full 90 minutes, switching between piano, keyboard, and Keytar in an effortless display of the boundary-crossing musicianship which has made him such a beacon among today's generation of jazz musicians. (See Nate Chinen's review in the Times.) In addition to a bunch of funky, strange, intoxicating new music, Herbie did manage to haul out his standards "Watermelon Man" and "Cantaloupe Island" - albeit in messed up, electrified new versions. Hands down, one of the greatest live shows ever to appear at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! (and I've seen a lot of them of the years.)

Speaking of the next generation, Robert Glasper, whose hip-hop infused Robert Glasper Experiment opened, spoke of Herbie as "his mentor, his idol." But, Glasper more than held his own with his groove-struck band - in particular the triple-threat Casey Benjamin on vocals, tenor and Keytar. And, just for good measure, he brought along a pair of guest MCs: Bilal and Common, whose impressive freestyle included his own Herbie homage. ("I remember when Herbie was doing "Rockit.")

More pics on the photo page.

The Public Domain: Put-Together at Baruch College

IMG_4064What do you get when you combine Orange, Red, and Yellow? As I found out last night at the put-together for the public domain at Baruch College's gymnasium, some pretty astonishing sounds.  With at least 500 participants present - some from as far away as Europe and Japan - Simon Halsey and Annie-B Parson ran us through the entire performance, giving us for the first time an idea of what to expect at the final performance. 

For the most part, Simon was encouraging, congratulating each of the 15 groups on how well we'd learned the score and movements. That said, he did call us out several times for not following his direction. "Most of you are doing splendidly, but this group clearly doesn't know what they are doing!" he exclaimed at one point. Ouch.

Anne Tanaka, the incredibly well-organized Line Producer responsible for all of the behind-the-scenes work, came out after the run-through to thank us all for our time and effort, and to congratulate us on a job well done. "Usually at large-scale events" she said, "the put-together is a complete disaster. But this came off nearly flawlessly. We are all really excited for Saturday!"

Speaking of which: despite a forecast of hot and humid conditions for the weekend, the performance for the public domain is ON for Saturday 5pm on the main plaza of Lincoln Center. If anyone can't make it then, or just wants a sneak peak, we will be conducting a dress rehearsal on the plaza at noon. Volunteers are still needed to help out with logistics on the day of the performance - info available on the website.

More pics of the rehearsal here.  

Preview: Herbie Hancock Plays BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! This Thursday

Herbiehancock_625It's not every day that one of the true living legends of jazz plays in your backyard, but that's what folks can expect this Thursday when pianist Herbie Hancock brings his new band to Celebrate Brooklyn for a special benefit show. As if that weren't enough, opening are the always-fun Jamie Lidell, and Brooklyn's own Robert Glasper Experiment. Tickets, which are priced from $49.50 to $97.50, can be purchased at the (le) Poisson Rouge box office or online. Having just heard Herbie's sometime playing partner Chick Corea last weekend up at Tanglewood, I'm in piano jazz heaven right now. Do not miss this one. 

The Public Domain: Working With Simon Halsey

IMG_3979When I first experienced Simon Halsey's work with the Berlin Radio Symphony Chorus in the Berlin Philharmonic's extraordinary 2014 production of the St. Matthew Passion, I never imagined that less than two years later, I'd be sitting in a Brooklyn rehearsal studio mere inches from him as he led the Orange strand through two complete run-throughs of the public domain on Friday night. But, far from being an imposing, remote podium presence, Simon - who is director of the London Symphony Orchestra Chorus, the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus, and the Berlin Philharmonic’s Youth Choral Program, among other posts - went overboard to make himself accessible.

"Hi, I'm Simon," he said to us by means of introduction. "I'm the person who will be standing in the middle of the plaza playing traffic policeman. It's lovely to be here in Brooklyn!"

Before long, Simon, who wore shorts and a white polo shirt, was bouncing all around the rehearsal studio like a manic schoolboy. For the most part, he was deeply encouraging, telling us we were his "favorite group": a credit to our strand leader, Maria. Still, it soon became clear that hitting the right notes and following the tempi weren't going to be enough for Simon.

"Now, we can make it more daring. I have a feeling this group is going to be dangerously inventive."

Continue reading "The Public Domain: Working With Simon Halsey" »