Shanir Blumenkrantz and the Avantgarde Shoutouts

Last Tuesday at the Stone I saw an ensemble led by Shanir Blumenkrantz, the bassist of Pharaoh’s Daughter, Rashanim, and a few other bands of the circuit. Shanir was playing the oud, and the group consisted of Erik Friedlander (cellist of the Masada String Trio – ’nuff said), Cyro Baptista (percussionist, leader of the Beat the Donkey), Matt Brewer (upright bass), and Satoshi Takeishi (percussion). I’ve been ranting about the show for three days now. Given, cello is probably the most deep and sensuous instrument out there, but on top of that, Erik Friedlander was spinning wildest improv, and every time he took a solo it went straight into me like some sort of ecstatic electrified bucket-full – I cant even find a proper metaphor to describe. Maybe, “Coltrane of the classic cello”? Never seen anything like it. Cyro Baptista was quite other-worldly too, though more on the sinister side – the whole time he looked as if he was shtooping somebody invisible, actually a few of those (demons or whatever) at once. Shanir, who usually takes the secondary role of the bassist, led the band seamlessly – in full control. At one point he played a piece alone, without the band. Imagine this: intense silence of the audience, just the oud building a phrase upon phrase, middle-eastern voice painting a rock’n-roll fantasy, all sorts of tones and ideas thrown in, and then all of a sudden a loud drunken voice cuts through from the street. Half a second later, Shanir finishes the phrase and plays the next one in exactly the same intonation as the voice from the street, and goes on building the improv based on this new riff, continues to spin and spin. It was an amazing moment – really, transcendent stuff.
One thing I’ve been thinking about after the show, is the demarcation line between music, which is merely music, and music which is pure art. These guys, like many other acts I’ve seen at the Stone are way past the line – art, unquestionably – unlike, say, “hassidic super-star” one-trick gimmicks. There’s some really fun music out there in the world, but certain musicians choose to take off into the high art plain. What does it have to do with? My guess: the disinterest in mass appeal / critics, deep thinking about the nature of being, courage to break the self-discovered formulas, widely-wildly open mind, and small loyal audiences, fiercely dedicated to the avant-garde expression.
Cross-posted on Mima’amakim

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