Friday, September 30, 2011

"The Other Parade" by Bassdrumbone: Helias, Hemingway, Anderson

Bassist Mark Helias, drummer Gerry Hemingway and trombonist Ray Anderson played together around 30 years ago. Since then (and before then too) they have racked up scads of kudos through their many recordings and appearances. You either know that already or you don't. Regardless, their new collaboration as Bassdrumbone, The Other Parade (Clean Feed 223) will get you up to speed in a hurry.

It's music that is both avant and in the jazz tradition. You hear echoes of NOLA parades and you hear the sound of jazz today.

Each player is an exclamation point in the sense that they have given their respective instruments their own individual identity and can and do compose some very worthwhile music to improvise off of. The composer's chores are shared equally by the trio with three apiece. They put the in/out approach into action and pave the way for the three-way musical conversations that follow.

The Kismetic (fatefully inevitable) rapport between the three produces some of the finest modern jazz I've heard this year.

Don't be fooled. Great artists like these are at the first rank of their instruments--and that, in spite of a bassoon-trombone sniper who weighed in on a comment some months ago--is an achievement that ranks equally with, say, the best tenors or the best pianists.

This album gives you the warp and woof of why that is so. Anderson forcefully swinging with a bold tone and subtle nuance, Helias punchy and smart, Hemingway a master of timbre and pulse, these are three of today's mothers. Check this one out and I think you'll be very glad of it.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Ben Britton's Unconventional Riot Gets It Going with "Children at Play" EP

Ben Britton and his group Unconventional Riot do something nice on a download-only EP Children at Play (self-released). Ben and his trumpet-playing brother John did a previous album under the nom de plum the Britton Brothers. I haven't heard that one, but Children at Play brings John in for one of the three cuts.

It's contemporary jazz with the kind of modern rhythmic and overall thrust of a small Dave Holland group. Jordan Berger's contrabass and Gabe Globus-Hoenich's drums lock into straight-eight grooves (one goes a rock-cum-low-amplification route). Ben on tenor, Matt Davis on electric guitar and for one cut John on trumpet get good leverage and interesting melodic-harmonic depth as a front line, with Matt comping chords with subtle openness. All three front liners have good solo moments and the compositions have weight.

You can grab this goodie at i-tunes or Amazon at a nice price. It's no doubt just a taste of things to come, but it gets a thoroughgoing froth of good sounds going throughout. Check it out.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Quintus McCormick's Soul-Blues? Oui! "Put it On Me!"

If you are into the soul blues tradition of legends like Bobby "Blue" Bland and Little Milton, then you will appreciate Quinton McCormick's Blues Band. Their second album, Put it On Me (Delmark DE 815) gives you the band at their best, 14 slabs of sanctified carrying on. Quintus wrote the songs, sings and plays the guitar solos and it all works. For about half the numbers the band is joined by the Chicago Horns. You get a good slathering of the old-school renewed for today.

It's the real deal. Quintus was born and raised in Detroit, began playing the guitar at age eight, came over to Chicago to study with Tyrone Davis's arranger, James Mack, and started up a band there. The Quintus McCormick you hear today is a fully formed bluesman with an original vocal style and some very soulful lead playing.

Get it happening with this one!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Emerson, Lake and Palmer 40th Anniversary Reunion Concert DVD

Say what you like, Greg Lake as vocalist and bassist with the first edition of King Crimson, Keith Emerson with the Nice and then the two joining with drummer Carl Palmer as ELP created a body of music that was enormously influential, a mainstay force in what later was called Prog Rock.

But of course there were others working the same turf in those days. What the Beatles, Procol Harum, the New York Rock and Roll Ensemble and the Left Banke did for the Baroque era of classical music ELP did for the Romantic and early modern era. They electrified it, gave it rock leverage and melded it to advanced rock song form. Of course they didn't just do that, but they did it so consistently and generally so well that their sound was one of the cornerstones to what came after. There also were of course the flirtations with jazz, the virtuoso keyboard aspect of the band and perhaps most importantly the art-song perspective that Greg Lake introduced to the mix which distinguished them from the earlier Nice and gave them more depth.

