- October 4—Barbez at Joe’s Pub: Not to be confused with Park Slope venue Barbès, Brooklyn band Barbez will be celebrating the October 6 release of their remarkable new album on Important Records, For Those Who Came After: Songs of Resistance from the Spanish Civil War. The album itself is a live recording from a 2016 performance given at the annual reunion of veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade; songs sung by the International Brigades. The music is an indelible reminder of the essential importance of dedication to a cause, no matter how doomed.
- October 5—Drunken Foreigner Band at Pioneer Works: Opening for Niger guitarist Mdou Moctar, Drunken Foreigner Band plays a loud, electric interpretation of the Akha and Lam Lao music of Thailand and Laos. The band lives up to its name, both in its unrestrained energy and acknowledgement of the cultural remove between the U.S.-born members and the Southeast Asian source material. Neither educational nor exploitative, the reverence and enthusiasm go hand in hand. A debut LP, White Guy Disease, is forthcoming this year on Electric Cowbell Records.
- October 6 & 7—John Zorn: The Bagatelles at NYU Skirball: The torrent that is John Zorn’s compositional career continues, and it’s going to take 45 musicians playing across these two days to keep up with the current; Mary Halvorson Quartet, Peter Evans, Jim Black Guitar Quartet, Kris Davis, Ikue More, Gyan Riley and Julian Cage, Craig Taborn, et al. This is the only chance to hear 100 of these short pieces in New York City this year.
- October 6-Yarn/Wire at the Kitchen: Two pianists, two percussionists, and the cutting edge of new music. Beyond just their pure musicality, Yarn/Wire presents music that can be maddeningly hard to hear in these parts, and this program is all by the worthy and under-known Enno Poppe.
- October 6-Stephen Crump’s Rhombal at Greenwich House: Like most of the best new jazz recordings, bassist Crump’s excellent Rhombal did not reach enough people when it was released last year. So go hear this terrific music, and the equally terrific group of Crump, Ellery Eskelin, Adam O’Farrill, and Kassa Overall, while you can. And don’t forget to buy the album.
- October 7—Group Doueh at Monty Hall: Western Sahara’s Group Doueh brings its desert blues to Monty Hall. The increased attention paid to groups from this region in the past few years runs counter to a reverse trend of increased chauvinistic hideousness in the political sphere, and is encouraging; also encouraging is the electric guitar tone, the scuzziest thing this side of Captain Beefheart’s “Dropout Boogie.”
- October 7—Daniel Johnston at Town Hall: The legendary Daniel Johnston, the prolific lo-fi musician who occupies his own sector of the indie firmament of the past four decades as a kind of outsider artist Robert Pollard, is joined by a rotating cast of musicians at each stop on what is being billed as a farewell tour. The New York show will feature members of Beirut and Cibo Matto, among others. Given that the musicians reportedly won’t have rehearsed with Johnston before the show, the evening seems poised to include false starts, miscues, and occasional startling beauty—much like the cassettes that made Johnston a beloved cult figure.
- October 10: Thelonious Monk Centennial Celebration at Jazz Standard: Monk lives! Though he turns 100 on the 10th itself, Jazz Standard starts their month of presenting his music on the 3rd, with the Steve Cardenas Group. The series also includes the great Kenny Barron solo, the intriguing Andrew Cyrille/David Virelles/Ben Street trio, and Charles Tolliver leading a recreation of Hal Overton’s famous Town Hall orchestrations.
- October 10-Brandon Ross at Roulette: Ross’ name on an album makes it automatically worth hearing. The guitarist with the gentle demeanor and the incisive playing style—every note makes a point—will be presenting Immortal Obsolescence, a series of pieces inspired by the work of Venezuelan artist Carolina Munoz and played by Ross, Stomu Takeishi, JT Lewis, and Charlie Burnham. The second half of the show will be the Henry Threadgill alumnus Ross/Takeishi acoustic duo For Living Lovers.
- October 11-Ches Smith at Roulette: Book an overnight stay on Atlantic Avenue. Smith has put together what he calls a chamber noise ensemble, Laugh Ash, and the group will be playing with live signal processing from Eli Crews. Smith shines in every situation, from interpreting Terry Riley to backing Lee Konitz to tearing it up with John Zorn, and his small groups These Arches and the Ches Smith Trio show that he is an impressive leader and composer as well.
- October 12: Lisa Mezzacappa, Glorious Ravage, at Roulette: Completing this mid-month triptych of essential shows is this large-scale, multi-media work from Mezzacappa, who will also be playing bass and conducting. Glorious Ravage (newly released on New World Records) makes music out of the experience’s of early 20th century female explorers, and is realized in part through video from Konrad Steiner, Alfonso Alvarez, Kathleen Quillan, and Janis Crystal Lipzin. The ensemble includes stellar performers like pianist Myra Melford and trumpeter Darren Johnston, and Fay Victor, one of the leading lights of the new black avant-garde, will be vocalizing.
- October 13—William Tyler Band at Bowery Ballroom: Guitarist William Tyler and his band open for Swedish singer-songwriter Daniel Norgren. To say that Tyler’s instrumental music comes out of the John Fahey American Primitivist tradition is both to offer praise and to sell the music short; just as the United States have grown more diverse since Fahey’s time, so is Tyler’s reach more sweeping, encompassing a broader range of styles, while at its core there remains the ineffable strangeness more central to America than the Constitution.
- October 14—WFMU’s Live Band Karaoke at Montgomery Hall: There are two kinds of karaoke: the kind you do with your friends in a private room, and the kind you do in public, in a bar or venue. The former insulates you from potential public approbation; the latter forces you to confront said approbation and, in doing so, liberates you. The live band variant of the public option is the most appealing of all—for if you falter, the musicians have your back. Proceeds from this festival of Cheap Trick-fueled self-actualization benefit WFMU.
- October 20—Works by Éliane Radigue at ISSUE Project Room: Part of the Austrian Cultural Forum’s Moving Sounds Festival, composer and clarinetist Carol Robinson, harpist Rhodri Davies, and electronic musician Laetitia Sonami will perform works by French composer Éliane Radigue, including OCCAM IX, Songs of Milarepa, Mila’s Song in the Rain, and OCCAM RIVER XVI.
- October 23—Dave Ruder at Secret Project Robot: Head of Gold Bolus records (and recent Rail Tracks podcast guest) Dave Ruder celebrates his new solo record Qualms Rectified, featuring members of his own band Reps as well as Sunwatchers, among others. The record’s casual, occasionally comedic lyrics belie a more rigorous compositional intent; songs like “Everything I Do, I’m Trying to Play the Violin” rise above their meta in-joke veneer by virtue of their affecting melodies. Amirtha Kidambi and Stevie May open.
- October 29 & 31—Diamanda Galas at Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph: There are certain superlatives that are only true when applied to Galas, and one of them is that this year she is back with a vengeance; two albums of her singing and pianism that mix equal parts abrasion and beauty, with a seasoning of Cthonic sensibilities. Live, she’ll be mixing her astonishing takes on standards from All The Way with the wordless ritual explorations from At Saint Thomas the Apostle.
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