Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Annekei - The Living Room, 5/20/08

Annekei did a killer show last night at the Living Room, band cooking as hot as I've heard them play. She opened with a new song, "Coming Back to You" sounding totally amazing. Next up was "Off My Mind", shown here in a live version recorded for Fearless Music TV about two weeks ago, this is the same band as last night, courtesy of

The set continued with more of the new songs that she's been playing of late and which will likely be on her U.S. debut CD that she'll be recording this summer. "Melt" and "100 Square Feet" sounded great with this band and with Annekei at the top of her game, these songs sound ready for CD right now. Here are videos of both songs from last night, courtesy of youtube user octane31.

Leslie Lemmon on bass and Fred Alias on drums.

Jeff Smith (above) is a supremely talented multi-instrumentalist; he did a great sax solo during "Keep Playin'". Guest vocalist Patrizia Ferrara came onstage to sing with Annekei, they started with an acapella gospel song that led nicely into "Chills", again with a fantastic version that couldn't help but give a few to the Living Room crowd. Here's the video, thanks a million to youtube user octane31, click on the video window to go to youtube to see the rest of octane31's videos. So great to have this.

Corey Glover of Living Colour joined Annekei and Patrizia onstage to close the show with a killer version of "Lay Down with Me". Annekei says she's heading out for the summer to record in California and do some more touring in Asia, hope to see her back in NYC soon.

Annekei's first two Japanese albums are uniformly excellent and she has just released a new duet album with Jack Lee in Korea which I am dying to hear.

7/07/08 Update - Just found the Annekei/Jack Lee album on U.S. iTunes for $9.99. It's now loaded onto my iPod, look for a review soon. Annekei's first album is also available on iTunes.

Annekei & Jack Lee - Letter (Korea, 2008)

And here's a different cover as released by Universal International (2008)

Annekei (Zain Records, 2006)

Tsuki (Zain Records, 2007)

Annekei's myspace
Annekei's website

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Venissa Santí - The Raven Lounge, 5/16/08

Venissa Santí brought a three piece acoustic band to play two sets of excellent Latin jazz, standards, and original songs last night at the Raven Lounge in Philadelphia. The venue seemed an unlikely place to encounter music of this caliber, it is essentially a bar with no stage, no lights, and just a couple of speakers for the p.a. microphone. The band was set up next to the front wall which opens up to the street. Which is good in nice weather, but this night was cool and rainy and with Venissa in short sleeves, the open air might not have been such a good idea.

Listen to "Tender Shepherd and Little Girl Blue"

The music was rich with the cultures of Cuba, Brazil and Chile. Venissa is quite well versed in these musical traditions, doing jazz, pop, and standards; she also writes some very nice original songs. She was accompanied by three awesomely talented musicians from the group Alo Brasil; husband Patricio Acevedo on guitar, Tim Thompson on trumpet, and François Zayas on percussion. The first set included a very nice rendering of "Embraceable You", a standard that also appears on her debut CD Bienvenida.

Listen to "Como Fue"

The second set included an acoustic version of "Como Fue", a slow Cuban blues song that also sounds great in the recorded version on her CD that features the electric guitar work of Jef Lee Johnson. The acoustic version was every bit as beautiful in its own way. She ended the set with "Wish You Well", one of her originals, and then in response to audience (and venue) demand, she encored with"Cumpling Cumpling" complete with the background story of the song and the sexually charged dance that is associated with it.

Listen to "Wish You Well"

Venissa Santí was born in the U.S. of Cuban parents, grew up in Ithaca, NY, studied at the University of the Arts and now calls Philadelphia home. She returned to Cuba in 2001; the first member of her family to do so since the family left Cuba for exile in 1961. She spent an extended time there studying with the masters, honing her vocal style and totally enveloping herself in the Cuban musical culture and history. The richness of the Cuban musical tradition is nicely shown in the film Buena Vista Social Club. Venissa's voice is beautiful, her grasp of the wealth of music she draws from is huge, and we are very lucky to have her here.

