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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Out Today: Usher

Posted By on Tue, Mar 30, 2010 at 8:30 AM

usher.jpg

Usher
Raymond v Raymond
(LaFace/Jive)

You can take the title of Usher Raymond’s sixth album a couple of ways. The 31-year-old R&B singer divorced his wife in November after a tumultuous two-year marriage. The hitmaker also fights two sides of himself on Raymond v Raymond: the carefree clubbing loverboy and the resentful divorced father. Fun Usher ultimately beats out Bitter Usher, but the album would be much better if he’d just stay home and reflect on what went wrong. Raymond v Raymond is more than half over before it gets to the good stuff. The ballad “Foolin’ Around” touches on Usher’s infidelities before he turns the tables in the album’s best song, “Papers” (as in divorce documents): “I done damn near lost my mama, I done been through so much drama,” he sings over one of the record’s strongest beats (which are hit-and-miss throughout, depending on the setting and situation). “There are three sides to every story,” he proclaims at the very start of Raymond v Raymond. “There’s one side, there’s the other and there’s the truth.” What we get here is the one that mostly avoids the story altogether.—Michael Gallucci (follow me on Twitter @mgallucci)

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What to Do Tonight: Passion Pit and Mayer Hawthorne

Posted By on Tue, Mar 30, 2010 at 8:00 AM

Passion Pit, hangin around
  • Passion Pit, hangin' around

Like Barry Gibb, Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos often works his girlie falsetto to ethereal heights. On Manners, the band’s debut album from last year, Angelakos bathes in an indie-disco shower that saturates his songs in some of the giddiest grooves produced this millennium. You can’t listen to Manners without breaking out a smile. Since the album’s release, Passion Pit have played just about every music fest, ended up on loads of year-end best-of lists and got tons of too-cool-for-you hipster kids shaking their hips. They’re swinging through the country again, this time playing bigger venues, which they’re promptly selling out. Be sure to get to tonight’s — yep, sold-out — House of Blues show early for opener Mayer Hawthorne, whose sexy, slinky 2009 debut, A Strange Arrangement, includes some serious blue-eyed soul. The record reveals a few seams — Hawthorne played all the instruments and produced — but the old-school R&B ache in his voice is the real deal. Like Passion Pit, Hawthorne opens indie-rock to glorious new possibilities. The concert starts at 8 p.m. —Michael Gallucci (follow me on Twitter @mgallucci)

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Kassaba's Greg Slawson and Candice Lee Return

Posted By on Mon, Mar 29, 2010 at 12:30 PM

Slawson and Lee get Creative
  • Slawson and Lee get Creative

Some may remember pianist Greg Slawson from the band Kassaba he and his wife (and fellow Cleveland Institute of Music grad) Candice Lee led from 2002 through 2008. Playing a distinctive blend of jazz, classical and world music, the quartet released two CDs, Zones and Dark Eye.

Slawson and Lee have moved on to new endeavors, including a website that’s intended to encourage people to explore their creativity.

They are producing videos that blend their music with nature imagery and managing Slawson and Lee Piano Studio (Slawson also teaches at the College of Wooster).

Slawson recently released a solo album called Waterflow. As the name suggests, the music is new-age-style mood music that incorporates the sound of waves, a bubbling waterfall and a thunderstorm.

It’s described on the website as “perfect for periods of relaxation, meditation, a therapeutic massage or a yoga routine.” It features three extended compositions, ranging from 17-and-a-half to almost 30 minutes: “Lakeshore,” “Summer Rain” and “Sulphur Spring Falls.”

You can buy the CD at CD Baby or locally at the Whole Foods store on Cedar Road in University Heights. —Anastasia Pantsios

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Paramore's Hayley Williams Goes Gaga

Posted By on Mon, Mar 29, 2010 at 12:13 PM

One of our favorite ladies here at C-Notes, Paramore's Hayley Williams, covers another one of our favorite ladies, Lady Gaga, in the above clip.

