VIRTUAL VIRTUOSOSWe mentioned last week that local New Orleans-style brass band Crawdaddy-O was reuniting for a Fat Tuesday gig at Plush, and that it would be a fine idea not to miss it. That band, which always brought serious chops and an irreverence to whatever they did--who can forget that set of Jesus Christ Superstar tunes at a Great Cover-Up of yore?--has been sorely missed in recent years.
But a couple of acts have been launched from its demise: Jimmy Carr has been gigging in various forms since then, and Marco and Dante Rosano--two of the gifted Rosano triplets, all three of which were members of C-O--have been playing together as the Rosano Bros. Virtual Quartet for the last eight years.
The duo gets its name from the fact that each of the brothers usually plays two instruments at once: Marco plays baritone sax, "foot drums" and hi-hats, and a bit of melodica, while Dante plays the cornet and piano. And, as demonstrated by their new, debut album, Live at Dante's House (self-released), the Rosanos have carried that same sense of whimsy from Crawdaddy-O to the current project.
Even on their opening version of "Whatever Lola Wants," which is often played in sultry fashion, the brothers emphasize a staccato rhythm that is usually only implied; the sax and piano hold the bass parts while the hi-hat keeps time, and Dante mostly plays the melody on cornet. For the next tune, the Rosanos trot out the timely Depression-era classic "Dream a Little Dream," with its downtrodden muted cornet carrying the tune while Marco demonstrates that he, too, can tickle the ivories--it's the only song on the album on which he does. When they kick into a klezmer number, "Doyne/Freylekhs," you know all bets are off.
Other classics tackled include "Memories of You," Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo," "Brother Can You Spare a Dime" and "Billie Jean." Yes, that "Billie Jean." But that's not the most irreverent thing on the album--that would be the brothers' take on the "Super Mario Bros. Theme," which here sounds completely natural as a jazz tune. (Is it an accident that it clocks in at 4:20? Judging from another "song" on the album, "???????," I'm guessing not.)
Marco even turns in a lovely little vocal take on his own "I Remember the Time," a tale of misspent youth in the days "when soda was a nickel and a movie was a dime" and "there was no CPS."
Live at Dante's House goes a long way in showcasing the Rosanos' breadth of talent--it's minimal jazz at its whimsical best--but I'm still holding out hope that they find the time to moonlight in Crawdaddy-O every now and then, too.
For their CD-release show, the Rosano Bros. Virtual Quartet have assembled quite a little bill: The gorgeously dusty tunes of Loveland, whose gigs have been increasingly rare as of late, open the show at 9:30 p.m.; the Rosanos play the middle slot; and the lovely three-part harmonies of the Silver Thread Trio close out the night. Adding to the proceedings, a press release for the show reports, "The Rosano Bros. and the Silver Thread Trio will collaborate on a number of songs, and Dave Bryan from Loveland is sure to be in the mix." Word.
It all goes down at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Friday, Feb. 27. Five bones get you through the door. Call 798-1298 for more information.
TOUCH AND GONEThe indie-rock world was brought some bad news last week: The legendary Chicago record label Touch and Go Records announced that it would be laying off some employees and ceasing the distribution side of its operations.
This is a big loss; Touch and Go brought musicians from the Necros and Meatmen to the Butthole Surfers, Big Black, TV on the Radio and Calexico (who record for T&G side-label Quarterstick) to mass audiences. It served as a reliable model for dozens of indie labels that followed it, and worked with labels such as Drag City, Jade Tree, and Kill Rock Stars to get records into stores.
What this means for those labels remains to be seen, but in a word, it's bad. As Superchunk frontman and Merge Records label-owner Mac McCaughan said of Touch and Go's owner, in an article in the Chicago Tribune, "Corey Rusk is the most meticulous, cautious, thoughtful business person I know, which is what makes this whole thing so unbelievable and such a bad portent for the rest of the independent music business. If a company that did everything the right way can't survive in this environment ... then who can?"
Sad days, indeed.
Two bands sure to be affected by the move in one way or another arrive in town this week. Baltimore's Thank You record for Chicago's Thrill Jockey Records (as does Tucson's Giant Sand), one of the labels distributed by Touch and Go, while San Francisco's Mi Ami record for Quarterstick.
Thank You's latest album, Terrible Two, was released last June, and it showcases the trio's dedication to opposites. Monster drummer Elke Wardlaw (who has since been replaced by Emmanuel Nicolaidis) is the real star of the show, as he pummels out skittering beats with the power and rhythm of a post-rocker, and the deft touch of a jazzbo. Jeffrey McGrath and Michael Bouyoucas switch off on guitar and organ, providing alternately sparse and (mostly) dense counterpart ... not quite melodies, but accompaniment. The occasional vocals are limited to wordless chants. Thank You is not quite math-y enough to be post-rock, but they're far too odd to be filed under rock, either; I imagine they slay in a live setting.
On Watersports, released Feb. 17, Mi Ami--which counts among its members bassist Jacob Long and vocalist-guitarist Daniel Martin-McCormick, both of Black Eyes (the trio is rounded out by drummer Damon Palermo)--is all over the proverbial musical map. Dub, disco and African rhythms exist alongside each other, but can give way at any moment to squealed lyrics or skronky noise-guitar, only to drop out to make way for a cowbell, and not much more. Both of these bands exist among the fringes, but each assembles disparate elements into something not only cohesive, but simultaneously challenging and rather palatable.
Thank You and Mi Ami perform at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave., on Sunday, March 1. The all-ages show starts at 9 p.m., and admission is $7. For further details, call 884-0874.
SHORT TAKESMonterrey, Mexico's funky electro-pop dance-rockers Kinky arrive in town on Friday, Feb. 27, for a show at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., in support of their brand-new album Barracuda, released physically last week on Kin Kon/Nettwerk. The Jons open at 9 p.m. $14 advance, $16 day of show. 622-8848.
Released in September on Yellow Dog, the double CD What? And Give Up Show Biz? may just be the best starting point for those unfamiliar with Asylum Street Spankers. Why? Because it was recorded live, which is where the Austin ensemble, experts at playing old-timey music of all varieties with a modern (and often ribald) twist, excels. Of course, you can't do better than actually seeing the band perform in person, and that chance comes at 8 p.m., Wednesday, March 4, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. $10 advance, $12 day of show. Caveat: The current tour is being billed as "Sausage Party 2009," because co-lead vocalist Christina Marrs is currently on maternity leave. 622-8848.
Apparently the first in a series of shows at ZUZI! Theater in the Historic Y, 738 N. Fifth Ave., the ZUZI! Music Series brings the unique vocal stylings of Victoria Williams to the space at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 28. Tickets are $20, and the number to call for reservations is 629-0237.