Friday, February 29, 2008

Delmark DVD's

Nicole Mitchell's Black Unstoppable - Live at the Velvet Lounge; Ari Brown - Live at the Green Mill (both Delmark, 2007)

Flautist and composer Nicole Mitchell has been a rising star on the Chicago jazz scene for several years now. Recording for Dave Douglas's Greenleaf label and now the quintessential Windy City label Delmark, she has made her breakthrough. Her music is a unique mixture of hard bop and free jazz, seasoned with some rhythm and blues and gospel. It is accessible and enjoyable and it is clear that the live audience is enjoying it considerably. She is served very well by the DVD, as the band (including Chicago scene stalwarts Jeff Parker on guitar, and Josh Abrams on bass) is always in motion and fun to watch. "The Creator Has Other Plans for Me" checks a classic Pharoah Sanders composition, but takes it in a different direction as percussion propels the music forward. "Thanking the Universe" and specially "Life Wants You to Love" feature the vocals of Ugochi Nwaogwugwu, who sings powerfully and well. Mitchell has become quite active in the AACM and is easy to see why by watching this DVD, her open ended and questing music is grounded by a sense of history and deep respect for the blues.

Saxophonist and composer Ari Brown leads a powerful sextet on his DVD. Heavily influenced by John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and other luminaries of the 1960's, the band is steeped in the history of African American music, but are in no way a nostalgia group, the music that the performon this disc is strong, powerful and vital. Brown plays tough, gritty tenor and soprano saxophone and spars in a friendly manner with fellow front line musician, trumpeter Pherez Whitfield. The rhythym section of Kirk Brown on piano, Yosef ben Israel on bass, Avreeal Ra on drums and Dr. Cruz on percussion carves a deep pocket for the music to groove on. This band is all business throughout, playing classy strong acoustic jazz. But don't miss Brown channelling a little Rahsaan Roland Kirk on "Two Gun V" by playing two saxophones simultaneously.

Both of these discs come with extra commentary tracks from the musicians which are quite revealing about their art and lives, and there are well written liner note essays included as well. Delmark has hit on a successful formula in their DVD releases. The camera work and editing is pretty bare bones, but that allows the musicians to do the talking without being overwhelmed by any technical wizardry. Recording in small local venues around Chicago also gives uniquer insight into the vibrant music scene of that great city.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Duke Pearson - Mosaic Select 8, Disc 1 (Mosaic, 2003)

I received this disc through a trade on, and the only problem with trading for milt-disc sets is that people only send you one disc. So this disc is something of an orphan, without discs 2 & 3 or the the fine liner notes that accompany a Mosaic set. Regardless, the music is quite good, consisting of the Pearson albums The Phantom and I Don't Care Who Knows It. Pearson is mostly remembered as an arranger and an A&R man for Blue Note, so this set gives a fine opportunity to remember his compositions and playing as well. Combining the trademark Blue Note hard-bop style with elements of Brazilian, Caribbean and Latin music, and arranging the music for interesting ensembles featuring flute, vibes, percussion and guitar, all of which give the music a light and nimble sound. The tracks I enjoyed the most include "The Phantom" which holds up well over considerable length with a slow and appropriately spooky sound. The vibes and flute float around, adding to the atmospheric nature of the music. "The Moana Surf" ups the ante with percussive piano and vibes and strong swirling flute making for the most aggressive music on the disc. A few tracks feature vocals, both scatted and sung which add to the exotica niche of the music, but are really secondary to the fine sounds being laid down by the bands. On the whole, the music presented here is intricate and well played. The more exotic elements of the music are blended artfully and there's never any sense of adhering to fad. I enjoyed this disc and look forward to tracking down the remaining two CD's in this set.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Legendary bluesman Little Walter is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the "sideman" category:

"Although Little Walter might not have been the first person to amplify the harmonica, his pioneering use of the microphone helped establish the modern blues harmonica. With a mike clasped to his harp, Little Walter created echoing, moaning, hornlike sounds that redefined the capabilities of the instrument. Walter Jacobs had fourteen top ten hits on the R&B charts in the 1950’s including two number #1 songs “Juke” and “My Babe.” Little Walter toured and recorded extensively with blues great Muddy Waters in the 1950’s. He also recorded with Jimmy Rogers, Memphis Minnie, Otis Rush and Bo Diddley. Little Walter’s influence was pervasive, especially in England where the next generation of harp players such as Mick Jagger listened to his records over and over."

