Friday, February 20, 2009

Leonard Part 7

I can't believe I'm actually typing this, but I managed to score tickets to Leonard Cohen's Beacon Theatre show last night. It was breathtakingly deep, dark and gloomy, as expected, but also, improbably, one of the warmest, most gracious performances I've ever attended. Read my extended account here, via The Volume.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Delicate sound of Gunter, etc.

Just got home from a late concertgoing night. Head on over to The Volume--the new Time Out New York music blog--to read my account of free-jazz demilegend Giuseppi Logan's comeback gig at Bowery Poetry Club. (My preview is in this week's TONY.) Hint: Logan may have headlined, but he was hardly the main event. Veteran German polyinstrumentalist Gunter Hampel (above) absolutely SLAYED on vibes, bass clarinet and flute (sometimes two simultaneously) in the opening slot. Hampel's a player I've long heard *of* but actually heard only a little, something I'm going to have to majorly rectify soon.

This continues my current German-jazz obsession: Don't know what set this off exactly, but I've listened to nothing but Peter Brötzmann over the past few days. The discography is legendary and voluminous, but I'm actually most pysched about latter-day Brötz, including the Paal Nilssen-Love duo Sweetsweat (on Smalltown Superjazz, which is rapidly becoming one of the most interesting jazz labels on the planet) and the Marino Pliakas/Michael Wertmüller trio Full Blast (originally on Jazzwerkstatt, now available from Atavistic), as well as a few of the Tentet recordings, including Broken English on Okkadisk.

And there's just no messing with a matchup this heavy (not to mention unlikely). There are a thousand drummers who play free in their sleep, but you can tell here that Nasheet Waits is actually feeling his way to that point; it's not "autopilot free"--he's getting there in a very honest, hard-won way:


Just finished and highly recommended: John Feinstein - Tales from Q School.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Morbid tales

I'm sure everyone's got their own personal list of most-anticipated albums of '09, but there's really only one record I'm dying to check out, and that would be the forthcoming Morbid Angel LP. No street date is set, though the official site tells us this: "The band continue to work on the new album slated for a possible late 2009 release."

The real story here is that this record--which, in accordance with the band's alphabetical album-titling system, is almost certain to bear a name beginning with "I"--will be the first Morbid record since 1995's Domination to feature frontman David Vincent (at left). I know a lot of people were psyched on the first two Vincent-less MA records, Formulas Fatal to the Flesh (I know, right?!) and Gateways to Annihilation, but even after giving them each many, many chances, I still found them lifeless, boring and unmemorable. Morbid's 1986-1995 incarnation is one of the greatest RIFF bands in the history of metal and decently competent vocals (from Steve Tucker) aside, these later discs just didn't cut it in the songwriting department. None of the parts seemed to stick.

The outstanding news is that the band seems to be back on the ball. Morbid has been playing a song from the as-yet-untitled new record live, and it seems to actually measure up to the band's impossibly high early-to-mid-'90s standard. (Covenant *is* the best death-metal album ever made--probably the best that ever will be made. That's not up for debate, as far as I'm concerned. Domination isn't quite as blisteringly ferocious, but it's still a very fine and enduring effort.) There are a whole bunch of versions of "Nevermore" floating around; these five allow you to triangulate (that word isn't really valid when referring to more than three pieces of data, but you see what I mean) an extremely full and clear picture of what the track is all about:

[This first one--sorry, can't get the embed code to work--was officially endorsed by Morbid guitar wizard Trey Azagthoth, via his MySpace page.]

["You know, someone was askin' me the other day, 'So Vincent, what's goin' on with the new Morbid Angel album?'"]

[featuring Vincent's introduction of new Morbid guitarist Destructhor--also of Zyklon and 1349--and a really, really weird and nonsensical monologue about being a member of the "extreme elite," which I take to mean the Morbid Angel fan base]

[This one and the following vid feature phenomenally clear sound quality.]

