Category: New York City

GToD #4–Middle Kids–“Real Thing, from New Songs for Old Problems (2019)

“Real Thing” is the super-hooky single from the latest EP by Australian band Middle Kids. Released a couple of months in advance of New Songs for Old Problems, “Real Thing” grabs attention with lead singer Hannah Day’s gorgeously stretched vowels on longing choruses that rise up from uneasy verses.

The melodies are supported by the guitars of Day herself and lead guitarist/bassist Tim Fitz, in a perennial rock style that fits into the channel of what is broadly called “alternative” or “indie.” The grungy chorus will certainly bring 90s associations for many.

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Baroness Live, June 2019

A couple of short sets ahead of Gold & Grey

In the week before Gold & Grey dropped, on June 14, Baroness played a series of small gigs, including an in-store appearance at Vintage Vinyl and a full-on electric performance at the Gutter, a Brooklyn, NY, bar.

Below are videos of both above-mentioned short sets, each of which is totally worthwhile, along with some thoughts about them. Please share your comments!

● I can’t think of any other band that does two-guitar harmonies in which both guitarists use single-coil pickups. The reduced sustain (as compared to humbuckers) and the pokier high frequencies of single-coils emphasize the sound of two guitars together. With some bands, I frequently hear guitar harmonies as two players trying to sound like one. I dig that sound a lot, but there are other possibilities.

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Guitarete Gear Schmear #1— 2019 Brooklyn Stompbox Exhibit

At the June 8th and 9th 2019 Brooklyn Stompbox Exhibit, musicians of all types who are pedal enthusiasts found a cornucopia of fun signal-bending technology ready to be played by anyone so inclined. What a kick it was to see the huge enthusiasm that a display of pedals generated! The exhibit, which was held at Lytehouse Studio, included the products of at least 50 pedal makers. Delicious Audio, a blog that was involved in organizing the event, reported a total of nearly 2,000 attendees.

A few big rooms, tons of music gear, and a seeming gazillion pretty closely packed people—“Well, that’ll give you a headache,” a cynic might think. But, actually, no, not at all.

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GToD #3–Gilad Hekselman—“Stumble,” from Ask for Chaos (2018)

In under one year, New York-based jazz guitarist Gilad Hekselman has released two strong collections as the primary artist: Ask for Chaos (September 2018) and Further Chaos (May 2019). Each features tracks by two ensembles that Hekselman leads. His GHex Trio consists of Helselman’s guitar, accompanied by stand-up bass and drums. In ZuperOctave, Hekselman takes charge of both of guitar and bass in a setting that also includes keyboardist Aaron Parks and drummer/percussionist Kush Abadey. With Hekselman making liberal and dramatic use of effects and his bandmates also embracing electronics, ZuperOctave finds startling and original sonic territory. It’s electronically-touched organic music that is, above all, jazz. More specifically, it’s sonically exploratory, harmonically adventurous jazz that doesn’t sound to me like what is usually called “fusion,” for the lack of rock-oriented beats. The track “Stumble,” from Ask for Chaos, is one among many ZuperOctave highlights.

“Stumble” arrested me immediately with its memorable opening melodic figure and a lush sound so whole it’s sometimes hard to tease apart Parks’s keyboards from Hekselman’s guitar.

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GToD #2: Baroness– “Seasons,” from Gold & Grey (2019)

The music of Baroness centers on guitarist/vocalist/songwriter/visual artist John Baizley, who is one of those people who can smile and still radiate heaviness. While the tracks released ahead of the June 14 release of Gold & Grey bear his unmistakable stamp, the band’s current lineup offers power and flexibility not heard even on its high-water mark album, 2012’s Yellow & Green or its acclaimed follow-up, Purple.

A case in point is “Seasons.”

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Play It Loud @ the Met! 4/8/2019 to 10/1/2019

Exhibit to feature 130 historic instruments

Happily and unsurprisingly, there will be plenty on display to fascinate and inspire guitarists and fellow travelers at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s soon-to-open exhibit, Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll. The exhibit opens April 8, 2019 and runs through October 1, 2019.

