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March 21, 2012

Chico Hamilton at Drom

by Sky Disco


Sunday night was heartwarming for in several ways for me.  Getting to witness the 90 year old jazz legend Chico Hamilton with his ensemble at Drom was unforgettable.  Considering Mr. Hamilton is old enough to be my dad's grandfather, the experience was even more priceless with my own dad sitting right next to me. I loved seeing his eyes light up and his feet tap throughout the masterful performance. Everytime the band delivered a standout solo or transition we kept jabbing each other as if to say, "did you hear that?"  I was absolutely transported to another dimension by this performance and found myself "rocking out," to jazz, of all things.

Chico Hamilton is quite a character.  To see someone at his age with such wit and giddy sense of humor filled me with with the hope of growing old while living a life that you love.  He was escorted onto the stage step by step and had to use a walking stick to get to his drum kit.  Educating the audience as he drummed with a wire brush, he joked about how it could also be used to clean teeth. He had such control and finesse, playing and conducting at the same time. His band was attententive beyond measure and never missed a moment.

After a few short compositions, Chico stepped down and gave way for the band to each share some of their own compositions, featured on his latest CD, Revelation (Joyous Shout!)   Featuring Nick Demopoulos (guitar), Paul Ramsey (bass), Evan Schwam (flute + reeds), Mayu Saeki (flute), and Jeremy Carlstedt (drums + percussion) as well as special featured guest Jimmy Owens, the night was full of artfully dynamic bossa and samba flavors.  The flute solos by Saeki really stood out, playing with such passion and soul. The textures she was able to create with her instrument were stunning.

After the band had their fill, Chico claimed the stage again to do a little scatting. Another display of his charisma,  there was a suspended ending of a song and as the audience began to applaud, he stopped us and said, "You don't have to applaud, it was was worth it." My father and I gushed over the performance and laughed all the way home. This might make you gush, too:


Alarm Will Sound at the Abrons Arts Center

by Michael Cirigliano II

Alarm Will Sound, Abron Arts Center, Feast of Music

Avant-garde chamber orchestra Alarm Will Sound has broken numerous barriers in the 10 years since its inception at Rochester, New York’s Eastman School of Music. After witnessing their Sunday afternoon performance at the Lower East Side’s Abrons Arts Center, however, I’m more inclined to think that the group isn’t so keen to educate their audiences about the wonders of modern composition as they are dead set on hurtling their vision at the audience itself.

Carnegie Hall’s Neighborhood Concerts—of which Sunday’s concert was a part—are free concerts meant to foster a sense of community throughout NYC’s five boroughs, while simultaneously seeking to grow audiences that wouldn’t normally head to Lincoln Center. However, the opportunity to take the platform and use it as a chance to encourage new ears to embrace the other-worldly works of John Cage and Conlon Nancarrow didn’t seem to be the group’s priority. Before the program even began, several members were onstage, bathed in a hellish red light, with one member muttering that audience members should quickly shut off all mobile devices and unwrap their candy. Soon the electronic drones intensified to ear-splitting levels before another member took to the balcony to scream the same information into a megaphone. I couldn’t help but to be offended by the tone of the proceedings, and the concert hadn’t even begun.

For the first half of the program, Alarm Will Sound chose to perform a tapestry of John Cage’s works, including selections from Song Books, Indeterminancy, Winter Music, and Atlas eclipticalis. Transforming the entire stage into a makeshift laboratory that included tables, computers, bicycles, and chess sets, the group stepped outside of their normal orchestral boundaries to incorporate some bizarre performance art techniques. Conductor Alan Pierson rode onstage in a bicycle; a small child played with an apple; a horn player sat reading the paper; and Google searches were projected onto a large screen: not exactly the kind of bridge-gapping performance one hopes will win over a new generation of audiences. To add insult to confusion, the following intermission lasted 25 minutes, so complex was the stage re-setting that needed to take place before the second half.

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Bernie Worrell Orchestra at (Le) Poisson Rouge

by Brian Weidy

Bernie worrell

On a rare warm (and weekend) St. Patrick's Day, the Bernie Worrell Orchestra took over (Le) Poisson Rouge's early show slot. Bernie Worrell—keyboard player for seminal funk bands Parliament and Funkadelic—brings a unique approach to this brand of music, having been classically trained at both the Julliard School and the New England Conservatory of Music.

Opening with "Don't Piss Me Off" from his 1990 album, Funk of Ages, Worrell led the 10-piece band through funky lead after funky lead, using his half-sung, half-spoken vocals with well-timed horn stabs and keyboard riffs that could have come from Tom Morello or Buckethead's guitar. Next up was the harder-edged "Super Stupid" off of Funkadelic's 1971 classic, Maggot Brain. The song featured a fantastic solo from Worrell as well as a standout moments from Kyle Cadena and Andrew Kimball.

Halfway through the set, theremin player extraordinare Rob Schwimmer arrived to add some ambient sounds to the mix, starting with "You're My Thrill" off his latest album, Standards—a collection of nine of the most popular jazz standards that are given the total funk treatment. After two more songs with Schwimmer, the band closed out their set with a pair of P-Funk classics, including a raucous, set-closing "Dr. Funkenstein" that capped off the 75-minute set. For the band's encore, they tackled the Headhunters-era Herbie Hancock classic, "Watermelon Man."

Opening up the show was the incredibly talented Marco Benevento, who performed a 45-minute solo piano set, with Ween bassist and Marco Benevento Trio member Dave Dreiwitz sitting in for the last three songs of the set.