Friday, December 30, 2011

Andy Fite, "Farewell Forever:" A Melange of Multi-Guitar Orchestralizations

Guitarist Andy Fite has been working on getting most if not all of his self-produced recordings available again, principally as downloads. We've covered a few on this blog (do a search in the window at the top of this page for the reviews) and they have been quite stimulating and stylistically multifold.

Today we note a short but excellent piece of music, the seven-minute "Farewell Forever." It's a multiple-track universe of acoustic and mildly electrified guitars playing some very interesting harmo-melodic sequences that are part pre-arranged, part improvised. It's a very engaging string soup of multiple Andys, almost a "Descent into the Maelstrom" (Tristano) for today and for guitar. But it is also something different than that. Or at least it SOUNDS very different.

If you want to get a kick then grab this cut and dig. Mr. Fite should be heard. He has a wicked left hook!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

David Maranha and Gabriel Ferrandini, "A Fonte de Aretusa", A Freeform Duet for Organ and Drums

Based in Lisbon, Portugal, hammond organist David Maranha and drummer Gabriel Ferrandini have something to say, judging from the live vinyl LP release A Fonte de Aretusa (Mazagran MZ002).

It's 40-some-odd continuous minutes of the duo droning, psychedelisizing and freely traversing a quietly dense soundscape that resembles an expanded explosion of what Mike Ratledge and Robert Wyatt might have done in an early Soft Machine performance. It has that sort of rhythmically open, interestingly distorted organ tone and flippy pulseless drumming that was known to come about for a minute or two in the course of a long jam by the Softs.

Of course there's a bit more to it than that. There is staying power generated betweeen the two. It goes in various directions, creates variations on the variations of the deceptively static overall sound, and never gets boring.

I find myself drawn to this one for reasons that do not have a cognitive logic. It's well mapped spontaneity on a trip without a literal map, a sonic journey that thrives from its simple premises.

Not everyone will be drawn to this one. But I think if you have read the description you will know if it is going to be you. . . or not. Play on players, dream on dreamers.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Ron Jackson, "Flubby Dubby," Guitar-Organ Trio Soul for Today

I can't spend my whole listening life in the rarified clouds. Every so often I have to come down to earth with something rootsy and soulful. That something is amply supplied by guitarist Ron Jackson today with his down-home organ trio and their CD Flubby Dubby (Roni Music 0700).

This is caught live and swinging. It's Ron on electric guitar, in a sort of post-Benson mode, Kyle Koeler doing the funkified organ thing (reminding me a little of Don Patterson), Otis Brown III heating it up on drums, and a guest sax section on a couple of cuts.

Ron plays quite well in the gutbucket boppin' and burnin' mode. He's is well on the way to mastering the tradition and I suspect the next step will be to add a personal touch bit-by-bit. As it is this is very nice, hard hitting and bluesy trio doings. There are some standards, including a nice version of the Beatles "Winding Road", and some solid-groove originals.

That's what it is. That's where it is. You like that tradition, you will dig this. They kick it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bruce Arnold and John Stowell, "Sonic Infestation," 2008

Today a look at the last of the series of CDs by guitarist Bruce Arnold that we have been covering (see previous posts), namely, Bruce Arnold and John Stowell's Sonic Infestation (Muse Eek 149). The album is subtitled "Electroacoustic Guitar Improvisations," and that is what we have here. These are a series of multilayered, acoustically manipulated duets for acoustic and/or electric guitars.

Sonic Infestations finds common ground in the musical space between players like John McLaughlin and Ralph Towner without actually straying on the usual turf of either artist. There are 11 fairly short sequences that total in an EP-lengthed playing time of 33-odd minutes. The electroacoustic manipulation often provides a third voice-texture via its interesting transformation of guitar sounds.

