Thursday, July 31, 2008

James Hunter - The Hard Way (Hear Music, 2008)

James Hunter is a British soul and blues musician who has been knocking around for a while (originally as bluesman "Howling Wilf!") before really hitting his stride with a mix of strong R&B and weak string laden ballads. When the strings back off and the tempos ramp up, he knocks out a couple of real winners like the boogie piano fueled "Believe Me Baby" which mines a rock solid "What I'd Say" groove to excellent effect, and the roadhouse rocker "Don't Do Me No Favors" which has some snarling electric guitar to wake things up a little. While this disc will primarily be marketed to and appeal to the latte sipping crowd on the Starbucks affiliated label Hear Music, there's just enough grit and dirt under the fingernails to appeal to fans of old school R&B heroes like Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and Van Morrison. Recommended with reservations. We need less string burdened ballads and more gritty music that puts the blues in rhythm and blues. If Hunter can accomplish that, he'll really be onto something.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Guillermo Klein - Filtros (Sunnyside, 2008)

Pianist and occasional singer Klein explores his Argentinian roots with this CD, recorded with some heavy modern jazz talent including Ben Monder on guitar, Miguel Zenon on alto saxophone and flute, Taylor Haskins on trumpet and Bill McHenry on saxophones. Kilen has traveled the world in the course of making music and the world has left its imprint on his music is return. The most successful performances on this disc bear this out. "Va Roman" moves from an opening vocal to a wonderful and explosive alto saxophone solo from Zenon, and "Miula" keeps pace with some fine trombone and electric bass soloing over a bed of bubbling percussion. After these two fine openers, the music seems to drift a little. Many of the remaining compositions take on a level mid-tempo feel with few alterations like "Luz de Liz (Filtros)", which drifts along with an overlong improvisation that never seems to go anywhere. One jolt of energy comes from Ben Monder who stakes out a blazing guitar solo on "Memes" backed by horn riffs to make for a very exciting performance. Much of the music is slow developing. It is very well performed, no doubt, but apart from the tracks mentioned above, I had trouble focusing my attention on it.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I made a radical decision a few weeks ago and then went through with it: I sold my record collection. Living in a one-bedroom apartment and co-habitating with 1,500 records, many of which had spent the better part of their lives in someone's dank and smelly basement was getting a little out of control. Apart from taking up so much space, the ever impending prospect of respiratory failure brought upon by ten tons of moldy vinyl made the decision much easier than I thought it would be. That and my friend John e-mailing me articles about the Collyer Brothers and their obsessive collecting habits, prompted me to make the move. As much as I love music, I didn't want to be found by the authorities crushed to death under boxes of vinyl records. Reading Jeffrey Deaver's new novel Broken Window a few weeks ago stuck in my mind too... an obsessive collector and hoarder kills to protect his collection. Could that be my fate? No! So braving hernia and heat stroke (there's nothing like a New Jersey summer for the paralyzing combination of air pollution, heat and humidity) I packed up the vinyl and took it to the Princeton Record Exchange, who promised me a sizable check in return for finding the records a good home. So while I miss some of the music I parted with (why is Ornette Coleman's Crisis still not available digitally?) I can now move around my apartment and breathe with some degree of alacrity. I still have all of my CD's (in vinyl sleeves to save space) and a good chunk of digital music from emusic and itunes. Parting is such sweet sorrow.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

I have been listening to some music with an electronic bent lately. NOMO is a collective based in Michigan, whose music is a fascinating amalgam of jazz, afrobeat and R&B. They use a number of African instruments and infectious horn riffs, along with mixing in some subtle synths and keyboards. It adds up to a very interesting multicultural stew of music that draws on the likes of Fela Kuti and Funkadelic but has its own unique sound. I found their new album Ghost Rock to be excellent, an almost narcotic and hypnotic blend of musics. Tracks like "Ghost Rock" and "Last Beat" sound like what would happen if you mashed up electric period Miles Davis with an afrobeat band.

