Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Kenny White and Holly Palmer Live at Genghis Cohen

What is it with L.A. traffic? Last week it took 2.5 hours to get into Hollywood. Tonight it took less than an hour. Luckily, I had a plan. With some time to kill, I went to Amoeba Records and picked up Jellyfish’s “Bellybutton” and the Young Dubliners’ “Real World”. It was the first time I’ve ever walked out of there for under $25. Actually, it was the first time I’ve ever walked out of there for under $100 I believe.

Genghis Cohen’s is a cool little restaurant, just down the street from Largo on Melrose and Fairfax. The food smells good. Someday I’ll actually give it a try. The room off to the side where the music’s at is a bit like a church with benches (sort of like pews) and small tables in front of them. You can actually order from the menu and they will bring your food to you. I’d guess the room holds all of 60 people; and it was pretty packed tonight. This was in sharp contrast to Kenny’s last visit. On that night he picked not only the night of the season finale of the Soprano’s but it also a Laker playoff night (that probably won’t happen again any time soon). I was one of 9 people who showed up for that show.

Kenny did about 50 minutes playing songs mainly from his current CD, Symphony in 16 Bars, with a couple from his first CD and one or two unreleased songs. Most of the songs were performed on piano, with Kenny moving over to acoustic guitar for a few before finishing off big on piano with a couple of songs including “My Recurring Dream”, a crowd favorite. I know I’ve said this a million times but… When you go to a Kenny White show, what you get is great piano playing, good songwriting and lyrics so good they remind me of Elvis Costello at his best. Hmmm, this is the first time I’ve made that comparison. I think I like it. Elvis has lots of great one-liners in his songs and so does Kenny. But Kenny’s are more personal, more confessional. There is less anger and more insight. Therapy has been good to him and his songwriting.

There seems to be this movement of singer/songwriters doing folk/jazz based music. Julian Coryell has been moving into it but Kenny has been doing it for several years. If Kenny White is the Torchbearer of this style of music (I know, I’m being a bit over dramatic here), then Holly Palmer is the torch. What you really notice about Holly is her need to take risks. Every song is an adventure. In fact, Kenny told me after the show that this was the first time the two of them have played together as just a duo (Kenny on keyboards and Holly on electric guitar). You could tell they were really playing off of each other; sometimes they missed and everyone laughed. This appears to be something that you might expect at one of her concerts. Holly has no problem finding ways to make you laugh. Sometimes it is as simple (and daring) as the willful withholding of a note. Other times she uses gestures and her eyes to get you to laugh. And you never know what is going to come out of her mouth. At times she is almost talking and then she is singing in someone else’s voice and then this beautiful powerful note seems to come from nowhere and takes over the room. It was amazing watching her walk that tightrope.

One of the signs of a great artist is their ability to sing someone else’s music and make it there own. Holly did that every time. Her version of “Crazy” showed off her vocal abilities without coming off like a Patsy Cline wannabe. As you can see, I was really impressed with her. Listening to her CD “I Confess” on the way home, I could hear how she changed and played with so many of the songs. The CD doesn’t begin to explain just how good she is in concert, but it is a good start.

Holly can be found at www.hollypalmer.com and Kenny can be found at www.kennywhite.net.

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