Play Me, I’m Yours in NYC

7 07 2010

Play Me, I’m Yours is an art installation from British artist Luke Jerram. It’s a project he has been touring around the world since 2008. This Monday concluded the 2 week New York debut, which was the largest version yet with 60 pianos being rolled out all over the city. Subsidized by Sing for Hope, the pianos were refurbished and placed in various parks, plazas and on street corners throughout the 5 boroughs.

I love this idea and wished that I had stayed in NYC just a bit longer to see it first hand. It’s not just a great way to bring music to the streets of the city but it also brings the people together as they enjoy, share and participate in the music.  Keep in mind, these pianos are intended for the public, not just street musicians or seasoned professionals. The concept is that anyone is welcome to sit down and play, regardless of their ability. It’s an open invitation to share music with the people around you, whether it’s “Beethoven’s 5th” or just “Chop Sticks”.


In response to the NYC roll-out, Jerram has said, “I’m amazed at how well my artwork has been so well received. It seems like half of NYers know how to play piano!? I’ve always had the feeling that Play Me, I’m Yours was meant to be presented here. There’s so much talent here and people willing to express themselves. I’m so grateful to Sing For Hope in making this dream come true.” See more quotes

The response has been amazing, running the gamut of possibilities. Up and coming professionals have used it as a way to showcase their music in the public domain, something that usually requires a city permit, and the occasional “big name” has sat in unexpectedly to share their gift.  Street musicians have found it to be a great way to setup shop in new locales while complete novices have tried their hands at something they never even considered due to lack of access to a real piano. It’s a fantastic idea that should not just be perpetuated in cities large and small around the world but should absolutely be brought back year after year or perhaps even be considered for permanent installation during the summer months. At a time when the arts and, more specifically, music programs are being slashed all around us, it’s a brilliant way to keep music alive amongst the populous.

Hopefully you got to see some of this in action around NYC. If not, there are numerous videos that share the experience quite well. Below are a few but be sure to visit the artist’s website to see others, as well as some really cool photos and learn a lot more about this incredible project.

Visit StreetPianos.com to learn more. Click HERE to see the locations where the each piano was placed in NYC. Here is the LINK to learn about the origins of the project and how it is received by the public. Also, to read more about the piece, check out this New York Times article.

References:

More info on Play Me, I’m Your

More info on Luke Jerram

More info on Sing For Hope

YouTube Search Results

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Lee Fields & The Expressions | Ladies

27 05 2010

When I hear a song like this, I ask myself how it’s not ubiquitously known by all music fans. It’s one of those tunes that’s so good you would just assume that it has made the rounds on radio, TV and all the internet music outlets already. It was featured in the credit sequence of an Entourage episode a while back but even with that flash of exposure it still remains a hidden gem. It’s a total mystery to me but is, perhaps, telling of what today’s music scene is seeking. It’s almost like Pitchfork and all the other musical taste-makers don’t give any love to artists who A) are not younger than 26, B) don’t possess shabby, unkempt facial hair, or C) are not making cheap viral videos of their act. Because of such bias, the old talented guys like Lee Fields get swept under the rug. “Ladies” was released on the 2009 album My World, from Truth & Soul Records based out of Williamsburg, NY. El Michel’s Affair is on the same label. You may even hear a bit of their sound coming through in the arrangement as some of the players overlap. Blend that aesthetic with Lee’s incredible raspy soul-soaked vocals and it’s a no-brainer. Check out “Ladies”  and you will likely run out and buy this album right away. Be sure to look into some of the other bands on the label too.

References:

Visit Lee Fields & the Expressions online

More info on Truth & Soul Records





Karen O @ The MoMA

26 05 2010

Last night I attended the Party in the Garden at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art. Every year the MoMA throws a big bash in the their garden courtyard. It’s a really fun event that attracts art lovers from all over the city. Not only do you get to enjoy the installations in their gorgeous outdoor space,  but there is also an open bar and a GREAT live act to enhance the ambiance. Last nights billing featured Karen O and Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They were joined by a few guest to help them fill out the band. Although the night was an acoustic set that featured a string trio, it was not short on energy. As would be expected Karen and Co. exuded that same intensity that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are known for. The set list included a variety of tunes, dipping into some material that was produced for Spike Jonze’s film Where The Wild Things Are as well as numerous songs from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs original catalog. Perhaps it was the setting of the MoMA garden, the renewed sense of life that emerges in this city when the weather finally turns, or maybe just the free booze but it was an amazing night of music, art and fun. Below are a few pics snapped from the event as well as some video I captured with my Flip Camera. The quality is less than perfect but it still displays the essence of their performance, enthusiasm of the crowd and overall energy that filled this lovely outdoor space in midtown NYC.

