Inflated to the size of a Macy’s parade balloon, the día de los muertos skeleton— Cypress Hill’s mascot for nearly a decade— sat on a throne center stage at Roseland on Halloween, a ghoulish reproach to skeptics who think the appeal of this singular rap group is dead. Cypress Hill taught everyone from Onyx to Ice Cube new tricks. And now that B-Real and newcomer Barron Ricks deploy polished choreography while percussionist Eric Bobo thoroughly integrates amplified Afro-Latin drumming into their live sound, Cypress Hill are even more entertaining on tour than on record. Last Saturday the only time the audience stopped singing along was during the new tune “I Remember That Freak Bitch (From the Club).” Whether this predominantly white crowd had a genuine alt-feminist streak or just too many guys with girlfriends in tow, the song— with its less than flattering terminology— provoked a palpable drop in ambient enthusiasm.
Otherwise, from the opening notes of “Ain’t Going Out Like That” Cypress could do no wrong. True, founding member Sen Dog, who contributed to the current album, was once again missing, despite much official hoopla about his return to the Cypress fold. Sen’s absence didn’t prevent the foursome of B- Real, Ricks, Bobo, and DJ Muggs from rocking the old material and selling the shit out of the new. Cypress Hill IV is full of quirky little experiments in tempo, context, and phrasing that only really come alive in performance. Most impressive were the sexy, circular polyrhythms that turned witchy grooves like “Checkmate” and “Dr. Greenthumbs” into irresistibly tribal funk fests. Ricks, who is featured on the elegiac single, “Tequila Sunrise,” lends a ragamuffin flavor to a tune that is otherwise steeped in Hollywood drama and Mexican accents. As effortlessly hybridized as a Fugees track and as danceable as a Puff Daddy production, “Tequila Sunrise” has all the energy of a Bad Boy, No Limit, or Def Jam hit, but none of the predictability. As long as they keep making music this provocative, the skeleton crew will rule. —Carol Cooper
You know the Village on Halloween: mucho blockage. So last Saturday night’s Schulldogs gig at the Internet was affected by a predictable goblin: delayed in his schlepp from Jersey City, Tony Malaby missed the opening blast by horn mate George Garzone. Yet, in an amazing feat of empathy, the tardy tenor player proved wavelengths are what you make them. His blistering free-bop salutation was a fierce complement to Garzone’s kickoff, adding queries and retorts to assure a bit of creative tension. It was as if he’d been listening outside the window, taking notes on possible perfect approaches.
That level of accord was amplified during the rest of the set, one of the most walloping stretches of music I’ve witnessed all year. Instrumentation is subject to change in drummer George Schuller’s foursome. This edition of the S’dogs assured that tenor madness is a condition that still tickles jazz fans. It was one of those scenes where ringing phones and audience whoops enhanced the music’s inherent rambunctiousness. With formal tunes and arrangements banished, succinct free episodes were key to a chain of random moods dominated by blues motifs. Imagine a Jazz at the Philharmonic show in a post-Mingus environment.
This approach suggests Schuller’s no chip off the old block; the attack of each participant— especially the leader nearly tattooing his ride cymbal at one point— all but decried the planning and polish of his father Gunther’s third-stream strategies. Rather, it made a case for the value of impromptu coordination. Garzone and Malaby sustained their individualism while blowtorching the place with polyphony. But even their counter lines framed them as kissin’ cousins. As bassist Mark Helias bowed plush drones during the set’s outro, the pair chose separate but similar ways to float themselves home, more Wilbur and Orville than
Romulus and Remus. —Jim Macnie
Music soothes the savage breast, or so the saying goes. For John Cameron Mitchell, the musical theater world’s hottest tranny, that means doffing his fake breasts and singing the praises of love before the enfants terribles of the film production world, as he marries a New Line Cinema exec to a former Rockette. (New Line is slated to bring his Hedwig and the Angry Inch to the screen.) No movie company’s reputation could be more elevated by a little traditional commitment. Following the much-publicized blowjob received by president of production Mike DeLuca at a pre-Oscar party earlier this year, a bigamy and fraud suit brought against executive vice president Richard Saperstein last year, and a piece in Premiere detailing the firm’s sexual harassment woes, it figures New Line would want to invite the press to a happy marriage. Even more appropriately, the newlyweds, East Coast Distribution Salesman Stephen Bachner and bride Ashley Listro, decided to hold the ceremony on Halloween, the night when psychopaths like New Line cash cow Freddie Krueger rise from the grave to stalk the make-out club. Still, if it’s family values the company is after, it means it in a decidedly Downtown style. Bachner, who has been friends with Mitchell and composer Stephen Trask for four years, reportedly proposed to Listro during a performance of Hedwig, with flagrant disregard for cognitive dissonance. Not half an hour before the ceremony, Mitchell, ordained in the Universal Life Church (“over the Internet,” he says), had kicked his heels up as the jilted M-to-F tranny who has an onstage breakdown— hardly the sort of fare to inspire pair-bonding. With a quick change into a smart red jacket, glitter still stuck to his face, Mitchell backed up Trask’s croaky but touching version of “The Origin of Love,” and cranked out “Wicked Little Town.” “A wise Scottish man once said, ‘Marriage is a very useful thing,’ ” he quipped during his coy sermon, “And so is a bicycle repair kit.” DeLuca was the best man. —James Hannaham