OCTOBER 2007           back

Zap Mama : October 31st at Highline Ballroom

It's not uncommon to spot famous people at shows in New York City but this show may have set a record. During the course of the evening I spotted The Pope, Clark Kent, Pocahontas, Mother Teresa and a serial killer, to name a few (OK, it was Halloween and the serial killer might not have been a costume). This show was two blocks from the NYC Halloween parade route so a majority of the audience members were parade goers in party mode.

I've written about Zap Mama a few times before and you can get a detailed history on her/their myspace and web pages. "Zap Mama" is used interchangeably to refer to front person and driving force Marie Daulne and the group as a collective. They began as a female a cappella group with strong African influences and have evolved into a full band that blends Hip-Hop, Soul, Funk, Reggae and pop with fewer African sounds in the mix but with very danceable rhythms and beautiful harmonies from the four female vocalists.

This show featured mostly songs from their previous release "Ancestry In Progress" (Bandy Bandy, Vivre, Yelling Away...) and their new release "Supermoon" (Hey Brotha, Affection...). This unique group does a very entertaining live show and I will likely be seeing them again in the future.

The ride back to New Jersey on the PATH train was an interesting experience with riders squeezed in as close as humanly possible and almost everyone in costume. I didn't mind being in such close proximity to Wonder Woman but Captain America was a little too close for comfort.

 

CeU: October 23rd at Highline Ballroom

This was my second time this year seeing this beautiful young Brazilian singer. I've listened to her self titled debut CD quite a bit this year which blends samba rhythms with the sounds of electronica for an end result that's infectious and contemporary. The new Highline Ballroom is becoming one of my favorite venues so I thought it was a good opportunity to see her again.

CeU doesn't have a powerful voice but it's very well suited for the sexy grooves so prevalent in Brazilian music. Her band includes a drummer, percussionist, bass player, dj and keyboard player who, with modern technology, also adds occasional horns and backup singers.

Singing mostly in Portuguese she does slip in a little bit of English like on her cover of Bob Marley's Concrete Jungle which was a show highlight both times I've seen her. She also conversed a bit in English telling the crowd before a love song "If you want to kiss on the lips, now's the time". This was a fun show and it's probably not the last time you'll see her on these pages.

Opening act was British singer Adama who did a short set of highly danceable pop tunes with a couple of melodic ballads. It wasn't exactly the type of music that I'll run out and buy, but it was a fun set and the crowd was mostly appreciative. With Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse doing so well, I suspect Adama may click with a similar crowd. 

 

Experience Hendrix: Oct 22nd at The Beacon Theater (pictured Tommy Shannon and Mato Nanji)

The concept of this show was just too good to pass up. A collection of Jimi Hendrix contemporaries and collaborators along with the next generation of devotees, coming together to honor the man who, more than anyone else in musical history, changed the way musicians look at, think about and play an instrument. There is the way guitar was played before Jimi Hendrix and the way it has been played since and it's not a fine line.

The show had several thrilling moments for me, but on the whole it left me not particularly moved. The volume was way out of control which has always been a turn-off for me. It was actually difficult to have a conversation in the lobby because the waves of sound from inside permeated and overwhelmed the entire building. Of course, with so many world class rock guitarists in the building, no one was about to turn it down.

The lineup included Buddy Guy who, along with Howlin' Wolf guitarist Hubert Sumlin, represented the blues guitarists from the previous generation who were an influence on Jimi. Also on the bill were Mitch Mitchell and Billy Cox who played with Hendrix, and contemporaries Robby Krieger of The Doors and Mick Taylor of The Stones and Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton of Double Trouble, Robert Randolf, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Doyle Bramball II, Corey Glover of Living Colour, Mato Nanji of Indigenous, blues guitarist Eric Gayle, Kid Rock's guitarist Kenny Olson and guitarist Andy Aledort rounded out the cast. They have each made their musical marks at various times in the thirty five plus years since the death of Jimi Hendrix.

Doyle Bramble II (Arc Angels) version of Angel was impressive and Mato Nanji of Indigenous was my highlight of the show with his version of Little Wing.  Kenny Olsen was also very memorable with his efforts on Spanish Castle Magic. The artists mixed and matched all evening making for some interesting combinations but those "once in a lifetime" matchups sometimes seemed to overshadow the songs. All Along The Watchtower had an all-star cast but was a sonic mess (I'm sure many will disagree). Kenny Wayne Shepherd was also very good but so loud that it drove me out into the lobby where it was still too loud to talk. I remained out there for Buddy Guy's set, which was a typical Buddy Guy set, great but with no Hendrix tunes.

The lobby isn't the optimum place to enjoy a show and I eventually left without having seen Robert Randolf or Hubert Sumlin. Needless to say, that would never have happened if the show had really grabbed me. I did get to see several artists that I had never seen before which along with the few musical high points makes it an adventure I can not regret.