Last year ELP were invited to close the prog High Voltage Festival in England. They had not played together for something like 12 years, but eventually agreed. As Greg Lake remarks in interview portion of the DVD on tap today, they were men in their 60s recreating music they had first played in their 20s. Could they rise to the technical demands of the music and create the sound anew for a new generation of would-be fans?

The answer is contained in abundance on the new DVD 40th Anniversary Concert 2010 (MVD Visual/Concert One). There are a few rough patches here and there, and of course this is a one-take situation. Emerson occasionally sounds slightly overtaxed in the most bravura passages, and Greg Lake's voice has lost just a touch of the upper range, or at least has initial rustiness at the top of his voice for the first few songs. But Palmer is fit, the music flows majestically in a program of their most well-known pieces, while the classic light show, mist machine and electrically charged etc stage routine comes off without noticeable hitch. All is well-captured sonically and visually for the DVD.

Anyone serious about advanced rock in those days will recognize most if not all of the program. Those new to the band will see them do what they do best. Those that do not like ELP or prog will not change their minds. Regardless, this was designed as a one-shot deal, so it is possibly the last chance audience and band had to commune together. That aspect permeates the set and is rather touching. Yes, they've gotten older, but they rise to the occasion and pull it off with class and honesty. It brought back all the reasons I and many others of my generation followed the band with interest, then branched out our listening to the fusion, prog and electric jazz that flourished in the period and beyond.

The DVD brings all of that back and does it with visual and aural impact. So get this if you want a good show. "The show that never ends" may have ended here. Be a part of it if you are so inclined.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Jose Rizo's Mongorama: Charanga Jazz With Plenty of Kick

Jose Rizo and a group of hip West Coast Latin jazz adepts pay tribute to congalero and musical icon Mongo Santamaria on Mongorama (Saungu SR003). They are joined by guests Hubert Laws on flute and Mongo's protege, Poncho Sanchez on conga. All contribute some nice solos, as does Oscar Hernandez on piano, Justo Almario on tenor sax and Dayren Santamaria on violin. Almario stands out in particular.

Musical director and flautist Danilo Lozano puts together an attractive program of originals and music associated with Mongo's great bands and their sound. The arrangements are hot and eminently musical.

It's the sort of disc that will make you want to dance and listen at the same time. Beautiful. Very recommended.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Dom Minasi Crafts an Absorbing Solo Guitar Set on "Looking Out, Looking In"

Dom Minasi has set out on his own path for many years as a guitarist who creates his own pedigree. In his own way he has reinvented the jazz guitar tradition. His playing can draw on that tradition or jump forward into the outer zones of freely conceived improvisation.

For his first unaccompanied solo guitar recording, Looking Out, Looking In (Re:konstruKt, no catalog #), he addresses directly both aspects of his playing. He in effect appears before us in a "pure" state, without song forms, rhythm accompaniment, or any other distractions. It's a record of a number of days spent in the studio, each day taking on one tonal, traditionally formed improvisation and a contrasting one that bounces off into the nether reaches of his outside style. In this way, as he explains in the notes that accompany the recording, he avoids repetition and potential boredom, which can be the case with an all-unaccompanied disk.

So we have Dom Minasi, his guitar, his amp set up with a reverb-drenched sound, and that is all. To succeed the inventive juices which he possesses in abundance would need to flow, copiously.

So I put my download-only CD-R on the machine the first time not long ago and was pleased at what I heard. The sound-oriented textural outness balances and is balanced by his tonal excursions. One style situates the other so that you get a feeling of release from constraints of genre, in favor of the unlimited potential music Dom has at his personal creative disposal. You get glimpses of his early chordal-noted rootedness in Johnny Smith and Wes Montgomery (without anything but hints at those origins) and you get the launched orbital space music, both equally a part of who Dom is as a guitar master.

It is music you can return to and grow into, to get to recognize the various musical structures he invents on the spot. It is a solo guitar album not quite like any other, because it shows you just how much Dom Minasi is totally his own person on the instrument.

Guitarists will listen with acute interest I suspect; non-guitarists will let themselves be enveloped in the pointed beauty and characteristic sound universes he makes for our delight and contemplation.

