JULY 2008          back

Flogging Molly: July 31st at Pier 54

This very popular Irish rock band got it's start about 10 years ago in L. A. when Irish ex-patriot Dave King formed the group combining traditional Irish music and instruments (mandolin, violin, accordion, tin whistle, banjo) with the guitars, bass and drums of hard driving rock and roll.  (my video)

Those familiar with The Pogues, who also kept one foot in Irish music and one foot in hard rock, can easily imagine this sound. I joking told a friend that Flogging Molly was like the Pogues only less drunk. They certainly are a party band and the mostly young crowd drank, sang, danced and occasionally threw up, but nobody seemed to mind.

They performed songs from their new CD, Float, including the title cut which was my favorite, and some selections from previous releases including, The Likes Of You Again, from Swagger, and Tobacco Island from Within A Mile From Home. (The Likes Of You)

If you ever have a chance to see Flogging Molly, I can assure you that they'll be loud, energetic, fun and worth the effort. Just don't wear you good shoes.


Patti Austin: July 30th Rockefeller Park

Back in the seventies, Patti was a very busy R&B singer working with Quincy Jones, Roberta Flack, Michael Jackson and George Benson to name a few. She had songs in movies and her hit, Baby, Come To Me, was featured on General Hospital.

Having said all that, it could be that her best work has been done in the new millennium.  A few years back she did a tribute to Ella and now she's released a CD of Gershwin songs. This show consisted of songs from that CD and a handful of other Gershwin songs from her other CD's including the Ella tribute.   

She's a talented jazz vocalist, complete with good scat skills, and with songs like Nice Work If You Can Get It, Can't Take That Away From Me, Our Love Is Here To Stay, Strike Up The Band and Love Walked In, how could anyone go wrong?

She talked about how it was time to reclaim the song Swanee, which had been stigmatized by Al Jolson who performed it in blackface, and then did a great version of it as a swing tune.

A few months ago, Patti won the Grammy for best jazz vocal performance for her Gershwin tribute. She told us that she wanted to thank Elvis Costello for getting Diana Krall pregnant, because she always loses to Diana at the Grammy Awards. Patti also announced that tributes to Duke Ellington and Miles Davis are in the works. She might not sell as many records in the new millennium, but she a much more interesting artist for me than she ever was before. 


Johnny Cash Tribute: July 26th at Winter Garden Atrium

Shows like this, which have various artists taking songs from musical icons and molding them into their own style, can often be uneven as many of the artists are performing a song that they've only just recently learned and some re-workings work better than others. This show was an exception in that I enjoyed every act from beginning to end.

The show opened with the Brooklyn rock band Hymns performing I Never Picked Cotton and Sea of Heartbreak as driving rock tunes, followed by old time gospel a cappella group, The Persuasions, performing Ring of Fire and The Wanderer. Quite a contrast! Johnny had recorded The Wanderer with U-2 and the Persuasions included it on their tribute to U-2 CD.

Next up was one of my favorite artists, Raul Midon, who did the gospel tune I Shall Not Be Moved which included his usual impressive guitar work and his trademark imitation trumpet solo, which he performs with his mouth but no trumpet. Benevento-Russo Duo did instrumental versions of Delia's Gone and Bird on a Wire. The duo, Marc Benevento (keyboards) and Joe Russo (drums/acoustic guitar), reminded me of The Bad Plus with interpretations which were a little bit jazzy but rocked as well.

David Bromberg performed Walking The Blues and the anti-war song Drive On. He was backed by 3/5th's of Ollabelle, who also backed Catherine Russell on her bluesy Like The 309, Laura Cantrell's version of The Beast in Me and Marshal Crenshaw's Mean Eyed Cat. For their own turn they did Long Black Veil and Kris Kristofferson's Sunday Morning Coming Down. I loved them all!

Sway Machinery performed Come In Stranger and Get Rhythm with a fusion of world beats difficult to describe. With 3 horns, guitar and drums I heard bits of Afro-pop, klezmer and ska influences in their performance. Their performance was probably the most challenging, but very interesting and energetic.

The show finished up with Jay Farrar of the Jayhawks doing Home Of The Blues and I Still Miss Someone and John Doe of X, who sounded incredibly like Johnny, performing Big River and Folsom Prison Blues.

The final song of the night was Man in Black which was performed with the entire cast on stage sharing lead vocals. Jams like that are always a little sloppy, many were reading the lyrics off a cheat sheet, but everyone was having a great time and it was great fun for the audience.

These shows, produced by David Spelman, are becoming one of the musical traditions in NYC and seem to be getting better and better. This one was musically satisfying and the pace never slowed. Here are some videos from the show:

(Catherine Russell)   (David Bromberg)


James Moody: July 25th Lincoln Park (Newark, NJ)

I had some free time during my work day and Newark was having it's 3 day free music festival with jazz being featured on this day, so I headed over and caught the set of Newark native James Moody.  He's a sax and flute legend who's played with Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Max Roach and Lionel Hampton to name a few. He's probably best known for his 1962 hit Moody's Mood For Love which was his take on I'm In The Mood For Love.

