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Live From New York

Live From The Allen Room: Thurston Moore, tUnE-yArDs, John Mayall & John Hammond

By Published: March 10, 2012
A casually informal attitude was maintained, but Garbus continually delivered some particularly complicated constructions, largely on the hoof. She even made the tired old audience participation routine into an invigorating experience, prompting the rows of people to mentally choose a note in advance, then sing it in a holding pattern, setting up a natural waxing and waning of tone, metamorphosing its shape with a collective spontaneity. She also demanded that the crowd pull extreme faces at her en masse, and returned the favor herself.

Garbus revealed her plans to appear down at Columbus Circle 15 minutes after the conclusion of the Allen performance, mentioning that many of her followers couldn't afford the ticket prices for this virtually sold-out gig. In the end, she enacted an Occupy-inspired happening, draping black 'n' yellow crime-scene tape around the base of the Circle's golden statue, waving similarly-designed flags. There was minimal musical content, and the blog commenters were out in force the next day, dismissing the sincerity of her intentions. Nevertheless, the highly idealistic tUnE-yArDs heart was definitely beating in the right place.

John Mayall/John Hammond
The Allen Room
February 16, 2012

This meeting between two transatlantic blues greats wasn't part of the American Songbook season, although this could easily have been the case. Even though NYC native John Hammond hardly ever pens his own numbers, he's a master interpreter of the blues in its primal state. John Mayall
John Mayall
John Mayall
b.1933
composer/conductor
, from Macclesfield, England, writes plenty of his own material, but also drops in strategic tunes from the old days of the music (he has a particular fondness for Otis Rush
Otis Rush
Otis Rush
b.1934
guitar, electric
). With two sets over two evenings, there was a somewhat hurried vibe. Hammond came onstage promptly, trotting though an intense 20-minute introductory set. Every second mattered, as he edited his between-song tales into a concise form. Hammond is the epitome of the wandering blues troubadour, in the way that he unites voice, guitar-picking and harmonica-blowing into a tangled representation of his inner being. a howling porch songster.

When it comes to a basic state being imbued with the highest artistic expressiveness, Hammond is the master. Despite his mentioning an early 1960s television studio encounter with John Mayall in London, it's a shame that Hammond didn't end up joining the English blues-rock godfather during his following set. Passion infuses Hammond's voice, and his phrasing is indispensable to his percussive string-striking. The pauses between notes are just as important in emphasizing each line, his harp squealing like an animal in agony. Hammond emits the authentic essence of the blues.

Like Hammond, Mayall is also a multi-instrumentalist, concentrating on the keyboard, but also slinging in frequent harmonica solos. Unlike Hammond, Mayall's sound is firmly in the 1960s blues-rock tradition, with a typically British accent. Hammond is more of an authentic roots purveyor. It's hard to believe that Mayall is pushing 80. His performing energy remains undiminished. There's something about blues juice that rejuvenates the being, as Hammond is, also amazingly, on the brink of his 70th birthday. Mayall's own career has retained its importance, but he can't avoid being hailed as a mentor and talent scout, particularly during the 1960s, when his Bluesbreakers band was a hotbed of rising guitar talent—Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton
b.1945
guitar
, Peter Green, Mick Taylor, just to name a few.

The current four-piece features Rocky Athas, who contributed copious amounts of guitar frazzle. Praise must also go out to Mayall's new bass man, who delivered an imaginatively funk-textured solo towards set's end. Mayall played for little over an hour, and appeared slightly disorientated by this limitation. His accustomed haunt in NYC is B.B. King
B.B. King
B.B. King
b.1925
guitar, electric
's club near Times Square, where he'll usually play a single long set. This didn't stop him returning for an encore, with "Chicago Line" being a highlight of this early set. It was clear that his usual curve of excitement was interrupted by playing a shorter set, but Mayall still kept stoking regardless. Let's hope he didn't have to start from scratch with the second show.

Photo Credit: Kevin Yatarola


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