Thursday, December 31, 2015

Jack Bruce, More Jack Than Blues, HR Big Band Meets Jack Bruce, 2006

By now it is pretty clear to all that when we lost Jack Bruce we lost one of the pioneers of advanced electric bass, an irreplaceable vocal force and a major composer-performer in rock and jazz in the latter 20th century. A new DVD/CD set of his 2006 German Jazzfestival performance is out, and it is a most welcome addition. More Jack Than Blues (MIG 80312 CD & DVD) gives us an hour of Jack in very good form, singing and playing some of his most familiar material (and some less so) with the HR Big Band as his backdrop.

The arrangements are very much a plus, appropriate and expansive without countering the thrust of the Brucian way. So "We're Going Wrong," the old Cream number, has layers of combustible horn lines that further the song. So also there are some very nice Jack and bigband versions of "Never Tell Your Mother She's Out of Tune," "Rope Ladder," "Born Under A Bad Sign," "Theme from An Imaginary Western," and even "Sunshine of Your Love."

Jack's bass is in full bloom here, but he also plays acoustic guitar and piano in his inimitable way. His vocal instrument may show the slight effects of time, but it has everything there to make it the shining singularity it was and is.

The HR Bigband is a powerhouse with excellent, well rehearsed ensembles and worthy soloists.

This adds to every number a new jazz-inflected breadth without losing the primacy of the original versions. That night in Frankfurt was a triumph and one cannot watch and listen without a feeling of the sadness of loss. Yet of course Jack lives on here for us.

A real addition for all Jack Bruce enthusiasts, and a good set in itself. I am glad to have it! Check it out.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Adam Rudolph Go: Organic Guitar Orchestra, Turn Towards the Light

Getting this album and seeing who was on it immediately filled me with expectations. Adam Rudolf Go: Organic Guitar Orchestra? Yes. The album at hand is called Turn Towards the Light (Cuneiform Rune 406). It turns out this is the ninth album by Rudolph and his extended guitar outfit, but this album is an all-new grouping, with 13 compositions by Rudolph that he "improvisationally" conducts. It is a stellar line-up consisting of:

Electric guitar and effects: Rez Abbasi, Nels Cline, Liberty Ellman, David Gilmore, Miles Okazaki, Marvin Sewell

Bass guitar: Damon Banks

Acoustic guitar and effects: Marco Capelli

Electric bass and lap steel guitars: Jerome Harris

Electric and national steel guitars: Joel Harrison

Electric guitar and banjo: Kenny Wessel

That was enough to get my interest! And here there were nine previous albums, and every single one I have missed. Not entirely surprising, since I only know lately what is sent me and so I do not cover and hear EVERYTHING, even if I could. So I put the music on and found myself in a sort of jazz-rock guitar heaven.

These are thick walls of guitar improvisations and structural spontaneity around good compositional ideas and content Adam Rudolph thought out. It is music structured, often outside in overall effect, freely unfolding according to the given foundation of each number.

These are all PLAYERS of course, so they do indeed GO forward and make something fascinating out of what Rudolph sets them out to do. It is very electric music in result, not so much insistent in a rock way--there is no pounding pulse that ordinarily accompanies fused and psychedelic song-structured music. This IS motif and riff-based often enough. And there is pulse much of the time, but no pounding per se. You could say it is an electric version of Fripp's League of Crafty Guitarists, except it isn't. In common with that group though are composed parts for multiple guitarists, yet mostly this is more free and out-rockish in result.

What it is--a virtual cornucopia of modern jazz-rock electricity--does not translate into an easily described thing. It is a guitar ORCHESTRA, and so it does have multiple layers of structured and improvised segments that come together to give us 13 stringed universes, all contrasting within a general stylistic originality.

It is music to stimulate and excite the guitar lover in you. And in the process it presents composed-improvised music that innovates by letting the flow of parts and guitar excellence come at us, segment by segment. It is serious. It is great fun. I would suggest you hear it by all means.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Wolves in the Throne Room, Live at the Bell House 9.12.11

Every so often I get something in the mail that's a sort of "What? Who expected this?" That happened recently with a small consignment of music from the boutique Saint Roch Av. Recordings label, a New Orleans-based entity located on the street so named in the label. The release that hit me mightily was the album by the group Wolves in the Throne Room, namely Live at the Bell House 9.12.11 (Saint Roch Av. limited edition cassette).

This has that huge sound of amassed guitars, bass and drums plus exorcist-type vocals. At one point this stuff was called Death Metal and its hugeness and worked-out chordal progressions sound a little like some of those Viking type groups a friend of mine turned me on to a few years back. So post-Death Metal?

The point is the music and this band has worked pretty hard to get a very effective wall of sound that makes the whole thing stand on its sonic head in a way.

The date was part of the band's Celestial Lineage tour. The Bell House gig was in Brooklyn.

It is music that will sound familiar to anyone who has checked out this sort of thing, but they really do excel at getting one big overwhelming sound with Gothic chord progressions and pounding drums.

I like this band! It's not about chops here, but it sure is about POWER walls!

The label has a website if this sounds interesting to you: http://www.strochavrecordings.com/about/

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Spaghetti Eastern Music, Sketches of Spam, Sal Cataldi

I get swamped sometimes with music, but in the end that means I get things and pay attention to them and reap the rewards of the unknown now and again. Such a thing is undoubtedly Spaghetti Eastern, Sal Cataldi's inaugural project by that name, and the album Sketches of Spam (Bad Egg Music).

First off, the music knocked me out. Sal's post-Rypdalian electric guitar work is very hip on the one hand, and he gives us some excellent space rocking things that show off his beautiful electric sound and conceptual post-psychedelic Milesian imagination.

And then there is the acoustic guitar-vocal songs, on the other hand. He can sing and the songs have a quirky darkness-in-light that Sal suggests is out of the Nick Drake-John Martyn bag. That may well be but the songs stand on their own. Henry Miller comes up too in Sal's ruminations, and we hear from him on the miseries of New York. I do not say no to that, any of it. Then there is something like "Nap Dust," based on Zappa's progressions from "Sleep Dirt." It is cool. "Ticket to Ride"? A remake that works.

There is 70 minutes of musical strength here. I love his electric work and I appreciate the songs. It's a nicely DIY album with overdubs to get a group thing when he needs it. What counts is it is very good indeed.

It's good, first-rate, original music. And it belongs on this page for the excellent guitar work. So I would like to recommend this one to you. It stands out as important. Encore! You can find this one on Bandcamp. You should.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Sonny Sharrock, Ask the Ages, with Pharoah Sanders, Elvin Jones, Charnett Moffett

If you do not know the late Sonny Sharrock's guitar playing, you need to remedy that. He was the original avant jazz guitarist, the one who started it all, pretty much.

One of his very best albums, Ask the Ages has just been remastered and reissued (MOD 0016). It is an excellent example of Sonny in his later period, recorded not that long before his untimely demise.

The first thing to note is the seminal personnel: percussion titan Elvin Jones is on drums, the master Pharoah Sanders plays tenor and soprano, and Charnett Moffett is on bass. Along with Sonny this is a fabulous outfit, truly for the ages, and they completely mesh. Not surprising. Sonny was on Pharoah's first Impulse album and all knew and appreciated each other's work. And of course Pharoah played with Elvin on some key Coltrane dates.

The quality of Sharrock's originals is another wonderful element. Every one is quite memorable, classic.

And then the soloing. It is outstanding on all fronts. Sonny had gotten a considerably bit more metallic in his playing and that comes through here along with his shredded skronk. He is in beautiful form, to say the least. And for that matter, so are Pharoah, Elvin and Charnett.

This was a date that managed to synthesize the swinging outness that Elvin favored with the electricity of Sharrock in peak mode. Pharoah sounds essential. And Charnett, too.

This is a way to start appreciating Sonny, if you don't know his work. But it is a landmark date regardless, something all who cherish modern avant jazz will need to hear and own. But for the out rockers this is equally essential.

