Sunday, December 26, 2010

Best of 2010 - Ten+ Musical Moments

I'm still in the process of paring down a very long "long list" of the best shows I saw in 2010, so as a sort of preview and in lieu of an "honorable mentions" section, I've compiled this list (in no particular order) of great individual moments or aspects of live shows that aren't going to make my final Best Of list:

Watching Bill Frisell play Monk and Stephen Foster from about 10 feet away on a summer night inside the sweltering, nearly swoon-inducing Stone.  (Two other memorable solo guitar performances come to mind: Robert Fripp's "Soundscapes" performance at the Winter Garden - finally, someone found a way to work with the cavernous acoustics of the space rather than being swallowed up by it - and Mary Halvorson on Christian Marclay's Wind-Up Guitar at the Whitney - wish I'd seen frequent music box user Frisell playing it. Anthony Coleman's bemused expression while reading the "score" of Marclay's Pret-a-Porter off of models' thrift-store wear was another image that stuck with me from the past year).

Vijay Iyer playing "Human Nature" with his great trio in Tompkins Square Park (it's on YouTube!)

Greg Osby pushing an end of the envelope that's rarely pushed, by taking a very, very quiet solo with Paul Motian and Jason Moran at the Village Vanguard, bringing an already attentive Village Vanguard crowd to an absolute hush.  Focus, control, mastery, taste.

Moran w/ Mary Halvorson and Ron Miles romping and stomping through David Bowie's "Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family" during a boldly varied, adventurous set at Jazz Standard.

William Parker augmenting his Little Huey's Sextet with a percussion ensemble of face-painted neighborhood kids at Campos Plaza in the East Village on the first day of the Vision Fest.

Ethan Iverson, Corcoran Holt, and Tootie Heath taking a joyride through the jazz canon at Smalls.  One of the most purely fun shows I saw this year, I'd intended to catch just one set but couldn't leave until the last note had been played.

Dirty Projectors' opening set and Phoenix's "unplugged" encore set (including a beautiful Francoise Hardy cover, sung in French to the annoyance of some meatheads seated near me) at Madison Square Garden, both better than the oversized, over-polished chrome machine Phoenix has become live (though Daft Punk was a nice surprise!).

Marty Ehrlich's beautiful, detailed, and sometimes even delicate compositions for his 4 Altos group at The Stone - one listen was certainly not enough to grasp all the nuances in this deep music.

?'s eternal rock'n'roll fire and old-school showmanship (including singing a duet with Ronnie Spector while lying on his back!) and Frank Rodriguez's junky '60s organ tone (achieved on a decidedly non-'60s synthesizer) providing the key element of the Mysterians sound at Damrosch Plaza.

In another case of a keyboard player driving a rock band, Dave Amels' beyond-tasty organ work with the Jay-Vons at the Rock Shop.  The greatest compliment I can pay these guys is to say that they're the only group to really remind me of the Get Happy-era Attractions, the gold standard for guitar-organ-bass-drums lineups in a rock'n'soul context.

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