By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Piltdown Man was an early 1900s paleontological "find" that in 1953 was proven to be a hoax, instead of the "missing link." Experts who thought they knew it all were fooled for a while, but the truth was ultimately found. The musicians in the jazz trio Piltdown Man, though they aren't hoaxers, also like to confound the music know-it-alls. "Everyone thinks they know what's up in music," complains bassist Jim Durso. "People make assumptions about our music, then we re-examine what it is we've done and include even more random quotes than before." On the second Tuesday of each month Piltdown Man alternates sets at an open poetry reading at Setauket's Checkmate Inn, providing literal musical interludes for local poets and finger-poppin' hipsters making the scene. The trio, which also includes drummer Matt Baranello and guitarist Naren Rausch, take their cue from the poetry and expand on it.
At the University Settlement on the Lower East Side, with the assistance of Rausch's sister Sarita and two other visual artists, who make up a troupe of painters called LUCY Piltdown Man performs what can best be described as a paint-by-music concert in a literal definition of performance art. They play their multi-blended jazz mix while the three artists paint what they are hearing on a large sheet of white paper hanging across the stage. "Each artist is connected to one musician," explains Durso, who lives in Westbury. "The musician performs a sort of interactive duet with an artist when they solo." The artists and musicians both improvise, creating a visual as well as aural jam session. One artist, usually Sarita, paints with white paint only, acting, in effect, as an on-stage editor. The band meanwhile is playing music Durso calls "pantheistic jazz" by as disparate a group of composers as Thelonious Monk, Bob Marley, John Lennon and Scott Weiland. Durso and company like to keep the music from getting stale by constantly challenging the audience as well as themselves by uniting with poets and artists. In the world of science Piltdown Man is referred to as "the man who never was." This group of musicians is the genuine article.
Piltdown Man Performs with the Merry Pranksters at 9pm Oct 27, The Spot, SUNY Stony Brook. In performance with LUCY. $10. 7pm Oct 29, the University Settlement, 184 Eldridge Street, Manhattan. Monthly poetry reading, 9pm Nov 9, Checkmate Inn, East Setauket.
Walking in Memphis
Farmingdale-based blues band Phil Varca and the Slamjammers were walking down Beale Street in Memphis after their show at B.B. King's blues club during the Bluestock '99 Festival earlier this month when a 14-year-old fan stopped Phil and asked him how he got to be so good on guitar. "I told him I was punished a lot as a teenager and I would always have nine hours to kill," Varca recalls. In its third year, the blues festival invites blues bands from around the world, both signed and unsigned, to perform. Varca and band were supposed to follow Double Trouble, a hard act to follow, but member Tommy Shannon broke his foot, reported Varca. Fans of Varca's lightning-quick guitar runs appreciate the long hours he was grounded.
Phil Varca and the Slamjammers 10pm Nov 5, MacCormacks, Carman Ave, Westbury.
Long Island's voices
Modern Voices, a record company in Lake Ronkonkoma, has inked a distribution deal with Universal Records, with the first single being serviced to radio stations nationwide being "All I Want," by Jill Diane. Senior director of operations Paul Krom describes the record as "pop with an edge, sounding like a cross between Sheryl Crow and Shania Twain." The label, which in the last year had three top ten dance hits with Tony Mascolo, also hit with Chris Pati and Bluefire's Black Chair, which hit No. 15 on Billboard's Blues chart. Krom hopes to release a follow-up to Chair next year also on the Modern Voices/Mercury label, which is under the umbrella of Joan Jett mentor Kenny Laguna's Blackheart Record Group. Krom, 20, is also president of Atomic Records, an indie that is releasing blues madman Boom Boom Johnson's next album as well as Deer Park country singer Michael Rainwood's "I Want It All," and the debut album of progressive rockers Unified Past.