Monday, April 29, 2013

JJ Grey & Mofro, Brighter Days, The Live Concert Film, DVD

JJ Grey is genuine. He takes pride in his days growing up in rural Florida. His music reflects the roots and soul of the swampland world he came from. And he's translated it all into music that has the real ring of truth.

That's what I get out of digging on his live DVD Brighter Days (MVD 5729). The main part of the film is vivid concert footage of him and his band Mofro live in Atlanta, 2011. He is on top and the band is a solid killer. It convinced me that his kind of swamp soul is the real deal.

Otherwise there are nice segments where Grey explains his upbringing and his music and how they relate, plays some acoustic tunes and shows you around his Florida stomping grounds.

Grey is the man and this is dope. I mean it.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Tom Dempsey/Tim Ferguson Quartet, Beautiful Friendship

It's not exactly the norm for a quartet to be fronted by a guitarist and a bassist. While that happens to be perfect for this blog, it's also something very worthwhile when it's the Tom Dempsey/Tim Ferguson Quartet and the album is Beautiful Friendship (Planet Arts 301226).

What we have here is a first-rate straight-ahead jazz gathering running through some standards, jazz standards and originals. Tom Dempsey plays a harmonically well-healed guitar. His comping is beautiful to hear. And his solo work has that endlessly variable play-all-night feel to it. He can invent plenty of nice choruses if called upon, I suspect, though all of the numbers are relatively short.

Tim Ferguson has that propulsion that drives a band along swingingly, that drummers love. He takes solos that have imagination in that post-Paul Chambers sort of mode.

Tenor-soprano artist Joel Frahm has good sense, great tone and solo ideas that stand out. He manages not to sound like anybody in the process. Then Eliot Zigmund. You may remember his work with Bill Evans. He is a model of the interactive, small-band swinger.

Those are the pieces. The whole fits quite well together. Standards and originals flow and the solos say something. Well done!

Thursday, April 25, 2013


TriPod? Yes. Here we have a trio in the realm of such ensembles as Morphine--sax, bass and drums with vocals. But they don't precisely sound like Morphine. It's a prog-fuse, song-centered hard fullness created by the presence of Clint Bahr on 12-string bass and lead vocals (a twelve-string bass is composed of the standard four strings on an electric bass, plus two-octave strands per regular 4+8=12), Steve Romano on drums and percussion, and Keith Gurland on alto and tenor, clarinet, effects and backing vocals. All this on their self-titled album just out on MoonJune (MJR004).

The music is somewhere in the realm of King Crimson progressivity, in its own special way. There are hard-edged, intricate arrangements, prog song niceties and a program that combines the two elements in judiciously balanced contrasts.

Clint Bahr's bass playing has a fullness that might make you think there's a guitar in there as well, but there isn't. He's playing the 12-string so that the bass and chordal possibilities come out strongly. Keith Gurland's saxophony is well-suited for the music and gives the music the second melodic voice in the ensemble that fleshes it all out. Steve Romano plays a LOT of drums as is fitting, and that sounds great too.

The songs-vocals put it all in focus. This is some heavy prog that should not be missed if you like the edgy Crimsonian thrust as I do.

And Clint's 12-string bass alone is a listen in itself. It's first-rate prog-fuse in any event.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Brick and Mortar and Love, A Trust Gang Film, DVD

Brick and Mortar and Love (MVD Visual 5697D) is all about the rise and fall of a record store. Since Record Store Day was this past Saturday, I thought it would be apt to get a review in this week.

X-tacy Records, a Louisville, Kentucky institution for a quarter of a century, is the focal point of the story. But of course it applies to all independent record stores today.

The film covers what the store meant to music aficionados, local artists, plain folks or not-so-plain.

The story covers the origin of the store, the people who worked and went there, its function as community center, gathering place for music lovers, live venue, indie music outlet, and local music promoter.

As a product of the rise of internet sales, downloads and economic downturn the store comes on tough times. The story is all about how they try and stay alive.

It's an object lesson I suppose for anyone in a similar position (as I was), and why it is important that we keep these institutions going.

The film tells a tragic tale in the end. It's well done.

Dylan Ryan Sand, Sky Bleached

Drummer Dylan Ryan's Sand trio recording Sky Bleached (Cuneiform Rune 357), with Timothy Young on electric guitar and Devin Holt on electric and acoustic bass, is one of those avant jazz-rock goodies that stirs the soul.

Ten numbers, some penned by Holt, some a collective effort, one by the late Paul Motian, have character, electricity, notable compositional sign posts and very cool playing.

The sort of fused outness that includes memorable motives, kicking rhythmic figures, the occasional odd time-signature, and well-crafted performance-improvisations prevails.

It doesn't quite sound like any trio. Each player stakes out a musical territory that belongs to him and collectively they get a nice leveraged sound.

There are psychedelic moments, harmonically cool structures, and plenty of good drumming, guitaring and bass-ing.

Highly recommended.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Yagull, Films

According to my press sheet, Yagull is an "acoustic power project." That is an interesting way to put it and so I quote it straight off. It's the baby of guitarist Sasha Markovic. The new CD Films (ZOZE 12001) has 15 ambiently mellifluous numbers, a cross between Oregon and an instrumental Moody Blues in some ways, in other ways just original music, well played by Markovic on acoustic plus Lori Reddy on flute, Eylon Tushiner, saxophones, and Sonia Choi on cello. There are unusual versions of "White Room" and "Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath." Otherwise these are Markovic-penned.

The music has some of the mellow qualities of new age, but there's more to it melodically-harmonically. And I found it nice listening after I got used to what it was about.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Eric Hofbauer, American Grace, Solo Guitar

Guitarist Eric Hofbauer has done some interesting work in the past for sure but his American Grace (Creative Nation 022) solo acoustic set gets things really moving. There are very cool versions of classic music like the Beatles' "Dear Prudence," the standard "I Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry," and Louis Armstrong's "West End Blues" (complete with a version of the famous trumpet break from the first recording). Then there are original compositions-improvisations, too, well worth your ear-time.

What is striking, memorable, and sets this music apart is the originality and artistry of Eric the guitarist. There is some finger picking, some line weaving, chordal comps and a sound (must be an unamplified archtop semi-hollow) nicely percussive and punctuated.

It's a bit of a tour de force in plectorial artistry. You need to hear it. Eric Hofbauer has it all going on here.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

I Never Meta Guitar Too, Solo Guitars for the 21st Century

The guitar has occupied pride of place as the West's (whatever that means) instrument of choice for some time now. That such attention should attract creative musicians and innovation is logical. Guitarist-composer-conceptualist Elliott Sharp has taken the time to address the latest in such endeavors, specifically for the solo guitar, whether electric or acoustic, in an anthology of works by new and thoroughly contemporary artists, essentially from all over the world.

The second volume, I Never Meta Guitar Too (Clean Feed CFG06) is out and I've been listening to it. There are 16 artists playing 16 solo segments. Most names you probably wont be familiar with unless you have been a microscopic enthusiast. There's Ava Mendoza, Ben Tyree, On Ka'a Davis, Shouwang Zhang, Joel Harrison, Yasuhiro Usui, Alan Licht, and nine others.

The music varies from very electric metal and free wheeling sound poetry and soundscaping to acoustic compositional and/or folksy excursions. In short this is a barrier-free collection, as was the first volume. The proviso is that the music should characterize our new century--be new in whatever sense that might mean for a particular artist, even if there are some very rooted things going on at times.

Elliott Sharp as curator-producer is the ideal choice, in that he himself embraces a wide spectrum of musics and styles, and has keen ear to the ground.

What we get is another provocative, very enjoyable album of guitarists with lots of ideas. Some selections will be just what you would like to hear, no doubt, and maybe some others you wont expect. Either way this will stretch your ears and give you a nicely presented look at some of the possibilities being worked on today.

Take the jump and check this one out.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Last Shop Standing: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of the Independent Record Shop, DVD

The 20th of this month is Record Store Day. It is a good idea, a way to focus concentration and attention on an endangered species. What is at stake is nicely presented in the film and now Special Edition DVD of Last Shop Standing: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of the Independent Record Shop (Convexe DVD 903106).

It's two hours of interviews, narrative and footage hanging out in shops, all in England. Anyone who spent many hours in such places, such as myself, will respond strongly to this film. Any young folks who need to know why they should support indie shops (and vinyl) will get great reasons why.

There are store owners, music people, musicians, all talking about what makes such spots essential to music culture. And a good bit of history too.

The decline of the scene started with CDs and got worse with downloads. The film covers all that along with the vinyl revival.

It's a great two-hours and hits to the heart of our decline and (hopefully) rebirth. Music I suspect depends upon it--music business, music music, musicians, all of it. So grab this and hit a shop on Record Day!

Ingebrigt Haker Flaten New York Quartet, Now Is

When people in the jazz avant camp emerge from the scene gigging and recording with some heavy cats, there is always a reason. Contrabassist Ingebrigt Haker Flaten is certainly one of those lately. And the reason is that he can really play. So when he puts together a disk with some of the heaviest cats, his New York Quartet doing Now Is (Clean Feed 263), it is an affirmation.

Heavy cats? Mr. Joe McPhee on tenor, Mr. Joe Morris on guitar, and Mr. Nate Wooley on trumpet. That qualifies as heavy. Each is a leader on his instrument, a bandleader in his own right, and the melding of all four on a free date is all you'd hope for.

This is a drummerless group, which makes Flaten's bass playing stand out all the more. The result is four equal solo voices engaging in dense free counterpoint.

Everybody is in good form. It's something excellent to sink your ears in.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bob Dylan 1966-1978, After the Crash, DVD/CD

Herewith, a documentary about Bob Dylan during a critical period, a crises period, a reaffirmation period and then at the end of the time, a religious conversion. Bob Dylan After the Crash (Pride DVDCD 155) goes into some depth about it all and I suspect even the avid fan will learn something.

This is the time when Dylan plugged in and toured, found audience hostility and soaring popularity all a bit overwhelming, crashed his cycle, retired to Woodstock with the Band to experiment with a more directly rooted electric folk, ended up recording some country albums, seemed less political, was taken to task by A. J. Webermann, ended up finding a new more committed sound and took it on the road as the Rolling Thunder Review, and such.

The confrontational phone calls between Webermann and Dylan are proffered on the bonus CD and it gives you a glimpse of a time period and a side to Dylan we don't always get--a Dylan a little unsure of himself. The conversations give a candid insight into the personal meaning of his music (he was mostly addressing the lyrics to himself, he says) at the beginning and the transformations he went through, and there are moments that are rather funny to boot.

This is not the last word on Dylan, but it does a good job raising points and covering ground. Dylan fans will dig it for sure. Others with an interest in the period will be entertained and informed.

Marbin, Last Chapter of Dreaming

Marbin does prog-fuse. Their second album, The Last Chapter of Dreaming (MoonJune 050) shows a very instrumentally sound bunch of folks. They can play well, especially Dani Rabin on guitar, and they do. It's a quartet w/ Danny Markovitch on sax, Justyn Lawrence, drums, Jae Gentile, bass, plus special guests like Paul Wertico on drums and my old roomie from Boston, gone on to great things, Jamey Haddad on percussion.

This is a band that has tightness and name recognition among some because they are always touring. They also appear to be MoonJune's most popular artists in terms of sales.

I of course am happy for them!

As far as this album goes, there mostly is a full-out rockin instrumental prog thing going on. Some of the originals seem a little too pedestrian for my tastes--meaning they have a simple tunefulness that sometimes gets closer to a soundtrack or Herb Albert on acid than I feel personally comfortable with.

And that's to say that the appeal of this music may be more universal and less selective. It's more commercial than the prog-fuse that gets me rolling, truth to tell.

Nonetheless there are folks who are going to like this alot. And it's no fault of the quality of the musicians here. Just tunes that don't get to me personally. If you like edge, this is less of that. If you hate edge, you'll probably dig this one a great deal.

All the best to them!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Janel & Anthony, Where is Home

Those who think there's nothing happening in the music scene right now are either not listening because they already have satiated their musical brains with old disks, are not reading my blogs and other info channels that work hard to get the news on the good stuff to you, or don't care. Or whatever else the reason. I wouldn't harp on it except the artists need support. Me? Yeah I am one of those too, but never mind. I mean an artist...not an uninvolved musical slacker. We music workers need your support!

Today's example is as good as any. Better, even. It's Janel & Anthony, two youngish folks judging by the album cover making some really stunning space-age retro-modern ambient post-psychedelia that will make you put away your Fripp and Eno for a while and climb into something new.

The album is called Where is Home (Cuneiform) and I might be tempted to answer, "wherever this record is playing," but I don't mean to be flip or faux-clever because I am serious. This is music that sounds like home to me.

So what is it that's got my bundies in an undletow? Well these two play some instruments, obviously, and some of that involves guitar and bass, duh, so it's posted here on this blogpage. It's Anthony Pirog on those guitars and he plays the right things--not to blow you away with chops and that's fine because some guitarists can play so fast these days you think they might explode and then what? Find a new guitarist, I guess. Anyway he plays tasteful ambient psychedelic sorts of things. Janel Leppin gets a burnished beauty from her cello and the two get a frothy sort of cosmos in your head going.

Sometimes it is very ambient in that cavernous way and sometimes it is a chamber kind of closeness, but in any event this is music to take very seriously. No moozac new oldage setting in at all. But it's lyrical, poetic and oh so hip.

What this proves is you can go lyrical and cosmic and not necessarily sound like everybody else, while still showing a place in a lineage that goes back, to Fripp and Floyd, mesmeric Byrds' moments, mesmeric Smiths moments, Terje Rypdal on a cloud, and on anon.

Thinking about it some more--in a way this is not post-anything because it never really left; it's a new version of the real cosmic deal. Now I suppose I should say that I highly recommend the recording. Can't you tell? I do.

Support these deserving artists. Plunk down some money for a CD or DL! Trust me, it's good music.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Story of Mudhoney: I'm Now, DVD

Rock documentaries of course can be anything from great to awful. It helps if the subject matter, the artists, are extraordinarily interesting people in their own right. That's true, I found, of the members of Mudhoney. But it also helps if the documentary makers have a sensitivity to what they are addressing. Ryan Short and Adam Pease have that. Put the two together and you have the documentary DVD The Story of Mudhoney: I'm Now (King of Hearts 03).

This is the band that was fundamental in the foundation of the Seattle rock craze known as grunge. The music was and is interesting, the history of the scene is interesting. We experience Mudhoney's climb to success, their initial status as avatars of underground music, the major label grab and how it effected the band, their adjustment to (eventual) moderate obscurity with legendary status intact. All that is part of the documentary.

The members of the band and the people involved in their careers--producers, label execs, etc., manage to say very interesting, smart things in this doc. And there's enough of the music live (and otherwise) to get you in the mode of the band.

In short--excellent documentary, one of the very best on a "punk" band I've seen. Interesting, definitely.

Mr. Moonjune Recommends, Vol. 2, "Letting Go"

Mr. Moonjune, aka Leonardo Pavkovic, the driving force behind MoonJune Records, has come up with a second volume anthology of prog-fuse music by artists and bands that may not be well known to you, but nonetheless deserve a hearing. The anthology contains 25 worthy tracks and you can get them as Mr. Moonjune Recommends, Vol. 2, "Letting Go" for a modest donation of $1, or whatever you'd like to contribute above that.

It's a wonderful bargain, of course, but most importantly it introduces you to internationally stationed artists who are playing some extraordinary or at least far-from-ordinary prog fuze. There are wonderful guitarists, tight bands, space rockers and notes galore.

For a buck you hear: Alex Machacek, Jeff Sipe, Matt Garrison; Asaf Sirkis; Mark Wingfield & Rene von Grunig; The Avengers; Apostolis Anthimos; John Sund Acoustic Sense; Dialeto; Uzva; Michel Sajrawy, and 16 others. Some may not yet be totally original in what they are up to but everything sounds very good, sometimes excellent.

Here's a bunch of music worth hearing, for almost nothing. It's a no-lose proposition.

Go to and click on the album cover to find out the complete details and to get your download.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Gilbert Isbin & Scott Walton, Recall

Gilbert Isbin and Scott Walton give us that most rare of duo combinations, and a whole disk's worth at that: the meeting of lute and contrabass. Recall (pfMentum 073) is the title, and it has resonance, since there is a deja vu quality to the music.

Isbin is at the lute, Walton on the bass. Together they traverse a sort of free/composed territory that combines avant improv with echoes of early music lute sounds. Not just echoes, but not direct quotations mostly, with one medieval Welsh folksong being the exception.

It's a pretty magical combination and a provocative, very well played program. Both are impressive exponents of their instruments and they work together closely and quite productively.

It's a CD you might not expect. Once you hear it a few times it starts getting to you in nice ways.

There may be nothing else like it out there. And it's good. Happy listening!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Copernicus, Deeper

Someday, thousands of years from now, space creators may come to this planet, sort through the rubble, unearth the Copernicus CD at hand today, and, supposing they could figure out the digital technology involved and also learn English, scratch their heads (if they had any) and wonder what we were all about. I am wondering myself and I am from this culture!

I speak of Deeper (Nevermore, Inc 2087), a reissue of Copernicus's 1987 opus. It is one of his best from a standpoint of a synergy between out-rockband and Copernicus's impassioned, bellicose incantations. The band is rather large and Copernicus responds in kind, giving us an inspired lunacy fully befitting his determed-ly marginal status, an outsider crying not in the wilderness, but shouting a message from the periphery to the center.

I've said this before, but Copernicus takes the sort of dark imagery of Jim Morrison in "The End" and takes it further, further, to a world that might not seem like OUR world. But in fact, it is. So, it speaks to us. Do we listen? I don't know. Copernicus will never be on top 40 radio, especially not today.

That's probably good.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Cheatahs, Extended Plays EP

Cheatahs? Yes! Here's a band that has that wonderful sense of vocal melody and chord progression, who do a hard hitting lyrical yet advanced rock thing, a new Sonic Youth of sorts, an REM'd gift for presence, a beautiful wall-of-sound-sound.

I speak of their EP Extended Plays (Wichita Recordings). They are England-based and this release is a combo of a couple of mini-EPS out for a while in the UK. They are in the middle of touring the States right as I write this so look out for them.

It's just a band and a set that has it. Four guys with the guitars, bass, drums, voices and some really good hard-joy songs....with the knack!

I would recommend that you track this down if you like hard tunefulness.


Scott Healy-Glenn Alexander Quartet, Northern Light

How is it that 20 years go by and a session that was well worth hearing in 1991 or so doesn't see the light of day until now? It happens. Such is the case with the Scott Healy-Glenn Alexander Quartet's Northern Light (Hudson City), just out now after a lengthy wait in the can.

The album gives us composed rubato tonal melodics in a sort of post-Methany lyrical mode. Scott Healy mans the piano and synthesizers, Glenn Alexander plies the guitar, Kermit Driscoll gets into the acoustic bass and Jeff Hirshfield gives the music solid foundations on drums.

Everybody sounds good, the tunes are quite pleasing, and the improvising fits right in with the style parameters they set for themselves.

It's as good a run at this sort of jazz as anything that came out at the time. Guitar fans will no doubt love what Glenn is doing but it's a very good effort from everybody.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Edgar Broughton Band, Live in Hamburg, The Fabrik Concert, 1973

There's an old joke that goes "if you remember the '60s you probably weren't there!" I do, though, and I was there, at least as far as time zones are concerned. What has struck me over the years is how many things, at least in music, attributed to the '60s are in fact a product of the period between 1967 and 1974.

