Monday, September 29, 2014

Bombay Rickey, Cinefonia

The music of Bollywood over time has done perhaps what no other music could get away with so consistently. That is, in the interest of the movie soundtrack world, succeeded in combining not only East and West, but everything with everything else, musically speaking. Bombay Rickey celebrates that Bollywood, an eclectic, sometimes brilliant and always vibrant amalgamism. Then it sends it even further over the top. Cinefonia (Cowboys and Indian CI-1) is the looniest fusion music one is likely ever to hear; yet it works.

Bombay Rickey is Kamala Sankaram's brilliant vocalizing (and accordion playing) with Drew Fleming on guitar and voice, and Jeff Hudgins on reeds, voice and keys, with a backing band. They take the Bollywood premise that "everything potentially goes with everything else" and take it to the max. Cowboy music, Indian, coloratura soprano opera, surf, Latin, funk, rock, fusion and anything else you can imagine come together in funny but really compelling ways.

The guitar playing is at the forefront along with Kamala's exceptional vocalizing and the rest is rather ingenious arranging-composing that manages to piece together things you can't imagine being part of one thing.

It is one hell of a hoot! If you can imagine it, you'll probably like it.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Jim Pembroke, If the Rain Comes

Jim Pembroke has the singer-songwriter vibe from an earlier era. He writes genuine songs with lyrics that reflect his life. He made the album If the Rain Comes (TUM 007) with his old friend Hennik Otto Donner, who produced it and wrote the string and horn arrangements. Then Otto passed away not long after. Jim and his band preside, and dedicate the album to Otto's memory.

There are eleven tunes of note. "When the Rain Comes", the title cut, starts out sounding much like the Beatles "Rain", then veers off in its own effective way. The rest of the tunes have their own special quality. Otto's arrangements are excellent, Jim sings in his own sort of style, singer-songwriter style. Jukka Orma plays some nice guitar here and there.

It's an album that has accessibility and just a touch of the hand-crafted weirdness of earlier times. It's not by rote. It at once sounds familiar in its periodicity, yet new.

The TUM label in Finland put it out and its production values are excellent. I find it engaging, tuneful but not cookie-cutter.

If you go for rock singing-songwriting of quality and nice arrangements of same, this may appeal. I like it myself.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Bill MacKay & Matt Lux, December Concert

Though I no longer live in Chicago and have not for quite a while, I still follow and appreciate the vibrant jazz and blues scene that Chi-town embodies. Another example is before us today in an extended 30-minute EP of electric guitar and electric bass duets by Bill MacKay and Matt Lux, respectively, entitled December Concert (Ears & Eyes).

The music has a primality that loosely puts it in a sort of raga-rockish modality. They stay in a pitch-centered zone and develop compositional-improvisational moods and pulsations that have a retro-transformed appeal. MacKay comes up with inventive figures, both chordal and line-building aspects that are well seconded by Lux's electric bass. It sounds a little like what a psychedelic band might do in the classic era if the rest of the band dropped out for a half-hour. Of course that rarely happened if at all, but you have to imagine.

There is counterpoint and modal ingenuity to be heard here, all of which is pleasing. I would love to hear the two do something similar with drums and a second guitar or keys. Perhaps they will. But the openness of the duet format gives them leverage to go places that the presence of a full band might inhibit.

There is a refreshing change for one segment when Bill switches to the requinto, a smaller, higher pitched guitar used for traditional folk music in Spain and Mexico especially.

The open form format gives the two plenty of freedom and they take advantage by weaving webs of both latent and full-blown psychedelia.

It maintained my interest in an inventive way. If you are into the zoner free space that the Dead traditionally opened up often enough as part of their live shows, you will definitely resonate with this, I would think.

An adventure.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ross Martin, Max Johnson, Jeff Davis, Big Eyed Rabbit

Something different? I mean very unexpected? That would be Ross Martin (guitar), Max Johnson (bass) and Jeff Davis (drums) and their Big Eyed Rabbit (NotTwo). It takes traditional fiddle tunes as a starting point and proceeds to transmute them in a free-avant-electric alchemy into a new kind of gold.

There are originals as well as traditional ditties. You must listen closely for the fiddle-tune sub-basement foundation to emerge, but it is there intermittently.

Turns out Ross Martin's inventive guitar thrust, Max Johnson's double bass creative ingenuity and the always hip drumming of Jeff Davis combine for a potent threesome. They work nicely together but at the same time make individual, continually original improvisatory contributions throughout.

