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November 2018

"The Good Swimmer" at BAM Fisher

by Steven Pisano

"The Good Swimmer" at BAM Fisher(All photos by Steven Pisano)

Back in 2008, Heidi Rodewald was nominated for a Tony and won an Obie for her musical "Passing Strange," which was eventually turned into a film by Spike Lee. She has collaborated many times with singer/songwriter Stew. Writer Donna Di Novelli is known for her fascination with "found text" as the basis for her lyrics written for various music-theater projects.

Together, Rodewald and Novelli have written the new song cycle "The Good Swimmer," which is currently playing at BAM Fisher through Saturday as part of the 2018 Next Wave Festival. First seen as a sneak peek back in 2016 at the Prototype Festival, "The Good Swimmer" isn't a work of theater per se. There is a band on stage throughout (including Rodewald on electric bass) that includes electric guitars, drums, keyboards, cello, trumpet, and violin. On a scrim above the band, there are projections and videos, including images from old lifeguard manuals and the roiling ocean. Throughout, a group of seven lifeguards move around behind the band and occasionally gather into tableaus, without directly conveying the lyrics being sung.

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Michel Camilo Trio at the Blue Note NYC

by Nick Stubblefield


When you’re off to see an artist perform for the fifth time, it’s reasonable to keep your expectations in check. If it’s jazz pianist Michel Camilo and his trio, however, you can bet those expectations will be met and surpassed. The trio burned up the Blue Note NYC this past weekend with another set of tunes from Camilo’s extensive repertoire of original compositions. Camilo’s piano abilities are a well-documented tour de force and his infectious energy is ferocious, so keeping up with Camilo is a bit of an endurance trial. Luckily for the audience, bassist Ricky Rodriguez and percussionist Mark Walker more than held their own on a set that crossed genres and styles but always maintained Camilo’s signature exuberance.

The late-night set kicked off with a tune that epitomizes Camilo’s compositional and playing style — the high-octane “On the Other Hand,” from the album of the same name. The Caribbean-influenced tune sports rapid-fire, physics-defying repeat notes in the right hand while the left hammers a grooving counter-rhythm. 

Camilo followed up with “Mongo’s Blues,” a work he dedicated to the late Cuban jazz percussionist Mongo Santamaria.  A punctuated, syncopated ostinato in the left hand and a restrained, bluesy melody open the number, then the piece’s dynamics and rhythmic entropy intensify to the bursting point, then give way to a thunderous drum break from the polished percussionist Mark Walker.

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The Wombats at Terminal 5

by Katie ZepfMurphy (left) Knudsen (right)
On Tuesday night, indie vets 
The Wombats finished off their 2018 U.S. tour at Terminal 5. The British outfit features lead singer Matthew Murphy, drummer Dan Haggis, and bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen. Playing to a Halloween costumed crowd, all members dressed as cats for the occasion, with Murphy sporting a full catsuit, ears, and furry boots.


The colorful, upbeat set included songs from their newest album Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life (“Cheetah Tongue”) as well as older hits from their albums A Guide to Love, Loss & Depression, This Modern Glitch, and Glitterbug. The band’s fun, positive energy was reflected in every aspect of the show: from the colorful lights projected on stage, to the surprise dancers dressed as cheerleading wombats who appeared during a lively performance of “Let’s Dance to Joy Division”.

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