Hot in Wherre?

Though the response in Madison Square Garden to Fred Durst’s appeal for disappearing the war pretty much consisted of me saying “woo,” the Grammy Awards crowd was in “agreeance” about one thing. Well, maybe two: When Nelly’s flashpots blowtorched ceilingward, many contemplated the sprint-velocity of Jimmy Choos, but most attendees spent the evening wondering why every artist can’t just be Norah Jones.

For the music-industrial complex, this is the big day. ‘Course, every day used to be a big day, but in this slump, the Grammys became a positive-self-talk huddle. And the humble, collaborative, charismatic, apolitical, download-unlikely, handler-friendly package named Jones is just the kinda thing that gets a domeful of hair-plugged ASCAP flacks and their Botox’d bunnies standing and ovating like somebody just bombed KaZaa. After trudging to the nosebleed seats that compensate for withered holiday bonuses, jewelry-rattlers gave big shakes to the biz-chummy Dixie Chicks and howls to lacrosse-dewy John Mayer.

The precision audio in the Garden half-shell made everything sound like genius (except Nelly, who won’t admit he’s a singer, and that singing happens in a key). But with such adherence to the telecast ban on pop stars talking about the most popular topic on the planet, the transgressive moment of the night was the arena-only, TV-break JumboTron video of the Eurythmics’ 1985 “Sweet Dreams” Grammy performance. Sideburned Annie Lennox’s wicked transgender splendor made Sunday’s little-black-dressers, candied rappers, and spunky bumpkins look like creatures from the wack lagoon. As for any anti-war ruckus, the angst of Springsteen’s “Rising” translated as frat-rock. And by the angry apex of the only-in-death Joe Strummer tribute, the room was as empty as a record store. —Laura Sinagra

Killing Her Softly

I look at love like a blue-collar job—the sort of project which rewards relentless toiling over the fundamentals. So I’m not that much of a romantic, and I can spend an entire Sunday in a Cowboys throwback jersey, swilling beer and cursing at quarterbacks. I keep the lights on, my kid in a decent school, and I avoid escapades that could land my name in the street or in the midst of a black-mail scheme. Though I make a mean broiled salmon, I’m not much for frills, preferring instead to work on laying the bricks for a strong relationship. I like to tell myself I’m a good man.

But I’m not Freddie Jackson. Here is a man with a mojo so wicked that on Valentine’s weekend, fresh from a cross-country flight, he marched deep into Biggie’s Brooklyn in a suit and cravat and still managed to turn the house into a harem. Did I mention he was wearing a cravat? Jackson climbed scales as easy as stairs, simmering “Tasty Love” and “Rock With Me Tonight” like a pot of yams. He’s an old-schooler who knows how to sing to a woman, as opposed to making her a trophy in a dick-size contest. He also apparently has a mystical understanding of the flow of estrogen. So when he looked out into the crowd and asked for a witness, it was like a mid-day murder in Times Square.

Some time ago, I learned how to make a woman feel like a woman. But Freddie Jackson can make a woman feel like a little girl. Halfway through I looked into his eyes. They said, “This is how you kill a woman softer than a dream.” My valentine asked me if I was taking notes. “I wrote the lecture,” I chortled. But it was all machismo. Go see Freddie Jackson, and you’ll feel like a third wheel on your own date. Go see Freddie Jackson and you’ll learn that there’s more to love than bricks and blue collars. —Ta-Nehisi Coates

Rodeo Days

A band that trumpets its critics’-darling status does not suffer from insecurity. At Tonic last Thursday, Tin Hat Trio‘s Mark Orton even quoted from their “worst” write-up: This paper’s traditionally tough Christgau dunned The Rodeo Eroded (2002) for bandwagon riding. He still awarded it a B+.

The Bay Area trio does have a way of disarming skeptics. Their compositions combine an early-modern chamber feel with bandwagons of tango, cabaret, and country and western. Jam-band vamping replaces tiresome jazz changes. What makes Tin Hat the paragon of this zeitgeisty concept (and lately the toast of our downtown scene) is the classical training that underpins it. Violinist Carla Kihlstedt is prone to flash and gimmicks, but pulls them off flawlessly, and her tone is supple and warm. Pizzazz marks her as frontperson, but onstage Mark Orton’s guitar is the musical heart. His acoustic playing has an understated inventiveness that’s both rhythm and lead.

They wisely led with material from the first two records. Early in the set, the musicianship was inspiring, but the studied reinvention of Astor Piazzolla’s complexity slightly annoying. But as faux lite tango eased into Rodeo Eroded‘s chamber-c&w, the emotional tenor deepened. Simpler melodies took cleverness down a notch and brought more compelling ideas, like the sweeping lead on “Bill” (Frisell?). Kihlstedt pulled a slow, full bow that caught on the heartstrings, while Rob Burger’s accordion parts did spooky campfire counterpoint. Other city slickers have worked this rustic territory profitably (Frisell, Aaron Copland, Edgar Meyer, Will Holshouser). Tin Hat heads uptown next month to Merkin Hall. Don’t be surprised if Nonesuch grabs them from Park Slope tastemakers Ropeadope: This kind of honest artifice makes chamber music both relevant and marketable. —David Krasnow

Archive Highlights