More Little Walter resources:
Home Page
Foxy Tunes

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Tony Malaby – Tamarindo (Clean Feed, 2008)

Tamarindo is a very good album of quasi free jazz with a mix of full-bore burners and abstract, spacier pieces. Malaby plays tenor and soprano saxophones and he is joined by the peerless rhythm team of William Parker on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums. Without piano or guitar, the music takes on a wide open and spacious feel that is beneficial to the music these men are making. “Buried Head” leads off the album with a sketchy opening, quiet and probing, but slowly it ramps up the momentum with the tempo and intensity culminating in a maelstrom of swirling saxophone backed by throbbing bass and drums. “Floral and Herbacious” has some strong tenor saxophone and ominous bowed bass leading to a deeply intense and flavorful improvisation. “La Mariposa” starts slow with bass and swirling soprano over solemn bass and drums, in a performance recalling Steve Lacy. The title cut “Tamarindo” starts out with solo saxophone before the bass and drums kick in building the proceedings to a critical mass of intense three-way conversation. “Mother's Love” a slow and thoughtful performance, which features ear-splitting high end soprano saxophone and cello-like bowed bass over discreet mallet drumming. “Floating Head” rounds out the disc with a fast paced trio improvisation, well communicated between band members and very exciting. This is a really extraordinary trio that has made an outstanding record. Anyone interested in open ended acoustic jazz is highly encouraged to check it out.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

James Blood Ulmer - Blues Preacher (DIW/Columbia, 1992)

This was not one of Ulmer's most well received albums, getting harsh reviews on allmusic and the Penguin Guide amongst others. But in the light of Ulmer's re-making himself into something of a modern day bluesman with the help of Vernon Reid, it deserves another look. While the popping electric bass and glossy early 90's production date the project a little bit, Ulmer's guitar playing is as sharp as ever, throwing off shards of electricity in an unpredictable manner. His mush-mouthed vocals are a matter of taste, however. When you can make out the words, much of Ulmer's writing has an alluring level of social consciousness to it, like the pleas for tolerance in "Justice for All" and "Blues Allright." "Jazz is the Teacher" is a theme he's come back to several times before and after, and it works well here. Okay, so that vocal duet at the end is cheesy enough for Frito-Lay... So while it is certainly not at the level of the epochal Tales of Captain Black LP or his recent forays into blues revisionism, this is an Ulmer project that (for fans at least) shouldn't be overlooked.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath - Eclipse at Dawn (Cuneiform, 2008)

Pianist, composer and arranger McGregor's great big band was almost forgotten before Cuneiform's series of archival live releases began to shed some much deserved light on this wonderful band. Made up of South African expats escaping apartheid ("South Africa is a great place to come from" dryly notes Ronnie Scott in his introduction) and members of the British jazz scene, the group combined ideas from township jive, free jazz and Ellingtonian big band music into a powerful and cohesive whole. This live performance from Berlin in November, 1971 captures the band at their raucous best. The sound is a little muddy, but not enough to detract from the power of the music. "Nick Tete" leads off the concert proper with a storming riff based performance. Segwaying into "Restless" which is aptly named as it features some of the most hair raising free playing of the album, recalling Cecil Taylor's occasional experiments with larger ensembles, or the Sun Ra Arkestra at their most vehement. Anchoring the album is the long and cinematic "The Bride," clocking in at nearly 16 minutes and moving through many twists and turns. There are some wonderful solos to be found throughout the disc, but it is the ensemble work, which is crisp and tight even amidst the cacophony of the freest aspects of the music that impresses the most. Superb liner notes by Marcello Carlin and some wonderful pictures round out a nearly perfect package. This is one of the most thrilling releases of this still young year, and is very highly recommended to anyone interested in exploring exciting experimental jazz.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Big Road Blues has another excellent post, this time concerning the relatively unknown Sparks Brothers.

