Brooklyn Rail Highly Selective Music Events
By the Editors
- May 5 & 8: Symphony Space’s Afro-Cuban festival. While the Buena Vista Social Club may have been a PBS-type flash in the middlebrow pan, Afro-Cuban music continues to simmer at the roots of almost every style of popular music in America. Check out what’s cooking on the contemporary scene at the final two nights of this festival. May 5 features the great saxophonist Yosvany Terry, who plays with a beautiful, mellow fire, while the final night presents the Pedrito Martinez Group with Isaac Delgado, a rare pairing of the master conguero/rumbero with the sensational vocalist Delgado. Bring comfortable shoes, because you will not remain seated.
- May 6: Dizzee Rascal, Boy in Da Corner Live at Music Hall of Williamsburg. It’s a suspect enterprise, performing a classic album live, fraught with nostalgia and a built-in limit, for even in the best case scenario, what could you get other than exactly what you came for? Isn’t live music meant to be about spontaneity? The hope is that the quality of the material will transcend the limits of the format—and if anybody has a chance of doing so, it’s Dizzee Rascal, whose 2003 debut Boy in Da Corner introduced a generation States-side to the scuzzy brand of rap from the UK called Grime. Presented by our friends at the Red Bull Music Academy Festival NYC.
- May 6 - 7: Experiments in Opera Video Operas at Anthology Film Archives. Amidst all the new operas being made, there is very little new opera being made. One of the exceptions is the work of Experiments in Opera, who have prepared five new operas meant for the big screen: the composers are Emily Manzo, Ann Mikhailova, Aaron Siegel, Jason Cady, and Dorian Wallace with David Kulma. Hear Cady, Siegel, and Matthew Welch talk about the project on our December podcast.
- May 8: Mirah and Jherek Bischoff at Monty Hall. K Records and Kill Rock Stars alum Mirah, whose long list of collaborations includes work with Mount Eerie’s Phil Elverum, performs with composer and multi-instrumentalist Jherek Bischoff, whose music is equal parts precision, versatility, and virtuosity. Expect a night of mute beauty and complex pop.
- May 8: New York Guitar Festival/Sister Rosetta Tharpe tribute concert at Brookfield Place. Not your typical Mother’s Day event, but of course this is for everyone who loves American music. The Guitar Festival literature calls her the “godmother of rock and roll,” which, well, sure, why not. She was one of the greats of gospel and blues, so call her America’s godmother. Paying tribute to her 101 years will be Alvin Youngblood Hart, Ruthie Foster, and Valerie June, backed by the “house” band that includes John Medeski, Luther Dickinson, Daru Jones, and Dominic John Davis. And it’s free.
- May 8: Hotel Elefant presents Songs of Love and Violence: The Music of Matt Marks, at Roulette. If you’re like me, you walking around with the feeling that there’s too much art in art songs, and that poetry is too poetic. You’ll find the cure with Matt Marks’ songs about media violence—This Will Hurt Someone—sexual identity—Sex Objects—and what he politely terms “criminal mental health issues” in The Adventures of Albert Fish.
- May 9: Black Lips at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Atlanta, GA’s the Black Lips are proof of the enduring appeal of gleefully shit-headed rock music. Behind the four-piece’s antics and rowdiness is a genius at assimilating various strands of punk, blues, and Southern rock, running it all through the same fuzz pedal and blasting it out at full volume.
- May 9: Les Bonhommes/Happy Place/Darius Jones at Cake Shop. A triple bill of some of the freshest and most stimulating thinking in music that, well, begins somewhere at the edge of rock and jazz and, via improvisation, moves ahead from there. Less Bonhommes is Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier, plus William Kuehn and Deron Pulley; drummer Will Mason, who put out a terrific debut last year (Beams of the Huge Night on New Amsterdam), calls his new ensemble “ the Lightning Bolt / Giacinto Scelsi / James Blood Ulmer super group we’ve all been waiting for;” and Darius Jones is one of the most exciting saxophonists and composers on the contemporary jazz scene. This could be something you’ll be talking about for years.
- May 12: Wolfgang Muthspiel at the Austrian Cultural Forum. Muthspiel stands out in the current company-size cohort of excellent jazz guitarists for his exceptionally limpid, cool tone, and his lyrical taste. He’s got a 2016 release in the works on ECM, and he’s giving a rare, and free, solo performance at the ACF, itself the best-kept secret on the New York City cultural scene.