Martin has technique and a free-jazzy in-the-pocket flair of his own. It goes well with Max Johnson's out-front all-over bass sanity-madness, here with more of a folksy feel than is ordinary. That works just fine. And Jeff is doing exactly what he does well, stretching time and giving the music motion in a melodic way.

Max and Ross are artists to listen to these days. Jeff, too. This is a great place to hear all three in an inspired mood.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Flametet, A General History of Flame

Flametet is a quintet (plus drummer) led by bassist and composer Kit Demos. We take a look today at their album A General History of Flame (Glitch Records 002). They seem to be Boston based.

The album delivers up 12 bracing slices of avant modern jazz composition-performance, freely realized with looseness and improvisatory eloquence by the quintet, an interesting combination of players and sound coloring. Kit Demos appears on both double bass and electric bass guitar as well as synthesizer, Jeff Platz plays electric guitar, sometimes modified by ring modulator, Charlie Kohlhase gets with the tenor and baritone, Tod Brunel is on bass clarinet and clarinet, and Pandelis Karayorgis plays the Wurlitzer electric piano, sometimes with wah-wah. There is a drummer present on the date and he sounds good. For some reason he is not named.

The combined electric and acoustic sounds of the band give us a vivid soundstage. Every player comes through with distinctive sounds, collective and individual soloing of note, and an ensemble sound of their very own.

The album toggles between composition, collective improv and soloing with ease. It is a relaxed date that puts everything in a worthy light. Though perhaps deceptively casual, it is free music of importance, with bass playing that comes through along with the other instruments as altogether contributive to what's new out there in avant jazz.

You should hear this!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Eric Revis Quartet, In Memory of Things Yet Seen

Bassist-composer-bandleader Eric Revis fields a quartet of note on In Memory of Things Yet Seen (Clean Feed 294). The music is distinguished by Eric's beautiful writing for the reeds, the interplay of fire and acute interactivity with Bill McHenry on tenor, Darius Jones on alto and, for two cuts, Branford Marsalis, the excellent drumming (and effective vibes) of Chad Taylor and, understandably, some excellent bass work from Eric.

The compositions set the bar high. They are very memorable and come back at you the more you listen. At the same time the band is primed and lucid, inspired by the numbers to get a fresh foothold on freedom-within-structure, new thing newly thinged. Darius Jones has been knocking me out lately and here he does again. But then Bill is no slouch, either. Branford is a welcome presence as guest to make it a pretty heavy three-horn front line.

I must say this disk rewards in great measure. It has everything going for it and sounds so today that it does one a heartening. This is the music of today!

Very recommended.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Pray for Brain, None of the Above

Not everything is obvious. Except that it isn't. When I put on the CD by the band Pray for Brain for the first time, I had no idea what to expect. What I got was NOT the obvious. I am speaking of the album None of the Above (7d Media 1412).

Well and so? So it is a trio in a rock-jazz-fusion mode. Guitar (and oud!) by Mustafa Stefan Dill, acoustic bass by Christine Nelson, drums by Jefferson Vorhees.

The band gets a sound that plays on Mideastern modes often, yet does it in a sometimes heavy, always smartly rocking way. These are originals that have metal, surf and avant fusion overtones, depending. The band seems to be based in New Mexico.

Mustafa Stefan has his very own way with the guitar (and oud!) that is technically adept but very lucid and original in a Mideastern minor mode that has rock heft when he choses to crank a bit--and a bit of the hang-ten surf sound down pat when he brings that on. He's very worth hearing. Christine plays the double bass with great tone and a nice sense. Jefferson drums with taste and heat.

The tunes, the band as a totality and Mustafa's signature guitar style all give you something different, something extra.

I must say that this one was a big, pleasing surprise. I don't know how far afield they gig, but if they happen to be in your town, check them out! The album, too! It's not the obvious and it is very good.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Zvuloon Dub System, Anbessa Dub

Reggae Ethiopian-Jewish style? Why not? Tel Aviv-based Zvuloon Dub System gives us a reason why the combination can work very well. Anbessa Dub shows us how. It's a full band with rhythm and horns. Ethiopian singer Gili Yalo and the band give us reggae roots and an Ethiopian tonality that has a Jewish tinge if you listen closely.

