Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for July 22nd, 2010

Central Park's Summer Stage: Check it out!

Central Park's Summer Stage: Check it out!

When I first found out that Stanley Clarke would be performing for FREE in Central Park’s Summer Stage, I immediately thought two things.  One, I must get into that show.  Two, I knew exactly who would be my plus one.

McCoy Tyner (Photo by: Dino Perrucci)

McCoy Tyner (Photo by: Dino Perrucci)

Working for the Parks Department, our partnership with the Central Park Conservancy allows for some really nice perks regarding Summer Stage performances.  So long as they are not benefits, I am able to plop onto the guest list of any show and bring a friend.  The cost of these perks are priceless to me.  (After this article I am moving onto the New York Philharmonic in Central Park….god, I love my job!)

Once I got on the list, I immediately invited my good friend, Nigel Hall.  Nigel’s first concert as a little boy was to see Stanley Clarke with his father.  My past connections to Stanley was strictly through my love for Fusion, which Nigel also shares.  Tonight was a lovely extension of  memories for both of us.  Those kind of moments are magical and it’s lovely to build on them.

The venue was set up with chairs in the front and blocked off sections for the “VIPs.”  I was rather early and I still didn’t have the ability to snag two seats. I only got one for myself and I hoped I could grab one later for Nigel.  The commotion over people Bogarting the seats and saving 10 seats at a time for people who hadn’t showed up was rather annoying.  If I had needed a seat immediately for a friend, I would have been in that commotion. Luckily, I was alone and accommodated haha.

Return to Forever

Return to Forever

I have never hidden the fact that I have a passionate connection to Fusion Jazz.  I have mentioned it numerous times in past articles.  Specifically, the group Return To Forever.  A group that defined Fusion and showcased some of the genre’s greatest talent.  Stanley Clarke is the bass player from that group.  Having seen Chick Corea at the Blue Note a few weeks earlier and having Al di Meola in town a few days later, the players of Return To Forever were spread out all over Manhattan and I was soaking it all up little by little.

On this semi-humid, sunny evening in Central Park, the Stanley Clarke Trio, featuring Hiromi, melted my brains.  However, not before McCoy Tyner Quarter, featuring Ravi Coltrane & Esperanza Spalding, geared us up!  OH MAN!!!

Francisco Mela (Photo by: Dino Perrucci)

Francisco Mela (Photo by: Dino Perrucci)

The McCoy Tyner Quartet featured:

McCoy Tyner – Piano
Esperanza Spalding – Stand Up bass
Francisco Mela – Drums
Ravi Coltrane – Saxophone

Seriously, the McCoy’s set could and SHOULD be an article all it’s own.  However, I just wanted to sit back and relax for McCoy’s set.  I knew I would be all over the place mentally when Stanley came on stage.  So, I sat back, relaxed, didn’t take notes and just absorbed what was taking place on stage. I actually am seated directly behind the female taking the below video!

Esperanza Spalding (Photo by: Dino Perrucci)

Esperanza Spalding (Photo by: Dino Perrucci)

The talent that was mind-blowing and the sounds were so eclectic and wonderfully brought together.  You had Afro-Cuban jazz composer and drummer Francisco Mela who was superb, locking down his drum solos each and every time and providing a wonderful session of beats for this insane jazz performance to groove too.  I can’t begin to describe his energy and talent.

I had never seen Esperanza Spalding before and I just wanted to BECOME her.  Commanding the center of the stage with all these great male musicians surrounding her, with this giant upright bass between her legs, biting her lower lip as she flew over the strings…IT WAS HOT!!  And it was almost impossible for me to not focus on her completely.  At 26 years old, her fingers move with the grace of an old soul and her sound parallels that. I mean come on…

Then we had Ravi Coltrane, son of John Coltrane, ripping apart the saxophone when his time came.  And this was just the opener…

Ravi Coltrane and Esperanza Spalding (Photo by: Dino Perrucci)

Ravi Coltrane and Esperanza Spalding (Photo by: Dino Perrucci)

The opening band consisted of the second son of luminaries John and Alice Coltrane on saxophone, a bass player hand-picked by President Barack Obama to play in Oslo Hall at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, a drummer hailed as “one of the most important Cuban drummers in jazz” by Jazz Times, and the bluesy stylings of McCoy Tyner.  UNREAL!!!!  I am almost always a hater on opening bands.  But this was a real treat.  This was talent opening for talent and this is the kind of music and performance I prefer to see.  HOT DAMN!!!

