Friday, March 30, 2007

Jimmy Burns - Live at B.L.U.E.S. DVD (Delmark, 2007)

Guitarist, harmonicist and singer Jimmy Burns takes center stage on this no-frills but none-needed DVD of a hot and sweaty night at the local blues club. Part of the joy of seeing this film was the realization that all of the juke joints of the past haven't yet been swept away and replaced by bland corporate copies. Burns and his compatriots Tony Palmer on guitar, Greg McDaniel on bass and James Carter on drums play the real thing, old-school electric blues that is wonderful in its simplicity and infectious in its beat. Carter and McDaniel make for a great rhythm team, keeling the pocket deep and strong. Burns and Palmer trade lead and rhythm guitar duties like they can read each others minds, and both have space for some excellent soloing. Most of the performances are taken at a medium to up-tempo and highlights include the exciting opener "Leaving Here Walking" and the strong "Can't Hold Out Much Longer" propelled by fine soloing. Burns's friend and fellow bluesman Jesse Forrest is invited on stage to sing an emotionally charged version of the standard "Three O'Clock Blues." The recording quality and camera angles are solid and straightforward, with the focus being kept squarely on the music and wisely so. There are a few shots of the audience and an outdoor barbeque, and people are clearly enjoying themselves. There are a few extras on the disc, a commentary track, preview of an upcoming blues film and discography. David Whiteis contributes a thoughtful liner essay outlining Burns' blues history. Overall, this is a fine and very well done package. The music is presented with sympathy and the performances are excellent. The blues club that presents good solid meat and potatoes music is sliding into memory in much of the Unites States, so it's good that have this fine document to reminds us how deep and strong the blues remains.

Send comments to: Tim
Arcade Fire - Neon Bible (Merge, 2007)

Arcade Fire has grown from a scrappy indie band with a small voracious following to a pop powerhouse powered by websites and bloggers. This release continues their patented mix of anthemic, fist-pumping rockers and emotionally wrought power ballads. Although the indie crowd would probably blanch at the comparison, their musical growth really reminds me of the early records of Bruce Springsteen. Arcade Fire's first album, Funeral, was a wordy mix of lyrical images, drunk on the power of language much like Springsteen's debut, Greetings from Asbury Park NJ. And now, their second album Neon Bible shows eerie similarities to Springsteen's second, The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle. The music here is extended and grandiose, bordering on the street opera that classic rockers from Springsteen to The Who have mined. Accordions, strings and extra percussion fill out the sound, but the rocking songs still manage to develop a lumbering momentum making the opening "Black Mirror," "No Cars Go" and "Anarchist Television Blues" some of the best and most succinct statements on the album. They run into a little trouble when the tempos lag however. Vocalist Win Butler invests so much energy and emotion into his vocals that the music skirts dangerously close to parody at times. But almost of in spite of their self-inflicted limitations, the music works for the most part. They are so energetic and heart-on-the-sleeve emotional, that this album earned my grudging respect. Make no mistake, Arcade Fire may have been embraced by the indie crowd, but they are a classic rock band through and through. If you like early Springsteen or Pete Thownsend at his most ambitious, this is worthy of exploring. While they haven't improved enough as a band to have made their version of Born to Run, it will be interesting to see how this promising band continues to evolve.

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Little Walter - Blues With a Feeling (Chess, 1995)

Much more than an odds 'n' sods collection, this double disc offering of rare recordings from the harmonica master Little Walter Jacobs has some wonderful music and staggering harp playing. The alternate takes of Walter standards "Juke" and "Blues With a Feeling" stand up well besides their master takes, and Walter's instrumental numbers are really impressive, extending the range of the harmonica to places few could take it. His vocals are also quite assured, strutting with the braggadocio of his mentor Muddy Waters. Other highlights include a swinging "Mean Ole Frisco" and deep down an emotional "Me and Piney Brown" and a fine emotional version of the standard "Goin' Down Slow." While this probably isn't the best place to make Little Walter's acquaintance (the one disc His Best is the cream of the crop) fans of old-school Chicago blues will be delighted with this set which includes a generous amount of rare music and a fine liner essay.

