Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I have a new podcast available, it can be downloaded here. The setlist is as follows:

Tridruga - Frog Dance
World Saxophone Quartet (w/ James Blood Ulmer) - Mannish Boy
Donny McCaslin - Out Law
Miya Masaoka Trio - Evidence
Rahsaan Roland Kirk - Afro Blue
Dirty Pretty Things - Gin & Milk
Free Range Rat - Nut Club Non-Believer
Zakarya (w/ Marc Ribot) - Kids
Dr. Lonnie Smith - Willow Weep For Me
Ali Farka Toure - Savane

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Monday, August 28, 2006

There is a great lengthy post from Ethan Iverson on The Bad Plus' blog DO THE MATH: "Dave Douglas asked recently, Is there a writer who can take on the project of an unbiased overview of jazz music since the end of the Vietnam war... I offer up a list of records that I copied off my shelves last week when The Bad Plus was taking a break. I'm going to cheat a little bit: instead of the end of 'Nam, I'm going to start in 1973 (the year of my birth) in order to sneak in a few more records."

Also, an update on my post about the new Sonny Rollins album available on his web site. Thanks to Richard for sending me an e-mail writing that the downloads are only 56kbs, which is sub-radio quality. That's a shame, not only is it unfair to customers, but it's unfair to Rollins who deserves to have his music heard in the clearest manner possible.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

World Saxophone Quartet - Political Blues (Justin Time, 2006)

This is a sprawling, unruly record from the WSQ, adding guests to the fray like guitarist James "Blood" Ulmer and various vocalists to comment on the current American political climate, particularly the poor response of the government to Hurricane Katrina. "Spy On Me Blues" in particular is a spoken word commentary on the reaction to Hurricane Kartina and its aftermath. The "Blutocracy" suite has Bluiett mocking the supposed conservatism of Wynton Marsalis and other traditionalist jazz musicians, comparing them slaves, minstrels and Uncle Toms. "Amazing Disgrace" bemoans the mistreatment of African-Americans with a female vocalist updating the gospel standard. "Harlem" and "Hal's Blues" swing nicely with tight unison playing sans vocals or commentary.

For all of the commentary on the disc, the best song hands down is the Muddy Waters standard "Mannish Boy" with James Blood Ulmer guesting. There is no political agenda here, just downhome gutbucket blues. Everybody sounds like they are having a blast, with Blood singing the chest thumping lyrics in his unique mush-mouthed manner as the horns testify behind him. Getting back into the theme, "Political Blues" sets a groove with hard popping electric bass before the horns come in swinging in unison and then fly off like planes in formation for solos and vocals about the New Orleans disaster. The lyrics, however, are a little clunky and forced. Their sentiment is honorable, but they just don't flow that smoothly. Desipte a few pitfalls, the groups anger fuels some spirited playing, making this album recommended for their fans or political allies. The WSQ has been around for over 25 years, but they are certainly not mellowing with age.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Sonny Rollins has released his first new studio album in five years exclusively through his web site. I wonder if this will have broader impact in the jazz and blues world as musicians turn away from the traditional record labels and handle the recording and distribution of their own material. I'll be downloading it soon, you can also order a physical disc, but the price is quite steep.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Dayton Daily News enthuses about 25 blues CDs worth shouting about: "There has never been a better time to be a fan of the genre. Consumers can easily enjoy old classics because much of the early seminal material, from acoustic blues of the Mississippi Delta to the electrified strain from Chicago, is available on CD. Here is our list of the essential 25 blues releases."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

It's a little morbid, but you gotta love the idea behind Dead Blues Guys: "A Virtual Tour of the Final Resting Places (FRP) of Blues Musicians and Significant People who have contributed to the development and growth of the Blues. DBG presents photographs of the graves, headstones and commemorative markers of departed blues artists. There are links to biographical and related information on each artist's page. Go to "The DBG Tour" to select your first Dead Blues Guy. Please see our "Missing Persons" page for DBGs we don't have."

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Crate diggin' part one - some finds from the local used record bins:

Terje Rypdal - Whenever I Seem to Be Far Away (ECM, 1974) This album mixes prog-rock and fusion and some symphonic bombast to get a distinctly European sound. The title track puts guitarist Rypdal in front of a full orchestra which turns out to be a little dull in its stuffy seriousness. The other two tracks, "Silver Bird is Heading for the Sun" and "The Hunt" fare much better, with Rypdal's electric guitar complemented by electric piano, mellotron and french horn for music that falls in between In a Silent Way era Miles Davis and early King Crimson.

