This was a night of vision, mood, presentation, and the unveiling of a new project Aria Orion from composer and performer Jules Gimbrone and headliner Novice Theory. Interestingly enough, Aria Orion includes Geo Wyeth (Novice Theory) on drums, accordion, and vocals. So to say I got my Geo on is an understatement.
Aria Orion is a five-piece group of guitar, violin, stand-up bass, accordion, clarinet, drums, and percussion novelties such as Indian Cowbells and hand-held native skin drums.
The dramatic dark stage lighting set the mood as Jules stood center stage dressed in a branch headdress in front of the ensemble. The music was an acoustic dream of eerie, ethereal, bold movements and spine-tingling combination of instruments. Jules's emotionally shaky high vocal range turns and twists within and mysteriously edges around the instrumentation.
Opening with “When I Awake,” a trance developed. The folky classical guitar style and accordion softly began to interact as other instruments were slowly introduced. After some violin pluck, the full ensemble soared sonically into an acoustic feast. “Augur (Part 1)” began like a religious chant and segued into an experimental sound kaleidoscope. A vocal seduction, “One By One,” featured the awesome contrast of range by Jules and Geo singing / I am lucky to be here with you /.
The short impressive set was an intriguing introduction to Aria Orion, leaving me wanting more.
Everyone left the stage except Jules, who was statuesquely poised playing Indian Cowbells. In the distance, Novice Theory entered the upper level with his guitar, singing / see me hanging on that yellow tree / walking towards the stage, he completes the song on the grand piano.
Hearing Geo Wyeth perform is all in the details. In-between singing is huffs, grunts, and ticking that insinuate specific sounds. The piano chops were at an all-time high, infused with syncopated rhythms and classical offshoots intertwined with an improvisational attitude. Wyeth is transgender and biracial. While that has little to do with his incredible musicianship and performance acumen, it does factor into his songwriting process.
My hope is that a talent as bold and prodigious as his is not marginalized. Do I feel a commonality with the raw lyrics presented? Emphatically yes. We are all given a set of circumstances that we navigate the world with some are more challenging than others.
The set was primarily new material mixed with a few performance staples and a Kate Bush cover song, “You Speak In Tongues.” The second song started with / maybe / maybe / maybe it’s the circus / that playfully coordinated piano styling and vocals like a round.
A song about transformation formed a theme for everything that followed. An autobiographical dialogue of discontent addressed the schism of not feeling comfortable with birth-gender assignments. All pissed off, he extolled a litany of lyrics examining ages and stages, one example was / when I was eight, I wanted hair like Macaulay Culkin /.
Novice Theory in the song strongly claims his racial identity. Pale skin is one biracial outcome that is a camouflage of deception and is hard to navigate in our society. / Black is my voice /black is my blood / we stay black /. A song for Harriett had curious inferences in lyrics. “Something Flat In Her Face” combined disconnected piano chords with the vocal phrasing of tic tic tic tic in-between.
The encore was a negotiation of sorts and time constraints.
Geo pointed out that Joe’s Pub is serious, and they mean it when it’s time to go. So he gave us a choice “I can either play a Patty Griffith song on the piano or bring out the squeezebox.” The accordion was it and the night ended with “About a Dream,” a song that comes on strong and fades theatrically for emphasis. (Video About A Dream on Jools Holland)
Glad I came out on this rainy Wednesday night. Driving home at moc speed, I listened to the stirring Aria Orion 35-minute EP Let the Sharp Stone Fly hot off the press. It had more clashing drum pounding than I expected. It knocked me out!