Enough Lettuce to feed a family of four + more funk!

I’ve been on total funk overload (TFO, for those you like such things) for the past couple of days. It started with Will Bernard’s group at Nectar’s on Tuesday. That was just the beginning. The following night, Lettuce played a two hour long “evening with” show at Club Metronome.

Lettuce was super tight. Adam Deitch laid down the funky beats like nobody’s business. The highlight for me was Neal Evans on keys though. I’ve been listening to him for a while now and it was great to see the man at work. His organ sounds are so aggressive and catchy. I knew that this was only a preview of what was to follow on Thursday night at the Waterfront Funk Tent.

Gloomy weather couldn’t stop this city from getting its funk on. I parked at an undisclosed (but very free!) location up closer to Church St. (cause I’m a starving college student and I’m not really into the whole “pay money for a parking spot” thing) and hiked down to the waterfront. I was hearing thunder as I made my way down in the rain but my spirits were far from dampened.

I got to the tent and knew that the evening would be one to remember. The stage setup was solid and the lighting was phenomenal. Big Sam’s Funky Nation took the stage at 6pm on the dot, playing for just over an hour. Lettuce followed suit with a slightly longer set which, sadly, resembled the set from the previous night a bit too much. It was still quite enjoyable. Porter, Baptiste, Stoltz took the stage just after 9pm putting on a great show. If it were me, I would have programmed Lettuce as the headliner, just because their following seemed much stronger.

The music went from 6-11pm. The rain stopped sometime during the first set and allowed for people to comfortably walk outside the tent to get some fresh air and stretch their legs. I moved around throughout each of the sets, taking photos as I went and searching for decent sound.

Sadly, I never really found the perfect mix. I can’t imagine that the tent made a great space to run sound in and I can certainly sympathize with sound guys now, having run sound at a club for the past year. Still, I can’t help but think that things could have been made a bit better for each set. At times I wondered if the front of house sound guy just set the faders for the evening and left them until something started to feedback (which it did…). It was still, without a doubt, an awesome evening of music.

Big Sam

Big Sam's Funky Nation | Waterfront Funk Tent 6.11.09

Guitarist takes a solo | Waterfront Funk Tent 6.11.09

Guitarist takes a solo | Waterfront Funk Tent 6.11.09

Neal Evans takes a solo | Waterfront Funk Tent 6.11.09

Neal Evans takes a solo | Waterfront Funk Tent 6.11.09

Nigel Hall hypes the crowd | Waterfront Funk Tent 6.11.09

Nigel Hall hypes the crowd | Waterfront Funk Tent 6.11.09

George Porter lays down some funky lines | Waterfront Funk Tent 6.11.09

George Porter lays down some funky lines | Waterfront Funk Tent 6.11.09

Brian Stoltz | Waterfront Funk Tent 6.11.09

Brian Stoltz | Waterfront Funk Tent 6.11.09

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Will Bernard & Friends lay it down at Nectar’s

Will Bernard and his band provided an unforgettable night of music on Tuesday at Nectar’s. Along side Bernard were Tim Luntzel, Robert Walter and one of the funkiest New Orleans drummers ever, Stanton Moore.

It was clear after the first few songs that this show was not meant to be all about Will Bernard. The group played originals by every member of the band over the course of the evening. The musical conversation was always good and even, at times, quite humorous.

The masters of funk played all the way up until 2am, leaving the audience exhausted but entirely satisfied. The musicians were all grateful for the enthusiastic crowd. I finally got my opportunity to meet Stanton Moore, a drummer whom I’ve been listening to and admiring for quite a few  years. He was incredibly kind and more than willing to sign a copy of his album III for me. I took a moment to thank the rest of the band members for the show as well.

Will Bernard | Nectar's 6.9.09

Will Bernard | Nectar's 6.9.09

I also managed to catch James Harvey and Garuda playing at the bottom block of Church St. as part of the Twilight Jazz series earlier in the evening. I can’t remember the last time I saw James Harvey play drums but it was definitely enjoyable. The rest of his ensemble was with him every step of the way, providing a nice period of early evening entertainment.

What I love seeing the most is all the people that show up for these events. The demographic is usually somewhat unpredictable but the turnout has been much higher for such events in the past couple of years. I can remember attending things like the “Meet the Artist” sessions and being one of no more than 10 people in the audience. Now, the Flynn Space gets comfortable full for the educational events on a regular basis.

Looking forward to the first night of Lettuce tonight.

James Harvey & Garuda | Church St. 6.9.09

James Harvey & Garuda | Church St. 6.9.09

A captive audience enjoying the music of the Twilight Jazz Series on Church St.

A captive audience enjoying the music of the Twilight Jazz Series on Church St.

Fiuczynski rolls in on the KiF Express

Last night was David “Fuze” Fiuczynski’s KiF at Nectar’s, followed by Raq guitarist Chris Michetti with his band. Both bands certainly brought their “A” game for the night. 