Note the extremely catchy initial riff, which seems to come straight out of the Domination playbook, and the funny operatic vocal bridge, which nods to "God of Emptiness" and other grandiose Morbid breakdowns. A very sound--and in spots, fast as hell--composition that very naturally inhabits the classic Morbid vibe without trying too hard to ape it. It's as though the band is picking up right where it left off when Vincent departed after Domination, and completely ignoring the three interim albums, which is totally fine by me. (No songs from the non-Vincent records were played either time I saw Morbid live, in--I think--'05 and '06; again, totally cool by me.) Ol' Dave (or Evil D as he's called in his side gig with the Genitorturers, the S&M-metal band led by his wife--also apparently the project for which he forsook Morbid in the first place) looks pretty buffoonish these days with his pentagram-emblazoned nylon t-shirt and dyed-black hair (see above again), but musically, he's still got it happening. I cannot wait to hear what I really feel is going to be a return to form for one of the greatest metal bands of all time (and one of my personal favorite bands, period).


In other classic-death-metal news, the unstoppable Cannibal Corpse has recently anted up with the respectably fearsome Evisceration Plague (the title track--actually one of my least-favorite songs on the record--is streaming here). It's no Kill--the downright unbelievable 2006 effort that completely blew my mind and thoroughly decimated my perception of the Corpse as a fun yet fairly workmanlike, unimaginative and technically mediocre death-metal band--but it's still a lean, badass effort. And in keeping with the recent Cannibal Corpse trend of issuing documentaries--I'll say it again: Centuries of Torment is supremely rad, a sentiment shared by the Times' Ben Ratliff--Evisceration Plague comes equipped with a highly entertaining making-of DVD. Could the Cannibal dudes be any more unassuming or fun to watch? I think not. (Fun fact: Like Kill, Evisceration Plague was produced by Mr. Erik Rutan, Morbid Angel's second guitarist--and a killer backup songwriter--during the Domination era.)


Lastly, wish Hexa luck with their British tour, and read Calvin Tomkins awesome newish collection of profiles, Lives of the Artists.

Friday, February 06, 2009

November in February

A quick one, if you please.

Until my headphones broke a couple days ago, I was thrilling to November 1981 (seemingly order-able here or on emusic, though my browser never lets me access the latter site), the Bill Dixon classic that was recorded in December of 1985. (Just kidding.) Anyway, this is the spiritual predecessor to the classic Vade Mecum sessions of '93: Just Dixon, two bassists and a drummer. I'm a die-hard Vade fan, but the Nov '81 group really has something special and sensitive going on--this is probably the third or fourth epiphany I've had w/ this session. Not sure if I've ever heard the drummer Laurence Cook anywhere but here; he's a wonderfully nimble and delicate force. (The two-bass team of Mario Pavone and Alan Silva is no joke either.) And of course there's that wondrous, indelible cover:

See what Taylor Ho Bynum had to say about November 1981 a while back. It was Bynum who sent me scurrying back to Dixon (I have phases where I listen to nothing but BD, but I had been too consumed w/ Confessor and Metallica of late to spin much jazz) with his recent post re: an upcoming Dixon CD/DVD on Firehouse 12. Cannot wait for that. I haven't loved all the recent Dixon efforts (I enjoyed Darfur, but couldn't really get into the Exploding Star Orchestra collaboration), but I'm very psyched that he's recording at such a clip.

Other items of note:

*Another old friend I'm catching up with is John Feinstein, who writes brilliantly, warmly and accessibly about sports. Have read a bunch of his books; right now I'm loving Tales from Q School, which is loaded with tales of triumph and heartbreak from the fringes of the PGA Tour. I know, I know--it probably doesn't sound too thrilling, but trust me.

*Lissy Trullie seems to be generating quite a lot of buzz, from The New Yorker and elsewhere. She hasn't released a lot of music, there are a few outstanding tracks on her debut EP, Self-Taught Learner. You can hear some of those tracks (including the exquisite "She Said") and read an article (w/ interview) I wrote about her over at the Time Out New York site.

*Like many others across this great nation, I'm a sucker for the strange phenomenon of remixes of celebrity meltdowns. Please, please, please--if you find profanity funny (and who doesn't?), check out the recently leaked Christian Bale on-set rant and its attendant remix. (I wouldn't click on this at work.) And I assume everyone's seen the Bill O'Reilly rage-a-thon ("We'll do it live!!!"), but if not, here's the original and, of course, the obligatory remix. I read once somewhere that any sample can be instantly transformed into a mantra or hook via a jammin' four-four dance beat. These examples prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt. (Not to mention the fact that I find them to be unbelievably hilarious and and infectious.)