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NY Guitar Fest Announces 2 New Shows

The New York Guitar Festival today announces two additional performances in its 2010 offerings, both at Le Poisson Rouge. January 26 welcomes an evening of exquisite finger-style guitar featuring music by James Blackshaw, Max Ochs, Ben Hall, and Nick Jonah Davis, while February 2 serves up Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog and Skeleton$. Details are listed below.

The New York Guitar Festival launched its 10th event last week with a free opening night performance at World Financial Center’s Winter Garden by Slide guitarist Debashish Bhattacharya. Among India’s most esteemed musicians, Bhattacharya lured the packed house with music both soulfully serene and frenetically ferocious. Catch a glimpse here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9cDctzwyJc . Next up for NYGF – this Thursday Merkin Hall hosts the first of four highly anticipated performances in the series Silent Films/Live Guitars.

No instrument has spoken in more voices to more people than the guitar, and over the past decade no festival has sought out the modulations in those voices and the range of the guitar’s cultural expressions than the New York Guitar Festival.

Following its success since 1999 (with rave reviews in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Jazz Times as well as sister festivals in Urbana, Illinois and Adelaide Australia), the New York Guitar Festival announces its tenth season of concert performances, January 8 though February 4, 2010.

The festival boasts over 30 exceptional guitarists of jazz, classical, rock, traditional, and avant garde styles. Participating venues include Merkin Concert Hall, The 92nd Street Y, The World Financial Center’s Winter Garden, Le Poisson Rouge and Barbes. Concerts range from an all-day Guitar Marathon interpreting the music of J.S. Bach and his contemporaries, (featuring, among other internationally-famous musicians, the Brazilian Guitar Quartet, Paul O’Dette, Ana Vidovic, Eliot Fisk, Paul Galbraith and Nigel North) to the Hindustani slide guitar music of Debashish Bhattacharya.

The festival also has a history of commissioning remarkable original works, and the 2010 season breaks yet more new ground by presenting ten classic silent films (seven by Chaplin, one by Keaton and two by Harry Smith) accompanied by original scores performed live by a spectacularly rich and varied coterie of guitarists: Gyan Riley, Alex de Grassi, Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver), Steve Kimock, James Blackshaw, Marc Ribot, David Bromberg and the members of Chicha Libre.

The New York Guitar Festival, a not-for-profit arts organization, was founded in 1999 by musician and producer David Spelman, who serves as its Artistic Director. The Festival’s goal is to broaden the public’s appreciation for the guitar by fostering emerging talent, supporting innovative collaborations among outstanding artists, and commissioning new works. In addition to producing eclectic concerts and radio broadcasts, its Guitar Harvest series of recordings supports outreach programs in New York City public schools.

CONCERT SCHEDULE:

Merkin Concert Hall
Goodman House, 129 West 67th Street
Tickets and information: 212-501-3330 •
kaufman-center.org

Thursday, January 14, 8 p.m.

Silent Films/Live Guitars

Charlie Chaplin’s The Immigrant + The Kid

Music by David Bromberg and Marc Ribot
2008 Grammy nominee David Bromberg is known for his eclectic combination of blues, bluegrass, jazz, folk, country, and rock. He’s recorded and performed with Reverend Gary Davis, Jorma Kaukonen, Jerry Garcia, Bob Dylan and George Harrison among others and is presenting the premiere of newly commissioned music for Charlie Chaplin’s 1917 The Immigrant. Style-morphing icon Marc Ribot has lent his mercurial guitar sounds to collaborations including Robert Plant and Alison Kraus, Tom Waits, Elvis Costello and John Zorn, and will improvise a score for Chaplin’s 1921 classic, The Kid.

Merkin Concert Hall
Goodman House, 129 West 67th Street
Tickets and information: 212-501-3330 •
kaufman-center.org

Thursday, January 21, 8 p.m.

