Dar Williams

Photo courtesy of Amy DickersonDarWilliams_AmyDickerson2high

Singer-songwriter Dar Williams will be making an appearance this Saturday, Oct. 19th at 8 PM at Symphony Space in NY. Click up here or on the link below for tickets.

She actually had some time to speak to me via phone for a little bit! :)

CM: Is it a normal kind of thing for you to play in places that are mostly known for classical/symphonic music?

Dar: Actually, my experience with Symphony Space is that it has a lot of different kinds of music (many of my friends play there), but what you are saying touches upon, I think–Some of the best cultural venues have a lot of diversity in what they do, and they kind of have to feel around sometimes, to get the genre right, but they really work hard to make their space as diverse as possible, especially in New York, where you can play Uptown or Downtown to completely different crowds. People with really savvy directors know how to do different kinds of concerts, so it benefits them. I would say that my music is put side by side with classical venues on a regular basis, so I’m definitely in the singer-songwriter venue world, for the most part. Continue reading

Eleni Mandell

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Singer-songwriter Eleni Mandell is appearing live tonight at 8 PM at Yoshi’s San Francisco on a double bill with Gabriel Kahane. Click the bottom link for info on the show. Eleni had a few minutes to speak about this and related things.

CM: Please talk about this gig with Gabriel Kahane.

Eleni: I was contacted by Lara Downes, and I hadn’t heard of Gabriel before, but I was really impressed with what I’d heard! I love playing live, going to San Francisco and getting to see people up there and play a show. I feel a little rusty right now, I did a lot of touring last year, but not much this year, so it will be fun!

CM: It’s great to see that one of your biggest influences is Tom Waits.

Eleni: Yes, for me, having him as an influence was a really good thing. There weren’t a lot of female singers that I wanted to emulate, and I did want to sound like him, but I couldn’t, but it’s sort of great to reach for something and then end up just becoming who I am, so, it worked out having him as an influence because he’s such a great songwriter, and really one of the best performers you could ever see live.

Eleni Mandell ~ “Magic Summertime” Official Video

CM: I would say you come very close to that good in terms of songwriting. I always like to hear the alt-country or alt-folk, and that’s one of my favorite things about your music.

Eleni: I’m definitely influenced by old-time country music, amongst many other things, but that’s definitely a favorite of mine.

CM: I know it sounds ridiculous, but the sound of pedal-steel guitar just does something to me.

Eleni: That doesn’t sound ridiculous, I think a lot of people agree with that!

CM: Then I’m in good company! [laughs]

Eleni: Yeah, honestly it’s a very special instrument!

CM: It sort of has the equivalent of a musical sigh.

Eleni: Yeah, very true!

CM: You also have a new recording coming out?

Eleni: I’m super, super excited about it, maybe moreso than any other record, but I guess it’s hard to remember..[laughs] but I recorded it in London with a new group of people. I got to open for Nick Lowe last year, and on that tour, I met his producer, Neil Brockbank, so I got him to produce this record, and I also recorded it with Nick Lowe’s regular band. These guys are so incredible to work with. I think it’s the greatest record I’ve ever done, and I’m just real excited to share it with people. And this comes out January 28th, 2014! Mark your calendars!

Eleni Mandell ~ Just Another Lonely Heart

Click here for tickets/info on the Artist Sessions show at Yoshi’s w/Eleni and Gabriel Kahane

Eleni Mandell.com

Backyard Portal ~ Film Preview

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Backyard Portal, an upcoming short film by indie director Mathew Roscoe, is an interesting sort of fantasy/comedy about a couple that happens to stumble upon, oddly enough, a portal in their backyard that brings into their lives several characters out of various genres of film, and as you can imagine, much fun ensues.

This project is notable for several things: NY composer Rebecca Brandt scored the film (We shall be speaking with her again soon), and among the cast is one of the actors from the box office smash The Hunger Games, Jack Quaid.

Backyard Portal will be appearing at film festivals this fall.

The director and cast had a few minutes to talk about the film.

Mathew Roscoe (Director): In terms of the acting and skill, I have never been so stoked about a cast for a movie! I definitely pulled out all the stops. The entire cast are just exceptionally talented people! The cool thing that really gives the movie chemistry is that the cast is made up of mostly good friends that have previously worked with each other. 4 of the 5 actors all met at NYU’s Hammerkatz, where Donald Glover (Community) started out.

Jack Quaid (David–He and Gina discover the portal): Backyard Portal was amazing to work on. I had an absolute blast working with my old friends and and an even bigger blast making new ones. The film was obviously different from something like The Hunger Games, but I loved working with a smaller budget and within one location because it allowed us to really play with these characters and find out what makes them tick: a luxury scarcely found on a giant set with a billion moving pieces.

