Your Right To Party

"Okay folks, I've had a couple of suggestions for how to deal with this. Maybe we could take a vote?" a flustered Captain John Codiglia of the Manhattan South Task Force announced over a bullhorn last Sunday, hoping to cajole the 400 or so boisterous ravers and activists who jammed traffic at Broadway and Astor Place for two hours during the city's first-ever "Reclaim the Streets" party. "Fuck that! Giuliani sucks!" shot back a kid in neon fake-fur and multiple piercings, who was dancing to throbbing Goa trance blaring from a generator-powered sound system.

Patterned after the Reclaim the Streets dance parties in Europe--one of which drew 20,000 to Trafalgar Square last May--Sunday's loosely organized protest against Herr Giuliani's "Quality of Life" crusade began at 2 p.m., when about 150 people assembled at the Astor Place cube. Before the cops could radio for help, protesters blocked off Broadway and set up a 22-foot, Earth First!­style tripod of aluminum poles, which a 25-year-old New School student named Louis Colombo nimbly scaled.

Horns blared as performance artists and fire breathers danced through the bewildered throngs of Sunday-afternoon shoppers, hundreds of whom joined in. The scene was dominated by young, mostly white students and ravers. Many brought boomboxes to pump up the mix, which was broadcast over 88.7 FM via a mobile transmitter set up in a van, far from the prying eyes of police.

Scores of police vans, paddy wagons, motorcycles, tow trucks, a cherry picker, a half-dozen mounted police, and the now obligatory helicopter were called in to quell the crowd. But despite the heavy mobilization, no one could figure out how to clear the streets without toppling the tripod. Eventually, Colombo slid down one of the poles and was arrested for disorderly conduct, along with 12 others. Many in the crowd seemed only vaguely aware of the protest's freeform agenda--which included everything from the privatization of public spaces and the bulldozing of community gardens to the crackdown on sex clubs and barroom dancing. "We want to show them that we own the streets just as much as the real estate people and the cops," said 18-year-old Makis, who was doling out vegan soup. Moments later, his shopping cart was seized by police.--Sarah Ferguson


Chemistry Set

Guillermo Klein meandered from his electric piano during a particularly delicate piece last Tuesday at the C Note--seems the level of lilt was off and he wanted to give the guys in his Los Gauchos big band a bit of extra direction. With cigarette in mouth--his tobacco smoke is ubiquitous enough to seem integral to the group's chemistry--the balding 29-year-old fluttered his left arm in a move that was half conduction, half ballet. Signifying fluidity, he was a demanding boss: the syncopation prescribed by his chart was elaborate.

Klein's music is defined by such dichotomies, and its glories depend on how resourcefully the contradictions duke it out. Los Gauchos isn't a soloist's domain. Saxist Tony Malaby rocketed toward Pluto during one tune, but Klein's 10-member team is more attuned to voicings than vamps. The Buenos Aires native began composing at 11, and his melody-strewn, omnitempoed orchestrations declare it doesn't all have to stem from Thad, Mel, and Gil. The pianist tells interviewers he wants to get close to blues, but the music avoids idiomatic designs. There are, what, 12 or 13 big bands doing business in town these days? Klein's doesn't sound like any of 'em.

Feral and fractious, Los Gauchos has the energy of garage rockers. Four percussionists rattled out rhythms, and, bumping up against a couple pieces of brass and a front line of saxes, the polyphony was addictive. Big bands turn into science experiments when their machinations are in high relief, but here the bonding was nuanced--especially when the ensemble coordinated itself to weave through a spooky ballad whose inner dirge was expressed by the leader's craggy, Tom Zé­esque vocal. Perhaps more than anything else all night, it clarified Klein's commitment to forging an experimentalist's identity. " 'Take the A Train'!" some rube bellowed as I was walking out the door. " 'A Train'?" grinned the pianist. "Ha, ha . . . I don't think so."--Jim Macnie


Whirl Music

Introducing the Turkish whirling dervishes and musicians of the Mevlana Culture and Art Foundation at City Center last Friday, Shaikh Kabir Helminski seemed intent on sucking all the fun out of watching sufis spin gracefully counterclockwise for what eventually felt like a really long time. "We are not performers and this is not a performance," declared the foundation's American representative, without so much as a nod to René Magritte. He went on to note that rather than entering a groovy trance state, the dervishes were actually performing the "service" of conveying God's spiritual juice to the audience.

With venue, staging, structure, and ticket price all belying Helminski's declaration, the unvaryingly sober and low-key show got under way with a recitation of verses by Mevlana Jalaluddin Rumi, the mystical 13th-century poet whose increasingly fashionable stanzas of love-ecstasy leave me, I must confess, cold. (How fashionable? Philip Glass and Robert Wilson's upcoming "digital opera," Monsters of Grace,takes Rumi's verses as its libretto.) "You are like water and we are like millstones," went one verse God-groveling enough to make me reach for my Nietzsche. The medley of Turkish pieces performed by the 13-piece Mevlevi Ensemble was charm itself, however, and concluded with the arrival onstage of three women "turners," apparently a first.

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