Benjamin Verdery performs at The Monkey

The Monkey is a new Manhattan showcase venue that exemplifies sound quality and presents music the way it should be heard.

On Thursday night May 17th , a world-acclaimed classical guitarist and composer
Benjamin Verdery performed an engrossing hour-long set. Benjamin donated his time to raise funds for a non-profit called “Arts in Action a Visual Art Program”, an after school art enrichment program. Adorning the space was the children’s beautiful artwork that spoke volumes for the program and its director Angela Tripi-Weiss.

Last year I saw Benjamin perform at Carnegie Hall with Andy Summers of “The Police”. They played a commissioned work by Igram Marshall composed specifically for classical and electric guitar and backed by the American Symphony Orchestra. Andy and Ben continue their collaboration and have recorded a new instrumental album, "At First You Build a Cloud," soon to be released.

Verdery is always spectacular to hear but tonight was a special treat. In this venue the sound was so exceptional that the nuance of every guitar sound, like the bending of a string, harmonics and chopsticks slides on nylon was heard with clarity and subtlety. To hear an instrument the way a performer intends it to be heard is a tremendous opportunity for the listener.

His first selection for the evening was an original arrangement of Jimmy Hendrix classics; Ezy Rider, Little Wing and Purple Haze performed in three movements. Verdery reworked each signature song starting with key identifiable lead in grooves and extending, repeating, layering and reconstructing those components. This selective dialogue was a mark of respect that honors the music of Hendrix.

The original composition “Be Kind All The Time” featured an amplified classical guitar that corresponded with a digital delay system. A digital sound expert did the programming in real time. This created a surround sound as the prior styling heard up front resonated in re verb from the back. Ben’s collaboration with himself became quite challenging, but heard with ease.

The Classic The Blue Danube by Johan Strauss was complex and familiar, and it sounded wonderful.

Benjamin Verdery has a close personal relationship with his guitar. For 40 years he has practiced four to five hours a day. At the Monkey that intimacy was shared with the audience.

Twelve flights up the elevator to the forty capacity room. The space has high ceilings equipped with acoustic ceiling tiles, a reasonably sized raised stage. A small loft area is set up for sound and video production. Behind the stage are large windows that frame two water towers in the foreground and the New York City skyline in the distance.

Dominick Frasco is responsible for creating The Monkey. He is also an accomplished classically trained guitarist. His mission is to create a showcase venue equipped with surround sound giving musicians an opportunity to have control of how their music is presented and heard. The musician can take charge of every aspect from the pricing, sound, promotion and visual effects.
The Monkey. What a concept
"Branches" buy new Benjamin Verdery LP
Web Album Link


I Found Art In Chelsea

Whenever I go to galleries in Chelsea to look at art, I am usually disappointed. Art, I mean good art, is hard to find. So on Sunday, May 5th, I surprisingly found art in Chelsea at the Perry Rubenstein Gallery.

The new work of South African artist Robin Rhode is in all three of the gallery's spaces. The works of video, photographic work, a 16-millimeter film, performance art, and sculptures using everyday materials are visually provocative and cerebrally stimulating.

While the work represents the artist's personal and autobiographical references, it effectively creates a dialogue about the broader culture of ideas.

He expands two-dimensional space by drawing elements into a background with which he or others interact. He then documents those interactions in photographs and film. By doing so, he creates a fourth dimension in the mind. It is a clever illusion further developed by the work's title.

I highly recommend seeing this show.
New York Times Article
Art Cal
May 5th to June 23rd


PA Bands Bus Trip To The Bitter End

PA bands Bus trip to The Bitter End
Line up: France on Fire, Downtown Harvest, Drink Up Buttercup

Booking a bus for three PA bands and their fans to a NY venue is a fun and creative idea. This was a love fest transplanted to The Bitter End.

I came to the Venue to see a young band from Bucks County PA called Drink Up Buttercup. I heard them play on The Indie Café, a small college radio station on the Internet. I was tuning in to hear my favorite Peasant and was taken off guard listening to Drink Up Buttercup's raw energy and experimental sound. It translated so well in virtual space.

France on Fire from Bucks County PA was first of the three to play. The band never missed a beat and seamlessly and joylessly played one song after another. They have great harmonies and catchy choruses. The crowd enthusiastically sang along. They add percussion, keyboards maracas, lots of clapping and use the Kazoo as a serious instrument. France On Fire are fun, full of love and infectious.

Downtown Harvest came on and the venue seemed to expand with patrons. This is not the kind of music I typically listen to or go out to see, but this is a very talented group of accomplished musicians. Fusing melodic rock, jazz, funk, hip hop and dance beats successfully. With The Beatles like harmonies, and connections to the music of Sly and The Family Stone, Beck, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers and The Meters they create a classic association. While these references can be found, It's the merging of all these styles that forge originality.

The drummer Christopher C, Wood is a savant. He can switch styles and beats dramatically and his vocal styling is low, raw and distinctive. The lead guitarist and vocalist Larry Thomas Moore has a higher register that is great for harmonies and vocals. Frank Ewing the saxophonist vocalist and keyboard player adds the unique funky zest that takes the band to a different level. Bobby Cahill plays the bass and switches gear as the tone changes from groove to harmony. Downtown Harvest is ready for success on a broader commercial scale. Their versatility is a tribute to their six years playing together.

The young musicians I came to see were attentively listening to The Downtown Harvest’s set. They looked a little anxious and so was I. It is hard to play, following such an accomplished group.

Drink Up Buttercup came on stage, bringing with them an assortment of strange instruments. One large metal garbage pan, stumpf fiddle, maracas, an acoustic guitar with duct tape over the hollow to create a muffled sound, tiny Casio keyboard, a tubular instrument called the melodica and distortion and delay pedal. Then there was the usual; drums, keyboard, bass.

Well in an instant the unbridled energy and fun-loving spirit of this young band came to life. James Harvey the steady vocalist and guitar player enthusiastically leads as Farzad Houshiarnejad and Ben Money play and change instruments as fast as a blink of an eye. Mike Cammarata keeps the beat up with drums and auxiliary percussion. Sing along, shaky percussion and bells, crazy beats, theatrical acrobatics with instruments in tow, shape their circus like commotion.

James Harvey’s voice is strong and authoritative but to my surprise he is an opera singer. He is classically trained and when he lets go it is a treasured delight. As his voice travels up and down the band picks up the pulse.

This is a newly formed band with James Harvey having the most experience formally of Playwright. They are just getting started and only have demos out. Playing to a supportive crowd in Doylestown PA gives them the opportunity to hone their craft with supportive fans. At some point they have to venture out to the cold hard world. I think they will get a warm welcome.

web Album link