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Photo courtesy of Doug Seymour.

“The most prominent [theme] is that of struggle,” notes the press release for Jason Myles Goss’ folk record Radio Dial. Loss and strife are certainly recurring motifs – even clichés – in contemporary folk. But in his newest release since 2009, Goss does more than just recount personal woes. Radio Dial is a companion for late-night drives and the soundtrack for solitary sunsets – an anthem that basks in the darkness on its quiet search for light. Drummer Joel Arnow, bassist David Dawda, guitarist Austin Nevins, and keyboardist Sam Kassirer join Goss on the journey.

Opened by a tense, highly repeating guitar rhythm, “Lion’s Mouth”  spearheads a dark momentum. Dawda’s electric bass slices into the fog while Goss’ vocals envelop the airwaves. His voice grows sultry and secretive as the piece inches forward, each lyric laced with eerie hypnotism. A steel drum echoes in the distance as Goss paints scenes of drear and revolt, slyly questioning, ”Can you see the moon hanging low? Feel the turning in your guts, sharp and slow?”

Photo courtesy of lastfm.com

The ominous aesthetic takes a soulful turn in “Black Lights”, a narrative depicting a boxer’s troubled rise to fame. Goss propels the track with wrenching lyrics and muscular vocals, evoking a fighter’s stone-cold concentration. When Arnow’s drums spark the chorus, Goss’ composure yields. As he describes the hollow bond between a boxer and his fans, the vibe turns intimate and fiercely revelatory, conjuring the sight of a singer and his listeners.

“Into the Night” and “New York City” hearken back to the rock-tinged feel of Another Ghost, Goss’ 2005 release. Arnow’s heavy cymbal rhythm fuels the former song, infusing Goss’ pleading lyrics with an assertive edge. “New York City” is the antithesis to the small-town angst of “Into the Night”, as Goss illustrates alienated city life with an alluring hint of impersonality.  

“Hospital Shirt”, however, emerges most alluring of all. The guitar-led track whittles down to grassroots essentials, propelled only by gentle strums and bare vocals. Yet from this simplicity rises the album’s poignant climax. Goss leads a first-person narrative of a seriously ill young man in the hospital, capturing the stark reality of youth caught in limbo. The lyrics are vague, but each line is visceral, seamlessly streaming through bitter wisdom and naïve hope. And through the band closes out near the three minute mark, this is one of those songs that never truly ends. “Hospital Shirt” nestles deep into the soul, where it resonates long after the final lyric is sung.

Note: This review first appeared in The Glass, a music and arts blog founded by Chris McGovern.

Photo courtesy of Aaron Jackendoff

The lights dim, then darken in the intimate confines of The Cell. A single spotlight glows over a drum set in center stage. One figure emerges from the corner, picks up two drumsticks, and pounds out a jarring thwack. The figure is Lisa Pegher, and though her epithet of choice is “solo percussionist,” this intrepid powerhouse is more than just a drummer. Pegher is an alchemist of time, sound, and space, crafting visceral landscapes that penetrate the ears and mind. But most poignantly, she epitomizes experimental virtuosity, uniting the abstract and the concrete to form a transcendent whole.

Pegher’s opening thump quickly expanded into a network of drum rolls, cymbal accents, and blunt rhythmic counterpoint. As she cascaded one layer after the other on the Tobias Brostrom composition, an innate assertiveness arrested the air with simultaneous discord and harmony. Pegher’s intensity crested when she tossed her sheet of notes overhead mid-piece. And at once, she launched the first of many self-duos to come, sparking a conversation between her bass drum and cymbals.

Pegher’s sound eptiomizes cathartic creativity.
Photo courtesy of Aaron Jackendoff

 These conversations often bordered on dynamic arguments, notably in “Rhythmic Caprice”, composed by Leigh Stevens. Pegher angrily slammed on both ends of her marimba before stirring into a tropical melody, hearkening to the instrument’s Guatemalan origins. She abruptly changed direction, however, tapping the stick of one mallet against the edge of a marimba bar. The flat wood-on-wood rhythm proved an intriguing departure from her immersive sound, illustrating the battle between tradition and reinvention.

