In the Clear

Cherry is a genial and cunning performer sans pipes or persona. The scion of a true maverick possessed of prodigious chops (Don Cherry), he tries on various masks: indie-folk waif naïf, rainbow rocker à la Lenny Kravitz, and post-grunge posturer. Photogenic and amply armed from his thespian past, Cherry cuts and pastes stylistic conceits from any number of postsoul rockers (from Prince to Terence Trent D'Arby). All to no avail: had he Gil Scott-Heron's message or even Sade's savvy, Cherry could get over with a similar lack of voice. Hardcore ode "Shooting Up in Vain" failed to project pathos, and last-ditch turns during "Rainbow Wings"— abrupt keyboard noodling and a rote segue into Marley's "Exodus" for a soupçon of Lion of Judah flavor— merely baffled.

Cherry never broke a sweat during his brief set. His ebony-and-ivory lyrics were persistently drowned out by the band's stadium-pitched histrionics. Leading this motley crew, Marty the guitarist— complete with Craig Ross also-ran 'fro— excessively muddled matters with facial contortions and fret intensity disproportionate to the lite sounds. And the cock-rock refugee drummer was just scary.

Man, did I feel transported back to boarding school, where every jock owned the requisite copy of Legend: live, Cherry's MOR crooning came on like the slow jams fratboys spin when they wanna seem sensitive enough to score. And the chicks they prey upon were out at Irving in spades, feting their dollop of sexual chocolate like modern rock maenads. Single "Save Tonight" remained buoyant and charming as the closer, but the rest of the show never took off. Cherry's inevitable tenure on the pop planet might be less tedious if he figures out how to harness his late father's African vanguard moves and sister Neneh's sassy soul stance. — Kandia Crazy Horse

Promoting a good, clean, drug-free time: Everclear's Art Alexakis at Roseland
Dennis Kleiman
Promoting a good, clean, drug-free time: Everclear's Art Alexakis at Roseland

Keeping Time

Tony Malaby rocks from side to side when he and his muse are in sync. That's fairly often, so it's somewhat common to see the tenor saxophonist acting like a human metronome at one of his many gigs around town. Tick-tock, tick-tock . . . the swaying not only seems to loosen new ideas, but tethers the wayward tendencies of his solos, giving the Arizona native a place to splash down after sailing through the stars. When his Sabino foursome played the Knit's Old Office on March 4, the gentle oscillation actually continued a few moments after the horn left his lips— a silent addendum suggesting he had more ideas than he could fit into one declaration.

That kind of fertility is Malaby's hallmark. Sans scope, jazz can feel just as claustrophobic as any other art form. But over the last couple of years, the ubiquitous thirtysomething's strong suit has been bolstering dimension. With grandeur in mind, Malaby takes explicit phrases and knots 'em together until he's fashioned a lariat wide enough to ensnare whatever notions gallop by. This tack has positioned him as a prudent expressionist who works on perfecting "Stablemates" while also searching for ways to turn it inside out. Comparisons to the Joe Lovano of a decade ago would not be off target.

At the Internet last Friday night that search took longer than usual to yield the kind of fluency Malaby's capable of. In cahoots with drummer Jim Black and bassist Michael Formanek, he gambled on sketches that flaunted leeway. Though each player has a history of creating a colorful kind of tension, an avoidance of quantifiable rhythm— call it swing if you want— led them through byways congested enough to be culs-de-sac. Malaby's casual sense of drama, one of his key attributes, picked up an earnestness that turned his roasted tone stentorian.

But the band couldn't go too long without eloquence erupting, and in a gloriously choppy section halfway through the set, the boom from Black's kick drum loosened a tumble of ideas. Momentum changed everything. The more the trio defined its tempos, the more graceful and imposing the music became. After a few minutes, a sprawling flow of melody came rushing from the leader, and his torso began pivoting left to right. Tick-tock, tick-tock . . . — Jim Macnie

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