Funky Flights: Chirp to welcome 2018 with a new album


"This is for all you strutters out there," announced Jay Frydenlund midway through [|Chirp]’s headlining set at the Blind Pig on Saturday. On cue, the Ypsi-based quartet of fusion rockers launched into a swaggering, deep-pocket jam ("Dickerville") that sent an obvious ripple through the crowd as folks remembered what they came for and got their boogie on.

Orchestrated Mahavishnu: John McLaughlin & Co. at Michigan Theater


Sphinx Virtuosi by Kevin Kennedy

Jimmy Herring (left in both photos) played a set with his new band, The Invisible Whip, before joining John McLaughlin and The 4th Dimension to fire up some Mahavishnu Orchestra burners. Photos by Kim Allegrezza/Mistry Grove Photography (left) and Ina McLaughlin (right).

John McLaughlin’s farewell tour bus pulled into Ann Arbor on Wednesday night and delivered the goods with a program titled Mahavishnu Revisited. McLaughlin was backed by The 4th Dimension for most of the show, with openers Jimmy Herring and The Invisible Whip joining them on stage at the Michigan Theater for a symphony of sound dedicated to exploring the music of Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Concerti Per Venti: Sphinx Virtuosi at Rackham Auditorium


Sphinx Virtuosi by Kevin Kennedy

Sphinx Virtuosi is comprised of 18 of the top black and Latinx classical soloists in the country. Photo by Kevin Kennedy.

Rackham Auditorium hosted and UMS presented the gifted and absorbing chamber music ensemble [|Sphinx Virtuosi] on Sunday afternoon as part of the group’s 20th-anniversary tour.

Based in Detroit, the [|Sphinx Organization] is committed to promoting the transformative power of the arts through diversity and inclusion. The Sphinx Virtuosi ensemble is comprised of 18 of the top black and Latinx classical soloists in the country, all of whom are alumni of the prestigious Sphinx Competition that the organization holds annually in Detroit.

As Jessie Montgomery, the current concertmaster of the Virtuosi, noted during Sunday’s concert, another key priority of the Sphinx Organization is to support new work by composers of color, whose voices which are vastly underrepresented (accounting for barely 1% of the classical canon, according to Montgomery).

Love Bomb: Victor Wooten Trio at The Ark


Victor Wooten Trio at The Ark

Bob Franceschini, Victor Wooten, and Dennis Chambers exploded with joyous music at The Ark on Oct. 26.

Bass wizard Victor Wooten had a sold-out crowd craning forward in their seats to hear note one last night at The Ark. When the first downbeat came, it was followed in short order by a slipstream of ringing harmonics that quickly resolved into a deep-in-the-pocket groove. Although that groove would evolve and shapeshift throughout the evening, it would never fade entirely.

Wooten was joined by master drummer Dennis Chambers (of Parliament/Funkadelic and Santana fame) and saxophonist Bob Franceschini. The trio is on tour supporting the release of their new album, [|Tryptonyx], a genre-b(l)ending tour de force that showcases each musician’s considerable technical chops without ever losing sight of the pure joy that funk can bring.

Bent into Shape: Circuit Bent Organ Duo at Kerrytown Concert House


Grammy-nominated and Hammond-endorsed organist [|Brian Charette]’s music encompasses a jostling, unruly mix of influences and timbres. While powered by groove-centric basslines, peppered with blistering bebop licks, and firmly grounded in the Hammond B-3 canon, Charette's sound also includes crunchy waveforms flowing from an array of analog synthesizers and custom electronics in his Circuit Bent Organ project.

Fresh off the summer release of its latest album, Kürrent -- which one reviewer described as the kind of soundscape that might result if Jimmy Smith and Kraftwerk collaborated on the score to a ‘80s video game -- two-thirds of the Circuit Bent Organ Trio returned to the […|Kerrytown Concert House] on Monday, Oct. 23, to showcase some new tunes. The pared-down duo format left plenty of auditory space for the kind of sonic exploration and experimentation that Charette clearly thrives on, and Jordan Young’s sensitive and dynamic approach to the drums provided an impactful and grounding counterpoint.

AAFF 2017 | Political: "Socrates of Kamchatka" & more


[… of Kamchatka]
Political | Amazing Stories | World Premiere
The first thing that strikes you as you enter the world of Socrates of Kamchatka is that your experience is being intermediated by the whimsical soliloquy of its titular world-weary horse. This gives the film a fable-like sheen and makes the central dramatic arc -- a rural community’s struggle to adapt to unceasing waves of national economic and political change -- at once both familiar and strange.

Socrates is no mincer of words, and he tells his story with deft aplomb, fully realizing the benefits of his equine perspective on human happenings and behavior. “Mother always bit my thighs for asking questions,” our narrator confides, before adding, “But then why name me Socrates?”

Comprovisation: Julian Lage and Chris Eldridge Live at The Ark


Guitar maestros Julian Lage and Chris Eldridge gave Ark-goers a show to remember on February 27, deftly weaving a rangy array of influences into a coherent and lively musical conversation.

Equally at ease in the company of jazz greats (Gary Burton, Fred Hersch) and bluegrass luminaries (Béla Fleck, David Grisman), Julian Lage continues to cover new ground while honoring the traditions that have informed his evolution as a musician. Chris “Critter” Eldridge is no slouch either, having cut his teeth on the national stage with The Seldom Scene and the Infamous Stringdusters before bringing his nimble and artful guitar work to the inventive, genre-bending Punch Brothers.

While much of the duo’s 2015 effort, Avalon, featured Eldridge’s vocals, their latest, Mount Royal (released last week) carves out more space for the interplay between the voices of their vintage Martin guitars. This heightened focus on instrumental improvisation, evident in concert, was a key driving force behind the songwriting process for the new album, which Lage and Eldridge discussed in [|greater detail with Pulp] last week.