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Jeff Bujak @ Club Love

(179 McDougal Street)

(w/ Higher Nebulae, D.V.S., & Orchard Lounge)

Show Pamplet

Show Pamplet

In my mind, I consider myself just beginning to learn about (and possibly appreciate) these late night NYC music scenes.  A scene where the music doesn’t start until 11:00pm, maybe.  A scene where, unless you asked for help, you can’t find the door to the establishment, a scene hidden under the bowels of the city streets.   I normally rage a live concert where the doors open at 6pm and the show start at 8pm.  And THEN, if I have the energy (if?…who are we kidding?), I end up in a dark and grimy basement venue for the remainder of the night.  Most of the time it’s because a friend has talked me into raging harder and not because I feel as though there will be true talent on a stage.  To me, these are the times to mingle and dance till your a puddle of water on the floor.  I have no idea what is going on music wise as…how do I put this….it doesn’t register to me as live music.  It just doesn’t.

Rage Equipment!

Rage Equipment!

Dj-ing is clearly an art.  Sampling music, producing sounds, splicing tunes, putting them back together like a puzzle.  I get it.  I can see the DJs gears working in my mind’s eye when I hear some of the get-down beats we dance too.  And when they rage, I stop dancing and I embrace the lift in the room’s energy, nodding my head in recognition that they just mixed a dope track that got the floor jumpin’.  So, I love it, don’t get me wrong.  I do dance into a puddle and I have fun but it’s not the same thing if it’s just a person and their turntables.  It doesn’t drag me in and make my jaw drop.

Now, take that atmosphere, with that talented puzzle maker and throw in a live instrument.  Like Break Science who has Adam Deitch on the drums bringing forth that extra layer that makes it intoxicating, or The Sullivan Street Shakedown, which combines DJs with numerous live instruments rotated each month.  It lies in the fact that it’s alive to me at that moment.  It’s organic.  I can see it being created.  Tonight, I would be enjoying the performance of Jeff Bujak and he brought me exactly what I needed to have my jaw drop.

Rage equipment!

Rage equipment!

The show was held at Club Love.  Never having been before, I immediately was drawn to the name, wondering what it must look like.  I imagined it being dimly lit, a loungy-vibe with bright tones like purples, yellows and reds.  Slightly Disco-esque with plush couches and anything you would find in a Austin Powers movie.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

With no sign to the establishment and the entrance being a door hidden by on of those large gate walls that businesses pull down when they close up shop, I only knew I was in the right spot thanks to the store owners around the area.  The show was to start at 10pm but I don’t think the doors even opened until 11pm.  I went across the street for a beer with the three other people foolish enough to come so early…see, I am still learning.

Rage Equipment!

Rage Equipment!

Upon entering Love, you head down the stairs into a dark, concrete floored, cavern-like basement and are forced either left or right.  If you choose right, you are met with the room that would be throwing us the get down grinds.  Probably holds about 250 (??) comfortably, one wall had bench style seating but that was it.  This was a room for dancing.  Period. There was a bar set up with caution tape around it, I assumed to give the waitress some room?  Flat out, not cool waitress.  I bought a $7 beer, gave her a $10 and she just ran with it.  When I asked her for my change, she was like “What? You want me to give you back 2 bucks?”  First of all, take a math course and Poor Service!!!  Seriously? Does it matter?  I used to be a waitress and I was a friggen princess even when I wanted to kill someone.  I will NEVER get used to the poor customer service practices in New York City.  There is TRULY nothing comparable in terms of shitty attitude .  Needless to say,  I was not amused.

Dancing and Hula Hooping

Dancing and Hula Hooping

There was no “stage” per say, just a portion of the floor that had been utilized for the equipment.  As well, there was an elevated portion that held the DJs booth.  I got to be sadly honest and admit that the front of the DJ booth was so high, I could barely see the tops of the DJ’s heads, let alone see them do their thing.  That made me sad.  But I am sure the rest of the world saw the Dj’s as they are all over 5 foot zero!!

If you took a left from Love’s entrance, you are taken to the restrooms, another bar and a separate room that looks cave-ish, like the walls were made of crappy styrafrom, the other walls were glass so that the patrons in the room were viewable from the bar area.  This room was for those who might need to take a rest from the intensity in the other room.  It is small but with stadium seating, more like concrete stairs.  It’s always good to have one of these rooms to retreat into when you have partied to hard.

Higher Nebulae started the night off with some dirty dance beats. There was some gospel layers and rock layers all with some deep whoomping bass.  When the bass beats were dropped we were given some familiar rock favorites and unexpected old school gems such as Metallica‘s “For Whom The Bell Tolls.”

D.V.S.

D.V.S.

Like I said, it’s hard for me to focus on the music when it’s just the DJs so I was wondering around trying to catch a buzz with the $10 beer in hand and attempting to get in the right frame of mind to dance into that puddle I was talking about.  The Banana Mafia was out in full force greeting what appeared to be half the venue who had come under his list.  He brought the energy, he brought in the dancers.  I appreciated that!  However, this Mafia member was without his Banana Suit?  Is that even allowed?  Am I supposed to be outing him over the internet?  Opps.  Either way, he raged all over that dance floor, as well as his friends, and we all had a blast together!!

D.V.S. was up next, his real name being Derek VanScoten.  Where as Jeff Bujak uses a piano to layer on top of his electronic beats, D.V.S. uses a Telecaster guitar.  I stopped my mingling and started focusing on D.V.S..  His music mixed Hip-hop, Soul and even Motown.  He sampled Jimi Hendrix‘s “Foxy Lady” and raged a great guitar during his samples.  He has recently toured as a solo artist supporting Ana Sia, Big Gigantic, Beats Antique, Boombox, Lynx & Janover, JFJO, and M80 Dubstation.  Honestly, not sure if I cared for him that much.  It didn’t do anything for me.

Jeff Bujak @ Club Love

Jeff Bujak @ Club Love

Let’s talk about Jeff Bujak, the man of the hour!  Duuuuude.  Having just discovered him earlier this summer at Rock The Resort, I was VERY eager to see him again live.  Jeff Bujak is a true musician.  A truly technically talented piano player who, from the moment I stepped foot into his performance at RTR, has had me hooked.  To me, when I listen to his music at home, Jeff reminds me of a mix between Tori Amos and Bruce Hornsby. I could come up with a ton of combination but seriously, his music is beautiful and quirky and demanding with organized chaos and it is all his own! He has coined his music “Intelligent Dance Music.”  Intriguing, no?

Jeff Bujak @ Club Love

Jeff Bujak @ Club Love

Jeff comes armed with everything needed to run his one-man show including light, sound, and smoke.  Cables and pedals everywhere, there is a laptop, a sound deck and his dual level keyboard at the helm of his personal electronic monster.  There is a row of lights above his left shoulder flashing us the light show in various colors and mixed to rage with the beat. His shoes were off and the show began.

The set list:

SET 1
Utopia > Kicker > Crowd > Machinist > Slimmy > Cascadation > Sunny’s Song* > PUTV > Mutator

* written by Benevento-Russo Duo (section of)

Jeff Bujak @ Club Love

Jeff Bujak @ Club Love

Utopia got it started with a synthesizer drop and a deep beat. Very quickly the layering of faster beats were released and right away it was a dance party.  His songs have catchy samples, this one, sampling Cake’s The Distance by using the lyrics “Reluctantly crouched at the starting line…”  After a while, amid the heavy beat of smashing cymbals, I feel a reggae vibe that quickly turns back into a deep electronic beat.

Kicker into Crowd brought us the classical, straight out gorgeous technical chamber piano skills that I adore him for.  These gorgeous notes layer over the rest of the dance worthy beats.  They are hit hard, there are sounds of electric guitars playing but I know that is Bujak manipulating the keys.  The sequenced drum loops made it sound like the drummer was in the room with us at times.  Then we got a little more of the pure keys, nothing manipulated, just beautiful piano sounds.  It’s a gorgeous mixture of electronic and organic.  I mean, there is just GORGEOUS composition amongst his hectic beats.

So, being that I am a romantic female, I found it to be just lovely music and I was pleased to see mainly men in that basement dancing.  In reality, I wondered if these wookies heard what I heard.  They were certainly dancing to the beats but I wonder if they realized just how good he sounded in that basement.  Club Love is rumored as having one of the best sound systems, so perhaps that helped.  There are parts of the songs that got so slow and so sensual.  Preferring to be a stand alone dancer at most shows I attend, it was my pleasure to dance intelligently with some dudes that night to this intelligent music.  A real pleasure. 😉

The music pierced my ear drums and so my ear plugs remained in the entire night.  I love my ear plugs because they helps break down the sounds and I can hear the music very clearly.  I recognized that I was in a grimy basement but being raised on Broadway shows and Classical theater and concerts, I was able to close my eyes and get thrown into the plush seats I imagined earlier.   The raging beats faded away and all I could hear was the gorgeous classical technical training he was throwing at us.

The music sounded like this (around 5:15ish mins he busts out the chamber piano):

But my mind would shut out parts and I would just hear something that sounded like this, beats faded away…just gorgeous:

Machinist is a song that amuses me. I imagine being at an Insane Clown Posse  or 311 show raging out and then Jeff layers some beautiful unmanipulated organized piano playing over it.  That is what does it for me.  I know I always say I love my horns, but I grew up listening to my father plays his piano every night after dinner while I cleared the table and did the dishes.  This fact also makes me overly critical towards keys players and I don’t have a single negative thing to say about Jeff’s work. It was a complete package, a complete pleasure.

Jeff Bujak @ Club Love

Jeff Bujak @ Club Love

Slimmy was mainly a synthesizer song and pretty sure I heard some Michael Jackson‘s “Thriller” in the mix.  It was HEAVY, deep, and a raging dance song.  This producer/composer really does delivers a vibrant sound so full of melodic energy it stirs even the most timid of dancers. No one was sitting. I make my way up to Jeff’s side, watching him play…oh the essence of a musician when they are in the zone.  Sometimes I swear can feel their energy radiate off them.  It’s what brings tears to my eyes sometimes.  We stand in the audience in love with these musician’s music but what we have to remember is they either love or hate what they are playing as well and you can fell it, you can see it.  The lights and the music and the venue were helping big time.  It was so beautiful and overwhelming.  One man was making all this happen.

I stepped outside for an adventure during Cascadation so I can’t tell you anything about that song. That is one you will just have to go and see to experience 🙂  I came back in towards the end of Sunny’s Song, partially written by Benevento-Russo Duo. Pretty, melodic, slower then the rest.  PUTV gave us a manipulated synthed start to the song with samplings from Eric B. & Rakim’s “Pump Up The Volume” gently layered on top of the rest of the tune.  He goes back and forth between the manipulated sounds and the organic sound the ivories make.  Again, the looped drum beats are stellar and fast forcing Bujak’s fingers to go full blast.

Mutator was last for the evening. To be honest, I wasn’t sure when one song ended or began.  My notes are full of lines where I believe one ends and another beings, arrows shooting up the page because I felt as if he had gone from one song to another and back again, not sure.  Sometimes it was clear and other times it was so well-played that if the change occurred, I had no clue where it was.

Here is the video I took of Jeff @ Club Love…sorry for the sound quality. I had my ear plugs in and it sounded GORGEOUS and crisp in my ear…you get the point 🙂

Orchard Lounge raged our faces off for the rest of the evening but I will have to review them another time.  Jeff was what had brought me here tonight. I had come with the intentions of leaving after Jeff’s set but there was NO WAY. Not only was I one of the first people to arrive that night, I ended up being one of the last people to leave.  Jeff hung out a bit and, when we weren’t dancing, I wandered with my dance partner, getting in to trouble here and there, totally full of energy.  It was a great night and all thank to Jeff….thanks Buj 🙂  Be sure to check out Jeff Bujak’s newest full-length released on Harmonized Records:  “Alive Like the Spine

And as I hit PUBLISH, the irony is not lost on me as I listen to my neighbor begin giving one of her lovely piano lessons…..life is magnificent!

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The 41st New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

A Russ Agdern Perspective: Part I

Mr. Russ Agdern

Mr. Russ Agdern

What a week!  My third trip to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (Jazz Fest) was nothing short of incredible.  The surprises were many, the disappointments were few, the food was awesome, and when you get to hear some of the best music in the world in one the most important musical towns in the world, you’re in for a good time.

2010 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

2010 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival takes place over the last weekend of April and first weekend in May at the New Orleans Fairgrounds, but, like most parties in this town, can’t be contained in one venue, so Fest spills out in the clubs, halls, restaurants, bars, record stores, boats, coffee houses, laundromats, Carnival float warehouses, street corners and empty lots of the Crescent City.  Two things set Jazz Fest apart from other festivals in my mind – the musical diversity and the food.

Who Dat Ville

Photo by Marisa Harford

While heavy metal, pop, opera, classical aren’t there, and quality hip hop is not so represented (The Roots and Chali 2na were both here in 2008, haven’t seen a hip hop group I like since at the fairgrounds), some of the very best in Jazz, Funk, Blues, Gospel, Zydeco, Cajun, Folk, Rock are all over the place at the fairgrounds and in the venues around town.  Ani DiFranco and Gift of Gab played club shows, members of REM sat in with Bonerama, Pearl Jam, Elvis Costello, Simon and Garfunkel, Van Morrison all played at the fairgrounds, so don’t be fooled into thinking this is solely a Jazz festival, because it ain’t.  Sure, there are 3 different jazz stages at the fairgrounds (one for general jazz, one for traditional New Orleans Dixieland Jazz, and one split between brass bands and Mardi Gras Indians) but there are also two main stages, a gospel and blues tents, a zydeco/Cajun stage… you get the idea.

Prejean's pheasant, quail and andouille gumbo (Photo by Prejean's Restaurant)

Prejean's pheasant, quail and andouille gumbo (Photo by Prejean's Restaurant)

The food at the fairgrounds is tremendous.  It is freaking delicious and goes way beyond “best festival food you’ll have” into some of the best you’ll ever have…period.  I wait all year for Prejeans Pheasant, Duck, and Andouille Gumbo.  Their Fried Chicken and Jambalaya combo is one of the best ways to spend $8.  And I’m not even talking about all the things most folks seem to like, like the crawfish monica, the shrimp po boys, the cochon de lait sandwiches, the mango freezes… trust me when I say you should budget yourself 20 bucks per day for food at the fairgrounds. You’ll thank me.

Photo By Lynn Lesh 2010

Photo By Lynn Lesh

This being my third Jazz Fest, I tend to have a rhythm I like to follow, things I like to do.  Some of my favorite moments of Fest have happened during the in between days or extra days, so I tend to do second weekend with an extra day or two on either end of the weekend.  This gives me time to actually see the city, something I don’t really do as much while the music is in full swing.  This also gives me a chance to catch additional great music at various places, including the Louisiana Music Factory which hosts many in store sets during the days surrounding Fest.  I think this review works best chronologically, so let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Welcome to NOLA

Welcome to NOLA

Wednesday: April 28, 2010: Day One

Arrive at airport, no traffic on Bronx/Queens Expressway and breeze through security line… only to find a gate full of ANGRY people.  Why so serious?  You see, the airlines don’t apparently know that it is Jazz Fest, even if millions of people do.  So they oversell flights, and are shocked when they need 5 volunteers to go later, but folks already have reservations and concert tickets.  I considered getting bumped, but wanted to get to town.

