Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Andrew Hill: Coming Back Full Circle: "...a certain element of the black music was lost. Once it wasn't supported by the corporations, but it breathed better; it was more naturally selected by the people - who they liked, who they didn't. But now, we're dealing with a digital revolution. People will spend a hundred dollars for a Knicks ticket, but they won't spend it on jazz. And jazz had become such a high - priced music and at the same time, the selection wasn't based on knowledge - it was mostly hype."

Monday, February 27, 2006

Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (Dominio, 2006)

About once a year, one buzz band will turn the British music press on it's collective ear, in the past it has been bands like Franz Ferdinand and my beloved Libertines and this year they are in a froth over a band called The Arctic Monkeys. Their music is a blasting brand of punk-pop the maintains the abrasive edginess of garage rock while having a veneer of pop accessibility to it. The lyrics are mostly concerned with the social lives and foibles of twenty-somethings in London town, but manage to avoid nadir by maintaining a level of wit and poise.

"I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" begins the album with an edgy rocking groove that sets the stage for some of the other upbeat tunes like riotous lyrics and music of "Perhaps Vampires is a Bit Strong, But" keep the proceedings moving along at a brisk pace. "A Certain Romance" brings the pop aspect to the forefront at the close of the disc, ending the album on a witty note. This is a very successful debut album, and hopefully the band will live up to all the hype and survive the trials and tribulations of being the next big thing to have a productive career builds on this success.

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Derek Trucks Band - Songlines (Sony, 2006)

Derek Trucks certainly has good pedigree for a jam band musician, after sitting in with the Allman Brothers Band and eventually becoming a full-time member, Trucks married blues-rock diva Susan Tedeschi and put together his own band that melds jam band rock and roll with diverse influences of jazz, blues and even Indian raga. This new album finds the group curbing their eageness to jam and working within shorter songforms. Opening up with a brief run-through of Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "Volunteered Slavery" the band moves into more traditional jam band territory with the vocal led tunes "I'll Find a Way" and "Crow Jane."

"Sahib Teri Bandi/Maki Madni" is the highlight of the disc with exotic slide guitar along an East Indian motif along with flute and percussion. The band plays this difficult material with ease an excitement. "Revolution" is a blasting rock and roll tune, while "All I Do" has some nice interplay between the guitar and flute. Overall, this is a pleasant disc to listen too, but the focus this time out seems to be on shorter more radio friendly tunes with vocals instead of the fiery impassioned and improvisational jams the band has been known for. While there is some good music here, the material is best seen as a blueprint for the band's live performances.

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, February 24, 2006

Thanks to Brian for sending me this interesting article about Andrew Hill that appeared today in the New York Times: "His work is dense and knotty and difficult to play, but much of it is beautiful, aerated with song. In "Time Lines," his new record for Blue Note, commanding rhythms keep rising out of the stop-start melodic phrases; with pecking repetitions at the piano, Mr. Hill elongates the phrases at will. Like Thelonious Monk, he can make his music sound as if its composed parts are improvised and its improvised sections are composed. And like Monk's, his music is a balanced equation, with melody embedded in harmony and overlapping rhythms swimming in agreement. It has a mysteriously powerful internal integrity."

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones - The Hidden Land (Columbia, 2006)

Banjoist Bela Fleck hooks back up with his longtime backing group The Flecktones featuring longtime electric bass stalwart Victor Wooten. Their music is a mix of Americana, funk grooves and jazz and makes for pleasant if unchallenging listening. After opening with a brief Bach classical composition, the group moves into "P'lod in the House" which kicks the tempo up with pulsating electric bass and funky drum breaks. Wooten's bass is an active presence in almost every performance on this disc, especially on "Labyrinth" where it underpins pensive sounding flute and saxophone solos while scatted vocals bubble just underneath the surface.

There's a brief acoustic interlude on "Who's Got Three" with unamplified banjo (fingers scraping quite audibly on the fretboard) and clarinet taking center stage. Funky bass moves back into the forefront with the upbeat "Weed Whacker" with some quick pickin' and bouncy saxophone. "Subterfuge" gets a little more adventurous as the band jumps the rails of its comfort zone with an electric guitar solo, before ending things on a back-porch note, pickin' the banjo and tootin' on the flute for "The Whistle Song." Jam band fans will find a lit of grooves to like here, and while I found myself wishing that they took a few more chances, the album does make for pleasant if unchallenging background music.

