Forgive me. I’ve been gone for more than a year, I think. It got to the point where my own ignorance unsettled me so that I had to stop writing entirely for a while, but now I’m back and ready to flaunt it again, just like the old days. This will be great! I’ve missed you all teddibly!
And you are so glad to see me, too, even though you don’t know it yet, because I have come back for a reason: to urge you to take in the Parkington Sisters / Tin Hat show this Wednesday, October 27th, at 8pm at the Wellfleet Library. I’m not telling you how much it costs on purpose. Whatever it is, just pay it, is my advice.
For one thing, it’s just hilarious when they have bands at libraries. For another, both of these bands are quite capable of moments both beautiful and heart-breaking, and heart-breaking, in particular, can be really good. (Of course, beautiful’s no slouch either). In fact, I’d be shocked if this wasn’t one of the best shows on cape this year.
Many of you must know the Parkington Sisters already, I would think, as the progress of these talented local darlings is something us locals have had the delightful privilege of witnessing first-hand these last few years. I’ve written favorably of their varied and nuanced work in the past, and would be here again today if the group hadn’t asked me nicely to shut up about how much I like their new album until after it’s officially released early next year; suffice to say, until then, that it’s called “Till Voices Wake Us”, and that it’s a very nice step forward.
I was stunned to hear of a Tin Hat appearance on Cape Cod, as the band comes from the west coast (Oakland, CA), and at this point they’re perhaps more well-loved than well-known. My colleague Keith Spring, local curmudgeon and keyboardist and a man not to be trifled with, brought them to my attention 2 or 3 years ago, and I think they’re remarkable. Their press material says that they are interested in blurring the line between composition and improvisation; I think what really blurs that line is the exceptionally focused melodicism of the soloists, who consistently provide thoughtful tune smithing where noodling might’ve ended up.
Both violinist Carla Kihlstedt and clarinetist Ben Goldberg are virtuoso musicians, and either could obviously play whatever they wanted, but their priority is concision -there’s no chafe, nothing there that doesn’t really need to be there, no speedy baloney. All the musicians seem to share a love of beautiful tone, and sounds that are full and round and warm set against odd rhythms.
The music is frequently melancholy, often vaguely European (though Kihlstedt maintains they see it the other way in actual Europe), and usually instrumental (though the violinist may sing a song or two -a lovely version of “Willow Weep For Me”, for instance, which they recorded with Willie Nelson singing not long ago, though Carla’s is much better-er.) The influences range from tango and gypsy and even (especially for guitarist/riff-meister mark Orton) Brazilian music to Bartok, Elliott Carter, and Charles Ives.
Things are combined which haven’t been before. On “Hotel Aurora”, on their recent “Foreign Legion” album, they manage to sustain a mood that is both sprightly and sinister, while on “Asterisk”, composer Goldberg effortlessly summons up the spirits of Bix, Duke, and Jimmy Giuffre.
Like anything precious, they’re hard to describe: when I ventured “chamber jazz”, Carla said I was in the ballpark, but that she felt closer to the “chamber” part of the equation. No longer a trio, their instrumentation in Wellfleet will include accordion, piano, guitar, dobro, violin, and the rarely heard but fascinating contra alto clarinet (on record they’ve also incorporated celeste, harp, trumpet, pump organ and more). They’ve played with Tom Waits, and among their film score credits is a beautiful soundtrack for a very fine movie called “Sweetland”. One of the projects they’re working on now is setting a collection of e. e. cummings poems to music, which they’re currently writing in preparation for recording and a (nother) European tour. (More information is available at www.tinhattrio.com).
Meanwhile, violinist Kihlstedt and her husband, drummer and Dennis native Matthias Bossi, have recently taken up residence in Dennis, where they are sure to be welcomed with open arms (Matthias has family there), so I want you all to be real nice to them. They’re in the midst of customizing a large bus for family life on the road (the pair have a baby daughter, Tallulah), and not long ago the engine gave up the ghost, though another seems to be on the way; in addition, the pair recently started a drum / violin duo called Now You.
A drum / violin duo on a forty-foot bus with no engine? -hopefully, you religious types out there will file a prayer for little Tallulah.