Angel Band

Angel Band at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Prior to last night, we’ve seen Angel Band perform three times. The last one was over two years ago and was a CD Release Party at Joe’s Pub, covered in this post. Last night was also a CD Release party for their new album, Bless My Sole, this time at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2.

A lot has changed in the past two years, but the core experience is the same, excellent!

Angel Band is three fantastic female vocalists singing three part harmony. One of the things that’s somewhat different about Angel Band vs other three part harmony groups that we love is the sheer power that all three project (individually and simultaneously), without ever sounding too loud or overbearing. They can do subtle too, quite well, but they really shine when they crank it up.

We are also major fans of most things Bluegrass. While you certainly can’t characterize Angel Band as a mostly Bluegrass band, their instrumentation and many of their songs do fit the description and that suits us just fine. They have a fiddle, mandolin, flat-picking guitar player, etc.

So, what’s changed? First, one of the three Angels has changed. Jen Schonwald is no longer with the band, replaced by Aly Paige. Second, in previous shows the band backing up the Angels was always The David Bromberg Band. Last night was their own band, now formally highlighted on their site as well.

The heart of Angel Band is Nancy Josephson. She writes or co-writes most of their original songs (they do some incredible covers as well) and has a wonderful voice. My friend asked me to take a picture of what appeared to be a very cool hand-made tambourine:

NancyJosephsonTambourine NancyJosephson

Kathleen Weber also has an incredible voice and sings lead and harmony with equal effect.

KathleenWeber KathleenWeberWashboard

Aly Paige sings beautifully, both harmony and lead. It took her one lead effort to warm up and put a little more power into her solo singing.

AlyPaige

The band, left-to-right on the stage:

Christie Lenee on acoustic and electric guitar. Wow! She was filling the shoes of David Bromberg in the role of guitar-player for Angel Band. Not easy shoes to fill. While their styles are quite different, I was very impressed with Christie on both acoustic and electric, she’s a great match for Angel Band’s style, but I’m sure she’s great independent of them as well.

ChristieLenee1

Marc Moss on mandolin, electric and acoustic guitar and drums! A man of many talents, he excelled on all four instruments. He also co-wrote a number of the songs that they performed last night. Well done!

MarcMossDrums MarcMossMandolin

Bob Taylor on electric bass. Bob has played bass with David Bromberg for years and has toured with Angel Band for years as well. He’s extremely solid but not highlighted in their repertoire.

BobTaylor

Nate Grower on fiddle. Nate is listed on the front page of Angel Band’s site, but he doesn’t have a video intro of himself like the others do, at least not linked on the same The Band page. Nancy joked that she’s had a headache for longer than Nate’s been alive. She also correctly points out that that doesn’t stop him from being an amazing fiddler, which he is.

NateGrower

David Bromberg joined them as a special guest for three songs (for those who don’t know, he’s Nancy’s husband). He played both acoustic and electric guitar. During the 70’s, I attended as many David Bromberg shows as I could. He was one of my favorite live performers and he still thrills all these years later. We only discovered Angel Band because they were opening for David Bromberg at BB King in 2006 when I went to see David for the first time in many years.

DavidBrombergChristieLeneeMarcMoss

Joining Angel Band as another special guest for the last song and the one-song encore was Matt Parker on Saxophone. (I actually didn’t catch the first name, so I apologize if I linked to the wrong sax player!)

MattParker

So, we would have gone just to see Angel Band, no matter who was opening, or even if there wasn’t an opening act. But, much to my delight, the opening act was reason enough to show up, no matter who the headliner was. That’s my kind of show!

Martin Rivas played a six-number set on two different acoustic guitars. I keep saying that I need to see more of Martin, and last night continued the trend of getting a bit more of him (it was the longest set we’ve seen so far), but still not long enough.

MartinRivas

Martin played a number of songs from his new EP (The Convalescence EP). One of those songs was Raise Me Again. It’s a gorgeous song, very deep, that describes the pain that many children feel but likely can’t (or don’t) express as movingly as Martin does. His introduction made the song all the more meaningful.

Chrissi Poland joined Martin for one song where she sang a verse on her own and sang harmony with Martin as well. We’re going to have to keep an eye out for her, she has a fabulous voice, well paired with Martin’s.

ChrissiPoland

OK Martin, next time better be at least eight songs! ;-)

MartinRivasHadar

We got to introduce three people to Angel Band, and two of them discovered Martin for the first time as well. All in all a wonderful evening out.