Yet the climax of the evening didn’t exclusively rise from any one instrument. As the first half of the program came to a close, a brief lights-out cast over the space. A projection screen whirred down from the ceiling to showcase Ben Hill’s multimedia accompaniment to Pegher’s 2012 record Minimal Art. The blue error message blanketed the audience in tight anticipation, heightened by Pegher’s standby position at the edge of the stage. Seconds became minutes, and the silence grew tighter as technical staff scrambled to troubleshoot the faulty projector. Heads craned toward the sound crew as more minutes stockpiled. Suddenly, a nervous laugh broke from the audience like the concert’s opening thwack. More jittery laughs tumbled forth, punctuated by rhythmic murmurs and Pegher’s own pacing footsteps. And at long last, Hill’s geometric animations graced the screen while Pegher took percussive flight, both artforms uniting into a roaring symphony.

At a recent Bargemusic CD release concert, Cornelius Dufallo described his solo record Journaling as the union of two journeys: one leading into past memories and reflections, and the other into unbounded imaginary worlds. The album marks a milestone for Dufallo’s three-year concert series of the same name (launched in 2009), spanning works composed by both the violinist and his peers. And whether Dufallo wanders in the past or tinkers with the future, he passionately revives the art of the one-man band.

“Violin Loop I” illustrates Dufallo’s uncanny self-reliance both in technical artistry and emotional power. A few curt, rapid notes begin the piece, recorded to form the first of many loops to come. While this sequence repeats, Dufallo delves into the second loop: several pungent plucks, spaced by tight bouts of silence. His sound grows increasingly intricate thereafter, each layer assuming a unique and bold identity. ”Violin Loop V” shows a different side of Dufallo’s craft, shrouded in softer textures and an ethereal aura.

Dufallo spearheads the realm of down-to-earth eccentricity.
Photo courtesy of The Zimbabwean.

Dufallo launched several world premieres in concert, notably Paul Brantley’s “Violon D’Ingres”. The title signifies “second calling” in French, referring to the neoclassical painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, whose love for the violin went largely unrecognized. Dufallo’s fiddling, however, paid Ingres poignant homage. Sharp spears of violin punctuated the underlying melody, countered by airy meanders and assertive twists. These nuances formed an aural pointillist painting, conjuring elaborate musical scenes with only a few phrases and notes. Though this track is not featured on Journaling, the Chinese folk-inspired “Four Fragments” takes a similar approach, jolting alive with every acerbic uprising.

Dufallo’s creativity turns even zestier on “Playlist One (Resonance)”, composed by pianist Vijay Iyer. Laced in “fiendishly difficult passages of harmonics,” the track undergoes erratic evolution, oscillating from pitchy whines to organic plucks.  Part of its appeal lies in this slight angularity. But approximately five minutes in, Dufallo’s urgent tone gathers momentum until it transforms, conjuring the sound of bagpipes with startling accuracy.

At once, the violinist reveals a new dimension of his craft that transcends textural manipulation. Dufallo’s journey may be a solo endeavor, but it is anything but solitary.  On his humble violin, he unites the past and present with undiscovered futures, forging a path of strident yet heartfelt innovation.

The Undead Music Fest was a melting pot of ingenuity.
Photo credit: Dave Kaufman

Under a new moniker this year, the Undead Music Festival rang the spring-summer cusp in with bold style, showcasing a wealth of avant-garde in just four days. The celebration began in the Greenwich Village hotspots Le Poisson Rouge, Kenny’s Castaways, and Sullivan Hall, where a line-up of established and rising musicians played into the wee morning hours. A stopover in Brooklyn was in order for the next two evenings, first at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple for Medeski Martin & Wood, and then at the borough’s countless underground venues for Night of the Living DIY. 92Y Tribeca ended the affair in riveting fashion, featuring twenty different artists in an improvised Round-Robin.

These four moments captured the Undead vision in poignant form, illustrating innovation at its finest:

Fraser Campbell on tenor sax.
Photo credit: M. Ouchakof Photography

4. In the stale heat of Kenny’s Castaways, Secret Architecture was the first band to hit the evening’s airwaves. Every minute of their half-hour reign was spent in impromptu territory at the hands of Fraser Campbell, Wade Ridenhour, Julian Smith, and Zach Mangan. As the band proceeded in a thrilling momentum, Smith took an intricate bass solo, visibly intriguing – even mystifying – Campbell on tenor sax. The gregarious saxist took a seat on the stage to ponder, while Ridenhour leaned closed-eyed over his Rhodes. A few moments later, Campbell stood and looked to Mangan, who also grew sparse on the drums. And in a split second, their faces awakened with inspiration, both smiling and nodding before slipping into Harvey’s framework. Ridenhour’s synth-tinged vibe launched a high-speed chase between the two musicians, spearheaded by Campbell’s brassy blurts and Mangan’s athletic cymbals.