Here is the video… the first one is “Soft Shock” from It’s Blitz!, this is a great tune. I think I may prefer the studio version because of the electric pulse, but this acoustic rendition is still very cool.

This second one is even more mellow. It’s “Hideaway” from the Where The Wild Things Are soundtrack, which happens to be a really good collection of material considering it was produced soley for use in the film.

Finally, the last tune of the night was “Zero”. It was a great song to end on despite leaving me wanting more, but then again, I guess that’s the idea…

References:

More info on Yeah Yeah Yeahs

More info on Karen O

More info on MoMA

The MoMA site

Yeah Yeah Yeahs site

More info on Where The Wild Things Are





Electric Junkyard Gamelan

12 05 2010

This Brooklyn based homemade musical menagerie is the brain child of composer Terry Dame. The name is very much descriptive of what this group strives for artistically. Terry and company are part of a growing movement of musicians who only utilize self-made, found and/or modified objects from ordinary life in their performances. The premise is that not only are you reusing, reducing and recycling but each instrument is absolutely unique. Which means that the player must learn to play on that specific instrument because the particular item may not be “tuned” perfectly or it may require some special technique to get a certain timbre out of it. The other element of their name that is very fitting is the fact that they specialize in Gamelan music from Indonesia. It’s an interesting style that utilizes overtones from resonating notes to create ambient harmonies. While it’s not the poppiest of music, these guys are not to be missed. Between their stage presence and the trance like effect of the Gamelan music, it’s a hell of a performance. This clip below will help you learn a bit more about who they are and what they do. Plus, it delves deeper into what the instruments are made of, how difficult they are to master and the resulting music that’s part chaos, part composition and 100% cool.

If you haven’t had enough, here’s some nice live footage of the band in action. It’s an interesting sound and the performance is truly an unique experience.

References:

Electric Junkyard Gamelan live on NPR

Learn more about Electric Junkyard Gamelan

Visit Electric Junkyard Gamelan on MySpace

More info on Handmade music

More info on Gamelan music





Partyup Prince

6 05 2010

Prince, formerly “The Artist Formerly Known As Prince” (aka TAFKAP), played at the TIMES 100 Gala here in NY the other night. I just heard that they used the nearby Village Underground on W 3rd St in the Village as their practice space during the day. After the gala on Tuesday, they then returned for a short set that evening. Now, those are exactly the types of things you live in NY for. You just never know. One night Prince just drops by and plays for an hour… how cool is that? You got to love this city.

Anyway, with the viral nature of things these days, I saw a surprising amount of negative things being said about Prince. In the face of such negativity, I would like to officially stand up as a long time Prince fan and supporter. Sure, he’s a little weird but the guy’s a genius. He’s a modern day musical prodigy who writes, produces and plays almost all the instruments. As one of the most prolific artist of the last three decades, he has written over 1,000 songs. Sure, I only enjoy a handful of them but that collection of hits is unstoppable. It’s not just “1999” and “Purple Rain”. How about “I Just Want To Be Your Lover” or “Partyup” or “Delirious”. The list goes on and on (and on) because you can find a ton of GREAT material amongst his huge catalog of deeper cuts.

My allegiance to this pop legend goes back to my youth. I recently found the very first album (it was actually a cassette) that I ever bought myself. And, guess who it is? That’s right… Prince. Well, technically it’s Prince & The New Power Generation. My first purchase was the 1991 release Diamonds & Pearls. It was his 13th album and was a bit of a turning point for Prince. It was his first to be co-credited and marked a new hybrid of styles by including hip hop into his funky blend of Pop and R&B. I was about 9 years old when I bought this beauty…

How did I even know who Prince was? I remember first hearing the singles “Cream” and “Gett Off” on a friend’s stereo and I guess the next time I had the chance I bought it. I don’t know, the details are very cloudy. Ok, so maybe I wasn’t that cool back then, perhaps it was actually the hologram on the cover that played a big part in the allure. Who’s to say? It was either that or the look of those guys on the inside cover. For the early 90’s, that was about as cool as it could get. I mean, Prince was like the Miles Davis of 1991.

