I count, among my favorite contemporary artists, a Czech violinist/vocalist named Iva Bittova. She plays a violin that trembles on the wings of the classical canon and teases the avant-garde, while her voice bounds through a visceral world of childlike surrealism filled with capricious chirps, golden trills, ferreted whispers, shuffling moans, and fiendish growls that turn dark poetry into dreamtime flotsam. Dare I say: Armenian vocalist Lilit Pipoyan caries that voice into the blushing light of adolescence. Like an ingénue presented to society with the shadows and marvels of childhood still clinging to her skirt, Pipoyan's voice is sweet, pure, and elegant, tinged only slightly by the mythic sorrows and fading secrets of youth. The material, like her voice, hints at the midnight nursery rhyme in Bittova's territory, but follows the dark garden path toward coquettish love songs and wistful daydream laments, to great effect.
Like Bittova, Pipoyan was born to an artistic family and studied music from an early age, only to abandon her passion and discover it again many years later. Both women construct very modern compositions seasoned by the very old musical traditions of Eastern Europe, but Pipoyan would probably be welcome in a greater number of homes, and with some reason. Her songs are staggeringly beautiful and surprisingly accessible. Lilit Pipoyan performs on Saturday, March 22, at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30-50; call 978-2787.
When Look Sharp! came out in 1979, I was 8 years old, but my father and I were in unequivocal agreement: Joe Jackson was never to come off the turntable -- ever. We bounced around to the "Instant Mash," squalling the lyrics to "Fools in Love" and looking forward to hearing "Sunday Papers" just "One More Time." I was deeply envious of my father's ability to wear pointy shoes and leather ties just like Jackson, and I thought our musical paths would never diverge. Luckily for the Tudor clan, the Man is back and a junction is at hand. Called Volume 4, the new album is indeed the fourth recorded by the original Joe Jackson Band, but despite a two-decade gap between recordings, it is the heir apparent. Recorded in 10 days without computer enabling -- similar conditions to those on Look Sharp! -- Volume 4 is rife with the same caffeinated piano, jangly guitars, and jagged humor. Between ballads about lost love and never-acquired sex, Jackson rants and roils about underage beauties, one-night stands, and white-boy thugz on the bus -- topics that slightly date new wave's perennial crotchety old man -- while the music remains firmly locked in the basement of someone's vacationing parents. If the bonus live CD is any indication, the reunited group sounds like a bunch of spastic, giddy kids with 20-plus years of touring under their belts. I guess youth isn't always wasted on the young. The Joe Jackson Band performs on Monday, March 24, at the Fillmore with Mary Lee's Corvette opening at 8 p.m. Tickets are $32.50; call 346-6000.