Silent Films/Live Guitars

Charlie Chaplin’s One A.M. and Easy Street + Buster Keaton’s Cops

Music by Bon Iver's Justin Vernon and Steve Kimock
Bon Iver is the nom-de-guerre of musician Justin Vernon. His album For Emma, Forever Ago was a critical and commercial hit, making him one of the most talked-about indie artists of 2008. For his scores to One A.M. & Easy Street, he’s joined by Chris Rosenau, of Collection of Colonies of Bees, whom Justin calls his “guitar mentor.” Steve Kimock is best known as co-founder and guitarist for the San Francisco band Zero. He’s recorded and performed with Bruce Hornsby and members of the Grateful Dead—Jerry Garcia once hailed him as his favorite guitarist. He performs music for Buster Keaton’s Cops.

Le Poisson Rouge
158 Bleeker Street
Tickets and Information: (212) 505-FISH or
lepoissonrouge.com

Tuesday, January 26 @ 6:30 PM

The New Possibility

Music by James Blackshaw, Max Ochs, Ben Hall, and Nick Jonah Davis
An evening of exquisite solo finger-style guitar, assembled by New York City’s Tompkins Square label, a leading purveyor of acoustic guitar music. The Village Voice called the label’s three-volume ‘Imaginational Anthem’ series “the gold standard for guitar nerds.” Ben Hall and Nick Jonah Davis will be making their first-ever New York performances.

Merkin Concert Hall
Goodman House, 129 West 67th Street
Tickets and information: 212-501-3330 •
kaufman-center.org

Thursday, January 28, 8 p.m.

Silent Films/Live Guitars

Charlie Chaplin’s Shoulder Arms and The Fall of the House of Usher (directed by James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber)

Music by Alex de Grassi + James Blackshaw
One of the top fingerstyle, steel-string guitarists, Grammy nominee Alex de Grassi is renowned for his impeccable technique and compelling compositions. He’s explored a variety of world music influences and drawn acclaim for his 14 recordings on Windham Hill and other labels. He presents his original score for Chaplin’s 1918 masterpiece Shoulder Arms. James Blackshaw is a London-based prodigy who’s released seven albums of mesmerizing 12-string compositions. His style is often described as “American primitive” and incorporates elements of Indian raga, improvisation, and psychedelia.

92nd Street Y
Lexington Avenue at 92nd Street
Tickets and information: 212-415-5500 / www.92Y.org

Sunday, January 31, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., with a break at 5 p.m.

The Guitar Marathon: Bach

Music by Paul O’Dette, Brazilian Guitar Quartet, Eliot Fisk, Paul Galbraith, David Leisner, Nigel North, Gyan Riley, Benjamin Verdery, Ana Vidovic, Jason Vieaux, and additional artists to be announced.
Our 5th biannual Guitar Marathon at the 92nd Street Y’s Kaufman Auditorium is co-curated by Paul O’Dette and the NYGF’s David Spelman. Some of today’s finest classical guitarists and lutenists will reveal the different facets of the music of J.S. Bach and his contemporaries. The event runs from 2—10pm, with a break at 5pm. “An epic event” is how the The Wall Street Journal classified our first Marathon, and Jazz Times called it “a veritable guitar orgy.” Half and full-day tickets will be available in August. Presented in association with WNYC Radio and broadcast on 93.9 FM.

Le Poisson Rouge
158 Bleeker Street
Tickets and Information: (212) 505-FISH or
lepoissonrouge.com

Tuesday, February 2 @ 6:30 PM

Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog and Skeleton$

Music by Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog: Marc Ribot (guitar), Shahzad Ismaily (bass, Moog, electronics), and Ches Smith (drums, electronics). Skeletons: also known as Skeletons and the Girl-Faced Boys and Skeletons and the Kings of All Cities.
Ceramic Dog is a post-everything band combining the energies of two masters of downtown New York City mayhem: guitarist/vocalist Marc Ribot (Tom Waits, John Zorn, Robert Plant, T-Bone Burnett, Elvis Costello) and bassist Shahzad Ismaily (Laurie Anderson, Will Oldham), with West Coast indie/experimental genius drummer Ches Smith. Ribot is a widely recognized original on the guitar, with influence across multiple genres of music, including rock, jazz, punk, Latin, soul, 80s No-Wave, avant-garde and noise. Opening the show will be Matt Mehlan’s revolving ensemble musical project Skeleton$.