The Bottesini Project's live album Bottesini adheres to a more straight up jazz fusion esthetic. The band and some special guests hit the stage with no pre-planning, and allowed the music to take them wherever it pleased. This takes a lot of moxie to do and in some cases like the long form improvisations "Time Zone Break" and "Change" things come together quite well. But on some other parts of this disc it's clear that the collective was directionless and looking for a spark. The sheer length of the album also plays against it and over the (very) long haul, time spent waiting for something to happen overwhelms the coherent music.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

I went for a walk this morning listening to Sunnyland Slim's Slim's Shout and was struck once again by what a wonderful and cohesive album this is. Recorded at a time when most blues LP's were still a collection of disparate singles, Slim's Shout was recorded much like a jazz album, in Rudy Van Gelder's famous studio. Highlights of this album are numerous: Slim's deep and supple voice singing about him being chased by Ol' Satch in "The Devil is a Busy Man" and with buoyant glee on "Shake It" or profound sadness on "Decoration Day." Slim plays both piano and organ with great facility throughout, particularly on his feature "Sunnyland Special." To top it off, King Curtis adds extraordinary tenor saxophone solos and accents throughout, both caressing melodies and attacking them like a man with a musical sand blaster. There are many good and even very good blues albums, but it is only once in a great while that fortune smiles, and one for the ages is made. This was one of those times.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

The great bebop saxophonist Johnny Griffin has passed away:

"Mr. Griffin was of an impressionable age when Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie became forces in jazz. He heard them both with Billy Eckstine’s band in 1945 and, having first internalized the more ballad like saxophone sound earlier popularized by Johnny Hodges and Ben Webster, became entranced by the lightning-fast phrasing of bebop, as the new music of Parker and Gillespie was known. In general his style remained brisk but relaxed, his bebop playing salted with blues tonality."

Big Road Blues has an interesting post about Maxwell Street - the famous open air market in Chicago that hosted many great blues musicians:

"Hound Dog Taylor, a veteran of Maxwell Street, had this to say: “You used to get out on Maxwell Street on a Sunday Morning and pick you out a good spot, babe. Dammit, we’d make more money than I ever looked at. Put you out a tub, you know, and put a pasteboard in there, like a newspaper."

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Esperanza Spalding - Esperanza (Heads Up, 2008)

There has been a big buzz around bassist and vocalist Spalding, and I was curious but wary, wondering if she would just be another pale pop-jazz performer being marketed as the next big thing. But I was very happy to find out that she was the real deal, melding jazz with real chops, along with Latin music, soul and R&B into a pretty successful brew. She is joined by a rotating cast of musicians on this album including Horacio Hernandez on drums, Donald Harrison on alto saxophone and Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet. Spalding dominates the proceedings, playing rock solid bass and singing in a sweet but never cloying manner. A Latin version of "Body and Soul" ("Cuerro y Alma") is one of the highlights, because it gives a fresh twist to a familiar tune, as does “Ponta De Areia” a breezy and infectious Milton Nascimento composition. While fans of progressive jazz may not find much of note here, mainstream jazz aficionados especially those of Stan Getz's bossa nova recordings and partisans of Norah Jones and Diana Krall looking for something more exotic and challenging may enjoy this music.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sun Ra - Unity (Horo, 1979)

A live recording of a joyously swinging concert, this record finds Ra entering the final phase of his career, where he mixed his outer space/ancient Egypt inspired free jazz with the big band swing of his youth. It's a tribute to both Ra and the band that they were able to reconcile these two diametrically opposed types of music and make them work so well. Some of Ra's most steadfast sidemen are in attendance here like the saxophonists Marshall Allen and John Gilmore, along with some new additions like Michael Ray on trumpet and Craig Harris on trombone. Quite a bit of the material presented here would make for stumping "blindfold test" material, particularly when the band almost raises the roof on righteously swinging versions of Fletcher Henderson's "Yeah Man!" or the Jelly Roll Morton classic "King Porter Stomp." The group pretty much runs through the history of jazz moving from swing to bop on Tadd Dameron's "Lady Bird" and post-bop, checking in with Miles Davis's "Half Nelson" and a very Coltrane-ian run through of "My Favorite Things." It's only at the end of the concert that they leave Earth orbit with fine versions of legendary Sun Ra tunes "The Satellites are Spinning" and "Enlightenment." This one might be a bit of a bear to track down, and I'm not sure if it's still in print or not, but it is well worth the effort. This edition of the Arkestra was rock solid, and like fellow polymaths Jaki Byard and Rahsaan Roland Kirk, they had the entirety of jazz at their fingertips.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Bill Sims, Jr. - American Blues Roots Duo (Delta Groove, 2008)