In the end this is an always-captivating venture into improvisational and transformational brightness. Arnold and Stowell play interesting dual improvisations and the electroacoustics complement the stringed immediacy with a dimensional depth that I find quite appealing. It is a good listen.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Benjamin Duboc, "Primare Cantus," an Achievement for Avant Contrabass and Supporting Instrumentalists

Benjamin Duboc has an ambitious program of sound, noise and tone production that he realizes on the three-CD set Primare Cantus (Ayler 98-99-100). It all centers around Duboc's contrabass and the various sounds and tones he coaxes from it, covering a pretty wide range of conventional and unconventional sound producing techniques and interacting with a series of sympathetic musicians: Jean-Luc Petit on baritone and tenor sax, Didier Lasserre on snare drum and cymbals, Sylvain Guerineau on tenor, Pascal Battus on microtonal guitar, Sophie Agnel on piano, and Christian Pruvost, trumpet. It has an avant noise element going for it much of the time; other times there is more conventional note production that sounds more in line with the sort of "standard" free improv happening today. It's challenging music that will be appreciated by avant music aficionados, less so by others I suppose.

The long first disc bass solo provides perhaps the most difficult listening experience. Low bowed noisy sustains are punctuated by percussive clicks and taps for an entire CD. It is exhilarating once you get used to it, puzzling before that.

Disk two expands the music by bringing in Guerineau, Lasserre and Petit for varying portions of the program. It starts with aeriated long tones on reeds and string punctuations that make full use of the colors and sounds of the contrabass. It has an improv and ambient feel. For part two bowed harmonics and reed harmonics provide long continuously droning and gradually shifting legato sonics. Part three has more movement with bass and sax sounding some fundamental tones and harmonics. Part four brings in light brushed drums and some more conventionally expressed bass improvisatory sounding excursions. Part five appears to make use of bowed cymbals and bowed bass harmonics (?) for a long wash of sound color. Part six is a more "conventional" free duet between bass and brushed drums. There is a kind of ritually reverberating attention to fundamental bass tones there--double stops and ruminative phrasings. Part seven gets into a still more active duet between tenor and bass, freely articulated. Seven continues the bass-tenor interaction, getting closer to something Rivers and Holland did back in the day, but going at it in their own fashion. It continues and builts in density on eight, then returns to a slightly more quiescent conclusion on the final track of disk two.

Disk three brings in three new players to interact with Duboc (Agnel, Battus and Pruvost). The first longish section has an ambient noise element, produced with rumbling machine-like bass continuity and continuously sounding higher pitched soundscapes (on microtonal guitar?). A short middle section has to do with white noise hiss, quiet and at times nearly silent. The final 20 minutes indulge in bowed three-way harmonics and unconventional trumpet and piano soundings that would not sound out of place as produced by the Acting Trio of BYG days, or MEV, AMM or il gruppo. It changes and transforms...

This is a sometimes stark, always rather provocative presentation on the edge of avant music today. Duboc impresses with his controlled unconventional contrabass; the supporting musicians turn in sounds and tones that interact with Duboc in ways that are completely idiomatic and appropriate. It's purist avant of a thoroughgoing sort. It may not generate a huge following but it is worthy of the time and effort required to understand and appreciate the matrix of sounds the musicians put forward so imaginatively.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bruce Eisenbeil, Carnival Skin, 2006, with Robinson, Evans, Greene, Kugel

Carnival Skin (Nemu 003) has it. It has the free exuberance that sometimes comes about when some excellent improvisers get together and let it all out. The compositions, one by each group member and one collective collaboration--provide a good springboard for the solos and group improvisations that follow.

This is a choice pairing of five burners and they show some beautiful chemistry here. Bruce Eisenbeil goes at the electric guitar in an outside way with great control and judicious note/cluster choices. (Check the article listings on the right for several more reviews of his recordings on Gapplegate Guitar.) He sometimes executes rapid, rolling dissonant clusters, something that Sonny Sharrock did so well. However Eisenbeil's voicings are different than Sharrock's. Bruce gets into various ways of out-articulating; his phrasing is accomplished and poetic. Perry Robinson, THE towering exponent of improv clarinet, gets some tremendous energy and torque throughout. Young trumpet firebrand Peter Evans is in great form as well. Together the three front-liners kick up a good deal of dust. With the addition of Klaus Kugel on drums and Hilliard Greene on bass, both potent players who know what to do in this sort of context, the picture is complete.

