By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
Although I encountered many accomplished young musicians, includ-ing some I hated (will Rock Kills Kid rock Kills kids?), execution counts for more with artists who are old enough to have learned howthe longer one devotes oneself to music, the larger music per se looms in one's identity quest. Enter the unheralded local Ambassadeurs du Manding at comfortable little Lava Gina, who rather than providing the pleasant evening I anticipated sent me and my wife home prepared to explore Avenue C forever. Led by veteran guitarist Mamady Kouyate, once a cog in Guinea's Orchestra Bembeya National, the four Africans and four non-Africans delighted a small crowd ranging in age from at most 28 to at least 64 by integrating Senegalese and Congolese concepts of continuous flow. They also outplayed the rest of June not counting Ornette and Sonic Youth. The youngish, non-African trap and conga drummers were slightly tentative. An older non-African got his balafon on. Kouyate outshone every guitarist I've named. And the singers were nonpareil: rich-burred old muezzin baritone and then this glorious young tenor in black 'do-rag, gold chain, and white XL tee. One of his jobs, performed with shameless and efficient grace, was to get the banquettes dancing. Guess where I was sitting.
Lest anyone smell world-music exoticism, I'll add that I walked out on be-dreaded beauty Sara Tavares soon after she told us her rain song would end Cape Verde's endless drought. And despite the fat guy who got a bassy thrum out of a milk can and slapped his feet when he danced, I preferred Brooklyn's Beirut to Hungary's Romano Drom.
HEADLINERS RANKED GOOD-TO-BAD
TAIL ENDS/BEGINNINGS GOOD-TO-BAD
Lif has one of the best left hands in the businessa hand you can imagine caressing a butt cheekand musically I enjoyed him as much as Ornette first half. At Irving Plaza nine days later, Brother Ali had a crowd. "It's a spiritual thing to party together, like going to church," he told this much more sexually integrated gathering, who obediently shouted "Huh!" whenever he said "Shut this motherfucker down." Atmosphere's Slug, masterful after years on the road he reports have eaten up his soul, took up where Ali left off, the audience as electric as !!!'s or the Arctic Monkeys' only more united. But after 40 minutes he brought on a full band for "God Loves Ugly"a righteous move, sure, only quickly the crowd deflated, as if the firepower onstage rendered their energy irrelevant. "Live Music Takes Many Forms" bumper stickers should be issued.
Many many. I attended June 24's Arthur Lee benefit at the Beacon out of respect for the uncrowned black king of psychedelic pop and organizer Steve Weitzman. Old artists yes, oldies artists no-if you crave Nils Lofgren's ebullience or Ian Hunter's acerbity, go back to Grin and Mott the Hoople and issue "Recorded Music Is a Blessing" bumper stickers. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah lead guy Alec Ounsworth was fab on Love's "Andmoreagain" and a Dylany original. Gavin DeGraw was cute. Yo La Tengo unearthed a glorious Lee obscurity as I knew they would: an American Four garage rocker called "Lucy Baines." (Sound familiar? Just add "Johnson.") Hunter made "All the Young Dudes" a sing-along. Lofgren's long, flashy solo sounded new againthe Stylofone effect. And talented asshole Ryan Adams, who refused to work with Weitzman's pickup band, explained his choice of material as follows: "Of course I would have liked to play Love songs, but some of you may know that it's not in my repertoire to, um, oh never mind . . . " Play anything you didn't write, oh poet of a zillion songs? Asshole.