Guitar player and vocalist Sims teams up with harmonica player Mark Lavoie for an extremely laid back album of blues standards and originals. There is a very intimate back porch feel to the music, with both musicians playing acoustically, and collaborating well. But while this feeling does offer the disc a distinctive charm, the music does start to feel a little sleepy and mannered at times. Sims touches on some of the legends of blues music, playing the music of Skip James and Muddy Waters, and it is obvious that both of these men have enormous regard for the history of the music. Highlights include a smooth and rootsy "Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad" and "Telephone Blues." However, Sims and his colleague have problems evoking the menace and foreboding of "Must Have Been the Devil" and "Meanest Old Woman", these gents are just a little too kindhearted to go way down in the alley where the deep blues reside. If you are a fan of traditional acoustic blues, you will probably enjoy this disc. The musicians are talented, if not overly ambitious and the songs are like familiar friends.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

John Coltrane - The Major Works of John Coltrane (Impulse, 1992)

This two CD set brings together some very intense and transitional music recorded by John Coltrane in 1965. This was a fascinating period in his career, as his longtime quartet with McCoy Tyner on piano, Jimmy Garrison on bass and Elvin Jones on drums was in the process of dissolving, and his role as a mentor to the younger "New Thing" musicians led him to seek out new collaborators like Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders and Rashied Ali. On the recordings collected here, the quartet is joined by a rotating cast of additional musicians which allow for a larger palette to be used in the ambitious music Coltrane was working toward. The two takes of Coltrane's monumental "Ascension" dominate this collection. As a big band free jazz performance it was unique in the jazz canon at the time, akin to Ornette Coleman's "Free Jazz" but separate in its ambition and execution. Spiritual concerns were paramount to the final period of Coltrane's career, and it is possible to see "Ascension" as his musical impressions of a man's journey to the afterlife. But much like William Blake's spiritual poetry, it is a harrowing journey. Both versions of the epic begin with a statement by the group followed by group and solo sections signaled by hand gestures from the leader. The soloists were allowed as much room as they needed and the overall effect was devastating. "Ascension" is either revered or vilified by critics, but I think this really misses the point. This is a transitory, experimental work and should be viewed as such. Allowing the music to wash over you with the ebbs and flows of the soloists and groups is one of the most intense experiences in jazz, and broke new ground for the likes of Peter Brotzmann and the ROVA Saxophone Quartet (who have recorded two of their own interpretations of "Ascension") to continue the exploration. "Om" is one of the most daunting performances in Coltrane's music for listeners to comprehend. Beginning with an ominous sounding recitation and chanting, it gives way to some of the most cacophonous free jazz ever recorded. It's brutal stuff, but it was not meant to be deliberately ugly or confrontational. John Coltrane was interested in all aspects of spirituality, and the Om of the eastern culture was part of it. The chanting and screaming may come off as a little campy, but there's no reason to believe that it is anything less than sincere. "Kulu Se Mama" and "Selflessness" round out the collection and deserve attention because they take in elements of African and Caribbean music. Vocals, chanting and a very interesting groove make for an arresting performance. This collection could more appropriately be called The Spiritual Works of John Coltrane, as Coltrane's spiritual quest informs all of the music found here. This is the sound of John Coltrane leaving Earth bound chordal jazz behind and lifting off to explore the cosmos of free jazz.

Send comments to: Tim

Friday, July 18, 2008

Various Artists - Jook Joint Blues (JSP, 2007)

For blues fans, the Juke or in this case Jook Joint has taken on the mystical place of a temple, where the Word of the blues is passed down from the musician-priests to the eager supplicants, who contort and speak in tongues on the dance floor. This collection, by the British label JSP, looks at music that would have been right at home in any juke joint in America in the immediate post war period. There are some familiar names here like Lightnin' Slim who is always extorting "Blow your harmonica, son! on every one of his tracks), Jerry McCain, Lazy Lester and Earl Hooker. But most of the collection is make up of relatively unknown but by no means untalented musicians, who like their pre-war predecessors, cut a few 45's and them disappeared into the mists of time. That is part of the charm of the music presented here, and there is a lot of it over the course of four fully maxed out CDs. You'll be listening to track after track of pleasant but unspectacular blues, when out of nowhere, one of the sides will hit you like the proverbial rolling pin upside the head. For me the most interesting previously unknown musician represented here was a raw blues singer and harmonica player named Papa George Lightfoot. There few singles he has on this collection were wonderful, so I'm going to track down the one LP he made later on. Sure the collection probably could have been boiled down to one killer disc of essential tracks, but that would ruin the fun of exploration. The liner notes by British blues scholar Neil Shaven are solid, but scattered in each CD case. This is an interesting collection to spin, and it represents a critical time in the development of the blues. With the war over, and the northern migration in full swing, blues was about to burst out of its southern roots and take Chicago by storm. This box is the sound of the blues evolving from a regional music to a full blown national (and world) treasure.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

