We went for the Renoir nudes but were knocked out by 40 channels of 16th-century choral music.
At the Clark last Sunday to celebrate Father’s Day and our wedding anniversary, Ellie and I felt underwhelmed by the expressionless Renoirs, the reason we drove in drenching rain to Williamstown. Compared with his landscapes and social scenes, prominent in the permanent collections and edges of “Renoir: The Body, the Senses” — and to the nudes of Courbet and Corot — the Renoirs seemed blank and bland. Skin tones and forms were lovely and lush, overpowering the faces and backgrounds that seemed slighted, afterthoughts once he got the breasts, hips and hair right. Chalk-and-crayon studies glowed with spontaneous grace the forms of Renoir’s oils often lacked.
Then we wandered into “Janet Cardiff: The Forty Part Motet,” a thrilling and mysterious world where old sounds found new expression. Canadian sound artist Cardiff deconstructed English choral composer Thomas Tallis’s “Spem in alium,” dividing its blend by separately mic’ing each of the 40 singers of the Salisbury Cathedral Choir. Then she assigned each voice to one of 40 speakers pointing inward in an oval at the edges of the glass-sided (rectangular) Michael Conforti Pavilion. Some listeners sat on benches, savoring the swirling blend in eyes-closed trances. Most moved about the hyper-stereo sound-space, smiling as they followed the vocal sections leaping around and across it. Some stood still between speakers, like face-high headphones. We could feel the music as a whole, ethereal in its antique lovely complexity, or as fragments — a singer at a time. After 11 minutes of music, three minutes of intermission delivered whispered chat, throat-clearing coughs and quiet laughs of the singers, to intensely human effect.
The Tallis/Cardiff Motet reminded me of the Sal-Mar Construction, new-classical composer Salvatore Martirano’s composing machine that projected synthesized sound through 24 speakers hung throughout the University at Albany gallery.
Each speaker lit up when activated in an effect much more random, and way more mechanical, than the Motet we saw Saturday. In its abstract way, it resonated with the overwhelmingly intense centerpiece of Martirano’s March 1971 residency: “L’s GA For Gassed-Masked Politico, Helium Bomb, And Two-Channel Tape.” WAY weirder than its title suggests, “L’s GA” positioned a live actor in a gas mask, reading Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address through helium pitch distortion over electronic nightmare noise. Screens overhead showed such horrors as executions and hardcore porn — maybe the most terrifying performance-art piece before Putin’s “reality TV” disaster of November 2016 — before rescuing us with beauty to prevent mass suicide.
The Tallis/Cardiff Motet is every bit as sublime as the Sal-Mar Construction is gimmicky; and it’s playing the Clark until mid-September.
Far cozier than the Motet’s glass-and-white-walled space at the Clark, Lucas Confectionary in downtown Troy offers the warm welcome of a neighborhood bar to drummer Joe Barna’s weekly jazz jam. Two Mondays ago, Barna’s trio (Lou Smaldone, bass; Mark Kleinhaut, guitar) welcomed tenor sax giant Ralph Lalama for a fine and fun evening that loosened as guests ganged up on them, on Barna’s gracious invitation, in the second set.
Folks strolled past in the rain, some stopping on the sidewalk to inspect the players through the window, then darting inside to shake off umbrellas and grab a drink.
“He swings his ass off!” marveled jazz-fan pal Joe after a breathtaking blitz through “There Will Never Be Another You.” Lalama swung everybody’s ass off in the whole, packed house. “He’s at a higher level,” Smaldone humbly said of Lalama at the break, after “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” played without irony. “He hears everything, so if he hears something weird, he fixes it within a bar.”
Nothing felt weird even as younger players joined in the second set, Barna beckoning them up, Lalama welcoming them as the gracious elder. Things got lively in “Bye Bye Blackbird” and “Stablemates,” then blues burst out in unnamed elemental improvisations that poured off the horn-crowded bandstand.