They've been together since 2006. Yalo joined in 2009. They record in analog and the music sounds that much more warm and authentic as a result. Mahmoud Ahmed, the legendary Ethiopian soul vocalist, does the singing on one of the cuts and it is magical.

But then the whole album has a convincing sound to it. It's the real thing--yet what an unusual combination of realities is represented!

You who think this sounds interesting will dig this. Others will too if they open up to the combination. It's all very rootsy, yet sounds as fresh as anything out there.

Get it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Move, Live at the Fillmore 1969

The Move was a British band that had some FM hits over here in the states, likable things like "Hello Susie". I heard them and they fit in with what the later psych and song bands were up to in the era. But for whatever reason I never checked out their albums and when they faded I didn't really notice.

Now we have a two-CD set of the band going on at some length, in person. Live at the Fillmore 1969 (Right Recordings 116 2-CDs) gives us 100 minutes of the band in quite decent sound, considering, making their first and only US tour. By 1969 they had had a few lineup changes but the late Carl Wayne was still doing the lead vocals. Roy Wood is very present on lead guitar. The band sounds tight yet loose.

I didn't know what to expect from this, their only decent live recording. Turns out it is a pleasant surprise. They do good versions of "Hello Susy" and "I Can Hear the Grass Grow" but also some choice covers that differ from the originals enough that we have something different going for them--Ars Nova's "Fields of People", the Nazz's "Open My Eyes" and "Under the Ice", the Byrds' "Going Back" and others, all with something to offer them.

It's very much a period piece, as you can imagine. Yet the band had musicality to them and come through with some very groovy music that epitomises the era yet manages to sound fresh, too.

Recommended for all those interested in the era!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mike Baggetta Quartet, Thieves and Secrets

Mike Baggetta, guitarist, composer, bandleader. His quartet was present on an excellent CD I covered here in 2011 (type his name into the search box above). The four return with another one, if anything even more fully realized, Thieves and Secrets (Fresh Sound New Talent 436).

The quartet has nothing lacking in the lineup of Mike on guitars, Jason Rigby saxophones, Eivind Opsvik on contrabass and George Schuller on drums. Each are stylists in their own right, known for creative smarts and individuality, all of which meshes very well in this quartet.

Many guitarists when launching their own bands put great emphasis on their own playing and a showcase fitting in with that idea. Mike gets plenty of space here to show his wide-ranging musical thinking as a guitarist, yet the band itself and the concept of free yet worked-though sounds is at least as equally important.

And that is what makes this album special, or part of it anyway.

There are all manner of moods in the pieces here, much of it melodically direct and infectious, all of it showing an involved dynamic or four excellent players both listening to each other and setting individual roles far more than imitative.

Mike shows in the process that he is a voice that electrified or less so has an original stance, spontaneous and fresh, musically evolved, whether jazz-rocking it or freely articulating. And nicely so, the rest of the band also shows these qualities.

The compositions are memorable and the music stands out. This is an excellent listen. Lend your ears!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Elias Haslanger, Live at the Gallery

Hammond jazz combos are flourishing again these days, there's no doubt about it. Like certain forms of the blues (which a good organ combo finds roots in), there is a timelessness of soul if everything works right. And since an excellent guitarist is somewhat fundamental to such an outfit, and as we have one here in Jake Langley, I am posting tenorman Elias Haslanger's hip album on this post site.

Live at the Gallery (Cherrywood) revisits some of the classic funk (first variant) numbers and a standard or two with genuine relish. Haslanger has that right-at-you directness that channels the soul and bop of the best tenors of the genre, Dexter but harder-edged, and you could name some other cats but the final synthesis and right-there quality belongs to Elias. Dr. James Polk mans the B-3, gives us all the sauce he's got. Langley comes out of Benson-Martino for his own soulful take. The rhythm section of Scott Laningham (drums) and Daniel Durham (bass) do what they should and drive things well.

So we get some very nice versions of "One for Daddy O", "Watermelon Man", "Song for My Father" and "Adam's Apple". They groove freshly. Then there are the change-of-pace standards like "In A Sentimental Mood", "I Thought About You", and "Misty" that all come off well.