Merkin Concert Hall
Goodman House, 129 West 67th Street
Tickets and information: 212-501-3330 •
kaufman-center.org

Thursday, February 4th, 8 p.m.

Silent Films/Live Guitars

Charlie Chaplin’s The Pilgrim and shorts by Harry Smith

Music by Chicha Libre + Gyan Riley
The Peruvian-influenced psychedelic pop of Chicha Libre mixes Colombian cumbia, dreamy surf guitar, and Andean melodies. They present their score to Chaplin’s 1923 The Pilgrim. Gyan Riley is an equally strong presence in the worlds of classical guitar and contemporary music. He’s performed throughout Europe and the U.S., both as a soloist and in ensembles with Zakir Hussain, the San Francisco Symphony, the Falla Guitar Trio, and his father, the composer/pianist/vocalist Terry Riley.

New James McMurtry album shipping 4/15!

James McMurtry- for the Grateful Web

Lightning Rod Records will release singer/songwriter James McMurtry's new CD, titled Just Us Kids, on April 15, 2008. McMurtry's ninth album, which features 12 new songs, is a follow-up to 2005's critically acclaimed and award-winning project, Childish Things.

McMurtry has long been known as fine storyteller, but he has lately received nationwide attention for his role as a musical activist. On Just Us Kids, McMurtry picks up where he left off with his controversial anthem "We Can't Make It Here." On "Cheney's Toy," McMurtry once again reminds us that the war in Iraq is still going on, with veiled references to Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and the stark image of a soldier who returned from the conflict, blind and brain damaged. The lyrics of "God Bless America" call out the corporate profiteering and cronyism of the heads of state who led the country to war. McMurtry's songs introduce the listener to characters that exist on the fringes of society. Drug addicts, murderers, crooked politicians, and other unsavory folks all play a part on Just Us Kids.

The self-produced album shows that McMurtry has developed a skill as producer that matches his songcraft. The songs on Just Us Kids vary widely in texture and instrumentation. The Faces' Ian McLagan's piano playing is all over the album while Timbuk3's pat mAcdonald's harmonica peppers several tracks. Austin singer/songwriter John Dee Graham contributes a wailing guitar solo to "Fireline Road." Grammy-nominated Louisiana rocker, C.C. Adcock, adds a swampy guitar part to the album opener, "Bayou Tortous." The rhythm section is McMurtry's longtime road band, Daren Hess and Ronnie Johnson.

Just Us Kids will be the first release for Nashville-based Lightning Rod Records, distributed by Thirty Tigers/RED. Label president Logan Rogers previously worked as director of A&R for Compadre Records on the release of McMurtry's last two albums. "Working with James McMurtry has been a career highlight for me. He is a phenomenal artist with tremendous integrity, and I can think of no better debut release for Lightning Rod Records," said Rogers.

Author Stephen King described Ft. Worth native McMurtry as "the truest, fiercest songwriter of his generation" in Entertainment Weekly. The son of acclaimed author Larry McMurtry (Lonesome Dove, Terms of Endearment), James grew up on a steady diet of Johnny Cash and Roy Acuff records. His first album, released in 1989, was produced by John Mellencamp and marked the beginning of a series of acclaimed projects for Columbia and Sugar Hill. In 2003, McMurtry released the universally lauded Live in Aught-Three (Compadre Records). 2005's Childish Things garnered some of the highest critical praise of McMurtry's career and spent six weeks at number one on R&R's Americana Music Radio Chart in 2005 and 2006. In September 2006, Childish Things and "We Can't Make It Here" won the Americana Music Awards for album and song of the year, respectively.

In 2007, McMurtry performed on PBS' long running music program, "Austin City Limits," for the second time in his career. This year, McMurtry and his band will launch a national tour in support of Just Us Kids.

Elana James Inks New Deal, Plays Fuji Rock Fest & Keeps Swingin' For Fences

Photo by Richard Dowdy, 2007- for the Grateful Web

The North Carolina-based music mavens at Redeye will be handling North American distribution of the eponymous solo debut disc by singer, violinist and songwriter Elana James beginning Tuesday, July 24. The move will make the ebullient, eclectic collection of town 'n' country swing available at most major nationwide chains-including Borders as well as in hundreds of discerning, independently-owned stores.

