The Tim Buckley Archives

Concert Reviews

May, 1991

Tim Buckley Tribute
Church of St. Ann and the Holy Trinity, Brooklyn Heights

By Stephen Holden

Since his death in 1975 from a drug overdose, a cult has grown up around Tim Buckley, a folk-jazz singer and songwriter whose free-form compositions and fervent yowl suggested a hybrid of Van Morrison and Kenny Rankin skewed with avant-garde inclinations.

A fascination with Buckley's avant-garde side was clearly what drew nearly two dozen musicians, many of them rock-jazz experimentalist, to participate in an informal tribute at the Church of St. Ann and the Holy Trinity on Friday.

The evening, Greetings From Tim Buckley,was organized by the producer Hal Willner. One of the guests was the composer's son, Jeff Scott Buckley, who delivered his first public performances of several of his father's songs in a high droning voice that echoed his father's keening timbre.

Each of the concert's more than twenty numbers featured a small ensemble drawn from a central core of players that included Anthony Coleman (keyboards), Sharon Freeman (French horn and piano), Hank Roberts (cello) and five guitarists -- Gary Lucas, Robert Quine, Barry Reynolds, G.E. Smith and Elliot Sharp -- all stylistically dissimilar. The program gave special attention to songs from Buckley's most experimental album, Starsailor.

One of the constants in Buckley's music, whether the idiom was folk, rock or jazz, was a fixation on the mystical and the erotic. In a concert that devoted more energy to exploring interesting instrumental juxtapositions than to lyrical expression, that essential quality came to the fore only intermittently. The low point was Richard Hell's excruciating monotone declamation of Jungle Fire.

The most passionate performances belong to Syd Straw, who performed The Earth Is Broken and Pleasant Street with a sweet, wailing intensity. The experimental vocalists Shelley Hirsch and Julia Heyward also had their moments. The most striking instrumental was Cheryl Hardwick's glowing arrangement of Morning Glory for guitar, cello and keyboards.

© 1991 Holden/New York Times

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