May Listings by Brad Cohan
May 3–25: Red Bull Music Festival New York. The 2018 edition of Red Bull Music Festival New York is once again the pinnacle of the all-genre encompassing sprawl, certain to whet the appetite of cutting-edge music seekers, film buffs, eye-opening art, and those clamoring for righteous conversation (Harry Belafonte, anyone?). Can’t-miss performances include electronics sound painter Daniel Lopatinís Oneohtrix Point Never mushrooming from one-man-band into full ensemble for the world premiere of MYRIAD, the debut of composer/1-bit sound maestro Tristan Perchí’s Drift Multiply, a fifty violin, fifty speaker monolith, and what promises to be revealing conversations with Hip-hop impresario Hype Williams and Swedish pop-head Robyn.
May 3: Marika Hughes’ The New String Quartet at Greenwich House Music School. Greenwich House Music School’s long-running “Unchartered” series has presented a glorious string of concerts where female musicians debut new works. Cellist/singer/composer Hughes keeps that streak going as she leads her New String Quartet, an all-acoustic, instrumental supergroup rounded out by James “Blood” Ulmer, violinist Charlie Burnham, guitarist Marvin Sewell, and bassist Rashaan Carter. The soothing, burly screech and sublime cry of Hughes’ cello will fill out the Greenwich House’s room as she puts her own unique spin on sound spectrums from chamber music, jazz, pop, classical, and everything in between.
May 4: Mdou Moctar, Doug Shaw (of Gang Gang Dance) and The Cradle at Elsewhere (Zone One). Tinariwen has laid the groundwork for the nascent desert-blues scene spearheaded by Tuareg musicians hailing from the Sahara desert region of Northern Mali. Now Niger-based Tuareg guitarist Mdou Moctar is fast gaining in popularity with his zigzagging psychedelic ritual music. Moctar doesn’t tour the States very often so catch his guitar heroics while he’s here.
May 4: Vincent DíOnofrio & Dana Lyn: Slim Bone Head Volt at Joe’s Pub. Actor heavy and spit ‘n’ vinegar wordsmith hero Vincent D’Onofrio is a downtown punk at heart and his collaboration with kindred spirit, violinist/composer Dana Lyn is the gnarliest of noises that bleeds New York City dirt and grime. The duo’s new Slim Bone Head Volt: Volume 2 is a scuzzy, throbbing chunk of spoken word-spewing punk-jazz fury as D’Onofrio, in his New Yawk-accented glory, goes off the deep end with a relentless barrage of wacked-assed poetry. Think spoken word Henry Rollins backed by James Chance and the Contortions.
May 5: An Evening with Yonatan Gat with with Eastern Medicine Singers & William Parker at (le) Poisson Rouge. Since the breakup of Isreali noise-punks Monotonix, guitarist Yonatan Gat has mightily squelched out a hybrid of surf, classical, world music, jazz-rock, and free-improv. On the just-dropped Universalists, Gat—with production help from Silver Jews chief David Berman and Calvin Johnson of Beat Happening, and appearance by Algonquin Native American group Eastern Medicine Singers—realizes his vision of shredding, global music-tinged heroics. Tonight, it’s a Gat tour de force as he leads his Quartet (featuring Swans’ Thor Harris on vibes and trombone) and plays with The Eastern Medicine Singers before tackling Dvorak’s 19th Century “American Quartet” with Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier on drums.
May 6: Marc Ribotís Ceramic Dog & Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin (Record Releases) at (le) Poisson Rouge. It’s a double record release dream bill as two avant-garde luminaries celebrate new records. With YRU Still Here?, downtown jazz punk and activist Marc Ribot and Ceramic Dog (multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily and drummer Ches Smith) rage full-on with the fuck-you record of the year as they tear Trump to shreds with a protest music that only Ribot can pull off. Not nearly as angry, Swiss pianist Nik Bärtch’s Ronin celebrate the release of Awase, a dizzying set of ecstatic gymnastics, propulsive back and forth, and rich details.
May 9: Jamie Saft/Joe Morris/Charles Downs Trio at happylucky no. 1. Avant-jazz guitar visonary Morris preps for his upcoming Stone residency (May 23–28) by trading in his ax for acoustic bass as he joins forces yet again with pianist Jamie Saft and drummer Charles Downs, the group that made 2015’s Ticonderoga with tenor and soprano saxist legend Joe McPhee. McPhee won’t make this trip but the trio should have no problem recreating the free-form magic captured on the Coltrane-inspired album. Later in the month, on the 19th, Saft, with tenorist Bill McHenry, bassist Brad Jones, and drummer Mike Clark, hits Prospect-Lefferts Gardens bar/music space Owl Music Parlor to preview cuts from his forthcoming straightahead jazz record Blue Dream, out in June via the RareNoise label.
May 9: Che Chen with Talice Lee and Patrick Holmes at Roulette. With 75 Dollar Bill, guitarist Che Chen and wood crate banging percussionist Rick Brown have brought junk-fi guitar rock minimalism to unexplored sonic realms. For this Roulette commission, Chen trades in his hypnotic groundswell of free-improv-inspired and Eastern-melodious riff wonder for a stash of miscellaneous instruments (bass recorder, voice, electric organ) in this new project with Talice Lee (violin, voice) and Patrick Holmes (clarinet, voice), that is certain to offer new directions in sound and vision.
May 11: Roman Filiu Quarteria at The Jazz Gallery. Cuban-born, New York City-based saxophonist Filiu has served as sideman in the groups of such jazz royalty as Henry Threadgill, Steve Coleman, David Virelles, and Dafnis Prieto, while being a forward-thinking and outstanding composer and bandleader in his own right. Tonight, he celebrates the release of Quarteria, a sprawling statement of epic, free-improv wizardry and an electrifying ride teeming with polyrhythmic fervor, lyrical beauty and spirited dynamics that youíd expect from an ensemble that counts Ralph Alessi, Dayna Stephens, Maria Grand, Virelles, Matt Brewer, Craig Weinrib and Yusnier Sanchez as members.
May 11: The Melvins and All Souls at Warsaw. The heaviest of the heavies, avant-metal kingpins the Melvins keep trudging on, forever blazing a sludge, doom, and stoner trail. On the new Pinkus Abortion Technician, the core duo of guitarist/singer King Buzz and drummer Dale Crover, with the two-bass tandem of Butthole Surfer’s Jeff Pinkus and Steven McDonald of Redd Kross, defy convention once again with a schizoid pop/damaged boogie beast complete with covers of James Gang, the Beatles, and Butthole Surfers. Fellow L.A. pop-centric alt-metal crew All Souls fittingly open the show with their positively hooky blitz of Melvins-style grungy crunch and earworm-catchy anthems from the KISS playbook.
May 13: Great Music at St. Bart’s: Morton Feldman’s Patterns in a Chromatic Field Performed by Marilyn Nonken & Stephen Marotto in The St. Bart’s Chapel. The Great Music at St. Bart’s has been presenting choice new music concerts over the past several seasons, while somehow staying under the radar. This performance of one of Feldman’s great, late works should put them on the map. With the quiest and stillness that Feldman is famous for, Patterns in a Chromatic field weaves what is at times a mind-bending complexity and mesmerizing beauty.
May 13: Oracle Hysterical at National Sawdust. Evocative art pop from the unlikeliest of sources, Euripides play Hecuba. Oracle Hysterical, a group made up of new classical and early music performers, has crafted a lovely and elegant album (out May 11 on National Sawdust’s label) about a terrifying, savage tragedy. Listen to our May podcast for more.
May 16: The Sea and Cake + James Elkington at Elsewhere (Hall). Post-rock pioneers The Sea and Cake debuted nearly a quarter-century ago and their shapeshifting blend of pop, jazz, and electronics sounds as fresh today as it did back then. The trio of Sam Prekop, John McEntire, and Archer Prewitt are touring behind electro-pop pleasure Any Day, their first new album in six years, and its breezy, synth-peppered complexities, lush arrangements, and saccharine melodies are a sun-splashed joy.
May 16: Darshan + Elana Brody at DROM. Chant Records, the brainchild of Zorn-heads Jon Madof and Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz, launched late last year with a flurry of releases that showcase their fringe-crossing palate for world music, experimental music, and free jazz. That blend is perfectly colored on Raza, the debut from Darshan. Putting a new-world spin on traditional Jewish music, singers Basya Schechter (of Pharaoh’s Daughter) and aShir Yaakov, and rapper Eden Pearlstein (a/k/a ePRHYME) make their own unique form of Radical Jewish Culture, taking Judaic songs and poetry and transforming it into a spiritual and infectious amalgam of Hip-Hop grittiness and danceable Eastern melodies.
May 18: Welf Dorr Unit record release at Nublu. Saxophonist Welf Dorr is out for Blood on the fittingly titled debut of his Unit. Like Sonny Sharrock’s touchstone Ask The Ages, or more recently Reclamation by Burning Ghosts, Dorr unleashes a brutal and blustery aural overload on Blood that floors the punk, metal, and funk-jazz pedal into high gear.
May 18: Reg Bloor CD Release with Hubble, Samantha Riott and Radio Shock at Muchmore’s. A veteran of the ensembles conducted by no wave original Glenn Branca, Reg Bloor is a guitarrorist who has mastered the art of shred. On her second solo going called Sensory Irritation Chamber, Bloor goes for the sonic jugular again with a cutthroat-precise wailing of riffs that draws from tech-metal, no wave ,and industrial music realms.
May 21: Phew: Voice Hardcore // Laura Ortman at Roulette. For four decades, Japanese avant-garde vocalist Phew has been manipulating and deconstructing noise and electronic music on the same sonic terrain as her contemporaries Boredoms and Merzbow, albeit under the radar. Recently, with records like Voice Hardcore and Light Sleep, her bedroom-fi, analog synth fueled static and rumble, and extraterrestrial voice transmittals have cemented her pioneering place in Japanoise lore. Tonight, Phew is in voice-only mode as she celebrates the release of Voice Hardcore. Local virtuosic violinist Laura Ortman opens.