Send comments to: Tim

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

OK, I'm trying Podcasting again... you know the drill, I make a podcast (53:43, 31 MB) of the stuff that has caught my ear lately, you download it by right-clicking here and selecting the directory where you would like to save the file. Then you send me an e-mail letting me know whether or not it worked and what you thought of the music. RSS Feed information is available, too. Hope this works, because I'm notorious for screwing this up. Here's the setlist:

Artist - Album - Title

David Grisman Quintet - Dawgnation - Slade
Joyce - Astronautica - Menino Das Laranjas
Doctor Lonnie Smith - Too Damn Hot! - Track 9
Mark Feldman & Sylvie Courvoisier - Masada Recital - Socoh
Paul Motian - Garden of Eden -Goodbye Pork Pie Hat
Odyssey The Band - Back in Time - Open Doors
Big John Wrencher - And This Is Maxwell Street - Lucille
Bireli Lagrene - Move - Cherokee
Miles Davis - The Cellar Door Sessions 1970 - Directions
Elliott Sharp's Terraplane - Secret Life - Crackertown Two-Step

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Night After Night: Enigma variations.: "Saxophonist Bill McHenry is an utter mystery to me, in the best possible sense. He's a young jazz musician attempting to carve out a distinct identity for himself in a city that boasts innumerable fine players, and in a music that prizes individual identity, yet arguably has few stones left to overturn -- or so it might seem, anyway. And somehow, he's unarguably succeeding."
St. Paul Pioneer Press | 02/19/2006 | Electric Masada finds unique voice: "The opening tune set the tone for the evening. A Middle Eastern-sounding melody, by Zorn and Fender Rhodes keyboardist Jamie Scott, segued into some atonal sax squealing by Zorn over a percussion cacophony, then morphed into a relaxed, samba-like groove, followed by a section with abrupt stops and starts by the entire group. Some pieces included jagged synthesizer bleats that recalled the music of the late jazz-prophet Sun Ra. Those came from band member Ikue Mori, who used two laptop computers to manipulate an array of synthesized sounds."

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Bang a Gong (or Eight) in a Pan-Cultural Fusion - New York Times: "But Ms. Ibarra, now 35, has moved far beyond that. In the past decade, her willingness to step out from behind the kit and embrace nonjazz forms — opera, poetry, experimental sound, dance — has taken her from that initial buzz below Houston Street to international renown as a composer, performer and proponent of folkloric music."

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Frank Lowe - Bodies and Soul (CIMP, 1995)

Tenor saxophonist Frank Lowe made his name with the New Thing and the loft scene, but never lost sight of the jazz tradition. On this recording with Charles Moffett on drums and Tim Flood on bass, Lowe cuts a free-bop groove through spacious interpretations of standards and originals paying tribute to the forbears like Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Don Cherry. Standards covered on this disc include versions of John Coltrane's up-tempo burner "Impressions" and Ornette Coleman's zippy blues infused "Happy House," which also has a solid up-tempo groove. Lowe contributes a wonderful two-part original "For Don" which serves as a tribute to Don Cherry, who had recently passed on at the time of this recording. For people who enjoy the inside-outside music of artists like Eric Dolphy and Sam Rivers and others of that nature this album should be a perfect fit.

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Odyssey the Band - Back in Time (Pi Recordings, 2005)

In the early 1980's, James "Blood" Ulmer released a trio album called Odyssey on the Columbia label in the company of a violinist and a drummer. Now, nearly twenty-five years later, Ulmer has reunited with the band under the Odyssey banner. The music is that of a collective band with no instrumental leader, all trying to flow together toward a common cause. Ulmer breaks out some vocals, sounding like he's trying to channel Clark Terry's "Mumbles" character on "Little Red House" as he sings funky and naughty about taking his lady back to said abode.

The band brings some angular funk on "Open Door," with a nice violin solo and some good group interplay. "Water Tree" gets pretty funky as well with a swinging violin solo. Things can get a little subdued at times, like on the ballad "Love Nest" where the music meanders without taking shape. While this album is an interesting departure for Ulmer, whose last several projects have been strictly blues related, the studio environment seems to constrict the group and deaden the sound, although I bet this group would sound spectacular live - let's hope Pi keeps that in mind for a future project.

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, February 13, 2006

Chick Corea - The Ultimate Adventure (Stretch, 2006)

Chick Corea's new album is another soundtrack to a work of fiction by the Scientology guru L. Ron Hubbard, as was last years Electric Band project To The Stars. Where that album constituted Corea's look at present day jazz fusion, this album looks back to his days as leader of the 1970's fusion band Return to Forever, using much of that old band's same instrumental makeup, especially in the prevalence of flutes and electric keyboards, which gives the music a light and airy sound. There are many short compositions on this CD which blend together in suite-like formation.