"The brothers’ led rough and tumble lives reflected in songs that dealt with gambling, jail, alcohol, woman, hoboing and railroads. In spite of their lyrics and rough background, the music the brothers made was surprisingly tender and wistful."

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Collecting the Collections

Van Morrison - Still on Top: The Greatest Hits (Hip-O, 2007)

Making a one disc collection of an eclectic and album-oriented musician like Van Morrison is a tough proposition, and this disc wisely tries to focus on Morrison's chart or radio hits rather than a full assessment of his lengthy career. It's a fairly diverse collection going from his early grungy garage rock with Them on "Gloria" and "Here Comes the Night" through some of his sunnier 70's hits like "Moondance" and "Domino" and finally collection some of his more maudlin 80's tunes like the string drenched "Have I Told You Lately", "Someone Like You" and the deeply spiritual "In the Garden." So much of the music on this disc is very good that it's hard to really complain, the Morrison neophyte or person looking for a quick overview (whom this collection is really aimed for) will no doubt be quite satisfied. But as a long time fan, I find the absence of any tracks from the seminal Astral Weeks LP to be very disappointing, and to have such a dynamic live performer like Morrison's only concert performance included to be the odd "Dweller on the Threshold" from a half forgotten 80's LP is a strange choice to say the least. Still at the end of the collection, the strength of his voice and vision for a fusion of jazz blues and R&B comes through quite well. At his best, his music is well neigh indestructible regardless of how it is packaged.

Tom Waits - Beautiful Maladies: The Island Years (Island, 1998)

During the beginning of his career, Waits made a somewhat dubious name for himself as a drunken cabaret singer. Sobering up in the 1980's and finding a collaborator in his wife and muse Kathleen Brennan, Waits truly came into his own. During his lengthy run for the eclectic Island label, Waits fascinating songwriting (focusing on the obscure characters and lovable cranks of the world) met some of the most innovative music of his career with the likes of Marc Ribot on guitar and other very talented side-people for a very successful series of albums. Much like Morrison, Waits is an album-oriented artist, and this sampler is best for the lucky person who has grown curious about his music. If he's not scared away by the sheer originality of the terrifying "The Earth Died Screaming" or the unsettling "16 Shells Form a Thirty Ought Six" then the mix of gravelly vocals and percussive music will be deeply enjoyed. It's not all doom and gloom though, the sentimental side of Waits's music is displayed with "Downtown Train" and "Jonesburg, Illinois." So, this is a good one disc collection of a pivotal period in the development of Tom Waits's unique and original music. One way or another, this music deserves to be heard.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Slow Poke - At Home (Palmetto, 1997, 2008)

Slow Poke was a very interesting collaborative project nominally led by saxophonist and composer Michael Blake of the Jazz Composer's Collective. Joining Blake on this project were David Tronzo on guitar, Tony Scherr on bass and guitar and Kenny Wollesen on drums and percussion. The music is enjoyable and consistently interesting, at times taking on an air or Bill Frisell's "Americana" projects, particularly on the slowly building and majestic version of Neil Young's "Harvest," which features Tronzo's guitar taking on pedal steel like features. Blake's own "Dry Socket" recounts the pain of wisdom tooth extraction with a slow and narcotic groove (must be the percocet.) Duke Ellington's "Rockin' in Rhythm" and the amusing original "Makeout Machine" kike the slow jams that predominate the record into a little bit higher gear. This project was recorded in one afternoon, off the cuff in a living room and that relaxed familiarity shows in music that is enjoyable an inventive while at the same time quite accessible.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Here's a nice FoxyTunes entry on Son House:

Son House

Eddie James House, Jr. (March 21, 1902 – October 19, 1988), better known as Son House, was an influential blues singer and guitarist. His date of birth is a matter of debate. While all legal records place his birth on March 21 1902, Son House himself gave contradictory information: that he was middle aged during World War I, that he was 79 in 1965, that he was born in 1886. Certainly, the voice in his recordings for the Library of Congress in 1941 and 1942 was not one of a young man. more...