The recorded sound is quite decent. No attempt is made to disguise the occasional split-second hums, pops and buzzes coming from the string-pickup-amp feed one hears now and then as Dom takes his hands from the strings. This is how one sounds and this is what one hears. It is not a major distraction.

This is not music of a lightweight quality. It is a one-hour portrait of a guitar master as he existed in space and time on those several days in the studio. It is more a series of brilliant spontaneous sketches than it is a finished painting, Zen-like brushstrokes in sound to be savored, not an elaborately reworked painting with varnish, frame, spotlight and museum guard. It's improvisation after all. Improvisation of brilliance.

You can get a download copy at CD Baby and I suspect other download outlets as well. You should. Very much recommended.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

F*cked Up and their Punk Opus "David Comes to Life"

How do you judge punk? With your gut. It has to hit it. There should be fire, attitude and primal scream. There should be energy. There should be some feeling coming out of the usually elemental chord progressions. They should all be together. . . or not, in interesting ways. The lyrics should express something, supposing you take time to listen to them and/or they are audible. Other things too. Hey I just woke up, so the other things are at the bottom of my coffee mug.

F*cked Up, a band from Toronto, have all that on their recent David Comes to Life (Matador). They are a sort of band that might get some melody and guitar work in there that isn't strictly punk. And to me that makes them interesting. Oh, this album is based on a play. That's what Matador Records' website says. And if you listen hard, it sounds like there's a story there.

This is wall-of-sound stuff. My wife hates them. She doesn't like punk, though. They have power. It has a hard, near-metal largeness to the thrash. They combine punk with '60s folk rock via a 12-string jangle on one--and that's different. The band name wakes you up, doesn't it? It tells you that they don't want to enter the mainstream pop world. You have to admit that's pretty cool.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Aimee Allen Sings "Winters and Mays"

Singers. Some get your attention by their artistry. Some don't. Aimee Allen did for me. She's well educated and is an attorney by day. At night she sings. Her new album Winters & Mays (Azuline Music no cat #) gives you plenty of music, her and a small group that includes Pete McCann and his tasty guitar work, among others.

Aimee's voice is poised, trained, has fine pitch placement and good use of vibrato, goes from a quiet, mellow lower range to some dramatic highs. The album covers some standards and she does a good job imprinting her personality on them. Then there are her originals and they are well put-together songs. Here she stands out from the pack while also being a kind of work in progress. Not every song is earth bending but the best are very good and I suspect this part of her talent is still growing. It's what will boost her above the countless good singers there are out there, I believe.

Meanwhile Winters & Mays is available for you to check out.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bill Smith, "Folk Jazz" with Jim Hall, 1959

There are recordings that fall through the cracks. Then you find out about them eventually. That is the case for me and clarinetist-composer Bill Smith. His Folk Jazz (Contemporary-Jazz Classics) recording from 1959 was literally off my radar. I don't think I ever even saw it in my many bricks-and-mortar adventures.

Then a little while ago in the course of interviewing bassist Michael Bisio he mentioned his association with Bill Smith in his Northwest Coast days, then mentioned Folk Jazz with high praise (the interview is online at All About Jazz). I did not need to be told twice. It may be OOP but there are copies around on the net if you look.

It survives as a reissue of the Contemporary LP in the form of a Jazz Classics CD--and since Concord took over the label(s) appears to no longer be in manufacture. Now of course Contemporary was so prolific it would have been easy to miss. I did.

Bill Smith, to backtrack, first came to notice as one of the members of Dave Brubeck's experimental Octet in the beginning of the careers of both. Smith was a fellow colleague in the Mills College Milhaud days and participated in a number of Brubeck's first recordings, then went his own way. He has garnered a reputation for his deceptively cool clarinet and his compositions. Folk Jazz if I am not mistaken was a one-off project that did not have a sequel.

You have Bill on clarinet, Jim Hall, guitar, Monty Budwig on bass and Shelly Manne on drums. It's on the surface a typical West Coast session with a typical line up. But the music! Bill takes eleven well known folk melodies and proceeds to burn them up! With a cool fire. . . . There is some relation to Jimmy Giuffre's work of the time, which is helped by the presence of Jim Hall who had an important association with Jimmy, and both the clarinet work and treatment of themes invite comparison.

