Sonic Vistas of the Hudson
by Tinker TwineA review of a concert held by Garth Hudson & Friends in St.Ann's church, Brooklyn Heights, NY. The review was published in Woodstock Times, April 12 1990. The text is copyrighted, please do not copy or redistribute. Thanks to Serge Daniloff for sending us a copy of the original article.
Velvet-cushioned pews encircled by stained-glass windows and a vaulted stone ceiling provided a sublime environment for Garth Hudson's first solo performance since the breakup of The Band in 1976. The show, Garth Hudson and Friends, was presented in Brooklyn Heights last weekend at the landmark Church of St. Ann.
The program showcased Hudson's breadth and depth, and the old stone, edifice reverberated with everything from "When Jesus Christ Was Here On Earth," sung by the New York Choral Society, to Irish dance music, balconyrocking jazz and blues, and the East Coast singing debut of Garth's wife, Maud.
Comedian Jean Shepard summed it up when he opened the second act by saying, "Isn't this the damnedest show you ever saw?" It was certainly full of delightful, impish surprises. The evening closed wich an audiotape, "Mitzy, Take 2," featuring euphonic barking by a dog once owned by late Band member Richard Manuel.
The performance started easily, with Garth taking the stage with his Galanti accordion, accompanied by clarinet, violin, Celtic harp, guitars. Harpist Emily Mitchll sang "Bonny Bunch of Roses" with charm and modesty. That number was followed by a rousing Irish jig, "Feed the Birds," which indicated the high caliber of talent and professionalism we could expect from the evening's ensembles.
Maud Hudson's throaty tones were echoed by Clifford Scott on saxophone for an understated yet poignant new composition,. "Old Folks." Maud has a beautiful voice and her phrasing is graceful and thoughtful, as she further demonstrated on a later number, "Cowboy Angel." She was backed by the New York Choral Society.
Then came surprise number one. While Scott and Lew Soloff on trumpet traded solos, Maud, Garth, and ten members of the choral Society were arranging themselves on a balcony for two haunting numbers. Saint Ann's Skinner organ was tripping melodically, under Hudson's singular touch.
I had heard that Jean Shepard would be performing, but I had to see him before I could believe it. Yes, it's the old radio star, hilarious as ever with a biographical tale of his boyhood in the Midwest, and his loss of innocenec at the hands of a Little Orphan Annie decoder that yielded the message, "Drink Ovaltine." Having already been forced to drink the vile stuff, he was disappointed, to say the least.
Shepard's intro to the second act opened floodgates of jazz and blues that took off with the Mike Reilly Blues Band's "Blues for the Red Boy," featuring Reilly and Danny Ott on guitar and vocals, Gerald Johnson on bass and vocals, and Mark Williams on drums. Clifford Scott stole a few moments with his tenor sax version of "Honky Tonk," and then a half-dozen rock tunes had the joint jumping, as Hudson manned the piano and synthesizer, wheeling about on his swivel chair or playing both simultaneously. Johnson took command with his terpsichorean histrionics on bass and with his exhilarating R&B vocals. "You know him," Reilly said of Johnson during his introductions, "he's on all your records."
The second-to-last surprise, before Mitzy's offering, was a video of the late guitarist Thomas Carlisle performing a jazzy/bluesy "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." No disappoiniments here.
It was altogether a great evening, in which Garth Hudson and friends demonstrated just how thrillingly solid an apparenely disparate creative unit can be.