Hundreds of tenants and activists for renters and the homeless marched from the New York Public Library to Park Avenue and 63rd Street last night, where Governor Andrew Cuomo was getting an award inspired by Robert Moses from a contractors association, in a demonstration against what protesters said was Cuomo’s failures on affordable housing and the state’s homelessness crisis.
Back in April, Anthony Bourdain visited some of his old stomping grounds (and new ones) in the East Village and Lower East Side for an episode of Parts Unknown, chatting with numerous local characters along the way. It’s unclear what will happen with this and other episodes Bourdain was filming prior to his unexpected death last week, so we spoke with some of the featured artists and business owners about their experiences with a reporter and raconteur who was known for keeping it real.
We Color Live celebrates their fifth annual Color Me Bushwick this weekend with 24 bands starting this Friday through Sunday. Held in Pickthorn Salon’s back room, the three-day concert will celebrate its fifth year as well as co-founder Chelsey Pickthorn’s recent recovery from breast cancer.
Now through July 15 at The Public Theater, 7:30 pm (weekend matinees at 1:30 pm): $50+
As I’ve discussed several times before, wacky Shakespeare adaptations are a dime a dozen. Normally, this manifests in the form of doing something other than the expected set design, costume design, or casting, while leaving the original script—and sometimes other age-old practices—intact. Mike Lew’s Teenage Dick, presented by the Ma-Yi Theater Company in association with The Public Theater, does something different. It portrays Richard III (“the most famous disabled character of all time”) as a high school junior with cerebral palsy who is determined to become class president, and will do whatever it takes to get there. Given that most productions of Richard III feature an able-bodied actor in the titular role even when breaking with tradition in other parts of the staging (yes I’ve written about this topic before), this play’s focus on both authentic casting and disability is a breath of fresh air. Keep Reading »
“Oh no, Jerry!” The 93-year-old woman in Washington Square Park called out to her husband, who was similarly distraught. I had just informed the passing couple that The Last Three—an installation in nearby Astor Place featuring three bronze, life-sized rhinos piled topsy-turvy on top of each other—was about to be taken down. The anguish was evident on their faces—and mine.
About halfway through our conversation, Kiefer Shackelford launches into one of his favorite jokes: “Can you imagine Duke Ellington teaching a piano lesson and going, Now remember, son, make sure they always think what you’re doing is jazz? That’s got to be the most idiotic thing I’ve heard, and yet we’re so stuck in that.”
A UCLA-trained pianist who records under his first name, Kiefer’s light jabs at jazz snobs are in-bounds, since he admits that was once his mindset. But after seeing MNDSGN at the late-lamented L.A. showcase The Low End Theory in 2015, he dived headlong into the city’s bohemian, genre-fusing scene as a producer, earning co-productions with the likes of Kaytranada and Anderson .Paak.
While last year’s debut, Kickinit Alone, was an instrumental travelogue through the wake of a break-up, HappySad (released Friday on Stones Throw Records) takes more of an overview of an artist trying to balance a scale of ambition and anxiety. Beneath the accessible speckling of MPC-inspired rhythms, cool jazz noodling, and molasses-slow G-funk that play under the soft-white vinyl hiss of the record, one might not catch the looming uncertainty– or true reverence for American composers–Kiefer demonstrates on each track. HappySad’s hip-hop readymades establish his foothold in Stones Throw’s unsinkable roster of beatmakers, upholding a jazz heritage while envisioning its boundary-less future.
“Your job as a musician is not to be the smartest, most esoteric, eccentric or artistically superior person out there,” Shackelford said. “You can develop those cool harmonies and rhythms, but your job first and foremost should be for the purpose of encouraging people and making their lives better.”
Ahead of his New York debut performance at Elsewhere on Friday, Kiefer caught up with B+B to chat about HappySad, the link between education and jazz, and the freeing feeling of “abandoning” art.
Kickinit Alone doesn’t start in the same place it ends emotionally; it takes listeners from a dejected mood to a optimistic one. Did you go into HappySad thinking it would have a similar emotional arc?