However, Bill Smith is his own person on clarinet and sounds wonderful here. The group is more overtly concerned with swinging than the Giuffre Trio of the time and the presence of Budwig and Manne changes the tenor dramatically. Hall is doing his very hip, very subtle best and the rhythm team is taking no prisoners, though their mission does not include such things anyway. Smith and Hall work together like hip clockwork throughout.

It's a killer, folks. A diamond and not in the rough, just hidden from the public ear for too long. Grab a copy while you can still find it and I think you'll be very happy you did.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Henze's New Music for Guitar, Harp, Chamber Orchestra: Royal Winter Music II, etc.

Hans Werner Henze composes music for the guitar that is thoroughly modern and ambitious in its refusal to write music that merely dazzles. As a master composer he looks at the guitar as a vehicle for the music in his head. He succeeds fully in realizing music that does not sacrifice personal vision yet sounds perfectly right for the guitar.

Today we look at a new disk in this light. It features Sabine Oehring on guitar with the Boris Blacher Ensemble (NCA 60227) in a program of Henze works.

"Royal Winter Music II (Second Sonata on Shakespearean Characters for Guitar)" (1979) begins the program for guitar alone. It is a meditative and extremely dynamic work, calling for both subtle and extroverted guitar interpretation. Ms. Oehring rises to the occasion with very expressive yet precise execution. It's a kind of masterpiece and her performance helps you see why.

What follows, "Carillon, Recitatif, Masque" (1974) is a beautifully conceived trio suite for mandolin, guitar and harp. The sonarity of the three instruments in combination shows Henze's acute musical sensibility. It is music that can be simultaneously delicate and deeply evocative, especially in the first and second movements; lively and motor propulsed in the final movement. A wonderful work, lovingly performed.

The final work, "An eine Aolsharfe" (1985/86) is a chamber orchestral gem with some beautiful orchestral-guitar interactions.

In short this is highly lyrical modern music that forms a kind of object lesson on the modern concert guitar as a vehicle for advanced music. Friedrich Goldmann leads the Boris Blacher Ensemble with exacting attention to the wonderful nuances of Henze's mature style. Sabine Oehring gives an exemplary performance of music that calls on all the artistic interpretive powers available to the modern concert guitarist.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Eleven Twenty-Nine: Cosmic Two-Guitar Duets By Tom Carter and Mark Orleans

I won't say I am getting blase about music. That will never happen. But when you get stacks of CDs every week for review consideration, and many of them sound a little bit similar, you can find that at first listen nothing sticks in your head. They sometimes all run together until you listen for the second or third time. That was not the case with Eleven Twenty-Nine (Northern-Spy), a series of guitar duets by Tom Carter and Marc Orleans. From the moment it sounded from my speakers, I knew that this was a rather rare commodity.

The music is largely electric. There are quasi-trancey raga-rock sequences, there are bluesy excursions, there are expositions that have a minimalist post-Fripp-Eno ambiance. And all of it has the distinctive stamp of the guitarists' vision on it.

Both artists have a track record behind them. But all that doesn't have direct relevance to the plain fact: this is creative music, it takes you someplace without leaving you stranded there, and it glows with a kind of caring love of the sound of guitars and what's been done or undone with them since Hendrix, Duane Eddy, Gary Lucas, John Fahey and Robert Fripp plugged in (or didn't) and shaped a sound. Tom Carter and Marc Orleans are shaping their own sound. You can be there by plugging in your music system and putting this on.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Troy Roberts and his Album "Nu-Jive": Funk with Brains

Tenor saxist Troy Roberts has given us with Nu-Jive (XenDen) an album of post-Hancockian funk that is not slick, not puerile, has a lot of good blowing and tunes that kick it up in varied ways.

The band is together. It's Troy on tenor, Silvano Monasterios on keys, mostly electric piano, Eric England on electric bass and David Chiverton on the drums.