INTERMISSION

And then, after all that energy had been put into us, preparing us for the INSANITY that was about to take place…we were put on hold.  There was now a change of plans.  The show had attracted such enormous response that the outside of the venue had been swarmed with people.  A gentleman got on stage and said:

“I have good news and better news. ”  The good news is that there are hundreds of people at the bottom of the hill who want to be part of this lovely evening of music.  The better news is that we are going to stop for about 20 minutes and ask that you utilize the space around you so that we can provide entrance to more viewers.”

Stanley Clarke (Photo by: Dino Perrucci)

Stanley Clarke (Photo by: Dino Perrucci)

The venue was not even closed to being packed and I was in a chair so I wasn’t to worried.  At this point, Nigel was still in transit.  He had spent the day performing on free pianos all over the city.  Sadly, he missed one hell of a opener but his performances were well worth his delay getting to the show and you should check it out by clicking the link above.

Nigel arrived in plenty of time for Stanley’s set.  Perfect timing.  Two lovely gentlemen were sitting behind us wearing their Return To Forever shirts.  Nigel took their pictures on his phone!  We spoke of the coming Al Di Meola show at Highline Ballroom the following night and they already had their tickets.  Unfortunately, I was giving free tickets away through the Tiny Rager site but was unable to make it as I was heading to Phish that weekend.

After about half an hour delay, the stage started to buzz again and we were handed 2 1/2 hours of pure Jazz.  HELLZ YEAH!!!

The Stanley Clarke Trio:

Stanley Clarke – Bass
Ruslan Sirota – Keyboards
Ronald Bruner Jr. – Drums
Featuring: Hiromi Uehara – Piano

Hiromi (Photo by: Dino Perrucci)

Hiromi (Photo by: Dino Perrucci)

Stanley started the show off with Lopsy Lou.  Hitting us right in the face with the slaps of his bass and the snare drum tapping off the beat.  A great showcase of the bass and immediately I learned who the hell this Hiromi character was and what she was all about.  Some could say rager and some ragers might say showboat. Personally, I just have my jaw on the ground.

The words I want to use to describe her actions are as plain as SHE FREAKS THE F#@K OUT!!! Her entire body was involved, her entire mind was probably in outer space or in the keys…inside the piano…it is clearly an out of body experience for her when she plays.  There are no words strong enough to describe the insanity that is Hiromi when she plays for us.  Just take a look…and this doesn’t even scratch the surface of her raging…

At only 23 year old, Ronald Bruner Jr. blows my mind.  Beginning his professional career at the age of 15 at the Theolonius Monk Institute of Jazz, he has already played with huge Jazz legends.    His diverse drumming styles could be heard throughout the performance.

And then you had Stanley Clarke. The man of the hour.  If you closed your eyes, you felt as if you were listening to Stanley Clarke from 20 years ago.  He still has it.  Boy, does he still have it.  With his electric bass in hand, the group performed Charles Mingus‘s jazz standard, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat. Hiromi once again let loose and RIPPED OPEN her solo with the power and ferocity of an attack dog.  Check it out…

Stanley moved to the stand up has for a Return To Forever song called No Mystery.  I believe this song was originally written by Chick Corea so Hiromi started off the song with her plinking keys.  Initially, there was no bass.  During this song, Stanley had some technical difficulties.  You heard people in the audience shouting that we couldn’t hear the bass.  Nigel and I picked up on it immediately and just watched Stanley handle it in his smooth nature. He sat there looking a bit frustrated but sitting calmly, smoothly, smiling at us, letting Hiromi fill in his blanks.

Stanley Clarke - Bass!

Stanley Clarke - Bass!

After some commotion on stage, Stanley throws his hands up and then we heard it.  The bass was fixed and Stanley was projected out to us once again.   Ronald Jr. wiped his face as Stanley thanked the Tech and proceeds to take his solo.  And man did he make up for those lost minutes.

While no one else was shouting or jumping out of their chair, Nigel and I proceeded to be moved by the music numerous times bringing us out of our seats and hollering like wild kids at the stage.  Sure, this was a jazz show.  We were surrounded by people who would have preferred silence and a nice seated audience but that is NOT what was going to be happening with us tonight.  This was powerful shit.  This is the stuff that made us move and you can forget the manners and civility that is supposed to come with these shows.  After the third time jumping up out of our seats Nigel shouts: “Go head Stanley.”  Man, this was such a change of pace from the FUNK.

Roland Jr

Ronald Bruner Jr. - Drums

The drums held it down while mic was changed on Stanley’s bass. Hiromi continued to rage the keys.  Nigel and I bickered over the antics Hiromi threw at us while playing.  The way that girl raged, she would most certainly  knock over that wine on the Temperpedic commercials. Nigel is from the old school of playing the keys and feel that those kind of shenanigans while playing are not necessary.  On the other hand, I felt that her playing was modern, new, fresh and would entice and energize the younger parts of the crowd who might be sitting there bored because their parents drug them to this show.

Ruslan

Ruslan Sirota - Keyboards

The next song was fast jazz with a Broadway bounce. Our real first taste of Ruslan on his Yamaha Motif.   He raged some insane fusion keyboards for a few min and Stanley cooly crushed it in the backdrop.  Such an unusual sound.

Nigel loved Ruslan so much more thne Hiromi but Ruslan truly didn’t bring the heat that Hiromi did and we both verbally voiced that wish.  We were  both out of our seats for part of his solo while the whole placed sat quietly.

Hiromi's kicks...

Hiromi's kicks...

Stanley felt it and we felt it in him.  So many faces while Stanley raged slap acoustic bass and then Ruslan FINALLY brought the heat but not moving even half as much as Hiromi.  There was absolutely no flair with this guy but he was clearly talented and GREAT!

Stanley switched to using a bow on the bass for Paradigm Shift.  A nice slow, slow start to the song.  A shifty song that bounced back and forth between chaos and sanity.  Pleasent vs wild.  Nigel points out: “He’s had that same part in his hair for 30 yrs.”  Ruslan’s legs shook so hard and Stanley plucked the bass so deep. I loved this song.  Ronald was fast and chaotic.

This song made me think of lights.  I imagined the lift show if there was one. Oh Stanley. As we watched him pluck those strings soooo very fast, we joked about how we bet his wife loves the way he plucks those strings.  The slow inclinations were impeccable.

Set list…Lopsy Lou, Goodbye Park, No Mystery, Black Narcisuss, Good Bye Pork Pie, Paradigm Shift

Our View of Stage!

Our View of Stage!

The Stanley Clarke Trio performance featuring Hiromi might just have to be one of my top 5 performances of 2010.  It is a style of music that resonates with me harder then Funk, harder then anything.  I was watching the show with someone who I knew was appreciating every single drop of sound that was coming from the stage and I loved that.  The weather had turned cool and lovely.  It was just lovely.  At the end of the performance Nigel and I just stared at each other and smiled.  What a perfect night of music.

City Parks Foundation’s Summer Stage

CareFusion Jazz Series

Read Full Post »

Rocks Off Cruise Ships

Rocks Off Cruise Ships

Walking to Boat...

Walking to Boat...

How excited was I?? I had just spent a day at the New Jersey Shore and had come right from the Transit train directly to a boat on the East River to see Cornmeal, a jam-rock-bluegrass band, for the first time.

I had been hearing of this band for MONTHS!!!  Nothing but great things.  Once it was announced that they would be performing on Jam Cruise 9 I knew I had to check them out.  Even better, I had never been on Rocks Off Concert Cruise Lines so this was going to be a night of many firsts.

The Marco Polo Cruise Line

The Marco Polo Cruise Line

Not 24 hours earlier, Cornmeal had played for 15,000+ people at the All Good Music Festival in Masontown, West Virginia. And now here they were playing for us…maybe 75 people?  Quite a drastic change.

Foooooood.....

Foooooood.....

