One of the most beautiful things about New York City it’s ability to provide us with beautiful music, of an genre, at any given time of the day or night. On this nasty rainy Tuesday night nothing could have kept me from a lovely intimate jazzy evening with Will Bernard, Todd Sickafoose and Ches Smith at The Stone.
I had never been to The Stone before and my girlfriend and I had a hell of a time finding it as we walked by it’s door 4 times before realizing that was the venue. No sign, both walls flanking the door looked like those metal security walls that the store fronts draw down when they close up for the night. We thought it was a closed store and kept walkin’ on by. The whole time I am geekin’ out hoping it wasn’t one of those places that won’t let you in once the gig has started. Finally, we figured it out. The only hint was a little sticker on the obscure front door that read “The Stone.”
As I entered The Stone, I was immediately taken aback. No windows, no bar, no merch counter…barely any light, was there even a bathroom? About 10 rows of chairs, maybe 50 in all, lined the floor in front of the playing area. I loved it. Musical intimacy at its best. Especially because only 20 of the seats were filled!!!!
The three wonderful musicians, Will Bernard on Guitar, Ches Smith on Drums and Todd Sickafoose on Bass, come up the stairs a little after 10pm and the first thing Will says: “Everyone’s gone to the bathroom, right?” Good stuff. Clearly, there would be no set break.
California invaded NYC that night at The Stone. All three musicians are transplants from various parts of California. Personally, I was born in Sacramento, California and wish I could remember more about the beautiful state. Good to know if I was still living out there, I would be surrounded by amazing musicians!! Well, with the exception of these three!!!
Many of the songs played last night were off an album that Ches and Will collaborated on a few years back called Directions to My House!
So, they go right into Agro Business. I notice that all the musicians were reading sheet music. With this style of experimental jazz, it blows my mind how their actions can be translated into notes on a page. I would LOVE to see what the drummers sheets look like. I kept going back to the drum composition. Couldn’t pull my eyes away from Ches’s playing. Will begins to manipulate his trippy guitar sounds with the machines at his feet. But we couldn’t hear the bass.
Turning to my pal,”Do you hear the bass?” “Not at all,” she says.
As I turn around to face the players, Todd bends down to turn up his amp. Now we are back business!
Wide Awake was next with it’s soft, slow start. The drum brushes came out. And soon the trippy picks of the guitar made way for the heavy parts that followed. As Wills face scrunched into his guitar rift, Ches proceeded to strike every surface of his drum kit. Again, how does that translate into sheet music? Silence. And then it’s Todd’s turn to bring it back up. Todd’s fingers are moving a mile a minute and Will’s guitar softens as the song comes to a close.
It’s about this time that something in my memory triggers in relations to Ches Smith. He looks sooooo familiar. Turning to my friend, “I feel like I saw him with Les Claypool or something….” Today, while researching Todd, it all came together when I realized he was in the Secret Machines 3 and I had seen them open for Les Claypool at Terminal 5 last year. I love when that kinda stuff hits home. And after last night, I will never forget his face, or hands, again.
I adore when the boundaries of time are broken in music; the spaces that can be manipulated with notes. The thing that separates each artist is when and where they place those notes. Crab Apple Red is one of those songs that I love for it’s count/time/beat, pick your poison. Todd started off with the deep bass and the rest flow in. Will shined shortly after as he picked away at his guitar. After hearing the studio albums for a while, watching him play these songs live makes it so much more outstanding! It humbles you because they may make it look easy, but IT IS NOT!! As Will and Todd make eye contact with a smile, they put the song to sleep.
WE GOT A NEW SONG TONIGHT!!!! In my notes I spelled it Mootwos, HAHA, but it is spelled Motooz. Will bends over to prepare his machines to produce just the right sound they have felt this song was born to release. I remember thinking…”foreboding”… when the song started. Low, mysterious…..Ches gave us a nice drum solo, Will manipulated sounds with his machines, turned over his guitar on his lap and then the SLIDE came out! Always a welcome sound.
“Are you having fun? I am having fun! It’s been a while since I got to play this stuff,” says Will.
Parental Guidance fullfill’s it’s name. If there was a silent movie and the parents were yelling at the child, this would be the soundtrack. It’s as if at first they are stomping their feet/bass strings and shaking their fist/drum sticks. And then they calm down and talk rationally….relax. Ches’s cymbal manipulation was fun. My friend would later say, “I have never seen someone do that before!” Personally, I was wondering how using your fingers on the drums translates on to sheet music. But, there is a story behind this song, I can feel it.
With Hall of Science, the brushes come back out on the drums, Will destroys his guitar into a manipulation of sound that would confuse most people. He slaps the guitar, smacks it. This is a whole different kind of rage. This is not music for the faint of mind, forget heart. It makes you focus. It makes you think. There are parts that make it feel like a little getup and go jam and then there is chaos among the instruments.Will starts shaking the curtains, Ches scratches the floor with his feet, Todd rips the music in half……”HEY! That’s my music!” Will proclaims. Laughter abounds. “Guess we can’t play the head out.” But they do and I loved it!
Up until this point, I had wanted to remain seated. This isn’t the type of music you dance too, or rather, I dance to. To each their own! But whenever I hear Not Necessarily Stoned, I immediately want to put on a saucy red dress and move. And move slow. Each artist’s talent shined on this song. Will on guitar, Todd on bass and Ches on drums. It was a perfect song to end the evening.
After thanking Will, my fellow blogger friend and I leave the venue chatting away about the interesting performance we were just privileged to see. It’s always fun introducing friends into new musical environments. Another Happy Tuesday for this Tiny Rager 🙂 Thanks you guys!