back JUNE 2010
Falu: June 30th @ Woodbridge Wednesdays
During the early discussions about the creation of Woodbridge Wednesdays it was decided that we'd attempt to make it as musically and culturally diverse as possible. With the large Asian Indian population in Woodridge and Edison, booking an Indian performer was a "no-brainer". I wrote to my musical guru Bill Bragin, who books the Lincoln Center free outdoor summer festival, and said I'm looking for an Indian artist with crossover appeal, someone like Susheela Raman, who'd be within my limited budget for our free summer series.
He wrote back and said he was in London and just had dinner with Susheela Raman last night (talk about synchronicity!) and rattled off a handful of artists who might meet my needs. I checked out their sites and as soon as I heard Falu, it was exactly what I had in mind. (Without You)
Her music was a fusion of traditional Indian music with indie rock and dance rhythms and her bio was jaw dropping! While still in India, she'd pursued a degree in Indian classical music and studied with master Ustad Sultan Khan and after moving to the States collaborated with Karsh Kale, Wyclef Jean and Yo Yo Ma and eventually was invited by A.R. Rahman to perform with him at the White House at the state dinner for the Prime Minister of India and the Time gala for the 100 most influential women at Lincoln Center. Now that she's played Woodbridge, I expect her career to really take off! :-)
I was very pleased that the crowd was a fusion of our regular Music On Main Street and Woodbridge Wednesdays attendees and first timers from our local Asian Indian population. I talked with quite a few people from both camps and I got the impression that Falu wowed them all. I was certainly impressed and entertained.
Falu will be appearing again in Prospect Park on July 19 in another free show as part of the Celebrate Brooklyn series.
Tinariwen, Omar Souleyman and Toubob Krewe: June 26th @ Central Park Summerstage
Tinariwen are a guitar driven band from a nomadic tribe in Mali (and Algeria) called the Touareg, who've become internationally appreciated over the past decade after wowing audiences at Mali's 2001 Concert in the Desert and subsequent performances at international festivals like Peter Gabriel's "Live 8" and playing with internationally renowned musicians like Robert Plant and Carlos Santana. (Tinariwen live)
Their music is best described as hypnotic, with its traditional repetitive guitar riffs, but it also compels you to move your body as the rhythms seem to take control. Even those not usually inclined to dance find themselves bobbing, weaving and tapping. It's a sound that's difficult to resist.
Omar Souleyman is a leader of the Syrian dance/folk/pop music scene. His music was an Arabic slant on techno music, which is not my cup of tea, but he did have the young crowd bouncing. He brought out a belly dancer for a couple of songs which was a nice diversion.
Toubob Krewe is a group of young guys from North Carolina who fell so in love with African music that they've travelled to Africa several times to study with some of Africa's musical masters. They're essentially a jam band with African overtones and their Kora player (traditional African 21 stringed instrument with sound between a harp and harpsichord) demonstrated an impressive virtuosity with the instrument. These guys really had the crowd going and were a perfect opener for Tinariwen. Will see them again, I'm sure. (Toubob Krewe - Maliba)
James Taylor & Carol King: June 25th @ Prudential Center
This was a 40th anniversary tour marking their appearance at The Troubador in 1970. They had the original band which included Leeland Sklar, Russ Kunkle and Danny Kortchmar, played all the old favorites like You've Got a Friend, Fire and Rain, Sweet Baby James, It's Too Late, So Far Away, Carolina On My Mind, Country Road and I Feel the Earth Move to name a few. It's probably not possible to write one sentence with a song list that could surpass that one. (Live at the troubador)
I expected Taylor to sound great, but King, who's a great songwriter but not necessarily a great singer, was very impressive vocally. And together they worked out some stunningly beautiful harmonies. When referring to past activities the overhead projector gave us shots of them all in hippie garb and James with lots of hair, adding a warm sense of nostalgia to the evening. The rotating stage was a good idea in theory but I didn't care for it. It made me feel slightly detached when they had their backs in my direction. A small detail in an otherwise beautiful experience.
Gandalph Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams: June 9th @ Woodbridge Wednesdays
I think the best way I can describe Gandalph Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams is to say they're a retro hippie psychedelic americana roots rock band. Or as front man Joziah Longo likes to describe it "hillbilly Pink Floyd". I've been aware of them for a while and have been wanting to see them for some time but since I never got a chance to go to the mountain, I booked the mountain in Woodbridge! After their first song a friend sitting behind me exclaimed "that was unbelievable!". I agreed.
Sharkey McEwen played electric guitar and slide mandolin, which you don't see everyday, playing moody rock riffs at the breaks, and often filling in the creases, making the show really rock even though half the material could be described as melodic ballads.
They played assorted songs from previous releases including Talking to the Buddha, Picture and Tink as well as several songs from a forthcoming CD (One of my favorites, Look Ma No Hands, they did in sound check). From the new material Windmills and Move On Lady Jane were particularly beautiful and memorable. Both are melodic ballads with tasty guitar work
If you live locally and missed this show, it's a safe bet that I'll have them back sooner rather than later. Don't miss them next time!
Simon & Garfunkel tribute rehearsal show: June 7th @ City Winery (featuring Ollabelle, Shawn Colvin, Paula Cole, Brendan Benson, Willie Nile....)
The next evening Central Park Summerstage would host a Simon & Garfunkel tribute show, but on this evening several of tomorrows featured acts would do a live rehearsal performance in front of a packed City Winery. Ollabelle was the "house band " for both events and at this show played a good number of their own songs because only a portion of the featured artists appeared at the rehearsal show.
As can be expected at this type of event there was a certain uneven quality about the evening but Ollabelle was great, Shawn Colvin with Paula Cole performing America was worth the price of admission and Willie Nile's emotional performance of The Boxer (he had lost a friend that day) was another highlight. Alejandro Ecovedo was Willie's intended partner for the tune, but Fiona McBain (pictured) from Ollabelle filled in for him at this show and I wonder if I saw the better performance of the song. (The Boxer)
I also liked Corey Chisel and Brendan Benson doing their version of El Condor Pasa. They didn't do much with the harmony but their voices meshed well naturally. If they formed a duo, I'd go. The following evening the actual duo showed up but I'm sure this show was much more intimate and much less expensive! (El Condor Pasa)
Dennis Diken with Bell Sound : June 2nd Woodbridge Wednesdays
Dennis Diken is best known as the drummer for very well known pop/garage rock band The Smithereens, but with his current side project (one of several) he and Bell Sound recently released an excellent CD of original material, called Late Music, which hints at elements of The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Smithereens and features Diken on drums and lead vocals.
This show kicked off a new free outdoor concert series in Woodbridge called Woodbridge Wednesday's, and by all accounts was a smashing success. Diken and company reeled off a bunch of catchy tunes from the recent release including Don't Let Me Sleep Too Long and The Sun's Gonna Shine in the Morning as well as The Bad Merry-Go-Round, a moody and hypnotic tune which is my favorite on the CD and was at the show. (Don't Let Me Sleep Too Long)
Sprinkled between their original material were some classic covers like Dancing in the Moonlight, Summertime Blues and the Beach Boys tune Shut Down. For those last two songs special guest David Marks, an original Beach Boy, joined the band. Yes, we had an original Beach Boy on Main Street. Woodbridge is getting to be pretty cool!