"El Stephene, Pt. 1" has a slinky groove, multi-tracking Fender Rhodes electric piano with synthesizers and opening up for a nice flute interlude. "Flight From Karoof" has an arrangement of flutes and keyboard with Latin hand percussion and a nice acoustic piano section woven in, while "King and Queen" keeps the spacious dynamics of the music with a flute solo set against percussion. There is a Middle Eastern feel to some of the music as well, particularly in "North Africa" where cool hand percussion underpins shimmering electric piano and flute, and there are even some funky moments as well, like when the electric bass and groovy electric piano which bubble up on "Moseb the Executioner."

While this is a very "pretty" album, the music presented here does have a strong retro-70's vibe to it and in all honesty sounds a little dated despite the efforts of the clearly talented musicians involved. Since Chick Corea seems interested in revisiting his past, hopefully his next project will offer something a little more challenging. Perhaps another album by the wonderful Origin ensemble of the mid-90's? Or even a re-formed Circle with Dave Holland and Anthony Braxton? Stay tuned.

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, February 12, 2006

R.L. Burnside - My Black Name a Ringin' (Genes, 1999)

These are some of R.L. Burnside's earliest recordings and helped set the stage for his late-in-life renaissance. Its interesting that many of the songs that would appear in his amped up Fat Possum albums appear here first in stripped down acoustic form. Burnside had a limited repertoire throughout his career, but always twisted and tweaked the material to keep it from becoming repetitious. What you get here is something like the Old Testament Book of Burnside (in the beginning, there was a man with an acoustic guitar...), taken straight from the back porch of the hill country of Mississippi.

All of your R.L. Favorites are here, complete with doom-laden drones like "Goin' Down South" and "Poor Boy." It's also interesting to hear Burnside cover some classic blues tunes like John Lee Hooker's "Hobo Blues" and Muddy Waters songs "Two Trains Running" and "Catfish Blues" while making them all of his own, tracing the history of Mississippi blues from Charlie Patton to the present day, with rhythmic percussive guitar riffs and moaning vocals filled with longing and emotion.

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Guardian Unlimited | Film & Music | Kind of overkill: "There's something intimate, even creepy, about listening to the vast quantity of recordings on these boxes; many of the tracks are out-takes - never intended for the market. And they seem to have become more obsessive, more microscopic. While The Complete Miles Davis Quintet covers three years (1965-68), The Complete Jack Johnson spans just 16 weeks. Now we have the Cellar Door recordings, taken from just four consecutive nights, December 16 to 19 1970, at the Washington DC club. Sooner or later, someone's going to find a tape of 24 hours in the life of Miles Davis and put it out as an 18-CD set."

Friday, February 10, 2006

The blues: Powerful music for Black Liberation: "Lomax collected many blues traditions - from the hellish conditions in prisons like Parchman Farm in Mississippi, and Angola in Louisiana, and in the Delta region. Prisoners on chain gangs - the brutal work crews of prisoners that produced huge financial gain and are being seen again today with the booming prison industrial complex - many of whom, criminalized for being poor, sang work songs. One of the songs Lomax recorded in 1947 was "The Murderous Home" at Parchman Farm. The song starts, "I ain't got long, I ain't got long in the murderous home... Lord, I got a long holdover and I can't go free."

Thursday, February 09, 2006

I don't watch the Grammy Awards 'cause I'm a snob, but if I knew this was going to happen... (dig that wicked mohawk!) Lexington Herald-Leader | 02/09/2006 | He aims to take us higher; we think we're there: "Sly Stone, the J.D. Salinger of funk, was drawn out of seclusion by a Grammys tribute. Last night, the reclusive pioneer of soul-rock-funk fusion made his first major public appearance since Jan. 12, 1993, when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Stone played I Want to Take You Higher behind a set of keyboards with his old band, the Family Stone, appearing unaccustomed to the bright lights."
John Zorn - Filmworks XVII (Tzadik, 2006)

John Zorn seems destined to approach one of his idols, Ennio Morricone, in the arena of prolific composers for film. On this, the seventeenth volume of music written for the screen, Zorn combines the soundtrack work from two films to come up with an interesting and diverse mix of music. "Menken" comes from the soundtrack of a documentary about an avant-garde filmmaker, and the music is performed by the guitar, bass and drums trio Rashanim and providing some haunting acoustic guitar and brushwork. "Skull" is from a much different film, a documentary about a skull collector (!) and the music has a dry, percussive feel with Cyro Baptista playing a variety of instruments. Zorn himself finally jumps in as something besides a composer with the appropriately titled "Gogogo" where he wakes everybody up with a blast of Ornette Coleman inspired alto saxophone and then takes things way out with an intense, scream filled solo. It's tough for people to keep up with Zorn's always growing discography but someone looking for an introduction into his film music techniques may find this to be a solid choice.

