Tag Archives: Ben Folds

Ben Folds and yMusic Rocked That Paramount

2 Nov


One of the reasons why Ben Folds has found consistent success over his now quarter-of-a-century-old music career is his musical malleability. Folds has now done everything from releasing successful albums with Ben Folds Five to collaborating with musicians like Regina Spektor and Weird Al Yankovich. He has created experimental literature/music compilations with writers like Nick Hornby and has even starred as an erudite judge in the NBC a cappella show “The Sing Off,” where he was able to show off his musical knowledge and pipes. Yes, Ben Folds has seemingly done it all. His next endeavor: combining forces with a classical music troupe with a penchant for modernizing orchestral music.

So There, released this past September, features several pieces with yMusic Ensemble, and might just be his best collaboration yet. Folds’ music, specifically his solo material, is adorned with elegant instrumentals that sparkle like bedizened clothing, but do not touch rococo overemphasis, instead including just the correct amount of tasteful musical goodness. In celebration of his new album, Folds just embarked on a tour with yMusic, and I had the opportunity to see them at the Paramount in Huntington, a beautiful club venue that is spacious and modern. The concert, like all Folds’ concerts, was conversational and effervescent; Folds is himself – like him or not – and this candor finds its way into his verbal ramblings and music theory rants.

Folds always garners a knowledgeable crowd and almost everyone in the audience was aware of Folds’ on-stage antics, which did not change – if anything they were highlighted – despite the appearance of yMusic, who created a U around Folds’ piano, which was set a little back on stage adjacent to the drums. Folds mused on stories that formed songs and the dangers of sleep deprivation, all while nailing every note and assuring that all members were held accountable, including himself – at one point he stopped the beginning of a song because he did not like his opening note. When improvising his always topical “Rock This Bitch,” he seemed to have fun challenging his panel of accomplished musicians with complex scales and pauses.

The highlights of the night were the band’s energetic performances of Jesusland,” “Steven’s Last Night in Town,” “You Don’t Know Me,” and, of course, the crowd-aided, encore song about a LSD trip turned born-again Christian conversion, “Not the Same.” Each song was played with such eager ardor; Ben Folds loves what he does.

Three in Three: The Musical Grab Bag That is Greg Dember

25 Apr

Mini-Piano - My Instrument of Choice

Greg Dember is a professional musician. Many times you come across a band composed of musicians that stick to the script and play music that is conventional and unexciting. It’s not that they don’t take risks because they want to be mundane. They don’t take risks because they do not have the musical ability to do so. Dember, a technical piano player from Seattle, has been punching out creative melodies since the 90’s, and his March release of his second solo album Water Makes Waves is proof that he does not like to settle for boring rhythm and melody. Instead, Dember creates an album that I coin an Indie Grab Bag, jam-packed with horns, strings, synths and intriguing harmonies. The album is imbued with innovative sounds, and part of the excitement of listening is that you just don’t know what will come next.

“How We Met” is just one example of Dember’s music. It begins with a comfortable piano riff that stays neatly in the background when Dember’s soothing folk voice joins the piece. The soft string section adds scene to the song and creates an almost Ben Folds-like indie sound. At around two minutes listeners are treated to a hint of horns that come and go quickly, replaced by the impressive piano melody that transforms into the base of an instrumental that features violin plucks and drawn-out, but contained, horn appearances. It is a full-bodied song and, like a good ale, goes down smoothly. It is also a solid preview of the rest of the album which, while being different and creative, never loses its flavor.

Check out more of Dember’s music: http://www.gregdembermusic.com/

Interested in being featured on the Music Court? Send your information to musiccourt@gmail.com and I’ll be happy to take a listen.

Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame Induction – John Lennon Tribute – John Lennon Tribute?

16 Dec

John Lennon Look-Alike

Yes, I know what you are probably thinking. He repeats himself in the title. Well, let me explain myself.

Meet Street Corner Symphony. If you have been watching the Sing Off on NBC, then you are well acquainted with this Nashville sextet that combine good ol’ fashioned southern charm with funk elements in their music. No instruments. The show is pure A cappella, a style vocal-only music that has become a popular part of our musical culture again. Back in the 50s and 60s, A cappella style was a nice sized part of the musical culture. Well, then again, what wasn’t available on the musical dinner plate.

The Sing Off is really the only show I watch and it definitely is the only reality show I find myself viewing. There are a few reasons for this. The talent is extraordinary for any music lover. Unlike American Idol or any other singing show, this pins intelligent musicians who have mastery over their voices and vocal choreography against each other in a short format. The show runs for only a couple of weeks in 2-hour episodes. Next Monday is the finale. Yeah, so instead of suffering through Months of American Idol, you receive quick results and don’t get sick of the judges. I also like the show because Ben Folds is a judge. ‘Nuff said.

Street Corner Symphony is one of the four bands that will be in attendance at the finale. America now votes on who wins. They are not my favorite, but they still are tremendously talented…and one of their members may be a reincarnated John Lennon.

If the picture is not enough. This was taken during their Beatles' medley!

Scary. Judge Shawn Stockman finally acknowledged the underlying thought in every viewers mind after this performance by saying that Richie Lister (playing the part of John Lennon above) really looks like Lennon and it was scaring the hell out of him. You are not alone Mr. Stockman.

Tweedy Lennon

In other John Lennon related news, Wilco lead singer, Jeff Tweedy, made a surprise appearance at an Autumn Defense show. Autumn Defense is the side-project of two Wilco multi-instrumentalists. Tweedy played Lennon’s “God” to honor Lennon on the anniversary of his death (Dec. 8).

Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame Inductees

School’s out for sweet Caroline. Alice Cooper and Neil Diamond are Cleveland-bound and ready to suit up for the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

Cooper and Diamond will be joined by Tom Waits, Darlene Love and Dr. John as they are all honored on March 14. Congrats to the inductees.

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