BIG EGG WEEKEND
Tonight, ukulele genius/wizard Jake Shimabukuro brings a trio to The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany), widening his reach from Hawaiian folk impressionism through jazz, rock and more. A friendly virtuoso, Shimabukuro has played eye-popping solo shows at The Egg, Troy Savings Bank Music Hall and Music Haven. 7:30 p.m. $39.50. 518-473-1845 www.theegg.org
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes rock The Egg Friday, playing caffeinated Jersey jump blues with blaring horns. Back in the ’80s, they rocked the Palace so hard the balcony bounced under exuberant fans, and engineers were called in to check for damage and affirm the place was safe. Many of the Jukes played in Conan O’Brien’s studio band. 8 p.m. $39.50, $34.50
Dylan never goes away for long; he’s on Netflix in “Rolling Thunder Revue — A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese.” And his songs stick around, too, in his voice and others’. Joan Osborne sings “Songs of Bob Dylan” at The Egg on Saturday. Veteran of pop-rock solo albums, film stardom in “The Funk Brothers,” a touring stint with The Dead (including a GREAT Times Union Center show) and the all-star blues-rock gang Trigger Hippy, Osborne has the chops and smarts, the voice and depth, to sing anything she wants. 8 p.m. $38.50
CAFFE LENA, TOO
Erin McKeown headlines LGBTQ Pride Night tonight at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs). Like fellow Lena’s perennial Anais Mitchell (a recent Tony winner for “Hadestown”), McKeown composes for the musical theater as well as pursuing troubadour styles. Crystal Rose opens. 7 p.m. $18 advance, $20 door, $10 students and children. 518-583-0022 www.caffelena.org
Blues harmonica howler Magic Dick (ex-J. Geils Band) and guitarist Shun Ng team up Friday at the Caffe. A duo since 2014, they play intense, stripped-down blues and R&B. 8 p.m. $25, $30, $15
Mary Fahl (ex-October Project) brings her super-beautiful voice and tunes by Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell and from her own pen to the Caffe Saturday. 8 p.m. “Art of the Song” live radio interview by Vivian Nesbitt at 7. $27, $30, $15
Joan Kelsey’s Silver Lining folk-bluegrass band plays the Caffe’s “Farm to Folk” series Sunday at Pitney Meadows Community Farm (223 West Ave., Saratoga Springs). 3 p.m. Free
Academically trained but earthy, old-timey but contemporary, troubadour Amythyst Kiah plays the Caffe Sunday, wielding banjo and guitar and a big, buttery voice. (Kiah returns here with Rhiannon Givens’ “Songs of Our Native Daughters” at The Egg July 26.) 7 p.m. $26, $18, $9
Albert Lee — Eric Clapton hailed him as the “greatest guitarist in the world” — returns to the Strand (210 Main St., Hudson Falls) Friday with his band. He’s played here with the Everly Brothers, Emmylou Harris’s Hot Band, Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings, Peter Asher and too many more to count, and makes brilliant solo albums of unparalleled skill and mastery. 8 p.m. $30. 518-832-3484 www.mystrandtheater.org
Fiddler Sara Milonovich brings her band Daisycutter to the Cock ’N’ Bull (5342 Parkis Mills Road, Galway) Friday to introduce rootsy new tunes from their album “Northeast.” 8 p.m. Free, but make dinner reservations if you plan to dine before the show. 518-882-6962 www.thecocknbull.com
Veteran troubadour Jack Williams sings Friday at Harmony Hall (the Grange, 1401 Peaceable St., Charlton). After backing Mickey Newbury, Harry Nilsson, John Lee Hooker and other giants, Williams went solo in the ’90s and hasn’t looked back, releasing a dozen albums and playing annually hereabouts. $20 advance, $25 door. 518-882-6809 www.harmonycorners.org
For Albany to name a street after pop stars the Jonas Brothers before doing so for William Kennedy, Herman Melville — or Blotto, or the Knickerbockers if we’re staying with rock stars — seems unforgivably lame. Nice promo for the bros’ show Aug. 19, maybe, but please scrap the sign afterward and hit up our much more deserving homies with some respect.