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Live From New York

April 2010

By Published: April 10, 2010
The boldly-monikered International Contemporary Ensemble is a young, eclectic chamber ensemble bringing a new vitality to the commissioning and presentation of composed music in New York. The group boldly looked to young improvisers for a night of new commissions at Le Poisson Rouge Mar. 16th as works by Peter Evans
Peter Evans
Peter Evans

, Steve Lehman
Steve Lehman
Steve Lehman

sax, alto
, Cory Smythe and Weasel Walter
Weasel Walter
Weasel Walter
were performed. Three of the four opted for trio settings. Lehman's "Manifold" was a setting for winds, with flute (Eric Lamb), clarinet (Joshua Rubin) and Lehman's alto sax alternately working with and against his live electronics. Walter's "Recontre," with Evans on trumpet and Smythe on piano, was perhaps not surprising coming from a percussionist, but was still surprising as a listener: complex keyboard and drum pounding supporting a hard bop trumpet solo that dissolved into a smeary, soundy passage before resolving in a cool stride piano with sustained trumpet tones and crushing snare shots. Smythe's "Pluripotent," played by himself with Evans and guitarist Daniel Lippel, seemed subtly referential, with flamenco-esque passages and smart piano minuets. The program ended with Evans' "Eat Your Dead," a sextet piece inspired by Italian horror films. It opened fiercely in the treble, with piccolo, pocket trumpet and distorted electric guitar dominating, but the horrorshow didn't last the entire piece. By midpoint it became a smartly shifting series of overlays and unison melodies.

—Kurt Gottschalk

Max Raabe

Carnegie Hall

New York, NY

March 4, 2010

The term 'shtick' comes from Yiddish, or German depending on whom you ask, and simply means 'piece.' With its adoption as showbiz terminology, it has taken on a negative connotation, one that might be leveled at Max Raabe & Palast Orchester, a 12-piece ensemble playing popular music of Weimar Republic-era Germany. But that would be an unfair and, frankly, tedious accusation. Focusing only on Raabe's hilarious deadpan intersong banter would be to overlook a delicious and subversively sincere take on timeless material played by musicians of the highest caliber. At Carnegie Hall Mar. 4th, members of the packed audience could be excused for feeling like they were in an RKO picture from 1935. Many numbers from the group's 2008 live Carnegie Hall recording were played—"Cheek to Cheek," "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf," "Wenn Die Elisabeth," "Mein Gorilla hat 'ne Villa im Zoo"—but there were also wonderful takes on "Miss Otis Regrets" (Cole Porter), Austrian chestnut "Schöner Gigolo" and especially Hilmer Borgeling's "Oriental Foxtrot." Yes, Raabe is almost preternaturally suave, leaning on the piano in between verses in his perfect tuxedo or sliding from cool baritone to almost choral soprano; yes, the drummer faked his tubular bells collapsing; yes, the German waltz "Dort tantzt Lulu" ended with the entire band coordinating a handbell solo. As Raabe might purr, "Who Cares?," reminding us with a wink that this music is meant for pleasure.

Christian Muthspiel

Austrian Cultural Forum

New York City

March 2, 2010

Ernst Jandl (1925-2000) was an Austrian poet whose work was both avant-garde in its subject matter and technique. Many of his poems were meant to be heard, relying on sounds rather than words for their effect. Trombonist/pianist/composer Christian Muthspiel is not just a countryman of Jandl's, he shares his appreciation for the architecture of the aural world. The two men's oeuvres met at the Austrian Cultural Forum Mar. 2nd in "Für and mit Ernst," a solo program featuring Muthspiel on both his instruments as well as percussion, electronics and vocals. 16 of Jandl's poems, many in recorded recitations by the author, were presented in what can simplistically be called suite-like format. But that really doesn't describe how Muthspiel created a multi-level soundscape as a foundation for Jandl's poetry. A trombone solo might be looped over itself to become a percussive track to a reading; a poem about a blackbird was followed by a gaggle (flock? covey?) of birdcalls processed into electronic chittering; piano was effected until existing as ghostly accompaniment to a music box; Jandl's bizarre wails were echoed by Muthspiel's yells into his piano's body, manipulated in real time. Translations of the poetry were provided, initiating the uninitiated into Jandl's simultaneous black-cloud humor and grim despair, a parallel construction aptly represented by Muthspiel's multiphonic musings. By the end, no one would have been surprised to see the building get up and dance down Fifth Avenue.

—Andrey Henkin


Saint Peter's

New York City

March 12, 2010

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