Last week I had the pleasure of watching New York’s Hellbent and Antibalas bands pay tribute to jazz legend John Lurie. Taking place at Greenwich Village’s Le Poisson Rouge, we strapped in for 3 hours of experimental jazz as performed by traditionally experimental musicians.
Hellbent began with a strong opening set. Band leader Michael Blake took extended pauses in between songs to lament on his relationship with John Lurie and the Lounge Lizards. A particularly strong version of “Bob The Bob” saw other-worldly tuba bass wobbling interwoven with notes of pure tenor bliss from Blake. The tune has been a staple every morning since.
After an hour, the group bowed out to make time for Antibalas. The afro-beat orchestra would be quite the opposite of Hellbent’s minimalistic jazz, bringing 11 musicians to the stage for a tour around the world, as seen by John Lurie, as interpreted through said 11 musicians (can you follow that?).
At any rate, Antibalas did a phenomenal job at paying tribute. I wasn’t so sure how their rambunctious sound would do on quintessential jazz material, but they certainly passed the test. Group leader Amayo gave his traditional spoken word, only this time telling tales of Lurie and his travels. Each section of the band was strong, but the horns were particularly feeling it, leaving me to reminisce of Hulaween when I saw them play with my beloved String Cheese Incident.
The night wrapped up on a high note after Antibalas really let the funk out with their final tunes. Antibalas has their next NYC shows alongside Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem.