DRUID PERFUME Detroit five-piece Druid Perfume includes three-fifths of the defunct Piranhas, whose post-apocalyptic future-primitive caterwaul set the tone for countless bands in the Motor City and elsewhere at the turn of the millennium. They pick up where the Piranhas left off, barfing out homespun surrealist manifestos whose feverish theses are underlined by death-ray effects pedals, coarse sprays of saxophone, or even flying-saucer theremin—they’re so transcendentally nasty that they make all the studied Art Institute-y noise in this town sound like the half-assed hokum it is. There’s no other front man quite like “Gentle” Jamie Easter; I’ll never forget the 2001 Piranhas show at Beat Kitchen where he picked up a broken bottle (one of several tossed by delinquents like Chris Ilth of the Daily Void) and used it to slice his bare ass. Not since GG Allin have I seen so many people step back in revulsion and awe. Druid Perfume’s live show isn’t as violent (time marches on, and everybody’s getting older), but the music still has the feral menace the Piranhas wielded in those halcyon days—similar in spirit to the output of Human Eye, it’s further proof that the maelstrom of Detroit’s avant-skronk scene blows the best tar balls ashore. Plastic Crimewave Sound, the Frustrations, the Zygoteens, and E.T. Habit open.
A WOMAN BEYOND TIME: MARY LOU WILLIAMS AT 100 The second concert in the city’s series Made in Chicago: World Class Jazz pays tribute to one of the most fascinating figures in jazz history: pianist, composer, and arranger Mary Lou Williams. Williams wasn’t the only female instrumentalist in prewar jazz, but her influence is unparalleled. She began her professional career as a teenager in Pittsburgh in the 1920s and within a few years was writing and arranging for Andy Kirk & His 12 Clouds of Joy, originally subbing on piano before becoming a permanent member on the instrument. She went on to arrange for Duke Ellington, Earl Hines, Benny Goodman, and Tommy Dorsey, host her own radio show, and mentor young boppers like Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk; her 1936 tune “Walkin’ and Swingin'” would later provide Monk with a key melodic germ for his “Rhythm-a-Ning.” In 1945 she completed her classic “Zodiac Suite,” a powerful collection of trio pieces based on the astrological signs and some friends and characters who reflected their traits, and in the early 50s she moved to Europe for a couple of years. When she returned to the U.S. in 1954, she retired from music for three years to focus on her Catholic faith. But later works, such as her jazz interpretations of Catholic mass, reconciled her spirituality with her love of jazz. She retained open ears until her death in 1978; in ’77 she even went head to head with avant-garde icon Cecil Taylor in a two-piano performance at Carnegie Hall. Tonight’s concert, organized by Chicago pianist Bethany Pickens, features solo, trio, and big-band settings; Williams will also be saluted with a newly commissioned piece for piano and big band by keyboardist and composer Amina Claudine Myers, a former Chicagoan, who’ll conduct.
J. COLE Introductions don’t get more auspicious than a cameo on a Jay-Z song called “A Star Is Born.” That’s how most people first encountered this native of Fayetteville, North Carolina, and J. Cole has smartly followed that breakout with guest spots alongside fellow on-the-verge rappers like Wale, B.o.B., and Jay Electronica—he’s even been a little more ambitious there, at one point promising, “On this new school of rappers I really will go Columbine.” Whether or not he’ll live up to the promise of that Jigga track’s title remains to be seen, but his latest single, “Who Dat” (Roc Nation), sounds like a club ripper-upper, and the fact that it contains a line where he actually brags about not having a chain suggests that he’s got healthy reserves of personality to draw on. FreeSol, Vonnegutt, Bin Laden Blowin’ Up, and Sulaiman open.
GARY ALLAN For most of his career Bakersfield native Gary Allan has juggled roles as a mainstream country star and a Nashville outsider—usually on the same record. His latest effort, Get Off on the Pain (MCA), follows suit, opening with radio-ready rockers and then breaking into impressively crafted songs with a more old-school feel. As implied by the album title, his themes are heartbreak and the hard life on the road, and Allan dispenses masochistic machismo like a vending machine. On the mawkish “Today” he suffers through the wedding of his ex, while “That Ain’t Gonna Fly” finds him declaring “I’m gonna show her” from the bottom of a whiskey bottle. His raspy tenor saves him from his own worst excesses; it also elevates his best material, such as the atmospheric, Roy Orbison-influenced “We Fly by Night” and the honky-tonk ballad “No Regrets,” in which he reckons with his wife’s suicide of four years ago. Brooks & Dunn headline.
Fans of sick beats, including beats that have more to do with dance clubs than heavy-metal package tours, should sit down for at least one spin through Polarity (Nuclear Blast), the new album from California death-metal group Decrepit Birth. Death metal is famous for its punishing flurries of doubled-up kick drum—in fact they’re one of the genre’s defining characteristics—but drummer KC Howard, who recently left the band to pursue a career as a music teacher, ratchets up the technical complexity to fairly insane levels, letting the kick surge and ebb in ways that resemble nothing so much as footwork music. The rest of the band is equally sick, delivering neck-snapping hyperfast riffage, razor-sharp shifts in tempo and time signature, and, in the case of vocalist Bill Robinson, guttural bridge-troll utterances.
These sets are part of the Summer Slaughter tour. Decapitated headlines; the Faceless, All Shall Perish, the Red Chord, Veil of Maya, Cephalic Carnage, Decrepit Birth, Carnifex, Animals as Leaders, and Vital Remains open.
VICTOIRE Along with Clogs and William Brittelle, this New York chamber-ish quintet is part of a thriving community of classically trained musicians incorporating ideas from rock into serious composition. Victoire‘s forthcoming Cathedral City (due September 28 on New Amsterdam, a label that’s been specializing in such hybrids) delivers a kind of mesmerizing, catchy minimalism, blending elaborate counterpoint, rich yet often dissonant harmony, and sophisticated melodic development into warm, accessible pieces you might even call songs. Led by pianist Missy Mazzoli, the group also includes violinist Olivia De Prato, keyboardist Lorna Krier, clarinetist Eileen Mack, and bassist Eleonore Oppenheim; sometimes soprano Mellissa Hughes adds her sweet voice. Additional instruments (the National’s Bryce Dessner plays guitar on “A Song for Mick Kelly”) and found sounds also make their way into Victoire’s work—the album closer, “India Whiskey,” even includes clips of disembodied voices counting, courtesy of the shortwave-transmission archivists at the Conet Project.
GAIDA Gaida Hinnawi‘s first album, Levantine Indulgence (Palmyra), captures an ever-widening sensibility that radiates expansively outward from the Fairuz and Umm Kalthoum songs she learned as a child. Though her talent was evident early, Hinnawi’s father insisted that she pursue a stable vocation, so for many years the Damascus native pursued music as a sideline. She majored in biology at Wayne State in Detroit and has pursued a career as a speech pathologist working with Arabic children in New York, where circa 2005 she hooked up with musicians orbiting the Arab cultural organization Alwan for the Arts. Levantine Indulgence, released earlier this year, is rooted in classical Arabic and folk sounds as well as vintage Lebanese pop, but working with jazz musicians—in particular trumpeter Amir ElSaffar, a longtime collaborator who was very involved in the making of the record—broadened her vocabulary further, resulting in some surprisingly breezy hybrids. The extended improvisations on “Indulgence” find the same masterful balance of traditions ElSaffar has presented in his Two Rivers project, while “Illak Shi” brings in Brazilian music and Latin jazz. Hinnawi made her local debut a couple years ago at the World Music Festival, but here she’s bringing a new band that includes ElSaffar as well as guitarist Arturo Martinez, percussionist Tony De Vivo, bassist Jennifer Vincent, and oud player Zafer Tawil. See also Wednesday.
KEN CAMDEN Ken Camden titled his debut solo LP Lethargy & Repercussion (Kranky), but History & Progression might better describe the course set by the local guitarist, who also plays in Implodes. The layered, undulating melodies of its opening tracks are dead ringers for the pastoral keyboard tunes that German electronic duo Cluster played on mid-70s albums like Sowiesoso; not a bad trick, given that Camden improvised them all in real time with a guitar. But while he uses similar sounds on the side-closing “In Your Ears,” he doesn’t organize them according to some obvious musical antecedent. Rather, the way he draws flickering tones in and out of a field of silence brings to mind fireflies at play just after nightfall. He repeats the process on side two, working through the influences of Robert Fripp and Richard Pinhas before finding a more personal orbit on the gorgeously spaced-out closer, “Jupiter.” Moonrises, Above Below Sea Level, and Black Math open.
GAIDA See Tuesday.