Monday, June 19, 2006


Outside the unrelenting evening humidity attaches itself to every movement and muffles every sound. An all-engulfing blanket. Children play half-heartedly with a balloon on the steps of a turn of the century tenement block, but the balloon is going nowhere, everything is strangely still. A man approaches me from across the street. A lone Hopper-painting figure against the intense shadows of fire escapes.. sweat pouring from his forehead. Do I know where Rucker Street is? He has been searching for hours. I don't, but hand him my map. He studies it, but in truth neither of us can read the tiny street names without our absent reading glasses. He sighs resignedly, in the way only New Yorkers can and do, and sets off to wander the virtually empty streets some more.

Lower East Side. Deep inside. Scaffolding and handmade signs in windows.
Tonic. And it is. The contrast and respite of instant coolness in a space which nevertheless exudes warmth. Exposed brick walls, a cathedral-like smell of incense and wax, candles flickering in the otherwise darkened vault. A place to worship music.

Although Brandon Ross is the leader, this is a true 'band project' with JT Lewis, Stomu Takeishi and Ron Miles all an equal part of the concept. (About as far away from Marcus Miller and his 'sideshow' of two days ago as it is possible to get...)

These are musicians so technically advanced, so experienced, that there is no barrier. And what follows is a free-flow creative highway from their hearts through the instruments, an emotionally intense filmic journey, a surround soundscape of original stories, sometimes playful and quirky, often dark and tormented.

Extraordinary moments. When Brandon plucks the banjo strings tentatively, they cry out as desolately as heartstrings. In 'Peace Flows' his voice has a Jeff Buckley quality - an effortless purity which somehow pleads. JT pounds a backbeat which slams forcefully across the live walls, then stops and we too can hear the rhythm he feels and implies in bars of silence. And throughout, Stomu and Ron, always there, never there, like a perfectly woven carpet, there is no join, no individual thread. They are a part of the whole and yet the whole of the part.

Just occasionally I am in awe of the miracle of music. How did it happen - this extraordinary sequence of events which results in sounds so powerful they are felt rather than heard? How did these like-minded souls find each other, how did they not only KNOW that this is what they were born to do, but then actually, somehow, do it?

This was not a gig, it was an experience.

And last night I found a New York I had imagined.


Blogger est said...

i am having a moment here. some tears and a smile. i can almost ear them and i wish i could have been there.
thankyou for sharing this.
big big hugs

4:10 PM, June 19, 2006  

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