The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2020

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FEB 2020 Issue

February Listings

February 5: Rafiq Bhatia Release Concert at National Sawdust. New York’s Rafiq Bhatia is a gifted composer, experimentalist, and guitarist masterfully navigating the fringes of cutting-edge rock and the avant-garde with deep-thinking aplomb. Bhatia has worked with jazz royalty such as Dave Douglas, Marcus Gilmore, and David Virelles and on his just-released E.P., Standards Vol. 1 (Anti-), he’s veering further into jazz terrain while forming his very own sonic language. Fusing glimmering electronic textures and heady ambient tones, Bhatia, with Grammy-winning vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant in the fray, deconstructs classics by Duke Ellington and Ornette Coleman. Inside National Sawdust’s unique space, Bhatia and his excellent band will undoubtedly create otherworldly soundscapes.

February 6: The NY Klezmer Series Presents Radiant Others featuring Dan Blacksberg and Nick Millevoi at Town & Village Synagogue. The Philadelphia-based trombonist Dan Blacksberg is a prolific force and has been crucial in taking Klezmer music to the next level. As Blacksberg tells it, he “sings through his horn,” and that singular style was full force on last year’s rollicking Kosher Style by his fellow Klezmer pal, Michael Winograd. As part of the New York Klezmer Series (running weekly from February 6 through March 26 and including workshops, concerts, and jam sessions), Blacksberg and guitarist Nick Millevoi, as Radiant Others, will play originals and traditional Klezmer tunes culled from their raucous set from 2017 with trombone as the lead instrument, a first for the genre.

February 8: Scatter The Atoms That Remain at Rockwood Music Hall. Drummer Franklin Kiermyer is an unsung hero of the spiritual jazz world. In 1994, Kiermyer, alongside the legendary tenor saxophone colossus Pharoah Sanders, pianist John Esposito, and bassist Drew Gress, unleashed Solomon’s Daughter, a criminally overlooked document of ’90s-era New York City avant-garde jazz. Solomon’s Daughter finally got its due when it was remastered and reissued by Dot Time Records in 2019. A quarter-century after that recording, Kiermyer remains a bandleader/drummer force as he leads Scatter The Atoms That Remain. A powerful saxophone, piano, bass, and drums lineup in the cosmic mold of Coltrane’s classic quartet, their stellar recording released in 2019, Exultation (Dot Time), is a bracing and passionate epic cut from the holy A Love Supreme cloth.

February 8: John McCowen at ISSUE Project Room. One of the most forward-looking and mind-bending recordings released in 2017 was Solo Contra (International Anthem) by clarinetist, John McCowen. The sonic and textural shapeshifting were endless as McCowen created fields of pitches, drones, tones, and harmonics, wielding the clarinet as an acoustic synthesizer. For his inaugural performance as a 2020 ISSUE Artist-In-Residence, he presents what he’s dubbed “post electronic acoustic music” in performing compositions for solo contrabass clarinet plus premieres of new works.

February 8: Ambient Church: 100 Years of Theremin with NY Theremin Orchestra, Dorit Chrysler, and a Tribute to Clara Rockmore at Bushwick Methodist Church. The 100th anniversary of the theremin has arrived, and it’s fitting the milestone is being celebrated by the sensorial concert series, Ambient Church. Put together by the Austria-born, New York-based composer, producer, singer, and theremin wunderkind Dorit Chrysler and the New York Theremin Society, the NY Theremin Orchestra will perform original compositions along with selected works from Brian Eno and Kraftwerk. The program also includes the U.S. premiere of new work from Laurie Spiegel written for theremin and piano presented by Chrysler. The evening also promises a special guest thereminist honoring Clara Rockmore and additional performances, all accompanied by architecturally-mapped projections.

February 9: Elkhorn at Montauk Salt Cave. The adventurous acoustic/electric guitar duo Elkhorn are helping lead a charge of innovators who are defying the guitar’s conventional norms while taking different paths into freeform sonics. Elkhorn, along with Six Organs of Admittance, Wet Tuna, Matt Valentine, Garcia Peoples, Chris Forsyth, Wendy Eisenberg, Sarah Louise, Bill Orcutt, and more, are opening up new doors and possibilities on the strings with their unique explorations into American Primitivisms, psychedelia, and folk. On Elkhorn’s just-released The Storm Sessions (Beyond Beyond is Beyond), Jesse Sheppard (12-string acoustic) and Drew Gardner (6-string electric), are kindred guitar spirits as they gloriously finger-pick and jam away on entrancing vistas of psych-folk that are both dizzying and free-floating.