Together the group generates some wildly exciting free music. This is one kick-tokas session!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sara Serpa, "Mobile", for Original Music and Interesting Vocal-Instrumental Juxtipositions

Sara Sherpa treats her voice as a horn. Mostly wordless vocals, theme and scat, set up the sound of the band and help define her originality. The rest is what she composes and what the band goes with in the process of realizing them. Mobile (Inner Circle 022) is the name of the release. It's Serpa on vocals, Andre Matos on guitars, Kris Davis on piano and Rhodes, Ben Street on the upright, and Ted Poor, drums.

In essence these are freely progressive, loose but structured improv compositions. There are strong melodic lines, nicely harmonized, and kind of post-Dead Can Dance sensibility that combines some world elements, a bit of a rock beat here and there, and a kind of ECM meets bossa Brazil blend that transcends all the elements to get at where Sara and the band want to be.

Very encouragingly original, new harmonic music!! That's what you have on this one.

Monday, December 19, 2011

C.J. Chenier, "Can't Sit Down": Zydeco for Today

It's all very simple. C.J. Chenier takes the zydeco tradition exemplified by his famous father Clifton and puts it in a contemporary rock-blues-R&B orbit. You can hear it in his new album Can't Sit Down (World Village 468109).

C.J. has a great, soulful blues-rock voice, he plays the accordion in his own uplifting, bluesy zydeco way (and that's of course essential to what he does) and he has a good rocking band that gets things moving.

He does classics his own way, like the title cut or "Baby Please Don't Go" and he turns them around as he sees fit. He hits on classic zydeco with a C. J inflection. And he musters together some rootsy originals. Tom Wait's "Clap Hands" never sounded so good (outside of Tom doing it of course).

This is hot stuff!! Just don't miss it because you'll miss a great time and genuine artistry. C. J. has it all locked in!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Dan Melchior und das Menace, "Catbirds and Cardinals," Eccentric Underground Anti-Pop-Rock?

OK, what have we here? It's something rather odd, I must say. Dan Melchior und das Menace have put together on Catbirds and Cardinals (Northern-Spy 011) a rather bizarre album of off-kilter would-be pop-rock. They have hooks, most of the time. They have a retro sort of faux psychedelics-for-the-radio sound. The lyrics are off the wall as much as anything. "Drama Queens on Prozac," for example, as you can gather from the title.

It's very well done but also very low-fi. It sounds like it's playing through an old transistor radio, partially because it was either tracked, mixed or mastered at such a hot level that distortion is a factor.

Other than that, it is very cool stuff.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Trey Gunn, Henry Kaiser, Morgan Agren, "Invisible Rays" Scorches and Enflames the Edges of Fused Rock

An avant burn of incandescence envelopes me each time I listen to Invisible Rays (Trey Gunn self release). With the line up here one might just say, "no wonder" and leave it there. But that would be assuming a bit too much and would find most readers a bit adrift, so I continue.

This is a quite fortuitous (or fortune-blessed) meeting of three remarkable musical electricians. Morgan Agren plays the sort of drums that puts him at the top of the heap of fusion trappists. If you've heard his remarkable work with the Matts-Morgan outfit you know what I mean. And he excels here as well. Henry Kaiser should be familiar to most readers, a new avant guitarist's guitarist and a force of nature. Trey Gunn has been a longtime member of King Crimson and, as regular readers of this blog know, a bass-stick-multi-instrumentalist-composer-master of the studio rocketship ever on the go to uncharted planetary configurations.

Invisible Rays not only does not disappoint, it exceeds the limits of where any one of them has been for a three-way edge 'em out that will enthrall if you have ears at all. Not to wax too hyperbolic. That's how it hits me.

