Thursday, February 24, 2011

Three Brief Music Items (w/ many links)

So, the Vivian Girls came up right after the Detroit Cobras on my iPod recently.  It was just a single track by each of them, and I realize these bands are pursuing two very different aesthetic agendas, but the back-to-back comparison was not flattering for the poor Vivians. (I haven't hear their latest stuff, but apparently it shows some development in their sound.) On a positive note, it was good to be reminded that The Cobras' Rachel Nagy is one of the flat-out greatest rock'n'roll singers of our time (right up there, I'd say, with Lisa Kekaula of the Bellrays).

All signs have been pointing me to Mal Waldron this week. Well, two signs: the Oliver Lake Organ Quartet's version of his "Fire Waltz" at Roulette over the weekend (here is Lake playing it with a different group), and rereading Frank O'Hara's "The Day Lady Died" with its image of Billie Holiday whispering "a song along the keyboard to Mal Waldron" at the Five Spot.  So, I listened to Waldron's The Quest, which turns 50 years old this year.  The whole thing is highly recommended, but I'd like to direct your attention to the track that really grabbed me on these most recent listens, "Warm Canto", featuring the sublime combination of Eric Dolphy on clarinet and Ron Carter on cello. Also, if you're at all interested in Waldron and haven't read Ethan Iverson on the subject, you should do so immediately.

Check out this video, featuring the great Marc Ribot playing some Sabbath-y but thoroughly Ribot-ized doom blues with the whimsically-named but not whimsical-sounding trio Whoopie Pie.  Help, what's the incredibly familiar theme Bill McHenry is playing in this clip??? It's on the tip of my tongue... [Update 3/16/11: Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street" is what I was thinking of.]

Bonus Update Item (2/25/11)
This little addendum is my way of comforting myself for my utter failure to score tickets for the NYC and Jersey City Jeff Mangum shows that went on sale today. Instead of getting into a predictable rant about shows that go on sale nine months in advance and sell out in (literally) seconds, I'll simply remind myself how lucky I was to have been in the right place at the right time to see Neutral Milk Hotel at their peak, when none of us at the 40 Watt Club could've suspected that we were witnessing something that was about to go away for the better part of a decade. On stage, Mangum burned with a riveting, even frightening intensity in those days. Living in Athens then, I had a few chances to say something to him, tell him how much I was enjoying the then-new Aeroplane, but after seeing him play I was frankly too intimidated, even though he cut an unassuming figure around town.

I don't know the answer to the mystery of Mangum's post-Aeroplane semi-silence. Maybe he was close to the edge of some kind of precipice and was smart and self-aware enough to pull back from it.  Maybe he'd used up his allotment of inspiration and knew it.  In any case, I'm glad he's decided to play some shows this year, and I hope he can give those in attendance a little taste of what I saw on those nights at the 40 Watt. [Update to the update: Ignore the nostalgia-tinged self-pity above. By means of precision timing, I managed to get tickets on the second day of the Jersey City sale (versus the first day "pre-sale"). PATH train, here we come...]

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