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Archive for the ‘The Saturday Evening Post’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ELI KESZLER & SO PERCUSSION-“Archway” (Field Recordings, July 12, 2013).

This Field Recording [Eli Keszler & So Percussion: Making The Manhattan Bridge Roar And Sing] takes place under the Manhattan Bridge. Installation artist and drummer Eli Keszler wonders, When does an instrument become a sculpture?  Or can it become something architectural?

I didn’t know Eli, but I know his partners Percussion [Eric Beach, Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski and Jason Treuting] from a fantastic Tiny Desk Concert.  But this was my first exposure to them in the real world.  Their combination of crotales and big strings is at once bizarre, otherworldly, interminable and very cool.

There is magic in pure sound. And few know that truth as well as the quartet called So Percussion and the installation artist and drummer Eli Keszler — artists who, before this spring, had never met. We thought that they might find kindred spirits in each other.  So as a matter of artistic matchmaking, we at NPR Music decided to invite them to meet and collaborate on a new work that would have its world premiere at Make Music New York, the annual summer-greeting festival of free outdoor concerts across the city. And along the way to creating a world premiere, they brought a New York landmark in as a sixth instrumental partner: the Manhattan Bridge. They named their piece Archway.

So Percussion says that they wrote this piece just for the installation.  The drummers are present at their drums, but what about the rest?

Using a scissor lift, Keszler and an assistant began the long process of fastening piano wires attached to two large weighted boxes to the tops of lampposts near the DUMBO Archway beneath the bridge. More wires stretched from one of the lampposts up to the Manhattan Bridge itself.

The piece juxtaposes light otherworldly rings and deep resonating, almost mechanical lows.   Complete with occasional drum smacks.

By the time that their performance rolled around at 6:30 PM, Keszler and So Percussion created fascinating layers of sound. The shimmering, nearly melodic lines produced by bowing small cymbals called crotales offset sharply articulated snare drums and the grunting roars, squonks and groans of the piano wire installation. It was urbane and thoroughly urban music for a signature city setting.

And so for about 11 minutes you get a combination of low grunting sounds–the engines or the wires?–and chiming crotales.  Occasional snare hits punctuate the sound.

It starts with the mechanical sounds and the sounds of the crotales reverberating.  About 3 minutes into the piece a snare drum and rhythm is added, but very minimally and only for a instant.   Around 4 minutes the drummers start adding more percussive and less tonal sounds, but that is brief and soon enough everyone is doing his own thing, while Keszler plays a very jazzy style of drum on the drum and crotales.  Others are hitting snares and sides of drums.

But by the 10 minute mark it is a full-on drum solo with the gentlest/flimsiest drum sticks around–making little taping sounds (but a lot of them).

I feel like not enough is made of the piano wires –I would love to hear more from them.  I assume that in a live setting all of the cool sounds (ones that become more audible around the 10 minute mark are just reverberating around and around the arch–something that even the best mic’s can;t pick up adequately.

It’s still neat to watch, though.

[READ: January 28, 2008] “The Only Sane Man in a Nuthouse”

This is an excerpt from And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, a novel he wrote with Jack Kerouac.  They alternated chapters.  It was written in 1945 but unpublished until 2008.

On a Wednesday night, he went out with Al, Ryko and Phillips.  Agnes didn’t want to join them–she was broke–some people have some pride.  He joked at Philip that he was an artist so he didn’t believe in decency, honesty or gratitude.

They went to diner and a movie and then went to MacDonald’s Tavern, which is a queer place and it was packed with fags all screaming and swishing around.

The rest of the story is a tale of an older gay men checking out the younger men, straight men howling for women, and men hitting on anyone that moves. (more…)

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 SOUNDTRACK: DIRTY DOZEN BRASS BAND-Tiny Desk Concert #601 (February 28, 2017).

I have, of course, heard of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. I’ve probably even heard them on a record or two that I own.  But I don’t really know much about them (in this Concert there are only 7 of them, I don’t know if they ever actually have a dozen members).

But nevermind, because man, do they swing.  And they swing with a big chunk of funk.

“Use Your Brain” is catchy as anything–with a great funk sound.   I love that the bass is all done by the sousaphone (Kirk Joseph).  I love the squeaky trumpet solo that gets played at the end of the song by Gregory Davis.  And I love everything in between.  A cool thing is that there is a guitar (played by Takeshi Shimmura) in the song which you can barely hear except during the moment when the horns are quiet and then you hear it do a great little funky chord riff.  It’s not prominent, but it is essential.

“Best of All” has a very different style (an almost Latin feel)–with Efrem Towns the “vocalist” doing r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r- vocal rolls.  I’m intrigued that for most of these songs the saxophone Kevin Harris (tenor sax) and Roger Lewis (baritone sax) play the main riff most of the time and the trumpets are often silent (until they totally take the song higher).  Like the great high note in the middle of the song.  The guitar is playing lots of little riffs that you can hear every one in a while–rounding out the song very nicely.  And the sousaphone makes some great rumbling sounds.  This song has a drum solo and I love that the drummer (Julian Addison)is placed up at the front of the band so you can really see him–his playing is fluid and that solo is funky and not showoffy.