Venissa will be performing a CD release show at Chris's Jazz Cafe in Philadelphia on June 19th. Her new CD, Bienvenida is available at CD Baby and iTunes.

Venissa Santí - Bienvenida (2008)

Venissa's myspace.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Melody Gardot Update - Cool Stuff in the U.K.

(Photo courtesy of The Glee Club)

Just catching up with Melody's blog Chateaux du Gardot, in which she describes her London debut last fall thusly:

On Wednesday November 14th, I flew over to sing with the BBC London Orchestra with a slew of other massive talent such as the incomprable Ian Shaw, Lizz Wright, Claire Martin, Juliette Louis, Terri Walker and Jamelia just to name a few. We were performing a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald called "We All Love Ella" (Also a record out now....) as the kick off event for the 2007 London Jazz Festival at Royal Festival Hall in South Bank Centre. This, playing with a full orchestra on a gigantic stage with some of the best performers not just in London, but in Jazz in general, was my London debut.

Two days later she recorded an episode of Live from Abbey Road for season two, airing later this year on the Sundance channel. Season one was awesome and with Melody, season two can't be anything but magic. Her appearance was part of a Herbie Hancock segment performing the songs of Joni Mitchell (as on his latest Grammy winning CD) that also includes singers Corinne Bailey Rae and Sonya Kitchell. Melody sang "Edith and the Kingpin".

(Photos courtesy of Live From Abbey Road/The Sundance Channel)

On April 1st, Melody appeared on David Dye's World Cafe syndicated public radio program for an interview and live performance which you can listen to here at the NPR Music website. She did three songs for the program plus one extra song for the website.

On April 29th Melody performed on the BBC program Later with Jools Holland, a great live performance show. It is tragic that we don't get this show in the U.S. except for sporadic reruns of old shows, and maybe Melody's performance will eventually wind up on youtube, but for now, here's Melody backstage at the BBC during makeup before the show, discussing her injury and the role music played in her recovery.

Finally, here's a video Melody posted last week, filmed May 6th backstage at a venue called The Glee Club in Birmingham, England. This video includes a performance of "One Day". Enjoy.

Melody's tour schedule continues in Europe and the U.K. through July, then she returns for performances in the U.S. during August.

Buy Worrisome Heartat Amazon (still a major steal at $6.99).

Melody's myspace.
Melody's website.
Melody's blog: Chateaux du Gardot.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Unpronounceable - The Unthinkable Farewell Show, The Funhouse, 5/09/08

There's a hole in the musical universe this morning. After ten years of perfecting a totally unique form of music they call countrifunked jazzabilly, The Unpronounceable hung up their spurs last night after performing one final killer show at the Funhouse in Bethelehem, PA. If you're not already familiar with The Unpronounceable, start the below song from their recent double live album, Songs for the Long Drive Home (2007), and read this description from their website.

Listen to "I Don't Think So"


They’re the ass-kicking, money-maker-shaking love child of old, new, borrowed, & blue – a long-awaited tribute to those lost years when Elvis sang Hank Williams tunes with Black Sabbath while Duke & Satchmo called out the changes. They call it COUNTRIFUNKED JAZZABILLY, but it’s really just what rock & roll would’ve been if it hadn’t wasted all that time on hairspray.
Grown out of the hinters of Northeastern Pennsyltucky circa 1997,

THE UNPRONOUNCEABLE landed on the Greater New York Metropolitan music scene just in time to remind everyone that it’s OK to sing, dance, and spit single-malt bourbon into an open fire. Armed with three guitars, a banjo, a piano, a trap kit and an upright bass fiddle, these four handsome fellows have swapped instruments in front of audiences at such venues as Kenny’s Castaways, The C-Note, Meow Mix, Le Bar Bat, The Pussycat Lounge, Arlene Grocery, CB’s Gallery, The Lizard Lounge, Otto's Shrunken Head, and Makor, as well as a host of northeast universities.

Comprised of members Pete Gustavson (guit-fiddle, bass-fiddle, croons), Dan Kinsley (ivories, guit-fiddle, bass-fiddle), Adam Gustavson (guit-fiddle, bass-fiddle) and Matt Scheller (updated) (skins & cymbals), the unpronounceable (who've borrowed the souls of some of rock & roll’s greatest founding members) continue to stun and amaze everyone lucky enough to see them perform.


Pete & Dan


The Unpronounceable totally tore it up last night at the Funhouse, the band firing on all cylinders. The three sets were filled with the originals and cover songs that comprise everything that this fine band does best. The Funhouse was jam packed with fans, friends and family, and all were dancing and singing, celebrating and lamenting, the joy tempered with the reality that this would be it for the foreseeable future.

Pete kept the breakup jokes popping between every song, offering slight but welcome relief from the elephant in the room while the band played on like there was no tomorrow. At one point Pete dedicated a song to his lovely wife and their sweet baby on the way and then took a moment to speculate as to whether it would turn out to be a sweet baby or an asshole. Some guy in the audience offered the helpful thought that being an asshole skips a generation prompting Pete to say "we're safe then".

The list of highlights is as long as the set list, but "Folsom Prison" and "Summertime" closed the first set in fine style with a couple of classic Unpronounceable covers.

Listen to "Summertime"

Autograph signing mid-set.

Closing out the second set, Adam's signature take on Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" sounded especially great; how cool would it have been if The Unpronounceable's version had been used in the new Iron Man movie? He then hit such a groove with his lead on "Ugly" that you just didn't want the song or the set (or the band) to end.

Listen to "Iron Man"

Listen to "Ugly"

"If we knew y'all cared so much we would have broken up years ago."

Thanks to the Funhouse for being the Unpronounceable's home in the Lehigh Valley, and for the hardest working bar waitress ever. Thanks to the Franklin Tavern where Songs for the Long Drive Home was recorded, for being the Unpronounceable's home in north Jersey, and to the bartender there for bringing in all that pizza.

Thanks to the Gustavsons, Adam and Pete, their wives, parents, extended family, and friends for making every show seem like a house party and for making strangers like me feel like part of the family even though I only just met you for the first time a year ago. And thanks to Dave from Direct Current for bringing me along to those shows at the Franklin last year.

Thanks to Adam for his multi-instrumental talent, especially the jazz guitar, the lap steel and the banjo. Thanks to Pete for his multi-instrumental talent, especially the incredible energy of his rhythm guitar, his throwback vocal style and the hat. Thanks to Dan for his multi-instrumental talent including some really exquisite lead guitar work. And thanks to Matt for anchoring the whole thing from behind his drum kit and rocking the house every time out.

Thanks to the crowd who packed every square inch of the Funhouse last night for the send off. Thanks to the girl next to me who danced and sang every song; enthusiasm like that raises the whole thing up a notch. Thanks even to the big guy who kept calling for shots, I think he spoke for us all when at one point he bellowed "Viva los Beefalos!!!". And thanks above all to the band for ten years of great music and uncountable great nights when they'd play live. Don't wait too long for that reunion show. Happy trails.

The Unpronounceable's recorded work is available from several sources. Start at their website's opening page where you can obtain their latest release, the double live Songs for the Long Drive Home. For reasons of royalty legalities you can now download half the album for free and the other half for ten bucks, a steal if there ever was one. Proceed on to the music page of the website where you can download four EPs for free and also link to purchase four more CDs/EPs from CD Baby or iTunes.

Songs for the Long Drive Home (2007)

The Unpronounceable's myspace.
The Unpronounceable's website.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Tina Dico, The Khyber, Philadelphia, 5/07/08

The night before last Tina Dico played a sold out show at Joe's Pub in New York City, one of the best venues that an artist can play. But tonight in a booking that was borderline bizarre, Tina played a superb set at Philadelphia's Khyber. Home to mostly loud indie bands, the Khyber is about as far to the other end of the venue spectrum as one can get from Joe's Pub.

