AUGUST 2005             back

Angelique Kidjo : Aug 26 at Damrosch Park

My love for this artist knows no bounds. In the last two weeks I've been to the hospital twice, had a kidney stone removed on Monday, the stent removed on Thursday and have been forced to miss a bunch of shows including The Allman Brothers, Dr. John with Marcia Ball, and The Ed Palmieri Big Band, to name a few. If the only thing between me and this show were the gods of pain, then I was determined not to give up any more ground to them. I loaded up with Advil, put a Percoset in my pocket and took the train so I didn't have to be concerned with driving while writhing.

Born and raised in The Republic of Benin, next to Nigeria, Angelique Kidjo has been living in the USA for seven years now. Her last three CD's are a trilogy showing the connection between Caribbean, Brazilian, and North American music forms with their African roots. Her show does much the same.

After a few songs she announced that she was going to take us around the world and that we won't need to buy a plane ticket. She proceeded to perform songs influenced by the music of Venezuela, Cuba, and Haiti followed by the funkiest version of Jimi Hendrix' Voodoo Chile you could imagine.

Her shows are always a joyous experience. Besides a great voice, great songs and a great band, she also tells stories, makes everyone get up to sing and dance and always makes time to spread her philosophy of love, forgiveness and mutual respect.

She told one story of when she was 9 years old and saw a Jimi Hendrix album and wanted to know how this guy with the big afro could be African and American. When told he was descended from slaves, she wanted to know what that meant. Her parents told her to go see your grandmothers, who when they saw her coming said "Here come the questions". She used that story to segue into a statement about healing the wounds of the past and working together for a better future followed by her funky version of Voodoo Chile, which required no encouragement from her to get people up and dancing.

The highlight of the show for me was a blues song that I've never heard before which I believe is called Hurts Like a New Pair of Shoes. It was very moving and filled with emotional "hallelujah's" that inspired some of the black women around me to start praising Jesus. It was quite an experience! (note: the song was a Sade song called Pearls)

Later that evening, after I fell asleep, my pain meds wore off and the pain gods seized the opportunity to strike with a vengeance.  I took a Percoset and as I lay in bed breathing through clenched teeth I thought "you pain gods are too late, I've already won"!

I won't be going to any shows for the next few days. It's not that I'm not willing to challenge the will of the gods again, but I'm not about to push my luck with Judy. She knew this was a bad idea but I went anyway. Considering how I ended up, I have to admit she was right. I don't think I'll get away with a stunt like that again, I'll just have to wait a few more days for these spasms to pass. Fortunately, Angelique is not performing locally again this week.

 

Chuck Prophet (Teddy Thompson opens): Aug 17 at South Street Seaport     

This past weekend I had lots of big musical plans. I had hoped to go to Central Park on Saturday afternoon to see Gospel singer Yolanda Adams, and then walk over to Lincoln Center to see Honky Tonk piano player Marcia Ball open up for New Orleans jazz and blues icon Dr. John. Talk about a kid in a candy shop!

Unfortunately, some unseen power in the universe thought it would a better idea for me to spend my Saturday writhing in pain at the hospital with kidney stones. (That was fun too.) Since then, I've been on homeland security alert "level orange", which means that another attack is likely but not necessarily imminent.   I'd been curious about Chuck Prophet for a while, so I decided to take a chance and go to the show.

Over the last couple of years I've heard a handful of his songs on 90.7 WFUV and each time liked what I heard. This show was full of surprises for me and I ended up liking him even more than I had anticipated. The first surprise was that he was much younger than I expected. Maybe it's because some of his songs reminded me of Leonard Cohen (I don't know if anyone else will get that) or maybe I just expect my prophets to be older and wiser, but when he took the stage, it took me a moment to make a mental adjustment to reality.