Troy is Australian. He blows a lot of tenor in the wake of somebody like the late Michael Brecker. He does not hang back and the approach of the band is to do the funk in ways that leave no doubt this is JAZZ-funk. In that way they are like the Brecker Brothers at their best, and of course, Herbie H. when he wants to do that.

It's pretty impressive stuff. Troy is a PLAYER.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Claire Dickson: A "Scattin' Doll" Makes A First Appearance with Youth, Charm, and Large Vocal Potential

Today we have Claire Dickson, a jazz vocalist all of 14, and her debut Scattin' Doll (self-released NDR 102). It's Claire and a trio with added horn soloists here and there. The band, especially pianist Michael McLaughlin, does the right thing, swings their way through the GAS (Great American Songbook) material and gives center stage to Claire. Claire takes the jazz pedigree seriously; she scats and varies the phrasing on each song in the appropriate way. She has incredible poise for her years and a vocal instrument which has the straightforward adolescent sound, the hint of a vibrato at end phrases, and at this point an unforgettable sincerity about it. She's a little like a 14-year old Julie Christie. Listen to Gershwin's "My Man is Gone Now" and you get the yearning, vulnerability and a kind of emotional exuberance that revels in the beauty of the melody.

If she keeps on and there is no reason why she wont, she'll grow into the drama of the song material and gain that depth that a mature vocalist gets only in time. Her scatting will no doubt gain an ever-more solid center of gravity.

In the meantime this is a most auspicious offering. She has artistry, innocence, musicality and an incredible sound that is a product of youth and a love of jazz singing. Is she perfect? Well at that age she is amazing, but of course not entirely perfect. You won't care because she has charisma to boot.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Jack Curtis Dubowsky Ensemble III: Further Along

I reviewed the second Jack Curtis Dubowsky Ensemble album on these pages some time ago. At that point his way of proceeding was a bit locked into itself. Essentially Jack would lay down a particular electric bass ostinato, the drummer accompanied with a rock beat, and one or more synthesizers played back the cyclical drones and repeating electronic pulsations-sound melodics for which they had been programmed. It was a pretty simple way of going about things. But on several listens one came away with the idea that there was something appealing about these hypnotic series of sounds. The results often enough were intriguing, though not requiring a great deal of musical technique. It was a kind of elemental sound environment he created that, when it worked, did so with a nonconformity that I at least found valid.

Jack Curtis Dubowsky III (De Stijl Music) moves the music forward a bit. There are pieces that follow the same general trajectory as the second album, and for those one can more or less repeat the experience one gets from the earlier collecton. Fred Morgan is laying down the beats in a steady way. Jack adds piano and percussion to his instrumental arsenal. There are pieces that break away from the pulse, riff, beat patterns and they have an atmospheric charm much of the time, but I must say they also do not have the same hypnotic quality. By going into more improvisational territory the ensemble invites comparison to the many other groups working that style. And one must say that there are others who have managed a more inventive, more free-virtuosity than is the case here.

The non-beat pieces are a change of pace from the beat-oriented pieces, so there is something to be said for their introduction. They do not completely hold their own however. On the other hand the very last cut, "Sleep", has something going for it with Jack's vocals, John Fletcher's lyrics and the general pulsating ambiance. This is not something you'd ever hear on pop radio. It is not uninteresting in a spacey way.

All in all, then, though there is an evolving stylistic set of approaches to be heard on this one, it is less successful and, for those non-trance-beat pieces, a bit more exposed and less inventive than perhaps it could be.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Eugene Marlow's Heritage Ensemble's Judeo-Latin Jazz Adventures: "A Fresh Take"

Dr. Eugene Marlow, pianist, arranger and founder of his Heritage Ensemble has had an idea and has made it work. The idea: take some cornerstone Jewish folk songs and liturgical melodies and rethink them for a crack ensemble in a style that has much of the Latin tinge as well as Brazilian, hard bop and post-bop jazz sensibilities. His new one is a remake of Making the Music Our Own, which the ensemble released in 2006. This time out it is dubbed A Fresh Take (MEII).

