Wednesday night’s highlights in New Orleans include guitarist James “Blood” Ulmer at Three Keys in the Ace Hotel. Ulmer’s guitar can go a lot of directions. He adopted Ornette Coleman’s theory of harmolodics to straddle the blues/jazz/rock divides, and different projects slant the components a little more one way or another.
Helen Gillet’s Jazz Fest shows present a fascinating challenge. How does she represent the breadth of her musical interests in one solo 55-minute set? She succeeds largely by gesturing toward some parts of it—her improvised music side—while pulling her interests in pop music and art songs together in cello-based, loop-heavy compositions that build efficiently with a sense of drama. Before she’s finished, Gillet displays musical and artistic gravity, but her sense of humor and fun is also evident.
Well before he took the stage shortly after 4:15 p.m., Saturday at Jazz Fest was about Bruce Springsteen. Those who arrived at the Fair Grounds in the first hour encountered heavy crowds as people got to Jazz Fest early with the hopes of setting up camp on the Acura lawn. As a result, by the time Allen Toussaint performed on the stage at 12:45 p.m., people were already claiming track space.
HIP Fest was the brain child of New Orleans-based drummer Marcello Benetti. He felt that thecity's improvised music community was in a particularly good place right now, and that not enough people knew it.
"The thing that I don't enjoy is what we're pulling up to right now, which is when you just sit in traffic," cellist Ben Sollee says. He's driving in California on tour, and he enjoys the people watching and the wind farms, but it's not his preferred way of touring. The last time he played New Orleans, he was starting a bike tour of the Gulf South that he had to cut short in Pensacola.
My Spilt Milk picks the week's highlights, including a birthday bash from DJ Soul Sister, cello grooves from Ben Sollee, Americana great Lucinda Williams, the hip-hop sounds of Gramatik, and the Timecode:NOLA Film Festival.
Earlier this summer, Helen Gillet had a good conversation on improvisation and the social dimension of making music for a My Spilt Milk podcast after the release of her self-titled album. Now she has released her first video proper, "Carolina," by Paul Chéenne and Brandon Baudier.
On her previous album, The Running of the Bells,Helen Gillet performed with collaborators Tim Green and Doug Garrison, both part of New Orleans' undervalued improvised music community along with Gillet, who brings classic training in the cello to the act of making music. Recently, she released her self-titled third album this time, it's a solo album. It's more pop-oriented, which isn't to say it's pop.
This has been a good week for me since this website's now live, but it's hard to feel too celebratory when so many good people at The Times-Picayune lost their jobs. It was more touching than I expected when employees updated their Facebook status on the Friends of the Times-Picayune group as "-30-": end of the story.