Random acts

Of note

Sweet release: Local metal group Unscathed recently released Under the Sun, their much anticipated debut. The album, produced by Swift’s Jamie King, was originally slated for release in mid-February. For more information, visit www.unscathed.net.

Gettin’ greasy … live: Local old-time/bluegrass act The Greasy Beans recently announced plans to release a new live CD sometime in June. The group is currently compiling tracks for the as-yet-unnamed album. For more information, visit www.greasybeans.com.

Still jammin’ … Benjammin’, that is: Local folk musician Benjammin’ has announced plans to release a new CD sometime this summer. Current title: Shining From Inside. Info: www.bjbmusic.com.

Front-row reviews

What: The Taken Back Trio w/Sharon LaMotte

Where: Akumi

When: Saturday, May 17

It’s an odd idea, really: Akumi, the Japanese restaurant on Wall Street, houses an urban-jazz lounge. The look is upscale, if compositionally cluttered, morphing from red silk and black lacquer to exposed wood and a ceiling of flat black. And the crowd is typically dressed to match the swank.

Of course, there aren’t too many of them yet on music nights. Akumi is new, after all, and relatively expensive to be a hang out.

And were it not for my night’s entertainment, I’d have been hard-pressed to have stuck around long myself.

On stage was a stripped-down version of The Taken Back Quartet, temporarily dubbed The Taken Back Trio (sax man Phillip Whack was missing from the lineup). And they were blazing it up much harder than I — or any of the patrons — had any right to expect.

This jazz felt real — and in a town where the term has come to mean loose-fitting lounge standards punctuated by the occasional half-reaching solo, it was refreshing to hear an act actually take a few risks.

You will hear that happening from time to time from edgy Lexington Avenue groups and at unassuming house parties in Cheap and Shallow Heights — but rarely does it go on in more upscale venues. Few such clubs are probably looking for musicians like those in Taken Back, who can deconstruct a melody down to a nearly unidentifiable strand of fragments, and then — mere seconds later — bring it all back together.

And with power, too.

Guitarist Sam Macy frequently took the role of shepherding the melody, while drummer Taylor Davis set about breaking down and subsequently rebuilding the rhythm. Bassist Mike Holstein engineered some of the show’s more surprising moments, favoring his instrument’s high end to produce some unusually satisfying solos.

More importantly, however, there were moments where almost nothing happened — just a hint or mere scrap of sound, and a brief allusion to the melody’s existence.

And that’s a very risky thing to pull off.

Done right, it can turn off the passive listener — those audience members often found in urban-jazz lounges, where they’re more concerned with looking, rather than hearing, cool.

Under the radar (demo reviews)

Torque

Torque’s demo has all the verve of an oppressive late-night fog rolling through an abandoned church cemetery.

In all fairness, this no-vocals, goth-metal duo does mix it up from time to time, changing the tempo for a few bars and fiddling with melody on occasion. And guitarist James Padgett and drummer Michael Meredith seem to be operating off real chemistry.

Unfortunately, they’re also prone to excessive musical meandering — and none of these excursions ends up far enough outside the cemetery to make the music really work.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

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