James began enchanting listeners in 1998 as co-leader (with Whit Smith) of the Austin-based Hot Club of Cowtown, a refreshing, nimble-fingered combo that merged the sophisticated, high-stepping sizzle of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli's Quintet of the Hot Club of France with the driving energy of Western swing.

Buoyed by five critically-acclaimed discs and live shows imbued with an almost punk-rock energy, the Hot Club was on the verge of a popular breakthrough when, just after opening all of Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson's ground breaking 2004 summer tour of American minor league ballparks, the group disbanded.

Still reeling from the breakup, the young musician had only begun weighing future options when the two musical godfathers whose very tour ushered the demise of the Hot Club stepped in with offers that could not be refused.

First, veteran producer Fred Foster called James with an invitation to play twin fiddle parts with the legendary Texas Playboy Johnny Gimble on Willie Nelson's next record. Almost immediately after that call came an invitation to play in Dylan's touring band.

"When I got that call," Elana remembers, "It was so incredible - I felt like God had reached down out of heaven and anointed me with a golden wand."

The Dylan slot ended up expanding to two full tours (one as the fiddle player for Dylan himself complete with prominent positioning in the shows), but James experienced a real revelation before the first tour was even complete:  Oddly enough, performing with arguably the greatest, most-revered songwriter of the last 50 years gave her the confidence to pursue a similar path leading her own band.

". . .He's peerless at what he does, and yet he's still doing exactly the same thing as everyone else," she notes. "And it made me realize that if I started my own thing, there's a lot of dignity in just doing it; you don't have to worry about who you're playing for, you don't have to worry about how it's received, you just have to do it."

Elana James began recording her self-titled debut album in 2005, but a second Dylan tour delayed completion of the recording until the summer of 2006, with assorted finishing details further setting back the release.

But by any measure, the elegant Elana James is more than worth the wait, presenting an artist brimming with talent, self-assurance and a strong musical vision that encompasses string-jazz and country roots as well as displaying - through a half-dozen artfully-drawn original tunes, Elana's rare gift for truly integrating lyrical content with melody and tone.

Through it all, James' clearwater, emotionally - transparent vocal delivery is the ideal vehicle for her uniquely personal world view, and her violin playing slips with a natural grace from bold, charismatic leads to empathetic ensemble playing and back again.

The legendary swing fiddler Johnny Gimble illuminates a pair of traditional Western Swing fiddle tunes, pairing his inimitable style with Elana's on his own arrangement of "Silver Bells" and using electric mandolin to spar with James' violin on an immaculate, up-to-date rendition of "Goodbye Liza Jane."

With knowing, soulful nods to Duke Ellington ("I Got It Band (And That Ain't Good)" and "I Don't Mind") and Eubie Blake (a luscious "Memories of You" ), Elana James - with and her fine, hand-picked cohorts - further extends her impressive musical palette and wide-ranging love-and command - of American music.

Willie Nelson lauds James as "a beautiful voice, a fantastic musician with the heart and soul of an angel."  He neglected to mention that she's smart and beautiful, too, but it's a sure bet he noticed.   

(Elana James is currently available through such online outlets as Amazon.com, CDBaby, Miles of Music, etc.).

 

ELANA JAMES AUGUST 2007 TOUR DATES

August 7 Starlight Concert Series, Evanston, IL

August 10 Great Lakes Festival, East Lansing, MI

August 11 Great Lakes Festival, East Lansing, MI

August 12 Great Lakes Festival, East Lansing, MI  

August 15 Continental Club Happy Hour, Austin, TX

August 18 Performing Arts Center Simsbury, CT

August 22 The Continental Club Happy Hour, Austin, TX      

August 29 The Continental Club Happy Hour, Austin, TX

Swing Fiddler/Vocalist Elana James Releases Solo Debut

Elana James- for the Grateful Web

"When one door closes, another opens" might seem little more than a comforting cliché, but don't try telling that to Elana James.  Dealt a nasty surprise little more than two years ago, when the band she'd worked with for close to a decade suddenly dissolved, James was more pleasantly stunned just weeks later by an invitation to join Bob Dylan's band - and what she learned in the course of touring with a legend set her on a new path whose first (but certainly not last) milestone is the February 27th, 2007 release of her solo debut, Elana James (self released on Snarf).