Of the 13 tunes on Diamonds & Pearls, here are a few of my favorites:

Willing & Able

Cream

Walk Don’t Walk

Gett Off

Diamonds & Pearls

For any of the naysayers out there, I beg you to watch this video of Prince playing in a tribute to George Harrison at the 2004 Hall of Fame induction ceremony. He plays lead guitar and takes the solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. With all the immense talent on this stage it’s like he’s the only guy up there. His presence is just amazing. Clearly, the guy is an icon.

*If that’s not enough, there is always THIS CLIP from Batman. Apparently, when the The Joker is feeling mischievous he loves to listen to Prince’s “Partyman”.

Listen Online:

“I Want To Be Your Lover”

“Partyup”

“1999”

“Delirious”

“Purple Rain”

References:

More info on Prince

More info on The New Power Generation

More info on Diamonds & Pearls

Prince’s complete discography

Download the set from The Village Underground





Iconic NY

15 04 2010

I felt I had to share this great article from my friend PBeat & J. After having to completely overhaul the site due to a technical meltdown (yikes!), this is one of the first new posts to go up and it’s fantastic. It’s a summary of a really cool piece from the NY Post about iconic album covers that were photographed in NYC. If you’re local it’s very cool to be able to see some of these places in your own backyard. And if you’re not, it still makes for some awesome music history that is surely to be appreciated by any fan. Take a look at PB&J’s summary and then you can always dig deeper by following the link to the original piece in the Post.

PBeat & J:  April 15th, 2010 – Iconic NY

PS- I think my favorite of these album covers is The Free Wheelin’ Bob Dylan, but that’s probably just because it hits close to home… literally. I live just a few blocks away!





NEW! Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings

12 04 2010

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings just released a new album this past week. Recorded for Daptone Records in their modest Bushwick (Brooklyn, NY) studio, the new album, I Learned The Hard Way, continues the tradition of beat heavy, groove-based soul music reminiscent of that which was coming out of Stax and Motown in the 60’s & 70’s. Not only does the material bring you back to this amazing era in American music but the sound of the recording is true to the classics. Recorded on a Ampex 8-track tape machine in Daptone’s analog studio, it’s remarkable how great this album sounds. There is an amazing  warmth and richness to it that harkens back to the old days of real soul music. As good as the songs and performances are the sound of the recording is truly the standout for me. I’m a sucker for that old school sound and there are very few folks out there today who are able to capture it so well. This album is available on vinyl too so you can really appreciate the nuances of what they are doing out there in Bushwick. That being said, when it comes to the material and performance Sharon and the gang did not take this 4th studio effort lightly. I Learned The Hard Way is without a doubt among their best releases thus far. Between this and their previous (2007) album, 100 Days, 100 Nights, it’s a close call.

The whole album makes for a great listen all the way through but I particularly like the title track “I Learned The Hard Way” as well as “Better Things”, “Mama Don’t Like My Man” and the bonus track “He Said I Can”. I was surprised to see that there is an instrumental on here given Sharon is such a presence in this sound, but I really dig it… it’s called “The Reason”.

“I Learned the Hard Way”

“Better Things”

https://thegreengorilla.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/03-better-things.mp3%20

“Mama Don’t Like My Man”

https://thegreengorilla.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/12-mama-dont-like-my-man.mp3%20

“He Said I Can”

https://thegreengorilla.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/13-he-said-i-can-bonus-track.mp3%20

“The Reason”

GG fans may already know I’ve been into Sharon & The Dap Kings and Daptone Records for years. For those that are not regulars, you can take a look at an earlier post on Sharon  and the boys HERE. There is also some more really cool Daptone stuff HERE.

If you want to learn more about Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings visit their site. Once there, you can sample music, check out tour dates and learn more about the band and the label. You can also buy their albums on CD, LP or MP3… which ever suits your needs: www.sharonjonesandthedapkings.com.

Here is a link to a PBS interview that showcases Sharon’s amazing personality and offers a little background on the band, the label and music. : Sharon on PBS








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