Kamikaze Ground Crew, Chico Hamilton, David Ostwald, Avishai Cohen, James Chance and Leny Andrade
The contemporary art centre PS1, in Queens, has been running its Saturday afternoon Warm Up sessions for a decade now, sucking music freaks inside its portals, who'll maybe find some time to scoot around the gallery exhibitions and installations, besides tuning into an ultra-varied courtyard menu of alternative rock, jazz and electronic sounds. This is the summer's penultimate party, and party is a suitable word, when the pulsing crowd has ample time to settle into the wide-ranging display of twitchy beats, quaffing an imaginative selection of specialist beers, finding shade underneath the swooping 'farm,' a large collection of suspended earth-filled buckets, growing produce up towards the heavens in an ascending pathway. There's even a shaded paddling pool, for children and ravers alike. The afternoon begins with ex-Swans drummer Jonathan Kane's February (avant rockabilly) and ends with Spectral Sound DJs Matthew Dear and Ryan Elliott (minimal house), but dominating the prime midway slot are James Chance & The Contortions, those champions of the New York No Wave scene of the late 1970s and early '80s. The line-up seems to be in place from the classic old days, featuring Jody Harris and Pat Place (guitars), Don Christensen (drums) and Robert Aaron (saxophones/keyboards, just like Chance himself). The leader might be older, and less prone to skirmishes with the crowd (on how many occasions did he really punch out members of the audience? Have one or two bouts of fisticuffs mushroomed into legend?), but he's still wired up musically, yelping and grunting in a manic post-James Brown gush, issuing a blurting stutter on saxophone, and strafing out cheap organ frills (and thrills), as Aaron covers him on whichever instrument he's not presently playing. The Contortion sound remains completely current, a savage dismemberment of groove principles that actually ends up intensifying the funk with jagged jump-cuts and ingrown bass/drum relationships. Over the course of an hour, Chance starts out with a moderate amount of jerking, upping the desperate vibrations until by the second half he's twitching spasmodically to a slipped beat that's the ultimate in sophisticated getting- down, a drenched porno spasm of cold sweatin' pose.
August 30, 2008
Once the sun descends, on that very same evening, the late set at Birdland couldn't have offered a greater contrast. It's time to unwind, mojito in hand (well, it should have been a caipirinha), to the gently spuming froth of Rio's bossa nova, as sung by the quietly energetic Leny Andrade, who dwells in that very city. The club is rarely full to capacity for the 'round midnight set, but it's the night before New York's official Brazilian Day celebrations, and Andrade doesn't visit the city too regularly. She began singing in her teens, playing with Sergio Mendes, later working with Eumir Deodato and João Donato. Her version of bossa is still moderately smooth, but the repertoire is not so obvious, with only a brief smattering of Jobim numbers, for instance. The trio of Dario Eskenazi (piano), Kip Reed (bass) and Helio Scheavo (drums) keeps in the background, their mission being to support Andrade's verses, but they nevertheless still possess a wiry strength. Her voice occasionally has a slightly harsh edge, as if she's enunciating in Portuguese Portuguese rather than Brazilian Portuguese, and Andrade maintains a perky bounce that's arriving from the earthier samba side. She does much of the audience's work by taking the show to their tables, being extroverted without being pushily demanding of participation rites. This makes it easy for the crowd to warm to her in a naturalistic manner, unforced and spontaneous.