Tag Archives: Christine Lavin

New collection skims the cream of Caffè Lena’s rich musical history

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Live At Caffè Lena: Music From America’s Legendary Coffeehouse, 1967-2013 is slated for release on Sept. 24.

A review of Live At Caffè Lena: Music From America’s Legendary Coffeehouse, 1967-2013, with buying and streaming links after the jump

I’ve always meant to visit the legendary Caffè Lena, the tiny coffeehouse at 47 Phila Street in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Devonsquare, the sweet-harmonizing folk-rock trio, first piqued my curiosity about Lena and Bill Spencer’s cafe (or caffè, as they dubbed it, using two f’s) with their song “Caffè Lena” on the  1987 album Walking on Ice.

Caffè Lena was a place of mythical proportions to me then. For one reason or another, I never found myself in Saratoga Springs.

After all, I live close to The Turning Point in Piermont, N.Y., a music cafe that is, while 16 years younger than Caffè Lena, has a similar mission and musical profile.

And then there was the Towne Crier in Pawling, N.Y.,  from 1972 until closing in June with plans to reopen soon in Beacon. That gave me a backup option just a bit farther afield than The Turning Point.

So  I never got myself motivated sufficiently to make the trek to Saratoga Springs.

I should have known I was missing out. And now the Tompkins Square record label has  shoved into my face some very real evidence of exactly how much I’ve missed. Continue reading

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Todd Reynolds, Sxip Shirey and friends steal the show

Sxip Shirey, Todd Reynolds and friends at Lincoln Center Out of Doors. (Photos © 2011, Steven P. Marsh)

How often do you go to a show and feel like you’ve heard such an amazing opening act that you’re ready to skip the headliner?

Not often, I’ll bet.

Todd Reynolds

But that’s exactly the way I felt at Lincoln Center Out of Doors on Wednesday night, Aug. 10. It was another triumph in New York’s best free outdoor concert series, which The New York Times describes perfectly as “generous, warm, high-spirited real entertainment for a big audience.”

Don’t get me wrong, Laurie Anderson was the headliner of the free show in Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park. She is — and was that night — amazing. But openers Todd Reynolds and Sxip Shirey, joined by six violinists and a tuba player, blew the house down with their collaboration. I could have gone home floating on air after their set, feeling perfectly satisfied.

Lou Reed slips heads backstage at Lincoln Center Out of Doors.

Todd, the inimitable Digifiddler, kicked off his set with some of the inventive work from his new album, Outerborough. Laurie’s husband, Lou Reed, slipped through the crowd and backstage while Todd was really wailing on “Crossroads,” a Michael Lowenstern-composed “duet” with bluesman Robert Johnson.

In short order, Todd was joined by six more violinists, each of whom is pretty amazing in his or her own right (Caleb Burhans, Conrad Harris, Pauline Kim Harris, Yuki Numata, Courtney Orlando, and Ben Russell). The Sxip, the multi-instrumentalist clown prince of the NYC indie music scene entered along with Adam Matta (the Human Beatbox) and tuba player Don Godwin of Raya Brass Band. (Check out a rehearsal clip of Todd and Sxip cutting loose here.)

The energy that flowed among all these talented musicians as they jammed onstage was palpable. And there was lots of love flowing from stage to audience and back again.

Continue reading