AUGUST 2009 (back)
Allen Toussaint (Lizz Wright, The Holmes Brothers w/Joan Osborne...): Aug 22 @ Lincoln Center
I would have to say that this was a day well spent. Allen Toussaint is a national treasure and iconic figure in the history of New Orleans music. He wrote many classic R&B hits like Workin' In A Coal Mine, Mother-In-Law, Southern Nights and Certain Girl to name a few, collaborated as writer and/or producer with a "who's-who" of New Orleans musicians like Dr. John, Irma Thomas and Solomon Burke also to name just a few, and has had his songs covered by The Stones, The Yardbirds, The O'Jays and Boz Scaggs, again, to name just a few. What a career!
This set featured a cross section of his material from over the years, including the above mentioned tunes, as well as material from his Joe Henry produced recent release, Bright Mississippi, an impressive instrumental look at the history of New Orleans jazz music. Toussaint has been ground zero for so much of the funk, R&B and rock music of New Orleans that it's somehow surprising that it took this long, and Joe Henry, for him to dip his toes into it's jazz scene. The title cut and Saint James Infirmary were among the selections from the new CD. (St. James Infirmary)
Earlier in the day The Holmes Brothers (Wendell Holmes, Sherman Holmes and Pops Dixon) were in the middle of their set of rockin blues and gospel when they were joined by Joan Osborne (who has previously produced the Holmes brothers) for a few songs. She's one of my favorites. Now that's a nice surprise! (Tell Him What You Want)
And speaking of favorites, Lizz Wright has probably been my favorite female vocalist to emerge in the new millennium. This day was dedicated to "The Spirit of Odetta" and one thing Lizz did differently from the many previous times I've seen her was to perform Easy Rider while sitting as Odetta often did in recent years. (Easy Rider)
Vienna Teng: Aug 20th @ Highline Ballroom (Madi Diaz opening)
This show was part of the "Highline Piano Series", ten shows featuring pianists from numerous genres, which included Iris Dement, McCoy Tyner, Peter Cincotti, The Bad Plus, several others and, of course, Vienna Teng. I've reviewed Vienna about a half dozen times since November 2004, mostly in very small venues or as an opening act, so I was very pleased to see her included in such a distinguished collection of artists in a venue that holds up to 600. (Blue Caravan)
Playing a grand piano, for most of the evening, and backed by Ward Williams on cello and vocals and long time collaborator Alex Wong on percussion and vocals, she featured some fan favorites like Harbor, Blue Caravan and Gravity but mostly songs from her most recent release Inland Territory, including The Last Snowfall, In Another Life, Augustine and Grandmother Song among others. (In Another Life)
Grandmother Song never got my attention on the CD, it's just vocals with handclaps and some percussion which maybe doesn't translate in the studio, but it was one of the highlights of this show. I've always considered Vienna an extremely talented songwriter and musician with a nice voice, but in this performance she took her voice places I've not heard her go before. The sentiment of the song, her grandmothers outdated but well intentioned advise, never reached me in my living room but was very powerful at this show. I've been a fan since 2004 but I think she's getting better.
Opening act Madi Diaz was a very pleasant surprise. With her co-hort Kyle Ryan on electric guitar and backing vocals she performed a set of original indie folk songs with great melodies and a powerful voice, and then slipped in a cover of Whitesnake's Here I Go Again. Why nobody has ever done that before is now a mystery to me because it was great as an acoustic folk tune. I suspect I'll be seeing this duo again. (Here I Go Again)
Roomful Of Blues: Aug 20th Blues Cruise
I took the night off to enjoy the sites and sounds. This New England based blues ensemble has been around a long time with numerous person changes but can always be counted on for some kick a** blues. They played blues, they were good!! What else do you need to know? Enjoy the pics.
Guy Davis: Aug15th @ Clearwater Festival (Asbury Park, NJ)
The son of iconic actors and social activists Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Guy Davis is himself an accomplished play write, director, composer and actor, but most of all he's an authentic blues man. I saw him perform the first time many moons ago at The Bottom Line in NYC, and had the pleasure of sitting next to his proud parents.
Like his parents, Guy has been involved in numerous social issues, including the Clearwater organization founded by Pete Seeger to reclaim the Hudson River from pollution, and can often be found performing at Clearwater events like the fundraiser in Tarrytown coming in September which will also feature Dar Williams and Sara Lee Guthrie with husband Johnny Irion.
Guy does mostly traditional country blues playing acoustic guitar, banjo and harmonica and playing the songs of Robert Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James and Lead Belly alongside originals written in the old time style.
This show featured blues classics like Baby Please Don't Go, some audience participation (Shortnin' Bread) and a beautiful heartfelt cover of Bob Dylan's Sweetheart Like You, which is the title cut from Guy's new release. I have not been able to stop listening to that song since.