John Patton – Soul Connection (Just A Memory/Justin Time 1983, 2008)

“Big” John Patton never quite achieved the fame of fellow organists Jimmy Smith or Brother Jack McDuff, but he was a potent and soulful force on the instrument in the 1960’s, cutting some well received albums for Blue Note before drifting into the life of a journeyman. This album finds Patton leading a mid-size ensemble with Grachan Moncur III on trombone, Grant Reed on tenor sax, Melvin Sparks on guitar and Alvin Queen on drums. The group gives five strong performances of blues, boogaloo and ballads. The opening title track “Soul Connection” is taken at medium up tempo with Patton’s bubbling organ backing a horn fanfare. This introduction gives way to a groovin’ section of organ, guitar and drums, and a burning tenor saxophone solo. “Extensions” is another noteworthy performance, with Sparks taking a extended Grant Green like guitar solo, and Reed’s tenor sounding taught and strong with a steely tone. Patton is the anchor for it all, riding the bass pedals like a tap dancer and working the Hammond B-3 organ like a bellows. Fans of the classic organ jazz sound will find a lot to enjoy on this long lost LP.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Hold Steady - Stay Positive (Vagrant, 2008)

Anthemic sounding rock 'n' roll with the "big" sound like Bruce Springsteen, Arcade Fire, et. al. The character studies are quite interesting, almost beat like in their studies of the underside of American youth. Musicians running from the law, college girls consorting with shady characters, and wondering why the boys are so into music. "Constructive Summer" wins points right away by shouting out to "Saint Joe Strummer" with a pounding rock 'n' roll beat. "Sequestered in Memphis" is a blasting rock 'n' roller about a musician on the run. As someone who went to college in the middle of nowhere, "One for the Cutters" brought back memories with its lyrics about college girls shunning their peers to party with the locals in a honky-tonk bar, and out in the back woods. The title track leaves the usual punk nihilism in the dust for a more provocative and proactive message. This is an interesting marriage of the energy of punk rock like The Clash and The Ramones, with the orchestral, full bodied sound of early Springsteen in Phil Spector produced pop. Combining well produced music with thoughtful and imaginative lyrics make this an interesting disc to check out for people who feel that rock 'n' roll has gone stale in the days of Myspace and Clearchannel.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Watermelon Slim and the Workers - No Paid Holidays (Northern Blues, 2008)

Watermelon Slim and the Workers play the straight-up workingman's blues, for people who walk the hard road every day and are trying to make ends meet. Slim has been a soldier, truck driver and everything in between, and their latest album continues their mission moving from solo blues to full band accompaniment in the songs. Slim has a couple of political songs on the new record, "Blues for Howard" (Zinn?) and "Bloody Burmese Blues" show him taking a Woody Guthrie like journalistic approach to songwriting and then combining it with a solid blues beat. This narrative impulse carries into a couple of other songs, the melancholy "Dad in the Distance" and the nostalgic "Max the Baseball Clown." Slim hasn't forgotten how to boogie as is aptly demonstrated by the blues standard "Call My Job" and the rockin' "Bubba's Blues." He slows things back down for the confessional spoken word and harmonica of "I Got a Toothache" and "And When I Die." Good stuff to be found here. Slim tries to come across as an Okie good ol' boy sometimes, but it is clear that a lot of thought and effort has gone into his music and that effort has paid off handsomely. Like Guthrie, Hank Williams and Willie Dixon, Slim's songs evoke the soul of America in a way that FOX news could only dream of.

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Earl Hooker - Blue Guitar (Paula, 1981)

Like many of the legends of the blues, guitarist Earl Hooker moved to Chicago in the post-war years from his birthplace of Mississippi. Earning a place for himself in the pantheon with his unique slide guitar and his aversion to singing, Hooker never quite earned the fame of some of his fellow Chicogans, but he was every bit their equal. This collection brings together the singles he cut in the early 1960's for the Age and Chief labels and he is backed by a shifting cast of keyboardists, bassists and drummers. There are a few tracks on this disc with guest vocalists, but the real gems are the instrumentals, two and a half minute miracles of taste, beat and tempo. With tracks named "Universal Rock", "Rockin' With the Kid", and Rockin' Wild", it's clear that Hooker's music was being marketed to the emerging rock 'n' roll market (as the eye-roll inducing spoken word on "Apache War Dance" makes clear) but regardless, it is stellar electric blues. "Blues in D Natural" and "The Leading Brand" show the group's prowess at some differing tempos. This is a very good album, and a fine introduction to Hooker's unique and inspiring music.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog – Party Intellectuals (Pi Recordings, 2008)

