On Stage: No need to ‘Cringe’ at this act

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times


There are times when fans head to a show to see one of their favorites as headliner and cringe if they have to sit through an opening act.

When fans head to The Keswick Theater (291 N. Keswick Avenue, Glenside, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com) on April 23 to attend Tesla’s “Shock USA Tour,” I they get there early, they’ll see The Cringe and have smiles on their faces.

The Cringe is a New York-based rock quartet. In addition to group founder — singer and songwriter John Cusimano – the band features three top-flight musicians with impressive credentials — lead guitarist James Rotondi (ex-Air, Mr. Bungle), bassist Jonny Blaze (ex-Crash Moderns) and drummer Shawn Pelton (Saturday Night Live Band, Bruce Springsteen).

The band has released six studio albums including “Scratch The Surface,” “Tipping Point” and “Play Thing.” On April 19, The Cringe released its latest album – “Everywhere You’ve Never Been.”

“Our first album came out in 2004 but I’ve had the name as a project ever since I was in high school,” said Cusimano during a phone interview last week from his home in Lake George, New York

“It was original, quirky punk rock. Eventually, I wrote enough songs that I could start gigging. I had different people that I played with.

“When I was in the studio for the first album, the engineer recommended Shawn Pelton and then Shawn introduced me to Roto (Rotondi). Then, Blaze joined the group. The four of us have been together since 2008.”

“Everywhere You’ve Never Been” is the band’s first album in several years and it rocks hard.

Cusimano, who is also a lawyer, has residences with his wife – TV celebrity chef Rachael Ray – in both Lake George and New York City.

“Rachael is from the Lake George area so we decided to get a place up here in addition to our place in the city,” said Cusimano. “I have a great studio above my garage.

“We recorded our last three albums there. We also record in New York City. We did the vocals at NightBird Studios, which is located in the basement of the Sunset Marquis Hotel in L.A. It’s a great studio for overdubs and vocals.

“The majority of work was done at Power Station, which was originally called Power Station and then became Avatar before it switched back to Power Station. It’s one of the most classic-sounding live room studios in the world.

“We got great drum sounds in my studio with Don Gibson, a great producer who has worked with bands like Linkin Park.

“We worked with Don on our last album. The process with him is very organic. The big thing — at the end of the day, it sounds like a modern rock record and it’s cohesive.”

“Everywhere You’ve Never Been” features 13 unique tracks, each inspired by a different city from the band’s travels. Without straying away from the band’s familiar rock roots, this album manages to tap into some new and exciting sounds and moods not previously captured on past albums.

“I didn’t set out to write an album about cities,” said Cusimano. “As I was writing songs, I realized the songs were inspired by cities we’ve played.”
Notable cuts include “Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em,” which was co-written and features guest vocals by Austin legend, Bob Schneider.

“I was in a writing group with Bob called ‘The Song Game,’” said Cusimano. “There was a group of 20 songwriters. Every week, we’d be given a phrase or a word and we’d have to write a song using it.”

Video link for The Cringe – https://youtu.be/Hm5jLerJ10g.

The show at The Keswick Theater, which has Tesla as the headliner, will start at 8 p.m. Ticket prices range from $38.50-$74.50.

Heart Of The Ghost

On April 23, Heart Of The Ghost and MJ/Engle/Capecchi Trio will share the bill at a “Fire Museum Presents” concert at Martha (2113 East York Street, Philadelphia, http://firemuseumpresents.com).

Heart Of The Ghost is a trio featuring alto saxophonist Jarrett Gilgore, bassist Luke Stewart, and percussionist Ian McColm.

The group has been billed as “something of a trinity of the finest free jazz improvisers in the region” with “performances that feel like a kind of séance, with the trio locked into a musical conversation with one another.”

“We’ve been together for a few years,” said Gilgore. “Our first performance was in March 2016.”

Gilgore is both a player and a student of jazz saxophone.

Jarrett Gilgore

“I received a grant through Johns Hopkins University to study the jazz of Jimmy Lyons,” said Gilgore.

Lyons, who passed away in 1986, was an alto saxophone player best known for his long tenure in the Cecil Taylor Unit. Taylor never worked with another musician as frequently as he did with Lyons. Lyons’ playing, which was influenced by Charlie Parker, kept Taylor’s avant-garde music tethered to the jazz tradition.

“The work I did on the grant involved a pretty extensive transcription of Jimmy Lyons’ compositions and improvisations,” said Gilgore, who grew up in Doylestown and attended Central Bucks West High School.

“It was a way for me to better my understanding of Jimmy Lyons’ music. He’s always been a big influence of me improvisationally.

“The nature of improv is all about turning off that relentless critic in your mind. You’re just in it.

“When I was 12 or 13, I really got into improvisation. When I was 14, I listened to Cecil Taylor’s ‘Conquistador’ album. That was the first time I heard Jimmy Lyons and it was a mixture  of intimidation and attraction. To hear free jazz was a liberating thing for me. Ornette Coleman was really the bridge for me.”

Gilgore’s appreciation of jazz music started when he was very young.

“My father and grandfather are jazz aficionados,” said Gilmore. “I grew up hearing the music of Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock on sax along with McCoy Tyner on piano. I started piano lessons when I was 7 and sax lessons when I was nine. I was also playing drums at the same time. Ever since I was really young, I was always in to improvisation.”

His love of jazz and improv led him to getting a degree from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, a permanent move to Baltimore in 2011 and a hookup with Stewart and McColm in Heart of the Ghost.

“We’re now on tour in support of our second album,” said Gilgore, who has performed/recorded with Tony Malaby, Susan Alcorn, Jaimie Branch, Lonnie Holley, Laraaji, Michael Formanek,  Dan Deacon Ensemble, Anna & Elizabeth, Cass McCombs, Wildhoney, and Rubblebucket.

“It’s called ‘Heart of the Ghost II’ and it’s out on Dagoretti Records.”

The “Heart of the Ghost II” album was recorded and mixed by Craig Bowen at Tempo House in Baltimore on June 12 and 13, 2018. It was released on Dagoretti Records on March 24, 2019.

Video link for Jarret Gilgore — https://youtu.be/E2p8a9xxKaM.

The show at Martha, which also features MJ/Engle/Capecchi Trio, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are free with donations appreciated.

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