Music – 10/26/99


All About His Mother

The nave dims, a powerful beam illuminates the ascension of Christ in stained glass, and then there’s a pop group onstage. This cleared the City’s Code for Possible Religious Disrespect? The Episcopalians of St. Ann’s Church aren’t so touchy, and Waldemar Bastos, the “voice of Angola,” shows no predilection for sacrilege. “I have one message: the peace of my music.” Ringing bells? Quit smirking, because “peace” means something, a friend reminded me, when your country has suffered some 30 years of civil war. Since political strife removed him to Portugal years ago, Bastos’s appeal is at least as earnest as it is theatrical; he appeared to brush away a tear as he described the significance of performing in the church, his mother.

When you play in Mom’s house, you’ve got to play nice. Scarce were the psychedelic epiphanies of Pretaluz, Bastos’s U.S. debut. Guitarist Henrique de Pina, stage left, flourished the occasional soukous run, and otherwise plucked counterpoint; the bass, far right, kept up a quietly busy harmony. Bastos perched on a stool, singer-songwriter-like, playing laments with chords from Caetano Veloso’s chart and operatics from Portugal’s fado. He turned the church’s murky acoustics (which had earlier foiled Barbarito Torres’s band) to his advantage: arpeggios and congas whispered like the Ghost of Afropop Past, and when Bastos’s husky murmur leapt in a nanosecond to a baritone roar, it blasted your soul free of your body into the high vault, following J.C. toward peace.

Torres also played at being lord-of the manor. His boys wore picker outfits, brown chinos and loose white shirts (per old Banana Republic, back when it really stood for something), to play old Cuban sones. In a trim white linen suit, center stage, Torres pulled flashy tricks on a lute and left the singing to his bassist. The Batista nostalgia of Buena Vista Social Club is going a bit far these days. Oh, Fidel, we still need you. —David Krasnow

Clouds Taste Metallic

They didn’t take chain saw to piano as they did on their last tour five years ago, but since their reunion, the Krautrock mushroomheads of Faust have burned many a barn with the sort of cheerfully casual demolition that could only come from a country with a history of half-repressed self-loathing and a strong national health care plan. No, Oasis fans, that would be Germany. And sometimes the band appears no more cohesive than that desecrated Steinway. Their first comeback CD ended up another Jim O’Rourke stir – the – tapes – while – the – band – plays – Ping – Pong project. And guitarist Jean Herve Peron left the band before recording their latest release, leaving only whalish drummer “Zappi” Diermaier and electronics handyman Hans Joachim Irmer. But Ravvivando(Klaangbad) is their finest work this decade, its insistent, percussive noise settling into sweet nostalgic showbiz. The record is very much Diermaier’s show, and both of October 18’s essentially identical suitelike performances at the Knitting Factory foregrounded his beating. He had both a stand-up (for pounding) and sit-down (for jazzing) set, sheet metal replacing a snare drum more often than not-too knowing to be primal, too nuanced to be industrial. No psychedelic-ragtime skinhead ditties as in Fausts of the past. As with 17-year-olds in the garage, everything was subservient to the drumming and wanton implications of feigned destruction, which meant that improvisations both nuanced (the ethno?jungle gym played by a second percussionist) and not (an awful lot of Michael Jackson slap bass) were secondary to junkyard KLAANG. When Diermaier set off a flare, filling the air with smoke and my throat with milky sulfur, it served as reminder that the desire to fuck shit up emerges from deeply personal-perhaps too personal-retrospection. What choice does one have but to formalize it through performance? It’s as certain as the beat of a drum. —D. Strauss

Room at the Top

When he hits the low-rise stage and starts-in today’s refurbished vernacular-swinging, he doesn’t have to make the room his own. It already is. He’s Michael Feinstein, and the plaque on the door of the 150-seat space says “Michael Feinstein’s at the Regency.” “Selfishly, I wanted to create a home for myself,” he admits in a phone interview. “My career started in New York. I wanted to create a club that evokes the memories of other great rooms I was never in but read about. I have nostalgia for things I didn’t experience.”

Rooms aren’t the only things about which Feinstein is nostalgic; another is the music of bygone eras. That’s why he has shucked the black tie, left the keyboard for most of his taut, brassy set, and planted himself in front of a back-to-the-late-’40s aggregate that includes John Oddo at the piano, George Rabbai on trumpet and flügelhorn, Mark Vinci on soprano and tenor sax and clarinet, and Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar. Packing punch in his voice, Feinstein emerges as a big-band singer who relishes standards like “Let Me Off Uptown,” “Birth of the Blues,” and a “The Man That Got Away”/”When Your Lover Has Gone” medley he twists into a classy gold-and-silver lanyard. (Many of the selections are onBig City Rhythms, the Concord CD he just cut with the Maynard Ferguson Big Band and which he’s placed conspicuously on the nightclub’s tables.)

Feinstein does make time to croon ballads the well-heeled fans like to hear. Extra-special inclusion: his articulated consonants and passion-imbued vowels on “The Very Thought of You” with Pizzarelli’s fingers making lace behind him. It’s all very much on today’s upswing. —David Finkle