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  • Live Review: Petra Haden & Woody Jackson - Largo - Los Angeles, CA

    Mon, 20 Oct 2008 11:09:33

    Live Review: Petra Haden & Woody Jackson - Largo - Los Angeles, CA - The celebrated accompanist takes center stage

    She’s played violin for some of the biggest names in rock (Beck, Foo Fighters, Green Day) and was a member of hipster faves The Decemberists for a brief period, but Petra Haden remains an unknown entity for most music fans. Little in her 2008 output is apt to change that—and that seems just fine by Haden, a brilliant vocalist who is most assuredly following her own path.

    Haden has recently figured prominently on three albums for your consideration. Most accessible? That’d be alongside her singing siblings and her father, acclaimed jazz bassist Charlie Haden, on his new album Rambling Boy. Least accessible? Probably Hearts and Daggers, her avant-garde collaboration with accordion-wielding Miss Murgatroid. The honor of “best” belongs to Ten Years, a beguiling collection of songs with composer and multi-instrumentalist Woody Jackson. True to the title, it’s been in the works for a decade. Such was the built-up anticipation that their show at Largo was jokingly referred to as a “wedding reception.” Despite a cozy and hospitable audience—which included Jonah Hill, Jason Segel and Jack Black (Haden’s brother-in-law)—both performers admitted their nerves.

    Nerves were understandable. Not only is it challenging music to perform—particularly for Haden and her two supporting singers—but it requires investment from the audience as well. Jackson’s forte is moody minimalism. He builds a tune on a skeletal riff or rhythm, using instruments that look fabricated on the spot or pulled out of an archeological dig; his studio has been referred to as a “musical museum” and Haden, for her part, played a brass violin whenever she wasn’t busy humming, cooing, harmonizing, buzzing and belting. Anyone who’s heard her riveting a cappella versions of “God Only Knows” or the entirety of The Who Sell Out will already know of her command of her instrument. With Jackson, she takes her versatile voice off the beaten path—away from pop hooks and often away from the English language altogether.

    What may sound like indulgent artifice on paper is made to sound captivating and organic in person. And indulgent, too, sure. Liberated by their many other gigs, they don’t have to rely on Ten Years to pay their mortgages. To further secure the evening’s arthouse cred, filmmaker Vincent Gallo emerged from the wings to sing a couple duets (his own “So Sad” and—why not?—“Moon River”).

    —Adam McKibbin

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