Almost evenly divided between captivating originals and deftly chosen standards, Elana James is a portrait of an artist at the crossroads between where she's been and where she's headed.  Whether she's singing or leading a swinging instrumental with her violin, James is confident and convincing - the legacy of years spent as a member of the acclaimed Hot Club Of Cowtown.  But while the album offers a healthy dose of her own take on the energetic "string jazz" that was the Hot Club's stock in trade, it points in new directions, too, serving up a compelling change of pace with "All The World And I," a haunting folk-flavored song that reveals a hitherto-unknown side of her creativity.  Leavened by favorites like Duke Ellington's "I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)," the sprightly western swing anthem "Silver Bells," and a tip of the hat to Dylan ("One More Night"), Elana James marks the arrival of a strong new musical voice.

Even more than her contributions to the Hot Club's repertoire did, the set's original songs display Elana's deep affinity for the musical vocabulary of swing.  Backed by an ensemble that includes both current band members and some of the brightest lights of her adopted home town of Austin's rich musical scene, songs like "Twenty-Four Hours A Day," "Oh, Baby" and "Down The Line" go down smooth, yet swing ferociously from the first note to the last.  There's a nod to the dancers with the classic lines of her "Eva's Waltz," too, while James - with some help from Texas fiddle/mandolin legend Johnny Gimble - brings her own touch to "Goodbye Liza Jane" and "Silver Bells" in instrumental interludes that serve to complement the songs and highlight both James's and the ensemble's virtuosity.  And when it comes to interpreting standards, Elana easily rises to the challenge, whether giving a winsome reading of country music pioneer Carson Robison's "The Little Green Valley" or a sultry take on "I Don't Mind."

elana"One thing I realized when I was playing in Bob Dylan's band was that what we were doing was what everyone is doing, just at a higher level," James says.  "You write some songs, you teach them to people, and then you tour around and play them.  He's had unparalleled success, and he's peerless in what he does, and yet - on the outside, he's still off doing exactly the same thing as everyone else.  That was a revelation to me.  And it made me realize that if I started my own thing, there's a lot of dignity in just doing it; you don't have to worry about who you're playing for, you don't have to worry about how it's received, you just have to do it."

For Elana James, that realization led to a new career - and with the release of Elana James, it's led to a new opportunity for connoisseurs to discover the full extent of a remarkable musician's talent.

Elana James & The Continental Two ~ 2007 Tour Dates

* With Bruce Robison (solo)

3/16 SXSW / Momo's (9 PM) / Austin, TX
3/17 Gruene Hall / New Braunfels, TX

3/21 Maria's Taco Express / Austin, TX

3/23 Club Helsinki / Great Barrington, MA

3/24 United Methodist Church / Middlebury, VT
3/27-29 Rodeo Bar / NYC
3/30 Café Nine / New Haven, CT
3/31 Narrows Center for the Arts / Fall River, MA
4/10 Coffee Gallery / Altadena, CA

4/12 The Mint / Los Angeles, CA
4/13 Acoustic Music San Diego / San Diego, CA

4/14 West Side Theatre / Newman, CA
4/15 Freight & Salvage / Berkeley, CA
4/16 Don Quixote's Intl Music Hall / Felton, CA
4/18 Grass Valley Center for the Arts / Grass Valley, CA
4/19 Palm's Playhouse /  Winters, CA
4/20 Hotel Utah Saloon / San Francisco, CA
5/03 Continental Club / Houston, TX
5/05 Continental Club / Austin, TX
5/06 Gruene Hall / New Braunfels, TX
5/29 Ballard Park / Ridgefield, CT
5/30 Club Passim / Cambridge, MA

'Godfather of Soul' James Brown dies

RIP James Brown- for the Grateful Web

'Godfather of Soul' James Brown dies at 73.  Grateful Web sends our thoughts to his friends, family and fans.