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Big Mac Attack



Published November 17, 2010 at 9:55 a.m.

“We’re gonna be talking about Bryan McNamara for a long, long time.”

Such was the quote, or some variation thereof, that spewed from my mouth during my TV spot on the Channel 5 11 p.m. news last Thursday (for the uninitiated-slash-people who watch “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” instead, it’s a short weekly spot in which I preview some of the weekend’s events). That line was followed by my proclamation that the sax man “stands at the forefront of the next generation of Burlington jazz greats,” or some such vacuous quip.

It’s a fun gig, but sometimes I really hate being on TV. Seriously, I seem to have almost no control over what I say, and often blurt out crazy, hyperbolic nonsense. That, and I say “um” too much. But I digress.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t take Celluloid Dan’s advice when you see him on TV. I choose those events very carefully. Just take my alter ego’s on-air improvisations with a grain of salt. Well, except when it comes to McNamara. I was dead on with that one.

Saturday night, I hit up the FlynnSpace to catch the debut of McNamara’s latest suite, “Love Evolve,” with his improvisational jazz band Souls’ Calling. I had reacquainted myself with the SC canon for a story about the group I wrote last week. It’s been about a year since their last release, and I was curious to see how the band had evolved. Turns out, quite a bit.

McNamara’s new material represents a stunning leap from his already impressive catalog — never mind how he’s grown as a player. “Bubba” has always had chops. But, as fellow local saxophonist Dave Grippo pointed out, McNamara has matured. Dude is the total package, blessed with both technique and tact. It’s a powerful combo.

But even more stellar are McNamara’s compositions, featuring beautifully dynamic, harmonic interplays with keyboardist Parker Shper and bassist Rob Morse. And, tying it all together, special guest Phil Melanson just might be the best young drummer I’ve ever seen. No kidding. He plays with a reckless abandon that threatens to derail at any moment but never does. It’s a little terrifying to witness.

So, yeah, Celluloid Dan got it right this time: We will indeed be talking about Bryan McNamara for a long time. He truly heads the class of the Queen City’s next-generation jazz greats.


  • Congrats to Brattleboro-based indie-folk outfit Wooden Dinosaur, subjects of a glowing review on National Public Radio’s “All Songs Considered” blog last week. The group, which features David Wax Museum’s Michael Roberts and Montpelier-based fiddler Katie Trautz, released a fine local record earlier this year, Nearly Lost Stars. Says NPR’s Sarah Ventre, the band “makes the kind of simple, stripped-down music that leaves you feeling nostalgic and longing for more.” Agreed. Though WD don’t have any area shows scheduled until December, you can catch Trautz with her own folkdafied outfit, Katie Trautz and the Tall Boys — love that name — this Thursday with Michael Chorney at Lincoln’s Burnham Hall, in a benefit for the Bristol Farmers Market.
  • Speaking of getting folked up, happy birthday to Folk By Association’s Karen Krajacic, who turns … oh, I don’t know, let’s say 21, this week. To celebrate, the folk duo is embarking on a mini VT tour, with four shows in five days — five, that is, if you include a private party this Thursday. On Wednesday, November 17, they’ll be at the Big Picture Theater & Café in Waitsfield. This Friday, Burlingtonians can catch the high-harmonizin’ duo at The Skinny Pancake. FBA follow that up with an afternoon set at Montpelier’s Langdon Street Café on Saturday, then close out the week Sunday at The Bee’s Knees in Morrisville.
  • Band Name of the Week: Delicate Steve. Despite its notorious rep, New Jersey has actually given the world a lot of good stuff. There’s the Boss, Jon Stewart and … well, I guess that’s about it, really. However, this week, the Garden State gives us Delicate Steve, who take a break from their current tour with Fang Island to drop by the Monkey House on Thursday. The MSR Presents and WRUV show also includes Whales and Wolves, Bad Speler and DJ Disco Phantom.
  • BNOTW Part Deux: Tough to decide on just one fun band name this week, so screw it. Why not two? This week’s co-honor goes to D.C.-based psych duo Birdlips, who will be at Radio Bean this Sunday, one night after taking part in La Strada’s farewell show in Brooklyn. The NYC indie-folk faves have been regular VT visitors. On a related note, farewell, La Strada. We hardly knew ye.
  • Getcha glowsticks ready. A very special edition of the long-running dance-music series Sunday Night Mass is taking place this week at Club Metronome. The guest of honor is none other than globetrotting DJ and producer Justin Martin from Dirtybird Records.
  • While we’re at Metronome and rocking electronica, I’d be remiss not to mention this Thursday’s Bonjour-Hi!-sponsored throwdown featuring Brooklyn’s DJ Krames. The gentleman describes himself as “the mullet-headed heater-smoking party rocker.” Any questions?
  • In the three and a half years I’ve been writing this column, I’m pretty sure I’ve never mentioned a marimbist. I’m about to rectify that. This Friday, recent VT transplant — and marimbist! — Jane Boxall takes to the FlynnSpace stage with the Ricochet Duo, her longstanding collaboration with pianist Rose Chancler Feinbloom. The pair will perform what Boxall describes as an “eclectic program,” with selections including early-20th-century ragtime and tango works by Astor Piazzolla. The kicker: Ricochet will debut a brand-new piece piece written specifically for them by Argentinean composer Lucas Guinot. Classy, no?
  • Speaking of, er, class acts, Connecticut-based rapper Chris Webby arrives at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge this Thursday armed with tunes such as “Crazy Ass Bitch,” “We Made You (Stoner Anthem)” and “Cuz I’m Drunk.” In all seriousness, Webby is a smooth, witty MC whose latest free mixtape, The UnderClassmen, has been in regular rotation in my trusty iPod of late — as was his debut, Optimus Rhyme. Plus, any white rapper who names an album Move Over Marshall — in reference to Marshall Mathers/Eminem, of course — has some serious stones. Or a deliciously self-deprecating sense of humor. In Webby’s case, it’s probably a bit of both.
  • Local punk rockers Y69 continue to fight the good fight against the recent so-stupid-it-would-almost-be-funny-if-it-wasn’t-so-fucking-stupid decision by the BPD to curb 18-plus nights at Burlington nightclubs and bars with a show this Saturday at Manhattan Pizza & Pub. The band hopes to host an all-ages punk night at the pizza joint every month. Stay tuned.
  • And finally, should you happen to catch either of this Friday’s Powder Kegs shows — early set at Langdon Street Café, later at the Monkey House — do yourself a solid and check out folk songwriter Robert Sarazin Blake. He’s opening both gigs for the Philly-based string-band-turned-indie-phenoms. I’ve been in love with the dude’s latest effort, A Short Series of Long Nights Remembered, for the last couple of weeks. It’s simply a beautiful exposition of modern folk music with emerald shades of Celtic influence — the record was inspired by and recorded in Belfast. A stunner.

Listening In

And once again, this week’s totally self-indulgent column segment, in which I share a random sampling of what was on my iPod, turntable, CD player, 8-track player, etc., this week.