Time for a rant, so tune out if all you want is peace and love. :-)

I rarely have a harsh word for Rockwood Music Hall. In general, both venues are fantastic in all respects, in particular to the musicians. Last night was a first at Rockwood in my experience. We showed up early (we always do) because there is limited seating, first-come, first-served. The center table was empty, but we were told it was reserved by Angel Band.

What? This kind of nonsense plays at BB King and Joe’s Pub, and is annoying there as well (but at least there are many other tables there), but we came to believe that it wouldn’t happen at Rockwood. I hope it’s not a trend.

Why is it so bad for the band to reserve a table (in a club that has so few!)? Because in our experience, almost never do the people show up for that table. On the rare occasion that they do, fewer people show up than the number of reserved seats, and they never (as in never) show up for the opening act. These aren’t music lovers, they are perk seekers (IMHO).

That was the case last night too, as the two seats that Lois and I tried to sit in were unoccupied for the entire show! :-(

Here’s a tweet from one of our guests (unprompted by me!) that sums it up more succinctly than I did above:

Wuz up with this BS of Reserved tables at Rockwood now? Me no likey! No likey at all!!

100% agreed. Let’s nip this practice in the bud now!

Rant #2, and one I’ve only had to call this out once before (Colin Hay in regard to The Paper Raincoat). Nancy Josephson never once thanked or mentioned Martin Rivas for opening. Another classless act that matches the reserving a table for people who don’t show up motif… Martin mentioned Angel Band (and thanked them) at least 1/2 a dozen times, totally classy!

Update: Please read the comments below for an apology directly from Nancy Josephson! Class has completely been restored! Whew.

Angel Band at Joe’s Pub

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If you’re one of the few people who reads the comments to these posts, then you probably know how we spent last night. Angel Band performed at Joe’s Pub. It also happened to be the official release party for their brand new CD With Roots & Wings. It’s also available as a download from Amazon.com.

We’ve seen Angel Band twice before, at BB King when they opened for David Bromberg (Nancy Josephson’s husband, and a long-time favorite performer of mine!) and when they opened for David at Paramount Theater in Peekskill, NY. In both shows they were wonderful (as reported here and here) and we bought their one CD, Beautiful Noise, and have listened to it many times since.

Last night it was all about them (though David Bromberg’s band backs them, so he was on the stage the entire time). It was their show, their party. More to say about that after the review of the set itself.

Regular readers know that Joe’s Pub is our favorite place to see live music. Angel Band came out at exactly 7:30pm (the announced show time). The three ladies, Nancy Josephson, Jen Schonwald and Kathleen Weber were joined by David Bromberg (guitars), Bobby Tangrea (mandolin and fiddle), Bob Taylor (bass) and Nate Grower (fiddle). Here they all are on stage:

Angel Band

After getting their positions set on the stage, the ladies erupted with an a cappella rendition of Hey Papa Legba, the first cut from the new CD. The acoustics at Joe’s Pub are among the best, when the person working the sound board knows what they are doing. Last night, the person working the sound board was nearly perfect! (Bromberg’s guitar had terrible feedback for five seconds, and at the end of one song, Nancy’s microphone nearly exploded, otherwise, one of the best blended sounds ever!)

One of the things that distinguishes Angel Band from a number of other vocal groups that we love (Girlyman, The Wailin’ Jennys, The Weepies, etc.) is the raw power that each of Nancy, Jen and Kathleen produce. And yet, even though they are belting it out (with all of the emotion that connotes), their blended sound is perfect and never overwhelms. I can’t explain the acoustics behind that (other than to credit their sound person again!), because it feels like you should be knocked out of your chair by their individual and collective power.

You are, sort of, by the beauty of their sound, not by being overpowered by it.

They performed at least seven of the 13 songs on the new CD (perhaps one or two more). They were all fantastic. On the first CD, few (if any, sorry, I’m not sure) of the numbers were written by Angel Band. I’ve reported in the past that Lois is drawn more to music written by artists that perform their own creations. I never cared, but am more sensitized to it after 26 years with Lois. ;-)

The new CD has a number of songs written by Nancy, Bobby Tangrea or the two collaborating together. It still has covers, including Angel of the Morning, which is the one duplicated song from Beautiful Noise, though the version on the previous CD is nearly one minute longer. They performed that last night as well, amazingly, with Nancy holding a note at the end for so long that she received an ovation that lasted through the normal end-of-song ovation. She had a good joke about it too, which I’ll keep secret, so that you have another reason (aside from their singing talent) to see them live.