[via FoxyTunes / Son House]

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

It is just heartrending to read, but do check out saxophonist and composer Andrew D'Angelo's blog about his battle with a brain tumor:

"So, here I am, Day 1 really. It's funny because now "Hospital Day 1" seems so meaningless. Actually, there's a lot of things that at one point seemed so important, that just don't. You know, that whole "fate" thing. I'm just not worried about my ConEd bill right now. Just not. But I am worried about something. Something I can't quite put my finger on. Something that is greater than my ego, bigger than anything the physical Universe can offer. It's greater than anything I've ever reached for in my life. Ever. But what is it!?!?"

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sun Ra - Some Blues But Not the Kind That's Blue (Atavistic, 2008)

Atavistic seems to have stepped into the void left by the Evidence label, taking the lead in re-issuing CDs from the bottomless pit of Sun Ra's Saturn Records archive. This is a small spacious group, unusual for Ra who nearly always performed with a 12+ member big band or "Arkestra." But the slightly unusual instrumentation makes for some interesting textures. For this recording, the personnel consists of: Sun Ra on piano and organ, John Gilmore on tenor saxophone, Akh Tal Ebah on trumpet, Marshall Allen and Danny Davis on alto saxophone and flute, James Jackson on flute and bassoon, Eloe Omoe on bass clarinet, Richard "Radu" Williams and Ronnie Boykins on bass, Luqman Ali on drums and Atakatune on congas. Ra plays piano for the majority of the recording and it is fascinating to listen to his mix of swing influences with some jagged peaks and valleys a la Thelonious Monk. The band takes on some standards, notably "My Favorite Things" which has some very good percussive piano from Ra, and taught flute from Davis."Nature Boy" fascinates as it glides in on a bed of percussion and oboe, with Ra mysteriously intoning the melody via sketchy piano chords. For the most part the album is taken with melodic improvisation except for an untitled track where the horns are allowed to let their hair down and their free flag fly. Ra abandons the piano for the organ on a couple of version of "I'll Get By" added on at the end. While the sound quality may be a little muddy, this is yet another fascinating look into the sound world of Sun Ra. With the focus on piano and melody this is also one of the more accessible Ra CDs, and may make a good point of entry for people looking to dip their toe into these vast waters. Kudos to Atavistic for another fine job, keep the Sun Ra coming!

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Friday, February 15, 2008

With a rare day off and a fresh paychek in tow, I decamped to Vintage Vinyl, looking for music. The bargain vinyl bin had a number of worthy LP's for just a few dollars each. Here is the day's plunder:

Cannonball Adderley – Country Preacher
Dinah Washington – The Jazz Sides
Ben Webster – Ballads
Art Farmer – To Duke With Love
Bix Beiderbecke – And the Chicago Cornets
Dave Liebman & Richard Beirach – Forgotten Fantasies
Paul Demsomd – Late Lament
Charlie Parker – One Night in Washington
J.J. Johnson & Milt Jackson – A Date in New York
Gene Ammons – Groove Blues
Max Roach – Untitled (Time Records 52087)
Stan Getz – Getz au Go Go
Sonny Stitt – Now!

Viva Vinyl!

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Fiona Boyes - Lucky 13 (Yellow Dog, 2006)

An Australian transplant to the American south, guitarist Boyes is proficient in a wide variety of blues styles. This is a competently played though somewhat schizophrenic tour of her influences, like the rural acoustic blues of "Red Hot Kisses" which features some fine acoustic slide duetting with Bob Margolin and "Ramblin' Man Blues" which is evocative of the pre-war blues. Old school New Orleans music is checked with the horn fueled "Pigmeat Lover" and grinding "Celebrate My Curves," while greaser rock and jump blues get their due on "Rockabilly on the Radio" and "Big Bigger Biggest" respectably. This is a solid mix of blues music played with confidence, but I can't help but get the feeling that Boyes is still casting around, trying on a number of different styles of the blues like so many changes of clothes, looking for her own individual voice. I hope she finds it, because there's quite a bit of talent here and when she finds her own way to tell her own stories, she could make a valuable contribution to modern blues music.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ben Ratliff has an interesting take in the New York Times about Herbie Hancock's surprise album of the year nod at the Grammy Awards:

"Institutions like to congratulate themselves, and giving the prize to “River” can be understood as a celebration of the academy’s more high-minded pop impulses. The best album category, in particular, is often a corrective or an apology for any excesses or shortcomings of the present."

