Music News & Reviews

Walter Tunis: This time, Tim Daisy is the drummer without the band

Jazz percussionist Tim Daisy has been a familiar face in Lexington's Outside the Spotlight Series.
Jazz percussionist Tim Daisy has been a familiar face in Lexington's Outside the Spotlight Series.

Tim Daisy

7 p.m. July 7 at Griffin's Modern Motel, 199 Loudon Ave. $5.

To heavily paraphrase an old cliché and place it in the context of Lexington's long-running Outside the Spotlight Series, an artist's sense of invention can often be judged by the company he keeps.

Through OTS's 11-year run of jazz and improvised music performances, no one has epitomized that philosophy more than Tim Daisy. It has been reflected not only in the frequency of concerts that the Chicago drummer has given in Lexington but through the variety of band performance settings he has played in.

Since subbing for an ailing Paal Nilssen Love at a show by the Free Music Ensemble at the Downtown Arts Center in November 2002, Daisy has played locally in duo settings (separately with saxophonists Ken Vandermark and Dave Rempis), trios (Triage and the sublime Dragons 1976), various celebrated combos (the landmark Vandermark 5, the classically modernist-slanted Klang), and his own groups (the most recent being Vox Arcana).

As varied as all of these projects have been, they share a common link: a group sense of collaboration. For his return performance this weekend, however, even that shared sensibility will vanish. On Sunday at Griffin's Modern Motel, Daisy will be on his own. There will be no bandmates and no collaborators — just Daisy, a drum kit, a marimba, assorted percussive devices and a bucketful of ingenuity.

"It's the most challenging way to improvise," Daisy said from his home in Chicago last weekend before embarking on his first-ever solo percussion tour. "One of the beauties of pure improvisation comes when you're playing with others and bouncing ideas off of each other. Here, that's obviously not going to happen. So I end up thinking a lot about pacing and about not rushing through ideas.

"I've done about four or five solo concerts in Chicago. And each time I've done it, I've felt I'm getting a little bit stronger in relation to how I base the material I play. At the first solo show I ever did, which was a few years back, I went through all these ideas and thought I had been playing about 40 minutes. It had only been 10. So I'm learning to pace my ideas. In effect, it has really helped make me a much stronger improviser. Typically, when I come back into a situation and play with other people, I feel that I've formed some new ideas and I have some stronger vocabulary to bring into other ensembles. It's very challenging for me and something that I really love to do."

Don't expect Daisy to stay out on his own for long, though. He will be back in Chicago by mid-month to celebrate the release of a new recording with bass clarinetist Jason Stein before traveling to California for a series of shows with Kyle Bruckmann's Wrack. Then in September, Daisy heads to Berlin to record with Norwegian pianist Havard Wiik and Australian bassist Clayton Thomas.

"A career is often up and down," Daisy said. "But right now it's up. It's good to be working and doing things you care about."

Americanarama time

In recent decades, Bob Dylan has shared concert bills with high-profile co-horts Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Elvis Costello and Joni Mitchell.

The heralded songsmith will showcase one of his most masterful lineups for a stop Saturday with the Americanarama Festival at Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati. The celebrated co-headliners will be the mighty Wilco, the Louisville band My Morning Jacket and veteran British guitarist/songsmith Richard Thompson. (5:30 p.m. $26.50-$76.50. Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or


Kim Richey at Natasha's Bistro: Sometimes you can design a vividly detailed description of a song, tell it with conversational ease and still not convey the full emotive beauty of the music.

It can happen, in fact, even to a master songsmith like Kim Richey. Last weekend, near the start of an inviting trio performance at Natasha's, the Ohio native and longtime Nashvillian offered a visual back story before The Circus Song (Can't Let Go), a delight of a tune from her 2002 album, Rise. It centered around a co-writer with an arm-length tattoo of a clown getting mauled by a lion. The illustration even came with its own title: Bad Day at the Circus. It was the sort of quirky, macabre remembrance one would expect from Lyle Lovett.

Yet the resulting music, painted with light shades of keyboards from Dan Mitchell and equally sparse percussion fills from Neilson Hubbard (who doubled on bass during the program and tripled offstage as the producer of Richey's two most recent albums) kept quiet pace with the almost stoic vocal delivery to recall the finer music of Suzanne Vega. It was here where the song's truly dark carnival spirits lurked.

Elsewhere, this fine 75-minute set drew from three prime sources. The first was an expert catalogue of songs, which extended from folkish revisions of the largely country material from Richey's self-titled 1995 debut album (highlighted by These Words We Said and Just My Luck) to the more Americana slant of works off her newly released album, Thorn in My Side (especially the light country anguish of the title tune and Come On).

The second was the trio format, which gave an open and atmospheric slant to the music — an attribute capitalized on when Mitchell switched to flugelhorn for the elegantly weary London Town).

Capping it all was Richey's extraordinary singing. Youthful and exuberant at times, schooled and worldly at others, her voice was effortlessly clear but boundlessly expressive throughout the show. A beautiful case in point: Reel Me In (another Rise song), which Richey colored with torchy shades of luscious blues cool. It was enough to make this summer evening feel downright autumnal.