Muddy Waters - After the Rain (Chess, 1969) Some things just really shouldn't be messed with. In the late 60's Marshall Chess thought the classic sound of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf could use a little updating, so he recorded them struggling against a wall of hyperactive rock guitars blasting away with little notion of subtlety. The great man is in fine voice (when you can hear him) and makes a game effort, managing to save the standard "Rollin' and Tumblin'" while everything else sinks into an abysmal mess of bad ideas (including the awful cover art). It's a shame to see a great musician trampled by a meglo-maniac producer, but Muddy would redeem himself with several wonderful albums in the traditional blues vein he pioneered during the mid-70's on the Blue Sky label.

Jimi Hendrix - Jimi Plays Monterey (Reprise, 1986) This is a recording of Hendrix's explosive performance from the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. I used to have this on tape a long time ago and it was a favorite, but since I thought I had reached my Hendrix saturation point, it was a pleasant reminder of how potent his music could be. The songs are quite tight with no extraneous jamming. The setlist mixes some well chosen covers (Dylan, Howlin' Wolf) with originals from Are You Experienced? It's good to have this back in the collection again, because played at high volume, it's a wonder to behold.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Jenny Scheinman Trio - Review - Music - New York Times: "The violinist Jenny Scheinman is full of playful ideas, and they're never obscure. The company she keeps in New York circles has made her a jazz musician by extension; she is a soulful, generous improviser and a quick study. But the foundation of her work generally is the strict order of folk music, from around the world and across the last century."

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The New Face of "Fusion": "There's fusion everywhere in today's jazz, but it's instructive to look at some of the musicians who emerged in the '80s around downtown figurehead John Zorn. Few 'jazz' musicians have proven more expansive or more visionary in the last quarter-century, and good fortune finds them with new albums out this summer that make my thesis a living, breathing thing."
The Bad Plus' blog DO THE MATH has a lengthy post about one of their favirite writers and an author that has simultaneously entranced and repulsed me for years: "'The Demon Dog of Crime Fiction' could only refer to James Ellroy, one of both Ethan and Dave's favorite authors. He wrote the book L.A. Confidential. The film version is sanitized, simplified, sentimental, superficial, silly and stupid compared to the book. Next month, another Ellroy adaptation, The Black Dahlia, will be in theaters. Dave and Ethan have agreed to see it together on tour. They have also agreed to be disappointed."

BTW, is that a great t-shirt on Reid or what!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Sonny Simmons - Live at the Cheshire Cat (Hello World, 2006)

This is a two CD collection of archival recordings by the wonderful alto saxophonist Sonny Simmons, which were recorded in 1980 upon his relocation to the Pacific northwest. Hooking up with some talented local sidemen, Simmons made these bootleg-quality recordings of his live performances. This first disc comes from a club gig in Olympia, Washington where Simmons, backed by bass and drums takes off on an epic Coltrane-like 43 minute exploration of "It'’s the Talk of the Town"” pouring molten lava out of his horn in great waves while a drummer and percussionist heap mountains of rhythm behind him. Think "“Chasin'’ the Trane"” at twice the length, and just as raw.

The second disc was recorded in San Francisco later on in the year with a more traditional trio backing him up. "Lost Village of Um Tombey" cuts a Pharoah Sanders type groove, with the band going into a spiritual mode with Simmons improvising over them. They also stretch out at length on the standard "“Body and Soul"” where Sonny pays homage to one of his mentors, Eric Dolphy, by channeling the great mans leaping and lunging alto saxophone sound. Sonny Simmons is one of the most neglected figures of post-bop jazz and one would hope that this would cast a little attention in his direction. Unfortunately this is an extremely limited release, and according to the Downtown Music Gallery, only 85 copies were pressed.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Jazz News: Video of the Day @ AAJ!: "All About Jazz now features a daily video performance clip from our Jazz Video Center page. Clips include archival footage culled from a number of sources including YouTube, Google or direct from an artist or record label's website. AAJ plans to offer a variety of videos ranging from recent concerts by contemporary artists to historical performances by the masters of jazz."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint - The River in Revese (Verve, 2006)

Elvis Costello is modern pop music's ultimate chameleon, bouncing from pop to country and even orchestral experiments all with the breathless enthusiasm of the newly converted. In this case he's fortunate to have an old hand guiding the way in the person of composer and producer Allen Toussaint. Costello has explored soul and funk before, but never with the conviction he shows here. Toussaint reigns in Costello's self-aggrandizement, provides some killer songs and plays piano to boot. As can be expected, the songs shake an angry fist at both man and nature in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Toussaint lost a home and friends in the disaster, and while Elvis can't claim such bona fides, he calls upon a sense of indignation that is still fresh nearly thirty years after My Aim Is True. "Who's Gonna Help A Brother" and "Tears, Tears and More Tears" provide rippling horn laden funk extolling the virtues of helping your fellow man, while "River In Reverse" takes on the flood directly, lamenting a city that will never be the same. "Freedom for the Stallion" adapts an older Toussaint song with a devastating lyric about "men making laws to destroy other men..." Costello refuses to give into the temptation to ham it up and delivers one of his most powerful performances in quite a while. There have been many songs and albums recorded about Katrina and New Orleans, but the dignity and beauty of this music makes it one of the most memorable.