A classic among classics!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Slobber Pup, Pole Axe

Slobber Pup? Hell, yeah! They come front and center with their second album, Pole Axe (Rare Noise). It is the potent pairing of guitarist Joe Morris, keyboardist Jamie Saft, drummer Balasz Pandi, and for this outing the saxophonics of Mats-Olof Gustaffson.

The Rare Noise label favors some heatedly outside electric music and Slobber Pup makes some of the best such sounds of any outfit going. The potent combination of the plugged-in versions of Joe Morris and Jamie Saft and the sheer viscerality of Mats-Olof Gustaffson joined with the creatively out percussives of Balasz Pandi...all this portended some great music when I put the music on my machine. I certainly was not disappointed.

One of my very first musical mentors was right to remind me long ago that, as much as technical and instrument-specific abilities that you must learn in your early days is crucial, it ultimately has to fit properly into a group context if you are going to play music in your life. Nobody thrives much doing nothing but unaccompanied solos...except perhaps Cecil Taylor, but that's another story. And even he gets a group together much of the time. And face it, the solo piano is complete in itself if the player is exceptional. Not to put down the many excellent unaccompanied solo efforts of avant improvisers out there since the early '70s either. Just a general truth.

And so Slobber Pup combines some very potent players who work together to create a very cosmic group sound, filled with virtuosity now and then but also working to achieve a special blend of free electrics that is much more than a collection of solos and accompaniment. I suppose you could say at times that all are soloing at once, yet there is a lot of attention to achieving four-way torque.

On the other hand you get moments when Joe Morris lets his special outside ability fly in the wind overtop the maelstrom, with some of his best cranked playing ever.

So you guitarists reading this should take note--what he is doing here is a product of a great deal of hard work, years of finding his own voice, and then a long time interacting with others in ensembles, finding the give-and-take.

And that is certainly true of everybody in Slobber Pup. It's hard to sound like this with the sort of edge-of-the-universe virtuosity that is a good deal harder to achieve than some of the mainstream normalities. I don't mean playing on changes; that is an art in itself. I mean that it is very difficult to fly without instruments with consistently artistic results, so to speak, to take off for parts unknown trusting the instinctual freedom you achieve with years of dedicated, sometimes financially un-remunerative, finger busting hard labor and mutual cooperation.

All that goes into this music. And all that helps make this music a deluge of creative overtopping, a fine, fascinating suite of electric excesses and bold sound sculpting.

Bravo! Check this one by all means if you seek to go into musical orbit as a passenger on a first-class spaceship.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Joe Louis Walker, Live in Istanbul, 1995, DVD

If you do not know the music of electric guitarist, singer, songwriter, bandleader Joe Louis Walker you probably should. He is a bluesman-blues rocker of power and soul. And you can hear him do a full set with a good band in the 85-minute DVD Live in Istanbul (MVD Visual 7505D), recorded in 1995.

Joe is in peak form and his band is right there with him. The excellent sound and visuals of the set are first-rate, the audience into the moment, and Joe is up for it.

We get nine songs and all the fire generated from them. Joe is in the mood to play and his vocals are sharp and cutting. It reminds you that Walker kept the blues alive then when many of the classic electric bluesmen of the classic period had passed and there weren't as many out there doing it right.

He surely was. He surely still is. And this DVD gives you a full set to demonstrate why he is both a master of the art and a consummate showman. And a crack guitarist, of course.

So grab this if that sounds good to you. It's got that something.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Marc Ducret Trio + 3, Metatonal

Guitarist-composer Marc Ducret seems to have turned a page and entered into more extroverted jazz-rock avant territory on his latest, Metatonal (Ayler 148). His outfit is billed numerically here as the Trio + 3, which it very much is. The Trio of course is Marc on electric guitar, Bruno Chevillon, double bass, and Eric Echampard, drums. The Plus 3 are Fabrice Martinez on trumpet, Christophe Monniot on saxophones and Samuel Blaser on trombone.

The plus three add girth and breadth to the music in texture, nicely, and some productive solo time towards the end. The trio gets into jazz-fusion avant complexities with everyone putting in the strength needed and Marc coming through with some excellent soloing, great ideas, chops not for themselves but in the service of his very musical mind, and originality, that most rare of things.

The compositions are edgy, complex yet communicative, avant yet metallic in thrust and power. The rhythm section is possessed with momentum, drive and virtuosity that kicks everything along well. Check out their version of Dylan's "The Times They Are A Changing" for how far they can take something!

So what is missing? Nothing. I won't say this is Marc's best album because there are too many others that vie for that honor, but it is perhaps one of the most accessible. Its strengths are many and it will get the ears of adventurous rockers and fusionists without playing down to them.

So the whole thing is recorded live, too, remarkable for such complexities. What else is there to say but get this? Ayler Records needs your support if they are to continue and this is a great reason why they have importance. So do the right thing if you want something great. Give them a cash infusion!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Fred Randolph, Song Without Singing

Fred Randolph, double bassist, electric bassist and composer of worthwhile jazz numbers puts it all together on the recent album Song Without Singing (Creative Spirit 003). It's a shifting set of players getting good traction on the Randolph compositions (plus one by Sting). Fred appears throughout. Matt Clark appears most of the time on piano and Rhodes, as does Rob Roth on tenor, Eric Jekabsen on trumpet, Greg Wyser-Pratte on drums and Brian Rice on percussion. There are guests here and there and all add something to the music.

The album showcases Randolph's bass playing at times and he sounds quite good. The music is often Latin-Afro tinged, well constructed, nicely arranged, and peppered with fine contemporary jazz soloing.

And the pieces carry the music forward in very pleasing ways. It is music to satisfy the sophisticated lover of classic Blue Note multi-horn arrangements, those who dig an Afro-Latin hard bop, and the novice listener, too, who may not know the jazz world that well but can respond to something lively and well played.

Nice! Recommended!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Henry Kaiser, Damon Smith, Weasel Walter, Plane Crash Two

If sometimes I cover albums that have been out for a while, it is not for lack of anything new. It's because the music is central, more so than the politics of review jockeying, poll-meistering or otherwise fulfilling a role in the INDUSTRY, though some of that is inevitable if you post regularly in the current musical world.

So today we go back to an album from last year that I missed, the potent trio of Henry Kasier's guitar, Damon Smith's double bass, and Weasel Walter's drum set for the album Plane Crash Two (New Atlantic Records 024).

It is a free trio date with Henry Kaiser in a post-Derek Bailey guitar mode, meaning that he seeks clusters of extra-extended sound complexes along with warbling melodically outside sustains. In perfect simultaneity is the bass abstractions of Damon Smith along with the clutter, clash and power diving drumming of Weasel Walter.

The music ranges between sound-color textural emanations and avant psychedelics, and it does so with excellent creative thrust.

In the process all three define personal spaces of out-taking that meld together in ever-interesting and ear-awakening ways.

It is an excellent example of Henry Kaiser on the outer fringe, but also Damon and Weasel in interactive openness to create a trio of special sonance and varied warp drive modes.

This is a fine example of the fine line between power and finesse in avant trios who do not eschew a hint of avant rock as well as free jazziphonics.

Good show! Get it.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Markus Reuter, Live in Bethlehem, 2013, Free Artist's Download

If you have the slightest interest in ambient processed guitar solo music, you should awaken yourself to action and get the free download that artist Markus Reuter has generously made available, Live in Bethlehem, 2013. I'll give you the link straight off, which you should copy and paste into your browser window http://iapetus-store.com/album/live-in-bethlehem-2013-free-download

It is 48 magical minutes of Markus holding forth in Bethlehem (Pennsylvania, that is). He utilizes digital delay and other effects to create a tapestry that turns his touch guitar into an other-worldly orchestra.

Now anyone who reads my blogs knows that I favor Reuter's music. His orchestral work "Todmorden" was one of my classical records of the year in 2015 (see my Gapplegate Classical-Modern Review blog), and he's made many fine recordings with the touch guitar, some of which have been reviewed on these pages.

Live in Bethlehem extends the Reuter oceans of sound into a remarkable zone that will give you, I hope, a feeling of wonder and peace. He's something of a musical wonder himself. And this extended live solo is indeed a wonderful thing.

So get this album and if you dig it, check out his other music. Happy holidays if you are reading this now! Happy life, either way.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Aaron Clift Experiment, Outer Light, Inner Darkness

If you hate progressive rock, I am sorry for that. As long as I am sent good prog I will cover it. The same goes for all the genres I generally review when worthwhile, and that includes prog's trumped up (no not Donald-Trumped-up, that is another problem I address elsewhere) nemesis punk or alt. These kinds of frictions may create readership but I reject it all on principal. Prog had a period of excess long ago and that should be forgotten to my mind. There is good music to be heard out there today.

So yes, we have a very capable prog band at hand, the Aaron Clift Experiment and their album Outer Light, Inner Darkness (self released). It's a quartet headed by Aaron on keys and lead vocals, Eric Gutierrez on guitar (he's very good!) and mandolin, Devin North on electric bass and double bass, and Joe Resnick on drums and percussion. Some of the songs add arranged strings and that sounds nicely with the torque of the core group.

These are very good musicians, the songs are strong and well sung by Aaron, and the arrangements are well wrought. It's a basic lyricism going on, spiced by elaborate arrangements in the prog tradition but not derivative-sounding, and some good guitar work from Gutierrez.

It all comes off as original, a new band with a new sense of possibilities.

Hey, this is substantial music, not puffery, and it holds up with a bunch of listens. So go there if prog floats your boat!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Pixel, Golden Years

OK, ready for some song oriented contemporary jazz-rock from some Norwegian musicians? We get jazz with pronounced song-form indie leanings and acoustic rock underpinnings. Presenting Pixel and their third album, Golden Years (Cuneiform Rune 412). (I covered their "We Are All Small" album here. Look it up in the index box above.)The band consists of double bassist and vocalist Ellen Andrea Wang, drummer Jon Audun Baar, trumpeter Jonas Kilmork Vem√ły, and saxophonist Harald Lassen. Ellen convincingly does the lead vocals and everyone contributes their voices for a group vocal sound when needed.

This is instrumentally vibrant music from some definite players. Dig Ms. Wang's bass. She has a real sense. And the horns can go at it, too. Baar plays solid drums. But the exceptional difference here along with the instrumental prowess is an excellent compositional sense both in the horn arrangements and in the songs. They are distinctive and something unexpected in good ways. These are songs well sung and memorable, so that an indie audience can take to them, or anybody for that matter. They stick in the mind.

I am of the opinion that anything goes out there if it is done well. Pixel straddles jazz and song in ways that sound authentic. It is heartfelt and very musical. Perhaps those who do not ordinarily listen to jazz will find this attractive and stimulating. They should. It is progressive musically without being "progressive" in the categorical sense.

If you find the idea of this music interesting as I describe it, I think this one will please you. It did that for me. Listen to these folks! This is art, whatever else you may want to call it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Raoul Borkenheim ECsTaSy, Out of the Blue

Finnish electric guitarist Raoul Borkenheim and his ECsTaSy/Transcendant Quartet give us an exceptional set on the second album for this line-up, Out of the Blue (Cuneiform Rune 413).

Featuring drummer Markku Ounaskari, bassist Jori Huhtala and saxophonist Pauli Lyytinen, this is advanced modern jazz from a VERY capable group of jazz-rockers.

It is an adventurous gathering of originals--with shorter song-oriented offerings alternating with longer improvisatory excursions that affirm that this as a band of real strength. The rhythm team is very open and creative as well as driving; Paul and Raoul turn in some great work as soloists of originality and vision.

In the end Borkenheim stuns with his very developed sense of line-composition, bluesy and outside alternatingly, a sort of dynamo that takes something from the Terje Rypdal advanced melodic modernity and makes of it his own original style. He has chops, certainly, but most importantly a musical sensibility that avoids all cliche and propels us all into a stratospheric zone.

Combine Raoul's guitar wizardry with these three very excellent sideman and you have an exceptional album of avant fuse-rock.

It's one of those albums that will wow anyone dedicated to the new electric jazz.

Flabbergasting!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Karavan Sarai, Woven Landscapes

Today we delve into an excellent eclectic world music album, Woven Landscapes by Karavan Sarai (Karavan Sarai Music). It centers around eight compositions by Narayan Sijan, who sings and plays an oud, saz, buzuk, setar, baglama and kopak saz. He is joined by Carmen Rizzo on electronics, keyboard, drums and percussion, in addition to several guests.

The music is a contemporary re-presentation of the music of the ancient silk route caravans, covering India, Persia, Turkey, the Balkans and Arabia long ago. The continual traffic spread musical cultures as they traveled back and forth, giving rise to much cross-fertilization and redevelopment of stylistic paradigms.

Narayan Sijan creatively restates those musical folkways in a set of songs that owe much to the old ways yet manage to put it in modern context.

Strings and percussion are constants here along with haunting vocal lines. The music has an authentic yet contemporary feel. It gives us pause, helping us recall the roots and routes of civilization as forwarded by the interactions of long distance trade. It is the opposite of the small-minded fanatic insularism of those in Eye-sil, who would wage a barbaric war against the rest of the world. This is pro-civilization(s), anti-barbarism.

And so for that and for the music's excellence I strongly recommend it to you.

Any string players who read this blog will gain much from Sijan's prowess on the ancient instruments he has mastered. But everyone with a musical sense will get much out of this beautiful record!!

Very recommended.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Rank Strangers, Lady President

We return today to the alternative rock juggernaut Rank Strangers and the first volume of their trilogy, namely Lady President (Veto Vinyl LP). See the earlier postings on volume two and three here for more background. Suffice to say that this trilogy marks the 25th year of the band. Mike Wisti heads it with lead vocals, lead guitars. There is Davin Odegaard on bass, Shawn Davis on drums.

Lady President has all the strengths of the other volumes: a down-to-earth alt naturalness that thrives on strong songs, good arrangements and a disarming faux casual way.

This is DIY rock from Minneapolis in the grand tradition that goes back to early Kinks and on to today, but with an original sound and style that sounds like right now. And Wisti on guitar will throw you something unexpected now and again in between effective power chording and note-sounding arrangements.

It is an affirmation of Rank Strangers as a central alt band. Get the whole trilogy, but if not just yet, start here, or for that matter anywhere in the threesome.

Seriously, this reinstates the creativity of songmeister bands with its own take. Onward to 25 more years!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Jimmy Burns, It Ain't Right

Jimmy Burns is the blues. He's the blues from down on the Delta and up to Chicago. He's the soul blues. You can hear all this on his latest, It Ain't Right (Delmark 841).

Jimmy on vocals and guitar, his fine band, they move the blues along without leaving the roots behind, on 15 tunes that call forth the hard times and then send them packing. That's what the blues is meant to do and he is right there.

The band is a fine outfit, featuring Anthony Palmer on lead guitar, and they go through some serious paces on the collection of standards and new songs that puts the album right into your ear-zone.

There's gospel-soul and there is stomping sanctification. Jimmy is a singer of truth with the sound of truth. And he lets you HEAR it throughout.

Delmark knows the blues and so we get another gem from where the blues still LIVE, I ain't telling you no lie!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Cedric Theys, Eternity's Antechamber

So you may not know Cedric Theys. I did not so much until happily he contacted me on social media and sent me his album Eternity's Antechamber (Mad Ducks Records, available on Bandcamp).

It's Cedric on touch guitar and electronic digital delay processing. And as it turns out, that is a fine thing. His conception is orchestral and the sound universe is a spiral of density and spacetime, a program of cosmic sounds both ambient and tone-worthy.

It's all about shifting envelopes of sound color, soundscaping and such. It is something akin to my Aurora Dreaming I and Aurora Dreaming II, not to toot my own horn, but just to say that aurally we both are different but share an opening onto the universe that you might also hear on some of Markus Reuter's works (for example see Gapplegate Classical-Modern Review for an orchestral work of Reuter's that I also recommend).

So that is only to say that it has genetic affinity with things I like and sounds that exist in my own imagination. And it is on its own turf so that the liking is of a thing-in-itself wholly engaging and originally distinct.

I recommend this to the space-ambient prone. It's excellent.

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!