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Live From New York

Guitars In NYC: Fred Frith, Frank Zappa, Jonathan Richman, Robert Cray, Lenny Kaye, Bob Mould, Frank Marino, Jim Hall & Roky Erickson

By Published: November 16, 2010
Now, here's an example of the full electric behemoth. Even standing right back at the B.B.'s bar, this gig was immensely louder than the club's Project/Object gig earlier in the week, which was experienced from a frontal table. This was no bad deal. The Canadian veteran guitarist doesn't particularly look like a veteran. He looks very much like he used to look 30 years back, at least from a distance. Long hair and fringed jacket. Possibly his psychedelic guitar solos have increased in duration. Marino doesn't sing much: in fact, when he opens his mouth for a song, or to occasionally speak to the crowd, this comes as a shock. When Marino embarks on a guitar solo, we can expect to be transfixed for at least 20 minutes. Then his band's second guitarist might break out for a spell. Most of the shorter (the word 'shorter' is subjective) songs are Jimi Hendrix covers, or songs that you'd swear were Hendrix covers, but are in actuality Marino originals. It's easy to identify his greatest influence. At first it looked like Marino's self-imported sound engineer was amusing himself by gobbling a full table of B.B.'s provender, but upon closer observation it became apparent that he was also an old timey real-live liquid lightshow creator, responsible for the psychedelic back projections that were turning the Mahogany Rush set into a literal trip through the cosmic oceans. He might have been secretly squirting barbecue sauce onto his illuminated stellar light-stage, though.

The Jim Hall Quartet
Birdland
November 9, 2010

After a few days in which to recover, your scribe headed to the near-Times Square zone once again, this time for the late set at Birdland, where the music was resting at the furthest possible point from Marino's excesses. The very-nearly-80-year-old guitarist Jim Hall
Jim Hall
Jim Hall
1930 - 2013
guitar
was perched on his stool, with fellow quartet members gathered in an intimate circle to make music of the utmost sensitivity and quietness. New York native Hall has chosen players from varied backgrounds, creating a chemical formula that's unlikely in its composition, yet very comfortable in its meshing. Drummer Joey Baron is increasingly found within the mellower realms of jazz, where his detailed approach to percussion and rhythmic suggestion can find startlingly fresh expression. Likewise, the bassist Steve LaSpina
Steve LaSpina
Steve LaSpina
b.1954
bass
was adopting the lightest possible touch, delivering detailed lines that left plenty of open space. He prefers a singing, smooth sound rather than any gutstring brutalising or grainy dragging. Altoman Greg Osby
Greg Osby
Greg Osby
b.1960
saxophone
seemed at first like the outsider, as though this normally extroverted blower was having problems operating at the required level of restraint. His first few solos would tail off without a fitting conclusion. This tendency was soon rectified, though. For the rest of the set, Osby seemed to perfect the art of making capsule, logical structures with a clear climax and conclusion.

The set was, on the surface, concerned with a very predictable run of standards. It didn't take long to realise that "Bags' Groove," "My Funny Valentine," "In A Sentimental Mood" and "Chelsea Bridge" were set to be lovingly deconstructed. Softly swilled around the mouth by a team of connoisseurs, but fortunately swallowed lovingly rather than spat, unwanted, into a bucket. About half way through "My Funny Valentine," I'd forgotten which tune we were hearing, only to be reminded when its theme eventually returned. This was a wonderfully labyrinthine soloing journey.

Hall was fiddling with his amplifier, never satisfied with his sound. However, his guitar has an attractively muted, clipping sound, not overdoing the jazz reverb. It's almost as though Hall is trying for a certain dryness, to maximise the percussive striking of his strings. The second half of the set moved into less likely compositions, with the Brazilian standard "Beija Flor" (named after a hummingbird), "Furnished Flats" (based around Benny Goodman
Benny Goodman
Benny Goodman
1909 - 1986
clarinet
's "Six Flats Unfurnished") and the tricky 16-bar blues "Careful." This was an ample performance, with an abundance of impeccable solos from all four players, not only masterful when alone, but also in their relationships with the glowing musical whole. Exquisite.

Roky Erickson
The Bell House
November 10, 2010


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