Xuefei Yang at Subculture

This piece is reposted from NYC Aesthetic.

Classical guitarist Xuefei Yang (Fei) played a solo recital at SubCulture on Bleeker Sreet last night as part of the 92Y’s programming branch to the downtown scene. Fei seemed pleased to be in such a “cool” place, having played in palaces and concert halls throughout the world, she noted the intimate, club feel. But it was the superb acoustics of the underground space that was the highlight, as the accomplished guitarist took us on a musical journey from the 1600’s to the present.

Recognized as a prodigy at the tender age of ten, at her first public performance in Spain, Fei continued to impress the best in her field. Australian classical guitarist, John Williams, was so taken by Fei’s talent that he donated two guitars for her evolving practice.

Early on, Fei’s parents realized that she was an active child and attempted to temper her with music, first with the accordion, and then, the more subtle guitar. No doubt, the instrument blossomed in her hand. As the artist says herself, “I did not choose the guitar, the guitar chose me.” She went on to solidify a foundation in classical western tradition at The Royal Academy of Music in London where she now holds a fellowship.

The guitar in China before the Cultural Revolution had a lowly status, it was in fact deemed a vagabond’s instrument. XueFei’s great accomplishments have recast that perception. She is the first Chinese guitarist to launch an international career.

The evening’s performance began with Courtly Dances from Benjamin Britten’s opera “Gloriana” as arranged by Fei. A lively “March” ran into the “Coranto” before resting on the stately two beat rhythm in the “Pavane”, where I envisioned a snake being charmed out its basket. An English folk dance came before “Galliard” and the risqué “La Volta”, two Italian Renaissance dances featuring the demanding cinque passi or five-step. All handled beautifully.

Fei expressed an affinity for the prolific composer Franz Schubert in the following arrangement of “Six Schubertian Songs,” by Johann Kaspar Mertz (1806-1856), a Hungarian guitarist and composer. Austrian elegance rang clear throughout, particularly in the dreamy sweet talk of “Das Fishermadchen,” and the virtuosic ending of “Die Post”.

A certain sadness marked the introduction of Britten’s, “Nocturnal after John Dowland.” Fei explained that Dowland was an insomniac who found himself caught between light and the dark of sleep, a measured sense of hopelessness indeed. The works were both challenging for the performer and the listener. One could hear the full range of dynamics in Fei’s masterful touch as she explored the emotional wandering of sleep deprivation.

The US Premiere of Chen Li’s, “Shuo Chang”, followed intermission. The work had a very different form then the earlier pieces. This group of folk songs and dances had me wanting to stomp my feet. It was very moving. One could sense Fei’s attachment to the composition and her homeland.

The English composer William Walton’s bagatelles were next. Bagatelles are small, light pieces, typically for the piano, the best known being Fur Elise, by Beethoven. The opening piece was a a fast, bright Allegro, transitioned nicely into the slow tempo of the Lento. The sweet chords of “Alla Cubana” again showed off Fei’s technique and dynamics. “Con Slancio” concluded the series with a surging exposition and spirited ending.

For the last part of the program, a peppery Sonata by Argentinean composer Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983), that featured some interesting contrasting and percussive elements. Essentially a love song, this Sonata had the spice of magic realism so familiar to Latin America.

Xuefei’s spirit seems connected with all forms of music. Her classical roots serves her well wherever she travels musically. The artist finds a connection between Madrid and Beijing, being on the same latitudinal line. Fei realized she had not played anything of Spanish origin during the night’s performance and remedied this with a stunning Memories of Alhambra for an encore. The consistency of her tone and very skilful tremolo technique was breathtaking.

Xuefei Yang may shun the notion of pioneer but it is clear that she is on a mission to broaden the repertoire of classical music on guitar. She strikes me more as a rebel than a pioneer, as she pushes the boundary of the instrument further. In her hands it can surely take on many forms.



10th Anniversary Wanee Festival 2014 – Early Bird Tickets

unnamedEarly Bird Tickets for Wanee Festival starts tomorrow!  (Thursday, December 5th) on April 10 -12 at Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, FL:

No lineup yet, but we can be assured that The Allman Brothers will still be headlining, and supporting acts could be members of other Allman Brother Family bands (ie: Tedeschi Trucks Band, Devon Allman and Duane Trucks’ bands, etc.)

Tickets go on sale tomorrow at 10am: http://waneefestival.tickets.musictoday.com/WaneeFestival/calendar.aspx

Day 3 Equifunk 2013: Camp Equinunk, PA

4293578_origSo, I missed breakfast this day.  I really just needed some coffee, although I had some bloody mary mix and accoutrements to ease myself in on this day, I still just wanted coffee.  Which I found a few hours later, much to my delight.

Sunday was a slow day.  You know how it is, festival living/festival time… I just needed to get up there for Mike Dillon Band.  Much to my amazement, I had woken up earlier than originally thought and I could see Papa Mali.  Lucky, lucky me.

I pretty much wandered aimlessly during Papa Mali’s set, it was a little too early still for me to get my groove on.  I haven’t seen Mali in over a year I think, and he looks different. He’s lost a lot of weight (congratulations!) and he looks great.  He sounds even better.  He played a great set with 13 year old guitar virtuoso Bobby Paltauf. This young man made his rounds during the weekend as well, and has played with Deep Banana Blackout this summer at The Brooklyn Bowl. Keep your eye and ears out for him. Mali’s set highlights were: “Wade on the Water,” “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” Continue reading

Nikki Glaspie’s Gratitude Harvest Festival


Did you know Nikki Glaspie, drummer for Dumpstaphunk, is putting on her own festival?  It’s this weekend kids – and if you are in the Massachusetts area I think you probably should show up.  It promises to be more than a funky time – it headlines Dumpsta, and Glaspie’s newest band, The Nth Power, is showing it’s chops.  Plus, Skerik (saxophonist extraordinaire) and Nigel Hall are just some of the Artists-at-Large?  Yeah.  It’s kinda a no brainer.