John Lee Hooker - Hooker and the Hogs (Indigo, 1996)

This was recorded during one of Hooker's earliest forays to Europe, when he hooked up with a sympathetic British R&B band called The Groundhogs. Charles Scharr Murray's JLH biography provides an interesting description of the tour, with Hooker suffering the flu, hating the food and complaining about the lack of good TV in the hotels, but soldiering on with the band in their tour van and earning their everlasting respect and appreciation in the process. Since Hooker was one of the most idiosyncratic of all bluesmen, it couldn't have been easy for this group, but they do a pretty good job and keep the spotlight squarely on their guest. JLH is in fine form, cutting a deep groove on the super-slow "I Cover the Waterfront" and jumping and grinding on "Mai Lee" and "Don't Be Messing With My Bread." His guitar is angular and raw and vocals deep and declamatory. Strangely, this disc is filled out with what sounds like 78's from Hooker's earliest Detroit recordings. Valuable music to be sure, but a little bit out of place on this recording. Still, this is a fine snapshot from the lengthy life and career of one of the greatest bluesmen.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Joe Henderson - Power to the People (Milestone 1969, 2006)

Tenor saxophonist and composer Joe Henderson signed to the Milestone label after an excellent run with the Blue Note label. On Milestone, he would begin to experiment and look at the different ways jazz could evolve in the post-Coltrane era. On this record, he was joined by a heavy hitting crew of Herbie Hancock on electric and acoustic keyboards, Ron Carter on electric and acoustic bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums. Mike Lawrence sits in on trumpet on a few tunes. "Black Narcissus" opens the album with some mild soloing from Henderson over mid-tempo bass and drums and shimmering electric piano. "Afro-Centric" increased things up a medium-up feel adding trumpet to the mix. There is a very strong tenor saxophone solo pushed by active drums and comping electric piano. A crisp trumpet solo follows with the band coming in as a whole for collective improvisation to finish. "Opus One Point Five" is a slow ballad with Henderson getting a nice deep, breathy tone. All instruments are acoustic on this composition, and things have a more traditional jazz ballad feel. "Isotope" kicks the tempo back up again, with Henderson leading the still acoustic group with a jaunty solo. Hancock and Carter take very nice solo turns before Henderson returns with a deep solo to round things out. "Power to the People" finds Hancock back on the electric piano over skittish drums before the trumpet and tenor saxophone enter in tandem to state the theme. Strong quartet improvisation is followed by an excellent trumpet solo, really all of the work on this tune is stellar, making it the highlight of the album. "Lazy Afternoon" is another acoustic ballad with Henderson playing with strength and sympathy over Herbie Hancock's comping. The album is ended with "Foresight and Afterthought (An Impromptu Suite in Three Movements)" which is a very interesting medley of three short improvisations that push things into quasi-free territory with very open exploratory playing. Overall this is a very good album with a nicely balanced mix of traditional acoustic hard bop and Miles Davis influenced electric jazz. The band performs very well, and the compositions and improvisations are well thought out and logical. The sound of the compact disc is good but not revelatory and the CD contains the liner notes of the original LP as well as Orrin Keepnews's extended recollections of the sessions.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

Revisionist history:

Concord Records, which has recently acquired the music of the former Fantasy and Milestone labels has launched a new series of reissues, The Keepnews Collection, named after producer and former label executive Orrin Keepnews who oversaw the recording of the original records. The discs are remastered and some include alternate takes and new liner notes. The titles include Cannonball Adderley in San Francisco, Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington, Wes Montgomery's Full House, Kenny Dorham's Jazz Contrasts and Joe Henderson's Power to the People. Now, these are all very good records and certainly deserve to be available in print on compact disc for any fan that wants them. But I have been wondering about the ascension of the producer, in this case Keepnews, to the status of artist. Keepnews' name now is prominently featured along the spine and the cover of the disc, receiving equal billing with the artist. His liner essays are a little self-reverential, and a large photograph of him adorns the back jewel case of each CD. Now I don't mean to downplay his place in jazz history. Keepnews did yeoman's work in recording music and it is important to acknowledge his accomplishment along with that of engineer Rudy Van Gelder and other non-musicians who have had an impact on the music. But do they deserve co-billing with the musicians on these CDs? They did not in most cases compose songs or perform on instruments, but as a result of their longevity they are honored as if they were performers. Part of this has to do with the never ending reissuing of back catalog, and the labels looking for a gimmick and a marketing tactic with which to promote their products, as if the excellent music in the Blue Note or Concord vaults could not speak volumes for itself. Several years ago the controversial jazz critic Stanley Crouch wrote a lightning-rod of an essay called “Putting the White Man In Charge” in which he compared black and white instrumentalists. I did not agree with his assessment and was put off by the tone of his essay. But, if he shifted that argument to the marketing of re-issues, a point could certainly be made. Are record labels shifting the attention from the black musicians who made the music (now mostly dead and unable to defend themselves) to the white producers and engineers whose role in the music has heretofore been somewhat invisible? Keepnews and Van Gelder certainly deserve their place in jazz history, but giving them equal billing with the musicians on classic albums seems a little bit much. I just wish labels like Concord and Blue Note would spend as much energy recording and promoting talented young musicians as they do recycling catalog titles. Jazz should be a living breathing artform that honors its past in a respectful manner while reaching for the future full of innovation and discovery.