Matthew Mottel, donning orange-rimmed shades and an uncanny musical style.
Photo credit: Dave Kaufman

3. At 92Y Tribeca, Brandon Seabrook walked on stage as subtly as any man could with a tenor banjo slung over his side. Once saxist John Ellis finished his smooth interplay with Matthew Mottel on keys, Seabrook flipped to over dissonant territory. He grated on his strings, producing pungent sounds akin to a tense violin. Mottel’s keys rumbled forward, enriching Seabrook’s notes with billowing velocity. Without warning, several bubbles mysteriously sprouted from Mottel’s vicinity, until it became clear that it was the keyboardist himself – clad in bright, orange-rimmed sunglasses – who was blowing the soapy spheres. The bubbles hovered over the audience while Seabrook suddenly conjured the spirit of country, plucking away with a hearty, down-home flair.

Drum powerhouse Tomas Fujiwara.
Photo credit: Dave Kaufman

2. Co-led by Taylor Ho Bynum and Abraham Gomez-Delgado, Positive Catastrophe packed the stage and the floor below at Sullivan Hall. But the ten-member band’s “stage spillage” was a mere prelude to the crackling vivacity they brought to the venue. Their brief time slot was a CD release party of sorts, featuring compositions off the band’s newest release Dibrujo, Dibrujo, Dibrujo. Michael Attias’ colossal baritone sax set the mood early into the set, emerging brazen and subtly playful. Reut Regev further exuded resonant complexity in “Dibroojoh Four”, the final installment of the album’s namesake tune suite. Trombone bow pointed toward the ceiling, Regev blared one solitary roar, launching a full-band earthquake of transformative bliss. One artist, however, was the unforgettable force behind the action: drummer Tomas Fujiwara, whose rhythm formed a potent force field that seized the air like radiant thunder.

Pianist Fabian Almazan and cornetist Graham Haynes collided with gripping opposition.
Photo credit: Dave Kaufman

1. In the final two duos at 92Y Tribeca, Fabian Almazan served as ornate virtuoso, seeping classical flourishes through every key. The pianist melted into a lullaby with Miles Okazaki’s gentle guitar chords, crafting the only heart-touching melody of the night. Five minutes later, the guitarist left the stage to make way for Graham Haynes’ cornet. Hints of warmth still remained, though Haynes’ thick cries never quite mingled into Almazan’s elaborate style. And five minutes later, the cornetist stood solo on stage to cinch the marathon event. He questioned, pierced, prodded, and reflected through his brilliant instrument, before attaching a vocoder-like synth to the horn. Haynes climbed to near-inaudible pitches for what seemed like timeless eternity – until he halted for a moment and silently declared Undead 2012 over.

Maret channels stunning intensity through every note.
Photo source: Klara Radio

If the jazz realm were a solar system, then the harmonica would be its shooting star – the streak of surprise that brings brilliance wherever it goes. In the hands of Grègoire Maret, however, the harmonica is more than just a shooting star.

At the New School’s 25th Anniversary Legacy Concert last April, Maret graced only a corner of the Tishman Auditorium stage in duet with pianist Andy Milne (with whom he also appeared on Scenarios). The pair followed an explosive program of big bands, whittling the evening’s gymnastics down to an introspective simmer. They interpreted “Body and Soul” with delicate modesty, but resonated through every molecule of air. As Maret charged forward, Milne strayed from the melody in many diverse directions. Maret too explored freer terrain, unwinding his momentum into airy experimentalism.

Maret (right) and Federico Gonzalez Peña (left) at a prior performance.
Photo source: jackylepage.com

But it was on the Jazz Standard stage that Maret blossomed into vibrant colors. Alongside pianist/keyboardist Federico Gonzalez Peña, bassist Ben Williams, and drummer Clarence Penn, he brought his new eponymous album to visceral territory. Maret’s intensity shone through his facial expression before the harmonica reached his mouth. While the band stirred awake, he silently pondered – and then speared into the cymbal-synth-bass pool like an aural diver. He conjured the spirit of a horn through his pocket-sized instrument, flaring with a sophisticated groove echoed by Peña’s piano. Penn’s drums crashed but never burned, crackling with subtly boisterous energy. Williams’ electric chords lent a funky edge to the acoustic affair.  