It begins with the 21-minute outjam on the title piece and does not let up. Both Gunn and Kaiser get some sounds that I don't think I've ever heard for sheer electric thrust and Agren madly rocks away. It goes on from there with a trio performance of high impact. It's beyond Crimson, beyond Matts-Morgen, beyond Kaiser's ordinary solo work, and it's what Trey Gunn has been progressing toward for some time. Throughout a healthy dose of outjamming makes for brilliant spontaneity.

I hesitate to overhype but this one does strike me as some landmark stuff. Sh*tcan the holiday music and put THIS on! At least for part of your festivities...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Fred Fried and Core, "Encore," Eight-String Guitarist Shines in New Trio Session

Fred Fried is a very accomplished guitarist, plays an eight-string nylon stringed acoustic, and gives us one of his very best outings to date on Encore (Ballet Tree). It's the second release by his trio Core, which includes Michael Lavoie on contrabass and Miki Matsuki, drums, both playing a subtle and important accompanying role.

The disk presents 67 well-balanced minutes of the Fried guitar universe, which includes eleven nicely put-together Fried-penned items and a whole lot of guitar. He has an original contemporary feel for harmonic underpinnings, some very sophisticated voicings and melodic straightforwardness in his writing-execution. As an improvising guitarist he excels in the chordal and arpeggiated style that comes in part from his quite apparent classical training (NOTE: I am NOT correct in this assumption. See Fred's illuminating comment below); but he also shows an increasingly subtle finesse on single-line runs, especially at slower tempos. There are some similarities with Ralph Towner's neo-classical guitar style and brightness of form, but only as a touching point for what Fried is up to here.

This album goes very far in giving you the Fried artistry as it stands today. And that is something to treasure. Recommended.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Machine Mass Trio, "As Real As Thinking," with Guitarist Michel Delville

Belgian guitarist Michel Delville got together with fellow DouBt member drummer Tony Bianco to work on an offshoot project. They eventually brought in Belgian tenor man Jordi Grognard to form the Machine Mass Trio. As Real as Thinking (MoonJune 041) is the initial result, and it is a highly charged small-group rock-fuse opus that crackles with electricity. Delville, who also wields his jazz-rock pyrotechnics with The Wrong Object, stands out on this set with a brash metallic outward thrust much of the time. Jordi plays some expanded tenor in a sort of post-Leibman mode and gets some nicely spacey sounds on flute and snaky bass clarinet as well. Drummer Tony Bianco rocks with fusionoid virtuosity and takes an out-free path when needed.

There are torrid advanced out-rockers, some droning psychedelics, riff-based funkers with long floating melodies that owe something to Soft Machine and Weather Report, and some off-in-space segments where they take it out.

All-in-all it's another good spin on the genre of electric jazz-rock as evolved out of classic Soft Machine, Mothers and other innovators of the initial flowering of the music. It is first and foremost a group sound and a conceptual-compositional vehicle situation. Though compositions work to establish the mood of each number, yet it is what's put on top of it that often holds the most interest. Individual solos are there as needed and both Delville and Grognard come through singly as warranted, but it can be a matter of a three-way collective improvisation as well. A high point is Delville's long, planet-spanning guitar solo on "Falling Up."

It is a nicely turned set. It's a nicely wrought contribution to the music.

Monday, December 12, 2011

X, "The Unheard Music," Silver Edition DVD, Newly Released

The band X was one of the bright lights of the punk-new wave movement. Exene's vocals and songwriting, John Doe's co-writing and co-vocals and the solid musicianship of the band upped the bar for the artband thing. Angel City Productions did a full length documentary on the band some 20 years ago entitled "The Unheard Music" which has now been issued in a Silver Edition with additional material previously unreleased (MVD Visual 5262D).

It is a great example of a fully thought out music documentary. It includes plenty of music live and in the studio, an overview of those rather heady times when punk-wave was a social as well as musical force, a look at Hollywod in the late '70s-early '80s, at X in relation to the music business as it then was, biographical info on the participants and their own version of the history and trajectory of their careers, and an art-auteur sort of thing, with nice effects, use of retro-stock film clips and an intelligent narrative thread.

The new material includes a bit more music and extensive interviews with Exene and John Doe as well as the filmmakers. It's a must for X fans as well as those with an interest in the era and the music scene. Well done!

Katie Pearlman, "Girls Like Us," New Album From A Strong Singer-Songwriter

I've reviewed a number of vocalist Katie Pearlman's previous albums. Alas they were posted on the site which I had to take down several months ago and was not able to salvage the reviews that had not been transferred over to here. That site will be resurrected shortly for my own music, but in the meantime Katie is back with a new one, Girls Like Us (Self-released KP-004). It's a good follow-up on the previous efforts, one of her very strongest. By the way, think of the title as "Girls Like US," not "Girls LIKE Us," OK? Different meaning there.

She's been a drummer-vocalist coming out of a jamband background and this I believe is the first album where she has switched over to rhythm acoustic guitar and given the drumming assignment to someone else for now. It's clear that she's concentrated on her songwriting, but there is a residual country-Dead feel to some of the music, though this album does not center on jams. Katie's vocals are very much her own. There's a hint of Edie Brickell, some of the blue-eyed soul qualities of Tracy Nelson, and otherwise it's Katie. The songs are very much to the point as well. These are some of her very strongest. Lyrics tend to be personal-autobiographical a la Joni Mitchell, and that's a dimension that brings her as a fully human-musical being before our ears.

This is really attractive music by a vocalist-songwriter that deserves your support. These are real songs sung really well. Welcome back Katie!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Benji Kaplan, "Meditacoes no Violao:" Some Nylon-Stringed Guitar Magic

Can't say as I've heard nylon-stringed guitarist Benji Kaplan before I heard the release at hand today. Now that I have I shall not forget the name. Meditacoes no Violao (Circo Mistico Productions) is a full CD of his solo guitar work. He is a NYC native who became enamored with the music of the middle east, Africa and Brazil, began playing the nylon stringed classical guitar at an early age, spent time in Brazil studying the music with local masters, and then returned to the US, getting his BFA in jazz and contemporary music from the New School. Since then he has performed and sung with his own band and, as on this record, as a solo guitarist.

Meditacoes shows you how far he has come. It's a rather brilliant set of improvisations and compositions that he put together showing how he has taken on Brazilian classical and jazz-bossa-samba guitar and made it his own. He has impressive touch and feel on the guitar and his music is pretty darned ravishing. It's a guitar album guitarists will totally grok. And guitar fans will get equal pleasure.

This guy is GOOD. Hear this one!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Haunted House, "Blue Ghost Blues," Memorable Post-Velvets' Scronk-Psych

Haunted House makes good use of frame drums, distorted skronk guitar blares and poetic beatnik type song-chant vocals to create a heavy drop cloth of sound--on Blue Ghost Blues (Northern Spy 012).

It's an album that could have been made during the heyday of the psychedelic underground, maybe 1967. Only it's not. It has rawness, power and a sizable chunk of outer space in its pocket.

It's something that either works or fails miserably. Haunted House works. This is good crazy-arsed music. Grab it and you'll grab a piece of the underground, 2012. A worthy piece.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dexter Romweber, "Two Headed Cow," Musical Documentary DVD

Dexter Romweber came to notice as the Silvertone guitar-wielding, attitude-laced vocalist for the rockabilly-thrash outfit The Flat Duo Jets, a sometimes duo, sometimes trio gathering of guitar, drums and bass. Tony Gayton directed Two-Headed Cow, a fine documentary of the ups and downs of Dexter Romweber's life and music. It's now out on DVD (MVD Visual 5259D) and I took a look this past weekend.

It's a quilt of interviews, live footage, band banter, and interviews that tell poignantly the story of an underground rocker who hit the edge of fame and fortune and didn't quite get there, then psychically melted down for a time, only to re-emerge to try and resurrect his life. Dexter is a very intelligent cat and his narrative account of the situation he found himself in is moving.