Send comments to: Tim
Here are a couple of more ROIO's that I have downloaded through Dime and have been enjoying:

Velvet Underground - A Tribute to Andy & Nico This was recorded live at the club Boston Tea Party, on January 10 & March 13, 1969. The recording quality starts out a little bit shaky, but then evens out to be surprisingly good for a recording of this vintage. The band is in great form with Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison trading slashing guitar and Maureen Tucker providing primal caveman (cavewoman?) percussion and Doug Yule mixing in solid bass and swirling organ. The setlist hits most of the Velvets highpoints – a blasting “White Light/White Heat” is prodded along by throbbing bass and drums, while “Beginning to See the Light” combines guitars and organ in a near psychedelic fashion. Some of the slower and more intricate songs like “Jesus” and “I'm Set Free” don't come through as well with the muddy sound robbing much of their power, but the rockers cut through the murk in explosive fashion. Velvets fans should troll the Internet to track this fine live document down.

Brotherhood Of Breath - Balver Hohle, Altena, Germany June 24, 1972 This was a jazz big band made up of South African expats (they left their home country due to the difficult nature of having a racially mixed band under the oppression of apartheid) and members of the British progressive jazz community that made wonderful music that touched on the township music of their past but looked forward to the searching big band music of the present. Nominally led by pianist and composer Chris McGregor, the band played very exciting music that recalled some of Charles Mingus's bluesy sounds like those found on his great Blues and Roots LP. This radio broadcast is quite clear and crisp and allows the listener to hear the wonderful collective improvisation and smartly done arrangements of the band performing original material together at a very high level. The Cuneiform label as released airshots similar to this performance on their label and they are highly recommended as well.

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, March 23, 2007

AAJ has an interesting interview with saxophonist and composer Billy Harper:

"Billy Harper has one of the most impressive resumes in jazz, including stints with Gil Evans, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, Max Roach, Lee Morgan, Thad Jones-Mel Lewis, Charles Tolliver and Randy Weston, but it is his unique sound on the tenor and distinctive style as a composer that has brought him international acclaim and truly sets him apart from most other players."

Send comments to: Tim

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Adam Rodgers – Time and the Infinite (Criss Cross, 2007)

This album is strictly in a trio (with Scott Colley on bass and Bill Stewart on drums) and occasionally solo setting featuring Rogers rounded tone electric guitar and slightly more angular acoustic playing. All of the music is performed very skillfully but the record, especially the slower tunes leaves me a little cold. The cookers are played with aplomb and occasional sparks do fly, like on the taught and pithy versions of “Cheryl” and “Without a Song”, the slower pieces are very spacious and are strangely devoid of energy with the sound evoking thoughts of a clinically sterile scientific clean room. Songs like the acoustic interlude “Esteban” and the long crawling version of “I Loves You Porgy” never really pick up a pace to deliver memorable performances. It's a pity a saxophonist like Chris Potter or David Binney could not have been on hand, to give Rogers a more effective foil in his improvisations. While this is by no means a bad album, it just doesn't quite reach the heights of his previous Criss Cross LP's.

