Composer/lyricist Ari Shagal calls herself "the secret freak offspring of Todd Rundgren and Laura Nyro." As befits an obvious eccentric, who also counts Donald Fagen of Steely Dan as a major influence, Ari knew that the best medium for such an off-the-beaten-path artistic vision would need to include the best possible musicians, and thus was born the Summarily Dismissed. Navigating her way through the New York music world, Ari was fortunate to find Ferima Faye, an extraordinary young jazz/pop soprano, and Matthew Lomeo, a soulful, bluesy baritone hailing from Utica. With this tag-team of vocalists in front of the microphones, and with Ari holding down keyboard duties and backing vocals, the band is rounded out by guitarist/co-producer Joe Davi, drummer Eric Halvorson, and a rotating cast of local jazz nerds, erm, top-notch musicians. You want sophisticated music, wacky lyrics, and an off-kilter stage presence filled with humor? Get Dismissed!
Ari Shagal-- composer, lyricist, keyboardist, vocalist.
Ferima Faye-- vocalist.
Matt Lomeo-- vocalist.
Joe Davi-- guitarist.
Pat O'Leary-- bassist.
Eric Halvorson-- drummer.
Various others-- horns, percussion, strings, backing vocals, etc.
Check out our brand-new album "To Each!", released in November 2010.
Elbo Room, 10/23/04
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Ari Lauren at the Elbo Room, 10/23/04 by Philip Vickey It is human nature to categorize eve...Ari Lauren at the Elbo Room, 10/23/04
by Philip Vickey
It is human nature to categorize everything we experience; the books we read, the films we watch, and certainly the music we listen to. Without even thinking about it, once we hear the music of a certain artist, we expect that artist to endlessly retread that same path, unwaveringly meeting our expectations and allowing us to pin a genre label on him or her. It is for this reason that composer/performer Ari Lauren greatly surprises us. Her performance this past Saturday at the Elbo Room displayed her versatility.
Standing at 5’3” (“and a very proud half,” so she asserts,) with a torrent of raven hair, Ms. Lauren could best be described as a human fireball, with captivating energy that invariably garners a strong reaction from the audience the minute she takes the stage in her trademark pinstripe suit. Gliding through the blue grooves of her sassy composition “Talk All You Want” and its slower, smokier neighbor “Through the Wringer,” she brought to mind the soulful smoothness of Bill Withers and Boz Scaggs, with a bit of Alicia Keys’s assertive sultriness thrown in for good measure. Imagine, then, the contrast that Ms. Lauren introduced as she tore into “Why Couldn’t It Have Been Me,” an up-tempo snappy tune that called to mind the vocabulary acrobatics of Cole Porter and the droll wit of Noel Coward (a sample line: “It makes a comical anecdote / Drawn from a place and a time remote / She was the one who picked your last wild oat / But why couldn’t it have been me?”)
As effortlessly as she swung from sultry to comedic, Ms. Lauren plunged into the realm of the serious with an intense cover of Laura Nyro’s “Poverty Train.” Ms. Nyro, an obvious musical forebear, composed a powerful dirge about urban destitution, and Ms. Lauren conveyed the gritty sentiment of the text in full. It was a particular thrill to hear the quiet force of Ms. Lauren’s voice as she held a low E-flat for what must have been an entire minute near the song’s conclusion.
Never content to let an audience settle in, Ms. Lauren threw another curve ball, contrasting the somberness of “Poverty Train” with the barrelhouse swagger of “Jersey Babes” (described by Ms. Lauren as “My own personal anthem to the state I’ll always call my homeland.”) Without a band, Ms. Lauren vocally imitated a trombone solo in the middle of the song, adding to the humorous vibe.
Next up was a cover of Todd Rundgren’s Kurt Weill-esque “Zen Archer,” which Ms. Lauren carried off in a dark, enigmatic fashion reminiscent of Marlene Dietrich; as sultry as the opening numbers, but with a mysterious and uneasy edge. Rundgren’s lyrics are somewhat ambiguous in this song—whether the text is about a bird, a serial killer, or conflicts between nations is hard to say—but Ms. Lauren sang it convincingly, as if certain of the meaning of every word.
Continuing in a somewhat theatrical vein, Ari Lauren performed yet another song from her own bag of tricks, “Imaginary-Numbered Muses,” a paean to artists of all media. The breezy music, somewhat similar to Tin Pan Alley standards such as Harold Arlen’s “Get Happy,” is well-matched to the tongue-twisting wordplay. Only a composer as eclectic as Ms. Lauren could possibly convey the idea of artistic struggle in such an optimistic context.
Concluding the set was a pair of songs that Ms. Lauren described as “two sides of the same coin.” The first, “Shade-Walking,” was a plaintive, introspective song in a straight-ahead jazz context, melancholy in sentiment. Full of watercolor chord changes and nearly poetic yet conversational lyrics, the song embodied isolation and sadness accurately. Ms. Lauren’s shimmering piano solo in the middle helped to reinforce the point. Answering the solitude of “Shade-Walking” was the grand finale, “Apogee.” Rousing, triumphant, and bearing the influence of gospel music and classic R&B, “Apogee” is a rallying anthem to anyone who experiences the sentiment expressed in “Shade-Walking.”
Ari Lauren has expressed interest in forming a band; “Being a solo artist is limiting, in terms of both instrumentation and perception,” she says. “I don’t want to be miscategorized as some ‘chick-singer,’ wearing her heart on her sleeve, writing soul-baring, maudlin diary entry songs. I have a million orchestrational ideas up my sleeve, all that I’ve learned from Debussy and Ravel and [jazz arranger] Gil Evans.” When asked what her aspirations are, she replies, “I’d love to be the next Donald Fagen [of Steely Dan.] He is a rare musician who has achieved popularity while remaining true to his artistry. I would love to do exactly that.” With the eclectic mix of songs presented at the Elbo Room, we can only hope that Ms. Lauren follows through with all her aspirations.
A roughly 40-minute set:
Talk All You Want
Through the Wringer
Why Couldn't It Have Been Me?
Tall and Resolute
Lu (Laura Nyro)
The Scrap Heap
Useless Begging (Todd Rundgren)
(all songs are original compositions by Ms. Shagal, except where noted.)
There are no upcoming dates at this time.