Once guest Cassandra Wilson arrived, the scene took a sensational turn. She and Maret exuded unmistakable chemistry on “The Man I Love”, leaning toward the microphone in innate harmony. Wilson’s raspy gospel sound carried a sultry sadness on its shoulders, punctuated by gentler streams of harmonica. The vibe soon cruised under a milder light, drifting to the beat of Wilson’s sighs and Maret’s meanders. Peña, Williams, Penn, and guest guitarist Jean-Christophe Maillard subdued their melody with remarkable grace.

Maret (left) and Clarence Penn (right) unite with fiery spirit.
Photo source: Ben O’Brien Smith Photography

Several pieces later, Maret pensively slumped on a stool to deliver his goodbyes for the last time of his week-long residency. He and his band-mates retreated behind the curtain, yet a sense of melancholy lingered in the air as folks gathered their belongings. And while the Jazz Standard stretched its arms to greet the late evening, the band quietly slipped back onstage. Their encore was laced in a medley of intricate, bittersweet textures. But one solitary harmonica wail was enough to say it all: Maret spills his heart into every melody and note, transforming his instrument into a paintbrush of the soul.

The musicians behind the moniker Now vs. Now: Jason Lindner, Panagiotis Andreou, and Mark Guiliana.
Photo credit: John Rogers

At first, it took a while to realize that it would be a riveting evening at the 92Y Tribeca. Jason Lindner’s MoPho beats vaguely hung in the air, spiraling into a nondescript aural cloud. But several minutes later, that cloud jolted into lightning, crackling with jazz-electronica fusion. The force behind the transformation was Now vs. Now, Lindner’s powerhouse trio with bassist Panagiotis Andreou and drummer Mark Guiliana.

The air in the spacious venue tightened when the musicians swelled into action on “Future Favela”.  Andreou’s thick electric chords fueled Lindner’s blaring magnetism, reaching hypnotic heights when the former player traded his strings for scat on “Alternate Current”. His pungent vocals recalled the konnakol style, infusing Lindner’s whirling synths with an earthy percussive richness. “Working Threads” featured the band at its chest-thumping best. Guiliana led the air-searing impetus that pulsated through every floor tile, chair, and drinking glass in the space.

The crackling electricity simmered down to an acoustic flame in “Friendship and Love”, as Lindner turned to his piano for a melancholy solo opener. Andreou dragged his bass chords as a vocalist would his voice, until he actually slipped into a resonant croon. His Greek lyrics were at once heavy and ethereal, laced in both hope and sorrow. And from the tide emerged a brief yet poignant moment: whittling his words down to a soft whistle, Andreou weaved into heartfelt harmony with Lindner’s piano.

Avishai Cohen takes an innovative spin on the trumpet.
Photo source: allaboutjazz.com

Now vs. Now’s acoustic turn was a perfect segue into Third World Love, featuring Avishai Cohen, Yonatan Avishai, Omer Avital, and Daniel Freedman in a spectrum of irresistible melodies. The quartet assembled on stage and hearkened back to the Barcelona from whence they came (through none of its members hail from Spain, Third World Love first met in the city in 2002). Avital and his upright bass morphed into one radiant force, bouncing together like a waterfall of charismatic energy. While Avishai’s piano set vibrant sail, Freedman punctuated the vibe with rippling cymbal cracks and rim taps. The thread that united these voices emerged from one unmistakable source: Cohen’s enchanting trumpet.

Exuding an ease uncannily reminiscent of Miles Davis, Cohen spearheaded “Nature’s Dance” with a rejuvenating groove that shone long after the final note was through. Cohen’s horn came to life only intermittently – but when it did, the ears perked to full attention, savoring each squeal, slur, and alluring blare of brass. When Cohen raised his trumpet, Avishai’s momentum grew even tangier, Freedman’s drum rolls even bolder, and Avital’s rhythm even richer. The air lifted to the beat of Cohen’s evocative flavor, hinting at New Orleans swing, Gillespie-era bop, and Israeli folk all at once. The distinction should be made sparingly, but in the case of this trumpeter, it is too profound to keep silent: Avishai Cohen is a legend in the making – the strident musical voice that captivates in its silences as well as its flares.

Photo source: All About Jazz

After a brief hiatus, The Lindy Hopper NYC is back to ring in Summer 2012 with all-new reviews and photos this week!

Check back regularly for bi-weekly album and concert coverage, soon featuring Now vs. Now/Third World Love at 92Y Tribeca, Gregoire Maret at the New School and Jazz Standard, and the Undead Music Festival at Le Poisson Rouge, Kenny’s Castaways, Sullivan Hall, and 92Y Tribeca.

And every Sunday, browse The Week in Photographs for uncanny snapshots taken in the heart of all the action.

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