Outsider Art

Most musicians are eccentric. Fine. But the members of Royal Trux do not subscribe to the usual eccentricities of dressing weird, taking drugs or pining for an acting career. Jennifer Herrema and Neil Hagerty live on a farmhouse in the middle of rural Virginia with their recording studio and cats. They both write (Hagerty just finished his second novel), and Herrema is a silversmith, painter, photographer and gardener. Somewhere in the middle of all that activity, the duo also records skronky, noisy, sludgy blues-rock. The pair met in New York City in the late '80s, when Hagerty was a member of Pussy Galore, a band that gave birth to Boss Hog and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. After three records of mostly unlistenable noise and one of honest-to-goodness songs, Trux (and practically every other vaguely alt-rock band in the early '90s) found itself signed to a major label, Virgin Records. The duo got only two chances, 1995's Thank You and 1997's Sweet 16, before being sent on its way. Smarter than the average alt-rockers, they had it written into their contract that Virgin had to pay to get rid of them. Money in hand, Herrema and Hagerty went back to their original indie home, Drag City, for last year's Accelerator and their latest, Veterans of Disorder, a fitting title for both the music and the duo's approach to life. (David Simutis)

Royal Trux performs Thursday, November 4, at Rudyard's, 2010 Waugh Drive. Call (713)521-0521 for more information.

Jamie Baum Quartet with Roberta Piket -- If you missed Roberta Piket's two-night engagement at Ovations last year, here's the quick synopsis: Highly underrated New York City-based pianist plays mostly standards for small but appreciative audience.

Piket's Houston performance wasn't fully representative of her talents and individuality. While she's a solid straight-ahead pianist, as evidenced by her Ovations performances and her second-place finish (of 260 contestants) in the 1993 International Thelonious Monk Competition, she is often drawn to outside playing and composing. She uses slightly angular phrases in her improvisations and makes use of dissonant harmonies. Yet Piket isn't noisy. She's something of an intellectual romantic: logically drawn to more challenging sounds but, at heart, a vulnerable melodic artist. Before her improvisations get too far out, she reels them back with her lyricism. She can even be sappy, in the best sense of the word.

When Piket returns to Houston this weekend, she'll be part of the Jamie Baum Quartet. Flautist Baum is a like-minded musician, who, like Piket, studied at the New England Conservatory of Music. (One of Baum's teachers was Houston native and flute crusader Hubert Laws.) Like Piket, Baum has played with top jazz musicians on the New York scene and has two CDs to her credit. (Piket plays and contributes several compositions to Sight Unheard, Baum's second.) As a composer, Baum tries to write songs with stretched-out boundaries instead of songs as mere blowing vehicles. Winner of the 1999 International Jazz Composers Alliance/Julius Hemphill Composition Award, Baum can be dissonant, as she exhibits a good amount of 20th-century classical influence. As an improviser, she's adventurous and solid, but, as her second album shows, she's concerned with polishing songs

Funky grooves and hard bop? Probably not. Cerebral compositions and challenging but hardly atonal improvisations? Bet on it. She says she'll even throw in a few standards. (Paul J. MacArthur).

Jamie Baum Quartet performs with Roberta Piket Friday and Saturday, November 5 and 6, at Cezanne, 4100 Montrose, from 9 p.m. till 1 a.m. Call (713)867-7942 for more information.

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