Definitely. I think at a certain point I realized that although writing about sadness is particularly potent, I wasn’t as emotionally distraught as I was when recording the previous record. This one’s more of a hodgepodge, but it’s consistent in that I’m writing with the same mindset all the time. It’s emotional journaling, and [HappySad] is my journal for 2017. A lot of songs are about my anxiety, being ambitious and having dreams and trying to follow them, romantic feelings. A lot of songs are about ego and trying to control that. I think it’s about an emotionally complex person who’s … just a got a dream [laughs] and just trying to make it work and balance my emotional life with my musical aspirations.
It seems like these records are a pretty distinct snapshot of where you are as you make them. Was that always a natural path for you? Many artists try to shy away from wanting people to think of their music as diaristic.
It’s definitely natural for me. I’ve been playing piano since I was very little and learning how to improvise from day one. Being an improviser offers you the chance to write for the moment; being able to make music extemporaneously allows for me to put down whatever I’m feeling in that instant. Usually every single song I do [starts by] sitting down at the piano for 60 seconds or so, and then I think about the most emotionally captivating thing in my life at the time. Over the next 20, 30 minutes I’ll have the basic idea finished and I’ll put it away.
When do you know when the recording is complete?
It’s kind of a cop-out answer, but it’s an artistic decision when to stop. I’m of the belief that no art is finished. Michelangelo once said, “All art is abandoned.” At some point you just have to stop and be content with it not being done. Even Kanye West with The Life of Pablo, he’s still updating that shit and re-uploading it to Spotify. I just read yesterday that Bob Dylan is always rewriting his greatest songs that a lot of people have deemed as “perfect.” But we have such a reference for musicians, sometimes, that we forget that songs are not necessarily finished with they’re recorded.
We try to get as close to perfection as you can within reason, but for me it’s more about being real with myself. I find that a feeling only visits you for so long, and as an improviser I’m trying to channel those constantly changing emotions very efficiently. If you have aspects of your technique that are blocking you from getting that out, that’s something that you need to work on.
What aspect of your technique do you think you’ve spent the most time working to un-block?
I think the biggest one was mixing and understanding how to use software. The laptop is quite literally an instrument, a tool for creative expression, and learning how to see my computer as a part of my process as opposed to just the piano has been an essential part of this new art form I’ve been trying to develop.
That was a huge fork in the road for me, actually. In August 2013, Mndsgn played, and he became one of the most irreplaceable presences in my musical career, because had it not been for watching him perform and really loving what I’ve heard, I would have never considered this as a career path. I used to be one of those jazz snobs who only wanted to play jazz, but then I saw this jazz-influenced type of thing that I suddenly became very interested in, and that was all at Theory.
You’ve spoken before about the importance for jazz musicians not to get in this mindset of I only can play jazz music. What’s some stuff that you’ve been listening to that helps get you out of that bubble?
I love a lot of my contemporaries. I love Kaytranada, Knxwledge, Anderson .Paak, Kendrick. I listen to a lot of Brazilian music, but that’s still kind of jazz. I think especially in this day and age, jazz musicians dedicate ourselves to tradition, we think it’s really important. But the irony is we’re ignoring a huge part of the tradition, which is that a lot of the great jazz musicians throughout history were not playing [what we call] “jazz” at the time. Think about Duke Ellington; he called his music “American music.” Miles Davis called his “social music.” Same goes for John Coltrane. Even Robert Glasper is doing things he doesn’t even consider jazz all the time.
I think a favorite person that I have taken the most influence from in recent years was my teacher, Abraham Laboriel, who’s played bass on Stevie Wonder records, Quincy Jones records, Michael Jackson records, everything. Something that he reminded me to do all the time is most fundamental thing of all: play from your heart. Don’t ever touch your instrument if you’re not doing that. Even if you play one note, if you put your heart into it, your stresses and your self judging, any insecurities start to go away. You’re less concerned with “Are people judging me? Am I doing this the right way? Oh man, I sound terrible.” Those thoughts kind of subside.
