At Blues Alley
Apart from briefly recalling the time when he performed in Georgetown as a member of "a little pop band" called the Police, guitarist Andy Summers was in a mood to play jazz at Blues Alley Thursday night.
The opening set was almost entirely devoted to the music of Thelonious Monk, the inspiration for Summers's latest album, "Green Chimneys." The title track, as well as Monk's signature ballad " 'Round Midnight," quickly illustrated Summers's affinity for the composer's minor-key musings. While the guitarist's recording of the latter tune features a moody vocal by former Policeman Sting, the stripped-down version Summers unveiled with the help of bassist Rick Fierabracci and drummer Joel Taylor cast a languid and lovely spell of its own.
On more upbeat material, including a rhythmically clattering version of "Evidence," Summers made allusions to Monk's often startling harmonic punctuations without overdoing it. He also took some refreshing liberties with "Think of One," recasting it as a steamy swamp-funk romp.
Not the most fluid jazz guitarist around, Summers nevertheless brought a personal perspective to Monk's repertoire by drawing a wide range of colors and tones from his customary hollow-body guitar. His use of chorus, reverb, substitution chords and artificial harmonics was particularly effective, adding a new coat of paint to the standard progressions that Monk often used as a framework for his compositions. The set was also enlivened by Summers's own tunes, including his amusing sci-fi trek "The Last Dance of Mr. X."
Sisters of Mercy
At the 9:30 Club
The 9:30 club's atmosphere Thursday resembled the inside of a steel mill chimney at the height of production. That's because the Sisters of Mercy, godfathers of Goth, were in town with their industrial-strength smoke machines. There was so much fake smoke that it briefly set off the fire alarms, which caused more excitement than the Sisters of Mercy.
The problem with the show was the Sisters of Mercy, who consist of deep-voiced singer Andrew Eldritch and whatever hired-gun guitarists he has: They were dreadfully dull. Backed by an unimaginatively programmed drum machine, nearly every Sisters song industrially chugged along at an unvaried tempo, each tune's arrangements and timbres sounding almost identical. The band's best songs--"Vision Thing," "This Corrosion," "First and Last and Always," "Dominion"--broke free from the lumbering tempos and revved up the adoring crowd. But these were the exception to the Sisters' workmanlike performance.
"We are professional entertainers. You give us money--we entertain you," Eldritch recently said. For $35 he should try a little harder.