JANUARY 2009       back 

Buddy Holly Tribute: Jan 31st at Vintage Vinyl (Fords, NJ)

Vintage Vinyl in Fords, NJ is defying the odds and surviving as a small independent music store in a time where the internet is causing problems for even the largest chains of this once thriving and now dying breed. Maybe in the end they will succumb as well, but it won't be for lack of trying. There's a sense of community in a good music store that can never be replaced by the internet, which I think is the best reason for people to, at least on occasion, get up from the computer and go buy music in the company of other music lovers. This store nurtures that feeling in a number of ways including their long history of free performances in their store.

This tribute show to Buddy Holly featured Pat Dinizio of The Smithereens, Willie Nile, Nicole Atkins and others. I arrived only to see Willie Nile and Pat Dinizio. Both did a couple of Buddy Holly songs or other covers that somehow linked to Buddy Holly and a couple of originals . Willie Niles cover of "Rave On" was the highlight of his set as was his story of waking up that morning turning on the TV at almost the exact moment to hear John Wayne say "That'll Be The Day".  (Rave On)

Pat Dinizio performed Words of Love, which he'll be performing with Graham Nash at the site of Buddy's last concert in Iowa, and The Beatles I'll Be Back, which he said illustrates to influence Buddy had on them, as well as Smithereens fan favorite Blood and Roses and a few others. He has a Buddy Holly tribute CD coming out and was amazed that, as far as he knows, it's the only one. That is somewhat surprising considering it's the 50th anniversary of "The day the music died". (I'll Be Back)

 

Jeffrey Gaines: Jan 29th at BB Kings Blues Club

I've told the story before about being in my car in 1992 and hearing Jeffrey Gaines "Hero In Me" on the radio. On my way home that day I stopped in a music store, bought the CD and as soon as I walked in the door I told Judy to stop what she was doing, sit down and listen to this. That CD never left our player for 6 months, and we've lost count of how many times we've seen him since.

After several beautiful CD's of ballads containing beautiful melodies with thought provoking lyrics mixed with pop/rock tunes (I've often described Jeffrey as an acoustic Lenny Kravitz) he finally had a hit with his acoustic cover of Peter Gabriel's "In Yours Eyes". That song made it into the WPLJ rotation and this great songwriter with the powerful voice became best known for someone else's song.

This show featured an overview of his career including fan favorites Hero In Me, I Know a Man, Headmasters of Mine, Simple Prayer, Wish It Away and, of course, the obligatory In Your Eyes to name a few. Jeffrey was cruising along with high energy and enthusiasm when someone shouted out "In Your Eyes". He played it, but you could see that the train had been momentarily derailed. Immediately after that, he flubbed the lyrics Praise or Blame stopping halfway thru the song before regaining his momentum and finishing strong down the home stretch. (Wish It Away)  

Opening act Clara Lofaro was very impressive, which is the second time this month that an opening act knocked my socks off! (Pimps Of Joy Time was the other) Playing piano and backed by one musician on percussion and sometimes acoustic guitar, she had a really strong voice, memorable melodies and did a couple of great covers (an Annie Lennox tune & The Cranberries Zombie). I'd see her again. (Clara Lofaro video)

 

Miami City Ballet: Jan 24th at City Center 

My first introduction to ballet was when, as a young sports loving teenager, my grandmother had me sit and watch Edward Villella on TV and I was surprisingly entertained and impressed. A number of years later I met my dance fanatic wife who regularly brought me, no arm twisting was required, to see New York City Ballet and some of the other great companies of the world. In fact, we had a subscription to NYCB for quite a few years.

After the death of George Balanchine, the company, at least in our opinion, gradually lost some of its luster and we eventually gave up our subscription in favor of seeing a wider variety of companies. Miami City Ballet is one of the companies that has positioned itself near the top of our list of favorites in our post NYCB days. Miami City Ballet's founder and Artistic Director is Edward Villella.

Seeing Villella's company performing a Balanchine program with such precision and spirit brought me back to NYCB's glory days, and reminded me of why I love dance. There was an element of a "full circle" experience. This is how these pieces were intended to be performed which was a pleasure to experience.

This program featured three staples of the Balanchine repertory including Square Dance (music Antonio Vivaldi and Arcangelo Corelli), Rubies from the ballet Jewels (music Igor Stravinsky) and crowd pleaser Symphony in C (composed at 17 years old by Georges Bizet). (Symph in C)

The company doesn't have a star with name recognition (not including Villella) but it has great depth with strong, dynamic and well trained dancers filling the stage. This is a company that I look forward to seeing again. If circumstances had allowed, we'd have returned to see the other program which featured another favorite piece, Twyla Tharp's In The Upper Room. I'll keep that on my list of things to do for the future.

  

 

  Lucy Kaplansky: Jan 18th at Sanctuary Concerts (Chatham, NJ)

It's hard to believe that it's been over a dozen years since Judy and I went to see singer songwriter Heather Eatman at one of our favorite little music holes called Fez. Heather had a little pixie voice, carried around a big electric guitar and wrote colorful stories often about characters on the fringe of society. (Heather is currently working with a cool little jazzy combo called The Doll House)

After Heather's set all those years ago,  out came a singer/songwriter named Lucy Kaplansky who immediately impressed us with her easy finger picking style, beautiful voice and melodic, lyric driven songs. After her first song I commented "This girl's good!" and she's had at least two more fans ever since.

