Two Nights, Three Bands

This week good things came in threes. I was lucky to attend concerts by three fantastic bands: Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, and Pink Martini with China Forbes.

The trombone player in me was thrilled that each band featured a trombonist playing his heart out!

Seeing three bands in as many days offered an unusual opportunity to notice how the different character of each band made them shine.

Our first evening we saw Trombone Shorty raise the audience to their feet with New Orleans-influenced, jazzy, brassy, hip-hop/funk.

Trombone Shorty’s live performance was all about dance and improv. From the first honk of the bari and tenor saxes, the musicians on stage started to dance, and never stopped. I spent their whole set on my feet, clapping and bopping in my best attempt at close quarters dancing. Trombone Shorty, himself, was an awesome performer, bursting with energy and raw joy. The Orleans Avenue band matched his energy. Each member’s improvisational performances felt celebratory and unique. Long, interactive jams created a live experience that carried the audience far beyond anything heard on recording.

Next, the Alabama band, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, followed Trombone Shorty. They mixed funk with soul and took the night in a whole new direction.

Watching the roadies precisely cover, tape, and prepare the stage was a heads-up that this band knew how to orchestrate their performance. I couldn’t believe how tight the band was live. Every note and gesture had been choreographed and polished to perfection. The band programmed their set with great care, building the energy to a boil, and letting it simmer back down.  The audience became absorbed in their retro grooves and Paul Janeway’s stunning vocals.

Two days later we treated ourselves to an evening of Pink Martini. The size and enthusiasm of the crowd at the gates surprised us. We’ve loved the band since our days living in Italy, but had no idea Pink Martini was so popular in the U.S.

Pink Martini’s stage presence is exactly like their music: warm, encouraging, heart-felt, and with just the right touch of humor. Part of Pink Martini’s flair is getting excited about writing songs in different languages and cultural styles. Pink Martini brought audience participation to a whole new level, inviting Arabic, Turkish, and French audience members to jump up on stage and perform music that celebrated their native cultures.

China Forbes’ controlled vocal virtuosity has nothing left to prove. She gracefully stepped back from the spotlight time and again to feature fellow band members, which added so much texture and interest to the performance. To my delight, Robert Taylor’s Bolero trombone solo opened the concert. The most warmly tender, heart-rending performance of the whole concert came from conga percussionist, Miguel Bernal, singing “Yo Te Quiero Siempre.”

Joy, precision, and warm-heartedness. Lots of different emotions packed into two concerts. And two concerts is quite a lot in the space of three days! But these bands will be playing in my head, and on my home speakers, for months to come.

Scandinavian Summer

A story of summer and winter has haunted me since I was a little girl. One afternoon our elementary class gathered for an assembly in the school gymnasium. The occasion, meeting a real, live author. He promised to read us an historical fiction story that he had written, himself. I was at the edge of my seat.

He read us the story of a boy who ignores his parents’ admonition to leave his beloved puppy safe at home. Instead, the boy smuggles the puppy in his coat pocket, bringing him on an expedition to the lake, where he and his big brothers harvest ice for the farm ice house. I’m sad to say the puppy met an unfortunate end at the bottom of the icy lake. The story ends with the little boy eating ice cream the following summer, made from ice that was collected the day he lost his best friend.

The name of the author who chose *that* story for the elementary assembly, is lost in the mists of time.  But the idea of winter saved up in the ice house of our hearts, to later chill our summer, has never left me.

Now that I’m grown up, and can choose books that don’t involve drowned doggies, I enjoy going on reading adventures to learn about different parts of the world. This January our household did a deep dive on hygge, the art of Danish-style wellbeing and happiness. Reading about comfy socks and candles made us feel cuddly and cozy all through January and February.

The Little Book of Hygge excited us with fun suggestions to bring hygge to our home, even though we’re not lucky enough to live in Denmark. One  hygge idea was Danish music. Lucky me, Wiking specified some artists to explore. That was the first time I searched Apple Music for Agnes Obel.

As spring faded into summer, our hygge candles were still flickering, but we’d lost enthusiasm for wool socks, and I had completely forgotten about Agnes Obel.

Then one hot day, as I was dusting to GooglePlay radio, this cool, dreamy, yet deeply engaging sound made me cast aside my dust rag and race for the iPad. Who was the originator of this enchanting, icy music?

Agnes Obel.

Citizen of Glass is sadly sweet, soothing and intriguing at the same time. It’s like entering Narnia to find that it’s winter, preserving a snowball in the freezer for summer. Or like crunching a chip of ice that has survived to the Fourth of July in a prarie-era ice house.

My Scandinavian summer hasn’t been all about the Danish songstress. I’m on a Swedish author reading kick, too. I just finished The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, and I’ve just started The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. Both these books have been full of intrigue. But, thank goodness, there are no puppies or icy lakes.