Southern Culture On the Skids – Countrypolitan Favorites (Yep Roc, 2007)

This is a very good and infectiously fun album of cover songs performed in a hoe-down-ish country rock manner. SCOTS have chosen a very eclectic batch of songs from a wide variety of artists ranging from The Kinks twangy classic “Muswell Hillbilly” to their British Invasion brethren The Who's “Happy Jack.” The group is not afraid to try to perform country versions of songs you wouldn't expect like a gussied up version of Nico's “I'll Be Your Mirror” which was originally cut at a narcotic slow pace. It's the love of '60's pop music that shines through the most on this collection, from the lilting “Rose Garden” to “Mr. Spaceman” and the stomping cover of “Tobacco Road.” Fans of the group will find this to be a treat, but anyone who is interested about what happened at the intersection of country and rock will find a lot to enjoy here.

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Neil Young - Live at Massey Hall (Reprise, 2007)

Toronto's Massey Hall has seen many special concerts over the years and this solo concert from native son Neil Young recorded on January 19, 1971 was no exception. Young's popularity was peaking at this time, on tour between two of his most commercially successful LPs, After the Gold Rush and Harvest. This concert, an archival release from Young's own collection is a low key and respectful affair, in which he previews many of the songs from upcoming albums and also provides lengthy spoken introductions to individual songs. Highlights are many, but include the poignant "Helpless" which is played on guitar instead of it's usual piano accompaniment. Two of Young's more topical songs of the time receive very good performances, the Kent State shooting commentary "Ohio" and the haunting cautionary tale of drug use "The Needle and the Damage Done." It's certainly not all doom and gloom, though. "Dance, Dance, Dance" and "Don't Let It Bring You Down" keep the mood light and the pace upbeat. Finally, hearing the twin anthems "Cowgirl in the Sand" and "Down By the River" stripped down to solo acoustic performances is very intriguing. This is an album of very good and consistent performances that will be enjoyed by both longtime Young fans and neophytes.

Send comments to: Tim

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ken Vandermark has a new issue of his Audio One newsletter available:

"AudioOne is a forum for open perspectives on Jazz and Improvised Music from the musicians themselves. Sign up in the box below to receive the AudioOne e-mail free each month - it contains: New ideas about Jazz and Improvised Music, Direct and unedited artist perspectives, Exclusive artist interviews and discussions, Tour details and new release information"

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Kaiser Chiefs - Yours Truly, Angry Mob (B-Unique, 2007)

The Kaiser Chiefs burst on to the rock and roll scene a few years ago with their excellent chant-a-long single "I Predict a Riot." Riding on the waves of that success, this delightfully titled album provides more cheeky, hook filled Britpop. There's nothing too fancy here, just more of the energetic and melodic rock and roll that has been coming out of England since the Libertines, Franz Ferdinand and the Arctic Monkeys. The lyrics aren't particularly deep, mostly retreading the well worn pop terrain of love lost and found such as on "Love is Not a Competition (But I'm Winning), but there are some snarky observations that rise above the mundane like on the title track "The Angry Mob." What keeps the album from sinking into mediocrity is the level of the musicianship which focuses the listener's attention and buffs the songs down into easily digestible nuggets. So, while there many not be any wisdom of the ages at work here, there is a pretty good album of catchy rock and roll.

(Book Review) David Fulmer - The Dyin' Crapshooter's Blues

Writer David Fulmer has carved out a very satisfying niche for himself with his thoughtful mystery novels that are steeped in blues and jazz lore. His previous novels Jass and Rampart Street followed detective Valentine St. Cyr through the Storyville section of New Orleans as Buddy Bolden and King Oliver began to turn brass bands into jazz bands. For this novel, Fulmer moves north pre-Depression Atlanta, which is finally shaking off the effects of the Civil War and coming into its own as a center of blues and hillbilly music. Former detective turned sneak-thief Joe Rose pulls into town as a major jewel heist goes down. Soon, his acquaintance, pimp and rounder Little Jesse lies dying from a drunken cops bullet. Street singer Blind Willie McTell (yup, that McTell) begins to compose the epic song of the title as he keeps a vigil at Little Jesse's bedside and encourages Rose to find the killer. Meanwhile, Rose and his lady are being framed for the heist by a racist cop and the clock is ticking for him to find the answers. Fulmer always cooks up a satisfying story and this is no exception. Just like his Storyville novels, the city of Atlanta becomes a character - divided between black and white, rich and poor, old and new the city is revealed in all its contradictions. Fans of the blues should not miss this beautifully written story.

