Caught a nice little show last night here in NYC at Tonic in the Lower East Side. Tin Hat Trio - acoustic guitar, accordion and violin trio playing instrumental, East European-flavored melodies. If klezmer is Jewish jazz, perhaps this was Jewish bluegrass. Mellow, textured, occasionally very intense and altogether unique music that was perfect for Tonic.

Although I am biased, it is shows like this one that make me realize how much New York is the center of the musical universe. Yes, because every band that plays live makes its way through Gotham at some point, but also because of the singular musical experiences that rise up from within the city limits. Whereas certain types of music are bred in cities, regions or countries (Delta Blues, Southern rock, British pop, New Orleans brass band, etc) the vitality of the city allows styles to vary from neighborhood to neighborhood or even from club to club. Tonic is a great example of this: it just breathes this certain air that combines the old-world immigrants that populated the Lower East Side "back when" and the new "hipster" boutique-frequenting youth that is taking over now. There is a certain type of music which just oozes from its walls and Tin Hat Trio was a band that was just made for the room. (Tonic is an old kosher winery; you can hang out in gigantic wine casks in the downstairs lounge.) That being said, it looks like Tin Hat Trio is playing a few other cities in the near future.

The crux of the Tin Hat sound was the guitar player, Mark Orton, who deftly handled the absence of drums and bass by keeping all the rhythm, filling in the low end all while taking his share of the soloing. He also played a very nice Dobro on a couple of tunes. Coincidentally, Orton wrote the score for The Good Girl, a move I saw on DVD recently and remarked about the tastefulness of the soundtrack. According to his bio, he plays a bunch of other instruments which were not on display last night.

He sat in the middle with the other two players standing on either side making him a literal hub through which the music flowed. The accordion and violin combo both complemented each other and often overlapped each other in continuously interesting ways. Vague themes would ebb between the two and took on particular emphasis when the two would join together playing the same notes on top of each other.

All around good evening, albeit short (with encore they barely reached an hour of playing time). Mellow, a bit moody and introspective - definitely recommended.

Aaron Stein
JamBase | New York
Go See Live Music!


[Published on: 2/21/03]

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