Posts Tagged ‘Langdon Street Cafe’

swing time

March 21, 2010

Turns out all I had to do was mention yesterday how sorely lacking we’ve been for snow this year.

What a gift, soft springtime flakes falling this morning!


I got up early to get ready for a recording session with the Underscore Orkestra at the VPR performance studio. They’re six players strong from Portland, OR., taking a tour of the Northeast now with a couple of stops in Vermont (Radio Bean tonight; Langdon Street tomorrow night) before hitting Montreal near the end of this week.

This is where, if I were Pandora, I’d be making similar sounding recommendations for groups like Gogol Bordello, Balkan Beatbox, The Squirrel Nut Zippers, or maybe the Fishtank Ensemble. All good recommendations.

But if you have a chance this evening or tomorrow night, I recommend checking out their set and seeing (hearing) what creative new twists the Underscore brings to the genre.

throw a stone, you can’t miss

October 12, 2009
On Church Street

Last week on Burlington's Church Street

The thing about music in Vermont is that it’s everywhere.

Same with poetry, visual and performance art, and literary and learning events of one kind or another.

On a recent September Monday I reviewed the evening’s options and realized within an hour’s drive I could participate in an equinox stargazing party at a local library, see an internationally-recorgnized author speaking on worldwide food production, hear a piano trio performing Beethoven, or attend a reading of Robert Frost’s autumnal poetry.

Many days are like that.

Autumn’s already shaping up to be rich with offerings,  a few upcoming suggestions are below. You’ll notice most of these take place in Central/Northern Vermont. It’s because that’s where I live, and these are the ones I have the best chance of actually experiencing.

There are an equal number of  events and performances taking place in other areas of the state, so by all means look to your local arts/cultural scene and don’t just stop here!

Oct. 13, 8-10pm @ the Bluebird Tavern, Burlington: guitarist Jim Stout  and the Queen City Hot Club in an evening of gypsy jazz and gourmet cuisine. A fabulous combination.

Oct. 20 @ the Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College: Indian classical musicians, Ravi and Anoushka Shankar

Oct. 23 @ the UVM recital hall (part of the Lane Series): German keyboardist Andraes Staier, whose Bach will make you wonder how you ever listened to that music before Staier came along.

Oct. 23-Nov. 1 @ Palace Nine Theatre, South Burlington: the Vermont International Film Festival

through Oct. 25 @ the Shelburne Museum: Nature by Design, an exhibit highlighting Louis Comfort Tiffany’s Art Nouveau creations

through Oct. 25 @ the FlynnSpace in Burlington: Opus – a play about what happens as a string quartet prepares for their highest profile performance ever, as the group’s personal dynamics create as much tension as there is on any violin’s bridge.

Oct. 25 @ Langdon Street Cafe in Montpelier: local blues man Dave Keller hosts a tribute to blues legend Koko Taylor

through Oct. 29 @ Club Metronome, Burlington: New Orleans’ own trombone funk band, Bonerama as the artists-in residence Thursday evenings through October

Oct. 30 @ the Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College: the Ying Quartet in the final concert of their weeklong residency

all month (October) long @ the Black Door, Montpelier: pick a night, any night

Nov. 1 on the Flynn Main Stage: the extraordinary jazz/blues singer Dee Dee Bridgewater in a tribute program to Billie Holiday

Oct. 13-Nov. 25 @ the Fleming Museum: (exhibit) Cuban Artists’ Books and Prints, 1985-2008

the whole season at Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph: especially noting pianist Simone Dinnerstein’s Vermont return with an all-Bach program on January 23


July 19, 2009
7/18/09 - Leonard Solomon and the Majestic Bellowphone

7/18/09 - Leonard Solomon and the Majestic Bellowphone

The notice in Seven Days asked, in bold-faced type: “What the hell is a bellowphone?”

No explanation was needed; the notice included a photo of the improbable instrument. It’s a one-man band with horns, pipes, whistles, and a giant foot pedal that pushes air through the whole thing. I confess, I’d go a long way out of my way to see a one-man band setup, I just love them. The more tools, gadgets, levers and stops, the better! (Don’t even get me started on the ones with the wasboards and clap cymbals…)

The creator and performer of the Bellowphone is Leonard Solomon, who visited Montpelier’s Langdon Street Café last night as part of the venue’s 3-day “Vaudeville weekend”. (Must also mention the wonderful puppet show that preceded the Bellowphone performance; “Punch and Judy meet the Jolly Banker”. Moral of the story: when puppets take out hefty home equity loans there can be no winners. Not even the clueless, automaton jolly bankers.)

So, back to the Bellowphone – does it really bellow? Not really. It’s quite musical, honking and whistling in tune as it whimsically ripped through classical barn-burners like the Brahms Hungarian Dance #5, Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever march, and an inspired Rossini medley.  The namesake ‘bellow’ actually refers to the giant wood footpedal, which depresses a large dimpled red ball of the kind you often see on playgrounds to blow air through the instrument (see picture below). Red dodgeballs also make a perfect bellow, it turns out, though it would take an inventive mind like Solomon’s to find a way to musically employ that realization. The Majestic Bellowphone makes a lot of music, and Solomon’s animated, deadpan delivery makes it great visual entertainment as well. He knows it’s silly. Of course it’s silly. Why not make the most of it visually and aurally?

There were other instruments as well, all equally unusual and musical, and all of Solomon’s own design and creation. A crowd favorite was a sort of portative pipe organ – TWO red ball foot pedals on that one… – he alternately called the “fortepianocalliophone”, or the “fortecalliopianophone”. It proved to be the perfect voice for a hilarious, reduced version of Suppe’s Light Cavalry Overture.

Solomon’s talents also extend to more conventional instruments: he played the house piano in a version of the Maple Leaf Rag, and pulled out the guitar for accompaniment as he sang soulful renditions of St. James Infirmary and Pamela Brown. The evening’s entertainment was made complete with the juggling and close-up magic that fill out the rest of Solomon’s variety show. (Gee, what’s it feel like to have talent, anyway?)

But the star was the Bellowphone, looming at the edge of the stage like a giant piped sentry watching over the rest of the show when it wasn’t being used.

%d bloggers like this: