Friday, March 26, 2010

Mo Betta Movits!

Mix some hip-hop with swing, and sing it in the goofiest sounding language on the planet, Swedish, and you’ve got Movits! I don’t know a thing about this group except, once you hear them, you’ll be shouting, “Swing, Sven, Swing”! They did appear on the “Colbert Report”, so I’m not the only one who’s heard of them. As you can imagine, it’s pretty hard to describe this group. They only have one CD out and I’m not sure how easy it is to find. But give them a listen and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. They’re pretty unique and they’re a whole lot of fun. I imagine they get the crowd on their feet dancing, whenever they play live.

P.S. After listening to Movits! a couple more times, I'm pretty sure they're not singing/speaking in Swedish. I think it's all gibberish, like the "Vout" that Slim Gaillard was doing back in the 40's and 50's. It's still a hoot.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Simply Astonishing

That’s just about the only way to describe the piano playing of Hiromi. I had the good fortune to see her play last night and her performance was nothing short of breathtaking. She played mostly original compositions, and thoroughly charmed the audience. Her playing ranged to blazing, powerful runs similar to McCoy Tyner to soft delicate passages that are totally her own style. On stage she’s bursting with enthusiasm and smiles the entire time she’s playing. At times, she gets so into the music she stands up and continues playing.

And her technique is so remarkable, the audience burst into applause mid-song, several times. They also didn’t wait to the end to give her a standing ovation—they rose to their feet after almost every song. Her approach to playing is at times irreverent—at one point she placed something metallic on the strings to make the piano sound like a harpsichord while she riffed on Pachelbel's Canon. While playing a bluesy tune, she reached into the piano board and plucked to lower strings and did a long bass run. I kept trying to compare her to other pianists, but in the end, I just have to say, she sounds like Haromi.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Beautiful Melody

The story of Melody Gardot is truly an example of the human spirit triumphing over adversity. When she was 19, she attended a fashion school in Philadelphia. While riding her bike to school, she was struck by a car and left for dead. While recovering in the hospital over a several month period, she wrote and recorded a number of songs, which would eventually become the EP Some Lessons. It was through her music that she persevered and recovered. Today, Melody is hypersensitive to light and noise and she walks with a cane. She also needs a special electronic unit to help suppress her pain. In spite of all this, she continues to record and perform live.

Her voice and phrasing are both elegant and subtle. And it has a touch of innocence that reminds me of Doris Day. Her songwriting is mature and insightful. I’m surprised she isn’t better known. If she keeps making recordings as fine as her first three, I think that’s about to change.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Crazy Guggenheim

The Guggenheim Grotto--an oddball name for an excellent duo from Ireland. Specifically, they’re Kevin May and Mick Lynch. As you’d expect from a group from Ireland, they feature great vocals, and their harmonies are hauntingly beautiful. Their songs are catchy folk/pop in nature and most of them have offbeat lyrics. On their recording “Happy the Man”, every tune is a hit. Many of them are earworms, and there isn’t a weak song among them. But Guggenheim Grotto is a group that you really need to see live.

My daughter bought us tickets for Christmas, and we saw them a week ago in Ann Arbor. What a fantastic show. They played just about every tune they’ve ever recorded and it was hard to believe that two musicians could produce such a full sound--at least like a quartet. And they told funny stories in between numbers. Kevin told one about how his five-year old nephew was singing along with the lyric to “Her Beautiful Ideas”. But instead of singing, “Let’s get naked and get under the sheets” he was singing, “Let’s get naked and get under the sheep”. Kids say the darnest things!