Thursday, July 8, 2010

Roundup of Recent Live Music, Part One

Oliver Lake Organ Quartet at Jazz Gallery

I hate to use such a hacky analogy, but hearing Oliver Lake's version of "organ jazz" was like eating an updated version of a classic dish by a master chef.  Maybe a dish that was popular in the '60s and '70s and has since fallen out of fashion (Steak Diane?).  The brilliance in the reinterpretation is that it still has the taste of the original, but there are different elements, and just more of something, but it's all so well-integrated that you find yourself savoring the overall effect, the pleasure of it, instead of trying to identify all the ingredients. I don't think it would be inaccurate to use the terms groove, blues, funk, or hard bop to describe aspects of the quartet's music, but there is still the vital avant-garde streak that one would expect from an Oliver Lake group, mainly apparent in the leader's own alto playing.  Rather than try to put a label on this group and its music, I'll just defer to this fine, concise description (of their new album, Plan) from Lake's website, "Oliver with three young cats exploring a whole new language together".

As a sidenote, I recently discovered that there is an Oliver Lake, as in a body of water, in Indiana.  Sounds like a great setting for a jazz festival.  I was also excited to discover that Oliver Lake has a Twitter.

The New Pornographers w/ the Dodos and the Dutchess & the Duke at Terminal 5

I've seen the New Pornographers several times, and they always impress.  One thing I've only noticed recently, though, and especially at this show, is how Dan Bejar's songs, which often start out sounding like the odd men out, the square pegs, on a new NPs album, have gradually become my favorites.  And, judging by the crowd at Terminal 5, I'm not alone.  Every time DB took the stage (a few times to the strains of Darth Vader's "Imperial March", to his almost totally imperceptible, and perhaps non-existent, amusement) and stepped to the microphone, it meant it was time for a show highlight.  Of course "Myriad Harbor" was going to be a crowd pleaser - New Yorkers' love of self-celebration is well-known - but I'd forgotten what a MF'er "Jackie Dressed in Cobras" is.

The Dodos must surely be the only acoustic guitar/vibes/drums (and sometimes acoustic guitar/drums/drums) trio ever, and their sound is even more rhythm-dominated than you'd except from that lineup.  Meric Long is a very percussive guitar player, though he can and does get more single-note "picky" and melodic in certain songs, and the vibes function more as a tuned rhythm instrument (they are technically percussion, after all) than as a melody/solo voice.  Also, Long yelps a lot as punctuation, another percussive element.  I appreciate what this band is doing on a conceptual/intellectual level, but haven't really warmed to them.

By my estimation, the Dutchess and the Duke's music is about 50% based on their ragged-but-right, unique-but-familiar vocal blend, 35% on their folky, vaguely roots/Southern/country-filtered-through-the-British-invasion sense of melody, and 15% on their rudimentary-but-evocative electric guitar playing, so that it wasn't a big deal that they had to bring along a substitute guitarist due to a hand injury.  D&D have created a wonderful sound world, and I'd love to see them as headliners in a small club (they played Union Hall in Brooklyn earlier this year, but I missed it).  Also, I finally caught up with their second (and latest) album, Sunrise/Sunset, after seeing them live, and I expect I'll be returning to it more often than their (very strong) debut.  The first was bare bones basic; this one adds a bit of orchestration/arrangement/production, but still feels winningly modest and homemade.

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