Rocks Off Concert Cruise Lines Series is a groups of various sized ships that leave from either the East or West sides of Manhattan and travel up and down the East River or Hudson River while a band performs in the belly of the boat.

More food...

More food...

Upon entering the ships, you are immediately in the “Hospitality” area which held the bar and food.  It is cash only so be prepared…I was not.   There were empanada, turkey wraps, rice, pasta and salad.  The women working behind the counter were cheerful and bright.  When I went to take their picture one of them ran away.   I didn’t have anything to eat but my friends did munch on some empanadas.  They were not that impressed but it served it’s purpose.

Hanging with Chris prior to show...

Hanging with Chris prior to show...

One of the positives that was made clear right off the bat is the fact that the space is so intimate that the band members were mingling all around us.  This allowed for numerous conversations, introductions and commotion between all of us.  One of the other positives is that I felt like I was on a mini Jam Cruise for a night.  It was lovely.

Allie Kral and Tiny Rager :)

Allie Kral and Tiny Rager 🙂

The staff was more pleasant and accommodating. First of all, the drinks are $8 and I only had $7.  The bartender was like, “Oh, that is fine. I will make you a drink anyway.”  That drink was soooooooo strong, my girlfriend kept telling me to go get more Cranberry in my Vodka Cranberry.

Another great staff moment, the intern who was running the merchandise table agreed to let me put my traveling bags behind her table so long as she wasn’t responsible for them.  This was perfect since I had just come off the train from the beach and wasn’t able to drop my things off at home first.  Finally, there is parking all around the docks but you can also reach the boats by all forms of public transportation.

Stage prior to show...

Stage prior to show...

Luckily for those of us in attendance, the weather was cooperating with a light breeze and low humidity.  Unfortunately, I didn’t really feel much circulation within the belly of the boat where the band performs and found myself constantly having to leave the stage area to get some air outside on the bow of the boat.

Cornmeal

Introducing Cornmeal...

Introducing Cornmeal...

“Wavy” Dave Burlingame – Banjo,Vocals
Kris Nowak – Guitar,Vocals
Chris Gangi – String Bass, Vocals
JP Nowak – Drums, Vocals
Allie Kral – Fiddle, Vocals

Noted as a Bluegrass Jam band out of Chicago, Illinois, I knew that I was going to like their sound.  I was just hoping they were as tight and off the hook as I had been told.  They blew me away immediately, effortlessly sliding between the two styles and by the end of their first song, Heaven on Time, I was singing their praises.

Took off down the East River

Took off down the East River

The first set was 45 minutes. During that time, the boat left port and traveled down the East River towards the Statue of Liberty.  Aside from the heat, it was difficult to focus on the band as we traveled due to the lovely scenery catching my eye out all the windows.  Just a beautiful backdrop for a lovely night of music.  How had I never been on these boats before?  What the hell had kept me away so long?

Cornmeal aboard Rocks Off Cruise

Cornmeal aboard Rocks Off Cruise

With the banjo and the stand up bass driving the bluegrass vibe, Johnny Put Down Your Gun was next.  A wonderful jammy tune about a renegade.  We all got a little bit of Johnny in us I think.

Johnny was born in old Kentuck
High in the hills of Northern Boone
Folks been sayin’ since he’s a baby
Johnny was born to break the rules

Traveling down the East River

Traveling down the East River

Kris Nowak-Guitar,Vocals

Kris Nowak (Photo credit: Courtney Astrid Mendenhall)

There was numerous times that I felt I heard horns.  Perhaps it was my state of mind and my constant want to hear horns in any group. Instead, Cornmeal uses numerous pedals and contraptions to create distinct sounds that otherwise their instruments wouldn’t make without help.  Kris Nowak in particular made his guitar sound lovely morphing between jamming out and the bluegrass measures.  Chris Gang proceeded to tell us how this is their 10th year playing together and how proud they are of this accomplishment.  We all cheered and I wondered how I had never heard of them until this year.