February 12: Jonah Parzen-Johnson at Nublu 151. As a one-man show, Jonah Parzen-Johnson is a wizard. Over the course of two studio records and two live sets, Parzen-Johnson has taken his melodic baritone saxophone prowess and his modular, analog synthesizer pulsations to unexplored zones. On his newest effort, Imagine Giving Up (released via Helsinki’s We Jazz Records), Parzen-Johnson goes further into the outer regions with an electro-jazz style that is built on deceptively old-fashioned sounding sequences, intensified by meditative and soulful horn blasts.

February 13: Bonnie Baxter, Dreamcrusher, Murderpact, and Channel 63 at Trans-Pecos. Brooklyn-based producer, multi-instrumentalist, and vocalist Bonnie Baxter helps captain an underground crew of self-described “mutants” who take over Ridgewood’s Trans-Pecos tonight to wreak their own brand of havoc. Baxter, also a member of electronic-punk trio Kill Alters, is a primo noisemaker whose chaotic and cathartic collages fry brains with abandon, as heard on 2019’s warped beats-driven AXIS (Hausu Mountain). Splattered sounds will be full throttle on this bill of mutants, rounded out by Dreamcrusher, Murderpact, and Channel 63.

February 14: Melaine Dalibert at Daniel Goode’s Loft. Michael Vincent Waller is not only a rising star composer whose 2019 album, Moments (Unseen Worlds) was one of last year’s best contemporary classical releases; he also produces the excellent series at clarinetist Daniel Goode’s loft on Spring Street. For its inaugural concert of the 2020 season, Waller welcomes French pianist and composer Melaine Dalibert. Dalibert celebrates the release of piano works (Elsewhere) by Greek composer Anastassis Philippakopoulos, and he’ll perform new works from his own album on the Elsewhere label, alongside pieces by Sebastian Roux, Philippakopoukos, and two world premieres by Waller. Dalibert also performs at Areté Venue and Gallery on February 13.

February 19–21: Mixology Festival 2020: Long Distance Poison and Snake Union at Roulette. This year’s edition of Roulette’s Mixology Festival—the annual experimental music feast with a focus on new and unusual uses of technology in music and media arts—may be its most adventurous yet. Over its three-night stint, Mixology will feature dauntless experimentalists venturing into unchartered territories of sound. The first night is particularly choice as Snake Union, a local knob-twiddling duo whose live appearances are rare, take the stage. Made up of intrepid brothers in electronics arms Chuck Bettis and David Grant, the two specialize in blissed-out landscapes that pulsate and throb with modular synthesizer and software-fueled blips and squeals. Snake Union is also celebrating the release of Three Arrows, a long-awaited collaboration with likeminded sound explorers Hisham Akira Bharoocha,  Bonnie Jones, Heejin Jang, and Matthew Regula. With Long Distance Poison.

February 20: Jamie Saft/Nels Cline/Bobby Previte at [Nublu 151( Piano and keyboard ace Jamie Saft is RareNoise Record’s de facto “house musician,” with multiple recordings as both leader and sideman to his credit. 2020 promises to be no different with new albums expected later this year by New Zion Trio and a set with drummer Jerry Granelli playing the music of Mose Allison & Vince Guaraldi. Saft is kicking off the new year with the spaced-out attack of Music from the Early 21st Century. Joined by his oft-cohort, drummer Bobby Previte, and visionary guitarist Nels Cline, the trio prove to be kindred spirits on this all-improvised set that was captured live during a brief tour in early 2019. The chemistry is palpable as Saft, Cline, and Previte effortlessly hop from Sonny Sharrock-like bluesy licks, organ-splattered psychedelic stoner rock, and skronky spiritual jazz.

February 21–22: Charles Curtis, Abigail Levine, and Dancers, at ISSUE Project Room. Cellist Curtis is an essential voice in new music, as can be heard via a new compilation on Tashi Wada, Performances & Recordings 1998–2018. He has been an important partner of the great experimental composer Alvin Lucier, and for these two nights at ISSUE Project, he will be delivering the American premiere performances of Lucier’s Orpheus Variations. Lucier builds the piece off of a sonority of Stravinsky’s luminous Orpheus, and as that is a ballet, so the new music will be performed with dancing choreographed by Abigail Levine. A wind ensemble of students from the University of San Diego will join Curtis to play another Lucier work, Glacier, with a cello line that follows the diminishing mass of 30 glaciers, measured over a 24-year span.