What's not exactly standard with music DVDs is the fact that Two Headed Cow works exceptionally well as a documentary. It's a story filmed over 18 years, bringing home the personal difficulties of talent facing a brutal world. In the end you come away with a feeling that you have experienced first-hand Dexter's 18 years of struggle and triumph, struggle and failure, struggle and re-emergence from total burn-out. It's a heroic story in its own way, and a very absorbing film. Recommended.

Planet Z: Rob Tomaro and Susan Aquila and Company Fuse It

You may note that fusion seems to be re-emerging after some years where for various reasons it was anathema in certain circles. It turns out that circles can influence the music, but they cannot stop a style dead in its tracks. And so they could not and did not.

Planet Z (Blue Chair) gives you a 30-minute look at the violin of Susan Aquila along with the compositions and guitar of Rob Tomaro and some good key, bass, drums support. Her violin lifts things up and so does Rob's guitar. The compositions are well-pieced-together chunks of classic fusion, rechanneling for today the legacy of Cobham, Corea, Ponty and Mclaughlin.

It's well done and a good start. They have not broken through to a totally original sphere at this point, but that may come in time. Ms. Acquila and Mr. Tomaro play enough solo-wise to get the juices flowing. So flow with it. If you are a die-hard fusionist you will hear the sort of thing you expect and no doubt that will please you. I look to future albums to continue to develop the music in a more original direction. As it is there are some very nice moments and a classic orientation.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mike Baggetta Quartet, "Source Material," with Rigby, Opsvik, George Schuller

Mike Baggetta returns with Source Material (Fresh Sound). He brings in a very copacetic quartet of himself on electric guitar, Jason Rigby, tenor sax, Eivind Opsvik on the upright, and George Schuller on drums. It's a working band, and they show it with the kind of interlocking understanding such a situation makes possible.

Here we have an all-originals date. Baggetta assembles a very interesting set of his compositions that go well with the artists at hand. It's an often pretty lyrical, post-ECM sort of music, with space for some excellent rapport, the harmonic and single note thoughts of Mike, the very together tenor sound and solo pointedness of Jason, plus Eivind and George doing very sensitive work fleshing it out and getting things in motion.

Mike is developing his style from a contemporary, harmonically rich and notefully striking base. The facility, imagination and taste is there and he draws on the Jim Hall-and-beyond guitar innovators as he builds his own personal foundation. He can get very contemporary-chromatic, which he does especially well on "Momentum" as George and Eivind kick up a swingtime storm. Jason gets somewhere from where we are too, with a solidly built contemporary edifice of his own.

It's a total package at this point--pieces, improvisations and group distinctiveness. Mike is a guy to watch in the coming years, and even now!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Elisabeth Lohninger Band, Christmas in July

Some of us are particular about the holiday/Christmas music we play over the season. Sick of the Bings, Nats, Mannheimers, or whatever is standard fare? If so you might find the Elisabeth Lohninger Band's Christmas in July (Jazz Sick 11708) to your taste. Elisabeth has a good voice and it has a jazz inflection to it, really rather good. She is joined by guitar-piano-bass-drums and they can do solos, swing and accompany with style and grace.

What's especially interesting is the song choice. These are Christmas songs from all around the world, most of which you probably never heard before, except for a USA selection, "A Christmas Song," which of course you do know, don't you? Then "Silent Night" is the one from Austria. Otherwise there are songs from Japan, Sweden, Brazil, Italy, France, Denmark, etc., probably unfamiliar to you.

So you get 12 songs and not the same-old, mostly. They are done well. Something different!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Doug Munro and La Pompe Attack, A Very Gypsy Christmas

To brighten up your holiday festivities, what about some Christmas music a la Django Reinhardt and the Hot Club of France? Doug Munro and La Pompe Attack do that nicely on A Very Gypsy Christmas (GotMusicRecords GMR 002). It's Doug on lead acoustic with violin, chunk-chunk rhythm guitar and bass, violin a la Grappelli, and Ken Peplowski doing what he does so well on clarinet. Oh, and there are some serviceable, pleasant enough appearances here and there by a female vocalist.

