Arto Lindsay, Egberto Gismonti, Kassin, Orquestra Imperial & Arnaldo Antunes
November 30, 2012
Right from the outset, singer/guitarist Arto Lindsay appeared uncomfortable about the framing for this gig in the New Museum on the Bowery. He'd been involved in one of the current exhibitions upstairs, documenting the art scene in that area (Come Closer: Art Around The Bowery, 1969-1989). Much of the music erupting from that vivid scene would have typically inhabited some grimy, graffiti-covered, beer-swillin,' vomit-coated, dimly-lit joint, rather than this gleamingly white, blank-spaced, glare-lit gallery. Well, at least Lindsay's one-man show was down in the museum's basement. He might have felt quite exposed, like a squirming creature pinned to a sterilized mount. A butterfly and a beetle are apt creatures to personify the constant contrasts in Lindsay's songs. His gentle, softly whispered Portuguese lines were infused with the emotionally exposed troubadour sound native to his spiritual home of Brazil. It became a mixture, with Lindsay's fragmented, staccato guitar outbursts jolting straight out of the Downtown NYC environs, and harking back to his No Wave beginnings with the DNA trio in the late 1970s. He often separates these aspects of his work, but lately Lindsay has been developing a solo performance stance where the introverted aggression fuses into an entity that's shifting at a rapid rate between the two vocabularies, creating a third vocabulary. The violence is somehow calm. The floating fragility now carries an underlying threat.
Lindsay was like a one-man orchestra, employing a rabble of effects pedals to constantly change the tone and attack of his guitar, often in mid-phrase. Rarely is a musician witnessed exhibiting such a beautiful sense of poise, timing, gesture, sensitivity and sheer naked aggression. Lindsay's approach was extremely percussive, frequently dwelling on a flabbily detuned bass string, which he used to sketch out an underlying pulse. His 12-string turquoise Danelectro has been battered down by the decades, but it's lived with him enough to become a symbiotic partner. The combination of finger-brushes, tantrum blows, feedback, distortion shaping and chopping rhythms created the language of an entire band, orchestrated with loud and low dynamics, strategic pauses and violent detonations. When he was singing, the guitar swooped down into the sonic nether regions, becoming a sensitized rhythm tool.
There are few instances of noise-bossa, or sambacore, but even if there were, Lindsay would be the new genre's master practitioner. Suddenly, he decided to sing "Let's Get Lost," closely ghosting the fragile and forlorn quality of prime interpreter Chet Baker's spectral vocal. His other striking cover was of Prince's "Erotic City," milking its promise for romantic-sleazy commingling. Lindsay was full of smart self-observational quips about the art gallery situation, and his own place within that scheme. He pointed out that the gallery was loaded with white folks dressed in black, whereas down in Brazil he'd most likely have been playing for black folks garbed in white. Lindsay was at once a cheerful joker and a caustic critic. His sonic emissions matched his personality.
Egberto Gismonti/Chucho Valdés/Danilo Pérez/Gonzalo Rubalcaba
December 4, 2012
Four highly significant jazz pianists came together as part of Carnegie Hall's lavish Voices From Latin America season. It was a rare New York City appearance for Brazilian guitarist/pianist Egberto Gismonti. Cuba's Chucho Valdes has become a more regular visitor in the last few years. Fellow Havana man Gonzalo Rubalcaba and the Panamanian Danilo Pérez are more frequently found on the local club scene. What was particularly notable, though, was the opportunity for all four players to appear at the same concert. Initially, there were a mere three pianos on stage, but following the intermission a fourth was wheeled out. Such a piano-loaded stage is not a sight witnessed too frequently.
Each pianist was given his own space at first, and the majority approach seemed to be an absorbing of the lavish Stern Auditorium surroundings. Two things were noticeable: first, that some degree of classicist flourish was a temptation, given the nature of the gig; second,, there was a lack of projection to some of the playing, a sign that these artists have become deeply accustomed to an amplified instrument. The exception here was Valdés, whose method involved a complete dominance within the hall. He was markedly louder and more expressive than the other three, making himself at home in the Stern. It was an amusingly schizophrenic solo, as Valdés switched between grandiose flourishes and earthy Cuban son phrases. Gismonti played last, diverting to a linear flow rather than the space-peppered cascades favored by the other three. It was almost in minimalist territory, standing apart in its stylistic choices.