So now, I have four versions of Angel of the Morning in iTunes. Two by Angel Band, one by Juice Newton, and one by Girlyman on their new Live CD. Guess which one I like best? ;-) Seriously, I love them all, and I’ve been listening to Juice Newton’s version for the longest time (and have never tired of it!), but Girlyman’s is the mellowest, and most soulful rendition of the four.

In an irony (for me, since I was unaware of it), Nancy explained that the author of Angel of the Morning, Chip Taylor, also wrote Wild Thing. The irony is that one of Girlyman’s funniest bits on stage is their rendition of Thing Wild, singing Wild Thing backwards. So, they cover two different Chip Taylor songs, one forwards, and one backwards. ;-)

After saying goodnight, they returned to the stage for a one-song encore. It’s one of their signature numbers, One Voice, written by Ruth Moody of The Wailin’ Jennys. I’m nuts about this song, and Angel Band does it wonderfully, each and every time.

They were on stage for exactly one hour (including the encore). I’ll have more to say about that in a minute. When the show was over, we sprinted to the back, where they were selling the new CD. We were first on line, and I also got to finally meet Nancy.

Nancy Josephson

We have traded a few emails since I bought Beautiful Noise directly from her nearly two years ago! It was nice that she remembered my name (not that it’s all that common). ;-) Of course, we got the CD signed by all three of them, thanks Angel Band!

The CD is gorgeous, and I recommend it highly! The cover shot for the CD was taken before last night, because you’d have trouble recognizing both Jen and Kathleen from that photo. Kathleen cut her hair to just below ear length, and Jen chopped it all off in a complete buzz cut. :-)

Here are close-ups of Jen and Kathleen, so you can see the difference:

Jen SchonwaldKathleen Weber

Here are individual shots of the rest of the band:

David BrombergBobby TangreaBob TaylorNate Grower

Now the back story to last night. Having seen Angel Band twice before, both times opening for David Bromberg, we were used to seeing them for exactly one hour (which for an opening group, is actually on the generous side nowadays!). We were really looking forward to seeing them at Joe’s Pub for two reasons:

  1. It’s our favorite place, regardless of the band
  2. We expected a longer show than usual

Unfortunately, when I saw that the start time was 7:30pm, not the more typical 7pm, I knew the show couldn’t be more than 75 minutes long (with encore), given that there was a 9:30 show as well.

They are also playing tonight, at BB King, a place we also like a lot, opening for David Bromberg. So, we could have had the same length show, and the enjoyment of a full David Bromberg set as well, by going to BB King. Of course, I prefer Joe’s Pub, and an early night, so I had a real dilemma.

I started this post by mentioning that you might have known we were going. That’s because the Angel Band publicist commented on this blog a few weeks back, pointing out the upcoming CD Release and the Joe’s Pub date.

I wrote to him asking about the short show. He contacted a member of the band (my guess is Nancy, but I have no way of knowing), and he replied with the following direct quote:

…we’ll give ‘em everything we got and leave ‘em lying in the aisles

OK, it was only an hour, but I will heartily admit, she (whichever of the Angels it was), was right. We left thoroughly satisfied with the performance, other than always wanting more from any artist we really like. They really do give every show their all, and the fans completely appreciate it!

Last night was unusual for another reason. The majority of the audience was related to at least one member of the band. The release party was more of a family get-together. It was pretty cool. We walked in right behind a group of them, which included David’s brother Charney. He sat immediately in front of us. Nancy spent an hour before the show making the rounds with various family members. A number of the cousins had never met before, and we were smack in the middle of all of the introductions.

This kind of scene was right up Lois’ alley, and even if the show wasn’t good (which you now know wasn’t the case), she might have called the evening a success just for the people watching. :-)

So, the concert was a complete success. Unfortunately, the aftermath wasn’t. We intended to head up to the house last night. We boarded a bus heading to the apartment. The air conditioning was blasting (a good thing for Lois). After a stop or two (perhaps the bus driver overheard one woman complain when she got on), he shut off the air conditioning.

Lois doesn’t do well (in general) with motion, in particular fits and starts, and when you add stale warm air to the mix, she gets sick instantly. She also doesn’t recover for long periods of time. By the time we got to the apartment, she was violently ill (nauseous and dizzy). I suggested we spend the night in the city instead of going to the house. She insisted. As silly as that was, I have learned (the hard way) not to argue (at least not too much).

We made great time going home, but it did nothing to help her get better. She’s totally out of it today as well, having recovered not even a bit, no doubt made worse by being in a car immediately after the bus ride. Hopefully, she’ll be back to normal tomorrow! :-(

Bromberg and Angel Band at Paramount Theater

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This past Saturday night, we went to see David Bromberg and Angel Band (David’s wife’s group) perform at the Paramount Theater in Peekskill, NY. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know that David Bromberg is one of my all-time favorite live performers.

In September 2006, I saw him again at BB King in NYC for the first time in over 20 years. That night, we accidentally discovered Angel Band. We had never heard of them, and would have sat through any opening band to hear Bromberg. What a treat it turned out to be that Angel Band was not only his wife’s group, but that David and his band played all of the instruments in support of these three amazing female vocalists.

Ironically, another of my favorite groups (Jazz this time though), Spyro Gyra was playing the same night, just three miles from our house at Tarrytown Music Hall. I didn’t find out about the Spyro Gyra concert until after I had the tickets for the Bromberg concert, so it was too late. Given that we saw Bromberg twice in the past 14 months, I would have gone to see Spyro Gyra had I known about both at the same time.

The Paramount is a gorgeous old theater with very comfortable seats. We were in the ninth row, center orchestra, so we had excellent seats.

We own the one CD that Angel Band has out now, Beautiful Noise, and we like it a lot. They are releasing a new CD early next year, so we were expecting to hear some new material. Sure enough, at least 2/3′s of the show was different than the one we saw at BB King, which was a real treat. They sing so beautifully and powerfully, and the David Bromberg band would enhance any singer’s performance.

The first few songs that they played were awesome. While they took a while to get Nancy Josephson’s (David’s wife) microphone level correct, she was in particularly good voice, and was truly belting out her leads, amazingly. The other two women, Jen Schonwald and Kathleen Weber (their bios are here), are both wonderful as well!

The selection of songs they played in the middle had less oomph (to me), and while I wasn’t bored (at all), I wasn’t as moved or mesmerized either. They finished on a high note though. When they walked off the stage, Lois commented that she couldn’t believe that they didn’t play the song One Voice.

The first time we ever heard that song was Angel Band singing it at BB King in September 2006, and we have listened to it on the Beautiful Noise CD many times. We recently found out that the song was written by one of my new favorite bands, The Wailin’ Jennys, whom I’ve written about twice now, here and here.

Just as Lois was lamenting not hearing it, they came out for an encore, and lo and behold, played One Voice. It was great, but, not as good as the version on the CD, or the one we heard live that first time. I’m not complaining, just ‘splaining. Great, but not awesome.

The one low point in their performance, for me, was the introduction (in the form of a speech) of a new song written by Nancy Josephson. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me, and caused me to write a separate blog entry complaining about it. I didn’t want to conflate the great music, with my feelings about the speech, so I separated the two. If you care to hear me rant about my feelings about performers lecturing their audience on politics, feel free to read it here.

After a 15 minute break, the David Bromberg Quartet took the stage. As much as the audience loved Angel Band (us included), it was as obvious at the Paramount as it was a year earlier at BB King, that the overwhelming majority of the crowd came out to see David do his thing. The one real surprise was that they switched bass players between sets (I don’t recall that happening at BB King, though I might just not remember it correctly).

David has a very large body of work to choose from, so you never really know what you’re going to hear when you see him live. At the show, he even said that he doesn’t typically have a set playlist for a given concert, but rather lets the band know in between songs what has tickled his fancy to play next. That’s very cool and likely pretty unusual.

Unfortunately (only for me!), his selection on Saturday bordered on the slightly more boring side to me. He played a few of his very famous songs, and they truly wailed on some of the songs that wouldn’t have been anywhere near as exciting on a CD, but, ultimately, I wasn’t blown away by Bromberg himself.

In fact, while he’s nowhere near over the hill, his fingers don’t quite listen to his mind like they used to. In this post about Kathy Mattea, I wrote about Bill Cooley, and the fact that he was likely the best acoustic guitarist I had ever heard. Right before I made that pronouncement, I described what a genius I thought Bromberg is with a guitar. He still is, just not as consistently perfect as he used to be. He misses notes, or perhaps more accurate, simply doesn’t execute what you can tell he was aiming for. That said, on occasion, he thrills like he used to, and it’s sheer bliss.

Still, Bromberg is one of the most fun (as in entertaining) performers you can imagine. When he plays the guitar, he produces facial expressions (and body contortions) aimed to mimic the style and emotion of what he’s playing on the guitar. It’s awesome. The crowd totally eats it up. It gives his guitar playing a sense of story telling that matches the lyrics of whatever song he’s playing. In other words, even though there are no words, you hear the words as he plays each individual lead.

One last thing about Bromberg’s guitar playing: it’s distinctive. In other words, he’s one of the rare guitarists where you can close your eyes, hear him play, and say “That’s Bromberg”. A few others are Jerry Garcia, Santana, Clapton, etc. They are all playing the same basic instrument, and yet, across hundreds of songs, you can still say instantly which one of them it is.

Playing along with David are the top three people listed on this page, Jeff Wisor, Butch Amiot and Bobby Tangrea. Lois is crazy about Bobby Tangrea as a musician (as am I), and we both love Jeff Wisor as well. Wisor is an amazing fiddler (who also plays the mandolin in a few songs), and Tangrea is an exceptional mandolin and guitar player, who plays the fiddle really well on a few songs as well.

Tangrea is a world-class mandolin player, but he is not nearly as good as Chris Thile (who many people believe is the best in the world), or even Ricky Skaggs (in my opinion), but take nothing away from him, you’ll love every minute if you get to see him. His guitar playing is a little better (to my tastes), but in Saturday’s selection of songs, he spent the vast majority of his time on the mandolin.

The highlight (to both Lois and me) of the Bromberg set was the instrumental number Yankee’s Revenge (from the CD Midnight on the Water). It’s a great song on the CD, but live, man, they just nailed it. In particular, Jeff Wisor was so brilliant on the fiddle and Bromberg made him (and Bobby Tangrea on the mandolin) take double-long solos. Yes, they were that good. The only thing missing was they didn’t use a picolo (or some sort of flute) live, which is done really well on the CD version.

Anyway, they came out for two (or three?) encores, with Angel Band as well, though Angel Band just sang very soft background, and was almost superfluous during the encores.

All-in-all, we had a great time. That said, while I’d see him/them again, I can tell already that I won’t be as anxious to catch him in the future as I was these past three times. That’s partly because of the tiresomeness of the political speeches, partly because his selection of songs can be a little too varied, and because as great as he still can be, he’s not as flawless as he used to be.

So, here comes the obligatory Girlyman mention. To try and pretend that it’s even slightly in context, I’ll simply say that I (as of this moment in time) can’t imagine not being excited to catch Girlyman in a live show! :-) I used to feel that way about Bromberg…

In fact, it occurs to me what the problem was (for me only!) with this performance at the Paramount, vs the Girlyman performance at both Highline Ballroom and Joe’s Pub:

At both Girlyman concerts (as with past Bromberg shows), I was so totally immersed in the music, that it was truly a zen-like experience. In Saturday’s show, I was aware of my surroundings, the people around me, etc. It was a great concert, but it wasn’t a magical, mystical journey like a Girlyman show is.

The Wailin’ Jennys CDs

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After seeing The Wailin’ Jennys perform last Saturday night at Tarrytown Music Hall, I informed you all that I’d be buying their CDs. I ordered the two full-length CDs from Amazon.com on Monday. Their current one is Firecracker, and the older one is 40 Days. I paid $13.99 for each, but the links I just posted show them at $17.98, so you might prefer to search around for a better price.

That said, I love Amazon.com. The vast majority of things that I buy online are from Amazon.com, Buy.com and eCost.com. In addition to the Jennys CDs, I purchased the latest Rascal Flatts CD (Still Feels Good) and Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby CD (Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby).

I struggled (for the first time) whether to pay for expedited shipping, because I wanted to play the Jenny’s CDs for my friends who we are visiting with this weekend. In the end, I decided that it could wait, and I opted for the free shipping. The site estimated that it would ship on October 8th (next Monday). I got the CDs today. That’s 3 days after I ordered them, with free shipping. Did I mention that I love Amazon.com? Well, if I didn’t, then let me say so now: I love Amazon.com! :-)

On to the CDs. I just listened to both of them. Since the Jennys played for nearly two hours on Saturday, they covered the majority of both of these CDs, so many of the songs were already familiar. The CDs are luscious and gorgeous, as was their live performance. Just like I previously reported, these are the ultimate stress busters.

The only thing from that previous post that I would like to amend is my analysis of One Voice as sung by the Jennys and Angel Band. I reported that I was more used to the Angel Band version, but that I would likely grow to prefer the Jennys version. Now I’m not so sure. The Jennys version is gorgeous, without a single thing to complain about. In fact, it’s 34 seconds longer than the Angel Band’s version, and my only complaint about the Angel Band version is that it’s too short.

