Brooklyn Rail Highly Selective Music Events
By the Editors
Summer Solstice: As regular and reliable as a sundial, June 21, the longest day of the year, means that you’ll have to make a concerted effort to NOT catch some live music (maybe don’t get out of bed). Both Make Music New York and the Bang on a Can Marathon go up the same day, both give you as great a variety of music as you can imagine, and both are absolutely free. MMNY means there will be music, outdoors, all over the city, guide yourself by taste, map, and/or time of day. The Bang on a Can marathon is sadly not what it once was, whittled down from 24 hours to 10, but that’s still 10 hours full of variety, surprises, and the best of contemporary music making, in the vaulting resonance of the Winter Garden.
And starting early this month (June 3) but running all summer long, is the Celebrate Brooklyn Performing Arts Festival in the Prospect Park Bandshell. This summer’s lineup includes Esperanza Spalding, eighth blackbird, Lucinda Williams, Jason Moran’s Fats Waller Dance Party, Vieux Farka Touré, Tune-Yards, Willie Nelson, and more.
Also in Brooklyn, for two weekends only (June 14 and 21) is the Red Hook Jazz Festival, which punches far above its weight. In the Urban Meadow at President and Van Brunt, on two Sunday afternoons you can see an unequalled concentration of the finest jazz musicians in New York, including Jason Kao Hwang, Alon Nechustan, Ahmed Abdullah, Ben Monder, Joe McPhee, Karl Berger, Brian Charette, and Rez Abbasi. There are few other jazz festivals with this type of quality.
- Stone Residencies June 2 - 7/June 16 - 21. Beyond their typically outstanding schedule, this month is bookended by residencies from Roy Nathanson and Theo Bleckmann. Nathanson, always the most accomplished Lounge Lizard, visits with some of his colleagues from the Jazz Passengers, including Curtis Fowlkes, Marc Ribot, and stellar musicians like Myra Melford and Arturo O’Farrill—and on June 5 he plays with his notable new group, Sotto Voce. Bleckmann, a lovely, expressive, dramatic singer who can handle multiple idioms, has an amazing bunch of sets scheduled: he’ll sing Schumann’s Dichterliebe with Uri Caine, songs by and with Kirk Nurock, the music of Kate Bush, and songs by Kurt Weill, as well as sets with Ben Monder, Rob Schwimmer, and itsnotyouitsme.
- June 4 - 6: Tyondai Braxton at the Kitchen. Tyondai Braxton left spastic math-rock band Battles in 2010 to concentrate on his own work. An understandable move: it’s hard to concentrate on anything when Battles is playing. He performs HIVE, a new work debuted at the Guggenheim in 2013, in a three-night residency coinciding with his upcoming Nonesuch release, HIVE1. The performances will also feature a site-specific work by mixed-media artist Grace Villamil.
- June 6: Dommengang at Union Pool. Film transferred to a digital format tends to be marred by pixellated distortion. This occurs because the digital format isn’t able to handle all the information—the subtle gradations of light—that film captures so beautifully. Dommengang’s rural-mystic video for “Her Blues” seems to suffer this problem: all that spooky sun-dappled landscape doesn’t quite come through on YouTube. Thankfully, Sig Wilson, Brian Markham, and Adam Bulgasem’s tense mid-tempo stomp fares better in the transfer. See them live in full fidelity at Union Pool, celebrating the release of their debut, Everybody’s Boogie.
- June 8: Periscope at Shapeshifter Lab. An exciting looking band: tenor saxophonist Noah Premingers is a strong, satisfying player, excellent guitarist Jerome Harris handles the harmonies, and bassist Ed Schuller and drummer Pete Davenport round out the rhythm section. Expect the music to be both two-fisted and sophisticated. Then stick around for Michael Eaton and Adam Minkoff’s live recreation of Coltrane’s Ascension.
- June 10: John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble at Roulette. This is the release show for Hollenbeck’s new CD, Songs We Like a Lot, which cements a trend. Hollenbeck is one of the most artful percussionists and thinkers in jazz and new music, and his recent releases have been expanding the dimension where jazz and the contemporary art song meet. His fabulous What is the Beautiful? made new music out of the writing of beat/jazz poet Kenneth Patchen, Songs I Like a Lot was his first foray into “covers,” with modern and expressive arrangements of songs by Jimmy Webb, Imogen Heap, Queen, and others. The new one is full of surprises: Daft Punk, “True Colors”, and for anyone near middle age, “Up Up And Away.”