Listen to - "Cruel to the Sensitive Kind"

Tina was the consummate professional; not fazed by the grungy room, not fazed by the almost non-existent lighting, not fazed by having no soundcheck, not fazed by monitor sound that seemed to have a mind of it's own, and not visibly fazed by the din of conversation coming from the bar in the next room that threatened to drown her out, even though her voice and guitar were amplified, Tina was (to paraphrase Elizabeth & the Catapult), absolutely, totally, perfect.

Performing solo acoustic as she usually does here in the states, Tina played a welcome sampling of tunes from her latest album, Count to Ten,including "You Know Better", "On the Run", and "Cruel to the Sensitive Kind". The title track "Count to Ten" sounded extra powerful with the addition of a backing track, and she closed with "Sacre Coeur" all from the new record.

Listen to - "Sacre Coeur"

Tina sang a medley of some of her earlier tunes including "Break of Day", "My Mirror", and "Headshop". "Warm Sand" got a complete performance, and Tina bravely sang "Room With a View" mostly acapella, in spite of the huge noise coming from the bar. Tina brought copies of the new CD to sell, and an enthusiastic group of fans lined up after the show for a word and an autograph.

Tina's talent is such that when she plays and sings, it forms a direct connection to the audience that totally transcends the venue and there was never a better example than tonight at the Khyber. Even though she might have been better off playing at the Tin Angel or World Cafe Live (where she's played before), it was great to have Tina back in Philadelphia in any case.

Buy Count to Ten at Amazon.

On the Run (Danish CD Single)

Tina Dico's myspace.
Tina Dico's website.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Shayna Zaid - Rockwood Music Hall, 5/01/08

Shayna Zaid played a great sounding acoustic set last night at Rockwood. Backed by producer Jay Deasel on guitar, Shayna sang a selection of original songs with a subtle soulfulness and a not so subtle stage presence that transfixed the crowd right from her first song. Here's some video from the show, including the beautiful "It's You".

The combination of her vocal, songwriting, and performing talents is a potent one and the show left the audience wanting to hear more, even after the unplanned encore.

Shayna's career began early when she fielded recording contract offers after appearing on a singing competition television show in her native Malaysia, but opted instead to become the youngest ever network talk show host in Malaysian history when she took over the daily prime time show Speak Up and in the process became a household name at age fifteen. A mere two years later she decided to focus on her music, moved to the U.S. and enrolled at Berklee College of Music in Boston.

After establishing herself at Berklee, Shayna decided to move to NYC to pursue a musical career and in 2006 recorded her first album, Beyond Borders, which was successful in Malaysia and spawned a number one single there. After recording a second album, Half a World Away, Shayna returned to Malaysia in early 2007 after a six and a half year absence, for an extended visit to release and promote it and in the process achieved another number one single there. Read Jay Deasel's more thorough biography of Shayna on her myspace page.

Shayna is currently working on a new EP which is almost done and is planned to launch her career here in the U.S. and internationally. Many of the songs in her Rockwood set seem destined for the EP and they all were a pleasure to hear. This is an artist whose future potential is as large as her talent, a great Rockwood find.

If you're in the New York area, mark June 11th on your calendar; Shayna will be back at the Rockwood Music Hall and promises to bring a full band. This is a revised date, come help Shayna celebrate her birthday on the 11th at Rockwood.

Availability of her CDs is very limited unless you live in Malaysia, but all of her work to date is available for download purchase. Beyond Borders is currently available at iTunes. Half a World Away plus seven newer songs are available at Snocap which is easy to find on Shayna's myspace page.

Beyond Borders (2006)

Half a World Away (2007)

Shayna Zaid's myspace.