Having just listened to both versions 4 times each, I am still leaning (ever so slightly) to the Angel Band version. They choose to sing the lyrics with more power. The Jennys almost whisper the song (stunningly so, it’s not a complaint), and I like the power. Angel Band also sings it ever so slightly more up-tempo (which I think largely accounts for the 34 second differential), and that’s sort-of nice too. So, two great versions to pick from, depending on your mood. ;-)

All that said, I’d pay some good money to hear Girlyman do a version. I have little doubt that I’d prefer it instantly. I hope to find out one day! :-)

Don’t forget, you can listen to Girlyman for free here. :-)

The Wailin’ Jennys are Wonderful

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Last night, Lois and I went to see The Wailin’ Jennys at Tarrytown Music Hall. We don’t own any of their CD’s, and weren’t familiar with their music. So, what made us go see them?

I’ve written a number of times about how much I love to see David Bromberg perform live. In the past year, we’ve seen him twice, once at BB King’s, with his full band, where they also backed up his wife’s band, Angel Band, and once solo at Joe’s Pub.

During the BB King’s concert, someone sitting next to us told us that Bromberg grew up near Tarrytown, NY, and that he tries to play at Tarrytown Music Hall once a year. We live 3+ miles from there, and didn’t realize that there was a regular live music scene there. It got me started checking their web site, and indeed, they have some top performers coming there, albeit not that regularly.

I noticed that The Wailin’ Jennys (or just “The Jennys” as they refer to themselves) were scheduled for last night, and that the site was promoting them as the most popular show of 2006. I listened to a few short clips on the web, and bought the tickets. It was our first time at the Tarrytown Music Hall.

Previously, I’ve written that the best acoustics that we’ve experienced was at Zankel Hall, which is part of Carnegie Hall. That’s probably still true. That said, Tarrytown Music Hall is a pretty close second, which is pretty incredible, because it’s obviously a very old, Broadway style theater, with the numbers worn off of most of the seats, etc. It doesn’t look like it would carry the music as purely as it does, but indeed, it does!

Opening for the Jennys was an unannounced duo. Actually, the performer was Anthony da Costa, who brought along a friend (Oliver Hill) of his creating a duo/duet on stage. Anthony is 16 years old, yes, that’s right, 16! He’s a folk singer. Excellent voice, pretty darn good folk guitarist as well. Unfortunately, a little too precocious for our tastes on the stage. He has a very good stage presence, and the crowd loved him, so we were in a very tiny minority (possibly of size two!). Anyway, he definitely has talent, so I understand why they booked him, and perhaps he will grow into the role as he graduates from High School. ;-)

Now for the Jennys. You can read their bios, both for the group, as well as the three ladies (who now tour with a guy as well, though he doesn’t sing) here, where they do a better job than I can in summarizing their backgrounds.

They sing together so beautifully, it’s hard to describe. Each has a spectacular voice individually as well. To boot, all three are extremely accomplished musicians (as you can read in their bios as well), trading off multiple instruments during the show (well, Ruth and Nicky do, while Heather plays a mean bass all night long). They are wonderful when they interact with the audience as well, warm, witty, engaging, interesting, etc.

Of course, now we need to go out and buy all of their CDs. The concert ended late, so we were too tired to hang around and buy them there at the theater.

Having mentioned the Angel Band above, and in at least two previous posts, I think I mentioned in one of them that our favorite song by them is “One Voice”. Last night, when the Jennys returned for their encore, they gave an introduction explaining how they (Ruth) came to write “Once Voice”, and then they sang it (to perfection, of course!). We were blown away that a song that we loved so much was written by a group we didn’t know, but had just enjoyed so thoroughly all evening.

We’ve listened to the Angel Band version so many times, so it is stuck in our heads as the correct version. So, while a little bit of the Jennys version was slightly different, ultimately, we both agreed that it was a little richer, and it would only takes us a few more listens before we would likely prefer it dramatically. No knock on the Angel Band, who sing that song amazingly well!

Then, for the finale (second song in the encore), the Jennys sang their third a capella song of the evening (the first two were extraordinary), but this time, without any microphones either. The three of them just stepped out onto center stage, and sang like the angels that they are. Wow!

Anyway, both the Jennys, and Tarrytown Music Hall are highly recommended!

