Vijay Iyer and Rudresh Mahanthappa - Raw Materials (Savoy Jazz, 2006)
Pianist Vijay Iyer and alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa have been performing together for years, but this is their first record alone in a duet context. The title of the disc is accurate, because the music is stark and unadorned and very much a sketchbook in concept. The two musicians walk a very thin line between composition and free improvisation with sketches of melody popping up. They will examine a song, worry at a melody and then explore the meaning of the music either in tandem or striking out on their own. Conversations flow into arguments and then back into harmony as the musicians support and challenge each other. It's hard to single out any particular song as the sketches here form a skeletal suite like experience, but Mahanthappa's aching alto solo on "Come Back" strikes a haunted bluesy note which is underpinned by Iyer's fragile piano. This is an interesting album by two very promising young musicians who aren't afraid to explore and take risks.
The Deadly Snakes - Porcella (In the Red, 2005)
The Deadly Snakes are one of the most interesting rock and roll bands playing today, mixing influences as diverse as sea shanties, deep blues, and horn driven soul to create an organic mash up of original music. "Debt Collector" and "High Prices Going Down" channel Bone Machine era Tom Waits with their chain dragging bump 'n' clang. "200 Nautical Miles" and the string laden "A Bird in the Hand" show off the bands deeper side, melodic but never maudlin. This may not crack the pop charts or invade MTV, but music this strong will have a long and influential life.
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