Mark Yodice at the Knitting Factory

On Wednesday, January 18th, I parked my car on Broadway around 9pm and walked down a deserted
Leonard Street
to The Knitting Factory. Located in the Tribeca area of NYC, the Knitting Factory has three separate performance spaces on three floors. Once the home of hip headlining acts and inspired avant garde Jazz and Rock, the Knitting Factory has lost its focus and has become like many other bars – booking whoever can draw an audience regardless of their actual musical abilities. Interestingly, when the club booked on merit alone, it actually created a scene. People knew that ANY night of the week they could catch great music there, and the club was always crowded. Despite the current hit-and-miss booking trends I was headed to hear someone in particular so I knew there would be good music in store.

Mark Yodice has been writing and performing on LI and in NYC for quite a few years. His debut solo CD, “June Again”, was released in 2000 and contained original solo guitar compositions that gave a stylistic tip of the hat to adventurous guitarists like Michael Hedges. Combining busy rhythms, an original melodic sense, and dense harmony achieved through the use of open tunings, Marks music immediately stood out. The CD garnered positive reviews and airplay. He has been keeping a bit of a low profile of late, teaching guitar and writing music out on LI’s East End.

This night Mark was performing in the Old Office, located in the Knit’s sub-basement. Originally scheduled to play at 10 pm, scheduling changes had him eventually playing a truncated set at 11:45pm. The Old Office was packed with people, apparently friends of another performer celebrating a birthday. While waiting for Mark to go on I sat through one set of random sound collages performed on prepared guitar, computer samples & cello; and another set of computer drum loop, keyboard, and guitar noodling.

The schedule changes forced Mark to omit some of the new songs he had originally planned on playing. He also decided to have friend Scott Tweedie sit in on trumpet for all songs. The previous bands were quite loud and the room was very crowded, however, everyone quieted down once Mark began playing – a testament to the subtle power of his music. He began with “Lion Eats Tamer”. This song has a jazzy harmonic sequence punctuated by some cool bass runs. Scott Tweedie let Mark take the song in and then contributed some sparse solos on muted trumpet.

The second song was “Jamu, the Bewildered Buddhist”, a tune from “June Again”. This song sports some complex rhythm playing. Tapping, slapping and harmonics were combined in an aggressive approach that still managed to be very catchy. Mark has a way of always using his prodigious guitar chops to serve the music. With eyes closed you might think you were listening to a guitarist, bass player and percussionist. As the song began a group of people from the back of the room edged their way up to the front of the stage to get a better look at how one person could be making all this music. Scott entered again with long noted melodies atop the busy guitar part. The trumpet playing complemented the guitar part and added contrast as well.

After the 2nd song Mark handed the drum stool he’d been sitting on over to Scott and proceeded to play the remainder of the set sitting crossed-legged on the stage. I later found out that the drum stool wasn’t steady enough and was throwing off his rhythm. He continued the set with “Glow” from his CD as well as a new song that doesn’t yet have a final name. They were both well-composed pieces of music.

Mark ended the set with another new song. This was a moody piece, slow and deliberate. It began quietly and built in volume as it progressed. Mark prepared the guitar by inserting a pen underneath the 12th fret of the 5th & 6th strings. This changed the pitch of the strings both in front of the pen (between the pen and the headstock) and between the bridge and the pen. Mark made use of all of the sounds created in this way and Scott did some very tasty soloing. It was a very open, contemplative piece of music, nicely done!

I later learned that the last song was the only one that Mark and Scott had actually rehearsed. The changes to the placement and length of Mark’s set had him changing the song selection but still wanting Scott to sit in as much as possible. Knowing how challenging Mark’s songs are I think Scott did a great job fitting trumpet parts into them on the spot.

All in all, despite some spiritless and self-conscious performances by the bands that preceded him and bumped his set, Mark and Scott played an inspired set where the focus was on the music. It was worth the wait.

(This article was featured in the April 2006 Issue of Aural Fix Communique)

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