Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Badi Assad, Between Love and Luck

Badi Assad, singer-songwriter and acoustic guitarist from Brazil, has something going for herself on her recent Between Love and Luck (Quatroventos AA0002000). She and a tight-knit ensemble explore some of her songs, 13 in all, and follow a contemporary Brazilian rock-pop-jazz sensibility that Purim, Gil and Nascimento set the pace for in earlier years.

Her voice is an instrument in the best sense, perhaps less Purimesque in the jazz sense but well-presented, the songs are good, her guitar playing very worth hearing and the arrangements quite interesting. Like the best of Brazilian contemporary over the years there is a joyous melodic and rhythmic feel to it all that appeals nicely.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pete Macleod, Rolling Stone

There are some artists, some albums that jump out at you from the first note. The music could be anything but they have a presence that you instinctively feel in your gut straight off. I got that sort of feeling the moment I put on my player Pete Macleod's Rolling Stone (Cherry Red 359CD4).

He plies a version of retro-rock (retro in somewhat the way REM was in its first albums) that has excellent jangling guitar work, good vocals and strong tunes, something you either respond to right off or you don't. If you do, like I do, you are going to like this one. He plays a 12-string electric in a way that recalls the Byrds in their original period. Then there are other strains in there, too, Everything works. The songs have lyrical melodies, rock strength and good form.

Now that combination when done well as it is here is nigh irresistible. His short guitar solos are fitting and nicely done. And the band sound is full and strong.

I am digging this one. You might too--if what I describe sounds like it's your thing. Pete Macleod is happening!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Arild Andersen, Mira

I can think back these many years and remember my life circumstances and how I looked at it all when I bought the first Arild Andersen on ECM. My world, how wrong I was about many things and what the future held! And now as I listen to the new Arild Andersen album Mira (ECM B0019861-02), a life so different, and yet Arild is a constant.

The new trio album has not the same sort of thrust that the first album did. Yet Maestro Andersen's artistry remains high, very high. This is the sort of album where you could just zone in on the bass playing alone and get as much out of it as a conventional trio album listening to all three parts. Of course the experience is only enhanced by the full threesome.

Arild is on bass and electronics, Tommy Smith is on tenor and shakuhachi, and Paolo Vinaccia is on drums. They do a standard or two plus originals. It's a date in the ECM zone--a well-situated blowing date that has a bit of ambiance but concentrates on more-or-less changes and modal based improvising for much of the album. But then there are sheer ambient numbers too, one especially attractive one that begins with an electronic sustain backdrop and some wonderful Andersen bass before going into a folkish ballad.

Tommy sounds a bit like Garbarek without the mannerisms that sheer imitation would entail. He has the righteous tone, the declamatory lyricism and then goes with it for the notes he wants to express. Vinaccia plays the role of loose percussive colorist that one might expect on an Andersen date.

It is quite pleasant going. The strength is in the sheer sensuous and intelligently lyrical bass of Andersen. So really it's a bass-player's statement, his artistic testament, and stands strongly on that fulcrum point. Almost 40 years later, Arild Andersen continues to make himself heard with consummate artistry. And I am glad my ears are still able to hear it all.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Farthest South, Spheres & Constellations

"You'll know when you get there," as the Herbie Hancock song has it and the Bob Gluck book on the early electric period Hancock band Mwandishi reminds us. But when you start there, you also know. The Israeli trio Farthest South has nothing much to do with Mwandishi, save a particular way with electronically enhanced sounds. They begin in a place where some of the zoner late-'60s early-'70s bands ended up.

That is, they have a very sustained a-rhythmic soundscape approach that blends the keys and guitars of Barry Berko, the electric bass and effects of Yair Yona and the analog synths of Yair Etziony.

Their album Spheres & Constellations (self-released) is drone-zone space music all the way. It is at once cosmic, psychedelic, yet evolves in a controlled sort of fashion.

If you like a concentrated dose of ambient space, this will be for you. It is less a music of individual instrumental utterances and more a collective, orchestrated, cosmic OM .

And within the world it occupies it wholly succeeds. Board your rockets now, space explorers. The flight is about to begin. A serious immersion, an all-enveloping wash in the stratospheric milky way can be yours with this one if you have the spirit for it!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Marc Edwards, Sakura Sakura (Three Variations)

Drummer-bandleader Marc Edwards returns with a further adventure into the psychedelic-electric-space-free music he has been getting together of late. This one gathers three different lineups for variations on the traditional Japanese song Sakura Sakura (Dog and Panda Records).

Essentially three different bands--Marc Edwards and Star Clusters, Marc Edwards and Slipstream Time Travel, and Mark Edwards and Sonos Gravis--each do a 20-minute electric collage of tumbling drums, multi-electric guitars, bass and sometimes keys soloing collectively and at various points sounding the traditional melody and doing variations around it.

The personnel features of course Marc Edwards, then various combinations of players that include Ernest Anderson III, Tor Snyder, Gene Janas, Takuma Kanaiwa, Alex Lozupone, Alexis Marcelo and Colin Sanderson.

It is very vibrant free rock, a sort of Ascension in the metal zone. It is bracing. You will either gravitate towards it by predisposition or not. And that has something to do with your open mind about a free metal blast or the opposite. I like it! You make up your own mind. But give it a hearing, by all means.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Violones Barbares, Saulem ai

If you want to hear something in the world-traditional zone that makes a uniquely eclectic musical blend, a modern yet primal mix of instrumental-vocal styles, you would do well to hear the second album by Violones Barbares, Saulem ai (World Village 479090).

They are a trio composed of musicians of Mongolian, Bulgarian and French extraction, respectively. Two play violins of a special sort, each with five principal strings and 11 sympathetic resonating strings. The third member plays a special percussion set up that gives him a mix of "ethnic" percussion and the bass drum-hihat of a typical drum set. The vocals make use of Mongolian throat singing, Bulgarian folk singing and much else.

The repertoire has both original and traditional elements from a world mix as diverse as the areas the Mongolians influenced historically and beyond. So we get Gypsy sounds, Afghan, Kazhakistanian and much other regional traditional elements, transposed to make for a driving contemporary mix that emphasizes the virtuoso fiddle styles of the "front line".

It's rather incredible music. It sounds authentically "world" in every way and it rocks! Listen to this one and enter a special place!

Monday, April 14, 2014

KiT, Tambutronic

Curacao, the Caribbean island off the Venezuelan coast, is home for the group KiT (Kuenta i Tambu), a group that does a remarkable kind of dance music called jiga. They give us a very, a very intensely concentrated set of such sounds on their US debut Tambutronic (Jiga Musica).

Now this is not the sort of music I would ordinarily cover. It has some relation to hard-core house and hip-hop, but then there's a very Afro-Carib flavor to it that puts it way over the top for me. The female lead singer half-sings and half-raps much of the time, but in a way much more Carib-Afro than hip-hop.

The tracks feature very hip electronic beats with a mix of sampled and live instruments. It grooves irresistibly to the extent that it totally won me over. This is music that overwhelms. Either you surrender wholly to it or you really have to leave the room. That's how it hits you.

There are aspects of it that remind me of zouk, but much harder-edged, and much more Afro-based. For you guitar fans, sorry to say there aren't any here. It's music you should check out though. It is music of a very sensual sort--the lyrics suggest things once you understand them and some of those things are naughty. Lyrics are secondary though. It's the sound of the vocals and the rhythmic r-bomb of the whole thing that utterly kills.