It's music with the live energy that this sort of music sorely needs. Set up your own little club, even if in your head, and let this one play. You will be there.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Michael Feinberg's Humblebrag, Live at 800 East

It's time we show some love to the bass players, since they form an important part of what this blog is about. Michael Feinberg probably doesn't come to mind when you think of "bass". That is because he is not a name bantered about much, that I know of. I've covered two of his albums before, here--type his name in the search box for the posts. I liked them well. He has a new album that will make you take notice of him if you've missed out before. Michael Feinberg's Humblebrag is the name of the band. The album is Live at 800 East (Behip).

What hits you about this one is the overall concept. It's jazz, very modern jazz, sometimes edging into free territory, always in an advanced mode. It has a group sound that starts with Feinberg's compositions, which are quite good, and fans out into how the band works together to realize them. Michael is joined by Terreon Gully on drums, and he is someone to hear. He has a plastic time sense whether doing rock-funk or stretching out in other ways. Godwin Louis is on alto sax, Billy Buss on trumpet. They make a very dynamic and interactive front line in excellent ways. Julian Shore plays the piano, well. These are pretty much new names to me, but there is poise and hipness to be heard throughout. Buss has some of that leather-lipped brazen brass tang that goes back to Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan and before. Godwin's alto has presence and lucidity. Julian is there throughout playing some things that are advanced and tasteful. And leader Feinberg gives the music fundamental structure whether he's playing the upright or the electric bass.

The compositions have a little of the mid-period Miles, classic Wayne Shorter, middle Herbie Hancock brooding or blazing smartness, only extended into today.

I must say of all the somewhat new names and their new albums in the jazz mode coming through my ears so far this year, this one is at the top of the list for an impressive outing. I recommend it most heartily.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Aram Bajakian, There Were Flowers Also in Hell

Aram Bajakian, skronkish post-surf fuzzball guitarist of advanced progressive noise and nice rocking returns (though in fact he hasn't left, really) with a trio effort that lays well on the speakers, called There Were Also Flowers in Hell (self-released I think, available at Bandcamp).

He is well seconded in his efforts by the power trio compadres Shahzad Ismaily on bass and Jerome Jennings, drums. Aram has played with John Zorn and Lou Reed but this is his music. Sometimes faux Stray Cats rockabilly-but-out sounds with a bit too much of the bennies is the order of the day (though no, we are not talking substance, just sound); there is a Baltic surf thing going on at times and some very metal hipness happening, too, sometimes all at once.

Aram has smarts in his guitar warp and woof. It's how the band plays the compositional things of his that makes it all come together. And there is not exactly that much I would care to compare it with as far as things happening synchronicitously out there.

Aram and company toggle between clean Fenderising and dirty fuzzing deftly. I grew up doing the same, at least with my ears, and the world-like influences make it even more interesting. You think for a minute you are about to hear Santo & Johnny's "Sleep Walk" or "Miserlou" by any number of surf bands but then no, hell no, it's something else altogether. But perhaps "Miserlou" isn't so very removed from this at times, not deep down. Except then it goes out and you know it is 2014 and New York plus far away places have come together, now, in interesting ways.

It's avant but rocking and tuneful stuff. I find it a very natural listen. I mean it just hits you like an organic thing. And it is fun! Try that on and see if it fits. I will bet it will.

He's got another new one so stay tuned.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Giles Corey's Stoned Soul

Leave it to Delmark to continue coming up with blues artists that have that something that makes them firmly in the tradition yet also of today.

Giles Corey is another. He's not exactly unknown, arriving in Chicago in 1993 and gigging with established blues cats while going to the University of Chicago. After he graduated, he did some touring gigs and wound up in the band of the legendary Otis Rush. After that he did a duo thing with drummer Rick King, Lubriphonic, which toured quite a bit and cut five albums between 2007-2011. When that outfit suspended its tenure, the stage was set for Giles Coury's Stoned Soul (Delmark 834). This is their debut album. The band includes Rick King and two game partners on bass and keys.

This incarnation features Giles highly electric guitar, sometimes in a slide mode that owes something to the late Johnny Winters, other times it's flat-out juiced blues-rock. The music has that contemporary soul-blues nexus and Giles sings with the grits and gravy one would expect.

The album is a mix of good originals and a couple of covers. This is a band with presence, Giles out front on guitar when called upon, the band getting soul-funk grooves going throughout.

It's a goodie!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Rik Wright's Fundamental Forces

West Coast (Seattle) guitarist and composer Rik Wright fields a lively and in-the-moment quartet on the self-titled Rik Wright's Fundamental Forces (Blue). The five-pieces worked over on the album provide a thoughtfully heady melange.