House of Blues, New Orleans

House of Blues, New Orleans

I don’t normally do House of Blues shows, would rather support local clubs.  But today, they had Kermit Ruffins of the Barbecue Swingers, doing a “Treme House Party” on stage with Walter Wolfman Washington, Dr. Michael White, Henry Butler, and Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews.  This sounded awesome.  Plus, Fesshead Krewe (represented by a metal bust of Professor Longhair) was hosting a party in an empty lot, with The  Rebirth Brass Band and an all star band of Neville-related project alums (Band called “Never Was Brothers”), which sounded great.  So no flight credit for me. Really excited about this House of Blues‘ show.  So excited that I call after I land to see if I should get tickets early or just walk up.  The box office suggested coming early so I head right from my host’s place towards The French Quarter.  On the way, pass by Fesshead Fest, and never have a received a look of utter betrayal like the one I got from the man waiving people in to Fesshead Fest.  The guy was shocked that I kept driving, how could I do this to him?!  But I stopped long enough to hear The  Rebirth Brass Band rock out one tune and was it hot!

Café Du Monde beignets

Café Du Monde's Beignets (Photo by Marisa Harford)

Park on Decatur, run to the box office, snag a ticket, stop by Café Du Monde for some beignets (French donuts with powdered sugar) and some Café Au Lait (coffee with milk).  Great couple musicians jamming on some folk and soul music out front, a sister with dreads on guitar, a youngish guy on guitar, a drummer… another guitarist walks up and joins them, as does a singer, who starts singin’ the hell out of some Bill Withers.  I love Bill Withers.  Hey, apparently, so does Cyril Neville, who’s suddenly standing five feet from me, also checking them out.  I decide not to say anything to him, even though he’s an amazing musician who’s done some amazing stuff, most recently touring with Galactic and burning down The Brooklyn Bowl after The Saints won the Super Bowl.  Another woman walks up and starts singing Aretha Franklin‘s “Chain of Fools” and is fantastic.  This is gonna be a good week.

Go hang with my host for a few moments before I head over the House of Blues, he’s an old friend through social justice work and is a good dude trying to good work in a city that needs it.  Off to HOB!

Photo by Matt Cornell

Kermit's Poster (Photo by Matt Cornell)

Show review:

This show had all the makings of an epic, but some things worried me – like why call it a “Treme House Party” when people can go see Kermit Ruffins playing in the Treme tomorrow night?  It’s Jazz Fest.  My guess is that lineup doesn’t need to piggy back off the show, even if it is popular.  Great opening act, singer and a guitarist accompanying.  Great voice, insane Mariah Carey-like upper range.  But the main event was a disappointment, for a few reasons:

1)      The curtain opened and we were watching a ‘Treme House Party’.  The stage was set with couches, chairs, a bar, and random non musicians hangin’ out, having drinks.  Weird.  The House of Blues brings you a fake version of something that exists for real a couple miles away tomorrow.

Trombone Shorty @ Kermit's Show

Trombone Shorty @ Kermit's Show (Photo by Matt Cornell)

2)      I had hoped there would be some real interaction between the guests, with each other, with Kermit.  But the show was a lot more of Kermit plays one song, special guest X leads The Barbeque Swingers for a few numbers, maybe Kermit joins on one, then special guest X leaves.  LAME.  Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t actually lame, the musicianship was fantastic, but the vibe was off, and Kermit having a drink on stage, trumpet in hand, while someone else leads his band and doesn’t get in on it?  Weird stuff.

3)      Because of 1 and 2, things were low energy for the first half, which is a shame b/c Walter Wolfman Washington and Dr. Michael White were great.  But Henry Butler really kicked things up a notch with his cover of “Mustang Sally.”  Then Trombone Shorty’s mini set was also great and he brought his brother James Andrews out to do “Skokie” and “Oop Oop A Doo.”