Her set at Sanctuary Concerts featured a collection of original tunes and fan favorites including Ten Year Night, The End of the Day, The Red Thread and Today's the Day, (dedicated to her father who she lost two years ago), as well as a number of impressive covers including The Beatles Let It Be, Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah (both on piano), Julie Miller's By Way of Sorrow and Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire (actually written by June Carter Cash). (By Way of Sorrow)

Her shows are often a warm intimate experience with stories about her life and family woven into the tapestry of the evening. Her 6 year old daughter telling her  "Mommy, the force will always be with you" is just one example of an amusing moment. The sprinkling of both amusing and touching anecdotes between all the great music helps to make her shows very moving and very memorable.

 

Si*Se: Jan 16th at The Highline Ballroom

This Latin electronica dance band is fronted by Dominican singer Carol C, whose laid back, smooth sexy groove sometimes brings Sade to mind. They seem to be getting further away from the Latin rhythms and moving towards the more contemporary dance grooves, much to my chagrin, although there were a number of songs from both styles that had my body moving. (think they listened to Sade?)

My favorites of the show were Mariposa (Butterfly) which is sung in Spanish and blends electronica with Latin rhythms, and their cover of Fleetwood Mac's The Chain, which could have been any other Si*Se song until it got to the chorus and the band went into full Fleetwood Mac mode. Very cool show.

Opening act Pimps of JoyTime were a pleasant surprise. With a white fedora, scarf and fender guitar, their front man immediately reminded me of Prince. His first song and stage presence brought the same thought and I have to admit, I was thinking "Prince wannabe".

Then they surprised me! The scope of their style also had hints of Santana, Sly Stone, Archie Bell and The Drells (thanks to my friend Joseph for that astute observation) and even The Neville Brothers. They were an upbeat party band who really delivered. I'd go see them again and it's not often I say that about an opening act. If I had to describe them with one word, it would be "energy". Check this out: (Live at S.O.B.'s)

 

Parsons Dance w/East Village Opera Company: Jan 9th at The Joyce Theater

If you've been following my adventures, then you know I'm a big fan of The East Village Opera Company. I'm also a fan of Parsons Dance. A number of years ago David Parsons collaborated with New York City Ballet on a piece to the Barber Violin Concerto which combined modern dancers with classical dancers illustrating, better than anything I've ever seen, the difference between the two forms. It's one of my favorite dance pieces.

When I heard that AnnMarie Milazzo and Tyley Ross of EVOC were collaborating with Parsons, and would be performing live during their new piece, I didn't need to wonder if I should go.

The piece, called Remember Me, took an assortment of arias and duets from the two EVOC releases and tried to present a narrative about a love triangle involving a good brother and evil brother which ends badly. It was a daunting task, interesting in concept, but uneven in execution. The singing was beautiful and anyone there because of EVOC was most likely satisfied, but the story line was not always easy to follow, not surprising since they took previous recorded works and tried to make them fit the story, and there were very few "wow" moments of dance.

During the Delibes Flower Duet, dancer Abby Silva hung from a harness and floated beautifully as she was tossed around by her partner appearing light as a feather. I enjoyed the beautiful music with surreal movements even if the harness brought it from the realm of dance into the realm of theater or Cirque de Soliel. (EVOC Flower Duet)

One the other hand, I suspect that the apparently deceased women being dragged by their wrists and ankles while Tyley Ross sang the Ave Maria, did note evoke from me the desired reaction. I couldn't help but recall the stunned audience in the movie The Producers, the first time they hear Springtime For Hitler. The singers also interacted with the dancers regularly which I liked, but it may have taken away from the dance as there is a natural tendency to watch the singer. 

 Two major reviews that I read hated the piece. Both brought up several valid points, and both gave the singers some credit, but at least one seemed to take some satisfaction at finding clever ways to be mean. In my opinion, art doesn't move forward unless artists take chances, and when they do, some things work better than others. It's a critics job to tell you if something is good or not good and why. But any critic who tries to humiliate an artist should find another line of work because that doesn't serve anyone except their own ego.

One more note: We spotted a doctor friend in the audience and asked him a few days later if he liked the piece. He said he liked it so much that he returned and saw it again two days later. I guess it depends who's writing the review. 

 

Greg Allman: Jan 8th at The Wellmont Theater

I should say that although I think The Allman Brothers Live at The Fillmore East is one of the greatest live records of all time, I've never considered myself a particularly big fan. I saw The Allman Brothers 5 years ago, and they were good, but I had no burning desire to see them again anytime soon. But with the holidays and having been sick, I hadn't been to a show in awhile, so when WFUV offered freebies to this show, I basically thought "Why not? It's free", and Greg Allman without the Brothers would certainly be different from what I had seen before.

   I even told my friend that we didn't need to stay till the end if it ran long. Wrong!! At some point during this show I crossed the threshold where you "get it" as to why some people go crazy for certain artists. Greg and the band sounded great as they navigated between his solo material like I'm No Angel and Multi-Colored Lady and Allman classics, most of which were reworked, like Sweet Melissa, Statesboro Blues, Whipping Post and Midnight Rider. Some purists may not have like the reworking, Whipping Post had very little of it's original pain, but Greg was in great voice and percussionist Floyd Miles, who sang a couple of blues tunes, sounded great as well, so I liked everything they did. They also covered Dylan's Just Like A Woman, which seemed to be a surprise even to the regulars. (Multi-colored Lady) 

Needless to say, with Greg and the band sounding so good, leaving before the encore was not an option.