Posts Tagged ‘Rudy Lu’

A Few Minutes With… Crystal Aikin of Proctors’ Gospel Jubilee

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Interview and story by Don Wilcock
Photograph of Jubilee Mass Choir by Rudy Lu

The switch from being a night nurse in a Tacoma, Washington hospital to touring gospel singer wasn’t as drastic a transition for Crystal Aikin as she might have thought. “Sometimes you realize in order to heal the natural body, you have to heal the soul and the spiritual man,” says the headliner at Friday’s (April 11) third annual Gospel Jubilee at Proctors in Schenectady. “I definitely miss the (nursing) field. It was definitely challenging to leave, but I also knew there was a wonderful future ahead to change lanes and to actually start healing with singing and finding out that music, as well as medicine, is a powerful medium for healing.”

In December, 2008, Aikin won the grand prize in BET’s “Sunday Best” singing competition. She had already recorded with the Washington-based Soul for Trinity Records, the gospel arm of a record label run by Jimi Hendrix’s sister. But this was the African American gospel equivalent to “American Idol.” “It was a great experience where you’re looking at Kirk Franklin standing next to you, and like my life has changed. Oh, my God. I remember (judges) Be Be Winans and the girls Mary Mary. They were saying my full name, and I said, ‘Wow! If they’re saying my name, people in their homes are saying that.’ It was a huge paradigm shift to just be a girl that is local in Tacoma working in the hospital ER to all of a sudden be the mainstream from BET on the stage such as ‘Sunday Best.’ All of a sudden you’re in everybody’s home on television on Thursday and Sunday nights. So it was a paradigm shift, but I wasn’t even thinking about that at the time. Something I ultimately had to learn was over, but I’m telling you, my heels were shaking.”

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A Few Minutes With… Rudy Lu

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
Rudy Lu

Rudy Lu (photo by Cheri Bordelon)

Interview and story by J Hunter
Photograph of Rudy Lu by Cheri Bordelon
All other photographs by Rudy Lu

To paraphrase CBS-TV’s version of Sherlock Holmes (not to be confused with BBC’s version, “Sherlock” – which is WAY better), I’ve had success in my avocation not by what I’ve done, but by whom I’ve met. I consider myself phenomenally lucky that the photographers who’ve put flesh on my words not only know their way around a camera, but also know the physical and emotional intangibles that cement the connection we feel with music and musicians. Of the many things Rudy Lu gets, he gets that connection. Rudy and I have been working together since 2008, when he shot one of Terence Blanchard’s numerous performances at Skidmore College, and I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve collaborated since then. And not to get too inside-baseball here, but there’s a feeling amongst Nippertown writers that if Rudy’s shooting your show, whatever you do will definitely look real good!

Now, believe it or not, composing a good photograph (from a physical standpoint, anyway) doesn’t take more than a little thought and an understanding of spatial relationships. Trust me: If I can do it, anybody can do it. But to know when that moment happens, and see an element in that moment – a look, an expression, an intensity – that elevates a picture above a snapshot is something that only comes from long experience and an understanding of what’s happening, both to the performer and an audience. Take a picture of a guitarist playing onstage? QED. Take a picture of a guitarist when he’s playing a note that’s so good that it brings the crowd to its feet (and then taking it without your camera flying out of your hands or getting knocked over by a rabid frat boy)? Not so simple. Rudy Lu does it time and time again, and there hasn’t been a set of photos he’s shot for me where there isn’t at least one shot that makes me mutter, “God damn it, why can’t I do that?”

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LIVE: The Chronicles @ the Van Dyck, 3/21/14

Monday, March 31st, 2014
Bryan Brundige, Jeff-Nania and Justin Henricks

Bryan Brundige, Jeff-Nania and Justin Henricks

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu

Okay, let’s review what we “know.” We “know” that the Chronicles are the best party band in Greater Nippertown: Doesn’t matter what the critics say or what the Readers’ Poll says (unless, of course, they agree with what we “know”); it’s just a “fact.” The Chronicles’ last album – the hard-hitting vinyl/digital release Spanning the Gap – was produced by Alan Evans, the engine behind Soulive and its horn-intensive offshoot Lettuce. Put the Chronicles in a club like Red Square or the Hollow Bar + Kitchen and real estate on the dance floor disappears in a heartbeat. The funk is delicious, the horns are killer, and the beat is undeniable. That’s a party band, my friend, and don’t you forget it!

So why were the Chronicles playing the upstairs concert space at the Van Dyck? I mean, you can’t dance in front of the stage unless you’re really, really, really skinny! Besides, even though the McDonalds have booked many different types of bands since taking over the place a few years ago, the Van Dyck will be known as a jazz club now and forever, Bird without end, ay-men! Maybe trombonist/leader Bryan Brundige got cabin fever. Maybe he’s as addicted to the Van Dyck’s pulled pork sliders as I am. The reasons don’t matter, and what we “know” DEFINITELY doesn’t matter. The night was tremendous, and so was the band – THAT’S what matters!