The next surprise was that he was such a rocker and such a "kick butt" rock guitarist. His music borrows from many genres including rock, country, folk, blues, hip-hop and others but this show had a distinct rock aura. With two guitars, bass, drums and his wife on keyboards and backing vocals, he performed several of the songs I was familiar with including Summertime Thing, Pin A Rose On Me, I Bow Down and Pray To Every Woman I See and You Did, a song which answers the musical question "Who put the wang in the wang dang doodle?". All were impressive, I would go see him again in a minute. His seventh and most recent album, Age Of Miracles, was co-produced with Eric Drew Feldman of Captain Beefheart fame. That explains a lot!

Opening act Teddy Thompson is the son of British folk/rock icon Richard Thompson who I've reviewed here many times. Teddy is not the guitarist that his dad is, only a handful of people in the world are, but he's got a really good voice and writes melodic folk songs and catchy pop rock tunes. With two guitars, bass and drums, it was an excellent pairing with Chuck Prophet and I enjoyed his set.

When I got home I had the feeling that I may have pushed myself a little too hard so I took a half of a Percoset that the hospital had given to me for pain management. I usually never remember my dreams but each time I've taken a Percoset before bed I've had vivid dreams that I've remembered. The first time I had one about a scruffy dirty cat with pointy teeth intent on biting me that I had to keep at bay with a long stick made of kitchen forks stuck together. This time I dreamed that some guys that I played basketball with in college, who I haven't seen in 30 years, came over my house to talk about the old days and help me make some desserts. (I have no idea!)

 

Chico O'Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra (featuring Edmar Castaneda) : Aug 10th Lincoln Harbor Park (Weehawken, NJ)

Chico O'Farrill was one of the pioneers in blending Afro-Cuban music with the big band sound of American jazz.  During his long impressive career, he wrote or arranged for Benny Goodman, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Stan Getz and Gato Barbierri to name just a few. His 18-piece orchestra is now directed by his jazz pianist son, Arturo, who is an accomplished musician in his own right, and who has continued in his father's tradition. 

This collection of seriously talented jazz musicians performed rousing versions of Havana Blues and Manteca Suite, to name a few, but the revelation of the evening was when Arturo brought out guest artist Edmar Castaneda.  I was just saying last week what a treat it was to hear the harp featured as a lead instrument at the Lila Downs' concert, but Edmar took the instrument to a new level. Playing first solo, and then as lead instrument with the orchestra, he played Latin jazz like you've never imagined it. Usually, it would be hard to imagine dancing to a harp solo, but with this 24 year old Colombian playing, it's hard to imagine not dancing.

Besides performing with the likes of Paquito D'Rivera and Lila Downs, he also performs with his own trio and has a CD coming out in the near future. This is the type of talent that cannot be stopped. People will eventually know his name and I will be seeing him perform again. Of this, I have no doubt.

 

McCoy Tyner Trio : August 4th at Castle Clinton

From 1960 through 1965, McCoy Tyner was pianist with the John Coltrane Quartet, one of the most influential groups in modern jazz history. Since then he has performed with a virtual "who's who" of jazz musicians and toured with his big band and his trio. At the start of this summer, when I saw that he would be playing for free at Castle Clinton, I knew I couldn't pass up the opportunity to to experience this great master.

What I didn't know at the time was that it would be 96 degrees that day and that I'd be working out in the heat for most of the day. But after a cool shower and a cold drink I decided that it would take more than global warming to keep me from this show.

I drove to Hoboken, took the PATH train to Ground Zero and made the 10 minute walk down to Castle Clinton. By now it was a more comfortable 94 degrees but the walk had my heart pounding. As I waited for the show to begin, I could feel my energy wafting away with the heat being thrown from my body.

When the trio, which I believe still includes Aaron Scott on drums and Avery Sharp on bass, took the stage, I had a rush of adrenaline which helped keep me going for awhile. They performed some original material including Angelina and Blues for Count Basie and they sounded great, but after about an hour I started sinking and I had to get going. In the end, all I can say is "It was worth it".