|Page 3 of 4 < >|
As a practical matter, that meant short pieces for (mostly) Middle Eastern instruments, employing rhythms from the Mediterranean region, and stately, circular tunes that suggested Renaissance Europe as much as ancient Israel or Iran. For three numbers, the group was joined by two nontraditional belly dancers, whose movement emphasized the melodies' twirl.
Queen's Dominion began as a collaboration between Schechter, who plays the lutelike oud, and Alan Kushan, who plays santur, an Indo-Persian counterpart of the hammered dulcimer. Joining them Thursday were violinist Meg Okura and electric bassist Shanir Blumenkranz (both veterans of Schechter's other group, Pharaoh's Daughter), as well as percussionist Shane Shanahan, whose battery of drums and shakers was largely Middle Eastern. The five performed deftly together, keeping solo passages brief and tightly integrated into the central themes.
Indeed, a little more freedom would have been welcome, but that may come. After an encore with a Yiddish song from the Pharaoh's Daughter repertoire, Schechter announced that this was the first time the five musicians had played this material live.
-- Mark Jenkins
"Jeez, he even looks a little like Bob," murmured an Iota audience member Thursday while gazing at Jackie Greene. Under a pouf of hair, shoeblack-eyed, slack-jawed, the young singer bent the strings of his acoustic guitar as his harmonica rack bobbed on his chest.
Granted, even with pre-electric Dylan you couldn't make out the words. Greene's voice was a bold, bright thing. As he dwelled on variations on the blues -- from his self-penned opener "About Cell Block #9" to Muddy Waters's "Rollin' and Tumblin' " -- his enunciation was clear, and his intention was even clearer: to reinvent the genre yet again, without all those nasty trappings of suffering artist and endangered listener.
No bottles were broken, no shivs unsheathed as the 24-year-old Monterey, Calif., native, accompanied by a subtle snare drummer, employed guitar, harmonica, piano and that marvelous voice to crowd-pleasing effect. He's a smart performer as well: In one ingenious move, he slowed down "Shake, Rattle and Roll" to such a slinky, smoky piano boogie that the command to "wash your face and hands" sounded positively illicit.
When he left the blues, his own compositions, such as the catchy radio hit "Honey I Been Thinking About You" and "Mexican Girl," with its impressive Spanish-guitar intro, revealed a compositional level above those of the other young troubadours du jour. He's so boutique-shelf perfect, in fact, that it's hard to know where he'll go from here. He's already got some tempting laurels to rest on.
Where he went Thursday night, as soon as possible, was bed. The show ended, surprisingly, without an encore, not long after Greene revealed that he and his sideman had had four hours of sleep in three days. "We're young," he said, "but we're not that [expletive] young."