Four String Head Jam

Yesterday I attended the Headroom Jam night and was introduced to two very different and very talented bands…

UmamiThe first band to hit the stage (ehm… floor) was this Brooklyn-based trio called Umami, who serves up some kind of meaty punk-flavored indie-rock with two bass players (who both sing) and a lefty drummer. Umami’s sound makes for an interesting sonic palette offered by the opportunity to exploit the full range and tone of two bass guitars (interwoven harmonies, counter-pointed levels of fuzz, overdrive or distortion, one goes up while the other goes down kind of thing…). I though their best songs where the ones where the two basses acted like a guitar and a bass of some sorts, in the way that one was more distorted than the other and/or maybe played higher up in the range. If to that you add the skewed and fast-paced hi energy drumming and the vocal harmonies you’ve got a pretty original sounding band… In general they reminded me a lot of some of the more underground punk/hc bands in Europe (Shock Treatment etc). Although there’s been artists that used the two-bassists formula before (Ornette Coleman, Talking Heads, Balancing Act or the Mexican band Molotov, who’s the only in this bunch that plays something even remotely resembling to Umami), if I had to described these Brooklynites I’d sooner make an attempt mentioning something like a weird mixture between Fugazi, Tortoise, Cop Shoot Cop, Death from Above 1979… I guess it is one of those situations where you have to check them out yourself…

ClareEasier to describe, but most definitely still worthwhile checking out for yourself, are Clare and the Reasons, an ensemble of three strings players (violin, viola, cello), a double bass player (occasionally on electric), a drummer and a keyboardist (and jack of all trades) all backing up (literally, as background singers, and figuratively as musicians) the fantastic chanteuse Clare Muldaur and her romantic, European-scented, sexy and lush compositions… Clare strums her acoustic guitar and has this angelic soprano voice and sings about Pluto (not the planet, Disney), cooking in her underwear (definitely not Disney there…) and love (the last name gave it away, but at this point I am pretty sure she must be French)… The string arrangements (from lush to hip) are really beautiful and the whole band has a defined sound and essential approach to music. Remarkable!

Chris HowesTo complete this night made of four string instruments, Chris Howes stole the spotlight during the open mic jam session with his virtuoso electric violin rock solo improvisations orchestrated on the spot by the two leaders of the Jam band (the bass player and his guitarist relative).  Another relative of the jam band’s leaders is the young Leon G. Thomas III, who on this very night turned 14. This talented kid just got signed by Sony and has been on Broadway in The Lion King and The Color Purple. I had seen him rip it on the dance floor while his family was getting down and dirty and funky, so I knew he could dance, but I now know he can sing with an amazing voice and plays the guitar too. He played the encore of the night and ventured off into his fifteenth year of life, sure to be a very exciting one for a promising talent like himself.

Headroom’s jam rock!

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