Tag Archives: Music

Perfectly performed

on a perfect early spring evening in Tompkins Square Park, the music of a person (pronouns fluid, if you are up to date) who calls his band Pinc Louds. He began in 2015 playing in the New York City subways for spare change, and now he goes all over the world, but also does his thing in New York at places like Joe’s Pub and Lincoln Center and Poisson Rouge. Still plays gigs for free in the Park though, as a fixture of the East Village.

He’s from Puerto Rico, and in his few hours not occupied with music he’s known as Claudi. 

Dogs walked their people all over the place.

Pinc Louds worked out on his guitar, though sometimes he prefers electrified mbira.

The friend I strolled with has played with him before – she’s a fantastic mbira player too. She describes his voice as Billie Holiday in Puerto Rico. Sometimes he has giant puppets with him.  Wish I’d seen that.

I especially liked the lyrics of one of his songs:

A little girl she tells me I got soul

She sees it when I sing

Yes, a little girl she tells me I got soul

She sees it when I sing

I tell a girl your eyes are getting old

You couldn’t tell a mountain from a hole

‘cause I can’t feel a thing

No, I can’t feel a thing

No, not even when I sing

[Chorus]

I’ve got no soul in my body

I’ve just got soul in my brain

I’ve got no soul in my body

I’ve just got soul in my brain

Cause there’s no soul in our bodies

Just soul in our brains

[Verse 1]

Ooh, Singin’

My heart ain’t singin’

And still

You’re wishin’ on it like you’re wishin’ on a wishing well

The drops sink to the murky depths of hell

I saw you once and you

Your little stars were true

Please take me up with you

[Verse 2]

So press me to your dress

And press me to your thighs

And press me to your chest

Caress me ‘til I’m blessed into the tide

Rushing to your blushing blood inside

And though the die is cast

And I am sinking fast

I feel alive at last

[Chorus]

I’ve got no soul in my body

I’ve just got soul in my brain

I’ve got no soul in my body

I’ve just got soul in my brain

Cause there’s no soul in our bodies

Just soul in our brains

Under the shade of a big old tree in the park, just leafing out, dusk fell. Yes, Virginia, there are big old trees on the Lower East Side of New York City.

Critics have deemed Pinc Louds “the band that saved summer” because it appeared in the park during the pandemic and lifted everybody’s spirits. People of all ages danced and went wild, with socially distanced mosh pits.

Someone’s observation underfoot. Not necessarily true, at least on this good-luck night.

Claudi and his wife have a baby at home. He told me that the child has watched him “transition” into his performance getup, but hasn’t yet had any kind of reaction. You can check out Pinc Louds on YouTube.

Pinc Louds, you can wear whatever you want, whatever look you want to rock. Just keep singing.

Your music is splendid.

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Spring, season of music and madness,

is here. And magic. Trees are still budding out, but in planters on the street flowers bloom.

At Hekate, a “sober bar” on Manhattan’s lower east side, there is a little of all three.

The music is the band Maputi, with Nora Balaban on the mbira, Banning Eyre on guitar and Rima Fand playing violin. Traditional Zimbabwean rhythms, lulling, hypnotic. Trance music.

The magic, served up by a witchy wench of a bartender, consists of elixirs designed to elevate your mood.

I find The Healer refreshing enough to quaff in one gulp: Apothekary’s Blue Me Away, lemonade, seltzer and lavender simple syrup. Don’t try this at home. Or if you do, make sure you invite me over.

The madness? That would come at 1 pm, 7 days a week, when the wannabe druids “gather to listen to the trees” at Corlears Hook Park on the East River. “They are smarter than us! They have been here longer!”

But is that really so crazy? I’d like to join the assembly with a Healer in a thermos and Maputi rocking my earbuds.

Spring. It’s here.

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Perfection old and new

is what you get when you combine a funkily sublime old vaudeville theater and a performance by a Japanese avant-garde jazz pianist and composer at the height of her career.

Sony Hall had opened in Times Square in 1938 as the Diamond Horseshoe, and became one of the iconic venues of the vaudeville circuit. Later it hosted a long-running avant-garde show called Queen of the Night. When Sony acquired it, the theater had somehow retained its original furnishings, like the decorative disk that graces the ceiling over the audience, and the buyers were smart enough to retain the fixtures, and décor and the painting.

The food was good; the potatoes purple.

By the time Hiromi came on stage, the audience was primed. Japanese families filled the front rows.

The rest were serious fans already, including our neighbor Andrew, a Polish IT guy who it seems follows her from show to show. She inspires super-fandom.

Hiromi appeared.

She gracefully introduced the quartet accompanying her. They were “new,” she said, and from all over.

How would you describe Hiromi’s composing, and her playing? A tickle and a romp, with stride jazz flourishes and soulful  trills reminiscent of the old country. She stamped her gold sneakers, stood up, sat down, grimaced and grinned at the audience as though we were all in on her marvelous joke. She was funny. She had fun! She was explosive, with her lightning fast fingers.

Hiromi has said, “I don’t want to put a name on my music. Other people can put a name on what I do. It’s just the union of what I’ve been listening to and what I’ve been learning. It was some elements of classical music, it has some rock, it has some jazz, but I don’t need to give it a name.” Born in Japan ini 1979, she started lessons at six, and her teacher had her use color to develop her chops, saying Play red if it was something passionate or Play blue if it should be a mellow sound. She is well known for the album she recorded with Chick Corea, whom she met when she was seventeen.

The accompanists were tight, totally matched to her at times wild and galloping melodies. The Live-Shrieber-resembling first violinist should probably have his own show, he was that good.

The piece she performed, titled Silver Lining Suite, told a personal story of the pandemic in musical harmonies. There will be a lot of compositions on this theme, in all the arts, I am sure. But her interpretation was spectacular. She brought the past and present together with soul and charm.

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It started out a good day

and wound up even better. At 7:30 am I stood on the Grand Concourse sidewalk petting Spartacus, a dog belonging to a neighborhood guy.

This massive animal, an Italian Mastiff (or Cane Corso) was a puppy at 150 pounds and destined to grow bigger. He was gentle as a kitten.

The afternoon progressed as usual, inspecting trees and their roots in trenches, munching plantain chips, drinking too much iced coffee.

Then we head to a concert at a place called Brooklyn Steel: Black Pumas, the psychedelic-rhythm and blues band whose smash Colors has had everyone entranced in the past year.

First, to eat. A Taste of Heaven pops up as right around the corner from the concert, in east Williamsburg.

You here for the venue? says Tony, who owns the place and is chief cook. Well, yes.

Jerk ribs, cabbage, collard greens from an aluminum dish with a plastic fork. From a steam table. A quart container of mango KoolAid to slake the thirst, because everything is popping with spice.

We dine outside, no indoor seating, at a tiny table. About the best grub I’ve had recently, and that includes a fancy restaurant high in the air where you had an extraordinary vision of verdant central park stretched out in front of you. The food, not so extraordinary. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve dined out someplace supposedly fantastic and said I could do better at home.

Not here. I can’t fathom how he turned out this food in his tiny kitchen, but it is magical.

We’re number one on Yelp, says Tony, leaving his station and setting another tin of jerk ribs down in front of us gratis so we can both try them. And, in fact, checking out Tony’s boast, A Taste of Heaven stands out on Yelp as number one out of 184 soul food restaurants in New York. Unfortunately they have no dessert, but an elderly lady sitting on the one chair inside pulls a yellow supermarket cake out of her plastic shopping bag and offers to give me a slice. She urges me to take it. It’s lemon! she says.

In case you want to find a Taste of Heaven, it stands at a crossroads.

Marked by the eternally ubiquitous sneakers that hang from a wire above the street.

A short drive takes us to find something sweet, through Brooklyn’s gentrified blocks with their clean sidewalks and glossy windows. Mature willows tower over young ginkgos..

A super-spare and clean gym open to the street.

Some great band names.

Entertaining murals. Note: you can’t see JFK’s face with the naked eye, only with the camera. A mystery how it’s done.

A chocolate cone is good on this end-of-summer evening, yet brings us up close to a ghost bike, one of the shrines you find all around town to bicyclists killed in traffic. Descansos, as they’re called in the Southwest, where the victims of highway accidents are sometimes memorialized by side-of-the-highway assemblages of car parts, in addition to photos and other sentimental items.

It gave me a frisson of PTSD since I recently had a bike wreck which left me banged up and bruised and slightly concussed. All better now.

The venue was jammed, the last of a four-night stint.

And the Black Pumas?

They rock. Almost as much as Tony’s jerk ribs.

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