Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Harper’s’ Category

june2020SOUNDTRACK: NORAH JONES-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert # 65 (August 17, 2020).

Norah Jones is a musical force.  Even though her songs are simple and tasteful, she has pretty much conquered or at least dabbled in many genres.

The blurb notes:

I’ve always wished to hear just her voice and her piano in a room. The unfortunate circumstances of our times have given us something beautiful. For this Tiny Desk (home) concert, Norah Jones sits in her music room; it’s just Norah, her upright piano, her poetry, and that golden voice.

I don’t know these songs (I’m sure they are lush), but even with this simple old-school piano, they sound lovely.  All four of these songs are from her seventh record, Pick Me Up Off the Floor.

“How I Weep” and “Heartbroken, Day After” are pretty songs with lovely melodies.

My favorite song of the set is “I’m Alive,” which she co-wrote with Jeff Tweedy.  I don;t know if it’s the Tweedy connection, but I love the melodies in this song–both vocal and musical.  I’ve been hearing this on the radio a bunch and while I do prefer the full on recorded sound, this stripped down version is quite nice.  “I’m Alive” is

a song that at once feels the pain of politics and a pain that is personal.

“You feel your soul / Get hollowed-out / While the world implodes / You just live without.” Yet the refrain is what lingers, “Oh, I’m alive / Yes, I’m alive / But I’m alive / Oh, I’m alive.”

“To Live” sounds like an old spiritual.

Jones is not very animated in this session.  Indeed, if her hat didn’t keep falling off (why not just leave it off?), she’d have very little to talk about.

But I assume one doesn’t listen to Norah Jones for wild storytelling.

[READ: August 4, 2020] “Terrace Story”

This story started out with a young couple moving out of a beloved apartment and into a smaller one.  The couple (Annie and Edward) had a little girl, Rose, and they talked about many things as if they were Proper Nouns: the tree outside the window was Yellow Tree, the place where the pigeons landed was Pigeon Tunnel.  But the most pressing new Noun was Closet Mystery.  The mystery was what would fall out of the tiny closet the next time you opened it.

Annie worked with Stephanie. Stephanie took on some of Annie’s work while she was having the baby.  Annie wanted to thank her, so she invited Stephanie to their tiny apartment.

Stephanie was delightful and funny.  And when she opened the door to Closet Mystery, the door opened onto a Terrace–a terrace that obviously had never been there before.

The terrace was gorgeous–amazing views, plenty of room, a grill, fantastic weather.  It was fantastic.

When Stephanie left, Annie and Edward tried to recreate the Terrace in so many ways.  But it only happened when Stephanie opened the door.

So they invited her over a lot.

They had a great time on the Terrace.  They told Terrace Stories which were stories that were not really true, but it didn’t matter because the Terrace didn’t really exist either.

But soon, Annie grew suspicious of Stephanie.  She felt that the stories Edward was telling Stephanie were more intimate, more detailed (even if false) than they should have been.

Edward told her he would never lie to her outside of the Terrace.

But on the Terrace, the lies were growing too big.  Stephanie started calling Edward, “Eddie” and Rose “Rosie,” and Annie felt that Stephanie was trying to take over their lives.  Annie had once been Anne until someone had started calling her Annie.

It didn’t help that her boss at worked continued to give Stephanie more and more of Annie’s work.

Just what was going on with this Terrace and why oh why couldn’t Annie find it on her own?

I was really delighted in the way this story turned surreal and wonderful and yet still seemed realistic.

 

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: BORIS-Archive Volume Four “Evil Stack Live” (2014/2020). 

In early August, Boris digitally released six archival releases.  Volume Four is called “Evil Stack Live” and it is a fantastic-sounding concert from 2003.  Boris released their fourth and fifth albums in 2002 and 2003.  This fifty minute set picks songs from both of these albums: Heavy Rocks and Akuma No Uta.

Full set live recording [NHK Tokyo, 15th May 2003] that was broadcast on Japanese government-owned radio. The setlist is compiled from songs representative of their “Uppercase BORIS” distinction, including tracks from “Heavy Rocks” (2002) and “Akuma no Uta” (2003).  (Originally released on March 5, 2014. Included in Archive 2, limited to 1,000 copies)

The show open with some splashing gong and two songs from Heavy Rocks (2002).  That instantly recognizable riff from “Heavy Friends” kicks in as Atsuo screams to open the show.  The riff continues, eventually picked up by Takeshi on the bass while Wata unveils a soaring guitar solo.  It’s segues into the fast and heavy “Korosu.”  This song has a catchy chorus that’s punctuated by a nifty riff from Wata.

