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Bklyn Sounds: 1/31/2023 - 2/6/2023 + Black Monks
Enter Theaster Gates' Black Monks of Mississippi + Shows: Marshall Allen & NYC All-Stars / DJ AQ + Gabsoul / Vijay Iyer Trio / 'Mixology' / Luke Solomon + Eli Escobar / Lunice / Weak Signal / more...
Rumor has it, The Black Monks of Mississippi are coming to New York. OK, it’s more than rumor: the musical collective that occasionally unites under the auspices of artist Theaster Gates is scheduled to land at The New Museum for themed “performances” this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, in what I believe it will be the Monks’ first appearance in the city since the 2010 Whitney Biennial. And what is a Monks performance? It’s a musical journey through world and art history, an awe-inspiring improvisational exercise and site-specific sermon, and a soulful communion among the performers and onlookers. There’s probably other evocations, but they arrive - like the Monks’ program - only at the precise moment of sonic consecration.
The Black Monks are multi-disciplinary artist Theaster Gates’ primary musical brotherhood. Gates, who was a choir leader in a Chicago church while growing up, periodically reconvenes the collective’s members (all great Chi musicians, many of them well-known improvisers in their own right) to appear at exhibitions he is involved in. This performance coincides with the final weekend of Theaster’s wonderful New Museum retrospective, ‘Young Lords And Their Traces.’ When they do perform, the musical story they spin hinges on spaces they occupy and the art objects that surround them. At times, they remain stationary on a stage, but just as often they wander the halls and floors of the building — and potentially outside of it, led by the voices of Gates and Yaw Agyeman, augmented by Ben LaMar Gay and Mikel Patrick Avery, or others. The size and line-up of the assembled is forever fluid.
If you want to read more about the Black Monks, I did an interview in November 2019 with Theaster Gates about how their music and concept came together. To my mind’s eye, it is impossible to compare what they do to any other musical endeavor currently working. If you are aligned with the central premises of what Dada Strain is about, I can not recommend these performances enough. (Fri 2/3, Sat 2/4 and Sun 2/5, 11a-6p @ New Museum 235 Broadway, Manhattan - $12-$18)
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There are other shows too:
Malian kora player Yacouba Sissoko and his pan-African quintet Siya are familiar to anyone who pursues traditional West African sounds, yet they remain musically enthralling - especially in close confines, such as LunAtico’s. (Wed. 2/1, 9p & 10:15p @ Bar LunAtico 486 Halsey St. Bed-Stuy - $10suggested)
A wonderful kinda-midweek DJ double-bill in what is a great dance room, outside the weekends. As anyone attuned to NYC dance shizz over the past decade knows, Eli Escobar is now one of the new perennials - always a good time behind the decks, playing great spaces almost weekly. (Long may he continue…) But the main reason to trek to Gowanus on Thursday is the all-too-rare appearance by London house-music veteran, Luke Solomon. He’s got records for days - his own, as well as ones he helped release on Classic, a label he started with Chicago’s might Derrick Carter in the ‘90s - and the skills to turn them into a blazing set. (Thurs. 2/2, 9p @ public records 253 Butler St. Gowanus - $25)
The ageless leader of Sun Ra’s Arkestra, alto saxophonist Marshall Allen has put together an awe-inspiring band of NYC All-Stars to assist him in this fund-raiser for Arts For Art, the good folks behind Vision Festival and countless improvised music programs around the city. Among the gathered will be saxophonists Darius Jones and Isaiah Collier, vocalist Fay Victor, trumpeter Heru Shabaka-Ra, pianist Janice Lowe and numerous others. Might get epic! (Fri. 2/3, 7p & 9p @ Shift 411 Kent Ave., Williamsburg - $25)
Harlem-based DJ AQ (Kadija Bah) is part of the city’s all-women DJ collective Tropical Jawn, which “connects and celebrates New York's diverse Black diaspora through creative collaboration.” AQ specializes in a variety of South African house styles, and her mixes go deep. Also playing is Brooklyn’s Gabsoul, who pushes soulful Caribbean vibes, but might play just about anything. (Fri. 2/3, 10p @ Jupiter Disco 1237 Flushing Ave. Bushwick - Free before 11p/$10)
The late Thursday night set I heard Vijay Iyer Trio play at the Village Vanguard last January was among my favorite bits of improvised music of the year. Pianist Iyer, bassist Linda May Han Oh and drummer Tyshawn Sorrey were locked in, swinging with freedom, funk and overwhelming power. This gig’s a one-off at a Columbia University theater and not part of a week-long stand in a legendary room, but these three have a mighty mojo. (Sat. 2/4, 8p @ Miller Theater, Columbia University, 2960 Broadway, Uptown - $30)
Over the past few months, I’ve become mildly obsessed with War&War, the 2022 album by Weak Signal, a dirty New York indie-rock trio (Mike Bones, Sasha Vine and Tran Huynh) with a bucketful of fuzzed-up pop nuggets that sneer knowingly, but also bop like candy. Next week, Weak Signal opens up sold-out shows for Codeine and then goes on a national tour; but Saturday it's playing this bar on Metropolitan. (Sat. 2/4, 9p @ Harefield Road 769 Metropolitan Ave. Williamsburg - $TBD/Free?)
Remember Lunice? A decade ago, alongside Hudson Mohawke, the Montreal-based producer made an absolutely monstrous EP under the name TNGHT, that K*ny* essentially lifted whole for Yeezus. They returned just pre-pandemic with a much lower profile; and Lunice has also produced a few weirdo maximalist singles, as well as an LP with The Alchemist, all of which still wink loudly at hip-hop, techno and bass-heavy electronic music, while making drops like a MFer. (Sat. 2/4, 10p @ H0LO 1090 Wyckoff Ave. Ridgewood - $20)
Roulette’s annual Mixology concerts consistently, thoughtfully bring together elements of electronic music, improvisation and experimentation, often with an audio-visual component — just weird enough to make sense in an art space, but still informed by groove. This year’s no different. Saturday’s program unites the Morocco-born, Brooklyn-based techno producer Bergsonist (Selwa Abd), with Miho Hatori, the multi-instrumentalist co-founder of Cibo Matto and Downtown art-music staple. Sunday finds percussionist/ composer Qasim Naqvi (of Dawn of MIDI fame) paired with a recorded presentation by the collaborative A/V duo, Morovaya Liniya (aka Chicago filmmaker Julia Pello, and Heinrich Mueller, of Detroit techno legends Drexciya and Dopplereffekt fame). Both nights feature a video installation by new-media artist Peter Burr. (Sat 2/4 & Sun 2/5, 8p @ Roulette 509 Atlantic Ave. Downtown Brooklyn - $25adv/$30)
UPDATE/EDIT: Thanks to the good folks at Roulette, Dada Strain readers/subscribers who would like to attend either night of Roulette’s Mixology Festival can use the discount code BklynSoundsMix23 to purchase $10 single night tickets.
The long-running “Producer Mondays” late nights at Nublu, run by pianist/composer/arranger Ray Angry (and co-starring his The Council of Goldfinger band), have developed a reputation as a top freewheeling jam session that regularly attracts prime-time musicians from across the great Black musical spectrum — jazz, gospel, hip-hop, soul, and so on. If you’re deep on the Loisaida on a Monday night, this is well worth a drive-by.(Mon. 2/6, 10p @ Nublu 151 Loisaida Ave. Manhattan - $20)