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THE PROGRAM aptly billed it as a "New Rock" concert. Peter Ivers, fresh from New York, has put together a strain of music incorporating jazz and blues with the sugar-coating of a rock-beat to stir our minds a bit, drenched as they are in the winter gloom.
The set-up on stage consisted of bassoon (dig it), sax, drums, and Ivers on harp--a careful balance of instruments that managed to blend and set off the tight lash of the harp-sound with a rich, creamy-textured backing. Also add one chick singer, dressed in an electric blue shalwar-kameez (that's what it's called, folks), the established jazz singer Miss Yolande Bavan.
The lyrics were by Tim Mayer--many from his great show--and the arrangements by Ivers. Mayer's songs are wry, delicately structured, and astutely poetic. The same song might fluctuate from near-Brechtian understatement to near-melodramatic astringency:
Love, your body's still undressed
Let's not give up on the rest
Baby, draw that water-curtain from your eye.
Miss Bavan, singing, handled the dramatic parts quite well, but she did not prove to have the light-but-searing, crisp touch needed for the whimsical bits.
Ivers displayed much more understanding for, and familiarity with, the material his reverent arrangements, which utilized fully the talented musicians around him. His own senstitive harp playing generally fused to produce a remarkable, haunting music.
The group was best on "Tobacco Leaves," a song that Miss Bavan did well. Perfectly-paced musically by Ivers, the song had a near blues-tempo, created by a softly rushing rhythm section and featuring some quivering solos on harp and sax. On "Gentle Jesus," another complex piece that switches from abstract dissonances to a version of swing, Ivers achieved a synthesis of blues and jazz on Paul Butterfield's In My Own Dream model.
That was round one. After a wait of an hour ("their train's been held up," Ivers pleaded) the second group of the evening arrived--Gilbert Moses' Chaka (the name of a great Zulu warrior-chieftain).
There is a new breed of black city musicians emerging whose sound is represented by the Chambers Brothers at its worst (and that's not bad) and by Sly and the Family Stone at its best. Chaka is of this breed--a gay and competent group of black rock-and-rollers.
One of the signs of this new rock is its emphasis on intricate rhythmic patterns of voices. The Family Stone manage to carry these off on both fast and slow songs but Chaka was successful mainly on the up-tempo numbers. Gilbert Moses on lead guitar contributes deft Cropper-like touches, and the band generally held together well--particularly on a superb sliding easy version of "My Girl." This new city-soul sound is, of course, heavily influenced by Booker T., and Chaka showed this in its obvious delight and skill at playing "funky instrumentals."
For a last blues number, two hours later, Ivers joined them. The substitute drummer "Turk" had by now jelled into Chaka's style and was wielding great flourishes of beats expertly, Ivers going into his characteristic end-of-a-phrase gesture of jerking open his left arm as if on reflex, Gilbert Moses playing sweet and sharp riffs--the blues was thriving and one wondered a little about the need for "new rock."
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