Live: Francesco Tristano Does Some Astral Traveling At Cielo


Francesco Tristano
Monday, January 31

Better Than: Your favorite cover band

In a world where playlists and MP3 blogs have erased genre borders, the existence of a 29-year-old Julliard-trained concert pianist who also happens to be an accomplished techno performer can’t come as much of a surprise — just an inspired idea of what constitutes great American repertoire. Francesco Tristano is unique for having sold out rooms in both Carnegie Hall and Ibiza’s Space (playing Derrick May’s “Strings of Life” in both), and for possessing a pedigree that is un-fuck-withable in both those polar environments.

It began in 2007 as a grouping of etudes mixed with Tristano’s kick-ass taste in solo-piano Detroit covers; he was further nurtured via recorded and live collaborations with two of techno’s most prominent classicists, Carl Craig and Moritz von Oswald, before his sound blossomed into a full-fledged fusion on his new album, Idiosynkria, wherein a deep-house vision underpins many of the improvised and composed keyboard/piano/synth moves, equal parts minimal, romantic, and funky. To demonstrate both sides of his creative id, Tristano decided on two local gigs: Monday’s late night at Francois K’s Deep Space, the trusted war horse of NYC’s open-minded dance parties, was to be his beats night. (This coming Thursday’s early evening at Le Poisson Rouge, promises a more traditionally “serious” program.) And so it was.

For the better part of an hour, Tristano steered his keyboard in and around the drum machines and gargantuan baselines: one moment lost in the throes of Reich-meets-Moroder arpeggiation, the next making faces from behind Chick Corea-like jams, the next playing clusters of amelodic chords. Always, more color than drive. This being the “club” gig, the concentration — and the crowd’s response — owed more to the flow of beats, and it seemed for a minute that the instrument to which he’d devoted a lifetime’s learning was, for the evening at least, taking a backseat to a Mac loaded with Ableton. Then came a trifecta of tunes where Tristano stretched out: a cover of May’s “Strings,” his own “The Melody” (re-arranged to follow Craig’s rhythm-wise remix of it), and Idiosynkria‘s title track. Confident keyboard flourishes began ruling the space, eliciting whoops as Francois mixed the mechanized samba beat on which they rose to all four corners of the room, offering the clear promise of a new sort of borderless fusion.

Critical Bias: The bar prices are horrid and the door muggings often lawsuit-worthy, but with its regular attributes (Francois’ mixing and selecting skills, the enthusiastic crowds, the bookings) and that sound system, Deep Space at Cielo remains one of local music’s most under-appreciated institutions.

Overheard: “That’s a Zanzibar chord.”

Random Notebook Dump: Homebound cabdriver’s name was Amadou Diallo. Never forget!