- June 10 & 13: Either/Or 10th Annual Spring Festival. There are never enough opportunities to catch Richard Carrick’s small ensemble, which explores the important edges of contemporary music. On these two concerts, they will play a brand new piece from Anthony Coleman (who will join them at the piano) and a multi-media work by Gio Janiashvili (June 10), then on the 13th, the program is tremendously exciting: For John Cage, one of Morton Feldman’s exquisite late works, and Horatiu Radulescu’s Aur pulsars and Dr. Kai Hong’s Diamond Mountain II. Radulescu is essentially never heard in the US, which is a shame since he uses music as a serrated blade to carve through the fabric of the universe into a dimension of exalted and terrifying spirituality.
- June 11 & 14: Lukas Ligeti 50th birthday concerts. Sponsored by the Austrian Cultural Forum, these will be both celebratory and valedictory: Ligeti will begin teaching at UC-Irvine in the fall. On the 11th, he’ll be playing post-rock/classical music at the ACF, with his band Notebook. Then at Roulette on the 14th, ensemble mise-en will premiere two new composed works. One of the linchpins of the new music scene, he will be missed.
- June 12: Lesley Flanigan’s Voices at Roulette. Flanigan makes music out of and for circuits and speakers, bringing space and physics back into the experience of electronics. Her new work adds voices to the mix, but the goal is still the same: press at the seams of sound until beautiful things come forth (hear her talk about the work on our February podcast).
- June 13: Paal Nilsson-Love’s Large Unit at First Unitarian Congregational Society. Norwegian drummer Paal Nilssen-Love—whose performance with Boneshaker capped part one of our coverage of last year’s Suoni per il Popolo festival in Montreal—brings together 11 musicians from across Scandinavia to make up Large Unit. The ensemble, first formed in 2013, shifts confidently from full-on bombast to slinky textural improvisation. Tonight’s show is presented by the still-peripatetic ISSUE Project Room.
- June 17: The Glass House Orchestra and Muzsikás at NYU Skirball Center. The four-decade old quartet Muzsikás billed as “the most famous of all Hungarian folk groups,” joins “Austro-Hungarian folk punk” ensemble Glass House Orchestra for a double bill at NYU’s Skirball Center. Even the list of sponsors constitutes a mitteleuropäische mix: The concert is part of KulturfestNYC, which is presented by National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene in collaboration with UJA-Federation; this evening’s entertainment is co-presented with Balassi Institute Hungarian Cultural Center New York.
- June 21 - 28: New York Electroacoustic Music Festival. Although this festival is sprinkled with lectures and symposium, the music itself goes well beyond academia. The massive amount of music scheduled—4 to 5 concerts on most days, is testament to the vitality of the field and the aural riches that await the curious and interested listener.
- June 23: C. Spencer Yeh: Solo Voice I-X at Artists Space Books & Talks. C. Spencer Yeh kicks off his 2015 residency at ISSUE Project Room with a performance celebrating the April release of Solo Voice I - X, the latest entry in Yeh’s diverse oeuvre. To quote a bit of Yeh’s statement on the performance: “I’ve been exploring the limit at which a phrase could no longer register as language– where vocalizations’ legibility disappears and becomes texture rather than communication.”
- June 28 & 30: They Might Be Giants at Music Hall of Williamsburg. They Might Be Giants plays two afternoon shows, each billed as “A They Might Be Giants show for the family,” with stroller parking, natch—it’s like a Guided by Voices show without the excess. A studio session on Michael Shelley’s WFMU show back in January was further proof that, well into its fourth decade, the group is still as charming, amicable, prolific, and generally fun to listen to as ever.
- June 28: The Little Black Egg Big Band, Oren Ambarchi at Pioneer Works. Returning to Pioneer Works for its third annual summer concert series, ISSUE presents Yo La Tengo side project Little Black Egg, to be joined by jazz artists Susie Ibarra, Daniel Carter, Taylor Ho Bynum, and more. Oren Ambarchi, subtle improviser, opens.