At one point during Mia Doi Todd's performance last Sunday at the Bootleg Theater , everyone took a dip in the river of life.
The cool, refreshing waters became irresistible. Todd stood there beckoning on a lily pad. Her voice began and ended in a whisper but the middle filled with ethereal earth angel honey. She promised you'd ascend some groundless sexy purple mountaintop of freedom by slipping just one toe in this “River Of Life.” The audience experienced transcendence. Worries melted.
It got so mellow, people lay down on the floor.
Todd had the crowd removing its shoes by the first five syllables of opener “La Vie En Rose.” She began singing without introduction, diving into this intricate French classic a cappella. Her long multi-lingual set included crowd favorites “Age,” “Parachi,” “In The End,” “Gracias A La Vida,” and “Open Your Heart.”
Todd's staple musician Andres Renteria joined her on tom and shakers, and Miguel Atwood Ferguson played viola like it was a flute or a pack of morning birds. Special guest Ferguson added captivating improvisations, plucking his own note patterns and back-scratching strings. He and Renteria created rhythms as if folding origami shapes around Todd's cozy melodies.
While Todd's music adheres to the delicacy of folded paper, Mauricio Takara was more an earthquake in slow motion. What appeared chaotic one moment settled into sense once your mind adjusted to time, as this Brazilian trippy-jazz maelstorm defined it. Accompanied by two additional drummers and a sampler, Takara tried to squeeze as many beats inside a measure as possible while building psychedelic, hip-hop influenced jungle funk. His voice chimed in from the past, a flat tribal Portuguese occasionally calling forth polyrhythmic rain machine gods.
The final special treat of the evening held a giant, smooth, varnished harp between her legs. Hybrid forms bow courteously before The Rebekah Raff Harp Ensemble's classical-sounding rock songs (or is it rock-sounding classical songs?). Raff wore a gown and exhaled, smiling wide after every tune worked itself to a naturally improvised finish, and blinking as if unsure if it was really over.
Like Todd, Rebekah Raff is a trained musician that writes forward-thinking music on a traditional instrument. These 'world' musicians elevate American forms, rock, r&b, and folk in ways that makes them ideal bedfellows for 'world-sampling' electronic innovators. Their organic purity attracts ground-breaking hip-hop producers like Flying Lotus, Daedelus, and DJ Nobody, who come to them for collaboration–and seems they seem to have some like-minded cousins as far away as Takara's Sao Paolo.