Tag Archives: Piano

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.

Best Performance at the Grammys 2014

27 Jan


While I’ve made my thoughts about the Grammy Awards clear before, I did happen to catch most of the show last night while I did some work, and, unlike in year’s past, the show actually sustained my attention and did not make me apoplectic. The big winners of the night were Daft Punk, Lorde, and Macklemore + Ryan Lewis, and I was perfectly fine with those artists cleaning house. Why? Musical aptitude. Simply, they are all talented, and I am a sucker for when musicians with actual talent are provided with awards – unfortunately, this is not usually the case. But enough about the awards. While the Grammys is an awards show (it is right there in the name), we all know that people tune in to see the eclectic pairings of music superstars perform to a crowd of awkward Taylor Swift, old Yoko Ono shoulder dances, robots, and Sir Paul. And while I was a bit angry that the Grammys did not have a performance tribute to Lou Reed – one of the most important musical figures in the rock era – most of the performances were on target. Of all the unique performances of the night, my choice for best moment may surprise some of you.

Was I the only one who though Metallica and Lang Lang absolutely killed it? “One” is a pretty sick song, and it does feature  one of the greatest breakdowns in metal history. The addition of Lang Lang’s frenetic concert piano added an odd and appealing element to the piece, and the solo exchange was on target and such a pleasure to listen to. Perhaps the performance was my favorite just because it was so darn heavy. The award show (which ended late) had been dragging on a bit, and Metallica woke every viewer (and audience member) up with this performance.

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.

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