Tony Scherr's string of residency gigs at Marion’s Marquee Lounge has caught the attention of the NY Times. Scherr's next solo album, Twist in the Wind C, will be released on Smells Like Records later on this year. In the mean time you can catch his live show every Monday night at Marion’s.
MUSIC REVIEW | TONY SCHERR
Singer-Songwriter’s Soul, the Chops of a Jazzman
By BEN RATLIFF
Published: September 12, 2007
Tony Scherr is principally an electric guitarist, and his style is full of boiled-down facility and squirrelly, transformative ideas. At first it’s clear how much specific knowledge he has learned from jazz and blues and country-music languages. After that it’s clear how much he has willed himself to forget it.
Visually, he’s a singer-songwriter in a bar band, not a jazz musician. But his trio’s set on Monday night — a regular gig at Marion’s Marquee Lounge, on the Bowery, with the bassist Rob Jost and the drummer Anton Fier — included huge amounts of improvisation. Not just flat-out soloing, but also improvising with melody lines and with the form of a song.
Some of Mr. Scherr’s songs started as if in the middle, suggested by a few chords and a scrap of a lyric; some seemed chopped off after a chorus or two. Singer-songwriters usually don’t treat their babies this way.
He has played with Willie Nelson on and off, as well as with Bill Frisell and Norah Jones, and, a much longer time ago, jazz bandleaders like Woody Herman and Dakota Staton. Mr. Nelson comes through with special clarity as an influence, especially in the phrasing Mr. Scherr uses to make a pinched, fairly average voice worth listening to.
But his guitar playing has a lot more than that. Mr. Scherr plays on a big scale, from delicate strings of passing chords to blaring, splintery rackets. It’s all dramatic and quite beautiful, and the group breathes together. Like the best late-1960s power trios in rock, it has a constant flexibility, with everyone free to add fills as they want, or leave space open.
The overriding theme in his songs — and those by others, like Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me” (done at a crawl) or Fleetwood Mac’s “Over & Over” — is deep loneliness, being on the losing end of a communication breakdown. And this sense of isolation somehow carried through to the whole band’s performance: it was a kind of tunnel-vision session, a deep and rambling dream. (Dreams figure into Mr. Scherr’s songs a lot too.)
His sets usually run to two hours, a stretch for a small band in a small club. But the music never grows dispiriting: it’s a coherent and invigorating two hours, suggesting much about how seemingly disparate pieces of American music can be recombined.
The Tony Scherr Trio plays every Monday at Marion’s Marquee Lounge, 354 Bowery, between Great Jones and East Fourth Streets, East Village;