The set shifts to the blazing rocker “Ibitsu” from Akuma No Uta.  The song is three minutes long and has some great guitar licks and solos from Wata while Atsuo and Takeshi sing the lyrics.  The really fast riffing at 2 minutes is energizing as they then return to Heavy Rocks for “Death Valley” which combines a classic riff with some great droning verses.  The song stretches out to almost seven minutes with some heavy jamming in the middle.

There’s a slight pause before the start of the epic 11 minute “Naki Kyoku.”  It starts slowly with some lovely picked guitar from Wata.  After two minutes, Wata begins her extended solo.  Atsuo and Takeshi jam a simple rhythm while Wata plays her soaring solo.  Atsuo sings a catchy line (although I don’t know what he’s saying) as the song jams out around a thumping bass line and Wata’s chill noodling.  The middle has a kind of call and response with the guitar and drums as Wata intersperses her licks between Atsuo’s drum fills.

They jump out of the slower song with two from Akuma.  First is the fury of “Furi,” a ripping heavy song with lots of chaotic drums and yelps and screams (I think Takeshi is singing lead).  A few gong crashes introduce the beginning of “Akuma no Uta.”  It’s a slow grooving song with Takeshi’s heavy bass and Wata’s simple riffage.  After two minutes the song takes off in a classic heavy jam–ripping guitar work and fast bass and drums.

They end the set with two songs from Heavy Rocks.  “Dyna-Sore” is a fast rocker with a catchy guitar riff and chord pattern.  The call and response between Takeshi and Atsuo while Wata plays the soloing riffs is only exceeded by the heavy middle drum section that turns into a super fast end riff.  The set ends with “1970” another great riff-based rocker.  This song features Takeshi and Atsuo singing together and a great rumbling solo bass moment before Wata ends the song with another ripping solo.

The quality of this recording is top notch and the selection of songs is just fantastic.  This is a great archival release.

Takeshi: Bass, Guitar & Vocal ; Wata: Guitar & Echo ; Atsuo: Drums & Vocal.

[READ: August 15, 2020] “Knife Play”

This is yet another fragment from Franz Kafka collected in The Lost Writings.  The one big surprise for me is how well fleshed-out the part of the story that exists is.   It’s unfinished, but the sentences that are there are well composed (depending on how much translator Michael Hofmann has added to or spruced up the original German).

It feels like he he plotted and executed the beginning of the story very thoroughly and then just stopped.

In this fragment, the narrator is sitting next to his wife in a theater box.  The play was exciting–a jealous man was raising a knife to stab his wife.

The narrator leaned over to his wife, but what they thought was curtain was actually a man.  He and his wife jumped in shock. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: BORIS-Archive Volume Three “2 Long Songs” (2005/2020). 

In early August, Boris digitally released six archival releases.  Volume Three is called “2 Long Songs” and that’s what it contains.

There are two songs in this live recording, one is 15 minutes, the other is 22 and this whole recording is just fantastic.

Originally released in 2005 from the US label “aRCHIVE”, limited to 600 copies which sold out immediately. A precious live recording from their early days, of Boris’s 1996 debut single song release, “Absolutego”, and “flood”, released in 2000, performed live together as “1 song, 1 production”.
(Reissued as part of Archive 1 on March 5, 2014. Limited to 1,000 copies).

Like the other Archive releases, this one was also recorded at Koenji 20000V.  This time in 2001–so the band and the quality of the recording are much improved.

“Absolutego” is a sixty minute song released as one long track on Boris’ debut album.  So a 15 minute version is quite truncated.  This version has a slow three-note bass line that slowly adds feedbacking guitars and cymbals.   At two and a half minutes, the drums loudly pound in–like Atsuo is introducing himself to the set.  But five minutes, the full on washes of noise have taken over the song and a few minutes later, Atsuo starts scream/singing.  The song starts speeding up and by 12 minutes there’s lots of cymbal crashing as the song crescendoes into a conclusion of feedback and warped sounds.

