December 2014 - January 2015
Staff Consensus Picks
- December 10 - 13: Gabriel Kahane’s The Ambassador at BAM. Gabriel Kahane teams with director John Tiffany and a seven-piece ensemble to perform his album The Ambassador, a series of songs as vignettes set in Los Angeles. Kahane’s lyrics draw from diverse sources, such as detective fiction and the film Die Hard, in an attempt to capture the varied soul of the city; his pristine voice stands in contrast to the sometimes gritty material, a contradiction echoed in the aesthetic of the Sunshine Noir series of films BAM is running in conjunction with the performance.
- December 21: Make Music Winter. Of the many events taking place across town for the winter solstice edition of Make Music New York, including an Appalachian fiddle parade down Flatbush Ave and a piece performed by cyclists traveling through Prospect Park which involves a special computerized bicycle helmet that cues bicycle bells of different pitches and to me sounds frankly terrifying, the most intriguing and non-threatening seems composer Hiroya Miura’s Lightmotif, which calls for brass and bagpipe ensembles to trace the shadow of the Citibank building in Long Island City.
- January 8 - 17: PROTOTYPE: Opera/Theatre/Now. Highlights from the third annual Prototype festival, with 10 days of performances in six venues in Brooklyn and Manhattan, include the world premier of Bora Yoon’s Sunken Cathedral at La MaMa First Floor Theater, a multimedia exploration of the subconscious, and a performance at St. Ann’s Warehouse by Vocal Theatre Carmina Slovenica titled Toxic Psalms, which juxtaposes texts from medieval times to the present day with the aim to invoke the idea of “the Collective.”
- December 3 - 7: Meredith Monk’s On Behalf of Nature at BAM. We are just at the beginning of a year celebrating the unique work of Meredith Monk, and this is one of the big events, the local premiere of her new music theater piece. Recordings cannot convey the physical life that her music and stage works convey, she must be seen and heard in person. This is the ideal opportunity.
- December 4 & 6: ((audience)) presents Paralektronica at the New School. A performing symposium, and a great value ($5 Thursday, free Saturday), with the subject “electricity and paranoia, radio and Theremin.” Who could resist? Not to mention you will hear ideas and music from Felix Kubin, conversation with the brilliant art historian Branden Joseph, a performance from Chris Mann (and if you’ve never seen what he does, you need to), and a blindfold sound walk around the Village.
- December 6: David Fiuczynski’s Planet Microjam at Shapeshifter Lab. Marked as one of our Undiscovered Lands in the October Brooklyn Rail, the Fuze brings his microtonal jazz/funk/prog project to Brooklyn, with the very special company of Matt Garrison and Jack DeJohnette. Man.
- December 7: NEC Presents the Music of John Zorn at The Stone. If you missed Cobra in November, and didn’t happen to be in Boston earlier in the fall, come to this extended concert surveying the enduring, vital accomplishments of Zorn. His name speaks for itself, but the chances to hear his music directly are not all that common in New York. Here’s one.
- December 12 - 13: Andy Bey at Minton’s. 52nd Street is just a name on a signpost now, and so Minton’s—located at the site of the former Minton’s Playhouse, one of the essential venues for jazz in the mid–20th century—is one of the handful of places left where you can hear the best in live jazz while imagining what lingering vibrations are left in the woodwork from historic gigs in the past. For these two nights only, the club hosts the marvelous Andy Bey, one of the greatest singers you will ever hear. To quote the estimable Kurt Elling: “If you haven’t heard Andy Bey, you haven’t lived.”
- December 15: New York New Music Ensemble at Tenri. Of the numerous excellent new music groups in New York City, NYNME is on the spectrum dedicated to the lasting roots of musical modernism. This concert of the music of Stefan Wolpe and Morton Feldman is a chance to fill in two important musical spaces: Wolpe’s music is infrequently played, but as a teacher he was essential to the development of what become known as the New York School of composers, and Feldman’s Why Patterns? caps off an extended year of concerts that have covered his Triadic Memories, String Quartet No. 2, and For Philip Guston.
- December 15: New Amsterdam Present Winter Benefit at Baby’s All Right. Our friends at New Amsterdam, who produce some of the most important recordings and concert programs every year, are holding their annual benefit show. Help them keep New York musical life rich, and enjoy live music from DM Stith, yMusic, and Battle Trance—worth the price alone, their performance at the ISSUE Project Room member’s party in November was one of the greatest things I’ve seen in many years.
- December 17: Petr Kotik’s Master-Pieces at the Paula Cooper Gallery. A great month for musical modernism! Kotik is not only the foremost living link to Morton Feldman, John Cage and the on-going avant-garde and experimental tradition, he is also a fine, and underrated, composer. He has mastered the musical setting of Gertrude Stein’s writing, and you will hear that in the American premiere of this chamber opera, composed on Stein’s essays “What Are Masterpieces and Why Are So Few of Them”, and “The Wars I Have Seen”.
