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Live Reviews

SubCulture, Grand Opening

By Published: September 18, 2013
"Did you hear what that man said?/ Most of my people are damn near dead." sang Porter, while the audience hummed along and clapped hands in a spiritual procession of musical interaction. "I will not submit to musical genocide!" the singer declared. Here, there was a thundering drum solo, followed by a minimalist yet formidable scat performance. One new song was debuted during the evening's performance that featured the same two-chord vamp as James Brown
James Brown
James Brown
1933 - 2006
's 'Get Up (I Feel Like Being a Sex Machine),' this became especially audible during the bridge section. The festive mood of the evening did not change when the band performed the standard ballad, "I Fall In Love Too Easily." Also performed was Nat Adderley
Nat Adderley
Nat Adderley
's classic, "Work Song." Chanting, hooting and hollering and steady handclapping romped the basement performance space, along with impassioned audience call-and-response. Gregory Porter and his band are one of the promising jazz acts around today.

The engendered theater of jazz: The David Murray
David Murray
David Murray
sax, tenor
Infinity Quartet featuring Macy Gray The David Murray

Infinity Quartet featuring Macy Gray is a fascinating combination. This was proven at a performance on June 19, part of a two-night stint at SubCulture in Manhattan. That night, they played with Donna Hudson on piano, Jaribu Shahid... on bass and Nasheet Waits
Nasheet Waits
Nasheet Waits
on drums. On the new record, Be My Monster Love, Marc Cary
Marc Cary
Marc Cary

appeared on piano, with guest vocals by Gregory Porter. Mr. Gregory Porter was not present at the performance on June 19 and 20 at SubCulture in Manhattan. However, this quartet featuring Ms. Gray is now embarking on an impressive world tour and headlining a slew of festivals. The band performed a few instrumental tunes just to get warmed up at about 7:30 p.m. David Murray blew his geometrical, West Coast saxophone style. Macy Gray took to the bandstand shortly thereafter. David Murray announced the tune on which Macy first filled the room with her voice as a song for the seminal African American sociologist and philosopher "W.E.B Du Bois."

Macy Gray's appearance is shocking, delightful. A tall, engendered presence gives to the evening a theatrical glow: the voice: an eternal specter of Billie Holiday. The highlight of the evening was the new album's title track on which Macy really shows her chops (the lyrics were written by Ishmael Reed):

Be my monster, love /We don't have to wait for/ No full moon Let your hair grow long Let your fingernails become Claws/ You're my wolf man/ I'm your Cat Woman/ I don't care about your flaws Make me/ Scratch and scream/ And hiss and purr Rip off my blanket Cover me with your fur Cover me with your fur... Here, the rhythm switches between hardwalking swing and a B section with bossatinged funk.

Mr. Murray's playing reflects a frankly compulsive mastery of scales. When listening to him, you can expect to revive the ghost of California jazz, acoustic music that did not die with fusion.

"French Kiss for Valerie" is a composition off the new record that Mr. Murray wrote for his wife. Performed in 6/3, the tune hints at AfroCuban rhythms and Mr. Murray's solo is especially saxaphonistic. David Murray's solos throughout the evening were fantastic. To not catch every grace note, squeal and squaller would be missing some of the magic that has placed David Murray in the catalog of jazz legends.

The tune "Related to a Psycopath" was the first song of the evening to feature the lovely Macy Gracy on vocals. Not a long way from the soul smash, "I Try," Macy's vocal habits can only be described as "naughty." "Green Satin Dress" featured Don Hudson calling up some electronic tricks on synthesizer, for instance the "toy piano" patch evokes an heirloom in an old attic. This is a crawling, suspicious waltz in which Mr. Murray can either alter the melody on solos, complementing the vocals or blow chromatic commentary over Macy's leadership.

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