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ArtBeat: Hudson Celebration in Saratoga Springs

Monday, March 31st, 2014
A photgraph of the Clearwater Sloop by Rudy Lu

The Clearwater (photo by Rudy Lu)

Opening Thursday (April 3) at the Niche Gallery in Saratoga Springs is Hudson Celebration, an exhibition featuring fine art photography by Nippertown’s own Rudy Lu as well as artwork by Frances Gaffney, Patricia MacDonald, Matt Chinian and Kitty Trimarco.

The show is a benefit for the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, an organization that works tirelessly to preserve the Hudson River and educate a new generation of environmental leaders.

The opening reception is slated for 5-8pm on Thursday (April 3). The show is up through April 30.

LIVE: Harriet Tubman & Cassandra Wilson Present Black Sun @ The Egg, 3/15/14

Friday, March 21st, 2014
Cassandra Wilson and JT Lewis

Cassandra Wilson and JT Lewis

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu and Andrzej Pilarczyk

I think Cassandra Wilson may be about to record her first punk album.

Let me explain: While Wilson may be known as a jazz vocalist, the esteemed vocalist has never been one of those booming, big-band-backed standard shouters; more often than not, she goes the other way, preferring subtlety in both her vocals and in her background instrumentation. Even on past excursions into the blues of her native Mississippi, acoustic guitar was just as prevalent as electric.

But on Wilson’s latest visit to the Egg’s Swyer Theatre, the core members of a group called Harriet Tubman accompanied her. Check this band’s videos out on YouTube if you want a hair-raising experience – one completely in line with players whose resumes include out-there artists like Henry Threadgill, D.J. Logic, Living Colour and the Rollins Band. Tubman’s semi-free-form fusion is about as far from Wilson’s primary work product as Albany is from Alpha Centauri. But as bassist Melvin Gibbs told us in his introductory remarks, the “different kind of energy” Wilson & Tubman create together as Black Sun is what Wilson wanted when this partnership was formed.

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LIVE: Alexis P. Suter Band @ WAMC-FM’s The Linda, 3/7/14

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014
Alexis P. Suter

Alexis P. Suter

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu

“The soundman said, ‘Can your voice go lower than mine?’” Alexis P. Suter told the totally rapt crowd at The Linda in Albany. Then she did something truly amazing: She lowered her voice! “I don’t know… Maybe?”

You have to understand: This Brooklyn-born blueswoman wields a bass/baritone that would send most opera singers scurrying into the nearest corner so they could cower better. You can’t compare Suter to contemporaries like Shemekia Copeland or Katie Webster, and even the late great Koko Taylor couldn’t match Suter’s lower range. The closest comparison would be to John Lee Hooker, another long-gone blues legend. But you pair up that range with the muscle-car power and unyielding control Suter puts behind her vocals, and the results are so unbelievably good, you just have to hold your head.

With her big top hat and all-black Moshood Creations outfit, Suter resembled an executioner as she slowly stepped onstage after her band’s opening instrumental number. The temptation to say she slayed us with her towering version of “Didn’t It Rain” is way too huge, but the fact is that anyone who hadn’t been exposed to the combination of Suter’s singular vocals and her death-defying back-up band got nailed to the wall like a butterfly in an entomologist’s lab. I know my jaw was on the floor during Suter’s awesome re-telling of The Flood, and it stayed there for most of the first four numbers.

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LIVE: Line of Swords @ Proctors’ GE Theatre, 2/21/14

Monday, March 3rd, 2014
Line of Swords

Line of Swords

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu

One look at Line of Swords’ personnel and you knew the first night of Proctors’ “Party Horns NYC” series was going to be next-level. What nobody could have expected was the near-relentless, utterly mind-blowing assault on both the ears and the senses of the audience. If these horns were playing a “party,” then somebody spiked the punch with a few tabs of Owsley’s finest.

It all started innocently (and curiously) enough when trombonist/leader Josh Roseman put his ‘bone to his mouth, obviously preparing to blow us away. Instead, we got lots of hiss, lots of air, and a faraway sound that might have been a horn. Roseman continued playing in the clear, bopping to the beat in his head, offering a meditation in breath as he filled the space with organic “static” that could have easily fit into a Radiohead tune. What wouldn’t have fit was the explosion of sound that finally came from guitarist Ben Monder and drummer Rudy Royston, with Monder ripping up his instrument’s bottom end, while Royston just ripped it up.

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LIVE: A Celebration of the Life & Legacy of Pete Seeger @ The Falcon, 2/22/14

Monday, February 24th, 2014
Bethany Yarrow and Happy Traum

Bethany Yarrow and Happy Traum

Review and photographs by Rudy Lu

The little Hudson Valley hamlet of Marlboro doubled in size last Saturday night (February 22), when the Falcon hosted “A Celebration of the Life & Legacy of Pete Seeger.” Performers and audience from near and far flocked to “the Village Vanguard” of the Hudson Valley to celebrate Pete Seeger’s life in song and joy. People parked as far away as a half mile away for the event.

Pete was there in spirit and voice. Recordings of Pete telling stories of his life and family – as recorded by producer/musician Jeff Haynes – were played in between songs.

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