A few items of (outstandingly esoteric) interest, reported via the new-ish Time Out NY music blog, The Volume:
1) Hella is now a two-piece again. We'll have to wait and see, but this could be an excellent thing. I tried valiantly to get into the band's various nonduo records--issued after its early-aughts golden age--but at times I felt as though I was fooling myself. Hold Your Horse Is and The Devil Isn't Red, though, remain classic. I wouldn't expect any sort of retread, but let's just hope they focus and cut down on the jamming and general shenanigans.
2) Two thirds of Dysrhythmia joins Gorguts. For the tiny sliver of the population that knows who both of these bands are, this is pretty astounding news. Whatever comes out of this, it will not be even remotely boring. See my Gorguts post from last year for a few thoughts (though I doubt that MP3 link will still work).
3) Propagandhi slayed at MHOW on Friday night. One of the most interesting things about covering music for a living is keeping up with all the bands I loved in high school. Never thought I'd be writing about Propagandhi in 2009, but go figure. A summer-camp friend turned my buddy Drew and I on to them when we were like 14, and they became a mild obsession among my KC friend crew during our few years of pop-punk enthusiasm. Crazily the band has persevered and evolved into something you can actually take seriously. As with the mighty ALL, Propagandhi's current output is truly deserving of the moniker prog-punk, and lyrically, it achieves truly rare levels of both idiosyncrasy and sincerity. Consider my favorite song of 2009 so far, "Dear Coach's Corner":
I highly recommend checking out the lyrics here. The song is a rant against a regionally famous show called Hockey Night in Canada, which features a segment called "Coach's Corner," where cohost Don Cherry (no, not that Don Cherry) often espouses pro-Iraq War views. Ron MacLean, named in the song, is Cherry's fellow anchor. Apologies for that convoluted explanation, but there's a lot of background info at play.
*Laal and I have been making our way through a few Woody Allen flicks lately, and last night we watched Broadway Danny Rose, which I found to be both hilarious and formidably poignant. Going in, I felt like I knew the shtick so well--old-time Jewish showbiz humor, yadda yadda--that I didn't even need to watch the movie, but as with the best Woody material, the film manages to bury some very incisive commentary on life, love and art within a seemingly frivolous, cutesy package. Excellent stuff.
*We also caught Phil "Dr. Wu" Woods at J@LC on Friday night. The man seemed a little frail and he definitely held back a little, not soloing at length or very often, but when he did blow, it flirted with glory. He's got one of the most beautifully liquid alto tones I've heard live. Woods definitely let his band do most of the work and--when he wasn't cracking corny-fun "stimulus package" jokes--made a point of touting the longevity of his current quintet, featuring trumpeter Brian Lynch (a member since '92), as well as bassist Steve Gilmore and drummer Bill Goodwin (both of whom have been with Woods since '74). Those are pretty amazing statistics for any era of jazz, let alone 2009. Aside from Gilmore, who took a number of excellent, subtle solos, I can't say that the band struck me as much more than extremely competent and professional (i.e., for me, none of the players aside from Woods, advanced a very strong musical personality), but maybe that's the point: If you're a working band, you've got to simply be able to pull off the gig in as smooth a manner as possible--it isn't about wowing people necessarily. It's the kind of art that's easy to overlook, but it's a respectable one nonetheless and it made for a highly enjoyable evening's jazz.