Williams posted the video — a minute-and-a-half piano version of the most excellent "Bad Romance" — on Twitter over the weekend, calling herself Lady Haha. —Michael Gallucci (follow me on Twitter @mgallucci)

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Quinn Sands Releases New CD

Posted By on Mon, Mar 29, 2010 at 11:37 AM

A girl and her guitar
  • A girl and her guitar


Euclid-based singer-songwriter Quinn Sands celebrates the release of her first CD, Driving Through the Rain, at the Barking Spider Tavern on Wednesday. She’ll play at 10 p.m.

Sands, who describes her Americana-style sound as “Lucinda Williams meets Christine McVie and they hang out with Carole King,” has a confident, mature style that more or less lives up that description. Her burnished vocals do justice to her fluid songs, which are tinged with country, blues and folk.

Sands is backed on the album by members of former Cleveland band the New Madrids: guitarist Joe Landes, bassist Adam Rich, drummer Ernie Richmann and multi-instrumentalist Dave Mann.

She recorded and mastered the album at Cleveland’s Mann Wolf studios.

After performing the band-backed show at the Barking Spider, she’ll go back to playing solo on the local coffeehouse circuit where she’s a regular. —Anastasia Pantsios

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Concert Review: John Zorn at Cleveland Museum of Art

Posted By on Mon, Mar 29, 2010 at 9:18 AM

In the Zorn
  • In the Zorn

Somewhat of a renaissance man, saxophonist and composer John Zorn is always reinventing himself, making it somewhat hard to pigeonhole his musical modus operandi.

Back in the mid-‘90s, he formed the group Masada with trumpeter Dave Douglas, bassist Greg Cohen and drummer Joey Barron, and saw the group as a way to put “Ornette Coleman and Jewish scales together.”

Three years ago, the group disbanded after a long and successful run, only to return this year in an expanded format with the addition of pianist Uri Caine and percussionist Cyro Baptista.

Friday night's set at the newly revamped Gartner Auditorium (inside the Cleveland Museum of Art) clearly showed just how fully this new line-up has coalesced, with Zorn conducting in spots and fully animated during his own vigorous solos.

Looking for a bit more spunk in the opening strains of one of the pieces, he was faintly heard telling the band to “stop fucking around and play some jazz!” With literally hundreds of originals from his vast catalog to choose from, Zorn picked a sagacious lot that, while sounding quite similar, managed to form a patchwork quilt of varied tempos and grooves.

Zorn’s own playing is somewhat of an acquired taste, manic in its darting action from dulcet tones to high-pitched shrieks.

Douglas was far more engaging, with a clarion call that blended effortlessly with Zorn’s alto during ensemble lines and spoke volumes during his own solo statements. Baron and Baptista proved to be integral to the whole, as much of the music relied on folkloric rhythms and stop-time passages the propelled the music forward with stimulating intent.

The only downside of an otherwise inspired evening would be the brevity of the performance, clocking in at just a wee bit over an hour. —C. Andrew Hovan

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Concert Review: Tegan and Sara at Lakewood Civic Auditorium

Posted By on Mon, Mar 29, 2010 at 9:12 AM

One of em is Tegan, the other is Sara
  • One of 'em is Tegan, the other is Sara

The Lakewood Civic Auditorium is a high-school auditorium, albeit a grand one.

This setting wasn't lost on Tegan and Sara, who told a packed audience last night that they were helping the Canadian indie-pop twins live out a perverse high-school fantasy for adoration and acceptance.

Tegan and Sara were humble but quietly confident onstage. The crowd was deafening as the girls launched into a nearly two-hour set that opened with “The Ocean” from last year's Sainthood.

Much of the set came from their latest album, but there was a sprinkling of older material too, including some cuts from 2004's So Jealous.

Tegan and Sara make a point to say they write separately. But they sound effortless singing and performing each other's songs. Each Quin got solo time in the spotlight. Between songs, they shared anecdotes, which alternated between clever and smart, well-spoken and very funny.

The stage set was also terrific — the epic lighting especially, which gave the show a much grander scope. It's kinda ironic, since Tegan and Sara have a way of shrinking any venue they're playing, making it feel very intimate.

A stripped-down and unplugged encore included some fan favorites, like “Call it Off” and the infectious “Living Room.” Here, particularly, Tegan and Sara sounded just as great live as they do on record. “Back in Your Bed” gave me, and many satisfied fans, chills. —Jara Anton

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