Humanity Quartet, with guitarist Peter Bernstein, @ Smalls, 8/19/17

Humanity Quartet, with Peter Bernstein

Humanity Quartet played a late set full of original compositions, flowing improvisation, structural surprises, and humor to a packed house at Smalls, in New York City’s West Village, in what was actually the earliest hour of August 20. The group consists of esteemed New York City jazz veterans drummer Leon Parker, bassist Sean Smith, tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm, and guitarist Peter Bernstein.

They didn’t explain their name, and I have no official word on this, but it seems to me that the name of the group could be a reference to the subtle, hard-to-notice variations in human interaction that are always happening yet never undermine communication, and without which we’d just be complicated machines. Maybe I’m stretching in my interpretation, but most, if not all, of the tunes in their set of six contained a twist on jazz bandstand conventions. 

Read more

The “oldest song in the world” was (probably) played with a pick!

The oldest song . . .

On my way to Central Park one recent afternoon, I couldn’t resist investigating this sign:

“What’s the oldest song in the world?” is not a question I’ve ever asked. Given that audio recording didn’t exist until Edison’s phonograph in 1877 and we know of songs from long before that time, the question aims at the oldest known notated song. Through the end of August 2017, New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World hosts an exhibit that includes  a reproduction the ancient tablet on which the oldest known song is notated (pictured below-not very exciting), along with a video installation that shows some contemporary renditions of the tune. (See the links below for audio.)

Read more

Preview Review — Queens of the Stone Age “Villains”


Queens of the Stone Age is about to release their first new album since 2013. Villains is due on August 25, 2017. Early press describes the Mark Ronson-produced album as danceable. Two tracks—“The Way You Used to Do” and “The Evil Has Landed”—are already available.  “Danceable” need not connote “full of funky clichés”: anything but, in this case. You can certainly dance to these tunes, but you should probably be the type that likes dancing to something sinister. If you’re also a rock guitar nerd, you’ll want to check to the intricate-but-never-fussy guitar arrangements.

Read more