Howard Mandel chimes in on the same topic:

"And if there are jazz snobs reading: please get over it. Just because a lot of people like something doesn't mean it sucks. Sometimes the avant-garde slips into the collective conscious on little cats' feet. There are no compromises with esthetic integrity on River, just elegance applied by distinguished artists to songs in which they realize previous unexplored possibilities, and in the performance suggest even more."

While on the topic of the Grammys, allmusic asks why Jimi Hendrix never won one:

"It all comes down to the nature of “peerage,” and in 1967 a guy who plunked down an amp, plugged in, and played “Louie Louie” wasn’t really a “peer” to the scores of industry people voting for Grammys back then."

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Monday, February 11, 2008

The Vandermark 5 - Beat Reader (Atavistic, 2008)

The Vandermark 5's latest release continues their tradition of frenetic improvisation interspersed with slower more abstract songs, all dedicated to fellow musicians and artists. After going through some changes a few years ago, the personnel in the band has stabilized with leader Ken Vandermark and Dave Rempis on saxophones, Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello, Kent Kessler on bass and Tim Daisy on drums. Two very powerful uptempo compositions begin the disc, "Friction" and "New Acrylic" have intense saxophone soloing prodded along by powerful drumming. Lonberg-Holm is the secret weapon of the band, his electrified cello sounds completely original and the sawing, scraping sounds create a cacophony of wonderful noise. More subdued are the reflective pieces of music like "Any Given Number" and "Compass Shatters Magnet" which use abstraction in an artistic, nearly visual manner. The latter takes on a mournful hue, as it is dedicated to the late Paul Rutherford. I've always wondered how Vandermark chose his dedicatees, and how the particular compositions developed with those people in mind. "Speedplay" with it's deep gravelly tenor saxophone and snarling Hendrixian cello solo and the riff-heavy "Desireless" take the album out on a very high note. It's another feather in the cap of one of the finest bands in contemporary music.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Adam Rudolph's Moving Pictures - Dream Garden (Justin Time, 2008)

Drummer and percussionist Rudolph melds the improvisatory nature of jazz with the world music of pioneers like Don Cherry on this intriguing disc. Rudolph's "Moving Pictures" band is rounded out by Brahim Fribgane on oud, tarija, Graham Haynes on cornet and flugelhorn, Hamid Drake on drums and percussion, Kenny Wessel on guitar, Ned Rothenberg on flute and saxophone, Shanir Blumenkrantz on bass, and Steve Gorn on bansuri, clarinet and oboe. The music alternates between shorter more meditative improvisations focused of percussion and flute, and longer jazzier passages that call upon more diverse instruments and larger ensembles, but are still anchored in a bed of complex and ever shifting percussion. The opening composition "Oshogbo" sets the stage for what's to come with strong percussion and guitar joining in for a thick and powerful performance. Rudolph has worked with saxophonist and flautist Yusef Lateef for several years and the influence of Lateef's music is palpable in some of the more spiritual and ethnic music influenced performances. The hypnotic drum and percussion work of Rudolph and Drake are the focus, but the entire band plays well. It all adds up to a worldwide jazz that looks for wide open vistas of music for its inspiration.

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Big Road Blues had a couple of great posts recently, first off about the discovery of a missing 78 by the legendary bluesman Blind Blake:

"One of two missing Blind Blake 78’s (Paramount 13123) has been discovered. “Night And Day Blues” b/w “Sun To Sun” was discovered in 2007 when it was retrieved from an old steamer trunk in a trailer park in Raleigh, NC, and acquired by Old Hat Records."

There's also a very interesting post reviewing a couple of recently released boxed sets on the JSP label:

"The music spans a fascinating period, roughly the first decade of post-war blues, when the blues was evolving into what would be called R&B and a short hop later to rock and roll. The music on these sets however is a throwback; this is rough and tumble down-home blues geared towards an audience that was still eager to hear earthy rural blues. Many of these listeners were still in the south while many other were transplanted southerners still eager to hear the older styles."