Wright plays a spacey electric guitar that combines perhaps a shade of early Abercrombie with some fairly psychedelic jazz sensibilities. He is joined by a pretty hard hitting rhythm team of Geoff Harper on bass and Greg Campbell on drums. James Dejoie adds much on reeds (alto, bass clarinet, clarinet, flute).

What is especially striking to me is the use of space. There is enough of it that you get a feel of being situated, of having space parcelled out for you like the zones between planets--so that every note has an enveloped feel, a poignancy, yet there is still lots of drive and heft to the music.

This has a jazz-rock thrust to it throughout. It is grooving and outward bound but not thickly dense. That sets it apart along of course with the what of the notes themselves, often bluesy-diatonic-pentatonic poems that remind a little of what the jamming rock bands did in the early days, but more evolved and consistent.

Everybody has a role to play and they do it well. Rik stands out as a pretty electric force, an original sound vehicle that can crank but knows how space and dynamics can make lots of difference in the sound of his playing and of the unit as a whole.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Joëlle Léandre & Pascal Contet - 3

Bassist Joëlle Léandre and accordionist Pascal Contet go back a fair ways as a duet. Their first album was released in 1994. There was a second a few years ago. Now we have their third, simply titled 3 (Ayler Records 137).

It lives up to the promise of those earlier recordings by providing the two exceptional musicians with an open-form platform to stretch out and weave some sometimes subtle yet ever exciting webs of sound. The timbral distinctiveness of the two instruments, when activated by the masterful color-magic freedom and imagination of Joëlle Léandre and Pascal Contet, sound right in ways that stimulate and satisfy.

The two conjure up some seven wide-ranging improvisational segments, never flagging, ever at virtual peaks of creative invention. Joëlle's inimitable singing comes into play now and again, but mostly it is the sound innovations and all-over matrixes of the two together instrumentally that carry the day.

These are some invigorating sounds--music that breaks boundaries without sounding the least bit forced, naturally if you please. Ms. Léandre is an avant contrabass master and she gives you a good deal of why that is so here. Pascal Content is no less engaging as well, inspired by the chemistry of the very pregnant moments of creation and his own wellsprings of notefulness.

If you are looking for something worthwhile on the free frontier, or already know what to expect, either way this one does not disappoint. Bass players, accordionists and open-field listeners, take heed!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Beat Kaestli, Collage

When it comes to unknown or lesser known (to me) artists, I generally let my ears guide me. Swiss-born vocalist Beat Kaestli and his album Collage (Unit Records 4488) was one of those first listens for me. He has a fine voice, a flavor of European internationalism in his jazz-veined explorations of interestingly arranged French standards, Brazilian sambas (one anyway), Latin favorites, a Swiss folk standard in German and jazz repertoire.

What is nice especially is how the ensemble and Beat set each other off. Essentially the band is a quartet with nice playing from Jesse Lewis, guitar, Will Holshauser, accordion, Matt Wigton on bass, and Fred Kennedy on drums and percussion. Background vocals fill things in now and again but it is a matter-of-fact starkness of singer and quartet, the sound of guitar and accordion played well against a singer who exudes warmth and a musicality, that makes this good.

The song choice in this particular combination is not in any way standard or expected, yet there seems an inevitability, a rightness in what Beat has chosen and how he chooses to do it all. And so even a pot-boiler like "Besame Mucho" takes on new life with their treatment.

That's probably all I need say here. It's a recording I am enjoying.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Abraxis, Psychomagia, Abraxis Plays John Zorn

Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz leads the band Abraxis on a trippy sort of journey into the land of Psychomagia (Tzadik), which is in fact their second album, consisting entirely of the music of John Zorn.

Aram Bajakian and Eyal Maoz play some very excellent out psycho-delicatessen electric guitars as the band gives us a sort of Jewish-meets-surf-meets-wired-out-psychedelia mix that is nigh irresistible.

Zorn and this very capable band of gypsys give us something that works exceptionally well. The mix of styles sounds completely natural, the guitar work is blisteringly hot half the time, then crisply surf-oriented, depending on the moment.

It's what makes New York more than a melting pot. For melting is all well and good, and other people do it elsewhere all the time, but it's critical what you do with the melt, as any tuna melt fan knows only too well.

This melt is beautifully worked. I find myself smiling every time I hear it. It's not that easy to make me smile every time out! This does that.