February 2005                         back

The Strawbs : Feb 19th at Satalla

Yes, this is the third time we've seen The Strawbs since October, but considering that we've been fans since the early seventies and had never seen them before, we had a lot of catching up to do. Actually, if you look at my history of shows, you'll see many artists that pop up over and over again. When I see a show that really satisfies, I'm always anxious to go back for more. All three Strawbs shows have certainly satisfied.

Today was Judy's birthday and we had a running joke all week that, because it was her  birthday, she could order whatever she wanted for dinner. Funny because she can always order whatever she wants and at Satalla we usually get burgers or a chicken sandwich. Back in 1980, we used The Strawbs' The Winter Long as our wedding song.  The real birthday present, besides that excellent hamburger, was getting to hear that song performed live again.

This show, like the previous two, was a wide assortment of songs from throughout their career. The set was very different from the previous shows but did include fan favorites Lay Down, Midnight Sun and The Autumn Trilogy which includes The Winter Long.

They performed as the three piece Acoustic Strawbs which includes Chas Cronk on bass and 12 string guitar, Dave Cousins on acoustic guitar and banjo and Dave Lambert on acoustic guitar. The two Daves (pictured) sing the lead vocals and do the writing. What makes the shows so great are the beautiful three-part harmonies, great songs and the amazing guitar work from Lambert.

They smoothly transition from beautiful ballads to rock anthems and back again with Dave Cousins introducing many of the songs with little stories about the origin of the song or some experience surrounding the song. The stories are usually very amusing.  It all adds up to a completely enjoyable evening and I would guess that you'll likely see The Strawbs pop up on this page again.

 

 Raul Malo : Feb 15th at Joe's Pub

I forgot my camera for this show but it's unlikely that I'd have taken a picture where he looked as good as in the one above. That being said, I'll add that he sings even better than he looks.  A few of his songs could easily fool you into thinking he was Roy Orbison. One big difference is that Raul brings more Latin and country flavor to much of his music.

Raul is the front man for The Mavericks, an alt country Latin rock band, but he also puts out solo CD's and sometimes performs solo. A  Mavericks show may have anywhere from five to 15 musicians on stage with lots of horns and percussion but for this show, he played nylon string acoustic guitar and was accompanied by only piano. With his talent, that's more than enough.

He started the show with some cover tunes from his forthcoming solo album due out in May (produced by Peter Asher who was in the audience). They included beautiful versions of Randy Newman's "Feels Like Home" and a J.D. Souther song.

After a few more new tunes, he went into a mix of some familiar Mavericks tunes (Fool #1...) and his familiar solo tunes (I Said I Love You...) mixed with an impressive assortment of covers including At Last and Besame Mucho.  Raul informed us that Besame Mucho was written in 1941 by Consuelo Velazquez, who just died last month, and that it's the most recorded song in history (off the top of my head I know I have versions in my collection by The Beatles, Dianne Reeves and Dianna Krall).  He bantered with the audience quite a bit and was very funny.

My sister, Christine, pinch hit for Judy at the last minute when Judy realized she would be at Madison Square Garden all day for the Westminster Dog Show. We had a great time and ran into an assortment of familiar faces, as I often do at Joe's Pub, including Raul Midon and his wife, Kathleen. If you've been following my adventures, then you already know Raul Midon. If not, I suspect you'll be hearing of him when his new CD comes out in May. More on that later.

This was a great show in a great venue. If he plays there again, you can be certain that I'll be there.

 

Losers Lounge Tribute to Queen : Feb 12th at Fez (Loser Connie Petruck pictured)

For over 10 years, the Loser's have been gathering to pay homage to various artists and groups who all have one thing in common, lots of familiar songs. By paying tribute to the likes of David Bowie, The Kinks and Prince, as well as Burt Bacharach, Paul Williams and Neil Diamond, they've redefined what is cool in downtown NYC.

The format for the shows is always the same. The versatile rock group Kustard Kings learns two dozen songs from the group of choice's catalog and then invite an eclectic group of singers and performance artists to each learn and perform one song with the band. Various members of the Kustard Kings also take a crack at a song.

The invited guests range from talented vocalists like Tony Award winner Michael Cerveris (Assassins and Tommy) to people whose talent lies more in schtick than vocal ability. The shows very effectively inhabit a world that includes total respect and admiration with tongue in cheek spoof of the group being "honored".

The songs almost always work regardless of the singers ability due to the band's incredible recreation of the music and the very impressive backup vocals provided by STC (Sean Altman, Tricia Scotti and Connie Petruck).