May 23–28: Vision Festival 23 at Roulette. Patricia Nicholson-Parker’s Vision Festival—the paramount showcase of the present and future of the jazz avant-garde—returns to downtown Brooklyn’s Roulette. Its twenty-third installment is a tour de force of jazz giants, headlined by a celebration of piano icon Dave Burrell as he is bestowed the rightful and well-deserved honor of lifetime achievement award on the. Burrell will perform that same evening and from there it will be creative music ecstasy as giants like Archie Shepp, William Parker, Kidd Jordan, Roscoe Mitchell, Matthew Shipp, Cooper-Moore, and Andrew Cyrille mix it up with young firebrands like Mary Halvorson, Jaimie Branch, Darius Jones, and James Brandon Lewis. With dance, poetry, panel discussions and protest music, Vision Festival is the ultimate.
May 24: D·lava at Bar Lunatico. D·lava is the husband/wife project of Lou Reed/John Zorn guitarist Aram Bajakian and vocalist Julia Ulehla who reimagine old-world Czech folk tales. On 2017’s The Book of Transfigurations, Bajakian crafted an ancient sound-world with ghostly folk and proggy fret-hopping, as Ulehla took center stage with arresting whispers and operatic howls. The Vancouver-based pair make a rare appearance in these parts tonight.
May 25–27: Regenerative Feedback: On Listening And Its Emancipatory Potential at ISSUE Project Room. Regenerative Feedback is described as a three-day symposium of talks, presentations, discourse, and performances, centered around biological, social, political and cognitive negotiations in music. The lineup that highlights this thought-provoking sensory assault is stellar, as Iranian artist, writer, and philosopher Reza Negerastani, artist and composer Colin Self, and nihilit queer revolt music chief Dreamcrusher are just a few set to appear.
May 27: CLEBS I’m Here EP Release Show with GRID, Eliot Krimsky, JASS (DJ) at C’Mon Everybody. CLEBS is the beats-manipulating electronics/voice duo project of Brooklyn-via-Sweden vocalist Emilie Weibel and avant-jazz drummer/producer Jason Nazary. It’s, I’m Here, is interstellar electro-jazz club music designed to fry minds. Glitch-heavy rhythmic madness and belching, blipping and bleating knob turning and twiddling intersect with warped speak-sing as CLEBS transmit its alien techno from some other universe. Weibel and Nazary also play Trans-Pecos on May 10 as they gear up for their debut release.
May 28: 5049 at Areté: Toby Driver featuring String Noise at Areté Venue and Gallery. 5049 is the label and podcast home of clarinetist Jeremiah Cymerman, and now he’s expanding his empire to include a monthly performance and discussion series. The first installment of 5049 features Cymerman’s Bloodmist bandmate and Kayo Dot mastermind Toby Driver with violin duo String Noise playing the stripped down avant-goth folk balladry found on 2017’s Madonnawhore, as well as new material. In the coming months, Cymerman will present sets by Peter Evans (June 20), Zeena Parkins (July 31), and Ben Goldberg (August 15).
May 28: Jeff Ledererís Shakers n’ Bakers at Bar Lunatico. Saxophonist/clarinetist Jeff Lederer and his hall of fame-caliber group explore Albert Ayler’s polarizing 1968 recording, New Grass.
May 29: Mary Lattimore’s ORNAMENT at Union Pool. The strumming, plucking and finger-picking majesty Mary Lattimore wrangles from her harp are heaven-sent dreamscapes. On the just-released Hundreds of Days, Lattimore’s new age meditations and introspections are ethereal goodness for hearts, minds, and soul.
May 30: Varispeed and thingNY at Roulette. As if one of our favorite Brooklyn venues was not already dominating the month, comes this once-in-a-lifetime event. Varispeed and thingNY, two ensembles dedicated to the most experimental new vocal music, and this generation’s new Robert Ashley repertory ensemble, will give a taste of Rolodex, an interrogation via opera in progress from Gelsey Bell, and Rick Burckhardt’s Passoverperformance ritual for singing/speaking instrumentalists. On top of that, they will be performing Kenneth Gaburo’s Maledetto, one of the most avant-garde (and funniest) compositions from the 20th century, from a composer unknown even to most aficiondos of new music.
June 3: PRISM Quartet with Susie Ibarra and Tyshawn Sorey at Christ & St. Stephen’s Church. The saxophone quartet PRISM brings together classical, jazz, and new music in a way few other ensembles can equal. Their ongoing Color Theory recording and performing project has them collaborating with composers Ibarra, Sorey—who will also be performing—Max Chung, and the too-little known Elizabeth Hoffmann. They will also present music from participants, young and old, from their free composition workshops run, with Ibarra and Sorey, at the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Brad Cohan is a music journalist based in Brooklyn who has contributed to Bandcamp, The Village Voice, NY Observer, Time Out NY, VICE, Noisey, SPIN, CLRVYNT, Red Bull Music Academy, and other fine publications.