Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Puttin' On The Ritz

"Puttin' on the Ritz, initially a duo consisting of vocalist BJ Rubin and drummer Kevin Shea, return with a new ensemble, new concept and a new album: White Light/White Heat. This new recording is a re-creation of The Velvet Underground's brilliant second album, done as only Puttin' on the Ritz could. The duo has been expanded to a sextet and includes many of New York's most innovative and creative instrumentalists.

BJ Rubin's relationship to the music of The Velvet Underground is deeply personal. Upon moving to New York City from Oakland, CA in 1999, Rubin found himself living in Harlem and commuting daily with only his walkman to keep him company. For several months he listened to a single cassette over and over again -- on one side was The Velvet Underground and Nico, and on the other, White Light/White Heat. He got to know New York City through The Velvet Underground, and Rubin's passion for and obsession with White Light/White Heat motivated him to recreate the album in its entirety.

The rendering of White Light/White Heat that resulted is part homage, part personal exploration, part deconstruction, and part reinterpretation. Perhaps this is what the original album would have sounded like had Lou Reed and company been members of the Sun Ra Arkestra. In keeping with the spirit of the original, the group spent only two days on the recording, preserving the spontaneity of the Velvet Underground.

The jazz ensemble backing Rubin (Puttin' On The Ritz members Kevin Shea and Moppa Elliott joined by Jon Irabagon, Nate Wooley, and Sam Kulik) delivers a mesmerizing performance. Irabagon's tenor saxophone often spars with Rubin's vocals mimicking the interaction of horn players and vocalists during the swing era. Wooley's use of extended techniques references the distortion and noise so prevalent on the original recording while Kulik's trombone work incorporates many of the microtones, smears and histrionics of punk rock. Matt Motel (of Talibam!) joins the band for the album's final piece, 'Sister Ray', bringing with him a twisted interpretation of jazz organ, similar to that of John Cale.

BJ Rubin is a man of many talents. He worked at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart as an associate producer, authors the authoritative indie-rock blog Pukekos, and operates Dick Move Records. He also performs as a comedian and with the jazz-fusion ensemble Odysseus.

Kevin Shea performs 300 shows per year with ensembles such as Talibam!, Mostly Other People Do the Killing, People (with Mary Halvorson), Peter Evans, Karole Armitage, and many, many others.

Moppa Elliott is the leader of Mostly Other People Do the Killing and performs with alice., Jon Lundbom and Big V Chord, and many others. He operates Hot Cup Records which releases jazz and experimental recordings.

Alto saxophonist Jon Irabagon is a native of Chicago, IL and winner of the 2008 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition. His debut album on Concord Records, The Observer was released in the fall of 2009 and he performs regularly with Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Mike Pride, and Mary Halvorson.

Sam Kulik is a trombonist and bassist living in New York City. He performs regularly with Capillary Action, Talibam!, Nervous Cabaret, and his rock band, Starring.

Nate Wooley is one of the most innovative trumpet players of his generation. He has toured and recorded with Paul Lytton, Anthony Braxton and countless other improvising musicians."

Ladies and gentlemen, for your listening pleasure, Puttin' On The Ritz.

White Light/White Heat (Hot Cup)

1. White Light/White Heat
2. The Gift
3. Lady Godiva's Operation
4. Here She Comes Now
5. I Heard Her Call My Name
6. Sister Ray

Just like Sister Ray said:

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