Friday, November 26, 2010

On Swans, Seasons Greetings and Boxed Sets: Calling All Balletomanes

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Three for the Road

The prolific guitarist/composer 
Howard Fishman.

By Mary Lyn Maiscott

Jazzy singer-songwriter Howard Fishman—who as a guitarist has played with such luminaries as Nellie McKay—recently released not one, not two, but three CDs of his songs. “I kind of lost my mind” was his explanation of the unusual outpouring to the filmmaker Marie Le Claire, who has been documenting the making of the trilogy. Though held together by his affecting, Lou-Reedish-I’m-not-quite-singing vocals and his superb musicality (as well as, as fellow blogger Robert Rosen commented, “a good vibe”), the three works are nonetheless quite different from each other: Better Get Right is Howard’s “love letter to New Orleans,” as he puts it on his website, with the sounds of his Biting Fish Brass Band reflecting that city’s sometimes raucous street jams; No Further Instructions, perhaps the most intriguing, turns a trip through Romania with his friend the photojournalist Michael Benanav into a folkish (in the pure sense) song cycle, complete with violins and accordion (and spoons?); and The World Will Be Different involves, fittingly, a different kind of journey, an interior, thoughtful one after a romantic breakup, with, primarily, a four-piece combo. (Bonus for New Yorker subscribers: the lyric “I’ve been on a roll/Even my stack of New Yorkers is under control.” If Howard can do it, maybe I can too!)

What does one do after delivering such a creative triptych? If you’re Howard—who made some noise a few years ago by recording his own interpretation of Dylan’s Basement Tapes—you play them all live, successively over three nights, November 4–6, at Abrons Art Center in NYC. Howard says he expects to find these performances “both emotionally draining and positively cathartic.” Of the final night’s songs, his reliving of The World Will Be Different’s stormy love affair, he adds, “I don’t think I’ll ever want to play them all together again.” Take the ride with him, while you can!