OK, on to the obvious question: “So, three people singing stunning harmonies, are you over Girlyman yet, and if not, are the Jennys as good?” (inquiring minds want to know, and, my contract with this site requires me to mention Girlyman, as readers of my previous Suzy Boggus post will recall). ;-)

For many people, the answer might be yes, but for Lois and I, the answer is no. I’ll speak for myself only (Lois has a slightly different take, but falls in the same direction). The Jennys are amazing, nothing short of it. But, their music (to me) is soothing, almost hypnotic. I was so relaxed (almost mesmerized) during most of their songs. That’s an incredible feeling, and I’ll turn to their CDs (which I will buy this week) when I want/need that feeling.

Girlyman, who are much more minimalistic in their instrumentation, elicit a much more active firing of neurons in my brain. I can’t help but sing along, tap my feet, tap the steering wheel, tap on anything in sight, etc. It’s a more visceral, perhaps even primal connection to the music. Both Lois and I felt that the Jennys could easily achieve that (they most certainly have the talent, in spades), but that’s not the kind of songs they write (or at least not the ones they chose to perform last night).

Take nothing away from them, they are firmly on my favorite groups list now, but Girlyman is still ahead of them on the list. :-)

Rediscovering Live Music

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Sorry folks, this is likely gonna be another long one. It’s 5:30pm on a Sunday, and I’m relaxing in the hotel down near Zope, and this is what I feel like doing at the moment…

From my mid-teens until my early twenties, I was a fanatic for going to live concerts. I went to a variety of shows, but by far it was mostly rock or folk. Among my favorites back then were Dylan, David Bromberg, The Greatful Dead, The Allman Brothers, Santana, etc.

The greatest concert I ever attended was a 12 hour affair. My friends and I drove from NYC to Washington, D.C. for a concert at RFK Stadium. I was 16, and only had a learner’s permit (this will become important later in the story). ;-) At noon, the warm-up group came on, The New Riders of the Purple Sage. They played for 2 hours, and were excellent. At 2pm, The Greatful Dead came on, and played for 5 hours. At 7pm, The Allman Brothers Band came on, and played for another 5 hours.

Both the Dead and the Allman Brothers were awesome. Hard to pick between them that day, but perhaps (just perhaps), the Brothers outdid them a bit. Of course, since they got to go last, it could simply have been that their stuff was still ringing in our ears all the way home. :-)

Anyway, when we left (hitting the parking lot at 12:30am), the driver (the only female in our group) was too tired to drive at all. So were the other two. I felt fine, but wasn’t legally allowed to drive at night, without an adult, and oh yeah, I had never driven on a highway either! ;-)

Suffice it to say, it was quite an experience for me, and a drive that normally takes 4+ hours took a little more than 3.

I can still remember my last live concert (of that era) like it was yesterday. I got two tickets to see David Bromberg at Town Hall. First row in the Balcony. I was incredibly excited. I had seen Bromberg live 5 times before, and each one was better than the one before. He’s a magical live performer who really connects with the audience.

Much to my surprise (and chagrin), the audience was mostly teeny boppers. I was all of (perhaps) 23, so I was truly mature… It seemed to me that I was the only person in the audience who had ever heard of Bromberg, and came to actually see him specifically. The rest seemed to be out for the evening, hanging with their friends. They never stopped talking (loudly) even for a second. At least twice, Bromberg stopped playing in the middle of a song (I had never seen something like that ever before) and practically begged the audience to be quiet. They didn’t comply… :-(

I decided that night to stop going to see live music…

That pretty much held true until nearly 15 years later. The Greatful Dead were playing Madison Square Garden, and I was able to get two tickets in the fifth row center as part of a charity thing. I wanted to do it both because I was crazy about the Dead, and because I wanted to share this kind of experience with Lois, who had never seen a band like the Dead play live.

We were grossly disappointed. Everyone stood the entire evening, and Lois could barely see the stage even standing on her seat (and we were 5 rows back!). The selection of music was a little strange as well, and they played the shortest concert I’ve ever seen them do, in the 5 times I’ve seen them live. Oh well, my admonition not to go to live concerts seemed safely back on…

I think the only exception to that rule was an evening at a Jazz Club in NYC (Birdland) to see Stanley Jordan. If you don’t know him, he plays an amazing style of guitar whereby he taps on the strings on the frets, rather than ever picking or strumming. He creates quite unique sounds, and is a fantastic performer. I enjoyed the evening. That night was more about an evening out with friends, including dinner, rather than the concert being a real destination.

Then it all changed (albeit a little more slowly to begin with) ;-)

On January 17th, 2003, our godson (who was a junior at Duke at the time) came for a long weekend with some of his friends from school. Lois is a master planner and goes out of her way to try and pack as many interesting things to do whenever people come to visit. Our godson played the trumpet in the Duke marching band so Lois looked around to see if any famous trumpet players were in town. Indeed, Arturo Sandoval was playing at the Blue Note.

I think there were 7 of us there for the show, and we had dinner beforehand, and totally enjoyed the show. As much as I love jazz (and I really do!), Arturo’s style isn’t necessarily my favorite, but seeing him perform live was still a wonderful experience. In December 2003, our godson returned with a nearly identical set of friends for an encore (I think there was one swap in the group). We went back to the Blue Note, and saw Jane Monheit. Wow, can this lady sing. I got in trouble on this trip because we got to the club a little later than usual, and had the worst seats in the house (which aren’t that bad!), but Lois still hasn’t forgiven me, over three years later…

From that point on, we went occasionally to the Blue Note, either by ourselves, or when someone was visiting from out of town, and once even went with local friends (if you can believe that). :-) Among the people we saw there (I can’t remember them all) were Bob James (writer of the theme song from the TV show Taxi), Maynard Ferguson (twice, unfortunately now deceased), Acoustic Alchemy (probably my favorite jazz group!), Chuck Mangione (was my favorite for a long time, and is still amazing live) and probably another one or two.

This was over a period of three years, which is why I said above that it built slowly at first. Last September, it hit a fevered pitch, as we broadened our venues beyond the Blue Note. I started actively searching for tour dates for some of my favorite groups, and immediately found out that David Bromberg was playing at BB King Blues Club. We had never been there. The show was awesome, and included an hour of a group called Angel Band (which is three women who sing harmonies like angels, including David’s wife Nancy Josephson).

Since then, we’ve been to BB King’s many times. We’ve seen a wide variety of shows there, including the following groups: Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby (who tour and record together now, which we didn’t know in advance. They were awesome.), Shawn Colvin, Paul Thorn (he opened for Ricky and Bruce, and was a delightful surprise), Quicksilver Messenger Service (they were boring), Jefferson Starship (used to be a favorite, but they’re over the hill, were awful, and we left early!), The Commitments (from the movie of the same name), Yama Bandit (unannounced opening group for The Commitments), Sunday Gospel Brunch (tons of fun!), perhaps one or two others…

We also discovered a fantastic small club in NYC called Joe’s Pub. The first group we saw there is one of my recent favorites, The Duhks. Then we saw Master McCarthy and Fools for April with our godchildren. Finally, we saw David Bromberg solo there. A great treat!

We saw Dave Koz at the Beacon Theater on Valentine’s Day. It was an amazing show, even though the acoustics were horrible! He had two special guests that played most of the evening with him and his band. David Benoit and Jonathan Butler. David Benoit is one of the great jazz pianists. Lois is now one of his biggest fans. I had never heard of Jonathan Butler before. He’s a South African singer and guitarist. He blew me away. Anita Baker was supposed to be a special guest, but she got snowed in and couldn’t make it. Koz got his buddy Be Be Winans to step in at the last minute. Be Be sings “The Dance” on the Koz album of the same name, and is one of our favorites. It was a special treat to see him sing that song live!

Last week we saw Chris Thile and his new band The Tensions Mountain Boys at Zankel Hall, which is part of Carnegie Hall. Chris is considered by some to be the world’s greatest mandolin player. We used to think his last name was pronounced “teal”, but it turns out it’s “theely”, who knew. After recording a few albums on his own, he was the lead person in Nickel Creek (one of my favorite groups), before forming this group. Zankel Hall is under ground at Carnegie Hall, and perhaps the best acoustical venue we’ve ever been in.

That pretty much catches you up on what we’ve done. We have two more shows coming up in the next month. On April 3rd, we were supposed to see The Allman Brothers Band together at the Beacon Theater. Two weeks ago, we were having dinner with two of our favorite people, and we realized that the guy was a big Allman Brothers fan. Lois isn’t (simply because she hasn’t listened to them much, not because she actively dislikes them), and we offered up her ticket to him. Instead, Lois and his wife are now scheduled to see Abigal Washburn and Bethany Yarrow + Rufus Cappadocia at Joe’s Pub. We found out about Abigail Washburn when we were seeing Yama Bandit at BB King, and the person next to us (who was friends with the Yama Bandit band) told us how great Abigail is.

Finally, friends of ours who got dizzy when we recounted the above to them over sushi, surprised us a few weeks back and told us that they bought four tickets to see Harry Connick Jr. at Radio City Music Hall on April 21st (inspired by us). We’re looking forward to that show as well. :-)

Whew! Done at 8:10pm…