Friday, July 31, 2015

Max Johnson Trio, Something Familiar

Blossoming bassist-composer-bandleader Max Johnson gives us his best album to date with Something Familiar (Fresh Sound New Talent). It's a trio with Kirk Knuffke on trumpet, Ziv Ravitz on drums and of course Max on bass. The trio is especially well-matched and very much a three-way affair.

Kirk is one of the brighter lights on the new horn scene and he plays bop-and-after cool-heat with some extraordinarily nice solo work on this one. Max is a bassist with much to offer and the ability to articulate his thoughts percussively and in a full-toned way. Ziv swings and swings with imagination and heat. I don't have the back cover on this one but it sounds like these are Max's tunes. They come across well.

It's a fully varied program of smokers and balladic things. Max shows you that he is the complete bassist and a voice to contend with, a leader of stature, a soloist of power and ideas. Knuffke sounds great as ever. Ziv has the touch and the feel to make it all pop.

It is a real joy to hear this! Anyone who digs modern-and-beyond jazz should get this one. Bassists need to hear it. It just lays right so, what the heck, everybody should get into it.

Great outing!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Kenny Carr, Idle Talk

Kenny Carr? A guitarist of the electric persuasion, in the jazz camp and well-situated there as a real player after Berklee, ten years with Ray Charles, and now a burgeoning solo career. Idle Talk (Zoozazz Music) is not his first album. There are several others I am afraid I have missed. But what matters is that this one comes at you with a good band, a sound, and guitar playing that is smart, contemporary, yet rooted.

He is joined on the new one by Donny McCaslin on sax, a player who has steadily gained steam and is up there in the ranks of players in the new mainstream. Kenny Wollesen drums swingingly and nicely. And Hans Glawischnig moves along well as a sophisticated bassist who digs into the material, solos well when called upon and adds much.

The program is a set of well-hewn originals by Carr in the post-hardbop earthy mode. They set the stage for some excellent soloing from Carr and McCaslin.

Kenny Carr has schooled his good instincts for a potent guitar sound that has soul, boppish roots and a fine sense of solo weaving. He and Donny never flag for ideas.

Idle Talk satisfies on many levels. It's a great band effort, the tunes hit home, McCaslin says his say well and, most importantly, Kenny Carr comes across as a real player, a plectrician of ideas and soulfulness

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Consider the Source, World War Trio Parts II & III

I get so much in the way of CDs by artists I don't (at that point) know that I have to refocus with every new one, since anything is possible out there. When I received the deluxe 2-CD package of the latest by power trio Consider the Source, I had no idea what it would contain, though the packaging was tasteful and intriguing in itself. World War Trio (Parts II & III) (Techne) took me a few listens to fully appreciate, but straight off I knew it was special fare.

According to the press sheet, Consider the Source's fans call the music "Sci-Fi Middle Eastern Fusion." Now that seems pretty righteous and accurate. It is the well-considered trio music of John Ferrara on four and five string bass, ukelele bass and banjo bass(!); Gabriel Marin on fretted and fretless electric guitars in addition to guitar synth, dutar, dombra, baglama saz, chattarangui, danbau, and yayli tanbur; and Jeff Mann on drums and percussion.

Fine. So that tells you the specifics. The music speaks for why all that is important. The compositional vehicles are generally intricate and expressive of prog-metal meets the middle-east and India.

All three musicians are top-drawer. Ferrara plays excellent bass. He thoroughly nails down the bottom end with chops and imagination but also functions as a solo entity at times, sounding great. Mann drums and percusses with drive and a sensitivity to where the band is going. And Marin...has some incredible ideas that deftly combine rock and the ethnosphere with originality and a complete melding of the polarities to a fine totality. He is one NOT to miss, really.

And that is so of the band x 3. The two CDs are filled with a great deal of music but nothing feels in the least bit unnecessary.

The music is hot, advanced, original, very musicianly and quite exciting. OK, so you are skeptical? Just hear this set a few times! Do not miss it.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Trey Gunn, The Waters, They Are Rising

Face it, touch guitarist Trey Gunn is special. Sure he is one of the foremost players of the touch style. But he also creates sonic worlds that transcend instrumentality and speak directly to you the listener in a compositionally, improvisationally vivid way.

His new album, The Waters, They are Rising (7D 1511) gives you all that. Hauntingly.

It consists of four solo touch guitar sequences recorded live on his Security Project Tour last year. Each was meant to serve as an introduction to "Here Comes the Flood," the Peter Gabriel song, yet they stand on their own as poetic, spacy guitar tour de force statements.

But there is more on this album. Two duets with vocalist Dylan Nichole Bandy stand out, especially their version of Bob Dylan's "Not Dark Yet," which along with one other piece included on the album were part of the soundtrack for the film "Every Beautiful Thing."

Then there are four more cuts recorded in the studio. All of them are substantial.

All fit together well like the pieces of an intricate puzzle. It makes for a really ear-grabbing program, showing Trey Gunn at his most lyrical, most spacey and most accomplished.

You can get a copy by pasting the following URL into your browser:

The voltage is there but then so is the magic. Trey Gunn travels at the forefront of those rethinking the electric guitar sound today. This is one of his very best.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Omar Coleman, Born & Raised

The real-deal Chicago blues keeps on, and Delmark is a key label in its documentation. The soul of Bobby Rush, Junior Wells and gospel have been important influences on Omar Coleman, a bluesman who gives us lots to like on his recent album Born & Raised (Delmark 840). He sings with genuine soul and plays a nice harmonica. His band is very together, with Pete Galanis playing some mean guitar along with guests Toronzo Cannon, Mike Wheeler and David Herrero.

This is the essence of old-school soul blues, updated a tad but filled with the classic thrust. Omar writes good tunes, maybe not with quite the lyric jolt of Muddy or B.B., but honest and testificatory, you dig? And the singing is right there, projecting the directness of soul-blues power.

I have nothing bad to say about Omar and the album. He speaks from inside and the band gives it that raw jolt with a little of the soul extra musicality. He and the band have it down, straight.

You want some new blues talent in your listening routine? Born & Raised gives you something good and real to add to what you already have in your head!


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Guapo, Obscure Knowledge

The avant rock outfit Guapo celebrates 20 years of dedicated psychedelicizing with a new album, Obscure Knowledge (Cuneiform). This is their 10th, the third on Cuneiform. It travels far into space with compositional routines that take advantage of the adventurous capabilities of Emmett Elvin on Fender Rhodes, Hammond organ, synths, James Sedwards on bass guitar, Kavus Torabi, guitar, and David J. Smith on drum kit, percussion, keyboards & noises. Special guests Michael J. York on woodwinds and Antti Uusimaki on additional keyboards & effects add to the clout.

This is less of a jamband than a well-considered group-oriented cosmic psyche-trance compositional presentation. This is music that has considerable tightness thanks to the longevity of the group but shows nothing of the "here's another album" off-handedness that some long-lived groups fall into.

It is seriously heavy atmospherics where every player has a special role to play in the total mix. Anyone familiar with Guapo will resonate with the album, but then so will those who come to the music anew.

I will admit that I am a sucker for compositional psychedelica when it is done as well as it is here. Anyone who feels similarly should not miss Obscure Knowledge. It's a definite goodie.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

IZZ, Everlasting Instant

IZZ? Well, yes, IZZ. It's an alt-prog rock, song centered outfit that gives us some excellently arranged, very memorable music in the third part of their thematic trilogy, Everlasting Instant (Doone 12-669563). Tom Galgano, keyboardist and one of the principal lead vocalists, heads up the ensemble and takes up production duties with a flair here.

Along with Tom are co-vocalists Anmarie Byrnes and Laura Meade. John Galgano plays bass, some guitar and shares in the vocal duties. The songs set up the need for expressive vocalizations and IZZ comes through. But it's also the sort of music that extends a prog-alt instrumental virtuosity in original ways, so there is good work from Paul Bremner on electric guitar, the drumming of Brian Coralian and Greg DiMiceli, and the keys and bass of Tom and John. They have varied roles to play according to the song at hand. It is together, sophisticated prog that excels in avoiding the cliches of the style, not hearkening back so much as moving forward.

This is moody song fare that manages to innovate within a well-worn path, so much so that the ground shifts a bit underneath your musical feet.

If you dig the progressive arts and/or alt rock, this one is for you! Nicely done. Bravo.