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Winter Jazzfest 2019: The "Half-Marathon"

By Dan Lehner 

Theo-westerlies
Theo Bleckmann and The Westerlies at SubCulture

Winter Jazzfest’s famous marathon, a two-night musical expedition that lasts eight hours and stretches almost the entire width of Manhattan, had apparently become so popular that a third needed to be added to sate the voracious appetite of New York creative music fans. No less crowded than the full marathon has been - and likely will be when it returns next weekend - fans packed into clubs and performances spaces along Bleecker St hoping to grab a seat, or at least a window between heads, to see new acts and old favorites.

Ghost Train Orchestra’s reputation as a historicist band with modernist proclivities was in full effect during their tribute to one of New York’s most iconic and idiosyncratic composers: Louis Hardin (better known as Moondog). GTO’s episodic tribute to the Viking of Sixth Avenue brought to light the warm, approachable dualities of his Hardin's music: attractive melodies that seemed to belong to no one genre in particular, with themes that were approachable but buoyed by snaky polyrhythms and counterpoints. Horns, strings, vocalists and blocky percussion broke down barriers between indie rock, Native American music and bucolic American classical, with particular stylistic provinces supplied by the exuberant avant-rockisms of guitarist Brandon Seabrook and the probing, history-laden soloing of clarinetist Dennis Lichtman.

Pianist Marta Sanchez’s music was a similar dance between the complex and the simple. Sanchez was both sensitive and spry in her solo development, setting themes into forward motion but darting in delightfully unexpected ways. Her compositions, particularly the way her band performed them, also had the same sort of layered development, with tunes like “Cascadas” wringing all the tricky underlying rhythmic subdivisions of 3/4 time and soloists like Jerome Sabbagh soloing around the melody to let the band envelop him. Much of the material was brought to life in particular by drummer Daniel Dor, milking different rhythmic and stylistic possibilities and squaring the often spiky and complex counterpoint of Sanchez’s music with it’s gentleness.

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Brockhampton at Terminal 5

By Katie Zepf

Abstract (left) Champion (right)
Last week (10/24), Texas hip hop collective
Brockhampton swept through NYC, selling out three shows at Terminal 5 and making a guest appearance on The Tonight Show. Calling themselves the ”best boy band since One Direction”, the collective is comprised of 14 members including producers, designers, and no fewer than six vocalists (Kevin Abstract, Matt Champion, Merlyn Wood, Dom McLennon, Russell “Joba” Boring, and Ciarán “Bearface” McDonald) each of whom brings a unique sound to the group, whether it be through rapping, singing, or both.

Brockhampton started their set on a relatively subdued note with “WEIGHT” from 2018's iridescence, their first release on RCA Records, then continued with more upbeat selections from their 2017 albums SATURATION, SATURATION II, and SATURATION III. Gushing enthusiasm throughout the two-hour show, it was clear how passionate both group and the fans are about this music.

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Gary Clark, Jr. and Fiona Silver at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn!

Celebrate Brooklyn Gary Clark  Jr. - 8In an age where almost any sound can be manufactured - or altered - in the production studio, it was a breath of fresh air to witness a true guitar virtuoso on Thursday night, when blues master Gary Clark, Jr. lit up BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! to kick off the final weekend of free shows at the Bandshell. (The Decemberists are playing the final benefit show tonight, weather permitting.) The packed house ate up his nearly two-hour set, along with sultry opener Fiona Silver

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Sarah Kohrs and Wanda Houston at The Mahaiwe in Great Barrington

Wanda Houston Sarah Kohrs Mahaiwe - 67Great Barrington, MA - When it comes to music in the Berkshires, there's more to life than just Tanglewood. Case in point: the 113 year old Mahaiwe theater, where last night I heard a stunning show by local singer-songwriter Sarah Kohrs and former Broadway star Wanda Houston, backed by a full band of brass, guitars, and drums. Part jazz, part alt-country, Kohrs' songs lay bare the trials and tribulations - and ecstasies and joys - of falling in and out of love. Switching between piano and guitar, Kohrs sounded like the best of Joni Mitchell, Regina Spektor, and Carol King, with a bit of Loretta Lynn for good measure. Not a bad way to spend a rainy night in the Berkshires. 

Next time you're up this way, check out Kohrs with her musical partner, Mark Tuomenoksa, who regularly perform as Tumo-Kohrs. Schedule here.

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