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Archive for the ‘Princeton, NJ’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: YASSER TEJEDA & PALOTRÉ-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert Meets SXSW #188 (April 6, 2021).

Every year, NPR Music participates in the SXSW music festival, whether it’s curating a stage or simply attending hundreds of shows at the annual event in Austin, Texas. Last year, the festival was canceled due to the pandemic, but it returned this March as an online festival. We programmed a ‘stage’ of Tiny Desk (home) concerts and presented them on the final day of the festival. Now, we present to you Tiny Desk Meets SXSW: four videos filmed in various locations, all of them full of surprises.

Yasser Tejeda, a New York-based guitarist from the Dominican Republic, started his musical career on the Dominican cuatro (a folkloric guitar-like instrument) and has incorporated guitar stylings that have made him a “go-to guy” for Dominican artists looking for passionate elegance in their sound.

They play three songs in fifteen minutes.  And as with much music from this part of the world, the drums (Victor Otoniel Vargas) and percussion (Jonathan “Jblak” Troncoso) are unstoppable.

Yasser Tejeda and his band Palotré begin their set behind a home desk with “Amor Arrayano,” weaving a vaguely Caribbean feel with a killer R&B hook.

“Amor Arrayano” is a smooth love song gently echoing guitars and a smooth grooving bass.

After a brief introduction of his bandmates Tejeda launches into “La Culebra,” the track that caught my attention from their album Kijombo. Palotré is a powerful groove machine behind Tejeda’s virtuosic guitar playing and his playful dance moves.

“La Culebra” (The Snake) opens with percussive rattlesnake sounds from “Jblak.”   Kyle Miles plays a bouncy bass while Tejeda plays a cool virtuosic lead.  This (mostly) instrumental rocks on in various tempos for the duration of the song.

Tejeda has stated one of the goals of this project is to explore the crossroads between Afro-Dominican musical traditions with anything else that pops onto their radar. Their final song here,”Nuestras Raices,” [Our Roots] has become one of my favorites because I hear the essence of Africa mixed with jazz and maybe a hint of heavy metal, as Tejeda steps on his distortion pedal to kick the band into overdrive with guest tenor saxophonist Mario Castro in tow.

“Nuestras Raices,” opens with a ton of drums and Castro playing the intro melody on the sax.  The songs shifts gears to a quiet verse and then Tejeda stomps the distortion pedal for a brief foray into ripping guitar before pulling back for another quiet verse.  After some faster sections, the song slows down to a kind of moshing feel with all kinds of wild time changes, jazzy sax and heavy metal chords.

It’s pretty fantastic.

[READ: March 30, 2021] Charlie Thorne and the Lost Island

This is the first book in the Charlie Thorne series. I read the second one last month.  I don’t like to read things out of sequence, but it didn’t really impact this story all that much.  The only thing that I “knew” was that Charlie escaped at the end of the story.  But that’s pretty obvious since there was a second book.

This book was also good for some of the background information I was seeking.  Although, it turns out that Gibbs didn’t include a ton of background info on Charlie.  We learn just enough to understand how she is the way she is without getting bogged own in details.

The story starts with a Prologue set in Princeton, NJ in 1955.  It’s the evening of Einstein’s death and after being given some (unwanted) painkillers, he starts muttering something.  By the end of the night the secret service are all over his small house trying to uncover whatever it was he muttered (in German) about.

The book properly starts at CIA Headquarters as Dante Garcia is heading a team.  He is insisting that they call in the help of Charlie Thorne, a super-smart 12-year old girl with a potential criminal past.  His boss is skeptical but trusts Dante, so she agrees.  he also says he wants to work with Milana Moon, one of the best agents in the force.

Cut to a ski slope in Colorado where we are introduced to Charlie and her amazing mathematical mind.  She is able to picture the angles and speed she needs to conquer Deadman’s Drop.

