Luango Unchained! New York City Street Performer, Luellen Abdoo in Review
Are there any street musicians having more fun than violinist Luellen Abdoo? The New York City gem’s current CD, Luango, shows us in no uncertain terms her knack for playfully presenting a tapestry of musical styles from Latin inspired to traditional pieces, lullaby’s to expressive standards on what is a very classical instrument, the violin; done in a very non-classic way. The nine tracks of Luango are not recycled work; they are infused with an irrepressible energy and unparalleled skill, which is 100% Luellen.
So who is Luellen Abdoo, you might ask, and why should you even bother to check this album out? In a nutshell, Luellen, is a native New Yorker, a classically trained violinist, who graduated with a BFA in Music Performance from SUNY Purchase, and has performed at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and with the New York Philharmonic, to name only a few. These alone are great reasons to check out the album; but the main reason, in my humble opinion, is that Luellen does music on her own terms. She knows who she is and she sticks to it. She does not compromise, like many musicians today are forced to do. She puts her own twist on every song, whether it is her original or a well loved classic, making the music, like the lady, different, fresh and unique. As with all musical tastes, we find some music that is good, some music that is fair, some music that is tolerable, and once in a while you come across music that is truly inspiring; and this is Luango in the proverbial nutshell: inspiring.
The opening track, Libertango and the title track, Luango, are addictive and inspiringly muscular; also logging in as the longest songs, at a mere three plus minutes each. They are not overdone or overworked. Her sound is honest, focused and personal. She just kills it on these songs.
“If you close your eyes while listening to this piece,” writes Luellen, in reference to Grand Central Tango, which is the second track on the album, “you can hear the commuters bustling by and at the end the train pulling out of the station.”
Perhaps the most impressive achievement of Luango is to be heard beyond the edges of the five inch disc. It is a message that is ever present, ever clear and crystallized every time Luellen’s bow crosses the strings. It is a message that stands in direct opposition of the myriad erroneous mythology that surrounds busking and street performance. We have all heard and perhaps even ascribed to those incorrect assumptions; street performers have no skill, they perform on the streets because they can’t get a ‘real’ venue, they are hard up, derelict, panhandlers, talent-less hacks, etc… If ever there was music to make you know differently, it can be found on Luango. It’s a strange kind of passion and conviction that delivers an artist to a street corner, to present their music, their craft in the largest—(and rawest)—venue that exists: the world stage. With Luango, like Luellen, from the first note to the last, you are reminded that passion can heighten things.
Luellen can be found playing throughout New York, in both traditional and street settings. And as always, if you dig what you hear, dig a little deeper and drop a buck in the tip jar, for the memory, the YouTube video, the photo and the music. It’s an experience you can’t buy at WalMart.