All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live From New York

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


Meredith Monk, Richard Thompson, Wu Man and Bonerama

Martin Longley By

Sign in to view read count
Meredith Monk's Songs Of Ascension

Brooklyn Academy Of Music

October 22, 2009

Meredith Monk's Songs Of Ascension has been a public work in progress, continuously shaped by its environment. When the multi-dimensional composer had an afternoon devoted to her work at the Whitney Museum Of American Art (February 2009), the piece took on the shape of a formative musical performance, but a month later, at the Guggenheim, further Ascension Variations were made, in a full locational manifestation.

This five-day run at the Brooklyn Academy Of Music felt like the finished version, now corralled within a conventional theater space. During its first half, it was maybe too minimalist, even for a seasoned admirer of slowly-uncurling stasis. Monk and her fellow singers arrived from all aisle-points, starkly exposed as they made whooping calls that might have descended from the Sami village traditions of the Arctic Circle, or maybe the goat-chasing mountain-yelps of further southwards in Central and Eastern Europe. The Todd Reynolds String Quartet (sometimes a quintet, with a singer, Alison Sniffin, guesting on violin, or maybe a violin guesting as a singer) was mobilised too, wandering about the entire theater-space. Even the cellist, Ha-Yang Kim, played with an instrument slung from her neck. The similarly mobile percussionist John Hollenbeck made singing tones with his array of small gongs, bowed to resonate with the massed voices.

The visual staging was sparse too, as flickering image-tunnels made by video artist Ann Hamilton were projected onto various wall-spaces in the deliberately- and gloriously-preserved crumbling distress of BAM's Harvey Theater. A lone light made long swings on a long cable, and a dancer worked through a series of rotary-then-held poses. The costumes of the performers were more Planet Of The Apes than Star Trek.

The most effective part of this hour-long work was the climactic section, where full ascension is actually achieved, and Monk's core voices are joined by a chorus gathered up in the theater's highest levels. It was this rousing intersection that triggered a deep sensory flashback to the Guggenheim experience, as Monk sat alone, legs akimbo, in the middle of the stage, caressing a harmonium. Slowly, she was joined by the rest of the ensemble, who all carefully laid down in a spread-out pattern. This was the most profound realization of the piece, making the preceding evolution appear less wandering. It's a catchy tune, too.

Richard Thompson

City Winery

October 22, 2009

Speaking of tunes with thistly exteriors, the English folk troubadour Richard Thompson is a master of such songcrafting, and this three-night City Winery residency was billed as an all-request extravaganza. Thompson didn't always seem happy with this situation, frequently deciding that he couldn't recall the words or the music, or lining up two or three numbers drawn from his stool-top metal urn, procrastinating until he found a song that he felt the right vibration towards, or setting up a retro-active sequence that eventually felt appropriate. Much of this dithering was theatrical, of course, adding to the dry humor of the evening. In the end, Thompson did manage to perform most of the audience selections.

The large wino space was sold-out on all three nights, and this middle show was populated by a remarkably well-behaved audience. Even those punters who yelled out usually had something worthwhile or amusing to impart. When Thompson was singing and playing guitar, they were suitably attentive. This is the mark of an authoritative performer, who can maintain interest through substantial storytelling verses and dexterous finger-picking solos, using what could be viewed as limited tools to weave out epic musical tales. He placed "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" quite early in the set, which was a surprise move given that it's probably Thompson's best-loved song. He also traipsed through "I Feel So Good," "Beeswing," "Time To Ring Some Changes," and "From Galway To Graceland," but this was certainly no greatest hits package. Given his swift patter and casually off-the-cuff remarks, it's surprising that the American majority managed to decipher Thompson's quips. As ever, he's a master entertainer, though never at the expense of musical integrity. 'Twas a night of morbid laughter, doomed sentiments, and understated guitar-hero moments.

Wu Man's Taste Of China

Carnegie Hall

October 23, 2009


Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read Live From New York: Wayne Escoffery, Mingus Big Band, Tomas Fujiwara, Mara Rosenbloom & The Ron Carter Big Band Live From New York
Live From New York: Wayne Escoffery, Mingus Big Band, Tomas...
by Martin Longley
Published: July 7, 2018
Read Live From New York: Sabir Khan, Steve Smith, Billy Childs, Pamelia Stickney & Sam Amidon Live From New York
Live From New York: Sabir Khan, Steve Smith, Billy Childs,...
by Martin Longley
Published: July 4, 2018
Read Live From New York: Meredith Monk, Will Mason & The Fabulous Thunderbirds Live From New York
Live From New York: Meredith Monk, Will Mason & The...
by Martin Longley
Published: May 10, 2018
Read Live From New York: Alvin Curran, Ben Perowsky, David Tronzo, John Medeski, Tim Berne, David Torn & Hank Roberts Live From New York
Live From New York: Alvin Curran, Ben Perowsky, David...
by Martin Longley
Published: April 27, 2018
Read Live From New York: Four Dimensions, Maqueque & Asaf Yuria Live From New York
Live From New York: Four Dimensions, Maqueque & Asaf...
by Martin Longley
Published: April 2, 2018
Read Live From New York: Sō Percussion, Jack Quartet, Mette Rasmussen, Tashi Dorji & Godspeed You! Black Emperor Live From New York
Live From New York: Sō Percussion, Jack Quartet, Mette...
by Martin Longley
Published: March 25, 2018