Rachel Joravsky (Gina, girlfriend of David’s): In general this was not a very difficult transition to make. I had been performing with Max, Jack, and Tirosh all year on NYU’s premiere sketch comedy group Hammerkatz. Needless to say we were use to collaborating and improvising together. Marlee was an excellent addition, we all vibed with her immediately — really just effortless to work with.

Roscoe was really great at letting us do our thing, but also reining in the crazy. If it was up to us, we probably wouldn’t have stuck to the script at all. That’s what you get when you have 4 plus improvisors together. Everyone is going to be vying for the last joke.

Tirosh Schneider (Chance, a version of a greaser): I modeled my performance on a purposefully bad impression of both Danny Zuko and Elvis Presley, but more than anything I was inspired by the director, Matthew Roscoe, who had a very clear vision for Chance (the voice and all) from the very beginning. He was great in communicating the part to me down to the voice, so it came pretty easily after that.

Marlee Roberts (Dorothy, a version of the action heroine): I’m very grateful I was given the opportunity to play “Dorothy” in Backyard Portal. Most roles I’ve played are of the innocent good-girl (“Spaz”) or cheerleader-esque stereoype (“The English Teacher”) so it was fun to wear black leather, beat up toasters, and explore this side of myself.

Director Mathew Roscoe and I discussed our inspiration for the role including character references from The Terminator and Firefly. We applied some of these characteristics while discovering Dorothy’s originality and intentions by building a back-story. Dorothy is very complex in the way that she has an almost childlike dependency while maintaining a cold exterior. To build her as a three-dimensional character, it was really important for me to understand why she doesn’t trust anyone. Why is she deathly afraid of machines? And what about them invokes such a strong emotional response from her?

I wanted to humanize the “action-girl” by creating a reason as to why she behaves the way she does. Every decision is motivated. Without a doubt, it’s one of my favorite roles I’ve ever played.

Max Ash (Marcus, a loud Roman warrior): This was actually the first short film I was ever in so I guess it was different than portraying my regular life as I’m not aggressive or a Roman warrior.

While I watched clips of Spartacus and Gladiator on YouTube to get ready for the role, my characterization was based mostly off what I remember about the movie 300. I haven’t seen it since it was in theaters but I remember a lot of yelling and angry looks so I did a bunch of that.

Backyard Portal – Official Trailer from Coast Cinema on Vimeo

Backyard Portal (facebook page)

Ashley Bathgate & Eleonore Oppenheim at Drom ~ A Review

Eleonore Oppenheim soundchecking at Drom (Photo courtesy of Ashley Bathgate)eleonoreoppenheimdrom

Ashley Bathgate, cello
Eleonore Oppenheim, bass viol
Drom, NYC
Sunday, September 8th, 2013

I was really thrilled to check out a brilliant pair of post-minimal string music sets from Bang On a Can All-Stars’ Ashley Bathgate and Victoire’s Eleonore Oppenheim at the Lower East Side venue Drom this past Sunday night. The two string soloists are both very talented artists in their field, both as members of their respective ensembles as well as solo artists, not to mention that they are both also founding members of the group Bonjour (also scheduled to appear soon at Drom) with fellow bassist Florent Ghys.

Having a solo set each, Ashley’s set launched with Icelandic composer Daniel Bjarnason’s 3-movement piece Bow To String, with the ambient textures typical of the sound of Bedroom Community combined with the grittiness of Ashley’s downtown influences.
The soundbite-threaded mania of Yoav Shemesh’s “Empty City” was a big jolt, reminiscent of some of the best music of Jacob TV.
Bill Ryan’s “Simple Lines” and Jacob Cooper’s “Arches” both beautifully rounded out Bathgate’s set.

With her own selected stock projection of vintage b&w footage, Eleonore’s set began with my favorite moment of the evening: Ashley joining her onstage for Oppenheim’s own arrangement of Bjork’s “Pleasure Is All Mine”. The two artists’ performance of this work definitely made me want to see this kind of duo on a more regular basis.

Florent Ghys’ “Crocodile” was a delight of stereophonic clanging. Angelica Negron’s “La Isla Magica” and Jenny Olivia Johnson’s “Home” were two more sonic works of new music industrialism.

Both these artists were at their peak on this evening. I definitely love to come to NY to hear these great people, and I was very thrilled to see Eleonore for the first time solo, as I love her work in both Victoire and Bonjour.

Ashley Bathgate ~ Cello
Eleonore Oppenheim ~ Bassist

Sasha Siem at Joe’s Pub (A Review)

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Sasha Siem
Joe’s Pub, NYC
Monday, July 22nd, 2013

At the site of what has become Amy Schumer’s TV home, Joe’s Pub, UK singer-composer Sasha Siem flew in and delivered what felt like an all-too-brief set of short art songs, most of it from her new CD Most of The Boys. The presence of Sasha in a dark dress reminiscent of Stevie Nicks, along with some well-orchestrated chamber backing from a string trio-plus-drummer really made for an eclectic evening.