Cornmeal aboard Rocks Off Cruise

Cornmeal aboard Rocks Off Cruise

JP Nowak – Drums, Vocals

JP Nowak (Photo credit: Courtney Astrid Mendenhall)

During Long Hard Road, we came around Battery Park and idled at the tip of Manhattan.  I couldn’t help but be a little overwhelmed. There we were, floating in a boat only a few hundred yards away from the Statue of Liberty.  These moments are never wasted on me and at that moment, everyone was on the bow of the ship taking in the scenic views.  From the stage I heard: “We are going to take a short break now and come enjoy the view with yall.”    And then Cornmeal was by my side, taking pictures with my friends, holding conversations with everyone.  What a great thing.

More views of the East River...

More views of the East River...

The boat itself is very liberal with what they allow to go on.  Watching the band try to keep their balance was quite entertaining.  Attempting to stand myself was difficult and I wasn’t drinking. You can imagine how tipsy the other patrons on the boat were who were imbibing heavily.  On the other hand, tonight, there were numerous Wharf Rats on the ship.  Wharf Rats is a twelve-step program which met at shows and helps people stay sober.  On such a small boat, I felt a little bad partaking in my festivities around them.

And she sings too...

And she sings too...

Kris Nowak-Guitar,Vocals

Kris Nowak-Guitar,Vocals

Over the years, I have enjoyed the friendships of numerous Wharf Rats (or other various sober organizational members) who understand we are not all sober and that some of us still party…I like to call it “Raging Responsibly”.  Tonight, there were a few people who seemed to be all out MEAN to those of us enjoying ourselves.  I was shocked.  One girl was complete pissing and moaning about not being able to drink while another one verbally voiced her disgust when people lit up.  I find that completely uncalled for, personally.  No one was blowing cigarette smoke in anyone’s face or anything.  Peopel were being

I found out later that Cornmeal took home a Jammy Award in 2008 for Best New Groove.  This makes complete sense.  The artists that comprise this band are technically charged and brilliant.  Let’s talk about these amazing musicians.

Allie Kral of Cornmeal on Rocks Off

Allie Kral (Photo credit: Courtney Astrid Mendenhall)

First I have to go with the female of the band. The fiddle player, Allie Kral.  ALLIE KRAL!!  WHAT???  WHAT???  Are you kidding me?  I have never seen a female violinist’s arm move so fast. I have never been so captivated by a female violinist so fast.  It can genuinely be feared that her arm might fly right out of the socket and knock my ass out.  She is phenomenal.  Her speed is riveting, her precision of sound is right on point.

The view from the boat...I need a better camera

The view from the boat...I need a better camera

Then you have “Wavy” Dave Burlingame, the banjo player.  Oh man, where do I being?  He was incredible as well.  Flashes of Bela and others came to mind with this guy’s work.  I wish I could describe the sounds.  With his laid-back vibe radiating off his posture, his fingers flew over the strings to create a integral sound for the group.

Kris Nowak & “Wavy” Dave Burlingame

Kris Nowak & “Wavy” Dave Burlingame

During intermission, I was introduced to the Railroad Earth sound guy.  I completely forgot his name but his face is so unique I will most certainly be able to pick him out of a crowd if we ever cross paths again.  There was lots of talk of Jam Cruise being that Cornmeal was on the boat this year and even more talk about how people get on the boat working under a band.

Cornmeal on Rocks Off Cruise

Cornmeal on Rocks Off Cruise

Cornmeal on Rocks Off Cruise

Cornmeal on Rocks Off Cruise

Set List!!

Set List!!

For the encore, Cornmeal RAGED the Allman Brother‘s Whipping Post at some point.  That might have been my favorite song of the night.  I mean, they really really crushed this cover jamming at times and raging their bluegrass vibe as Allie Kral’s arm moved over the strings so fast I could not even consider getting a clear shot of her.

The entire vibe of the night was perfection. The weather was flawless, the scenery was gorgeous, the music was the best of both worlds…WE WERE ON A BOAT!! A GREAT date night adventure if you ask my opinion. Get on it guys…

Set I: Heaven on Time, Johnny, Pennies in the River, Dig A Hole, On My Own, Long Hard Road

Set II: River Gap, Calling Me Back Home, Not At Home Anymore, Walk (Don’t Look Back),

Encore: Molly & T, Whipping Post

Rocks Off Cruise Pictures

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: