Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Hot Jazz Jumpers, The Very Next Thing

Jazz can be fun? Sure. It is usually mostly serious these days, as an art form, and that can be fun of course if you dig it, but there are not so many groups today that are designed to come across with high-times humor, though serious about it in the end. The Hot Jazz Jumpers take an approach to old-time jazz and roots music that most certainly has the sort of zany approach to the tradition that jug bands did back in the day and later in the hands of Jim Kweskin. In a way this band is a more musically involved, a serious but ultimately fun equivalent.

The Hot Jazz Jumpers have a CD/DVD set out called The Very Next Thing (OTBR 0002) and that's what I've been getting into. It's headed by guitarist and tenor banjoist Nick Russo. He alone is worth the price of admission, a real player who covers a gamut of jazz and blues styles effortlessly--which means he has worked hard to get to this point.

There are two vocalists in the band. Betina Hershey has a vivacious old-timey style and goes for the melody lines as well as playing a credible rhythm guitar. Miles Griffith is over-the-top in a very music way, scatting and playing with the lines improvisationally in a scat style that sounds like Louis A on into space! He is fabulous. David Pleasant plays a tiny drum set with sticks and with hands, as well as a small tambourine he slaps and uses as a stick on the drums. He's really on it here and makes the rhythm take off in ways I don't think I've ever heard.

Essiet Essiet plays bass for most of this, spelled for a few tunes by Mamadou Ba. They are very much a presence. The trumpet of Gordon Au is great, both old-timey and modern at the same time.

And as you listen to the CD and the 11-cut live DVD you get "Caravan," "In A Mellow Tone," "Got My Mojo Working," "Sweet Georgia Brown" and other classics plus some jams. It's all about recreating the old-timey music in a special way, special to this band, which is both "authentic" but not afraid to take it their own way, modern, even pretty outside for a moment here and there.

The musicianship is very high, the songs good to hear this way, the singing tops and, yes, this really is a fun band!! I do very much recommend this one if you dig revisiting the roots in an original, zany sort of style. Oh, yes!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Marbin, Aggressive Hippies

Marbin is a group born out of a thousand or more live appearances, a fusion rock outfit that has grown out of intensive interaction with themselves and their audiences. Their new album, Agressive Hippies (Marbin Music) is their fifth. And to me it is their best. Dani Rabin, guitar, Danny Markovitch, saxes, Greg Essig, drums, and John W. Lauler, bass, give us nine Rabin-Markovitch originals in total.

These are fashioned out of small compositional segments and built up, driven strongly by the rhythm section and congealed by significant soloing from Rabin's electric guitar and Markovitch's sax.

It's the band at its hottest, with fire and irresistible momentum.

There is a core foundation in the harder sort of rock these days, but then a coral-island sort of building upon those foundations with personal originality from both Rabin and Markovitch.

Guitar fans will find much excellent work from Dani Rabin, who has evolved into his own sort of player, hard hitting and sound savvy.

But it is ultimately a group effort and excels in the way it hangs together, taking off from a classic fusion intricacy and going distinctly into Marbin territory.

Hear this one! Marbin has definitely arrived!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Patrick Higgins, Bachanalia

Patrick Higgins is an excellent and also I suppose a brave classical guitarist. Brave because he has recorded a worthy selection-arrangement of JS Bach's works for classical guitar and electronic enhancement. Bachanalia (Telegraph Harp 009) is the resultant album.

He is brave because the purists out there will no doubt be poo-pooing this sort of thing. It is essentially some wonderfully alive performances of Bach favorites for guitar which are then variably subject to digital delay and echo, so that you get the essence of the guitar performances and their extension or soundscaping.

I might find it slightly distracting if this music wasn't something so universally familiar (to me anyway) that the extensions did not take away from what you hear as much with internal memory as in real-time. It is Bach in a dream, you might say. And that dream does not subtract from the awakened experience you have and will encounter many times. The musical effect is at times like music you hear in the memory and how the mind can present it to the musical self as a thing extended outward.

If Higgins wasn't so effective and wonderfully bright in his initial renderings I suppose this would also be less interesting to me. But that is not so. He rings out the music with an artistry that is not to be denied.

In the end I find this album a real delight. Even my long-time partner liked it, and she to me is the bellwether of non-professional opinion.

And so I do recommend this to you strongly.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Rank Strangers, The Box

Minneapolis-based alt rock band Rank Strangers celebrates its 25th anniversary with a trilogy of albums. I covered volume 2, Ringtones, about a month ago here (see index). I will cover volume 1 in a little bit, but today I cover the final volume 3, The Box (self-released LP). Mike Wisti is the founding member, plays guitar and sings; David Odengaard sings and plays bass; and Shawn Davis is on drums.

This is disarmingly unpretentious DIY alt that keeps up a spontaneous immediacy even after 25 years. It has a raw but memorable quality. The songs have attitude in a whimsical way and musically this is substantial. Every so often Mike lets out with a skronky little gem moment on guitar, but this is primarily band-song-oriented.

The Box continues where Ringtones leaves off. A few songs have more than one version if you take the trilogy as a whole, but they are different enough that they are worthwhile. The lyrics are worth paying attention to for they have a quirky poetic quality.

OK, so this is one alt band that appeals to me and retains that experimental basement inventiveness that made alternative and punk-garage rock interesting in the first place. Yet this has a song orientation not especially simplistic so there is plenty to sink your teeth into.

Recommended without hesitation.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Simon Nabatov, Mark Dresser, Projections

Pianist Simon Nabatov and bassist Mark Dresser have been music companions and running buddies for 30 years. They have shared the stage together on numerous occasions but as a duo the first recorded meeting is at hand. Projections (Clean Feed 327) captures them live in a set at LOFT in Cologne last year.

The two show a togetherness that comes out of long association. It is spontaneous, improved new music of an advanced avantness and a "free jazz" expressivity. Extended and traditional techniques meld together for the sound of adventure. They phrase in sound and note with a great ability to drive thoroughly into a two-in-one zone that does not so much rely on regularity of pulse as clusters of sound, emanations of soul-spirit and cosmic expansion.

Simon is a master of unleashing torrents of harmonically ambiguous phrases at peak moments that Mark counters in kind. But then Dresser excels here too in contrasting attacks, bowed slurs and dynamic flurries that show much musical intelligence and long preparation. And both vary densities with envelopes of sound events that provide contrasts and polarities one listens to with fascination.

Few duos of piano and bass attain the sort of outside heights of Nabatov and Dresser here.

There is an unpredictable openness and stylistic coherence that lays out very well and keeps the listener in a state of anticipation and subsequent fulfillment.

This is avant improvisation on a very high plane. It creates worlds of rarified sound synergies and does it in ways that make for a very satisfying set.

Very recommended!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Jaap Blonk & Damon Smith, Hugo Ball: Sechs Laut--und Klanggedichte, 1916

Something a little different today on this page. It is a realization of a cycle of "Six Sound Poems" by the Dada master Hugo Ball, Sechs Laut--und Klanggedichte, 1916 (bpa-4). Jaap Blonk as reciter-vocal artist and Damon Smith as double bassist freely recreate the sound poems in an avant improv mode.

It is uncompromising sound event-music that both pays homage to the iconoclastic Ball and shows us how his inspirational methods still remain prophetic to the avant movement we still recognize as central to modernism today.

Blonk enacts the texts with very inventive vocalizations that utilize all the dramatic and sonic resources of his vocal apparatus. Damon Smith makes of his contrabass an extension of his creative sound-producing imagination, using conventional and extended techniques in an avant bass kind of tour de force.

What that means is that you get a full CDs worth of adventure. This may put off those not used to the avant stylistic universe, though an open mind will get you at least half the way to where you need to be to appreciate such sounds. Those used to progressive avantness might need a few listens to get acclimated, but in the end the bass-vocal interactions will fascinate and give you much to experience.

Recommended listening for the intrepid. And some fabulously inventive bass and vocal performances!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Slivovitz, All You Can Eat

There is more than one way to skin a cat. Yet if this blog was about skinning cats, I would have run out of things to say long ago. Music gives you nearly infinite possibilities to get somewhere, far more than a cat skinning does.

So for example we have the new album by Slivovitz, All You Can Eat (MoonJune 074). It's their fourth, the third for MoonJune. And it is perhaps their best yet. The Naples-based aggregate comes up with a set of fusionoid rock that holds its own and breaks through to a hip originality. This is a band who has huddled together, forged ahead and gone into the studio for the first time in four years. And what comes out is fully formed, compositionally righteous and instrumentally inspiration-soaked.

It's a group effort in the best sense, with a sort of post-Zappa compositional core, a rhythm team strength in Vincenzo Lamaga (bass) and Salvatore Rainone (drums), some great electric and acoustic guitar from Marcello Giannini, ditto from the violin of Riccardo Villari, a nice horn team of Pietro Santangelo on tenor and alto plus Ciro Riccardi on trumpet. And then the harmonica voicings of Derek di Perri, a chromatic virtuoso.

The arrangements are full blown, taking advantage of the widely colorful instrumentation for various groupings, riff versus overarching melody lines, solo spots of note, and full tutti rampages.

This is fusion-prog with all the care and inspiration that you rightfully demand and they righteously deliver. There is so much music here, dense and prolific, that it is not something you'll tire of but instead will get more and more out of the more you listen. All You Can Eat is what it suggests, a super-abundance of musical courses that reward you for as close a listen, as ravenous a "feeding" so to speak, as you care to give.

Pretty astounding band, no doubt, and they are on a rampage in the best ways here!