Leah & Jeff: buckley up for a mellow wild ride

After a long day kitesurfing in Long Island, could there possibly be anything better than savoring some great new music at Rockwood Music Hall and eating a couple of Palà‘s roman pizza slices next door between sets (I strongly recommend their Bufala Cruda pizza!)? Hardly my friend, hardly! I love Rockwood and I go there after long sessions in the studio or when I have a little bit of time to kill while in the neighborhood, just ’cause I know I’ll always be in for a treat and discover some new amazing hidden music gem of our local scene. This time was no different.

Leah SiegelOn Friday I went there primarily to see Leah Siegel, whom I had discovered at one of the earlier Headroom Jams (when she blew me away with her unmistakably Jeff Buckley-inspired voice, her great songs and her awesome band), however I stayed for the following set by Jeff Taylor, whose song-writing and performance style is definitely not nearly as uneventful and uncommon as his name might be.

Leah’s solo set was as awe-inspiring, intimate, delicate, soulful and exquisite as the first time I had seen her. Leah is a mature artist, her song writing is simple yet complex, she loves going up and down with her voice and even surprise you with an occasional note from the left field (obviously meant to be there). Siegel will remind you first and foremost of Jeff Buckley, but also of his father and of Billie Holiday, but make no mistake: the fact that I am comparing her to people that all passed does not mean that her sound is outdated. She is a modern artist with a very actual sound… but if a comparison with a contemporary makes you feel better, check out Mieka Pauly, who’s also a pretty familiar face (not quite as familiar as Leah) at the cozy Allen Street spot.

Leah strummed her wine-red hollow body guitar and played songs from her current (last year’s) “Little Mule” full-length debut. I assure you that whatever Leah is to Buckley, her spider song is to his alleluia song. She took everyone along for the ride (I hear the spider song even prompted some tears) and I was happy to listen through the entire set even though I was starving to death!

Jeff TaylorWhen Jeff came on by himself (and I had finally tamed my hunger next door), everyone that stayed was just as transported and even though the ride might have gotten bumpier or wilder, it was still a very emotional ride indeed. Jeff Taylor’s ability to tunnel his vulnerability into songs is astonishing but he can also get everyone clapping along when he is just singing solo and not playing any instrument at all! Jeff goes from practically soft spoken word to loud screaming and everything in between, including human beat-boxing with the lowest notes in the Tenor or Baritone range, singing his heart out, stomping his feet on the stage, clapping his hands, dropping imaginary items down his pants and all of that without ever touching an instrument (when he does it’s a guitar or a piano). His vocal style and the huge dynamic & note range he draws from, coupled with very fun and thoughtful lyrics and with his writing chops, makes him an unlikely but possible blend of equal parts Tom Waits, Kenny Muhammad a.k.a. the Human Orchestra, Radiohead, Dave Matthews, Jello Biafra, Savion Glover, Chuck Berry, Barry White or Isaac Hayes and of course the ever present influence of the night: Jeff Buckley.

I am new to Jeff (Taylor, that is) so I don’t know (yet) what he’s up to, but look out for Leah’s upcoming stop-motion video (directed by Rohitash Rao and produced by John Broaddus) while I figure that one out.

Rockwood Music Hall belongs into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! For real!

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