Published: June 7, 2002 (Issue # 775)
Johnny Dowd, the U.S. country-blues singer who plays at Red Club on Saturday, is much anticipated on the local music scene. His work has been compared to Captain Beefheart, Tom Waits and David Lynch's films noir, while there is also talk about his remarkable authenticity.
The 54-year-old Dowd started quite late - he bought his first guitar at 30 and released his first album when he was 49.
His dark songs deal with death, murder and love gone awry, and evoke a wide range of emotions - from laughter to horror. "Funny, scary, and ultimately, highly entertaining," goes one review. "Sick, twisted ... and genuinely horrifying," goes another.
However, the Texas-born, New York-based Dowd - who has spent the "last 20 years or so as a furniture mover, singer and band leader," according to his autobiography - says that he does not quite live up to public expectations.
"People have been disappointed that I'm not a mass murderer or something," he said to The Irish Times last year. "I'd be a more interesting person if I'd killed a few people."
In concert, Dowd, who sings and plays electric guitar, will be backed by vocalist Kim Sherwood-Caso - a former hair-salon owner - and a rhythm section.
Dowd's most recent, third album, "Temporary Shelter," was released on the Koch label last year. Examples of Dowd's songs can be found at www.johnnydowd.com.
Also this week, the three-day Nu-Jazz Festival will start at the par.spb club on Friday.
Nu-Jazz is a style that blends jazz, funk, electronic dance music and free improvization. "Nu-Jazz is to [traditional] jazz what punk or grunge was to rock," according to www.jazzreview.com. "It makes jazz fun again."
The festival features live acts and DJs, and is headlined by the Nathan Haines Band. Haines is a New Zealander, who made a stir in his home country with his innovative band, Jazz Committee, but is now based in London and records with the likes of drum n' bass pioneer Goldie and the Metalheadz crew.
Other live acts include Estonia's Holmes, Moscow's Moscow Groove Institute and Second-Hand Band and St. Petersburg's own Doo Bop Sound.
Staying with jazz, the Jazz Boat is a local jazz tradition, where musicians and jazz enthusiasts rent a boat and go down the Neva River pumping out jazz classics. The tradition began in 1967 and is still kept alive by Kvadrat - Russia's oldest surviving jazz club, dating from 1964 - and its founder and director Natan Leites.
Strangely, such jazz activities were tolerated by Soviet authorities, except for one famous occasion, when Leites attempted to organize a boat ride with visiting musicians from the University of North Texas, which was stopped by the KGB in 1976.
This year's Jazz Boat will feature two stages - the upper deck is reserved for the traditional Alexei Kanunnikov Jazz Band, while the lower deck will be hosting contemporary jazz, as performed by Andrei Kondakov, Mikhail "Uncle Misha" Chernov, Ivan Vasilyev, Nikolai Sizov, Viktor Matveyev and Maxim Nekrasov.
The boat leaves at 3 p.m. on June 12 from outside the State Hermitage Museum. Tickets cost 200 rubles ($6.45), and are available from the city's theater-ticket kiosks. For more information call 315-9046 or 153-4020.
- by Sergey Chernov