In some recent pictures, guitarist Marc Ribot looks like that professor you had in college… complete with scruffy salt and pepper hair and a wry smile. But this belies the heart of a radical musical polymath that still beats within him. Jumping from sideman to leader, project to project, Ribot flits like a butterfly in the music world. On his most recent project as a leader, a band called Ceramic Dog, he is joined by Shahzad Ismaily on bass and Ches Smith on drums. This is one of his most diverse projects, embracing free jazz, Latin music as well as No-Wave punk rock. It’s a bit of a shock to hear the group blast off with a thoroughly punk version of The Doors “Break on Through” sounding like it would be more appropriate at CBGB’s with torn jeans and safety pins than the love beads at the Whiskey a Go-Go. “Midost” continues the punk vibe, digging deep into a guitar led free jazz in territory mined by the likes of Nels Cline, Sonny Sharrock and Sonic Youth. Ribot has long explored Latin music and that is represented here by “Todo El Mundo Es Kitsch” and “For Marlena.” These are a little weak compared to his excellent work with the Prostetic Cubans band he led during the 1990’s. Also pallid are the slow abstract poetry of “When We Were Young and We Were Freaks” and the experimental “ShSh ShSh” both of which contain good ideas that are never fully developed. What does work well is the band’s funky title track, which mixes the jazz fusion of Roland Shannon Jackson’s old Decoding Society band with a heavy dollop of funk and humor to excellent effect. So this album is a bit of a mixed bag. Think of it as a bit of a Ribot sampler, with examples of the different musical aspects of his talent.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Interesting stories

The Allmusic blog has a nice post about the music of trumpeter Woody Shaw:
Although Shaw would continue to record for various labels up until his tragic death in 1989, he never quite achieved the commercial success he deserved. Nonetheless, he is remembered as a titan of jazz. While all of Shaw’s albums should be readily available, the very personal aspects of Woody III — and the searching, free flowing improvisations captured therein — make it an especially unique document deserving of reissue.
Big Road Blues has an interesting post about their Downhome Harmonica show:
As I looked backed I realized they were right although it certainly wasn’t intentional. Today’s program is a loosely themed tribute to a batch of great downhome harmonica blowers from the late 1940’s through the 1960’s. On deck today we spin rocking and raw sides by Papa Lightfoot, Coy “Hot Shot” Love, George “Harmonica” Smith, Forest City Joe, Jerry McCain, Schoolboy Cleve, Lazy Lester, Kid Thomas and several others.
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Monday, July 07, 2008

Short Takes

John Zorn - Filmworks XIX (Tzadik, 2008) For this release, John Zorn puts down his saxophone and picks up his composing pen, to write eleven short sketches for the animated short film, The Rain Horse which was directed by Russian animator Dimitri Geller. These compositions are performed by a chamber jazz trio consisting of Greg Cohen on bass, Rob Burger on piano and Erik Friedlander on cello. The group works in a quasi-classical manner, shifting cinematically between melancholy and mysterious moods. The music is played immaculately and would fit an atmospheric film well.The tracks "The Stallion" and "Wedding of the Wild Horses" caught my ear the most, with an edgy and nervous energy that made for memorable music.

Larry Ochs and Orkestrova - The Mirror World (for Stan Brakhage): Realization 1: Hand (Metalanguage, 2007) The first of two versions (or realizations) of an album paying tribute to avant garde filmmaker Stan Brakhage. This was an interesting suite like album, with instruments bubbling up for solo passages and then dropping back down in the quantum foam. The music is quite intricate, it is hard to tell how much is composed and how much is improvised. Despite the relative calm, there is always something interesting going on and the music holds attention throughout. The music builds to interesting landscapes with many different sounds in a multi-textured tapestry.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Dr. John - City That Care Forgot (429 Records, 2008)