“HappySad” is out now on Stones Throw Records. Kiefer’s record release show at The Del Monte in Los Angeles on July 12.
South Williamsburg’s Domino Park is finally finished and open to the public, and it is a gleaming example of what approximately $50 million can do with six acres of prime waterfront property. Funded entirely by Brooklyn mega-developers Two Trees Management, who are also responsible for the mini-city of luxury apartments springing up where the Domino Sugar Factory once stood, this undeniably lovely quarter-mile park and esplanade amounts to a fantastic amenity to all new and future residents of site. Fortunately for the rest of us, it’s one amenity that they have to share with the public.
As you may have noticed on Instagram, a so-called Hot Dog Bus has been dishing out free franks in Brooklyn Bridge Park, and will continue to do so every weekend through August. But what about Manhattanites who don’t want to fork over their hard-earned ducats for a dog? Enter Dog Haus, a Cali transplant that’ll be giving away freebies when it launches today, June 12.
Fans of beloved Japanese storyteller Hayao Miyazaki, who produced some of the world’s most iconic animated films, will be delighted to see his quintessential works and others from the Japanese company Studio Ghibli returning to the Village East Cinema this summer. During the height of Miyazaki’s tenure at Studio Ghibli, the filmmaker was lauded for his visually stunning movies featuring gutsy female heroines that struck at the wide range of the human experience, spanning whimsical family tales in My Neighbor Totoro to grim government spies and giant robots in Castle in the Sky.
In Her Hands
Opening Thursday, June 14 at Robert Mann Gallery, 6 pm to 8 pm. On view through August 17.
It seems more women than ever are running for office, from the two Staceys who recently faced off for Georgia governor to local Congressional challenger Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Latina from the Bronx whose recent campaign ad gathered buzz for being legitimately compelling. Robert Mann Gallery’s newest group exhibition, curated by Orly Cogan and Julie Peppito, showcases a series of portraits of women who are running in the 2018 elections. Adding an additional layer of femininity to the whole affair is the fact that these portraits are made predominantly using craft methods and materials, utilizing a medium historically tied with women and domesticity (and often downplayed in importance due to both of these associations). You’ll see anyone from big-name candidates to unfamiliar face immortalized through quilting, embroidery, and more. Keep Reading »
What do Tennessee Williams, slash fiction, and the comment sections of family-planning sites have in common? Well, they’re all widely discussed in Everyone’s Fine with Virginia Woolf, Kate Scelsa’s bitingly hilarious riff on Edward Albee’s 1962 classic Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
In March, at the altruistic Bed-Stuy venue C’mon Everybody, the band Sons of an Illustrious Father delivered a blistering set for a rapt audience. It was the smallest venue I’d seen them in, after three shows at 2016’s SXSW and another last summer at the Knitting Factory. Their sets swerve enjoyably between savage and tender, and this intimate look stood out as a milestone. Their multi-instrumentalism was on display and working better than ever, the band’s affable personalities and unique chemistry shone through.The fans seemed steadfast and loyal—and not just because of the inevitable fanboys/girls who stick around after the show hoping to meet Ezra Miller, also an actor best known for his turn as Flash in Justice League.
Their new record, Deus Sex Machina, or, Moving Slowly Beyond Nikola Tesla, dropped June 1, along with new videos and a cross-country tour to promote it, including a 16-and-up show at Elsewhere on Tuesday. The slew of new interviews prompted me to continue our backstage-at-Stubb’s conversation by asking them what THEY wanted to talk about. Josh Aubin said it was “something we’ve never been asked in an interview”; Lilah Larson quipped, “Nobody cares what we want to talk about”; Ezra Miller said, “It’s honestly overwhelming,” and asked for some parameters. The following 45 minutes included a lot of laughter and encouraged Miller to say, “I can’t wait for whatever the piece [is] that comes out of this, where you’re like—I had an entire conversation with [the band] that is off the record, that I can’t tell you anything that they said—but it was all mildly amusing.” Here are some excerpts we can print; the debate about the most famous Star Wars line has been redacted for common decency.