“I usually hire people for gigs, people I’d watch movies with,” said Josh Walker, bandleader of his namesake jazz quartet. “That’s my benchmark. That’s the great thing about playing with guys like these. You go on the bandstand and it’s kind of a continuation of the hang.” The Josh Walker Quartet — playing together for the first time as a full band — hosted the bi-weekly Jazz Haven jam session at Three Sheets on Elm Street, playing a short set on Tuesday night that felt like a big deal, followed by the jam session.
A chugging acoustic guitar. A trombone groaning at the low end of its range. A simple, driving beat. It all gets the motor running on “Bat Man Hasil,” the opening track from Kevin MF King’s Description of an Orange Being Peeled. When the song is off and running, the vocals come in.
“Driving down the road feeling like i had enough,” King sings. “Drunk driving makes me give up / Got a failed idea of what’s down or up / Driving down the road feeling like i had enough / to rationalize this nonsense, I’m done / The highway is looking like these pictures / Lost luck.”
There’s an ominous, nervous energy to the whole song from the beginning that finds its release in layers of squalling guitars, actual alarms and police sirens, and gang vocals provided by what King calls The Divine & Merry Carpet Bomber Prayer Circle.
Somewhere in the middle of his set on Friday night at College Street Music Hall, during a very Prince-like moment where his four person band joined in on a mid-tempo vamp while being introduced, singer Miguel engaged in the standard banter to the crowd — “How’s everybody doing tonight?” and “is everyone having a good time?”
Then, without warning, the singer said, with no room for misinterpretation: “Fellas, if she didn’t come here with you, keep your hands off her.” And then reiterated: “If you don’t have her express permission, do not touch her. We don’t do that at the Miguel show.”
Daddy Long Legs raised his guitar in the air midway through his band’s opening set. “New Haven, Connecticut, clap your goddamn hands,” he shouted “Come on, we are all so happy to be back here with Barrence Whitfield and the Savages. They’re gonna rip it up. You know that’s right.”
He knew. I knew it. Everyone at Cafe Nine on Friday night knew it. In fact, the ripping up had already begun.
A stuttering, shimmering synthesizer lets a melody unfurl, suggesting hectic motion. Another melody floats in, moving at a quarter the speed, followed by a beat that feels like it’s in slow motion. But then that beat divides into something four times as fast. All that motion and countermotion is enough to fuel “She Goes to the Moon,” one of the tracks on the New Haven-based Owlo’s The Spectrum of Love — an album of wistful, hopeful electronica that was released on March 8 and seems almost tailor-made for snowbound days, with spring just around the corner.
As David Shapiro came up from the audience to join Dan Greene and Rick Omonte on guitar for the last three songs of the set, Greene told the crowd that it was his first time playing with Dave. “It’s my millionth time playing with Rick,” he joked, and everyone laughed along
On an early evening at Best Video where the room was aglow with friendship, it seemed only appropriate that this solo set swelled with more musicians, and more music.
The organ on “Black Rock” starts off spacey, an ascending line that drifts off into the air. There’s an effects-driven squiggle of sound. The bass thumps its way in, and the drums follow suit. Soon they’re on their way, driving fast down some neon-lined musical highway. A trumpet comes in with the melody, but you almost wouldn’t know it’s a trumpet. Effects have changed the instrument into something else, something that hearkens back to the synthesizer experiments of the 1970s but feels like now, too.
The number three has quite a legacy. They say the third time’s the charm. They also say three strikes and you’re out. Which way would it go as three bands celebrated the release of the New Haven-based Tall Tale’s EP at Three Sheets, on the third day of the third month?