The kids pogoing to the Buzzcocks Sunday night at the 9:30 club were young enough to be children of the band. But even as the group nears its 25th anniversary, band leaders Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle haven't slowed a bit--playing 23 songs in just over an hour proved that.
The Buzzcocks have a song called "Nostalgia," but the band didn't rely entirely on its past so much as mingle it with the present. Everything from the classic 1977 single "Orgasm Addict" to "Why Compromise?" from the band's new "Modern" album was featured, and the band played everything as if it were the first time. That's what a professional rock group does, and the Buzzcocks are about as pro as a punk band can be.
Cutting through the extremely loud chain-saw buzz of guitarists Diggle and Shelley was the latter's wonderfully distinctive and nasal vocals. Diggle sang a few Buzzcock faves such as "Autonomy" and "Harmony in My Head," but Shelley's voice is a singular charm. "What Do I Get?," "Ever Fallen in Love?" and "Noise Annoys" stood out because they are timeless in the way a Jerry Lee Lewis tune is, but all the Buzzcocks songs traffic in the same ultra-catchy, three-minute buzz-saw pop format. And they're all the better for it.
Montgomery County's Washington Grove, a secluded community in cozy American Craftsman style that was once a Methodist summer retreat, launched the Mousetrap Concert Series on Sunday. A soprano and pianist from the former Soviet republics Georgia and Azerbaijan filled the town hall to capacity, lending the cottages in the wooded surroundings the ambiance of Russian dachas.
Medea Namoradze has a soprano voice of generous dimensions, quite suitable for her mostly operatic program, if a bit too voluminous for the smallish hall. She infused her coloratura with radiance and dramatic conviction, which text inserts in the program would have reinforced.
Namoradze chose arias almost 100 percent Italian or Italianate in language and character, her strengths especially apparent in her middle and chest tone range. She took Alessandro Scarlatti's (1660-1725) "Farfaretta," from one of his 80-plus operas, at a jaunty pace, spicing up the liveliness further with fleet trills. Occasionally, as in an aria from Handel's "Rodelinda," the soprano's fast passage work lacked sufficient agility, but she exhibited plentiful resources of timbre in two Russian samples: Lisa's arioso from Tchaikovsky's "Queen of Spades" and a ravishing "Romance" of Rachmaninoff.
The heroine of the day was Namoradze's expressive and assured pianist, Svetlana Korsh-Aliyeva, who stepped in only last week after the death of Washington area musician Neil Tilkens.
Soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy has lived in Paris and Berlin for so long that many jazz fans sometimes forget that he's an American expatriate. And while European culture has most definitely informed many of his extended compositions, he hasn't forsaken native influences, as evident in his ambitious concert Saturday night at the D.C. Jewish Community Center.
Celebrating two of America's most enduring cultural institutions, Lacy first explored the orchestral majesty of Duke Ellington in an expansive solo medley. Considering the tonal difficulties of the soprano saxophone, featuring it in a solo recital is a risky endeavor. Fortunately Lacy has such a command of the instrument as well as space and dynamics that his performance was both a riveting tribute and a master thesis on soprano saxophone techniques. He stretched, dissected and reassembled a potpourri of Ellington compositions with both idiosyncratic whimsy and heartfelt passion.
His wife, vocalist Irene Aebi, joined Lacy during the second set of a provocative exploration of the Beat poetry movement. Depending on your opinion of avant-garde vocals, Aebi's singing can either stir the soul or work the nerves. But for certain, her avant-cabaret styling can't be ignored. And in the context of Lacy's quirky compositions, which are filled with danceable melodies, jittery melodies and wide interval leaps, Aebi serves as Lacy's alter ego.
Performing in simpatico union, the two delivered ethereal tone poems of the works of Bob Kaufman, William S. Burroughs and Robert Crealy and Living Theatre's Judith Malina. Indeed, the duo captivated with the grotesque imagery of Burroughs's "The Naked Lunch" and the frigid isolation of Kaufman's "Private Sadness." Both Lacy and the material stayed true to esoteric form, but his and Aebi's theatrical readings were still imbued with an undeniable humanitarianism.