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, March 17, 2007

There's an amazing website called The Sun Ra Quilt of Joy that has scans of the many colorful record sleeves issued by the Arkestra. (Thanks to WFMU's Beware of the Blog)

The Anderson Tapes has a new podcast entitled Illusions.

Mwanji has an amazing blog post from a recent visit to Cuba.

Send comments to: Tim

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Great Jazz Trio - Collaboration (411 Records, 2004)

The groups name is hardly hyperbole, combining the brother duo of pianist Hank Jones and drummer Elvin Jones to the legendary bassist Richard Davis gives the trio something like 125 years collective experience playing in the best groups in jazz history. This album is a relaxed run through of familiar standards played by rock solid musicians with unimpeachable standards. Beginning with Thelonious Monk's "Rhythm-a-Ning" the group sets a jaunty upbeat tempo with excellent soloing all around, particularly from Elvin, who plays with plenty of fire, but also the restraint of a wise veteran, never overwhelming the sound of the group. This sets the tone for the remainder of the album, rock solid group interplay with the solos being passed around in abundance. Davis has long been a favorite of mine and his playing on this session is superb: he alternates between plucked and bowed bass on "Long Ago and Far Away" and his beautiful thick sound on the ballad "My Funny Valentine" is deep and thoughtful. This is one of the final records Elvin Jones made before he passed away, but he shows no hints of illness, playing the brushes with great finesse, and the sticks with great restraint. Hank Jones is a master as well, making complete use of the entire keyboard and getting a full bodied and lyrical sound from his instrument. There are no real surprises here, the tunes and musicians are very familiar to jazz fans, but the enjoyment of hearing master musicians that are completely in their element and playing with joy and beauty is always a pleasure.

Send comments to: Tim

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Trumpeter and composer Taylor Ho Bynum makes some very insightful comments on Lincoln Center's place in jazz:

"The point isn’t whether the avant-garde needs Jazz at Lincoln Center, the point is what truly creative artists could do with the truckloads of money they pour into that place! In a culture of very limited arts funding, Jazz at Lincoln Center is the elephant in the middle of the room, eating everything in sight, while everyone else fights over the crumbs."

Send comments to: Tim
The Free Zen Society - (self titled) (Thirsty Ear, 2007)

The Thirsty Ear label has done many experimental discs of the "jazztronica" variety over the years, but this may be the one that goes furthest out into the cosmos, being a little more 'tronica than jazz. According to the liner notes, pianist Matthew Shipp, bassist William Parker and harpist Zeena Parkins got together in 2003 for a studio jam session, and then the tapes of that music lay gathering dust until label head Peter Gordon used electronics to remix and reinterpret the sound into the current format. The results are intriguing, but somewhat baffling, leaving the jazz realm for a meditational realm that wouldn't feel out of place on the old NPR show Music From the Hearts of Space. Instruments bubble up from the mist, with Shipp's bell-like piano gaining most of the attention. On "Thought Free" he intones dark bass notes through the permeating electronic swirl. Parker's bowed bass and Gordon's eerie electronic soundscapes combine to interesting effect on "Surrender" but the song I enjoyed the most was the brief "Glistening" where Parkins' harp was gently altered by the electronics to produce a cool Alice Coltrane like vibe. Although the music is interesting, it is tough to really embrace due to the cold and clinical feel imposed by the arranging electronics. It would have been interesting if the original unaltered trio session was included as a bonus CD to compare and contrast with the electronically enhanced music.

Send comments to: Tim

Monday, March 12, 2007

Dewey Redman - The Struggle Continues (ECM, 1982)

Saxophonist Redman plots a fine line between mainstream jazz and more outer-music on this sadly out-of-print LP. Supported by a fine cast including pianist Charles Eubanks, bassist Mark Helias, and drummer Ed Blackwell, Redman sticks to tenor, leaving his more exotic reeds at home. The record opens with the fast tempoed "Thren" which sports a good free and exploratory tenor saxophone solo along with some jagged piano and a bass and drum interlude. "Love Is" mellows things out a bit as a sweet ballad with some nice unaccompanied saxophone passages and gentle piano. Side one is rounded out with the slow and steamy funk of "Turn Over Baby" which has a nice R&B flavor with bootin' tenor sax and grinding bass. Side Two begins with "Joie De Vivre," a good natured and gentle swinger with some fine piano and bass soloing. "Combinations" has strong, fast-paced quasi-free playing with some intense saxophone playing from the leader. Wrapping things up is the only non-original, Charlie Parker's "Dewey Square." The group lays into the bebop nugget with good interplay and a very solid bass solo. This is a very well played LP and shows many of the facets of Dewey Redman's talent. Blues, bop or free, he could do it all and hopefully this album will be reissued and gain the attention it deserves.