February 21–22: Terry Turtle Memorial Festival at Trans-Pecos. The self-described “primal industrial blues” duo Buck Gooter are the original DIY noise punks. With eighteen albums to their name and hundreds of shows under their belts, programmer and vocalist Billy Brett and guitarist and vocalist Terry Turtle churned out grimy, cheap synthesizer-splattered lo-fi anthems that occupy its own universe. With 2017’s 100 Bells and last year’s Finer Thorns, the Ramp Local label introduced Buck Gooter to a larger audience. In November of last year, Turtle tragically passed away from an aggressive form of cancer at 67. A beloved figure who supported many causes, from helping children, animals, and the environment, the underground community is now rallying behind him with this two-night memorial festival. February 21 features a night headlined by Buck Gooter with support from LEYA, Weeping Icon, Lily and Horn Horse, SUNK Heaven, Ships In The Night, SSS, and special guests, while the following evening presents Buck Gooter, PC Worship, Conduit, New England Patriots, The Cradle, Reaches, Flyying Colors, and Ani Ivory-Block (of Palberta).Â

February 22: Middle Blue, Alina Gregorian, and Cheryl Kingan/Dave Sewelson/Brad Farberman/Rick Brown Quartet at Troost. Guitarist Brad Farberman is one of the local avant-jazz underground’s most underrated shredders, a six-stringer whose command of funk, ecstatic jazz, and improvised music is body moving and cosmic. Riding high on 2019’s Just Don’t Die (Ropeadope), which saw Farberman team with multi-instrumental extraordinaire Daniel Carter and drummer Billy Martin, the guitarist is now turning his attention back to Middle Blue, the gritty and groovy funk/jazz ensemble he leads that includes such luminaries as Jessica Lurie, Jeremy Danneman, Dave Sewelson, Mike Clark, and more. Tonight, Farberman celebrates his birthday with poet and artist Alina Gregorian and the debut of a new supergroup featuring alto and baritone saxophonist Cheryl Kingan (The Scene is Now), percussionist Rick Brown (75 Dollar Bill), and Sewelson

February 26: Insect Ark and Gnaw Double Record Release Show at Saint Vitus. 2020 is still young but this imposing bill may just prove to be the grisliest and gnarliest of the year after all is said and done. The rock-solid cred of blood-curdling vocalist Alan Dubin as a pillar of extreme-music is indisputable. Dubin’s six-feet-under howls and screams in the legendary Khanate is cemented in the avant doom-metal annals, and their 2003 Things Viral (Southern Lord) ranks up there as a defining touchstone of the genre. Khanate disbanded years ago but Dubin continues to break new ground and inflict ungodly hell in Gnaw. On its just-released face-melting E.P. Barking Orders (Sleeping Giant Glossolalia/SGG), Gnaw’s deconstruction of noise music, metal, and drone is a monolithic beast on the most brutal of scales. All-instrumental psych-doom duo Insect Ark are just as savage in its bone-crushing dirges on the epically apocalyptic and sonically heavy The Vanishing (Profound Lore).

February 27: CP Unit at Roulette. Young alto saxophonist and composer firebrand Chris Pitsiokos is a player with limitless potential and one who owns a tone of herculean magnitude. For the last several years, Pitsiokos has led CP Unit, and on the new One Foot on the Ground Smoking Mirror Shakedown (Ramp Local), he’s shored up his group and reached the pinnacle of his craft. With guitarist Sam Lisabeth, electric bassist Henry Fraser, and drummer Jason Nazary in the mix, CP Unit are a wildly inventive machine whose twitchy Ornette Coleman-like harmolodic grooves, downtown no wave funk freak-outs, and noise-rock fury is mind-blowingly elastic and deserving of attention. To commemorate the release of the new record, Pitsiokos has composed a one hour-long piece titled Nucleotidally Encoded Revelations which will be performed by CP Unit alongside Joanna Mattrey (viola), Webb Crawford (guitar), and Aliya Ultan (cello).

March 4: Sounds of Justice: Sun Ra Arkestra and William Parker’s Sounds of Curtis Mayfield Project at Town Hall. This monumental performance at the majestic Town Hall will undoubtedly provide sounds of hope and inspiration in these tumultuous times. Any time the Sun Ra Arkestra, led by the 95 years-young maestro Marshall Allen, plays, it’s always uplifting and joyous. Bassist and composer William Parker is another magical figure who has the ability to heal with the power of music and tonight he’ll take it to the next level. Parker’s ambitious and transcedent The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield was first a sprawling masterwork released in 2010 by AUM Fidelity, and now he’s bringing it to Town Hall in the grandest of fashions. Leading an eleven-piece all-star big-band and accompanied by video art by Moon Lasso, Parker’s Mayfield project gives a much needed call to action for music and art as agents of social change. This is an event that is truly not to be missed.


George Grella

George Grella is the Rail’s music editor.

Brad Cohan

Brad Cohan is a music journalist based in Brooklyn who has contributed to Bandcamp, The Village Voice, NY Observer, Time Out NY, VICE, Noisey, SPIN, CLRVYNT, Red Bull Music Academy, and other fine publications.


The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2020

All Issues