 

Jeffrey Gaines: October 5th at The Canal Room 

It's been some time since I've told the story of how I first discovered Jeffrey Gaines. It was 1992 and I heard his song Hero In Me on WHTG 106.3 while driving in my car. The song struck a chord with me immediately but, unfortunately, later in that busy day I couldn't recall the name of the artist (this was in the days before googling). The very next day the song came on again and I pulled over, listened until the end of the set and then wrote down the name Jeffrey Gaines. On my way home I stopped and bought his self-titled debut CD and when I arrived home I told Judy to sit and listen to this. That CD was played in our house every day for at least the next six months.

Since then, we've seen Jeffrey in concert about two dozen times and bought all of his CD's, usually the week they came out, whether we had heard them or not. This show was, in a sense, a career retrospective with selected tunes from each of those five CD's of original material.

Of course, toward the end of the show he played that first pseudo hit Hero In Me, although he passed on his cover of Peter Gabriel's In Your Eyes which is the tune for which he's actually best known (somewhat ironic that such a great songwriter is best known for a cover). Speaking of "somewhat", his second CD "Somewhat Slightly Dazed" was well represented with several songs including You Believe In Me which he gave a hoedown treatment. He paused during the song and made a comment "wouldn't it be nice if we had dancing hillbillies in NYC for this one" before jumping back into the tune.

From Toward The Sun he did a particularly rocking version of Over and Over, as well as a particularly slow and emotional version of Without You  along with an enthusiastic, and mostly in key, crowd sing-along of To Be Free. Also from the same CD was a very moving version of In This Lifetime.

On most days my favorite Gaines CD is Galore, which was also well represented with A Simple Prayer, Toast and Tea and To Love Her Inside. He said that last song was about an old girlfriend which is the third different explanation I've heard over the years. He also announced that after years of trying to get his record companies to invest in a video, he'll finally be releasing a video of Headmasters Of Mine from his first CD, essentially bootlegging himself. (Simple Prayer)

This artist has a powerful and emotive voice and puts great lyrics together with beautiful and emotionally charged music, which is why I can see him over and over and never tire. After the set, I asked about the fact that there was no new material, and he said "you know I'm project oriented". I nodded and said "yeah" but I didn't feel the need to say that maybe it's time to get back to work. The last time he had such a broad gap between albums we ended up with Galore, so I'm willing to wait until the artist has something to offer.

 

Raul Midon w/Morley opening: Oct 1st at Highline Ballroom

This was a CD release show for Raul's new CD "a world within a world", so naturally a good portion of the set went to new material (Caminando, Peace on Earth...) along with a handful of tunes from the first CD (Waited All My Life, State Of Mind...) and beautiful covers of John Lennon's Jealous Guy and the old standard Devil May Care, which has been covered by numerous artists (my favorite version is by the late, and little known, Teri Thorton and most recently by both Diana Krall and Jamie Cullum). (Peace On Earth)

I've written about Raul so many times in the last 4-1/2 years that I'll assume you know about his mind blowing unique guitar style and his impressive soulful vocals. If not, you should consider reading some of my previous reviews. You're going to know about this artist eventually, so why not sooner rather than later.

The one thought that keeps coming to me when I consider this show is how completely comfortable he's become on stage.  He's always appeared confident and even warm on stage, but there's been a subtle shift in the comfort level that made this show an exceptionally warm and intimate experience. He gave background info on a number of songs, told stories, many of which related to the experience of being blind, and was generally very amusing.

In one story, he related how we've all heard of the touring artist who wakes up and doesn't know what city he's in. Then he added "imagine that scenario if you're blind. You wake up and your only point of reference is the last show you played". He joked that if his last show was Amsterdam, then he knows why he can't remember where he is. He also talked about the youtube video with him and India.Arie and his story of meeting Randy Newman.

His new material sounds great and may be even more commercially accessible than the first CD. He'll be touring Europe and Japan soon and I think it's safe to say that when he returns, I'll probably see him again. This might convince you to do the same:

  I had the great pleasure of seeing Morley twice in the last week, once with a full band in Central Park and this show accompanied by Robin Macatangay on guitar. Both were completely satisfying experiences. Her voice has an Annie Lennox or Nina Simone vibe and her soulful urban folk songs often deal with social issues and the human condition from a positive pro active perspective. In the review of last week's set, I talked about the beautiful and inspiring song Women Of Hope.     

Morley will be touring with Raul and I suspect she'll be picking up quite a few new fans along the way. It's safe to say that this will not be the last time I see this talented and thought provoking artist. This month is off to a great start for me and I suspect for Raul and Morley as well. I should add that my tickets were courtesy of 90.7 WFUV, another great source for music.