FEBRUARY 2009    (back)

Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana: Feb 28th at The Peddie School (Hightstown, NJ)

Just this past August I attended a flamenco dance performance for the first time. It was energetic, powerful and sexy and it was easy for me to appreciate the talent and effort, but a good portion of it did not reach me on an emotional level. I'll attribute that to my own inexperience with this particular discipline of dance.

This performance made great strides in developing my appreciation for the form. The six dancers all moved beautifully with impressive precision and synchronicity.  The two guitarists and two singers were very impressive, a pleasure to experience and the costumes and lighting were beautiful. (Flamenco Vivo Varlota Sanata)

 Flamenco traditions have their roots among gypsies and peasants which explains why its long history is somewhat murky, but it's generally agreed that there are Arabic, Islamic, Gypsy, Sephardic and Southern Spanish influences, along with Brazilian and Cuban influences in recent centuries.

Carlota Santana and her company are keeping those traditions alive by presenting traditional and contemporary choreography as well as fusing flamenco with other dance forms. They also work to develop young artists and educate young people, all of which led Dance magazine to describe her as "The Keeper of Flamenco".  I would gladly see this company again. 

 

Tina Dico: Feb 18th at Housing Works Book Cafe

Tina Dico is another name that's been turning up on these pages fairly regularly in recent times. I've mentioned before that she's one of the biggest stars in Denmark but still remains relatively unknown over here. I don't know how much longer that will be the case, but I intend on taking full advantage of her situation by seeing her as often as possible in New York's most intimate music clubs for as long as I'm able. She'll be at The Highline Ballroom with full band next month and I'll most likely attend that show as well.

I should mention that The Housing Works Book Cafe is a non-profit organization that donates all proceeds to helping with housing and medical issues for homeless aids patients. The workers are volunteers, the artists donate their time and every dime from the sale of tickets, books, drinks and food goes to the cause. It feels good just being in a place like that, not to mention that you'll sometimes find artists like Lyle Lovett or Cassandra Wilson performing there. I actually saw Corinne Bailey Rae there last year.

Tina's set consisted of selections from her new release, A Beginning-A Detour-An Open Ending, which is actually three EP's packaged  as a single release. She performed several selections from each EP including He Doesn't Know, All I See, No Time To Sleep, Stains and Security Check. For more details take a look at one of my previous reviews or just watch this: (Security Check) 

 

Brett Dennen: Feb 11th at Webster Hall

Brett Dennen is almost 30 years old, but with his boyish looks and voice, and his red mop top, if he ever starred in a movie it might be called "Opie-The Teenage Years". More proof that looks can be deceiving. It takes very little time to get past his young aura and realize that his songcraft, lyrics, musicianship and presence are of an artist wise beyond his years. (Ain't No Reason)  

I first became aware of Dennen a couple of years ago when I came across one of the best  anti-war songs that I had ever heard. It reminded me of a time when young artists had important things to say and made me wonder why there weren't more songs like it floating around today (my guess-no draft). I made a note to investigate further but never really got around to it. Then, not too long ago, WFUV started playing "Make You Crazy" from his new release "Hope For The Hopeless". The song features Nigerian musician Femi Kuti (reviewed here a few of summers ago) and I was intrigued about how a kid from California hooked up with an internationally known African musician. (Make You Crazy)

When WFUV offered freebies for this show, I scooped them up knowing little more than what I've stated above. I'm glad that I did. Aside from the fact that he writes insightful, thought provoking lyrics with infectious melodies and great hooks, he's also a musical explorer presenting pop and folk styles, that could be compared to Jack Johnson, alongside a guitar style more commonly heard in Femi's part of the world. It was fun!! (Darling Do Not Fear)

I think it's time for me to do what I meant to do a couple of years ago and investigate his music more thoroughly. My feeling is that this young artist could develop into an important voice for his generation. I don't feel like that very often.

 

Lizz Wright: Feb 6th at The Allen Room (Jazz at Lincoln Center)

I've written about Lizz Wright so many times that it's possible you've already heard enough. If so, that's unfortunate because as long as you continue to come to this site, it's highly likely you'll continue to stumble upon more reviews of her shows.

Her rich contralto voice is as good as it gets for me and she somehow manages to select material from my personal list of favorite artists. She's also developing into a talented songwriter often collaborating with Toshi Reagon, another favorite of mine.

Lizz took a different approach to this show which she described as  "bare bones with a little bit of music and lots of humanity", and praising the courage of her musicians (percussion, bass, guitar and cello) for their willingness to be so exposed.

She featured only a few of her originals, including My Heart and Hit The Ground, in favor of an eclectic mix of covers which included Cole Porter's I Concentrate On You, Stevie Wonder's As If You Can Read My Mind, Neil Young's Old Man and Carol King's I Feel The Earth Move. She also did a tribute to Odetta with a medley of Leadbelly's Take This Hammer and the traditional Chilly Winds. (Hit The Ground)

All were subtle, beautiful and moving but the absolute highlight of the show for me was her cover of Joan Armatrading's The Weakness In Me. The Allen Room is a gorgeous space with floor to ceiling glass overlooking 59th Street behind the stage. Looking out over New York City while one of the most beautiful voices in the world backed by four great jazz musicians sang: "I have a lover who loves me, How could I break such a heart, Yet still you get my attention" redefined the term nirvana for me. (Armatrading's version)

 I guess I didn't really need to tell you that you'd continue to find Lizz Wright on these pages. Whether you've read any of my previous reviews, or if this is the first one, I think my feelings about her music are obvious. This is as good as it gets.