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, March 11, 2007

I have a new podcast available for downloading. A wildly diverse playlist this time reflecting my recent listening habits:

1. Will Bernard - Afro Sheen (6:55)
2. Explosions In The Sky - Welcome, Ghosts (5:43)
3. Stanton Moore - (Don't Be Comin' With No) Weak Sauce (5:06)
4. Asie Payton - Can't Be Satisfied (3:09)
5. Neil Cowley Trio - Little Secrets (3:46)
6. Sonic Youth - Kim's Chords (6:02)
7. Walt Dickerson & Sun Ra - Visions (2:55)
8. Noisettes - Don't Give Up (2:31)
9. The Free Zen Society - Majestical (4:05)
10. Sun Ra - Yeah Man! (3:14)
11. Johnny Griffin - The Turk's Bolero (2:50)
12. Mose Allison - If You Only Knew (3:28)

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, March 09, 2007

Destination Out celebrates Ornette Coleman's birthday with a guest post from Ethan Iverson, and a couple of mp3's from the criminally out of print Coleman LP Crisis:

"...well, today’s a national–nay, world–holiday. It’s Ornette Coleman’s birthday. To celebrate, we have the privilege and pleasure of presenting another wonderful guest post by Ethan Iverson. Great music, great writing–it’s as if it’s our birthday. Anyway, best wishes to OC, and many happy returns."

Illasounds is back online with their technical problems ironed out, and they are presenting an interesting podcast on British jazz entitled Bop in Britian:

"Modern jazz from the U.K., 1953- 1968 featuring Tubby Hayes (above), Ronnie Scott, Victor Feldman, Stan Tracey, Joe Harriott, Dizzy Reece, Don Rendell, Ian Carr, Ronnie Ross, Wilton 'Bogey' Gaynair, Jimmy Deuchar and Tony Crombie."

Send comments to: Tim

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Stooges - The Weirdness (Virgin, 2007)

Many people were surprised when Iggy Pop reunited with the Asheton brothers and recruited bassist Mike Watt to re-form the legendary rock band The Stooges. Their original reunion concerts were a huge success and paved the way for many festival appearances and this, their first album of new music in thirty years. Since The Stooges were pioneers of "stoopid rock" you know that the music and lyrics are going to be lewd and crude and Iggy and the boys don't disappoint, tossing out sexual innuendo and metaphor with bravado and swagger of men half their age. That's where a lot of the reviewers who have been panning this album are missing the point, The Stooges aren't out to write sonnets of lost love - if that's what you're after try Arcade Fire or the Decemberists. Instead, slashing primal rock and roll is the key here and the Asheton brothers still sound great on guitar and drums, and Steve Mackay adds some ripping free-jazz saxophone to the proceedings. The production of the album holds things back a little bit, with Iggy sounding removed from the band rather than getting is raw live sound that would have benefited everyone. While some of the songs genuinely are throwaways, there are some good moments like in "Mexican Guy" when Iggy's lady runs off with a man from south of the border and he sarcastically contemplates relief in "pills and Dr. Phil" or the sheer malice that is sneered out in "My Idea of Fun." So while this can't stand on an equal footing with The Stooges classic LPs, I think it's far from the embarrassment some are painting it to be. It's a solid rock 'n' roll album and some of the material truly deserves to be praised.

Send comments to: Tim

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Bending Corners has a new podcast available called Straight Ahead, Turn Left:

""Straight-Ahead" jazz on BendingCorners? Yes, you heard that right. But don't worry, this ain't your standard straight fare. This is BendingCorners after all. Its straight, with a twist; shaken, not stirred. Straight jazz with bent corners."