I have not heard the original, so my comments will not touch on that part of the music. In many ways what counts is the new one. First of all the band: there is Latin percussionist/congalero Cristian Rivera, who blazes away in fine fashion. Frank Wagner walks and talks on acoustic bass with eloquence and hard swing. The beautiful and well-appreciate Bobby Sanabria is on drums, and he makes the session pop as he does with his own bands and just about any time he is in the mix. Michael Hashim combines Judeo minor strains with a hard-charging modern sound on soprano and alto. Eugene Marlow has some expansive opportunities to solo and he transposes the Semitic tonality into jazz phrasings--a freely voiced bop and beyond pianism that forms a high point to the disk.

Combine all that with very interesting arrangements and good grooves and you have the album in a nutshell. The Heritage Ensemble is doing something that no one else is doing in quite this way. And they do it very well. Needless to say the diaspora, as we saw in the last posting, can become a center, musically speaking. It does here. I certainly recommend this one.

Friday, September 9, 2011

"From Avenue A" Documents the Transition from Yiddish to Second Generation Pop In New York, 1914-1950

What is world music? It is music of any world, even the world of New York City. That is, that part of the NY world that is not (or was not) an inherent part of the mainstream Western industrial machine-culture. That's one way to look at it. It is also the world of people who are either dwelling, or came from elsewhere. Now that may seem like a sort of ethnocentric arrogance, but on the other hand it does imply a genuine interest in reaching out and appreciating the music of brothers (and sisters) often thought of as "the others." It is the music of those at the periphery of a WASP-dominated culture, historically. "Periphery" does not imply that their culture is marginal, only that it is seen at the "center" as something "other."

With that in mind we give a look today at an unusual 2-CD anthology, From Avenue A to the Great White Way: Yiddish and American Popular Songs from 1914-1950 (Columbia Legacy C2K 86323). The producers have rummaged far and wide through those old Columbia 78 matrices that survived, and emerge to present a set of sometimes rare, almost all extremely well-preserved recordings covering the Yiddish Theatre and the gradual incorporation of tonality, comedic approach, style and musical cadence into the world of Broadway and swing-pop. (Or alternately, the gradual incorporation of jazz, pop and strictly pan-Manhattian subject matter into the Yiddish musical ethos.) This was the New York City of an especial fertility, culturally speaking--and of course that included the flourishing of Afro-American music, jazz, and other forms of music that are not addressed on this anthology to any great extent except as those elements come into contact with Yiddish elements.

Keep in mind that this is not a collection of a klezmer-to-pop spectrum. Klezmer does have some representation, but in fact Yiddish Theatre incorporated dance forms and other klezmeric elements but had its own "syncretistic" elements in addition, even over in Europe. So you find Yiddish folk strains, aspects of European operetta and popular generalized music hall elements from a pre-jazz era. The singers were the focus and they had a style that we can only wonder at and admire, since the times have gone by and the tradition is not a part of our 21st century musical life. It is very extroverted, declamatory, timbrally distinct and has a largeness fitting to the need to project to the very back rows of the theatre. Other folk and Cantorial elements are too a part of the vocal mix.

At any rate the anthology covers a great deal: comedic songs, the equivalent of arias in a distinctly Yiddish style and tonality, a Cantorial recitation or two, Yiddish-English pop/theatre hybrids with a retention of the Yiddish ethos and minor tonality but addressing the transforming world of Yiddish-American New York, second generation Jewish artists who take on a more pronounced swing/jazz/pop element, sometimes doing distinctly Yiddish derived versions of pop material of the day, big band swing incorporating Yiddish elements--including a great Cab Calloway cut, and so on.

With an anthology of this sort so much has to be left out and it would be easy to note what one might have liked to hear more of. "Pure" Yiddish theatre is a bit sketchily covered, presumably due to what matrices the producers found in very good condition. So there are some major stars of the theater that are not represented or under-represented. And the Yiddish-American-transformation music selection has some notable absences. Why no Bagelman Sisters, for example, who had a highly developed Yiddish-swing style that Columbia covered in a least a few releases (I have a couple of good 78s myself)?

All in all though this is a fascinating look at a unique period in the musico-cultural world of New York, and shows in microcosm the outlook of immigrants in second and third generations and their gradual (even if sometimes superficial) integration into American socio-cultural life. It is also a matter of how the Yiddish theater and folk-culture influence formed an important part of vaudeville, mainstream pop and Broadway musical theatre, and of course comedic style.

Well worth pursuing. . .

Thursday, September 8, 2011

GNO Scores A Ringing Metal Success with "Cannibal Tango"

The French power trio GNO are all about metal that has push but also musically progressive melodic band pyrotechnics, something like Green Day meets Frank Zappa, or perhaps Dwezil. Their second album Cannibal Tango (Sensory) has a brutal lyricism about it with three-part vocal harmonies, the blazing guitar of Christophe Godin, and the complementary kick of Peter Puke (great name!) on drums and Gaby Vegh at the bass.

Listen to the title cut and you'll get it right away. Those who live in this realm of music will appreciate Cannibal Tango, but I think it will also appeal to those not ordinarily indulgent about the genre, people looking for metal that has the musical sensibility and ambition of the best of its fusion counterparts out there.

The songs are very solid with plenty of musical elements to grab your ears. And Christophe Godin will make air guitarists out of even the most inhibited listeners.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Demetria Taylor Sings Some Bad Blues on "Bad Girl"!

Demetria Taylor sings the blues. She SINGS the blues. Ever since Ma, Bessie and Minnie, women have made it clear that the blues is no exclusively male domain. That's no less true in the urban, electrified blues world today than it was when the early masters recorded, Bessie in a tent on one session, since her voice was so powerful the cutting needle was jumping off its track. If anybody would make that needle jump again, its Demetria Taylor. She has one huge and imperative delivery. She belts them out, Jack. She's the daughter of Chicago blues guitar legend Eddie Taylor, and you hear how she must have imbibed the blues tradition starting at a young age.

Bad Girl (Delmark 814), her recorded debut, dispenses with the tent because today of course we can get the levels right without recourse to such extremes. Tent or no, Demetria lets it all loose in a program of blues classics and classic blues that electrify as they electri-testify. It's Demetria and a hot band of urban bluesmen. The guitars of Shun Kikuta and Eddie Taylor, Jr come out of the background and power up some firestorming bends and tatoos to match Demetria's passionate soulfulness.

Listen to the growling despair of "Cherry Red Wine" and you know that nothing has been watered down for the feint of heart. There are hot versions of "Wang Dang Doodle," "I'm A Woman/Hootchie Cootchie Woman," "Big Boss Man," and "Wang Dang Doodle" and "Little Red Rooster," and it all hits home. Demetria HAS it in all the ways the classic Chicago blues greats had it. Bad Girl gives you the goods. You think there's nothing happening in the blues today? Think again. Demetria Taylor is one of those happening things. So get with her music.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

When Katie Bull Sings, We Listen: "Freak Miracle"

There are vocalists and then there are vocalists. Katie Bull is in the latter category. I of course wax humorously (I hope) cryptic. What's the case with Katie Bull is she is the sort of jazz vocalist who uses herself as an instrument. I've been listening to her Freak Miracle (Innova 802) CD, out earlier when something called summer was with us in our hearts. I listen and increasingly think that my listening time has been well rewarded. Katie has surrounded herself with good jazz musicians like Frank Kimbrough, Jeff Lederer, Joe Fonda, and she brings them in in various combinations according to the needs of a particular song. There's a mix of standards and Ms. Bull's originals, which are quite interesting.

The stars of the show are Katie Bull's voice and her intelligent concept of a modern jazz. This is music with freedom and with a stretch of the vocalist-with-improvisers tradition. There's effective accompaniment, Lederer sometimes playing Prez to her Lady Day, for example. I don't mean that either sound like the latter-either. I think of that classic give-and-take you get on the best of Billie's collaborations with Lester. There's something of that here.

Katie Bull has a voice that carefully enunciates the lyrics (Carmen McRae used to do that especially well) and there is plenty of nuance and improvisational variation going on too. Her voice is attractively breathy or ringingly downright as she feels the music. And she hits notes and phrases with the confidence and imagination of what a jazz musician is supposed to be about.

Katie Bull is a fine one to kick off the autumn season on these pages. She's good. The music flows consistently and attractively from her throat and the various appendages/sounding-methods of her fellow musicians. If you want a modern-day vocal disk that puts a fresh face on the genre, Freak Miracle will give you that. Ms. Bull is not shooting a bunch of bull (good thing, too). She is a real talent.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Micachu and the Shapes, "Chopped and Screwed" a la Carte!

Since today I am covering TWO releases, both which could be put under the category of WTF, I will jump right in. Both albums are music about music, meta-music. The first posting is about Versions, this one is about Chopping and Screwing. Micachu and the Shapes join with the London Sinfonietta and the album is what it is: Chopped and Screwed (Rough Trade). Micachu & the Shapes do some pretty left-field songwriting, with some laconic vocals. The Shapes and the Sinfonietta do some very interesting musical backing and then there is a kind of blending and reordering that goes on.

The results to me are extraordinarily interesting. There are noise elements, electro-acoustic transformations, loops and you-name-it. The point though is what you have here is a sort of avant alt rock from another universe. There are nine discrete tracks. It's a limited edition vinyl release and download. It's something I like to hear. It will stretch your ears! Give it a go.

Patha du Prince, "XI Versions," Hey What???

Today I am looking at two releases that in a sense are "releases about releases." The first up is Patha Du Prince and the album XI Versions of Black Noise (Rough Trade). It's a reworking of tracks originally on Black Noise, which was a comp of tracks made by friends of Patha (Animal Collective, Hyroglyphic Being, etc.).

Right off the bat I have not heard the original so I feel like someone who has walked in on the middle of a conversation. But this is not a conversation, it is music and it stands or falls on its relation to itself. To me it most definitely stands.

It's a beat-centered, electronically transformed set of tracks that have trance elements and fascinating sound worlds folded in on itself at every step.

I don't ordinarily listen to this kind of electronica hybrid. I AM always glad to hear something creative in this vein. This is creative, I like it. It ain't disco. It's spaced out in good ways.You might think it's not eventful enough? That is part of this sort of music--it goes on without caring to break out into some hugely attention-grabbing thing. That's not what it is about. So if you accept that this is very well done.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Harold Lopez Nussa & Trio Give A New Twist on the Afro-Cuban-Jazz Nexus: El Pais de las Maravillas

The melding of Afro-Cuban music and jazz has been going on since the rise of son and the "Spanish tinge" of Jelly Roll Morton began a slow but steady convergence from early mid-20th century practices through to today. If Latin jazz will no longer get the Grammy coverage it has had in the past, it is not of importance, ultimately. It is true in varying degrees for all music, but Latin jazz in particular is not a music that gains much from official recognition, save a career boost to (and better prospects for the survival of) the artists involved. Latin jazz is a music of the barrios, the streets, the clubs, a ground-swell music of personal involvement, not so much of racking up high chart numbers, though again that is a nice plus for the music when it happens.

We have seen in the altered attitude on the part of world leaders more accessible inroads to current Cuban resident Latin jazz and Afro-Cuban artists, exemplified in the international rise to prominence of pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba over the past 30 years.

Happily another good pianist is emerging into the spotlight outside of Cuba--pianist Harold Lopez Nussa. His trio (with saxophonist David Sanchez guesting) has a CD out, El Pais de las Maravillas (World Village), and it's a good way into Sr. Nussa's music. On this album Nussa often works closely around and within the Latin rhythmic tradition for both his comping and as implicit or explicit in his soloing. The jazz element takes everything post-bebop as its foundation, from Latin hardbop to Corea-and-beyond fusion. It's a music of stop and go fusionic kicks, steady-state Latin grooves and good solo performances from Nussa and Sanchez.

The rhythm section never flags. They set up the all important clave, post-clave and implied clave that the melodists work off of with success. There are enough contrasts and varied approaches in the 11 cuts that generalizations may not fit absolutely everything. Suffice to say that there is plenty of space for Harold Lopez Nussa to exhibit his gifts as improviser, harmonist, vital rhythmic catalyst, and tune-meister.

An excellent addition to this year's batch of Latin jazz offerings. I suspect we'll be hearing a great deal more from the pianist. Happily.