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Various Artists - Maximum Mojo (Electro Fi, 2007)

To celebrate its tenth anniversary, blues record lablel Electro-Fi released a mid priced two-CD sampler of music the label released. Some heavy hitters in modern blues have passed through the label during the past decade like Snooky Pryor, Billy Boy Arnold, Pinetop Perkins, Harmonica Shah and Willie “Big Eyes" Smith. The label has focused admirably on the no nonsense old school blues and that is heavily represented here with the likes of Sam Myers tough talking "Tired of Your Jive"and "Slow Down" by Snooky Pryor. The label also kept an eye out for forward looking blues talent as well and made a major discovery in Fruteland Jackson who is represented here with two songs, "Blues 2.0" and "Blues Over Baghdad" which meld traditional blues music with lyrics that explore modern social issues. There are even some admirable cuts of piano blues, like "Blackberry Wine" by Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne and "Pinetop's Grinderman Blues" by the unbeatable combination of Pinetop Perkins and Snooky Pryor. This is a well done and economical introduction to modern blues, and gives hope that this great music has a future.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Miles... From India - A Celebration of the Music of Miles Davis (Times Square, 2008)

There have been many tributes to trumpet great Miles Davis over the years, but this is one of the more interesting and original ones. Davis was interested in the music of India and it influenced several of his performances during his "electric" period in the 1970's. This album recasts familiar themes from such landmark Miles Davis recordings as Bitches Brew, In a Silent Way and Kind of Blue with an East meets West sensibility. The project involves two dozen musicians from the United States and India among them many alumni of Davis’ bands like Chick Corea, Ron Carter and John McLaughlin. The use of Indian instruments such as the sitar and tablas as well as traditional western jazz instruments and violin are well integrated. Add to this some raucous electric guitar on some of the fusion pieces and it makes for some pretty compelling music. There is a mixture of electric and acoustic music from different phases from Davis's career, interpreted from a near eastern perspective. From the acoustic side are "All Blues" and "So What" which has wordless vocals adding to the otherworldly vibe of the music. From the electric perspective are two versions of "Ife" one of which features some incendiary violin work that recalls early Mahavishnu Orchestra. Wallace Roney is in the hot seat throughout playing trumpet, and though he is often criticized for having a tome too reminiscent of Davis, that is hardly a hindrance in this case. Overall this was a very well done set with all of the musicians working for a common goal and creating a very fine fusion. The album was completed in two parts with musicians in India recording their contributions and then American musicians recording in New York with the contributions edited together digitally. Things seem to have come together quite seamlessly despite the vast distances. This album will be released on April 15.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Yardbirds - A's, B's & EP's (Repertoire, 2007)

There have been many collections from this seminal band released over the years, but this one takes a bit of a different tack by collecting both sides of the singles the band released along with the EP (extended play) records released during the band's 1963-68 tenure. The collection is interesting as it shows the bands fluency in blues based material, especially when Eric Clapton was the band's lead guitarist. From this period are the cover of John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom" that leads off this collection along with the cover of "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" and the live version of "Smokestack Lightning." After Clapton left to join John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Jeff Back took over as the bands focus, and from his period is the extraordinary instrumental "Jeff's Boogie" and the riff heavy "Train Kept a Rollin'." The band was also experimenting with psychedelic material as well, and this was reflected in their singles. The bizarre "Hot House Of Omagarishid" and "Ever Since The World Began" which manages to combine a trippy intro with a boogie middle section. Fans of 60's rock that still have enough room in their collection for another Yardbirds set should find this valuable, with interesting presentation along with solid liner notes and photographs rounding out the package.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Build an Ark - Dawn (Kindred Spirits, 2007)