A few first set highlights include Mark Rinzell singing Don't Stop Me Now, Sean Altman doing the Brian May tune '39, and Connie Petruck's stunning version of Somebody To Love. (This was the best performance I've ever seen from her). Another highlight was Bicycle Race performed by Anney Fresh, who combined great vocal ability with some good schtick by using a microphone stand complete with handlebars and bell. Someone in the audience dubbed it a "Bike-rophone".

The second set also had its share of memorable moments including Killer Queen by Erik Paparozzi, Bohemian Rhapsody by The Kustard Kings with STC and Dragon Attack by the aforementioned Michael Cerveris. My best surprise of the night was harpist Erin Hill who played and sang Who Wants To Live Forever from one of the Highlander movies. She blew the roof off the place and her performance will not soon be forgotten.

Once again we had good company, meeting Loser fans Jeff and Jackie from the Upper West Side and Queen fan Jason from Astoria. I think a good time was had by all.  

 

Jimmy Scott : Feb 10th at Iridium Jazz Club

Jimmy Scott is an 80 year old crooner who is said to have been Billie Holiday's favorite singer. The former vocalist for Lionel Hampton had a few hits in the 50's and then resurfaced in the 80's as a regular in the NYC club scene. Being hired by David Lynch to sing Under The Sycamore Tree in the last episode of "Twin Peaks" led to a recording contract that has produced three critically praised albums and he's had a thriving career ever since.

He was backed by the Jazz Experience, an excellent jazz quartet which includes keyboard, drums, upright bass and sax/flute and his material consisted of mostly familiar standards such as Blue Skies and Someone to Watch Over Me. (The Jazz Experience also slipped in a few original tunes which were very beautiful and greatly appreciated).

 At 80 years old, there are certainly quite a few cracks in the voice. On most of the ballads his voice was all over the place but on the swing tunes he got into the groove and actually sounded really good. You could get a real sense of his former self. I should add that nobody cared at all about the limits of his vocal abilities, as all his material was greeted with warmth and adoration. At his age, to be able to perform in front of a roomful of admirers is an amazing feat and it was very satisfying to observe his bliss. I should add that if you were to hear one of his CD's, you might suspect that it was Dinah Washington or Billie Holiday. His high pitched voice is often mistaken for a female vocalist.

I should give credit to Rex Fowler of Aztec Two Step, the person who first told me to see Martin Sexton. He was also the first person to tell me to see Jimmy Scott. That was about 10 years ago. I should have listened then.

 

Habib Koite & Bamata : Feb 2nd at S.O.B.'s

 I only discovered Habib Koite last month while researching the artists appearing at Globalfest. Habib was not one of those artists, but I stumbled across his name and read some things that intrigued me, so I went to his web site and listened to his music. A few days later I bought his 2001 release, Baro, and have been listening to it almost exclusively for a month now. As luck would have it, I also saw that he was performing at S.O.B.'s and immediately bought tickets.

Habib takes the traditional sounds of Mali and seasons them slightly with western sounds of Blues and the Caribbean. His voice and guitar playing are both beautiful and emotionally moving. His songs are stories of life and love in Mali and although he sings in his native tongue, his voice and music can convey emotions of regret and sorrow, or joy, humor and celebration.  In reading his lyrics on the CD, I found a Romeo and Juliet story about two people from different worlds whose love was impossible. In it the man sings to the woman "If I put my hand around your neck, it is not from the desire to touch your neck, but for the love that I feel for the neck's owner. My dear Batoumanbe, not all love ends in marriage." You can feel the emotion even without understanding what he's saying.

 His band includes Boubacor Sidibe on guitar, harmonica and harmonies, and the legendary Keletigui Diabate on balafon and violin. The balafon is an African wooden xylophone which sounds like a western xylophone if it was covered with a flannel sheet. The very talented band also includes electric bass, drums and percussion.

Before the show I was waiting outside for my friend and I said hello to an African looking guy who was also waiting for someone. He said "good evening" and added "Can I ask you a question?" For the last 35 years I have been asked that question countless times and it's always followed by "How tall are you?" (I'm 6'6" or 200cm)  I'm not complaining, I actually enjoy the attention.  I said sure and he asked "Are you from Mali?" There was silence for a fraction of a second and then we both cracked up! I told him that I understood why he might think that, but my ancestors are from Ireland and Germany. It turns out he was from Senegal and I thank him for my best laugh of the week.

At one point during the show a sexy black girl jumped up on stage and did some suggestive gyrations while the band played. My friend, who's known as The Raven in some circles, had just stepped outside for a nicotine "fix" and upon returning seemed very amused by my enthusiastic retelling of the event.

I discovered, after the fact, that Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt are both champions of Habib's music and his social causes.  Habib even sings on Bonnie Raitt's most recent album.   I was very impressed with this guy and will certainly be seeing him again and buying more of his CD's. I think you can add me to his list of champions.