Monthly Archives: May 2009

UPDATE: Tweedy ‘saddened’ by Bennett’s death

Jeff Tweedy

Jeff Tweedy

Wilco founder Jeff Tweedy has spoken out about the death of former bandmate Jay Bennett at age 45, saying he is “deeply saddened.”

This statement was posted behind a tiny link in the upper righthand corner of the homepage of the Wilco web site today:

We are all deeply saddened by this tragedy. We will miss Jay as we remember him — as a truly unique and gifted human being and one who made welcome and significant contributions to the band’s songs and evolution. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends in this very difficult time.

Jeff Tweedy

RIP Jay Bennett (updated with video and music link)


Jay Bennett

Rock musician Jay Bennett, a multi-instrumentalist best known for his seven-year stint playing with  Wilco, died in his sleep at home in Urbana, Ill., yesterday. He was 45 years old.

The cause of death was not immediately known.

Jay played a key role in the band during that time. The breakdown of his relationship with his bandmates — particularly with its mercurial founder, Jeff Tweedy — was vividly recorded in I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco, a black-and-white movie that set out to document the creation of the band’s 2002 album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

After leaving Wilco, Jay went on to release a series of albums, the first of which, The Palace at 4am, was a quietly beautiful collaboration with Edward Burch. Jay was at work on Kicking the Perfumed Air at the time of his death.

He went to his MySpace blog last month to update fans about a serious hip injury that was handicapping him and about his struggle to find a way to get the surgery he needed but for which he had no insurance coverage.

Jay filed a breach-of-contract suit against Tweedy earlier this month, seeking “in excess of $50,000.00” for his work in Wilco.

A reader points out that Jay’s most recent solo album, Whatever Happened, I Apologize, is quite good and remains available for free via Rock Proper. (Thanks for pointing this out, Jim!)

And read to the jump for a video of Jay and Jeff playing “Misunderstood.” Continue reading

Lowen & Navarro call it quits


Eric Lowen and Dan Navarro have been playing together at Lowen & Navarro for more than 20 years, making beautiful pop-folk sounds and warming hearts with their energetic performances. (They also wrote the 1984 Pat Benatar hit, “We Belong” before they started playing their own material as Lowen & Navarro.)

But Lowen’s been struggling with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) since 2004. He’s valiantly soldiered on, singing with a headset mic and playing seated — a change from his very active and energetic style from back in the day.

But the disease has progressed to the point where he’s not comfortable playing anymore. According to the L&N web site, the duo’s final two shows will be held the first weekend of June:

Because of compromises to Eric Lowen’s playing and singing due to his ALS, aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Lowen & Navarro will cease touring activity in 2009. Our final shows will be held June 5 and 6 in Annapolis MD and Alexandria VA. See listings below for more details. Dan Navarro solo shows will be listed opn this page until his website is constructed sometime this summer.

It’s a shame they won’t be hitting the NYC-area again before “El fin del camino,” but they’ve done well to stay on the road as long as they have and continue to play musice — even putting out their final latest album, Learning to Fall, just last year.

The title track was recorded in 2007 by a host of people whose lives have been affected by the tragically degenerative disease. Click here for a video about the recording session. Every click raises money for the cause.  Continue reading

Alien smiles: Grizzly Bear’s ‘Two Weeks’

grizzly bearHere’s a little treat to whet your appetite for Grizzly Bear‘s new and possibly most fully realized album yet, Veckatimest, out on Tuesday.

The video for “Two Weeks,” below, will make you smile, but I hope not in quite the same way as the band!

I liked Grizzly Bear’s albums, but until the first time I saw them live  — doing a cover of “Mother and Child Reunion” at one of the Paul Simon shows last fall at the Brooklyn Academy of Music — I didn’t realize just how good they really can be.  I’ve seen them once since then, and that show further reinforced my conclusion that this is one of the most creative, talented and musical young bands on the scene today.

But the band’s recorded output seemed to me to pale in comparison to its incredibly intense stage presence. Veckatimest, Grizzly Bear’s fourth album, rights that wrong. Every track is strong, focused and mesmerizing, like the band’s live show. I’m blown away, and I’ll be surprised if you aren’t impressed, too. (Get a listen to all the tracks on the band’s MySpace page.)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The video, directed by Patrick Daughters, is an absolute joy to watch. You’ll want to watch this glistening, surreal little film over and over.

Grizzly Bear (with side project Here We Go Magic opening) has three NYC shows next week in celebration of the new album, and they’re all sold out: Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m. at Manhattan’s Town Hall and next Sunday at 7 p.m. at The Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. If you don’t have a ticket, you’re really missing out. This is a show that I’d pay a premium to a scalper to see.

It’s official, Fela! is coming to Broadway

Fela! is coming to Broadway this fall!

After much speculation about the show’s future, producers have posted a promotional YouTube video on the show’s web site that makes it perfectly clear:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “FELA! Coming to Broadway Fall 2009“, posted with vodpod

New York Post theater reporter Michael Riedel broke the news this morning in his On Broadway column.

Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? has been beating the drum — pardon the pun — for getting this fantastic Bill T. Jones-directed Afro-beat musical on the boards of Broadway soon. Producers held Equity chorus calls earlier this month for what was described in audition calls as a possible Broadway engagement, but they refused to talk about their plans for the show.