- December 18 - 20: Max Johnson residency at Ibeam Brooklyn. Johnson has contributed to or led so many fine recordings in 2014 that he’s bassist of the year, no one else is even close. For $15 each night, two sets, you can hear him in a rotating set of ensembles that feature Kirk Knuffke on cornet, and will include clarinetist Ben Goldberg, Steve Swell on trombone, and Ingrid Laubrock on tenor. This promises to be one of the most satisfying jazz runs of the year.
- January 8 - 10: NYC Winter JazzFest. Eleven years old this coming January, this festival is one of the densest and most compact in jazz, which means, if you know your physics, that it has a large and inexorably attractive mass. Every jazz festival reaches out into different genres, this one is notable not only for having one of the highest proportions of jazz, but also in emphasizing the contemporary cutting edge. Within the stroll-able confines of the Village, catch a showcase of Blue Note artists; a benefit for Disability Pride NYC with Ron Carter, Brad Mehldau, an others; and sets from David Murray (three different groups), ICP Orchestra, Han Bennik and Uri Caine, the cellar and point, Dafnis Prieto Sextet, Dave Douglas Quintet, Jen Shyu, Kris Davis’ Infrasound, Mark Turner Quartet, Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Bird Calls, The Bleckmann Quartet, TRIO 3, and more. Lineups are subject to change, of course … but holy shit. Tickets start at $35 for single day passes, with a bargain $75 3-day pass.
- January 9 - 18: the cellar and point at Spectrum. Along with having one of the best records of the year, and appearing at the Winter JazzFest, this band is organizing some great music at Glen Cornett’s venue. They will be playing with the great guitarist Ben Monder, and presenting electronic music from Taylor Deupree and Marcus Fischer, as well as Morton Feldman’s extraordinary Piano and String Quartet.
- December 13: Phil Kline’s Unsilent Night at Washington Square Park. Phil Kline leads a chorus of boom box-carrying locals on a march from Washington Square Park to Tompkins Square Park. Beforehand, Kline will be handing out cassettes and CDs of the composition to those assembled; you are strongly encouraged to BYOBB. Should you arrive sans ghetto blaster, Kline might lend you one of his own, but get there early. You can also download the tracks beforehand, or use the smartphone/tablet app, and blast it digitally via improvised speaker.
- December 14: Wrekmeister Harmonies at Signal Gallery. Wrekmeister Harmonies’ album-length composition Then It All Came Down is a beautiful piece of choral-metal doom. Its impact comes slowly but inevitably, like a funeral procession that, first glimpsed on the horizon, eventually rolls past your door. Led by J.R. Robinson, the group’s first Brooklyn performance of the piece will feature Dave Pajo, Emil Amos, Dylan O’Toole, and members of Liturgy.
- December 20: Peter Evans at ISSUE Project Room. Trumpeter Peter Evans ends his residency at ISSUE with a solo performance. Evans’s improvisational playing expands the tonal and expressive capabilities of his instrument in a manner similar to Paal Nilssen-Love and Tatsuya Nakatani’s work on the drums. Tonight’s performance is one of the last before ISSUE temporarily closes for renovations to its space at 22 Boerum Place in February.
- January 16: Seaven Teares & Friends at the Stone. Seaven Teares’ 2013 album Power Ballads draws beauty out of the abject in a strange blend of folk and early music that sounds like a kind of prog-rock Morris dance. The group plays as part of guitarist Charlie Looker’s residency at the Stone.
- December 6: Bastard Noise at the Silent Barn. What better way to get into the holiday spirit than by bringing your friends and loved ones to the Silent Barn to see a packed bill of power electronics and assorted chaos headlined by noise stalwarts Bastard Noise. Nyodene D and Hexbreaker Quartet are among the others scheduled to perform.
- December 12, 2014: Pauline Oliveros at Roulette. Oliveros has always had one of the most enlightening philosophies on music: “Listen to everything all the time and remind yourself when you are not listening" Indeed, it is her Deep Listening movement that has continued to enrich our perceptions of the sonic possibilities of music. Don’t be surprised if the 82-year old can still make a lot of noise.
- December 13: Paul Clipson and Liz Harris: HYPNOSIS DISPLAY at ISSUE Project Room. Often live music/film collaborations seem contrived and heavy-handed. However, something tells me that Clipson and Harris are a perfect match for this kind of performance. Harris (who performs as Grouper) is known for her dreamy songscapes and Clipson for his immersive film collages,
- January 16: The Vaselines at The Bell House. One of the very best pop bands, the Vaselines evoke a tender sense of wistfulness to complement their jangly, infectious sound. As of their most recent album, the hooks hit just as hard as they did on their ‘80s recordings, and the songwriting is as strong as ever.
- January 28: Ramleh at Home Sweet Home. It’s only appropriate that Ramleh will make a 2-night stop in Brooklyn in late January, as their music perfectly complements the deepest winter despair. Having dropped much of the shock value that came with some of their early material, the band has again embraced their power electronics roots. They will also play on the 29th at St. Vitus in Greenpoint.