Fuze went on at 9:30pm, playing material off of his latest album, KiF Express. His band was with him at every turn. There were certainly times when the crowd just didn’t know what to make of his music and were simply awed. 

Michette took the stage at 11:30 and tore it up with more progressive rock-based music. Though his band couldn’t compare to Fuze’s in talent, they were just as tight.

At a $5 cover, this was certainly the best bang for the buck.  Nectar’s is certainly off to a great start on their part for the festival.

David "Fuze" Fiuczynski | Nectar's 6.6.09

David "Fuze" Fiuczynski | Nectar's 6.6.09

David Fiuczynski @ KiF

David Fiuczynski & KiF | Nectar's 6.6.09

Esperanza Spalding & Anat Cohen Quartet

The Burlington Discover Jazz Festival kicked off yesterday and the streets of Burlington were as lively as ever. Music enthusiasts and general bar-hoppers populated Church St. late into the night as live music filled the evening air on every block. 

Meet The Artist Session

The evening started with a “Meet The Artist” session downstairs at the Flynn Space (the Flynn’s smaller cabaret equivalent). Jazz critic-in-residence Bob Blumenthal moderated the session with bass player/vocalist Esperanza Spalding and clarinetist/saxophonist Anat Cohen.

Spalding was interviewed one-on-one by Blumenthal while Cohen finished up her soundcheck for the evening performance upstairs. Spalding talked about her childhood experiences and their influences on her musicianship. She was incredibly articulate and well spoken during the session. 

Cohen came down after 45 minutes and began discussing her past in Israel as well as her musician brothers. She also discussed her record label, Anzic Records (named by combining “Anat” with “Muzic,”) and the reason for its creation. It’s clear that she wanted to be able to take more control over her albums than a outside label might normally let her. Joel Frahm, Jason Lindner and Cohen’s brother, Avishai Cohen, are artists on the label. 

The session was certainly one of the best I’d seen since I started attending them. At 90 minutes long, I couldn’t remember a longer session taking place in the past. The educational events during the festival are not to be missed. Take a look at the schedule here

Esperanza Spalding describes the size of the sound that she sought from herself on the bass.

Esperanza Spalding describes the size of the sound that she sought from herself on the bass.

Anat Cohen talks about her record label, Anzic Records.

Anat Cohen talks about her record label, Anzic Records.

The Concert

Following the typical introductions and sponsor recognition, the show began with a 75 minute set by the Anat Cohen Quartet. Cohen performed on clarinet for the first several songs, wowing the audience with her emotions and ability to seemingly sing through the instrument. Pianist Jason Lindner made use of a variety of prepared piano techniques throughout the set. In some cases he would mute the strings with is fingers while playing to produce a sound similar to plucking guitar strings. The percussive element was quite captivating as well.

Drummer Daniel Freedman produced all sorts of atmospheres with a variety of techniques. He played simply with his hands for portions and even made use of the brush end of a household broomstick at one point to increase the dynamic of the brush texture. 

The highlight of the set was the performance of “Hofim,” (which translates to “Seashores”) off of her 2007 album Poetica. The vibe was moving and the performance was quite captivating. Cohen sure knows how to grab you and make you feel what she’s feeling. 

Esperanza Spalding took the stage after a more lengthy stage change with a different lineup of musicians from her last performance in Burlington (Discover Jazz ’07). Her light hearted humor and youthful style was endearing as she sang a short introduction to her set, making it known that this would not be your “typical vocal jazz” performance. 

Her ensemble played a nice variety of songs ranging from older compositions to a newer, more “pop” song and a Nina Simone cover. Sadly, the front-of-house sound engineer didn’t quite dial in an adequate mix for her set until the end. One must wonder if he mistakenly thought that, because of Esperanza’s headlining name, the bass must be at the front of the mix. I was never quite satisfied with the vocal level either but that’s just the nature of live sound sometimes.

I’m certainly looking forward to all of the upcoming concerts including guitarist David “Fuze” Fiuczynski at Nectar’s, followed by Michetti (the latest project by Raq frontman Chris Michetti).

Anat Cohen Quartet | Flynn Theater 6.5.09

Anat Cohen Quartet | Flynn Theater 6.5.09

Esperanza Spalding | Flynn Theater 6.5.09

Esperanza Spalding | Flynn Theater 6.5.09

 

Esperanza Spalding & Otis Brown | Flynn Theater 6.5.09

Esperanza Spalding & Otis Brown | Flynn Theater 6.5.09

Chapter 2 kicks up the dust at Metronome

Eric Krasno, the guitarist of Soulive and Lettuce and various other projects, lead Chapter 2 on an evening of funk and soul at Club Metronome in downtown Burlington on Thursday night. The group put on quite a show. Louis Cato, the bass player, managed to steal the show with an incredible solo at one point during the night. Adam Deitch also deserves to be mentioned for some of the tightest and most interesting live drumming I’ve heard in a while. It seemed like he broke new ground with every song they played.