- May 12: Glenn Jones at the New York Guitar Festival at the Greene Space. Should you have missed Glenn Jones’s show last month at Union Pool, hear him at WNYC’S the Greene Space as part of New Sounds’ New York Guitar Festival, where his American Primitive style will complement performers from South Africa and Pakistan.
- May 14: Otomo Yoshihide and FEN at Japan Society. Far East Network is a super group of avant-garde musicians from Japan, South Korea, China, and Singapore banding together to play a two-set evening at Japan Society. An improvisational first set, with the audience encouraged to walk around the foyer at the Japan Society, will be followed by a sit-down performance in the Lila Acheson Wallace auditorium.
- May 16: Zula at Manhattan Inn. Zula’s music relies on subtle pulse and atmosphere, a complex background giving weight to the songs’ strong melodies, so it’ll be interesting to see how the Brooklyn band handles an acoustic set in the intimate environs of Greenpoint’s Manhattan Inn.
- May 16: Glenn Branca Symphonies at Masonic Hall. Walking that delicate balance between irreverence and establishment, Branca’s guitar symphonies are something enduringly special on the New York cultural scene. This show features Symphonies Nos. 8, 10, and 12, and the No Wave star-power of Reg Bloor, Haley Fohr, Mick Barr, Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, and many others. Bring your soul and don’t forget your ear plugs. Another Red Bull Music Academy Festival NYC presentation.
- March 17: Noah Preminger Quartet CD release at Jazz Standard. Preminger, of whom we are fans, has followed-up his excellent 2015 live recording, Pivot: Live at the 55 Bar, with a new one, Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground, that is even better. Preminger continues his exploration of the blues by playing blues singers—transcribing vocal lines from classic performances by Skip James, Big Bill Broonzy, and others, and using them as vehicles for improvisation. Very deep, very beautiful music making by Preminger and his fantastic group of trumpeter Jason Palmer, bassist Kim Cass, and drummer Ian Froman. One night only.
- May 17: Prince So Cool, Ain’t Nobody Bad Like Him at the Greene Space. Prince’s musical legacy is too multifarious and grand a thing to assess over the course of just one evening, but it’s important and necessary to make the attempt. A discussion featuring Touré—author of I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon—Michaela Angela Davis, Greg Tate, and Vernon Reid, hosted by Warrington Hudlin, will be followed by a DJ spinning Prince tunes.
- May 19: Chris Abrahams at ISSUE Project Room. Chris Abrahams of the Necks, fresh from that group’s recent two-night stint at the Whitney, performs a solo piano show at ISSUE Project Room’s home base at 22 Boerum Place. Abrahams expands the capabilities of the instrument, making use of distortion and delays.
- May 19: Musical Ecologies at the Old Stone House. The final performance of the season for Dan Joseph’s excellent experimental music series features the work of violinist Tom Chiu. Chiu is best known as one of the members of the Flux Quartet, one of the world’s finest string quartets, and for this show he will be presenting his own Ensemble Metrix, his “performative party band,” which replaces DJs and pre-recorded music on turntables with live musicians—it’s about fucking time! Pop/rock with sound design and improvisation, smart and fun fun fun.
- May 23 - June 11: New York Philharmonic Biennial. All it took was one Biennial to make the Philharmonic a major presence on the new music scene. This year’s begins with a bang, JACK Quartet playing new music from Derek Bermel, Marc Sabat, and Cenk Ergün, a microcosm of tonal and experimental goodness.
- May 24: SOFTSPOT at Silent Barn. Brooklyn’s SOFTSPOT play an atmospheric brand of pop, with great attention paid to timbre and texture, a deliberate approach that nevertheless doesn’t skimp on melody or groove.
- May 26: Koren Borecky and Loren Conners: Solo Piano Performances at First Unitarian Congregational Society. For his debut performance on the piano, following the release this year of an album of piano performances, The Red Painting, Loren Connors, best known for his storied career as a guitarist, is joined on the bill by Karla Borecky of Idea Fire Company.
- May 26 - 27: The return of Saturn Returns! at the Jazz Gallery. Get your long weekend start right with some paint-peeling jazz. This ensemble of Rudresh Mahanthappa, James Hurt, David Gilmore, François Moutin, and Gene Lake is going to blast its way through two nights, two sets each. Jazz fans know what to expect here, but for anyone who is looking for intense, joyous energy as an entry to this great music, go to these shows.
- May 27: The Body at St. Vitus. An unlikely combination of heavy music and new wave, The Body has a new album, No Ones Deserves Happiness, which they call “the grossest pop album of all time.” That’s music to our ears.