“Tomorrow” has a funky bass–all coming from the sousaphone–and a real ska feel (especially as the guys sing the chorus “Tomorrow yeah yeah yeah yeah”).  There’s a great rollicking solo from the baritone sax.  Whenever Towns sings, he’s barely audible over the music of the horns–which is fine because hearing his voice is fun even if you can’t really hear what he’s saying.

For the final song, “My Feet Can’t Fail Me Now” Davis says:

This is the song where you all participate –you all been a little bit stiff, not moving.  (someone says , well it is NPR).  For this song we want you to participle. Don’t just stand there and clap like that, you know… move. Put your back into it.  Put your wiggle in the wiggle.  Drop it like it’s hot.  All that stuff you do behind closed doors do it now–well not all you do.

The song is super fun and dancey with a big chorus chant of “feet can’t fail me now, feet can’t fail me now.”  There’s some great horn and a cool wah wah guitar throughout the song.

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band show just how much diversity you can get with “just a brass band.”  This was a super fun concert.

[READ: February 13, 2017] The Complete Peanuts Comics and Stories

This is the final book in the Complete Peanuts series from Fantagraphics.  It took 13 years–2 books a year–and here is the odds and ends collection to tie the series up.

There is an introduction by the editors of the series who explain just what this volume is:  The content has to be Peanuts, drawn by Schulz himself, and (when possible) with verification from Schulz’s widow, Jean.  Material that had not been seen before or was not in print in the twenty-first century got preferential treatment (no Happiness is a Warm Puppy, which is frequently reprinted).  So you’ll see dozens of strips not seen in any book and ones not printed in more than half a century. Six complete books are here– four story books, two volumes on life’s lessons.  Seven comic book stories, lots of single panel gags and lot of ads!

Then there is a Designer’s Note by Seth.  Seth has been behind all of these books (imagine dedicating 13 years of your life to something like this).  He says that he wanted these books to look and feel dignified and maybe even a bit sad.  He also wished to pay a personal tribute to Charles Schulz in his design.

He says that it was Schulz who first set him on the cartooning path.  He was the first artist Seth ever noticed: “Who is this magical person who signs his name in the last box of Peanuts?”  He never met the man and he’s not sorry about that–he has all he needs from the work itself.  He wants to think of this compete set as a monument to Schulz. (more…)

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1950SOUNDTRACK: FRAZEY FORD-Tiny Desk Concert #73 (August 15, 2010).

frzeyFrazey Ford used to be in the Be Good Tanyas.  Here she is touring her debut solo album Obadiah.  She is quite a character, wearing a leopard print outfit.

But her music is really complex and interesting.  On the opener, “Firecracker” she plays the guitar with unusual chord progressions but it’s her voice that is so arresting.  She use atypical phrasings and pronunciations that belie her origins (I could never guess where she was from).  Strangely, I get a kind of Cat Stevens vibe from the way she says words, but also another inexplicable emphasis: the way she pronounces exploding as explohdun.

She talks briefly about her new record while apologizing for having to tune her guitar.  “Lost Together” slower, pretty song.

“If You Gonna Go” is a breakup song which she messes up and then apologizes for, saying she’s nervous and very tired.  And she mocks herself for wearing a ridiculous cheetah outfit.  She says she bought it in London where everyone was dressed like this.  Stephen Thompson chimes in that if it was cooler they’d all be dressed like that.

She asks if they want one more and she ends with “The Gospel Song.”

It’s a really good introduction to an unusual voice.

[READ: September 10, 2015] The Complete Peanuts 1950-1952

After reading the Sunday Peanuts books, I had to go back and start the series from the beginning.  Holy cow, Peanuts started in October 1950 and ran into the 21st century!  That’ amazing.  It’s also amazing to see how different everyone looked back then.  It’s very disconcerting.  The only thing more disconcerting is to immerse yourself in the old comics, start to really appreciate them, and then see a contemporary version and wonder why he changed them so much.

When the strip first started there were just three of them: Good Ol’ Charlie Brown, Shermy and Patty (not Peppermint Patty) and they are all four years old.  Those first comics are really really different–the kids are practically stick figures.  (Although Charlie always had that little wisp of hair).  The kids all have huge heads and tiny bodies and are very minimal in their expressions.  Snoopy is there too and he looks very much like a real dog.  As it turns out I like this version of snoopy better than the current one.  He looks much more like a dog and he acts alike a dog–Schulz gets some great jokes out of doggie behavior.  Things like Snoopy hearing and smelling food and running over to beg started almost from the beginning.  As did they ways that Snoopy interacts and often drives the other characters crazy.

peaWhat’s mostly different about the early ones is that the kids are all mean to each other and CB sometimes wins in the verbal sparring.   He’s as much of a buster as the others.  It’s really fun and funny. (more…)

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