His set included, among others, Take The A Train and Pennies From Heaven with some amusing schtick about a wife explaining her 2 year old son, Bennie, to her husband who's been away for over three years. It was a fun set which included Cyrus Chestnut on keyboards and John Lee on Bass.  I missed the drummer's name and the names of two young musicians from Israel who played guitar and trombone on a couple of tunes. Unfortunately, I couldn't stay for the next set which featured T.S. Monk. 


Ollabelle: July 23rd at Newport Tower

I've written about Ollabelle a number of times over the last several years, which is a good indication of how highly I regard this ensemble. They came together about 5 or 6 years ago after meeting and playing together at a gospel jam on the lower East side of New York.  Something clicked between them and they subsequently put together a demo recording which was sent to T-Bone Burnett (Oh brother, Where Art Thou) who quickly signed them and produced their self-titled debut CD. Their music is a true "Americana" gumbo mixing  gospel, blues, country, spirituals, traditional songs and folk music. Even their cover of The Rolling Stones "I Am Waiting" sounds like a traditional American roots song. This video is a cover of The Band: (No More Cane)

Their second CD, Riverside Battle Songs, was produced by Larry Campbell with Ollabelle and included mostly original material written in those aforementioned styles, along with a couple of Ollabelle arrangements of traditional songs and covers of Nina Simone's See Line Woman and Ola Belle Reed's High On A Mountain. (You now know where their name came from)

The band members include Glen Patcha (keyboards), Amy Helm (mandolin), Tony Leone (drums), Byron Isaccs (bass, dobro) and Fiona McBain (guitars). They all contribute lead vocals, harmony vocals and songwriting. Original member Jim Zhivago (guitar) and guest performer Jay Collins (sax) also joined the group for this lunchtime gig in Jersey City. This show was one of a series of lunchtime shows the band was performing all week leading up to Saturday's tribute to Johnny Cash which includes Ollabelle and a number of other artists such as Marshall Crenshaw, John Doe and The Persuasions


Amos Lee: July 14th at Highline Ballroom

Amos Lee is a soulful Philadelphia singer/songwriter whose style has hints of Daryl Hall, Bill Withers, Steve Winwood and even Sam Cooke. Getting to see him in the past was always easy, but he has a new release called Last Days at the Lodge which was produced by Don Was, and apparently he's getting very popular. This show was sold out weeks in advance and a crowd of young folks gathered outside hoping to score tickets.

This show featured quite a bit of the new material including the acoustic Street Corner Preacher and Kid which he performed solo. The songs Listen and Truth had a subtle, slightly funky and soulful rock vibe with Amos playing electric guitar backed by keyboards, bass and drums. Won't Let Me Go was so "Philly soul" that if I had heard it on the radio, I might have thought it was Daryl Hall. I loved them all.  (Kid)

Of course, he performed Colors and some other popular tunes from his first two CD's, but this show was about the new release and I'm getting the feeling that this one might grow legs. Have another (Listen)


Aztec Two-Step: July 13th at Maplewoodstock

This mini Woodstock in Maplewood, NJ, which books mostly local cover bands for their 2 day arts and music festival, held little interest for me until I saw that they had also booked my old friends ATS. Earlier this month I commented on how comparisons to The Everly Brothers were not quite on the mark for The Avett Brothers, but Aztec Two-Step has so often, and so appropriately, been compared to the Everlies and Simon & Garfunkel that for the last few years they've been doing a "Simon and Garfunkel Songbook" show in between some of their regular shows.

I've written about them often so I'll just say briefly that this show featured mostly songs from their still highly regarded self-titled debut CD from 1972 (Baking, Killing Me, Highway Song...), a sampling of songs from various other CD's (Going On Saturday, Stargazer...) and finished with Feelin' Groovy and Hazy Shade of Winter from the S&G songbook. (S&G songbook)

It's clear that they'll never be as well known as those other duos, but that's due to  multiple variables that have nothing to do with talent. Try to imagine that Simon and Garfunkel or The Every Brothers had never become famous, and then consider if you'd still go see them perform for free in a park not far away. That undiscovered duo with beautiful harmonies and great songs is Aztec Two-Step. Next time you should go.


 Si*Se & Yerba Buena: July 10th at Pier 54

Si*Se is a New York based electronica Latin dance band fronted by Dominican singer Carol C, whose sexy and easy groove is probably most easily compared to Nigerian international star Sade. Singing as much English as Spanish, their tunes are slightly hypnotic, usually funky and definitely danceable.

The group includes guitar, bass, keyboards and drums as well as making particularly good use of a violin. They performed fan favorites from previous CD's including Mariposa and the title cut from their last CD More Shine, along with lots of new material from an upcoming release. Judging from what I heard, as well as the crowd reaction, the new CD could be a breakthrough for them. (my video)

One surprise was when Carol announced they were going to perform their first cover song. What started as not recognizable to me, quickly morphed into Fleetwood Mac's The Chain which the crowd just ate up! A very cool moment. 

Cucu Diamantes (and friend) of Yerba Buena

Yerba Buena's most recent release is called Island Music, but the inside joke is that Manhattan is an island, so common New York sounds like Hip-hop, Reggaeton, Afrobeat, Afro-Cuban and assorted Latin beats are all part of the mix. Co-founded by Andres Levin (aka Dre) and Ilena Padron (aka Cucu Diamantes) this big band is energetic and eclectic, not to mention somewhat bizarre!

Most of what went on was in Spanish, so I had to surmise what was taking place, but at one point the little man in the George Washington wig spoke for about a minute and then watched the show from a table on the edge of the stage. Later, a person in a donkey suit came out and danced for a while and then sat with his little friend and watched the show. Cucu said they were her two lovers. I didn't need to understand everything being said to know it was strange and amusing.

They used much less English than Si*Se but one song, Bilingual Girl, did a modern day "you say tomato" routine with lines like "You say tomorrow, I say Manana". The additional lyrics "Two tongues are better than one" made me wonder if they were really talking about languages! Belly Dancer, also from Island Music, fused Middle Eastern and Latin sounds with great effect. Some songs from Cucu's upcoming solo effort were also included.

My favorite of the set was Guajira, from their first CD, which combines Latin music and Hip-hop. They added a few rappers to the 10 piece ensemble and with the horns, percussion, guitars and numerous voices singing and rapping, it was one of the best party songs I've heard. It got the crowd moving more than they had all evening. Watch this and you'll understand why: (video Guarija)


The Avett Brothers: July 9th at River to River Festival (Styvesant H.S.)

I've been hearing about the intensity of the Avett Brothers live shows for a couple of years now, so when I saw they were doing a free show at Rockefeller Park (moved inside due to rain threat) I immediately put it on my list of things to do. Brothers Scott (banjo, drums) and Seth (guitar, keys) along with bassist Bob Crawford, perform a high energy fusion of country, bluegrass, pop, rock and honky-tonk music  sometimes described as "new grass".

Their vocal harmonies have been compared to The Everly Brothers, and although they are brothers, and do harmonize beautifully, I'd more likely expect these harmonies from the Everly Brothers' hillbilly cousins. Before you get all uppity with me, that's not meant to be derogatory. I'm just saying that they have their own style which is more coarse, and their delivery makes me think more of the Pogues or Violent Femmes. On a few occasions the singing turned to shouting, which I didn't care for, but these were momentary vocal lapses in an otherwise very enjoyable vocal performance.

This show did have it's share of beautiful country ballads including When I Drink, Salina, Murder in the City and Flower in Manhattan along with their most catchy, and probably best known, pop tunes Will You Return and Die Die Die. They also performed songs from a soon to be released CD and the CD after that one. Apparently, the boys have been busy which should keep their mostly 20-something fans happy. (Murder in the City)


Mayra Andrade: July 2nd at Joe's Pub

If you've been reading this site for any length of time, then you know that Cape Verde is a group of islands off the coast of Senegal in West Africa. You know this because of the numerous times I've written about Lura and Sara Tavares, two beautiful and talented artists from those islands. I'll now be adding Mayra Andrade to that list. But if their good looks or beautiful music ever make you consider moving to Cape Verde, you should know that they all live in Europe now.

Of course, if you stayed awake in geography class, or were familiar with iconic singer Cesaria Evora, then you may have already been familiar with Cape Verde. It's musical traditions have been influenced by Africa, Brazil and Europe and these younger artists are expanding those influences even further.

Mayra was born in Cuba and has lived in Senegal, Angola and Germany as well as Cape Verde. For the last five years she's lived in Paris which, along with an accomplished international band, probably accounts for the jazz influences in her work.

She was backed by two guitars, bass and drums and performed songs from her debut CD called Navega (Upon The Waves). For one original song called Mana, about a young girl who discovers the hard way that wealth is not the key to happiness, she picked up her nylon string guitar and was impressive. She also sang one French song called Comme S'il en Pleuvait, the others were in Cape Verdean Creole, and got us to sing along by challenging our national pride, telling us how well they sang it in Germany and Sweden. Very amusing!

Other songs from the CD which really impressed me were Calu Princezito's Lua (Moon), Orlando Pantera's Dispidida (Song Of Farewell) and the title cut which Mayra co-wrote with Patrice Larose. (Navega)

This was only her second visit to the United States.  Hopefully, there will be many more because this is an artist that I would certainly see again if given the opportunity.