The CD up today qualifies. It is a concert recorded in 1973. The Edgar Broughton Band hold forth Live in Hamburg (Sireena 2107) for a lively set. They are English and in loosely good form. If you are not familiar with them, I actually wasn't either, so not to worry. If you are, then you have a leg up on the rest of us. They play music that is usually more associated with the '60s than 1973, hence my opening salvo.

They have that loud, brash, in your face insouciance of the MC5, only English style, somehow. . . . plenty of heavily amped guitar power-chording and an authentically frantic vocal style are there for you to appreciate in the 75 minute set.

The sound is typical of what a loud band in a club might produce back then. It is not going to win any sonic awards but it has the sound of the real thing from the period.

It's the hard-knock school of psyche-rock, and if that sounds good I think you'll like this one indeed.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Rolling Stones, Mick vs. Keith: The Strange Case of Jagger & Richards, 2-DVD Documentary Box Set

On tap today is a 2-DVD box set on the Rolling Stones: Mick vs. Keith: The Strange Case of Jagger & Richards (Chrome Dreams DVD-IS 035), which contains two complete documentaries: The Roaring '20s: Mick Jagger's Glory Years and Keith Richards Under Review. The latter covers Richards' career as whole, the former Jagger and the Stones when Mick was in his '20s.

Both DVDs take the form of review bios of this sort, covering the period of time in terms of salient events and recorded output. Because both DVDs come to grips with similar time periods at the intersection of the '60s through early '70s there is some overlap, but always from the perspective of either Richards or Jagger.

In the end the emphasis is on the development of the Stones as the premiere hard rock outfit of its day, especially from the advent of the hit single "Satisfaction" through Let it Bleed and a bit after. Most certainly from the perspective of Keith Richards, this was when his growing influence was key to the instrumental punch of the group sound. It was also when Jagger did some of his best work.

The DVDs take the form of chronological narrative with key critics commenting on the recordings and those who were witnesses to the period relating what they experienced.

The critics don't have much good to say about the music that did not follow the blues and r&b sides through to the hard rock breakthrough. The folk rock and psychological aspects of the band in the '60s are fairly roundly dismissed. That is probably how the mainstream of Stones fans feel who came to the band later in the history--especially as their fame and popularity as a live act spread. And the critics cited here have something to do with stressing that interpretation of the band in print.

Others (like myself) may feel that the less prototypical Stones work for that period has at least equal interest. No matter. Brian Jones's influence and input understandably gets less attention, given the subject matter of the DVDs. And that too is part of Stones orthodoxy.

Altamount, Richards' drug problems, Jagger's increasing infatuation with success and the glamour life are all given due consideration. The directly musical aspect of the Richards documentary is perhaps the most interesting, e.g., his way with a riff, his guitar tunings, etc.

It's all quite respectable entertainment, informative and rather insightful at points. In the end it is the sort of documentaries that Stones fans will find to their taste and anyone with an interest in the era.

Ultimately I was brought to wonder at the resilience of Richards in spite of personal difficulties, the balsiness of Jagger and the development of his stage persona, the fragile interaction of the two when the band was at its later best and the long run of great music they managed to produce.

This is not the last word or thoughts on the Stones, of course, but well worth seeing.

Barry Romberg's Random Access, Crab People

Drummer-Composer-Bandleader Barry Romberg has scored big with his Random Access band on the 2-CD set Crab People (Romhog 123). This is his twelfth release and, though I wasn't counting, this one corks it!!

The band includes Ben Monder and Geoff Young on very electric guitars, and some very hip players in general going after a post-Milesian-fusion-rock that is very advanced-funky and harmonic-line advanced as well.

Kelly Jefferson and Kirk McDonald play soprano-tenor and tenor, respectively and they sound good. Trumpet, two contrabasses, electric bass, percussion and keys round things out and it all hangs together exceptionally well.

About half the album puts together spontaneous compositional junkets, the other half addresses written motifs and their jammed, highly sound-colored realizations.

It's music that is out and grooves too. Really grooves when it gets into the mode. This is one hell of an electric band in a very adventuresome mood.

If you like out fusion, this will kill you!