Fortunately, I'll be able to hear it again soon, Guy will be in Woodbridge on September 16th as the first show of our Music On Main Street fall series. See www.WoodbridgeArtsNJ.com
Derek Trucks Band: August 13th @ Damrosch Park (Jake Shimabukuro opened)
Derek Trucks just turned 30 years old but it's been over a decade and a half since he began jamming with the likes of The Allman Brothers and Buddy Guy. The nephew of Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks, Derek eventually became the guitarist for the Allman Brothers and, along with Warren Haynes, brought the group to musical heights not seen since Duanne Allman was alive.
Both have continued to maintain parallel careers, Haynes with Gov't Mule and Derek with The Derek Trucks Band as well as jamming with many of the best jam bands including The Grateful Dead. This show featured some tunes from Truck's new release, Already Free, including Get What You Deserve and Sweet Inspiration, along with selections from previous releases like Joyful Noise, This Sky, and Mahjoun. (Get What you Deserve)
The surprise of the night was special guest Ravi Coltrane (John's son) who joined Derek in a long jam that began with Allen Toussaint's Get Out of My Life and morphed into Buddy Miles' Who Knows, best known by Jimi Hendrix. The only thing you can say is Wow! Derek is the youngest person on Rolling Stones "best 100 rock guitarists of all time" and judging from this performance not likely to be bumped from the list any time in this century. (Derek & Ravi)
Jake Shimabukuro is a Hawaiian ukulele virtuoso, but I have to admit that before I saw him I wondered how long one guy with a ukulele could hold my interest. I happy to report that the answer is "as long as he wants".
He said his first tune was inspired by his two heros, Bruce Lee and Eddie Van Halen and later quipped that one advantage of playing ukulele is low expectations. An amusing guy. He then proceeded to wow the audience with flamenco, bluegrass, Beatle covers (In My Life and While My Guitar Gently Weeps), Ave Maria and some originals including a piece called Piano Forte which he wrote to sound like a piano piece. I'd gladly see him again. (Piano Forte)
Susheela Raman: Aug 12th @ Damrosch Park-Lincoln Center (Brooklyn Qawwali Party opening)
Susheela Raman as an artist is a very good illustration of where my head is at musically these days. She's an extremely talented composer, arranger and interpreter who knows no musical boundaries, fusing classical and folk music of Southern India, with African music and the sounds of western jazz, blues and rock. She's also got an alluring, smoky and powerful voice which can probably best be described as sexy.
Her international band included her British producer Sam Mills on acoustic guitar and featured special guests Kumar and Kartrick Ragunathan who sing and play violin. On her most recent CD she covered Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan and Captain Beefheart, to name a few, but her music is equally influenced by the likes of Fela Kuti and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. (video from show)
She sang very little in English and performed mostly unreleased material from a forthcoming CD, although she did do the Bollywood classic Ye Mera Divanapaan Hai, which is a fan favorite and one of mine as well. This was a powerful and satisfying show. (Ye Mera Divanapaan Hai)
Brooklyn Qawwali Party are a Brooklyn based jazz/funk band who, in this incarnation, took the music of Pakistani sufi artist Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and re-imagined it's hypnotic rhythms as driving funky jazz. This performance got a great big "Wow!" from me as my heart was racing along with the rhythms. Talent and innovation, a great combination.
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals: August 7th @ Prospect Park Brooklyn (Deer Tick and Jones Street Station opening)
At last years All Points West Festival I happened to catch the last 5 minutes of Grace Potter's set and I've been wanting to see her again ever since. I must have really wanted it because Raul Midon was doing a free show at Lincoln Center at the same time as this show but I came here, and if you've been paying attention you already know how I feel about Raul Midon.
Grace Potter has the soulful blues sensibility of Bonnie Raitt but with a little more of a rockin' edge. You could say "Bonnie Raitt doing Janis Joplin" and you'd be in the ballpark. By the way, Bonnie Raitt described Grace Potter and the Nocturnals as "One of the most soulful new bands around". I would not argue the point.
The set saw Potter playing electric guitar and her Hammond organ and belting out tunes from their most recent release "This Is Somewhere" (title inspired by Neil Young's Everbody Knows This is Nowhere) like Apologies and Ah, Mary as well as familiar fan favorites from previous releases like Joey. She finished up the set with a cover of Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit which, if it was possible that you were still on the fence this late in the game, had to win you over. Grace Slick would have been impressed. (Apologies)
I suppose the best way to describe Deer Tick is to say they're a little bit folk and country and a little bit indie grunge. They hail from providence Rhode island and are fronted by John McCauley who did some fan favorites (judging from the crowd) and songs from they're brand new release Born On Flag Day. The vocal arrangements were very impressive with all 5 members contributing. McCauley invited out a few guest vocalists including one who was his girlfriend. As they concluded their song, he proposed to her at center stage. She said yes, very nice. (video from show)
The first opening act was Jones Street Station, who hail from all over the mid-west but currently reside just down the road in Brooklyn. At times they sounded very much like The Band and other times very pop like The Foundations (OK, you need to be a certain age for that reference - Build Me Up Buttercup and Baby, Now that I've Found You...) Anyway, they were excellent, enjoyed them very much. (video from show)