Otis Rush - All Your Love I Miss Loving (Delmark, 2005)

There are a number of Otis Rush live albums in the bins these days, but this one might just take the cake, catching him before his adopted hometown audience at the Wise Fools Pub in Chicago, IL in the mid-70's. He's got a crack band on hand and an enthusiastic audience in tow for a galvanizing performance of originals and standards. One of the knocks against Rush's live albums by critics is that the soloing has occasionally gotten out of control at the expense of the band, but not here. Everyone is really tight and this context makes his guitar solos even more explosive. The album takes its name from the emotional lament "All Your Love (I Miss Loving)" that he originally cut as part of his epochal Cobra recordings in the 1950's, and the version heard here is just as haunting. He wrings every ounce of energy out of that song and another emotional ballad, "Gambler's Blues" which builds to an amazing climax. "Feeling so Bad" and "You're Breaking My Heart" bring the emotional turmoil to the boiling point, before the band lets the audience off the hook with a blasting up-tempo version of "Sweet Little Angel," originally made famous by B.B. King. This is an extraordinary document of the Chicago blues scene and one of the finest musicians to grace its stages. Highest possible recommendation.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Neil Young - Heart of Gold (DVD, 2006)

This concert DVD was recorded in Nashville after Young recovered from a potentially dangerous brain aneurysm, and recorded the emotional semi-acoustic Prairie Wind album. The first half of this film features some brief comments from the participants (quite a large band akin to the Springsteen's Seeger Sessions group) and then they jump right into the music, playing the album in its entirety. The film, directed by Jonathan Demme (of Silence of the Lambs fame) looks great, with vivid color and multiple camera angles. The sound is fabulous as well, especially if you have your DVD player hooked up to your stereo. The second half of the concert is made up of favorites from the mellow side of the back Young catalog like "Old Man," "Harvest Moon," and "Four Strong Winds." He's joined by guests like Emmylou Harris (my goodness, is there a more beautiful nearly-60-year-old woman than Emmylou Harris?) The interviews and extras are a little on the skimpy side, but the main concert is so well presented and recorded that you won't miss it. Good stuff, definitely worth a rental.

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Sunday, August 13, 2006

I went to see Claudio Roditi in a small dinner theatre like environment in Count Basie's birthplace of Red Bank, NJ last night. Roditi was backed by Nick Rolfe on piano and a gentleman from Brazil on bass whose name I unfortunately missed. It was a nice mellow evening of music with Roditi alternating between trumpet and flugelhorn and also singing in English and Portuguese. Rolfe had a light and quick touch on the piano, and reminded me of Oscar Peterson at times. The bassist took some extended solos and made the most of it playing well and getting a deep woody tone from his instrument. The selections played ran the gamut from originals to selections from Brazilian composers to songs by Lee Morgan and Duke Jordan. This concert was produced by a volunteer group called Jazz Arts Projects and the volunteers seemed knowledgeable and friendly.

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

indieWIRE: Production Report: "Musician": "Continuing his Work Series, Daniel Kraus sets his DV camera on acclaimed jazz musician Ken Vandermark and shows the peaks and valleys of a career musician. The series - which looks at the American worker - began last year with 'Sheriff,' a verite portrait of a lawman working in rural North Carolina. The doc went on to receive critical acclaim at festivals and opened the 2006 season of PBS' 'Independent Lens.' Kraus continues the same style for 'Musician,' as he follows the break neck schedule of a full-time musician trying to make a living off his talent." (Scroll way down after clicking the link.)

Sens comments to: Tim

Friday, August 11, 2006

Donny McCaslin - Give and Go (Criss Cross, 2006)

Saxophonist and composer Donny McCaslin's profile has been rising in the jazz world with a Grammy nomination, prominent sideman appearances, and two new albums as a leader in 2006. This one is a modern-day blowing session, where McCaslin hooks up with John Swana on trumpet; Steve Cardenas on guitar; Scott Colley on bass and Gene Jackson on drums. They take original compositions and a few covers and strip them down for some fascinating improvisational flights. McCaslin and Swana make for a very efficient front line soloing with forethought and spontaneity. Cardenas is an excellent addition to the group adding some very interesting textures to the proceedings.