Send comments to: Tim

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Here is a very interesting interview from allaboutjazz: Ben Monder: Surprise from Cohesion: "If anything, Monder's music has gotten even more distilled and strange, but Oceana's blend of virtuosity, thematic rigor and outright heaviness impressed a lot of listeners and placed it on a lot of critic's best-of 2005 lists. The playing is exceptional throughout, but air-guitarists beware-these are pieces that create indelible and sometimes unnervingly alien sonic worlds and the moods they establish aren't easily dispelled."

Monday, February 06, 2006

WFMU's Beware of the Blog: Sun Ra and The Blues Project Do Batman and Robin (MP3s): In 1966, a toy company in Newark, New Jersey released a children's record called Batman and Robin to cash in on the popular Adam West TV series of the same name. The music on the LP was credited to 'The Sensational Guitars of Dan and Dale,' but in fact the band was one of the greatest uncredited session combos of all time, including the core of Sun Ra's Arkestra and Al Kooper's Blues Project."
Here's a very interesting article about the tough economic realities of playing jazz: PopMatters | Columns | Will Layman | Jazz Today | Making the Music Play for You: "How long can a jazz musician with a mortgage continue to play unvarnished, uncompromised music despite the plain truth that it will never provide financial peace of mind?"

Saturday, February 04, 2006

I took a little ride down to Princeton and scored some music from the used CD and vinyl bins:

Charlie Haden - Ballad of the Fallen
R.L. Burnside - Hear My Black Name A-Ringin'
Elliot Sharp's Terraplane - Secret Life
Illinois Jacquet - Flyin' Home: Best of the Verve Years

A nice mix of jazz and blues to add to the collection. After that ran into one of my colleagues from the library who told me about a new cafe called The Soup Man so I checked it out and got a bowl of Italian Sausage soup and a little roll for $8.50 (WTF?) But in its defense, it was very good soup. I'm a bit of a coffee snob, so I went to Small World Coffee for a 16 oz. blast of "bean juice." Small World serves a very thick and strong coffee which was needed for a long, slow ride home in the rain!

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, February 03, 2006

Chris Potter - Underground (Sunnyside, 2006)

Saxophonist and composer Chris Potter has quietly become a major player in the world of jazz. His role as a featured soloist in Dave Holland's very popular quintet and big band and his brief flirtation with major label fame on Verve Records have thrust him into the spotlight and he is now consolidating this strong position with a new record and tour with his working band. On this album, he is joined by an interesting electric trio of Wayne Krantz on guitar, Craig Taborn on fender rhodes electric piano and Nate Smith on drums. The music takes on something of a funk and groove angle that hadn't been immediately present in some of Potter's earlier work. He really stands out as a soloist on this recording, with a confident and robust sound that is becoming immediately identifiable.

They bring the funk a little bit right off the bat with "Next Best Western" which leads off the album with some nice bump 'n' grind fender rhodes piano from Taborn. "Morning Bell" is a nice, slow building song with some dark flavored tenor saxophone and mysterious sounding electric piano. "Nudnik" really sets Taborn free for a nasty solo amidst a spacey interlude. Billy Strayhorn's "Lotus Blossom" keeps things comparatively mellow with a saxophone and keyboard duet. Things open back up and stretch out on the epic length "Big Top" where the band trio cuts a super-solid groove for Potter to build a lengthy saxophone solo to an exciting climax.

After the bluster of "Big Top" comes a ballad called "Celestial Nomad" which slows the pace down considerably with a haunting, eerie electric piano and guitar backdrop for a beautifully restrained solo from Potter. The title track "Underground" finds Krantz getting the opportunity to cut loose with a nice solo, before Potter comes in with an enthusiastic and well paced solo. Wrapping things up is a short melancholy reading of The Beatles "Yesterday" which is a beautiful meditation on the melody. Overall, this was a very good CD showing how successful working bands can be when they have time to let their music grow into something special. Chris Potter has grown into one of the must exciting musicians on the scene today.

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Bill Frisell Quintet / Jan. 23, 2005 / Los Angeles (Jazz Bakery): "
Frisell's best moments came on a number that started out like 'The Yellow Rose of Texas.' Here the pace was brisk, and Frisell took to it gratefully, releasing high-speed lines as in the days of Johnny Griffin a half-century ago, but with a kind of sneer, an attitude that was patronizing in a friendly, admiring way. "
One of the members of a favorite band is profiled in the Times for all the wrong reasons When a Rocker's Hard Life Has Eclipsed the Music - New York Times: "Pete Doherty, once the great hope of British rock, has outdone himself. He was arrested three times in one day."