Church Number Nine has some great out-of-print Sun Ra available for downloading:

"i realize that i'm running a risk of creating a sun ra overdose situation here. but some records are just too important. grab them now, listen later. this is a great record, total insanity. very rare, recently sold on ebay for... aaah nevermind."

Tom Hull has a new Jazz Prospecting column, catching up on some Ellery Eskelin discs and new releases from the Fresh Sound New Talent label:

"I've prospected 247 albums in this cycle, while carrying 83 over from the previous cycle. At this point I still don't know the final cuts from the column, but a 10% selection (33 out of 330) is quite possible, with less more likely than more."

Send comments to: Tim

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Cold War Kids - Robbers and Cowards (Downtown, 2006)

The Cold War Kids stand above a lot of their indie rock competitors with intelligent lyrics and interesting arrangements of their own original material. Vocalist Nathan Willett goes a long way in making the group unique with his range in singing going from near falsetto to mock Cockney sneer. The groups lyrical content seems to be the search for redemption in a skewered and cracked world. Some of the best songs on the LP are in this mode like the lead off track “We Used to Vacation,” a first person description of the fallout of drinking problems, this is a song you can imagine Ken Bruen quoting some of the lyrics from in a future novel. “Passing the Hat” and "Hospital Beds” examine hypocrisy and hope amidst dire situations with a skeptical but compassionate viewpoint, while “Hang Me Out to Dry” is simply blasting rock 'n' roll. Standing above it all is the albums best track, “Saint John,” the tale of a death-row inmate that melds the blues, hip-hip and melodic rock and roll into a graceful highlight. Some of the slower songs like "Robbers" and “Pregnant” can't reach the depth of the bands rockers but they do show the range the group is capable of, especially Willett's amazing voice. Overall this is a very good debut album from an interesting and talented group that deserves attention from fans of thoughtful rock and roll.

Send comments to: Tim

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Will Bernard - Party Hats (Palmetto, 2007)

Guitarist Will Bernard is the latest addition to Palmetto's growing and diverse roster of jazz artists. Bernard's music combines late-period Grant Green like guitar grooves with bubbling organ and some funky horns for an enjoyable disc. Also performing on this album are organist Wil Blades and a large supporting cast including saxophonists Peter Apfelbaum and Dave Ellis. The songs are a fairly diverse lot going from straight ahead funk grooves on the soulful "Afro Sheen" with its grinding organ and throwback soul-jazz plucking over a backbeat to complex modern jazz on the horn fueled "Ripple Sole" with some fine soloing from tenor saxophonist Joe Cohen. This is a uniformly well played session with good soloing and crisp ensemble playing. It will be enjoyed by anyone who appreciates a fine groove.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

I have been listening to a very rough sounding but fascinating ROIO of the Charles Mingus band recorded at Slugs in New York City on March 31, 1970. The band is made up of Mingus on bass, Bill Hardman on trumpet, Charles McPherson on alto saxophone and flute, Jimmy Vass on alto saxophone, and Dannie Richmond on drums. They mix up Mingus compositions like "So Long Eric" and "Peggy's Blue Skylight" with jazz standards such as "I Can't Get Started" and "Take the A Train". The band is very tight and sounds great, cutting through the crappy bootleg sound like a lance, especially on the charging version of "Better Git It In Your Soul" which has the whole group building up an awesome head of steam. The audience is raucous and talkative, but Mingus must have been in good spirits, or else comments from the bandstand have been edited from the recording. The music here is probably too rough to ever be released commercially, but if you come across it on a bittorrent site like I did, don't hesitate to download, because the music is wonderful.

I've also been checking out some new rock 'n' roll CD's like the new Apples in Stereo disc New Magnetic Wonder which mashes up Beatle-esque pop to psychedelica to good effect. The garage rock meets R&B of The Noisettes debit CD What's the Time Mr. Wolf caught ear as well, blending sassy vocals with raw indie rock to create something with a lot of potential. Finally, I dug into my stash of Fat Possum CD's to pull out Asie Payton's disc Worried. If Fat Possum couldn't find a musician like Payton, they would have had to invent him - a full time farmer and part time musician, Payton often performed at Junior Kimbrough's famous juke joint, and he played the stripped down blues on this, his only CD. Asie keeps it real with snarling guitar and declamatory vocals playing the real Mississippi blues without a lot of flash, but with a whole lot of heart.

Send comments to: Tim