Looking forward to catching Krasno and Deitch together with Lettuce when they play during the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival

Chapter 2 | 5.28.09 Club Metronome - Burlington, VT

Chapter 2 | 5.28.09 Club Metronome - Burlington, VT

 

 


The Dirty Dozen shake things up at Higher Ground

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band of New Orleans, Louisiana tore the roof off of the Higher Ground Ballroom last night in South Burlington, VT despite a surprisingly low turnout. The septet laid down an infectious bed of New Orleans funk and groove that will not soon be forgotten

Though originally it seemed to be an odd pairing, the indie band Adam Ezra Group opened for the Dirty Dozen with a 50 minute set. Adam Ezra had performed a solo set at Higher Ground opening for Kaki King on 10.9.08. A few songs into their set, it became more clear as to why the group had been chosen to open. They performed a set full of vibes that reminded me of Rusted Root and other funky, more mainstream acts. At one point, Ezra mentioned that they had backed out of a gig in New Hampshire to come open for DDBB. The applause that followed ensured that they had made the right decision.

The rhythm section of the brass band took the stage just before 10pm and laid down a funky groove as the rest of the members walked on. The band didn’t let the music stop for more than a minute for the rest of the evening. Bass sousaphone player Julius McKee played some of funkiest bass lines throughout the night even though he remained atop a stool for the majority of the show.

Terence Higgins, the drummer, was easily the highlight of the evening for me. I’ve wanted to see him for years now and I enjoyed every minute of his performance. He is truly an example of a drummer with skills beyond belief who knows how to play tastefully. He would lay down a groove and then I’d catch little over-the-barline phrases with ghost notes and fills between his floor tom and snare. He only had a kick, snare and floor tom in his setup but he played it more impressively than a lot of 5-piece drummers I’ve seen lately. 

I’m definitely looking forward to concerts coming up in the next few weeks including the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival. Eric Krasno & Chapter 2 are playing this Thursday at Club Metronome in Burlington. Adam Deitch is sure to bust out some funking drumming at that show!

 

Dirty Dozen Brass Band | Higher Ground Ballroom 5.23.09

Dirty Dozen Brass Band | Higher Ground Ballroom 5.23.09

Keller Williams lays down the loops at Higher Ground

Last night, multi-instrumentalist/looper extraordinaire, Keller Williams performed a solo (if you can really call it solo) show at Higher Ground in South Burlington, VT. I picked up my ticket earlier this week, worried that it would be close to selling out. I was surprised to find that ticket sales were going much slower than anticipated. That certainly didn’t stop Williams from putting on a show to remember. For $23, I enjoyed a 3+ hour concert that actually started on time!

I got there at 7:40pm because I like to be in the front row whenever possible. If the only cost difference between being front row and being towards the back is time and patience, I’m certainly willing to pay. I was second in line to get in. I brought my Canon SLR camera to capture a bit of the evening.

Though I was told when I purchased my ticket that the only photography restriction for the evening was the typical “no flash” rule, I was informed at the door that no SLR photography was being allowed. Blast! I must say that I was kinda ticked at this. I had specifically checked what the rules for the show would be and then was told otherwise at the door. I ended up having to pay $1.50 to “check my camera bag” at the coat check. Not cool. I will be checking the rules again for the Lotus show this Friday and I plan to get the name of the person answering the phone because I don’t want to have the same situation over again.

The whole situation quickly dissipated as Keller stepped on stage. The stage setup was phenomenal. This being part of Keller’s “Guitar Shop Tour,” the stage was setup to look like an actual guitar shop. Peg board panels were setup along the back of the stage with lots of guitars and other fretted instruments hanging off of them. The typical “Ask Before Touching” signs were posted along the walls. Elixir guitar and bass strings hung from a wall along with several LP’s behind a makeshift sales counter. The counter had been setup with a cash register and all sorts of effects pedals on the left side of the stage.

At one point during the second set, Williams grabbed a guitar off the wall, set it down on the counter and began playing slide guitar. The sight was hilariously wonderful.

Keller Williams has a certain relaxed quirkiness that works very well on stage. He dances around barefoot, moving from one instrument to the next as he lays down seamless loops. The typical formula (which is not to say that his music is at all predictably formulaic) for one of his songs begins with him laying down some rhythm guitar on one of his many acoustics. Next he may lay down some vocal percussion and/or walk over to the mounted Hohner bass and put down a line. From here on out, it could go anywhere. With approximately 21 stringed instruments and many more other instruments at his disposal, he was like a painter with various shades of every color to choose from.

The highlights of the evening for me included the use of a Korg Kaossilator, use of an african djembe (during the the encore- “Celebrate”) and the performance of an original song about free speech entitled “Rush Limbaugh.”

With two sets of talented musical performance, exploration and experimentation, Keller Williams certainly did not disappoint. If you have the opportunity to see him play on this tour, definitely get out to the show.

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