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March 2013

February 2013

Fred Hersch, My Coma Dreams: Saturday, March 2 at Miller Theater


Fred Hersch's My Coma Dreams tells a true story of love at the dividing line between life and death. An HIV-positive jazz musician is rushed to the hospital after a mild cough has become a massive infection, shutting down every organ in his body. The doctors put him into a medically induced coma where he experiences a highly personal dream world, full of vivid experiences of confinement and release, of surreal comedy and ineffable beauty. Meanwhile, his partner fights through real-world panic and despair. My Coma Dreams combines music, words, and images in fluid and ever-changing combinations.

Hersch will lead two performances of his opus this Saturday, March 2 at Columbia University's Miller Theater at 3PM and 8PM

Deerhoof and Ensemble Dal Niente at the Ecstatic Music Festival

by Gabriel Furtado

Deerhoof and Ensemble Dal Niente performing Marcos Balter's Meltdown Upshot
Deerhoof and Ensemble Dal Niente performing Marcos Balter's Meltdown Upshot

Last Wednesday night Deerhoof and new-music group Ensemble Dal Niente came together for a concert at Merkin Hall as part of the third annual Ecstatic Music Festival, providing an example of the festival’s curatorial skill in fostering unique collaboration among forward-thinking artists from both classical and non-classical traditions.

With a program featuring the Brazilian-born composer Marcos Balter as prominently as the critical-darling rock quartet, the concert opened on an intimate note with Balter’s Wicker Park, a work for solo sax that, through extended technique, writhes and respires to great effect.   

Following Ear, Skin, and Bone Riddles, for soprano, violin, and cello, all of Ensemble Dal Niente’s members took the stage for Deerhoof Chamber Variations, a piece by Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier, which uses Deerhoof songs as base material. Lithe and mercurial, the piece bounced between vignettes that included the jagged-edged figures of math rock, Dadaist vocal passages, supple instrumental melodies, and, overall, a particularly keen use of texture and color.

The work was met with an enthusiastic reception by the audience, a few of whom, in earshot, pointed out Saunier’s classical training as the backbone of the piece’s success. (Saunier studied at Oberlin in the early '90s.) However, while Saunier’s classical background certainly bubbled to the surface, the work owes just as much to his DIY ethic and unabashed spirit of experimentation.

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Goodnight, Texas at Arlene's Grocery

Goodnight, Texas at Arlene's Grocery 2

by Laura Wasson

Last night I had the pleasure of catching Goodnight, Texas at the Lower East Side's Arlene’s Grocery. Named for the tiny town at the exact midpoint between their respective homes in San Francisco and North Carolina, Avi Vinocur and Patrick Dyer Wolf's American folk-revival band has been crisscrossing the country in support of their debut LP, A Long Life of Living. The evening proved a homecoming of sorts for Wolf, who spent a portion of his childhood in the Northeast, and suitably, the small space was packed to the gills with dear friends and ardent fans who relished every minute of the nearly hour-long set.

The boys began on a playful note, opening with a pseudo-warmup of "The Star Spangled Banner" that instantly put the crowd in high, participatory spirits before moving straight into "The Railroad" and "Meet Me by the Smokestack"—both rootsy, bluegrass-tinged songs that played to Vinocur and Wolf's strengths on guitar, banjo, and mandolin.

The group's sound is American in the strictest sense, with a heightened focus on the storytelling. Similar to The Band, Bob Dylan, and more recently The Raconteurs, Goodnight, Texas put a premium on thoughtful lyricism. Gone are the paeans to drunken nights with friends or slapdash love songs that seem to encompass every artist's oeuvre these days. Their work is much more considered and elegant, deftly weaving tales of angst, sorrow, and—yes—love that feel real and earnest.

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