Webb Wilder, self-proclaimed "last of the full-grown men," whipped up a fury Friday at Iota, performing two sets and a generous encore that left longtime fans satisfied. There were no new, unfamiliar songs to stop the action, just the fast-paced hits from his handful of albums.
The only "new" numbers were ones he'd rediscovered by listening to tapes of his band from the early 1980s, and so the evening's two sets included Paul Revere and the Raiders' "Steppin' Out," the LeRoi Brothers' "Pretty Little Lights of Town," Little Jimmy Dickens's "(I Got) a Hole in My Pocket" and Johnny Burnette and the Rock 'n Roll Trio's "Rock Therapy."
Accompanied by guitarist George Bradfute, bassist Tim Comet and Los Straitjackets drummer Jimmy Lester (a longtime Wilder band mate), Wilder embellished the recorded versions of the songs with energizing vocal variations and comical facial expressions. Not that the tunes needed them -- Wilder's brand of twang-driven, breakneck garage rock played in the barn is exciting enough. While sparks fly from the guitars, the lyrics never fail to be thought-provoking and/or hilarious, and at Iota you could hear every word through the mix.
The Nashville-based Wilder limits his tours these days -- this one drew fans from a wide region who otherwise wouldn't get to see him -- and his songwriting is no doubt impaired by his full-time gig as the "rockinest" alternative country DJ on XM Radio. We'll forgive him the lack of new songs if he promises to bring the old ones to town more often.
-- Buzz McClain
When guitarist Mundell Lowe drops a name, it's a big one. At the Smithsonian Jazz Cafe in the National Museum of Natural History on Friday night, the 82-year-old Mississippi native referred to his collaborations with Charlie Parker and Benny Goodman, just two of the many jazz greats with whom he's played. Yet there was nothing nostalgic about Lowe's performances of Parker's "Steeplechase" and a Goodman-inspired "Darn That Dream." They were crisp and swinging.
Accompanying Lowe were three musicians well versed in swing and bop: vibist Chuck Redd, bassist Tommy Cecil and drummer Frank Russo. The combination of guitar and vibes, always appealing, is especially so when it produces fluid harmonies and dovetailing solos heard throughout the set.
Lowe, who generally uses a pick, long ago mastered the art of harmonic substitution and alteration. Several pop standards were freshened by his keen sense of dynamics and accents that ranged from shimmering harmonics to abruptly raked flourishes. At one point, after Lowe tucked his pick between his lips, he created a wonderfully atmospheric finger-style interpretation of Django Reinhardt's "Nuages."
Another renowned guitarist, the late Charlie Byrd, was evoked, intentionally or not, when Lowe and his band mates brightly revived Antonio Carlos Jobim's "One Note Samba." Cecil's vigorous yet consistently melodic solo made this brief bossa nova excursion all the more enjoyable. And while most of the arrangements unfolded in time-honored fashion, neatly propelled by Russo, there was no shortage of spontaneity either.
-- Mike Joyce
Peruvian singer Eva Ayllon is a diva, but she's also a folkloric artist with a message about race, class and self-esteem in her home country. A black Peruvian, she began singing musica criolla in the late 1970s, and now plays to crowds of 30,000 in Lima. Her genre's combination of ballads and up-tempo dance numbers, once a nearly forgotten approach, draws from African and Spanish influences blended by slaves who worked Peru's silver mines and sugar plantations.
Saturday night at the Lincoln Theatre, Ayllon and a nine-piece band turned traditionals and 20th-century poetry into contemporary vehicles for flirting, strutting and educating. Wearing a long, close-fitting velvet dress, the nearly 50-year-old South American legend gyrated sensually on speedy festejos such as the mixed-race tale "Inga," supported by an exuberant percussive cacophony.
Instrumentalists on cajon (a wooden box), mini-maracas, the quijada (donkey jawbone), bongos and bass provided the mother-country-rooted bottom, while the acoustic guitarist added the Iberian-derived flamenco-like high end. On waltz-based numbers like "Fina Estampa" and soulful landos like "Negra Presentuosa," the keyboardist led the more syrupy playing, while Ayllon struck theatrical poses and sang powerfully if a bit too melodramatically on certain numbers.
By evening's end, many pleased audience members were pulling out their cell phones to take pictures of Ayllon, who blew kisses to them during the encore.
-- Steve Kiviat