Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Here's somebody with a second album and I haven't heard him until now. Pittsburgh-born folk-rock fellow John Shannon makes me glad I am hearing his second, Songs of the Desert River (Creek Valley). The emphasis is on SONGS. He writes well. They are happy-sad, sensitive soul searching sorts of things. He strums and picks his guitar in a decent way and sings nicely in an upper range voice. He's Jason Mraz with more feeling and brains. Nick Drake with a little less of a spaced-out view.
The arrangements are good, subtle. It's a very pleasing outing. This fellow made my wife take notice--and she's sort of my "people's barometer" for what a non-musician with good taste, a lyrical bent and decent ears might think. So there we are. I like him too.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
The New York Dolls in the early '70s took the raw power of the Velvets and the Stooges, then combined it with Jagger's ambivalent performance sexuality to create a "glam", cross-dressed stage show that had its visual as well as aural importance to the ensuing scene. In the course of their rising Nadja and Bob Gruen filmed interviews and live appearances in the clubs and on television.
The documentation can be had on the new 70-minute DVD Lookin' Fine on Television (MVD Visual 5272D). It captures the aura of the band in glorious black and white. The film makes quite clear the counterculture niche the band embodied. They were an eruption of a rather overtly flamboyant version of gay culture into the rock nightlife world, Liberace's of proto-punk if you like.
The club footage and tv spot cover much of the band's repertoire in raw sound. This is loud anarchic stuff and it recaptures the eccentric excitement the band generated. The sound is somewhat low-fi but in full keeping with the live ambiance of the band in full flight. One quibble--the filmakers continually synch multiple clips of the band performing on different occasions with the initial sound track, so that the band morphs minute-by-minute with the various outfits they wore on a different occasions. A little of this might have been enough--to give you the all-important visual impact of the band in full flower. As it is it tends to distract a little from the band-in-a-club actuality that the music portrays.
All-in-all, though, this is a very revealing documentary on a group that still sounds rootsy and strong. They used the elementality of their musical endowment to excellent advantage. They showed the punks to come that you could create real style out of a few chords, a lot of power and a big attitude.
It's the Australian progger's second album. It's been five years coming. He's doing the singing. The voice is respectable. He plays all the parts, apparently, and did the production.
The result is something to laud. Instrumentally it is a symphonic soundtrack for the mind. My only quibble: some of the vocal-melody lines are not as distinguished as they might be. There are definite moments but some of the other song lines form a slightly predictable sequencing. The instrumental blend is so singularly ambitious, though. The fact that Ben mostly pulls it off means that there is much here to dig. If his songwriting develops from here, look out!
Monday, November 28, 2011
Not everything I hear I've heard anything about before I do. Gojogo is one such group. Who are they? It started as a project of violinist Sarah Jo Zaharako and engineer Elias Reitz. They were joined by guitarist Roger Reidlbauer and acoustic bassist Eric Perney. Reitz does a good job with hand percussion and sampling. It is their recent, third album I am addressing today, 28,000 Days (PFR Porto Franco 029). According to my calculator, 28,000 days is about 77 years, a typical lifespan. Just thought you'd want to know.
They are a rather exploratory band using folkish and classical violin prowess with some neo-psychedelic guitar and ethnic/Indian-to-fusion-style melodic influences and rhythm section work. I wouldn't say they sound like Oregon; but they do have some venn-diagram-type overlaps in the style arena. Melody is at the front and some vibrant rhythmic ideas. I like this one. I like it for the music. I don't think it's especially important as "jazz" or for its improvisations, though there are some violin and guitar moments that are just fine for that. But it's good music. That's the point. And you may get a kick out of their ethnicized version of "Bali Ha'i".
New Agers may find this to their liking but it also is substantial enough for the serious fusionist.
For something in the state-of-the-art in R&B/pop/rock hybrids today, we have Inc and their first EP 3 (4AD). It's a strongly beated, keyboard centered three-song thing with vocals that sound a little Prince-like.
It layers nicely, gets depth of sound and hits it pretty well. If I don't have a lot to say about it, it's because this is not entirely my cup of tea. That doesn't mean I don't appreciate it. It has a good sound and it's an example of some very musical arrangements and production.
Friday, November 25, 2011
Who is Duda Lucena? He's a Brazilian singer, songwriter and guitarist of worth. His album Duda Lucena Live (Borboleta) shows you this nicely. It's a live gig he made with some good local South Carolinian musicians, piano, bass, drums...Gerald Gregory on piano in particular sounding quite comfortable in the relaxed bossa and beyond grooves.
As guitarist Duda is not out to overwhelm you with sixteenth note passagework. He has his nylon stringed instrument. He comps Brazil-style. He plays some tasteful solos. He sings well in the style made popular in the classic bossa days.
This is very nice! You like the style, you'll like Duda's album.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Now if you don't like that idea, you may want to leave this alone. But for those who find that interesting I think you might just like these folks.
Happy Thanksgiving for the Statesiders or anyone else who would like to have a holiday. Go ahead, call in.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Medeski, Martin and Wood have managed to garner a pretty wide popularity in the last 20 years by creating their own personal blend of funk rock and original, more avant elements in an electric matrix. John Medeski plays organ and keyboards with a special quirky, but highly musical approach to it all. Drummer Billy Martin and bassist Chris Wood have carved out their own roles in the band too. Together they make some advanced compositional funk-rock that in some ways carries on the open stance of the original Tony Williams Lifetime. Other times they simply intuit a new sort of rock-jazz hybrid. Still other times they are in an "accessible" mode.
Billy Martin has created an interesting full-length film of the band in the studio, live, on the road and hanging out. It's called Fly in A Bottle and is now on DVD (MRI).
You experience a birds-eye view of the band discussing arrangements, getting things right in the studio, goofing around and playing some of their special blend of music. It's going to appeal very much to MMW fans and it is entertaining and not uninteresting regardless. There are three music videos included as a bonus.
Monday, November 21, 2011
A 20-minute cassette or FLAC download of the double release on Northern Spy will give you some rather adventurous romping through no-man's land. Angels in America combines moody electronics, cultish chanting and recitation, almost like Stockhausen meets Lydia Lunch meets ritual music from some nameless ethnos.
Weyes Blood has a two female voice, guitar strumming folkie weirdness vibe thing happening and then some cosmic electric eye underground atmospherics come into play.
Gee, I don't know. I like this one but is it indispensable? Probably not. Yet it has an early ESP cosmic psych innocent hybrid quality to it that is appealing. Click the Northern-Spy link for more info.
Friday, November 18, 2011
Bruce Eisenbeil is a contemporary avant guitarist who has developed a playing style pretty much all his own. He also composes music that fits the approach he has to the guitar in ways that complement his improvisatory ear and extend the approach for some highly advanced ensemble music. We've covered a few of his earlier CDs on this page in the past year. Now for another, an especially intriguing work, Inner Constellation, Volume One (Nemu 007).
It's an extended piece for sextet, in this case a worthy gathering of improvising musicians: Bruce on acoustic and electric guitars, Jean Cook, violin, Nate Wooley, trumpet, Aaron Ali Shaikh, alto sax, Tom Abbs, acoustic bass, and Nasheet Waits, drums.
The piece is structured so that written thematic sections, loosely realized collectively, alternate with solo sections for a particular instrumentalist. There are elements that remind one of Cecil Taylor and Bill Dixon's work, in the way they play out more so than in the way they sound. In turn the way Ornette's "Free Jazz" and John Coltrane's "Ascension" were structured has something to do with all this as well.
But in the end what grabs me is Bruce Eisenbeil's lucidly eloquent guitar work. He has by the time of this recording fully mastered his own way of creating rolling-tremelo picking patterns, limber and varied har-melodic phrasings that lay out with maximum expressiveness.
But then the other soloists generate plenty of interest, as does the compositional content and framework.
This is quite serious, quite substantial extended music that makes the sextet into a mini-improvising orchestra, gives plenty of latitude to each individual player (Nate Wooley alone is enlightening to hear in how he reacts and interacts) and turns what might be an "ordinary" free session into a vehicle for a longer work that achieves what is most difficult, to remain vibrantly fresh and maintain listener interest while exploring some of the outer reaches of new jazz possibilities.
This may be a few years old but it is a rather unsung, vital recording that anyone into advanced guitarwork and new improv writing should hear. Eisenbeil needs to be recognized!
Thursday, November 17, 2011
A little bit like the Dixie Dregs before them, The Galactic Cowboy Orchestra play a blend of prog-fuze that brings a shade of southern country comfort into the mix on occasion. That has something to do with the guitar-fiddle two-tandem of Dan Neale and Lisi Wright, who both have a little country in their sound, and both have no little command of how to bring that into the instrumental prog-jam fold the band resides in. They also solo with some authority. John Wright plays a very solid roto-sounding bass, he can take an interesting solo in the rock zone and generally has a good presence and out-front quality not always heard in this sort of band. Mark O'Day plies a respectable set of advanced rock drums and gives out with a driving sound much of the time. All this can be heard on their second opus, All Out of Peaches (New Folk 2302).
Together they run vigorously through a set of originals that have some of the busy qualities of the genre without sounding like they are aping other bands. There's a little odd-metered frontier-crossing and melodic arrangements that follow a somewhat original curve.
I do especially like what Lisi Wright does on fiddle, a kind of Richard Green sweetness and fleetness within the fiddle tradition and soaring solo lines, but everybody gets some moments to put their sound across. And as an all-member effort they do get a very interesting blend. Not routine fare by any means, this music will give devotees to the genre a new voice to listen to. They may not always get a hard edge to the sound (if that sort of thing matters to you), but there is real musicianship going here that one has to respect.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Luis Lopes has been making a name for himself in Portugal and the world at large with some premier avant electric guitar for the Humanization 4tet and other luminaries. His latest album Lisbon Berlin Trio (Clean Feed 234) shows him pulling every musical rabbit out of his considerable hat. It's Lopes with Robert Landfermann, contrabass, and Christian Lillinger on drums, a very game combination that gives Luis plenty of torque whether it's for free-falling cosmic onslaughts or pulse-implied torrid burning.
Luis sounds especially inspired for this one--very electric and avant, in his own way a smartly conceived synthesis of Sharrock's electric barrage with a McLaughlin line scorch and the guitar-color sensitivity of Derek Bailey.
It has moments of relative calm and room for some very interesting bass and rhythm section presence.
He is from the evidence here rapidly becoming a key stylistic presence in the avant-free guitar world. Miss this one and you will miss something that may cause you remiss. All plectrists and friends of stringers, take note!
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
This is a mostly straightforward guitar-bass-drums-vocals-keys session with disarmingly direct, unassuming vocals from a slacker-folksie-faux-lazy lead singer, personal sorts of lyrics and original songs that have elemental charm and a recognition factor.
The band is not about technical wizardry. It's unpretentious song after unpretentious song. But you know what? There is something in the simplicity that rings authentic. And the songs grow on you.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Copernicus, self-styled prophet, ranter, anarchic street philosoph and sometime rocker was on a roll in 1989. He was getting attention. So much so that he was able to tour Eastern Europe, filling large venues in the major cities and putting on a dynamic stage show with rant, gyrations and psychedelic-new wave band backing. As you can see from the recently released DVD Live! In Prague (Nevermore NDVD01), an arena show from June 17, 1989, live Copernicus was an experience!
The band is loud and adventurous, laying out spacy soundscapes and highly charged, high-voltage feedback laced rock backdrops as Copernicus launches energetic volleys of subversive harangue. "You are bacteria...I am bacteria...the Pope is bacteria. . ." he shouts. We are are descended from bacteria. We ARE that.
The drummer is good, the audience engaged and Copernicus is in his element.
Anyone who digs Copernicus will find this a revelation. Anyone not is in for a ride. It's heavy. Well done. This is a document in the musical-cultural history of the period. And it's great fun if you are primed for it!
Friday, November 11, 2011
I don't know how easy the CD today will be to find. I didn't come up with much on the internet. But if you see it around, you might want to grab it. Valencia: 3 (Muse Eek 158) was an impromptu meeting of Bruce Arnold (guitar and super collider), Vicent Colonques (piano, keys) and Avelino Saavedra (drums) in Valencia, Spain, on November 2, 2008. The three had never played together before. But they created a kind of atmospheric, freely improvised, somewhat electric world during the course of the meeting that bears close listening.
It's not fusion, it's not conventional free playing, it's a spontaneous collective improvisation that hangs together in ways one does not hear often. It has some jazz-rock implications but they are not overt. Mostly it's three players listening and following a path together to some uncharted territory.
Bruce Arnold turns in some nice soloing but it's in its collective mode that things gel especially.
If you want to check out a copy you might Google Bruce Arnold and see what comes up. It's very interesting music.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Assaf Kehati, "jazz" guitarist and writer of interesting music for his quartet, has worked with George Garzone and Ran Blake, has a trio with Billy Hart, and lives up in Brookline, Mass., not far from where I lived for a time. He and his regular quartet emerged from the studio earlier this year with their second album, Flowers and Other Stories (AKJazz). It is a winning combination of lyrical tunesmithing a la classic ECM meets the spirit of Jim Hall and a winning performance by the quartet of Assaf, Alon Farber, saxophones, Daniel Sapir, acoustic bass, and Udi Shlomo, drums. Assaf has a very sophisticated melodic and harmonic sensibility. His guitar work has the sound sometimes of a middle period John Abercrombie and sometimes the chordal purity of a Jim Hall, though the end result is recognizably his own. Alon Farber plays notey contemporary solos that have a mellow coolness that can heat up in nice ways when the music crescendos. The rhythm team is very comfortable with the modern loose grooves that Assaf's songs call for.
It's a very fine set of music and Assaf's playing is very creatively lyrical. He strikes a nerve with his meditatively quiet lyricism and can crank it up when that is called for as well.
Flowers and Other Stories is a very beautiful album. It's accessible (my wife likes it, for example) yet there is nothing diluted or self-conciously pandering about it. This is the music, you can tell, that Assaf likes and needs to make right now. I'm glad he does! It's joyous and tender. Assaf is a new guitarist of great poise, with impressive ears and flawless technique. Very much recommended!
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Imogen Heap has shown herself to be someone who doesn't take what a singer-songwriter is supposed to do for granted. She is, to mangle and corrupt the cliche, a thinking AND FEELING person's musical artist. The spiky quality of her first album, the supremely lyrical and rhythmically moving Frou Frou, some of the sublime vocal soundscapes of recent albums, her tour where she invited audiences at each stop to name musical parameters and proceeded to create spontaneously a song on the spot (see reviews on this blog), the results of which were released as downloads and the proceeds donated to various worthy charities, she has always done things a little differently.
She's working on a new album, cut-by-cut. As she does so she offers expanded singles downloads of the songs at www.imogenheap.com. There are four so far but I've been checking out the first two.
The first, "Lifeline" is a product once again of on-line input from her fans about what should go into it. The results are very Imogenesque, with a vocal inimitability and a lyrical bent. The download includes an unplugged version from the release party.
The second, "Propeller Seeds" is more ambitious. It's a kind of video for the ears, a story about an emotional-experiential slice of Imogen's rich imaginative life. It's haunting and sonically fascinating. The download includes software to install so that, when listening with earphones, you get a kind of 3-D effect. I didn't try it yet. What counts is that the beauty of her vocalisms are matched by some musically extended, electronically-symphonic sounds that go way beyond what is expected from a "popular" artist today--vis-a-vis some of those formula pop things out there now.
A drummer friend of mine yesterday alluded to the idea that her music has lost some of the rhythmical thrust she has had, especially on Frou Frou. He's right, there. I do miss that and hope maybe she can bring it back a bit more. As it is though she is a beautiful soul, a wonderful voice, a songwriter of great originality. So there we are. She to me is an important artist for the time in which we live, someone that makes me think that great music can be created in the square of the marketplace, even today.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Now a DVD of the gig is out. The total package is the result of a contest open to all Stooges fans, to make a video explaining why they would be a best choice to videotape the concert and interview the Stooges afterwards. A number of fans won and the result is now fully available in the DVD Iggy and the Stooges, Raw Power Live: In the Hands of the Fans (MVD Visual 52340). It shows you the zoo-like madness of Iggy and the audience interacting, the Stooges' security squad pulling people off the stage who manage to get up there to make themselves visibly nutty, the security squad repeatedly getting Iggy back up on stage after the audience has pulled him down on top of them while the music manically blasts away, among other things. The six or so contest winners get the show from many angles and there is a constant cut editing style that gives you the excitement but also doesn't give you a lot of footage where all the band members are facing you on the screen. But it's in realm of a cinema realism, a what-it's-like-to-be-in-the-audience feel.
The interview footage that follows has its ups and downs but basically it is rather insightful at times, especially with what Iggy has to say, who turns out to be articulate about it all.
The music is loud and strong, as on the CD.
Stooges fans will love it. Those not quite in that camp will certainly get a Stooge-eye view of what rock is about. And the band does NOT sound dated. Iggy is a vocalist who does a lot more than scream and shout, though of course he does that. That alone is something. Why are the Stooges important? What do you think, eh? The DVD gives you an idea of what that means. So it's worth pursuing if you are up for it.
Monday, November 7, 2011
Choro is Brazilian music. Choro is samba-laced. Grupo Falso Baiano is a San Francisco Bay area quartet that plays some very nice instrumental choro with a dash of today. The members play seven-string guitar, mandolin, tenor sax/soprano/flute, and percussion. For around half the cuts the group is expanded with a pianist (doubling on accordion & flute), and a second percussionist.
Their new (second) album Simplicidade: Live at Yoshi's (Massaroca 20111) brings them in front of an appreciative audience and turns them loose with traditional choros and more contemporary numbers. The piano and reeds give it all a jazz feel.
It's some well-played, rhythmically infectious music that will add some variety and spice to your musical program. Quite nice, really.
Friday, November 4, 2011
There are organ trios who do what you'd expect in some kind of Jimmie Smith mode. Then there is the Spanish Donkey and their XYX (Northern Spy 009), which is NOT your ordinary trio! It's Joe Morris on guitar, Jamie Saft on keys (and bass guitar) and Mike Pride on drums. What they play is some very engaging super-outside music. If you know Joe Morris's guitar work, you will not be surprised. Yet this is trio freedom with a very thickly textured electronic noise element that goes beyond what Joe usually does. Jamie Saft gets all manner of sound clusters and noisy sustains on the synth keys, Mike Pride plays out of time hefty drums and Joe Morris turns in some of his best work ever. The backdrop that the Spanish Donkey provides seems to stimulate him into an admirable frenzy of note clusters, bends and electric skronk-shreds that get pretty wild.
This is a group effort however--and so the total sound is always an out-front thing. It's heavy music, thick-textured free psychedelics and it is something that once you put it on, you cannot ignore. It will be heard! You either surrender to their web of sounds or you play something else. And really, isn't that the true purpose of getting music for your world? There's no half-heard cocktail party backdrop function that would work for XYX!
What it is is a flat-out blast of fire. It's wonderfully envigorating, like an abrupt dip into an icy stream after several hours in an Indian Sweat House.
Nab this album and you'll be getting a passport to the outer realms of noise-space. Some of the most extreme, but also some of the very best sort of outness!
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Duets can be interesting, they can be less interesting, but you cannot often say they are riveting. I would say that of alto saxist Gary Hassay and acoustic bassist Michael Bisio's My Brother (Konnex 5275). It is riveting because both players have virtually limitless imaginations and realize ideas in their very own way. It is riveting because it's the best kind of duo: where two excellent players inspire each other to bring out a side of their playing that sounds especially well in the context at hand.
Gary Hassay realizes well-thought-out yet spontaneous sound sculptures that take advantage of the classic jazz and outer realm capabilities of the alto; Michael Bisio complements and spurs on those alto flights with equally considered pizz and arco structures that have freedom but are logically and executionally exceptional.
Gary has always from what I've heard of him had a kind of Zen-like spirituality to his playing. Michael can go that zone well. The two head for high-consciousness, high-level improvisational territory and explore the terrain with care and inspiration. Gary can do a kind of quasi-Tibetan throat singing and when he does it here it never sounded better than with the accompaniment of Michael's arco chant-drones. But it is the alto-bass twosome that gets to some especially beautiful free places.
This is the best Gary Hassay playing I can recall hearing and Michael Bisio is on a personal high as well. Now that is saying a great deal, since both players are doing some heavy things!
It's a don't-miss-it CD, for adventurous souls and lovers of the new jazz. Grab a copy and go someplace very cool in your mind.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
John Lennon and Paul McCartney after the Beatles? There were those who faithfully followed the careers and bought the releases of both; those who decided either John or Paul were more to their taste and stuck with them; then there were those who dabbled but found for whatever reason that neither was at the consistent level of the Beatles days. I was in the latter camp in those years. So there are gaps in my knowledge of the careers and total music output of either during this period.
For diehard fans and for those like me who don't know the whole story Composing Outside the Beatles: Lennon and McCartney 1973-1980 (Pride DVD142) gives a cogent summation of that era, their records, the alignments and realignments, the ups and downs of their personal-musical lives, the erratic quality of some of the music. All that is covered on this hour-and-a-half documentary. The talking heads of band members, music industry people and music journalists intersperse with concert footage and music videos to give you a pretty decent overview.
Neither quite rise to the heights of their Beatles days. Paul especially went further into a pop banality in search of success; John sometimes found it difficult to lock into a cohesive direction. All is thoroughly examined in this program.
It's not a history that is often rehearsed in a totality. This DVD does a good job supplying that lack. Recommended for all who want to get the wider picture of those days.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Rehearsal tapes, live soundboard captures, live broadcast tapes... these with any other musicians might be second thoughts, "also did this," leftovers. With artists the caliber of Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas, Songs to No One, 1991-1992 (Evolver-Knitting Factory Records EVL 2008-2) that is so much not the case. Some are duets with the two, some involve the entire Gods and Monsters band, all are supercharged evidence of an incredibly fruitful union that we can now only appreciate on tape with Jeff's tragic passing. While it lasted though it was the best sort of collaboration, each bringing to the music something that completed what the other put forward. Jeff's rangy, dramatic, lucidly moody vocals and compositional elements; Gary's orchestral psychedelics, inimitable guitar sounds and musico-structural wisdom.
I hesitate to wax hyperbolic unless it is warranted. In this case it is. This is a classic, folks. It has all the makings of it. Instrumental profundity, vocal perfection, songs that don't go away but haunt you long after every listen. Jeff was a haunting, haunted cat. Gary was his best foil, grounding and spacing the song format with keen ears and eminently appropriate guitaristic counterpoint that equally haunts. The combination is rather uncanny. But do not take my word for it.
Singers, guitarists, avid listeners take note. THIS is an album you need to absorb. I will leave it at that.