The music is mostly upbeat and burning with the group laying down a melody and then breaking out into solos to embellish the theme. "Out Law" opens the disc with an anxious melody and the group carries this on with a series of apprehensive solos. "Give and Go" throws in a basketball reference to its fast pace, before "The Liberators" finally slows the pace down with some fine ballad playing. Anyone who enjoys strong mainstream jazz performance with echoes of 1960's Blue Note and Prestige blowing sessions should find a lot to enjoy here.

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Earlier this week, the great rock and soul musician Arthur Lee passed away. WFMU has an excellent tribute to him on their blog. Oh yes, and if anyone has Lee's first solo album, Vindicator, and would be willing to burn a copy for me, I would greatly appreciate it. It's out of print and I've been searching for it for years, to no avail.

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

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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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

August Podcast - A hodgepodge of tracks that have caught my ear over the past couple of weeks. Click here to download.


Various Artists - Buda / Ethiopiques - Dewel - Bell
Richard Thompson - Outside Of The Inside
The Microscopic Sextet - Pack The Ermines, Mary (Forrester)
Willie "Big Eyes" Smith - Blues And Trouble
Jim Black's Alasnoaxis - Everybody Says The Same
Sex Mob - Pygmy Suite
Grant Green - Bottom of the Barrel
Bang On A Can All-Stars & Don Byron - Eugene II
The Pogues - Dirty Old Town
Ornette Coleman - Lonely Woman
Bridge 61 - Super Leegara

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sad news - he made such fascinating music... Blinq: Rufus Harley, Jazz Bagpiper: "Last night WRTI-FM's Bob Perkins announced the death of a Philly original. Rufus Harley is credited as the first jazz musician to pick the Scottish bagpipes as his instrument."

Friday, August 04, 2006

My new t-shirt... music geek chic!

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Andrew Hill - Pax (Blue Note, 1965/2005)

The Andrew Hill renaissance continues, hopefully it will boost his spirits and health, and keep him making interesting music for years to come. This archival release surprisingly was not put out at the time of recording and only dribbled out much later as part of a two-record set as Blue Note cleared the vaults in the mid-70's. While it might not reach the epochal heights of Hill's masterpieces like Point of Departure and Judgment there's some fascinating music here and a crack band made up of Hill on piano with Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Joe Henderson on tenor saxophone, Richard Davis on bass and Joe Chambers on drums.

The album begins with "Eris," which has an edgy, anxious melody and playing featuring nice tenor solo by Henderson, followed by some Monkian soloing from Hill. "Pax" follows with melancholy opening before moving to a tenor solo and a probing trumpet solo nipping at the heels of the melody. Hill solos sounding like fractured pieces of crystal. "Pax" is Latin for "peace," but here it's an unsettled peace to be sure. "Calliope" has Hill taking a melodic and interesting solo followed by a mid-temo dark hued tenor sax solo. Hubbard takes a strong trumpet solo, and then Richard Davis muscles in for some deep bass soloing. "Euterpe" has super fast ensemble playing on the melody and then a storming trumpet solo. Hill keeps the pace up with a moving piano solo backed by rapid pulsing bass/drums. Tenor hops on the fast train and then trumpet returns to take things out.

"Erato" provides a bit of a breather as it's a ballad for piano trio open, gentle and probing, with rippling waterfall like piano. "Roots 'n' Herbs" has pulsating bass and drums with seeking, searching piano becoming progressively more percussive. Another interesting version of "Euterpe" in tacked on at the end with some hot trumpet storming the gates backed by heavily comped piano. The music on this album was quite successful with both solid ensemble playing and soloing, so it's a mystery why it wasn't included in Blue Note's original release schedule. Regardless, it's a fine disc from on of the best composers and improvisers in jazz, and it's good to have it widely available.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Archie Bronson Outfit - Derdang, Derdang (Domino, 2006)

The Archie Bronson Outfit is an English garage-punk rock 'n' roll band that made the traditional old school leap from dropping out of art school to forming a band. Where would the music world be without soul-crushing British art schools? Mixing slash and burn angular guitar with paranoid vocals a-la the Gang of Four, the band achieves an edgy, nearly out of control sound that sets them apart from the cookie-cutter pop-rock bands that have been coming out of England recently. Most songs sarcastically examine the male-female relationship thing, fertile ground for aspiring rock and roll bands everywhere.

"Cherry Lips" kicks the whole affair with some angry riffing while the lyrics describe the most beguiling feature of the woman that did them wrong. "Kink" breaks out the garagey riffs, much like the song's namesake, slashing in some Dave Davies style guitar. "Modern Lovers" may the most caustic song on the album, recounting the take of a warped love affair over primal claustrophobic drumbeats. There's definitely something good going on here, and while the Arctic Monkeys (justifiably) and Franz Ferdinand (not quite) get all the press, the ABO are charting a course that borrows from rarely tapped well-springs ( compares them to The Monks and The Gun Club) while looking toward a promising future.

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