The Met, of course, is stunning at all times. With this exhibit, it will enter realms of awesomeness it has explored little, if at all. Nowhere else will you be able to see this:

and this:

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Afro-Polka All-Stars—55 Bar, December 30, 2018

Featuring guitarists Sheryl Bailey and Anders Nilsson

From left to right, Jerome Harris, Anders Nilsson, and Sheryl Bailey.

Drummer/composer/world-music explorer Maciek Schejbal’s Afro-Polka project is based on the inspired, if unlikely, idea that polka, elements of African pop, and jazz guitar improvisation can be fused into a complementary whole. On the penultimate night of 2018, Schejbal, bassist Jerome Harris, and the potent guitar team of Sheryl Bailey and Anders Nilsson realized Schejbal’s thesis.  Throughout three sets in front of a Sunday night, early-show, standing-room-only crowd, the Afro-Polka All-Stars explored the landscape of a new musical moon—one that offers frequent surprises, while also maintaining contact with the ears of ordinary Earthlings.

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Oz Noy Quartet – 55 Bar, December 25, 2018

The Oz Noy Quartet at the 55 Bar, December 25, 2018. From the right, Oz Noy, Omer Avital, David Kikoski, and Anthony Pinciotti (obscured by cymbal).

Oz Noy has said of his music, “It’s jazz, it just doesn’t sound like it.” On his recent quartet gig at the 55 Bar, it could be argued that Oz’s music sounded a step or two closer to what most ears accept as jazz. Accompanied by Omer Avital on stand-up bass, Anthony Pinciotti on drums, and David Kikoski on electric piano, Oz explored a range of jazz standards, plus a classic R & B tune, hitting a couple more jazz signifiers than usual, and extending the range of his boundary-pushing-yet-accessible style.

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Harriet Tubman, featuring Brandon Ross, at the Jazz-Rock-Funk Throwdown, June 2018

Harriet Tubman, featuring Brandon Ross, at the Jazz-Rock-Funk Throwdown, June 2018

Brandon Ross at NuBlu, June 22, 2018

Harriet Tubman’s music was nearly entirely new to me. Before the Alternative Guitar Summit, I checked out a few tracks from Araminta, Harriet Tubman’s latest album, but I had no time for a deep dive. Consisting of bassist Melvin Gibbs, drummer J.T. Lewis, and guitarist Brandon Ross, Harriet Tubman has now been a band for more than 20 years. The group’s members each have varied resumes full of prestigious gigs. Given the members’ respective artistic ranges, it would be slightly arguable to say that Harriet Tubman is the most “alternative” or out-there project for any of them, but this group’s musical vision is undisputedly way past the borders of anything that can be reasonably considered mainstream. The imposing electric bass presence of Gibbs—who is equally able to lay down a deep ostinato; jam a fuzzed-out single-note solo; and loop some noise—and the highly sympathetic drumming of Lewis created an environment in which Ross explores sound and melody free of pretty much every known conventional guitar trope.  

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Adam Rogers at the Jazz-Rock-Funk Throwdown, June 2018

Adam Rogers’s DICE at the Jazz-Rock-Funk Throwdown, June 2018

Adam Rogers at NuBlu, June 22, 2018

Following Fiuczynski, Adam Rogers took the stage, leading the trio known as DICE and playing material drawn from their eponymous album. The onstage trio also included bassist Fima Ephron and drummer J.T. Thomas, the latter of whom was subbing for regular drummer Nate Smith.

On one level, DICE’s music was the most straightforward fare of the night. Equipped with just a Strat, a single pedal of some kind, and a modest-sized blackface Fender amp, Rogers stood tonally apart from his guitarist mates in not making use of an array of effects boxes and expression pedals. The guitar tones he applied could have comfortably satisfied a Stevie Ray Vaughn-esque blues rocker. Even though his bridge-pickup tones can get edgy, Rogers undeniably Fender sound has both tautness and girth. And, Fima Ephron’s fat, steady bass grooves would have, likewise, been at home in a more traditional blues-rock setting. But, this being the Alternative Guitar Summit, nothing was truly straightahead and traditional.  

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