The way she does it is pretty cool and it also sets up the first exciting chase.  She recognizes Dante and his partner as agents.  She doesn’t know why they are here but she knows she needs to evade them.  This leads to the first of many exciting chase scenes. (more…)

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[CANCELLED: June 6, 2020] Acrobuffos

indexS. took her Girl Scouts to see Acrobuffos and said it was great.  I had actually wanted to go to the show but was on a Scout hike that weekend.

So when they announced they were coming to McCarter, I bought us all tickets.

Of course, now McCarter has cancelled the rest of their season, so we can only hope that the troupe comes back next season.

What are Acrobuffos?

Visual, completely wordless, comedic physical theater. The Acrobuffos present sophisticated image-driven performances, playing games using poetic mime. They are not your typical clowns – they are artists and surrealists – who will not be easily categorized.

Who wouldn’t love that?

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[CANCELLED: May 21, 2020] Chris Thile

indexI got tickets for S and I to see Chris Thile because we both like Nickel Creek.  I’m not even sure that I told her about this show before McCarter decided to cancel their entire season.

Chris Thile is a masterful mandolin player.  I’ve seen him on numerous occasions in various Tiny Desk Concerts and I saw him with Punch Brothers, which was a lot of fun.

I’m not sure what he would have done as a solo artist (or if he was going to have special guests).  I don’t really care so much either, because whatever he did would be great.

I hope he comes back next season.

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[CANCELLED: April 5, 2020] Cirque Éloize: Hotel

indexWe have seen two productions by Cirque Éloize: Saloon and Cirkopolis and they have both been fantastic.  We were really excited to see this third show, Hotel.  [They have six shows in production: ID, Nezha, the Pirate Child and Serge Fiori, Suel Ensemble.

Then my Scout even was scheduled for that weekend which meant that C. and I couldn’t go but S. and T. could.

Of course, now McCarter has cancelled the rest of their season, so we can only hope that the troupe comes back next season.

 

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[CANCELLED: March 27, 2020] The Peking Acrobats

indexWe didn’t have tickets for this show yet.  I’m not entirely sure we were even going to go.

We have seen many Chinese acrobatic troupes perform; however it has been six years since we last went to such a performance and we were thinking it might be fun to take the kids now that they are a little older.

There always seems to be some kind of troupe coming through New Jersey, so even if this show is not rescheduled, it seems likely we’ll be able to see some amazing acrobats in the near future.

 

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[ATTENDED: January 18, 2020] Richard Thompson

After seeing Richard Thompson back in 2016 (three times in a short span) I decided I could take a break from seeing him a bit.  Although when he announced an electric trio tour I was really excited to check it out.  Sadly, I couldn’t make that show.  But when he announced another show at McCarter (I believe his 20th show there?) I figured it had been four years and was time to see him again.

This was my tenth time seeing Richard Thompson (first time in 1997).  I tend to focus a lot on the songs that Richard plays at every show.  I’m sure I’ve seen “Beeswing” and “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” ten times.  But in this set he played 13 songs that I hadn’t seen in at least the previous two shows and that’s pretty awesome.

We had some amazing seats (center stage about eight rows back) and we could see his fretwork absolutely clearly. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ROBERT SCHNEIDER-“Reverie in Prime Time Signatures” (2009).

Robert Schneider is the lead singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer of The Apples in Stereo.  He also received a PhD in mathematics from Emory University in 2018.

So he seems like the perfect person to write this complex score (even if he wrote it before he got his PhD).

In the back of the book, Schneider explains in pretty great detail how he chose to write what he did.

He also says that the music was written and and first performed at an experiemntal reading of the original script at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton on Dec 12 2009. Schneider played synth along with cellist Heather McIntosh and clarinet Alex Kontorovich.  The musical score is included in the book and you can hear it here

The piece is two minutes with harpsichord and a lead cello and flute with a synthesizer underneath.

It is mournful and quite pretty.

For a song that is all about odd time signatures, it somehow doesn’t feel awkward or choppy.  I don’t know enough about time signatures to even tell where the different parts are–I can’t hear it at all.  But I find the piece to be quite nice.  And it is reasonable to think that the victims could have the melody stuck in their heads.

 

[READ: June 19, 2019] Prime Suspects

Raise your hand if you want a graphic novel (illustrated by Robert J. Lewis) that is a CSI-styled investigation but is actually a pretty thorough look into higher mathematics.

I have a hard time summing up what this book is all about because I didn’t get all the math that’s going on here.  But the story itself is pretty fun and easy to follow.

The book opens with two cops finding a dead body in a tunnel  There’s also a documentary crew filming everything for the show MSI: Mathematical Science investigation.

A man in a hat and trench coat welcomes us to his world–a world where you don’t have to understand everything to know something.  Where a legendary mathematics professor became the subject of a documentary.

That professor is Professor Gauss. His assistant Mr Langer is in the precinct with Gauss to talk about what hey have found.

Langer is a formally educated student.  A bit uptight and stuffy.  One day in Professor Gauss’ class a young woman with a ring in her nose and unique fashion sense came in.   Her name is Emmy Germain and she proves to be incredibly smart.  But she is self-educated–an abomination to Langer.  But she turns out to be a delightful surprise to the documentary crew that is inexplicably filming Guass’ class. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 16, 2019] I’m With Her

I’m with Her is something of a folk and bluegrass supergroup made up of Aoife O’Donovan, Sarah Jarosz and Sara Watkins.  I knew each of them from previous Tiny Desk Concerts and knew I’m With Her from a Tiny Desk Concert as well.

I was pretty excited to see them as both Sara and Sarah were on my list of artists that I wanted to see live (I was otherwise unfamiliar with Aoife).  One thing that always come up is their name–did they name themselves after the Hillary Clinton campaign?  In fact, no, the three got together and named themselves before Clinton used the slogan for her campaign.  Technically the band came first, but the Clinton campaign didn’t take it from them either, evidently–coincidental naming.  The band says that the exposure certainly didn’t hurt–but if it had been the other side’s campaign, they definitely would have fought it.

But on to the music.  The women sing in absolutely gorgeous harmony.  Individually, their voices are wonderful, but as they add one and then a second harmony…swoon.  They also switch instruments constantly–fiddle, mandolin, ukulele, guitar, banjo.  Everything sounds a little different. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 16, 2019] Billy Strings

I had never heard of Billy Strings before this show.  But when he was announced, the crowd was really effusive about him, which led me to think that he was well-known.  And I gather he is.  He has some 40,000 fans on his Facebook page, which is no small thing.   (Interestingly, headliners I’m with Her have only 22,000).

So Billy Strings came out and I swear I thought he was 18 (he’s 26).  He said a friendly “Hi, folks” and proceeded to absolutely blown me away with his guitar playing.  He opened with Brown’s Ferry Blues a folk song from around 1930 and proceeded to play the heck out of his guitar.  He also sang the rather amusing lyrics in a good ‘ol drawl (he is from Michigan).

Then he surpirsed me even further by playing a Jethro Tull song (which made S. and I quite happy).   It was a rather fast-tempoed version of “Thick As a Brick” and it was wonderful.  The song segued into a guitar workout called Fishin’ Creek Blues.

He then played “Tom Dooley,” a song I never expected to hear, well, ever.  (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 14, 2019] Gabriel Kahane

I saw Gabriel Kahane open for Punch Brothers about four years ago.   I was really impressed by his piano playing and songwriting.  So when he announced a new album I was on board to see him right away.  I got a ticket for him at a small bar call Bourbon and Branch in Philly.  But I wound up with other plans so I couldn’t go.  Then I saw that he was playing a show at Princeton!

The show was titled 8980: Book of Travelers and was supposed to come with a video of some sort documenting his Book of Travelers album.  I was really curious about this (and pretty excited too, as there were only two locations on the tour where he was going to include the video).  There was no video at our show.  On a message board I was able to find out why not:

There is a version with video and we had originally planned to present it last night. Ultimately, the more personal, direct, Gabriel at the piano seemed like a better fit for our space so we made a change.

(more…)

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