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House of Tudor 

Wednesday, Jun 10 1998
Chances are anyone who has stepped into a New York jazz club in the past 35 years has felt a tingle created by Olu Dara, the dapper don of the cornet. His arrival in NYC in the mid-'70s harmonized with that of Henry Threadgill, Lester Bowie, Julius Hemphill, and the like, but while his contemporaries chose to lead jazz into inaccessibility, Dara's toes remained firmly planted in the Mississippi mud of his origin. He has appeared on more than 50 albums, lending Art Blakey, Brian Eno, Cassandra Wilson, and many others the earthy ardor that flows from every instrument he touches. Meanwhile, Dara and his Okra Orchestra have been rewarding live club audiences with an oft-unremembered heat, the musical flush that washes over folks crammed together in a smoky basement as they forget where they are and rediscover who they are. Dara's first CD -- In the World: From Matchez to New York -- is a long overdue pleasure. Jazz purists might scoff as Dara wraps his relaxed, dusty tonsils around Louisiana plums; and blues lovers might become befuddled as the Okra Orchestra articulates its ethnicity with swift, sweet infusions of reggae, high life, calypso, and funk; but as Dara's son -- multiplatinum Queensbridge rapper Nas -- rhymes on their brilliant collaboration "Jungle Jay," "From jazz/ Bebop to rapping/ It's all the same thing." Olu Dara should be headlining in this town, but he's opening for Buddy Miles (who played on Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland) at the Boom Boom Room on Wednesday, June 10, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20; call 673-8000.

Guitarist Chica Baby howls about retards, suburban housewives, grades, hangovers, bosses, and other punk rock torments while her bandmates -- drummer Cheeto Finger and bassist Poopie Pants -- chase her down with New York Dolls-style garage riffs and asphalt-flavored surf rhythms. Headed by Kathleen Gregg (aka Chica), the Beautys are one of two bands that rose from the ashes of the 100 percent estrogen Smears. (The other was Sugar Freak.) The Beautys are all about speed, sex, and toys. The boys in the band don't get in the way, they just make Chica play harder. The Beautys perform at the Covered Wagon on Thursday, June 11, with John Cougar Concentration Camp and 440 Six Pack opening at 10:30 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 974-5906.

The King of Manhattan Cool, John Lurie, became a trace ruffled in the mid-'80s when his screen performances in Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise and Down by Law brought him much-deserved publicity. Acting was just a diversion for Lurie. His true darling was, and still is, the somewhat infamous, wholly irreverent, oftentimes ingenious Lounge Lizards -- a mutable nine-piece that has been creating skewed jazz since 1979. Despite his grumbling, though, the connection between the Lizards and movies seems permanent: Lurie gladly received screen time in The Last Temptation of Christ, Wild at Heart, and Blue in the Face, and of the band's 18 recordings, half are film scores. To make matters worse, whenever the Lounge Lizards have had time to release a new studio album (as opposed to their numerous live recordings) a soundtrack has been nipping at their heels. In 1987, it was No Pain for Cakes followed by Down by Law; in 1989, it was Voice of Chunk followed by Mystery Train. Now, in 1998, we have what is possibly the Lizards' most notable -- and perhaps spiritual -- work. Queen of Ears finds Lurie tempering his cartoon antics with touches of African juju rhythm, Gnawan harmony, Burundi drumming, and klezmer noodling. Sadly, few people will be able to regard this work without also considering Fishing With John, the newly released soundtrack that accompanies Lurie's brilliantly absurd fishing show -- hosted, written, and directed by himself -- which is scheduled to debut on the Independent Film Channel on Monday, June 15, at 8:30 p.m., and on Bravo on Friday, June 19, at 11:30 p.m. The first six episodes find Lurie shark fishing with Jim Jarmusch in Montauk, snapper fishing with Tom Waits in Jamaica, snook fishing with Matt Dillon in Costa Rica, ice fishing with Willem Dafoe in Maine, and giant-squid hunting with Dennis Hopper in Thailand (a two-parter). After seeing Fishing With John, it's impossible to separate Lurie's signature sax line from the droll voice of narrator Robb Webb: "These are real men, doing real things." You will be forever haunted by images of Waits getting seasick, Dillon flapping his arms during the sacred fishing dance, Dafoe offering his armpit as an answer to hypothermia, and Hopper all hopped up on pingpong. For the sake of upright music appreciation, check out John Lurie & the Lounge Lizards before the show airs, at the Fillmore on Saturday, June 13, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $25; call 775-7722.

-- Silke Tudor

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Silke Tudor


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