Build an Ark is an improvising collective based out of Los Angeles that channels the cosmic sounds of post John Coltrane Impulse records. The albums of Coltrane's widow Alice feature prominently in the band's influences as does the music of Pharoah Sanders. This album is performed by a large and rotating cast of characters, including Dwight Trible, Nate Morgan, Adam Rudolph, Phil Ranelin, Derf Reklaw and Munyungo Jackson. "Healing Song" opens the album with full bodied piano chords and violin backing Leon Thomas like vocalizations. The title track "Dawn" sets a deep bass and drums groove while chants and hand claps duck and weave throughout. "River Run" is the highlight of the album for me, with bass and percussion again setting the groove, and Alice Coltrane-ian harp adding an almost otherworldly vibe to the proceedings amid some atmospheric flute and percussion. There are a couple of misfires on the disc, on the track "Morning Glory" vocals dominate, overshadowing the music with corny lyrics recalling some of Pharoah Sanders worst music on his overproduced 80's records. The finale, "Heaven" goes way over the top with overwrought strings drowning out the game efforts of the harp and saxophone. So, overall this is a mixed bag. I do enjoy the "kozmigroove" music of the Impulse era that this band takes as it's inspiration from and there is some good music to be found on this disc. Perhaps the next disc will dispense with the unnecessary strings and vocals that burden the music and allow these talented musicians to take flight on the cosmic journey they desire.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Ross Lawson has posted another excellent Illasounds podcast, this one focusing on the blues:

"Classic blues performances from the Delta to Chicago and back again featuring John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Robert Johnson, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lightnin' Hopkins, Elmore James, T-Bone Walker, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Blind Willie McTell & Curley Weaver, Jimmy Reed, Son House, Big Bill Broonzy, Mississippi John Hurt, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Bukka White, Lightnin' Slim, Memphis Slim, Magic Sam, Sleepy John Estes, Big Joe Williams, Leroy Carr, Honeyboy Edwards, Lowell Fulson, Tommy McClennan, Robert Petway and Little Hat Jones."

Bending Corners has a new podcast called Stoned Ninja Beats:

"Inspired by such luminary labels as Ninja Tune, bbe, and Stones Throw, this set explores the beat side of jazz-n-groove. Perfect for those late night dope headz sessions, this is beat heavy and groove wise."

Taran's Free Jazz Hour's latest podcast features:

"26 jan 08: the fringe, moppa elliott, g. ullmann, f; carrier, sunship, n-side, trevor watts"

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Barrelhouse Blues and Boogie Woogie - Volumes 4 & 5 (Storyville, 2005)

I have always loved the sub-genre of blues piano. It has always second fiddle to the almighty guitar, at least in the modern era, but in the right hands can be equally powerful. Storyville has culled the archives of "rediscovered" bluesmen touring in Europe during the 1960's and 70's for this ever evolving series. Some of the leading lights of blues piano are here, notably Champion Jack Dupree who is featured on both of these discs with several stellar tracks. The ribald "Doctor Dupree Blues" and "Please Don't Dog Your Woman" are fine examples of his fun, upbeat material, while "When I'm Drinking" demonstrates the low down and dirty side as does Sunnyland Slim's extraordinary "Johnson Machine Gun." Memphis Slim is also well represented with rolling and rippling piano on "Memphis Blues" and "Midnight Jump." Most of the tracks on these discs have the musicians playing solo and accompanied by their own voices, which gives ample opportunity to the different styles and rhythms they employ. The liner notes on both discs are well written by blues scholar and Bessie Smith biographer Chris Albertson and they provide context for the music within. These are very well done re-issues and spread some much deserved attention to the great tradition of blues piano.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

Downbeat has posted their recent article on bassist Charlie Haden on their web site with some bonus material:

"I got to see Bird in Omaha when I was fourteen with JATP and later when I arrived in L.A. in 1956, I went to hear the Miles Davis quintet. Man! You could sit in front of these guys and feel the power. The feeling of spontaneity from each musician allied with the technical part: the harmony, the voicings, the cymbals, the bass ... together, it could have generated electricity."

Allmusic has an interesting post on their blog, re-appraising the 1950's music of legendary proto-rocker Chuck Berry:

"Listening to Johnny B. Goode on His Complete ’50s Chess Recordings is an entirely different experience than The Great 28 or any other hit-heavy compilation where all the brilliant singles sound so much of a piece that they give the impression that they were all cut at roughly the same time. Those who learned Berry’s music through these compilations — and there are generations of listeners who did — may be surprised that certain hits like “No Particular Place to Go” or “You Never Can Tell” arrived well into the ’60s and so are absent here, perhaps jarringly so."

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