by Robert Leeper
Photo credit: Michael Wilson
Storytelling among friends: that was the impression given during Wednesday night's Ecstatic Music Festival performance, where the Merkin Concert Hall stage was a gathering of old friends and collaborators who wanted to play some new music that they had written. Timo Andres—whose new song cycle, Work Songs, was the impetus for the gathering—Gabriel Kahane, Ted Hearne, Becca Steven, and Nathan Koci each brought their unique charms to create a musical quilt in celebration of their circle of friendship.
The reserved approach to the evening could have done with another uptempo number or two, but the relaxing atmosphere added to the storytelling effect apparent in most of the pieces. Each whisper or shout had a supporting role to the stories being told, and was wrapped up in the warm, if often subdued, sounds behind them.
Gabriel Kahane kicked off the evening with three songs from forthcoming album, The Ambassador, as well as a fan favorite in "Where Are the Arms." Kahane took inspiration from various iconic buildings—still standing or not—and famous addresses for this album, seeking to commemorate their stories and legacies through song. The album's titular song, a ballad dedicated to the hotel in Los Angeles where Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, packed a particularly potent emotional punch, with the chorus refrain evoking the harrowing day, "the Ambassador is bleeding out, they're going to let her die."