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December 2012

(un)common threads with Gabriel Kahane at Zankel Hall

By Laura Wasson

CH2012120217-114Photo credit: Chris Lee

Monday’s (un)common threads performance with Gabriel Kahane at Zankel Hall began on a somber note. Jimmy Zankel, co-chair for the Notables Committee that hosted the event, asked the audience to pause for a moment of silence to remember the lives lost and deeply effected by both Sandy and the massacre in Newtown, CT. It was a beautiful and respectful moment that punctured an otherwise joyous and fun evening with a touch of reality.

Zankel also spoke about the power of music to heal, and Kahane set out to do just that. He opened with "Charming Disease," a sophisticated and subtly painful ode to the depths of alcohol addiction. His rich, strong baritone allowed every word to shine brightly, revealing his exceptional skill as a lyricist. Much like Jimmy Webb or Paul Simon, Kahane has a real ability for weaving eloquent and vivid stories into his songs; it was hardly a surprise to discover he had written a musical, February House, that premiered at the Public Theater this past spring.

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New Yorkers Gravitate towards Diarrhea Planet at Death By Audio

By Melissa Caruso

On JEFF the Brotherhood’s Infinity Cat label, you’ll find Diarrhea Planet, a band that sounds like what would happen had Beavis and Butthead moved to Nashville and joined a rock ‘n’ roll band.

“We started out as a joke. We thought, what could be so offensive, but still be hilarious for ourselves.  Even five guitars on stage, that’s a joke.”  Not only are they free of inhibitions, they continue to make music simply for the sake of itself; while they may not be trying to impress, they are doing just that.

With a packed crowd at the Williamsburg DIY venue, Diarrhea Planet fed off the crowd’s energy—at times, their free-for-all madness seemed to be confined by the stage. Intrepidly, they took turns diving into moshpits and playing upside down without missing a beat. From defending rock ‘n’ roll to rewriting punk’s national anthem while invoking pop-flavored hooks, Diarrhea Planet gives plenty of reasons to be interested. With songs off their recent Loose Jewels already memorized, it’s apparent that an East Coast fan base exists.

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Medeski, Martin and Wood with Nels Cline at the Blue Note

By Dan Lehner   

  medeski martin and wood with nels cline, blue noteMedeski, Martin and Wood have made a long-standing career out of making endlessly fascinating music with guitarists, and their set last week at the Blue Note was no exception. Let it be said that neither MMW nor Nels Cline allow their celebrity status to stand in the way of inspiring, quirky, and even somewhat confrontational art. Both exist part-time in non-jazz scenes—MMW as charter member of the jam-band scene, Cline as the lead guitarist for Wilco—but here, not only were they unafraid of fleshing out their free improvisation chops, that’s how they chose to kick off the night.

john medeski nels cline blue noteThe first few minutes, which featured robotic bleeps and bristling scratches from the raw ends of their instruments, set the tone for an otherwise hard-grooving set replete with sonic adventurousness and naked aggression. For much of the set, MMW and Cline followed a formula of creating a musical idea, augmenting it with ferocious noise, and then making a groove out of that ferocity. This worked well, since all four musicians groove unbelievably hard.

Wood’s surprisingly loud bass breakdowns were crucial in leading the band in and out of each musical design, both with his sense of pocket and timing. A middle section carried itself with a late-night crate-digging feel, turned slightly on its head by Wood’s no-time-signature ostinato and Billy Martin’s restless percussion coloring. Medeski explored the space between free and funky on his synth, playing what could have been a string score to an old movie, if the vinyl had been beaten up and warped.

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