Songs like “Tug of War”, “Proof”, “Most of The Boys”, “Kind Man’s Kiss”, and “So Polite” were delivered with an incredible speed and unfounded character that only Sasha would be able to interpret. The small chamber group (featuring violinist Jeff Young and cellist Isabel Castellvi) were definitely the kind of ensemble that contributes to blurring the line between indie and indie-classical.

So Polite (live with the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra)

As a performer, Sasha Siem is a delightful composer/performer of art songs that, for fans of a very tasty and simultaneously light flavor of music, provides a great rival to artists like Bjork and Sufjan Stevens, and leaves an audience wanting even more. She did do a very short encore (it was 20 seconds), but I believe she is on to something.

Sasha Siem.com

Preview of Laila Biali at Subculture

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“It is the ultimate task given to the musician, whether as singer or instrumentalist, to create a unique signature or fingerprint that is instantly recognisable as their own. What is surprising and delightful in Laila Biali is that both as vocalist and pianist she accomplishes this with equal aplomb. She is an exciting and unique talent, and I admire her greatly.” – Sting.

Award-winning Canadian Jazz pianist and vocalist Laila Biali has been garnering not only national attention but world-wide recognition for her music, which has been performed at prestigious venues spanning four continents including the North Sea Jazz Festival, Tokyo’s Cotton Club, Peru’s El Festival Internacional de Lima, and Carnegie Hall in New York City. She has toured with Grammy award-winners Chris Botti, Paula Cole and Suzanne Vega and recorded with and supported pop icon Sting.

Laila is performing two more shows of her residency at NYC’s Subculture on Monday, July 22nd and Monday, July 29th at 7 PM. Click here or on the bottom for info/tickets.

Laila takes the best of pop, rock, classical and soul, informs it with her knowledge of Jazz and weaves it all into her musical arrangements. Her latest studio recording Tracing Light received a JUNO nomination for “2011 Best Vocal Jazz Album of the Year” and her most recent release Live in Concert, recorded live in February 2012 in front of a gracious audience at the Glenn Gould Studio in Toronto, Canada, captures the spirit of live performance so essential to Jazz. Live in Concert was added in rotation at 73 radio stations in North America.

Laila Biali – Show Me The Place (Leonard Cohen)

Critics have called Laila a “keyboard virtuoso” (Toronto Star) with “a voice that makes the listener shudder” (Montreal Gazette), celebrating her “bold musical ventures, youthful funkiness, ingenuity, verve and depth” (Ottawa Citizen) and her “ability to meld traditional jazz with contemporary pop so effortlessly that neither style seems out of place on the same record” (Spinner Magazine). Her accolades include “SOCAN Composer of the Year” and “Keyboardist of the Year” at Canada’s National Jazz Awards.

As an educator, Laila has been on faculty at Stanford University’s renowned summer jazz workshop. She is also a member of the all female, New York based neo-Classical quartet Rose & The Nightingale whose members have toured with Grammy award-winner Esperanza Spalding. She currently splits her time between Toronto and New York City.

Click here for tickets for Laila’s July 22nd show
Click here for tickets for Laila’s July 29th show

Laila Biali.com

Sasha Siem ~ On Most of The Boys and the Joe’s Pub show

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UK composer-vocalist Sasha Siem is releasing her first full-length CD this month, Most of The Boys, and she will be appearing at New York’s Joe’s Pub on July 22nd at 7 PM. Click here for info/tickets or on the link on the bottom.

Sasha had a few minutes to talk to us about the show, which will be a paired-down version of the concert done earlier this year the UK (shown in the video below).

“At the Royal Opera House concert, we had a string quartet, and it was so much fun and exciting for all of them as well because we had Zack Winokur, who was choreographing. He’d also worked with ICE, and he did various experiments with the relationship between movement and sound, and he was getting them to move around the stage. What I think worked was that it wasn’t arbitrary. It began to move in such a way that it was really kind of an urge out of the music somehow, and we were in counterpoint with the sonic world.”

Most of the Boys – Behind the Scenes

“The stage in Joe’s Pub is tiny, so, this will be an acoustic live version without movement. We just recorded the full cycle in Iceland with Valgeir Sigurðsson–That was such a great experience! He’s just a wonderful person to work with! We’re putting together a plan for releasing that at the end of the year, so this is like a little taster of that cycle in its entirety, which we haven’t yet done in New York, so, we’re really looking forward to that!”

Kind Man’s Kiss – Sasha Siem feat. Mivos Quartet

Click here for info/tickets for Sasha Siem at Joe’s Pub

Sasha Siem.com