Treme on HBO

Treme on HBO

4)      I’m sure Treme is awesome.  I can’t wait to see the series, actually.  And I very much dig John Boutte, the guy who wrote the song that became the theme.  Still, it sounds a lot like the beginning to “Do Whatcha Wanna“, and I got very excited the four times I heard it this weekend, only to be disappointed.  My guess is musicians in NOLA will be as tired of that song as they are of “The Saints” very soon.

I know folks say that bad sex and pizza, even when they’re bad, are pretty good.  But whoever said those things must clearly not know good pizza and good sex, because pretty good doesn’t freaking cut it when it could be mind blowing.  While pretty good, and probably great for folks who didn’t know they could expect more, this show was probably the disappointment of the weekend.  It could have been one of those crazy moments of synergy when brilliant musicians make something happen, but instead it was a weird, gimmicky thing that was more like an all-star review than the party I had hoped for.

Irvin Mayfield and the NOJO Jam

Irvin Mayfield and the NOJO Jam

Next up, I stopped by the Jam Session at Irvin Mayfield’s new place, called a “head cutting session.”  For y’all don’t know, cutting heads is not just jamming, but is actually competitive combat.  Kinda how a poetry slam is to spoken word and performance poetry.  So, to hear it billed like that, I was hoping for some folks spitting fiyo.  What was going down there was a bunch of younger cats playing some charts together.

Megalomaniac's Ball - Garage A Trois (Photo by Jon Weber)

Megalomaniac's Ball - Garage A Trois (Photo by Jon Weber)

It was great to see them finding their feet, but again, not quite what I expected.  Still, the players was solid, lotsa horn players getting their groove on to “Straight“, “No Chaser” and whatnot.    Good times.  Caught several songs then felt my energy start to flag a lil bit.  While I was enjoying the jamming, it wasn’t worth starting the week off sleep deprived.  It was too late to hit The Megalomaniac’s Ball, featuring Garage A Trois, Stanton Moore Trio, Dead Kenny G’s, Mike Dillon and Earl Harvin Duo, at The Howlin’ Wolf, so I decided to head back towards the rental car.  A good but not great start to the week, was starting to feel a little bummed.  Thing is, some of the best shows I’ve seen at Fest have been the night before, so expectations were great and not met.

So…it’s 2am and I’m driving down Elysian Fields and about to turn onto my friend’s street…when I hear a brass band.  I immediately park.  Last year there were brass band battles on Frenchman, a block away.  I head towards Frenchman and sure enough there are two small groups going at it, with a frenzied group of dancers between them.  More and more players join up, including Clarence ‘Trixzey’ Slaughter, formerly of Trombone Shorty’s band.  It’s getting crazy.  The crowd is getting larger.  For the second time today, Cyril Neville bumps into me.  I decide again not to say anything.  A guy shows up with a baritone (smaller version of a tuba) and another guy with weird saxophones.  A shorter Latina woman is dancing like crazy.  Cyril bumps into me again and I thank him for such a great Super Bowl show at The Brooklyn Bowl with Galactic.

Cyril: Aww, thank you man.  You know, that night… we were Doin Work! You know?

Me: Yeah you right. And brother, you sure were.

Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews has now shown up and though half the crowd is spraining eyeballs trying to notice it is him without staring, he’s unarmed and just there to watch.  The band is taking it up and up.  Two drunk dudes are doing their best to ruin it by stumbling into the band but thankfully not succeeding.  Clarence ‘Trixzey’ Slaughter is KILLING on his horn.  Hell yeah! Finally, the band busts out “Saints” for a while, then second line and it’s a wrap.  Instead of bed by 2am, it’s more like 4:30am now.  And while still a little disappointed about the first show, I went to sleep real happy.  Seen some great musicianship and showmanship, and Jazz Fest hadn’t even restarted.  This was gonna be an awesome week.

~ Article by: Russ Agdern ~

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