“flood” is a 70 minute song (!).  It is their third album (which was recorded in four parts).  This song is much prettier and far less abrasive and here is only 22 minutes long.  It opens with a pretty, quiet melody.  It is slow and moody punctuated by cymbals and echoing noises.  At four minutes the vocals come in–quietly singing in harmony.  Then the drums come crashing in, building to waves of guitar noise and cymbals as the loud bass pushes the song along.  A break introduces a high three note riff as the singing continues.  Is that Wata singing?  By fifteen minutes, Atsuo is making judicious use of the gong–a great punctuating sound.  The last seven minutes are a conclusion as the song drones out to the end.

This is one of my favorite archival releases.  The band sounds great and they perfectly jam out these long songs.

Takeshi: Bass & Vocal ;  Wata: Guitar & Echo ; Atsuo: Drums & Vocal

[READ: August 15, 2020] “The Report”

This is a short story and I agree with the first sentence: “The report is bizarre.”

A woman has hired a man to bring information about her husband.  The man followed the woman’s husband who worked at an office in Barcelona.  But he spends a lot of his time in Madrid.  With another woman.  They meet every Thursday and Friday

The wife does not want to know the other woman’s name.

But the man tells her that the other woman is very ugly–her husband turns off the light as soon as he can because, “her face frightens him.”  He takes long showers after lovemaking.

Then the man stands up and says that there are solutions to problems like this–we know how to get rid of people.   But the wife is not interested. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: BECCA MANCARI-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #62 (August 11, 2020)

I saw Becca Mancari open for Joseph a couple of years ago.  She really won us over with her diverse musical sound (even though it was just her and a pedal steel guitar player on stage).

This set, with a full band, sounds very different and even better.

At the show, she was funny and thoughtful.  That attitude continues now.

She postponed this concert when the Black Lives Matter protests began in May: “I wanted to be so careful of respecting an extremely important movement in our country both now and then. So, we decided to all wait, learn, grow, protest, and listen.”

She has a new album The Greatest Part from which these four songs are taken.

The band she has assembled is terrific.  Zac Farro on drums (he is also in Paramore) plays many terrific flourishes and fills.  Bassist Duncan Shea (this is filmed in his woodsy home studio) doesn’t show off, but adds some great accents and lines as needed.  Guitarist Juan Solorzano plays perfectly off of Mancari–whether it’s leads or just interesting sounds.

Mancari’s songs often seek to reveal the unspoken, and you can hear that process in the way Caleb Hickman’s inventive keyboard parts respond to Mancari’s voice and Juan Solorzano’s searching guitar lines. And keyboardist Caleb Hickman fleshes out the sound.

Several of these home concerts have featured a full band, but

It’s a joy, in this time of isolation, to see her band connect and build something beautiful, despite the masks. “The band and I have been in our own little Corona-pod, but we wanted to be extra safe,” Mancari says of the protective gear.

“Hunter” starts with quietly sung vocals and guitars. I love the way the drums kick in about a minute into the song with six slow, powerful thumps followed by Solorzano’s raw, rough guitars.  The surprising pitch shift into the catchy “whoo”-filled chorus really makes the song special.

Introducing “First Time,” she says, “I came out when I was pretty young and it went pretty badly.”  This slower song is written for people like her to feel included.  The song is simple, but once again, the band fleshes it out wonderfully.  I love the cool theremin-like sounds from Solorzano and the super catchy middle part with a guitar solo and fun bass lines that make the chorus sound even catchier.

“Bad Feeling” has a gentle echo on this more down-tempo song.  It has a nifty retro feel.  And so does “Like This” which opens with a slow thumping bass line and some wah wah guitars.  The synths sound like a flute and you could easily see a flute solo floating over the middle of the song.

She introduces the last song, “I’m Sorry,” by saying, “When I wrote this record it was about my own personal journey towards transforming from anger into forgiveness.  It’s about learning to say that you’re sorry to yourself and others around you.”  The song is slow as befits the title.   The middle of the song has surprisingly catchy chorus and a fun dah dah dah dah dah part.  As the song ends it really rocks out again with great drums from Farro.

I’m looking forward to seeing her again.

[READ: August 10, 2020] “Annunciation”

This story is about Iris and it seems to race through her life, focusing on a few moments of significance.

It starts with Iris on a plane.  Her seat mates are a married couple sitting on either side of her.  The wife likes the window, the husband liked the aisle, Iris in the middle.  But they are not fighting–when the woman comes back from the bathroom, she happily shows Iris and her husband a birth control strip–they are pregnant!

On the way home from the airport, Iris tells her mother about this and her mother is appalled. How could they say something so early?  That baby could still die (Iris believes that the baby has died from the way her mother says that).

Years later, when she is about to graduate from college, Iris is dating a virgin, Ben.  She can’t figure out why he is still a virgin–he’s not ugly or weird.  On the night before graduation, she changes that.

A few days later Iris’ friend Charlotte laughs at her: A one-night stand with a virgin and she gets pregnant.  The movie writes itself.  She doesn’t tell Ben.

Iris is staying at Charlotte’s house.  Charlotte’s parents paid for the abortion and she promises she’ll pay them back even though they say she doesn’t have to.

Iris finds a place to live–it’s a room in the apartment of a married couple.  A married couple who sleeps with another married couple.  Iris doesn’t ask anything about this arrangement but Charlotte wants to find out all that she can. So on New Years Eve, instead of going to Charlotte’s family’s house, Charlotte comes to Iris’ weird set up.  By the end of the night Charlotte has had sex with the married couples.

A few days later, Iris is walking down the street and she sees Ben in a restaurant.  He is with an old lady and seems just as surprised to see her as she is to see him,.

The old lady insists that Iris sit with them.

I’ve only read one other story by Sestanovich and I really liked the open ended nature of it.  It felt incomplete in an intriguing way.  This one felt incomplete in a frustrating way.  There was just too much left out and I didn’t really care about any of the characters.

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: MOSES SUMNEY-Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #61 (August 10, 2020).

Moses Somney has an otherworldly voice–it soars to unfathomable heights. He has a couple of albums and EPs out although I haven’t really explored them very closely.

He starts with “Bless Me” which starts with some washes of chords before he starts his amazing singing.  I love the addition of the guitar chords, which add a heavy grounding to this song.  When he loops his voice at the end of the song, it sounds just fantastic.

I am just so taken with his voice.  And in an interview about the album he said:

“With this album, I was like yo, I could die any minute so let me sing all the high notes but also all the low notes and also, also, also.”

His camera work is fascinating for this show.  There’s constant glitches and lines that make it look like it was recorded on a VHS.  Are these effects added afterward top make the footage look older, or is he possibly using old technology?

For the second song, “Me in 20 Years” the camera angle changes back and forth between a left and right view of him sitting at the keyboard.  But it seems to be random and you can’t even see the cameras.

The song is beautiful–more conventional than the soaring of “Bless Me” but focusing on some great songwriting.

Much of Somney’s latest album, græ, foreshadowed current events in ways he couldn’t even imagine, but his sense of humor about it is intact. “I’m performing songs off of my new album which I released in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, so that was fun,” he says, “but all of the songs are about loneliness and isolation so, who’s laughing now?”

“Polly” is played on guitar.  I love that the guitar work is simple and pretty but his voice floats all around the melody, soaring to the ether.  The song is quite long and tends to meander–it no doubt takes a few listens to really latch on to the melody.

For his Tiny Desk (home) concert, he recreates three songs from græ and closes with 2018’s “Rank and File,” yet another song all too relevant in 2020.  He introduces the song by saying that as he records this “The nation is ablaze with anti-police brutality protests.  This song is is dedicated to the protesters and the rioters and to black lives …  which matter”

“Rank and File” is my favorite song by far.  The song has a powerful message and the music is fascination.  In this case the music is created on the fly with looping.

He crates a beat by thumping his microphone.  He adds a “Hey” and some scratchy sounds on the mic.  He makes a melody with a cool vocal sound which he loops and shifts the pitch of.  Snapped fingers add a percussive element and he sets up the later refrain of “Hey 23456.”

He sings the powerful lyrics over all of this–which he judiciously adds and removes as needed.  He occasionally sings some really high notes.  The end of the song allows him to loop his soaring vocals as he improvises with the samples and some scatting.

Fantastic stuff.

[READ: August 10, 2020] “The Gamblers”

Two men, a bookkeeper and a poet are alone in a shack.  From morning until night they plated stuss.  Between them they had one pair of boots and no money.  They would forage for crusts of bread and kindling.

Then the poet had a stretch of good luck.  He won many hands, including winning the pair of boots back.

It was, thus, his turn to go out and forage.

The bookkeeper stayed inside.  Then he heard machine gun fire.  He stayed alone in the room all night long.

The next day the bookkeeper woke to a commotion outside.  Several women were surrounding a dead body.

The end adds a couple of surprising moments.

This is not, apparently, an excerpt.  It feels very Russian.  It was translated Joanne Turnbull.

Read Full Post »

download - 2020-05-13T095755.048SOUNDTRACK: BOB MOULD-“American Crisis” (2020).

mpodldBob Mould was once a punk icon.  He has since moved through various styles of music (some more successfully than others).  But now, with everything going on in America these days, he is back to doing what he does best–writing short, powerful, rocking punk songs that address issues.

“American Crisis” starts out with a bashing guitar intro and Mould screaming (he can still scream with authority). The verses pound forward, unrelenting.  The verses are short–all the better to get to the chorus which is also propulsive and fast but really catchy.

I love the third or fourth part (there’s quite a few parts in this brief song).  The lyrics: “You’re one of us or you’re one of them.”  He gives a great wave of a guitar slide leading to a brief guitar pause before the song takes off again.

He ends the song with a whispered statement that was true during the AIDS crisis and is true today.  “Silence=Death.  Never Forget.”  Check it out.

[READ: June 5, 2020] “Bedside Planner”

This is an excerpt from Coetzee’s novel The Death of Jesus.

Simón and Inés are the legal guardians of a young boy named David. David suffers from an unknown disease and is bedridden. David is often asleep but is occasionally lucid.

David wants to know if he will be recognized.  Simón says, as a hero?  Of course.  But first you will have to do the deeds that will get you remembered.  That way someone will write a book about you.

David asks if he has done anything and Simón assures him that he saved Simón and Inés. He also says that some of the good deeds that David did he did with the aid of Don Quixote. (more…)

Read Full Post »

june2020SOUNDTRACK: HADESTOWN-Tiny Desk Concert #977 (June 1, 2020).

hades

It’s unusual for a Tiny Desk blurb to tell us when the Tiny Desk happened.  Sometimes there are clues, but this blurb tells us straight out it happened on March 2, in “the Before-Times.”

Which you can tell because there are “16 performers bunch[ed] up behind the desk, singing formidably in close proximity as a large crowd gathers just off camera.”

I’ve never heard of Hadestown, but it sounds pretty interesting.  Evidently it is a Tony-nominated hit musical.

They’d wanted to get this Tiny Desk done, but kept running into delays until they finally managed to coordinate when “playwright Anaïs Mitchell–who wrote both the musical and the 2010 folk opera on which it’s based–was eight months pregnant.”  She also plays guitar and sings.

This is a “five-song distillation of a robust and impeccably staged Broadway production.”

A raucous full-cast tone-setter, “Way Down Hadestown” lets Hermes the messenger (André De Shields, in a role that won him a Tony–he also plays the train whistle) and Persephone (Kimberly Marable, filling in for Amber Gray) set the scene.  I love that Marable is acting (with her face) while listening to Hermes sing.  The song is a kind of piano-based rag song (played by Liam Robinson who later plays accordion) until midway when the whole band kicks in with a muted trombone solo from Brian Drye (who also plays glockenspiel!).

The musical is really about two loves stories: Orpheus and Eurydice and Hades and Persephone.

A medley of “Come Home With Me” and “Wedding Song” finds Orpheus (Reeve Carney) and Eurydice (Eva Noblezada) meeting and falling in love.

Gentle guitar from Ilusha Tsinadze opens as Orpheus sings his (comical) lyrics.

A singer , huh?
I also play the lyre.
Oh a liar and a player too.

As the song builds, strings are added from Megan Gould (violin) and Malcolm Parson (cello) and a pulsing upright bass from Chris Tordini.

“When the Chips Are Down” showcases the three Fates — spirits who often drive the characters’ motivations — as played by Jewelle Blackman (who also plays accordion), Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer (who also plays violin) and Kay Trinidad (who also plays percussion).

It opens with some interesting picked and harmonic’d guitar and a bouncy piano and a funky off kilter beat (and percussion) from Ben Perowsky.  Liam Robinson also get s a fun piano solo.

In “Flowers,” Eurydice looks back with regret and resignation on her decision to leave Orpheus for the promise of Hadestown.

Mitchell herself plays guitar and sings the opening and then lets Eva take over vocals.

Finally, the set concludes with “Why We Build the Wall,” which quickly became Hadestown‘s most talked-about number. (Mitchell wrote it a full decade before the 2016 election, but you’d never know it.) Though the song includes the full cast, it’s also a show-stopping showcase for the sonorous thunder of Patrick Page, who performs with a gravity befitting the king of the underworld.

It opens with two acoustic guitars playing a slightly discordant melody. Page’s deep voice is incredible.  It’s a call and response song that is remarkably prescient:

The enemy is poverty and the wall keeps out the enemny and we build the wall to keep us free.

I don’t know what will happen to Broadway after the virus is gone, but it would be a shame to lose a show like this.

[READ: June 4, 2020] “Still Life”

This is an excerpt from Oates’ new novel Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars.  The blurb tells what the story is about but this excerpt seems like the beginning of the story and context rather impacts the way you think about what you’re reading.

The story is about John Earle “Whitey” McClaren.  He is sixty-seven and is in the hospital trying to piece together what happened.  I feel like not knowing the reason he is in the hospital would make this story more compelling.  But having just the except without context would make the excerpt far less interesting.  So I won’t spoil.

He tries to explain what’s happening, but he can’t talk.  He realizes he’s not even breathing on his own. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: ICE NINE KILLS-“Jason’s Mom” (2020).

I heard about this song from Metal Sucks who hilariously showed the three ways this song is perfectly timely:

  1. Paid tribute to one of the song’s writers, Adam Schlesinger, who died of COVID-19 last month.
  2. Paid tribute to the original Friday the 13th film, which turned 40 years old this weekend.
  3. Paid tribute to all of the world’s moms in time for Mother’s Day.

Ice Nine Kills’ songs are usually pretty heavy, so this acoustic number is quite a change (The video even shows the drummer using a hand drum rather than a kit).

It’s also an opportunity to hear how well they can sing (and harmonize).

But really, the fun of this song is in the lyrics

Jason, do you remember Camp wasn’t so great?
The counsellors had lots of sex while you drowned in the lake
But one woman stood by you when your life was taken
Yeah, she slaughtered them all and even killed Kevin Bacon
I’m making sure that she’s appreciated
She did it all for you and was decapitated

And of course, the twist on the chorus:

Jason, can’t you see the love behind her killing spree?
Whether her Head’s off or not
I’m in love with Jason’s Mom

Sometimes violence can bring people together with humor.

[READ: May 10, 2020] “I Incriminate Myself So No One Else Can”

This is a weird little story.

The sum total of the action is that a six year old girl is on the top of a slide in a playground. She is crying, getting more and more frightened.

Her mother is standing nearby desperately wanting the girl to get over her fear–to demonstrate internal fortitude.  She is getting angry as the girl screams louder and louder and other parents move in to see what’s wrong.

The story is, of course, the background of the mother. (more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: JON BATISTE-Tiny Desk Concert #972 (May 4, 2020).

This Tiny Desk Concert was originally (sort of) posted on January 6, 2020 with this disclaimer

Jon Batiste’s Tiny Desk Concert was published prematurely. The new publication date is March 2020.

I don’t know if there was actually a video posted on Jan 6, but I’m curious if people got to see an unfinished version.

Regardless, here it is May (not March) and the Jon Batiste Concert is up. I now know Jon Batiste as the band leader on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, but I knew of him before that from an NPR recording with Stay Human back in 2014.

Batiste is a multi-talented musician, playing keys, and guitars.  He’s also a charming front man.  But he really lets his backing band shine here.

The New Orleans musician came to the Tiny Desk not with his late-night house band, but with an all-new cast. His all-female collaborators — Endea Owens on acoustic bass, Negah Santos on percussion, Sarah Thawer on drums, and Celisse Henderson on guitar and vocals — were an inspiration.

Batiste took us through some of the many sides of his rich musical history,

The soulful ballad titled “Cry” which features Batiste playing the Wurlitzer organ.  This is probably my favorite song of the set–I love the sound he gets.  He is a really impressive keyboard player, handling the cool Wurlitzer solo with ease.  The surprise for me came when Celisse Henderson played a great soulful guitar solo.  I just assumed he’d be doing all of the soloing, but everyone in the band had a moment to shine.

