august 29, songwriters round-up
Sure, the Songwriters Round-up was Linda McRae's idea, and the former Spirit of the West bassist/accordionist did a fine job of maintaining the pace and a comfortable living-room vibe at Rancho Relaxo, but it turned out to be the Gurf Morlix show.
Not that the low-key Austin-based producer and guitarist-for-hire was showboating -- he's not the type. It's just that Morlix's well-constructed songs and tastefully picked support when Jim Whitford, Jenny Whiteley or McRae was singing just commanded attention. Morlix may have earned his rep as Lucinda Williams's guitar-slinging sideman, but clearly he really needs to be out front. His Rancho Relaxo return engagement September 13, when he'll be backed by his own hombres playing songs from his excellent Fishin' In The Muddy (Catamount) disc -- and the one he just finished -- should be a blast.
august 31, professionales
Perhaps New York pianist Anthony Coleman was feeling the pressure of playing to an Ashkenaz audience, since despite the accompaniment of his Los Cubanos Positivos bandmates, bassist Brad Jones and drummer Roberto Rodriguez, the anticipated Latin swing was nowhere to be found.
Instead, the meditative performance in Harbourfront Centre's Brigantine Room was almost exclusively slow, moody laments from his Sephardic Tinge repertoire, playing with space and texture rather than any sort of rousing group interaction. Not once did the Professionales -- paying strict attention to the notes on the sheet music before them -- ever threaten to strike a groove. It was particularly strange considering all the smoke Coleman blew in the days leading up to the show about the Professionales' whole "rhythm section" ethic. Hmm.
september 1, hiphopkhasene
Against the backdrop of a chuppah, the traditional canopy over the couple at a Jewish wedding, with feet poised and ready to smash a wine goblet or two, the klezmer-hiphop fusion phenoms in HipHopKhasene have a kooky and clever approach to the often schmaltzy klezmer genre.
Their tactic is to take a khasene, a traditional wedding song cycle, and sexy it up with beats, rhymes (in Yiddish and English) and energy. It works. The international supergroup had everyone who wandered over to the late-night showcase in Harbourfront's Brigantine Room on their feet dancing.
It was a weird Ashkenaz fest mix of downtown yenta dykes, older granola Jews, hip bubbies and zaidies and scruffy, bearded 20-something Phish-heads, although some of the older folks dropped out halfway through the set.
Michael Alpert was the perfect badchan, a hiphop-styled wedding jester falling somewhere between an old-school Beastie Boy and your overzealous uncle after too much Manischevitz. He played well off violinist Sophie Solomon, whose amazing, keening instrumental wails snaked through the upbeat accordion-driven foot-stompers, while David Krakauer's slinky, serpentine clarinet work was a perfect complement.
These dudes should be playing bar mitzvahs. It'd be a massive improvement over the tired macarena and cheesy oldies.