JULY 2010                 back

Calexico: July 19th @ The City Winery

  This has been one of my favorite bands in recent years. The core of the band is Joey Burns and John Convertino who surround themselves with a revolving cast of amazing musicians each adding a hint of their own musical influences so that, in the end, Calexico is a gypsy jazz, spaghetti western, mariachi, tex-mex, pop surf band from Tuscon Arizona. (Crystal Frontier)

  A guest appearance by Jean Rohe made me think they need to add a female voice to their regular cast. Her harmonies greatly enhanced songs that I already loved. (Two Silver Trees)

  They did mostly a mix of their original material as well as their famous cover of The Luv Group's Alone Again Or, a song by Bassekou Kouyate from Mali and a Brazilian samba that Rohe sang. All beautiful!! (Alone Again Or) 

 

 

 Africa Fest: July 17th @ Prospect Park Brooklyn (Omar Pene, Meta and the Cornerstones, Chiwoniso, Garikayi Tirikoti...)

 Each year the Celebrate Brooklyn free concert series presents a day of African arts and crafts, music, and food. I think it's now officially one of the "don't miss" shows of the summer. You can always count on discovering some great new artists but this year was an bonanza.

 I didn't catch all the acts (it's a long day!) but I already knew I'd love Meta and the Cornerstones, the international reggae band who I just saw 3 days ago. But I also loved Chiwoniso from Zimbabwe (actually, she was born here and her parents moved her back to Zimbabwe as a teenager) who played the traditional mbira and had a beautiful and powerful voice. Singing in English and Shona, her Afro-pop fuses traditional African music with contemporary sounding jazz and R&B. Sax player Max Wild really added some impressive jazz elements. Hearing her voice brought to mind the first time I heard Angelique Kidjo. (Chiwoniso video)

  Senegalese singer Omar Pene was also very enjoyable with his hypnotic African grooves getting everyone in the crowd swaying, tapping, dancing or moving in one fashion or another. A great find for me. (my video)

 

Squeeze: July 15th @ Bryant Park NYC

 The writing team of Glenn Tillbrook and Chris Difford have penned an impressive number of pop music's most memorable hits including Up The Junction, Tempted, Take Me I'm Yours, Goodbye Girl, Is That Love, Cool For Cats, Pulling Mussels From A Shell and Black Coffee In Bed to name a few. (Up The Junction)

 They've got a new CD coming soon called "Spot The Difference" which is a collection of new recordings of their classic tunes so the fans were very pleased to hear just about all their favorites. The show was taped to be broadcast at a future date on the PBS music show "Live at The Artists Den" which added some extra excitement to the event. I'll be able to look for myself sitting just to the right side of the stage. Tillbrook sounds as good as ever and this show was great fun. (video) 

 

Meta and the Cornerstones: July 14th @ Woodbridge Wednesdays

 There are so many good stories surrounding this concert that I'm not sure which one to tell. There the one about how they're one of the best bands I've discovered in quite a while, and they are. Or how I saw them at Globalfest in January, and loved them, but didn't think to book them because I thought they lived in Senegal. An afterthought two days later led me to their web site where I discovered they now lived in Brooklyn. Within 5 minutes of learning that bit of information I had them booked for Woodbridge. Really! 

 Or there's the story of how Larry (my Music on Main cohort) and I spent the two hours before the show tracking down a drum kit which we were supposed to supply but due to a mix up did not have! I get shivers thinking about that so let's go with the first story.

 Meta is from Senegal and his international troupe hail from the far reaches of the planet including Japan, Ivory Coast, Lebanon, Israel, Mexico and the USA. They play the best contemporary reggae I've heard in a long time, infusing it with touches of soul, funk and Afro-pop. This free street series was driven inside by the weather, which always cuts the size of the crowd, but the ones who did show up couldn't stop raving about this band. I know several who're already planning on seeing them again at 92Y Tribeca in August. I couldn't wait that long, as you'll see in a review above I saw them again 3 days later. See why: (Video)

Jimmy Cliff: July 11th @ Central Park Summerstage

 With Bob Marley and Peter Tosh gone, it would be difficult to argue that Jimmy Cliff is not the reigning king of reggae music. With all due respect to Burning Spear, Lee Scratch Perry and Sly & Robbie, Jimmy Cliff's name  is by far more universally recognized. At 62 years old his voice seems untouched by the years and considered all the jumps, kicks and dancing, his body seems equally youthful. (Although I wonder if it feels that way when he wakes up in the morning)

 This amazing performance included a list of classic reggae tunes as long as your arm including The Harder They Come, Rivers of Babylon, Sitting in Limbo and Many Rivers To Cross to name a few. The audience sing-along on Save our Planet Earth and Cat Stevens' Wild World  can only be described as "food for the soul". Singing a beautiful familiar song with thousands of people can't help but have an effect on your state of mind. See for youself: (video) 

Jimmy picked up his guitar for a few tunes like I Can See Clearly and Sitting in Limbo, and played an African drum on Rivers of Babylon, but mostly he just sang, danced and worked the crowd into a blissful frenzy.

Victor Demme from Burkina Faso in West Africa opened the show with his  Afro-pop fusion and he and his band really grabbed the attention of most of the audience. Not an easy task when they don't know who you are and are here for other reasons.

 The middle set was by young Trevor Hall, originally from South Carolina, who fuses the ease of Jack Johnson with catchy reggae beats making radio friendly pop reggae that has received some nice attention, including finding it's way into a Shrek movie. The younger set in the audience were thrilled. The matching of these three acts made for a such spectacular day of music.

 

Ready In 10: July 7th @ Woodbridge Wednesdays Free Summer Series

 In a world full of rock & roll wannabes every now and then a young band comes around that can best be described as "the real deal". I met these guys a few years ago in the audience at a Martin Sexton concert, and learned that were were a Long Island rock band who sometimes play in NYC. Not long after that meeting, Judy and I went to see them perform and were very impressed with the whole package including the lead vocals, harmonies, musicianship and song writing.

 Sal Nastasi on lead vocals sometimes reminds me of a young John Bon Jovi and all the members, Marc Viola (guitar), Mike Elefante (bass) and Mike Moore (drums), contribute backing vocals which gives the group a rich vocal sound. Viola also handled lead vocals on the tune Charlotte's Waltz, adding some vocal diversity which I always like. 

This show featured songs from their recent sophomore release 31 Strong, as well as a few from their earlier release.  I liked all the new material particularly Come Home and See and Wait, both of which strike me as "radio friendly" tunes that could easily take off with some exposure. (Come Home)

 They've had some prestigious gigs like opening for Rusted Root and playing a NY Jets party, but it's my humble opinion that bigger things are on their horizon. Their music has a natural appeal for a younger audience, but my middle aged audience was wowed and hasn't stopped talking about them.