Before the song ended properly, Endea Owens started the next song with a great upright bass riff for the start of the jazz and hip-hop inspired “Coltrane.”  Batiste does an opening rap before the song slows down for the chorus where batiste jumps to the piano and the backing band sings along.

As is often the case when musicians perform in Washington (and especially blocks from the Capitol) the banter hinted at the political. Jon Batiste stopped to tell the NPR crowd, “we’re playing some music, and we’re coping. The times are in an interesting place, but music is always that universal language that can bring people in a room together.”

Then he says, “it’s the first time we’re ever playing these songs, and it’s the first time we’re playing together.”

Then Batitste picks up a square guitar to start the rocking Motown-inspired tune “Tell The Truth,” which he says is self explanatory.  Even though Batiste is on the guitar, Henderson gets the ripping solo again.    The middle of the song has a drum solo from Sarah Thawer but the real star is Negah Santos on percussion as her bongos really stand out.  Then Batiste takes out the melodica (like he uses on Colbert) and gets a terrific sound for a quick solo.

He ends the show with a bit of church.  He says “When times get weird we forget about the simple things, so I like to write a basic song to remind us of that.  That song is “I Need You.”  It opens with an amazing piano solo.  Batiste so casually plays all up and down the keys, it’s really impressive.  As is the solo he plays mid song.

[READ: May 1, 2020] “Padua, 1966”

Despite the title the story is actually set around Newark in contemporary times.  The 1966 part comes in a story told later.

I really enjoyed the way this story seemed to self-correct.

Miranda was tall and as dark-haired as they come.  I say was and not is and that is inaccurate because she is still around and I really am not.

Miranda was married to Luke, A WASP.  They had a daughter named Caroline, “a name I’ve never understood.”

How’s this for a line:

They fell out of love because they never were in love.

(more…)

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: DAUGHTER OF SWORDS-Tiny Desk Concert #971 (April 29, 2020).

Alexandra Sauser-Monnig is part of Mountain Man (who did a Tiny Desk Concert some time ago).  Daughter of Swords is her solo project.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is just as quiet and delicate as Mountain Man but with a little more instrumentation.

Though she’s joined by a full band here, Daughter of Swords was originally envisioned as a solo project for Alexandra Sauser-Monnig. … With a few hushed folk songs, the music was so eerily still, you could have heard a phone vibrate.

This has to be one of the quietest four-piece bands ever on Tiny Desk.

As “Long Leaf Pine” begins, all you hear is a low rumble–the floor tom from Joe Westerlund.  Then Alexandra Sauser-Monnig begins singing quietly.  Maia Friedman supplies soft backing vocals from time to time.  Sauser-Monnig sings high and quiet and amazingly hits and even higher note before the end.

I like the sound of “Shining Woman” more. I think Alex Bingham’s bass stands out a bit more.  Or maybe it’s because Friedman plays an electric guitar accompaniment.  This song starts with a smattering of interesting percussion from Westerlund and while it is in no way loud, it moves faster than the previous song.

When Mountain Man was here, they talked about breakfast food.  Alexandra reprises that by asking what people had for breakfast.  Answers: a banana, a soft-boiled egg.  Alexandra had a green smoothie and goes on about the large piece of toast she had.  She doesn’t normally eat bread and this felt crazy to her [that should tell you all you need to know about Sauser-Monnig].  Bassist Alex Bingham says, “wild day so far.”

For the final song, “Prairie Winter Wasteland” Friedman plays the guitar to start this song–quietly ringing electric guitar.  There’s an interesting bass line from Bingham on this song and Westerlnd is using a small whisk brush on the cymbals.

[READ: April 20, 2020] “Ride or Die”

This is an excerpt from the novel The Last Taxi Driver.

Set in Mississippi, this excerpt follows a cab driver with one fare, a man just released from prison.

He says they never tell him what they were in for, only that they just got out.

This man–white dude, mid-thirties, a few missing teeth, a few prison tats–is in a fantastic mood.  He’s carrying a twelve-pack of Bud Light and asks to go to the Bethune Woods Project.

The driver says he didn’t even know these projects existed before he started driving a cab.  Most of the other cab companies shun the projects.  He knows that Uber is coming to town “I’ve never used an Uber and don’t understand how that works”), and he assumed they will shun the projects too. (more…)

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »