Saturday, March 31, 2007

Side by Side by Side

This turned out to be a good week for that sprawling, vibrant genre of music known as "non-classical":

Firehouse 12. This is a bar and jazz performance spot in New Haven, built a few years back in a repurposed fire house. (Not to be confused with Firehouse 16 in East Haven, which does not have a jazz performance space but does have a fire hydrant robot.) The performance space is also a recording studio, so it has this sonic-sanctum feel to it, just dead cushiony silence when it's quiet, sealed off from the bar. I've been meaning to go for a while, and they just started up a weekly Friday night concert series that stretches through June. Last Friday was a trio featuring a pianist named Frank Kimbraugh, which was fairly low-key and straightforward, with a wide sentimental streak & some nicely angular melodies in the up-tempo numbers.

I like jazz, and I'd like to hear more jazz, and I'd like to be able to hear more in jazz. I realized last week my only reference points for piano jazz are Thelonius Monk and the Charlie Brown Christmas special.

Antibalas. On Wednesday Stu landed some radio station comp tickets to this Afro-Latin funk fusion group, which was playing at Toad's Place, so we went. Good stuff -- an 11-piece ensemble including saxes & trumpets, and congas on top of the usual rhythm section. (MySpace here.) They layed down a series of nice fat 10-minute pieces, usually instrumental, founded on grooves that lash funk figures to African drumming patterns, sometimes with a Latin flavor. Solos on top of that -- particularly from their tenor sax, who can belt out a raspy tone like he's on a bari -- or vocals from the man on congas, who wears dreds and some face paint and a kind of ritual-looking getup and performs like he's summoning something. It all works, it makes quite a noise, and it's a show worth getting to. They've got a new album out, which I haven't listened to.

(They're in Washington D.C. on April 4th, Nate. And Dan, April 28th in Ann Arbor. Mike, if you still read this, Pittsburgh on May 3rd. Dad, I don't know if it would be your scene.)

Company. I took yesterday off work and went into New York, where I finally got around to seeing the revival of Sondheim's Company on Broadway, with Mandy and one of her lab coworkers. This is just an incredible show: smart, sophisticated, abstracted just the right amount. Raul Esparza plays Robert with an exquisite range of irony, detachment, and wry vulnerability, and his deadpan quips come off with natural spontaneity.

For further substantial description I refer you to the internet. The staging has the cast functioning as orchestra, hanging around onstage and playing various instruments, which they play solidly. This looks a lot more natural than it sounds, and it flows very well with the storyline, if you can even call it that, which is free-associative and doesn't take place within a literal passage of time.

The songs in this show are great, each one catchy and intelligent. The cast recording is out on CD.

Last spring I'd gotten hooked on the original recording from 1970 (featuring Dean Jones, also remembered for his work in Herbie the Love Bug, That Darn Cat, etc.) so I get these little flashes of memory of what it felt like driving home into East Haven a bunch of cool evenings last May, trying to game the Green Car's gas mileage by coasting towards all the stop signs, self-absorbing into "Poor Baby" or "Another Hundred People." I wasn't previously aware that I had any kind of nostalgia for May '06.


Post a Comment

<< Home