The good doctor is one pissed off unit. War, natural disaster, and global warming are destroying everything that he holds dear, and the government does nothing but turn a blind eye to the war profiters making a bundle off of the bodies of the fallen. But instead of hanging his head in despair, he his fighting the good fight by putting together this excellent album filled with topical songs that shine a light on the shameful state of affairs. “Keep on Going” and “Time for a Change” set the tone for the album, with the band laying down a great foundation of swampy blues, Dr. John rippling the piano like Professor Longhair and singing strongly. He drops the hammer with “Black Gold” calling out the politicians that would throw away their decency and the lives of others for oil, and “My People Need a Second Line” which starts out as a mournful look at post Katrina New Orleans, before kicking out of the depression with a second line strut, it is a masterful performance. This is a very good album, and all the more so for the courage that Dr. John is showing in the songwriting and performing. This thoughtful and topical album is very highly recommended.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

I have a new streamable mixtape available at muxtape, with examples of some of the music I have been listening to recently. Here is the playlist:

Byther Smith - Play the Blues on the Moon
Mario Pavone - Miro
Tommy McClennan - Bottle Up and Go
John Zorn - KD's Motion
Mississippi Fred McDowell - Kokomo Me Baby
Don Cherry Rememberance
Fieldwork - Pivot Point
Vijay Iyer - Macaca Please
Avishai Cohen - Eleven Wives
David Murray & May Waldron - Hurray for Herbie
Hound Dog Taylor - Send You Back to Georgia
Coldplay - Yes

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

John Zorn w/ George Lewis and Bill Frisell - News For Lulu (Hatology, 1985, 2008)

This is a most welcome reissue of a very surprising disc. Saxophonist John Zorn was a leading light of the downtown New York City avant-garde scene, mixing the music of Ornette Coleman to diverse types of ethnic and film music to create new sonic textures. Guitarist Frisell was a member of Zorn's Naked City unit, but was already beginning to explore the Americana music that would make him famous. Trombonist George Lewis, a music historian and member of the AACM, knew the breadth and width of African-American musical history. The idea behind this disc was for the old to meet the new, as the trio played a selection of forgotten songs from the Blue Note record label recorded in the 1950's by the likes of Hank Mobley, Kenny Dorham and Freddie Redd. When this disc was originally recorded, compact disc reissues of historical music were in their infancy, and the originals were not available readily. The revelation at the time was that these "avant-gardists" could play straight ahead hard bop with flair and originality. This really shouldn't have surprised anybody, as these three men were very experienced musicians, who had listened widely and absorbed much of the great jazz music that came before them. Highlights are many on this disc, starting with Dorham's "KD's Motion" that has a joyous swing and happy feel. Sonny Clark's "News for Lulu" and "Sonny's Crib" are featured as well as a live and studio version of "Funk in Deep Freeze." The music throughout is very accessible, with Zorn and Lewis trading off front line duties and ensemble passages, an Frisell backing and soloing with angular momentum. This is what a tribute album should be: a true re-evaluation and remembrance of the music for music of the past by musicians that are pushing relentlessly towards the future.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Big Road Blues has a two part post on their blog about the pre-war bluesman Tommy McClennan, with some mp3 downloads to boot: Part One Part Two
McClennan is a contradiction; at once wholly individualistic with his powerhouse gravel-throated voice, sprinkled with frequent entertaining spoken asides propelled by an exciting, rudimentary guitar style while on the other hand derivative, with a repertoire mostly drawn from other artists.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Mario Pavone w/ Paul Bley and Matt Wilson - Trio Arc (Playscape, 2008)

One of bassist and composer Mario Pavone's earliest musical acquaintances was the pianst Paul Bley, they performed together during the late 1960's and recorded an album for ESP before going their seperate ways. Reuniting after nearly four decades and being joined by drummer Matt Walson they have recorded a disc of wide open improvisation by three masters of the genre. Some patience is required to unlock it's mysteries, but the music never grows stale and the time invested is well spent. "Slant" opens the disc with free sounding bass and drums setting the stage for the piano's entry. Bley comes in with a fast and tumbling feel to his playing. "Hello Again" features slow and probing piano full of wide open spaces. The bass and drums then join in on a dark collective improvisation. "Quest" has a throbbing bass pulse and Wilson skittering on cymbals, keeping the full bodied piano grounded. "Miro" is free and dark, like rolling thunderheads, and the delicate and probing piano found here is perfect for a performance dedicated to a visual artist. "Lazzi" has some odd plucked piano strings or prepared piano, and the bass played high up on the neck, making for a very interesting sound. "Sweet" is a milder trio improvisation with a neo-classical feel. The disc ends with "Solo Bley", a brief coda of solo piano ruminations to end the disc, completing a cycle that sounds like a suite.

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