Oh, and yeah, they are donating 50% of the proceeds and 100% of the silent auction to SEMAP.  The Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership (SEMAPis dedicated to preserving and expanding access to local food and sustainable farming in Southeastern Massachusetts through research and education. They promote  local farmer’s markets in the South Coast region, work with public schools to bring healthy food to students, and support local farmers, restaurants, and local food vendors.

I mean, personally, Ms. Glaspie not only has amazing chops on those drums (and all the other multi-instruments she plays, including french horn!), but she promotes amazing things.  This is her first festival, with (dare I say) more to come (not confirmed).  This woman promotes good music, good times, and good local food.

This sounds like a beautiful day.  Make sure you check it out!


Day 2 Equifunk 2013, Camp Equinunk, PA

Saturday Morning, Day 2


I woke up hungry.  And worried that I was going to miss breakfast, or at least miss all the food.  And I needed coffee. Bad.  So I left my cabin mates and walked over the footbridge and wandered for the mess hall.  It was not where I thought it was – actually I had no idea where it was, but I needed coffee.  STAT.  There was a line for the food, but much to my welcome surprise there was food. The food was not going to run out.  The coffee was not running out.  They had bagels, eggs, bacon, waffles, coffee, tea, ice water and orange juice, fruit and cereal and milk.  It was a beautiful buffet.  I was happy. Sitting alone, eating my breakfast, finally having enough coffee in me to be able to focus on what was going on around me.  People looked about the way I felt.  I needed a shower.  Or a dip in the pool.  And I just needed more coffee.

I took a doggie bag back with me for my cabin-mates, and took the walk back to my camp, yes over the footbridge again, past the lake, through the woods, up the hill to my cabin.  My cabin-mates were waking and slowly getting motivated to go see Superhuman Happiness, a supergroup whose members are all key NYC players with a collective resume that stretches across a dizzying array of talent, including Antibalas, Phenomenal Handclap Band, TV on the Radio, Iron & Wine and Martha Wainwright among numerous others. They were formed in 2008 to seek joy and love through shared rhythm and melody, composed and improvised. Their mission is to pursue a happiness greater than that experienced by an individual mind.  I got my chair, and my towel and got my cocktails in order and went back through the woods, over the footbridge, through the Equinunk cabin quad, up the hill to the pool area where there was a stage playing music all day.


photo by: Phrazz

Continue reading

Day 1 Equifunk 2013: Camp Equinunk, PA

3442728_origPre-festival logistics

Oh the decisions!

After a long week, I had left the decision to leave after work on Friday or first thing on Saturday morning to a “game-time” decision.  I realized mid-day that I was going to trek up to the Poconos on Friday night – hoping to see some music, but really wanting to get settled in so I could have one full day of festie love, instead of getting up there on Saturday morning, rushing and getting settled, and then finding music just to pack up the next day.  I have to say, the decision to go on Friday night was the right one.

Driving close to 3 hours from NYC, I got up to the camp, and after a bit of confusion trying to find my bunk, passes and parking, I settled in, made our bed in our cabin, met my new cabin mates for the weekend, and tried to suss out the situation.

I pretty much just followed the music.  I took a walk past a gorgeous lake, where the full moon was bright and clear.  I walked over the footbridge into the other part of the camp – the Equinunk part of camp.  I passed the courtyard of cabins, found the beer, passed the pool and the slide, and walked up the hill to the “E-rena.”  (get it “E-rena” for “E-quifunk.”  Yes, very tongue-n-cheek.)

I had no paper to take notes.  I had no camera to take pictures.  I would have to experience and write that down.  Excuse me in advance if I forget anything.


photo by: Dino Perrucci

Day 1 Highlights: Friday

I heard JJ Grey & Mofro while walking to the E-rena.  I got to see The New Mastersounds KILL IT on the stage on Friday night.  The scene, I have to say, was totally chill.  Crowd age ranged from mid-twenties to mid-fifties, I’d guess.  People were friendly and nice, with an odd frat-boy overtone (due to free beer, I’d say), but none of the “frat boys” were rude, obnoxious or mean.  They were having just a great time with their buddies, listening to great music just like the rest of the hippies/festival freaks. Continue reading

Galactic – Night 1 of 4, Brooklyn Bowl


Galactic stopped by Brooklyn NY for a four night run at the Brooklyn Bowl earlier this month.  Each night was sold out.  Each night was better than the night before.  Each night there were special guests including Corey Glover (Living Colour), David Shaw (The Revivalists), High & Mighty Brass Band,  Jon Gutwillig ( The Disco Biscuits), Kalmia Traver (of Rubblebucket), and The Mike Dillon Band.

To say this was a New Orleans party up north in NYC would be an understatement.  Every time I have seen Galactic, they always bring down the house and this run was no exception.  With eighteen years behind them, they have become a powerhouse from NOLA like no other.  Their power is unmistakenable, their groove is funk in your face, and their songs run from lyrical to twenty minute jams.  Galactic is made up of such talent as: Ben Ellman, harps and horns; Robert Mercurio, bass; Stanton Moore, drums and percussion; Jeff Raines, guitar; Rich Vogel, keyboards. Continue reading