I guess they’re letting the web site (which I think will need to change its url, since it’s speak for itself.

Riedel reports that Sahr Ngaujah, who channeled the controversial Afro-beat king so well Off-Broadway, will return as the title character when the show begins performances in October at the Eugene O’Neill Theater.

I’m hoping for a word from Ngaujah soon. Stay tuned.

Schoolhouse rock: Care Bears on Fire

Anything with the words “Care Bears” in its name is apt to evoke visions of cuteness. And the Brooklyn punk-rock trio Care Bears on Fire certainly isn’t short on cuteness. But the three girls that make up this band (two eighth graders and one ninth grader) are long on talent and attitude, too.

Singer/guitarist Sophie and drummer Izzy are both 13, while bass player Jena is 15. These three really kick out the jams. (And I don’t say that just because I’m friends with the father of one of the girls.) They rock. They have the potential to have a great career if they want it. And they’re living proof that girls really can rock! Check out this great clip about the band from NYC’s Channel 7 Eyewitness News:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

And you can check out Care Bears on Fire in person in just a couple of weeks:

3:30 p.m. on June 4. Outdoors on the steps of The Brooklyn Public Library, 1 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn. Free.

Off-Broadway’s best: OBIE Awards announced

"Ruined" playwright Lynn Nottage

"Ruined" playwright Lynn Nottage

Last night was Off-Broadway’s time to shine at the 54th Annual Village Voice OBIE Awards ceremony. The show at Webster Hall in the East Village was co-hosted by former OBIE winners Daniel Breaker (2008 for Passing Strange in its pre-Broadway incarnation at the Public Theater) and Martha Plimpton (2002 for Hobson’s Choice).

Lynn Nottage‘s Pulitzer Prize-wining Ruined (Manhattan Theater Club) — directed by Kate Whoriskey, who is also Breaker’s wife — took the award for best new American play.

Click to the jump for the full list of winners. Continue reading

Buying time at New York City Opera

City Opera revives the Mark Lamos production of Chabrier's comic opera L'Etoile.

City Opera revives the Mark Lamos production of Chabrier's comic opera L'Etoile.

I know, I know. New York City Opera announced its comeback season long ago — on April Fools Day.

But Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? didn’t exist at that time — although the name and the idea had been kicking around for a year. So please forgive me for jumping into the pool a bit late.

I was reminded that WYMMWIG? hadn’t weighed in on the NYCO when the subscription notice arrived in my mailbox yesterday. I had been looking forward to its return after a year without City Opera — the only opera company to which I’ve ever subscribed.

It was a big envelope. Black and white logo, very frugal. That seemed good. And the envelope seemed thin. A sign, it seemed, of a sensible frugality in these trying economic times. Continue reading

Signal brings Glass’ Symphony No. 3 to life


Signal conductor Brad Lubman

Signal, the superb New Music ensemble, gave a remarkable reading of Philip GlassSymphony No. 3 at Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village last night.

The intimate club setting, with seating the round, really enhanced the mood. And Signal, under the direction of Brad Lubman, played the symphony crisply and with conviction. Although I’ve heard it played before, Signal’s playing made me appreciate it in ways I’ve never been able to do before. It’s emotional and pushes buttons in ways that sometimes seem overly manipulative. But Signal brought out the symphony’s true beauty. Signal’s rendition seemed to strip away those distractions, leaving the core beauty of the symphony. And the violinists who traded off the solo lines in the third movement — especially lead-off player Courtney Orlando — provided a potent reminder of just how skillfully and beautifully Glass writes for that instrument.

The symphony has a cinematic quality that was emphasized by its pairing on last night’s bill with Suite from The Hours, which actually is movie music. Michael Riesman, a pianist and the conductor of Glass’ ensemble, played the Suite like he was born to it — probably because he arranged the three-movement work using from Glass’ music from The Hours, the 2002 Stephen Daldry film.

It’s worth noting that the house was packed for Signal’s performance. All all the tables seemed filled and fans stood three deep at the bar. The composer himself graced the elevated VIP box with his girlfriend, the talented cellist Wendy Sutter, at his side.

Worth discovering: Nadia Sirota

Nadia Sirota (right) and Clarice Jensen performing Nico Muhly's  "Duet No. 1, Chorale Pointing Downwards" at Galapagos Art Space.

Nadia Sirota (right) and Clarice Jensen performing Nico Muhly's "Duet No. 1, Chorale Pointing Downwards" at Galapagos Art Space.

I regret missing the first of the four installments of Undiscovered Islands, the festival of new music presented on Friday nights in May at Galapagos Art Space in Dumbo, Brooklyn, by New Amsterdam Records. By all acconts, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society — an 18-piece ensemble that Argue has dubbed a “steampunk big band” —  put on a killer show. (I still haven’t figured out how to be in two places at once, and MONO and the Wordless Music Orchestra were already on my calendar for that night!)

Nico Muhly and Nadia Sirota.

Nico Muhly and Nadia Sirota.

I’m glad I didn’t miss the second installment last night. It was a CD-release party for violist Nadia Sirota‘s first solo CD, First Things First. The program, credited as Nadia Sirota and friends, included many of the pieces on the new album. But her friends, including Caleb Burhans and Grey McMurry of itsnotyouitsme, cellist Clarice Jensen, and the Chiara String Quartet, did their own works as well. Continue reading