It is a well-arranged Djangofest on seasonal favorites: "Sleigh Ride," "We Three Kings," "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," and 12 others. It is what you expect. This is the bouncing, infectious Hot Club thing to get you feeling good. And Munro has facility.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Addis Acoustic Project, "Tewesta (Remembrance)": Ethiopian Pop Classics Unplugged

Anyone who has listened closely to even one volume of the Ethiopiques anthology of local popular music of the '50s and '60s knows how distinctive the style is that is involved. Electric guitarist Girum Mezmur had the good idea of resurrecting some of these song gems for an mostly acoustic group of strings, percussion, drums, bass, accordian, and clarinet. Addis Acoustic Project's Tewesta (Remembrance) (World Village 468091) is the first fruits of this effort and it is in its own way an important coda, addendum and refreshing of the Ethiopiques legacy.

We are treated to 15 songs, some as instrumentals, some with added vocals, all worthy material for the sheer pleasure of experiencing the characteristic melodic flourishes and interesting timbre combinations.

If you appreciated Ethiopiques you will undoubtedly get equal enjoyment from this updated take on the tradition. The album can be enjoyed, however, whether you know Ethiopiques well or not at all. Recommended.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

John Shannon & Wings of Sound, "Songs of the Desert River"

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

New York Dolls: Lookin' Fine On Television, DVD

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.

Ben Craven, Great & Terrible Potions: Ambitious Prog With Some Flare

It's prog day at Gapplegate. Today we wear special hats. Not really. Listening to Ben Craven's Great and Terrible Potions (Desert Comb 10006) you feel like it is music to herald some special occasion, whatever it might be. It's important sounding music. And that's cool. It has a middle period Pink Floyd orchestrated largeness to it. Walls of synths, sometimes spooky-sounding, soaring guitar lead parts towering over sound towers, psychedelic moments, witching-hour minor tonality, sprawling, rather long-formed opuses. In other words Prog in the capital /P/ sense.

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

Gojogo, "28,000 Days": Melodic World Quasi-Fusion?

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.

Inc's "Three" for a Debut EP

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

Duda Lucena Quartet Live

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

The Horrors, "Skying", Third Album from the English Combo

OK, the Horrors are back with their third album, entitled Skying (XL Records). This is wall-of-sound, synth/mellotron drenched moody fare in the lineage of the Smiths and the David Bowie-Iggy Pop solo career nexus, only a little more psychedelic in its weird density at times.

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 & Wood, "Fly in A Bottle" DVD

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

Angels in America/Weyes Blood Double Release from Northern Spy

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 Sextet, Inner Constellation, Volume One, 2007

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

The Galactic Cowboy Orchestra, All Out of Peaches: Prog-Fuze with A Southern Tinge

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, Lisbon Berlin Trio, 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

The Strange Boys, Live Music: Texas Rootsy Slacker Rock

Time to change it up today, and dig into something new from the alt rock world. How about a new, third album by The Strange Boys? They are a Texas outfit together three years, and the album is Live Music (Rough Trade), live pronounced as in "live and let live."

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, Live! In Prague, 1989 DVD

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

Valencia: 3, Bruce Arnold, Vicent Colonques, Avelino Saavedra

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 Quartet, Flowers and Other Stories, 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, "Lifeline" and "Propeller Seeds," New Music From an Exceptional Artist

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 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

Iggy and the Stooges: Raw Power Live, September 2010, DVD Now Out

Iggy Pop and the Stooges did a live concert in Monticello, NY last September, 2010. They featured supercharged renditions of songs from their influential album Raw Power and a gathering of well-known numbers from previous albums. The CD that came out from that concert was reviewed on these pages (see May 27th posting).

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

Grupo Falso Baiano, "Simplicidade: Live at Yoshi's"

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

The Spanish Donkey, "XYX", Joe Morris, Jamie Saft, and Mike Pride

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

Gary Hassay, Michael Bisio, My Brother

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

Composing Outside The Beatles: Lennon and McCartney, 1973-1980, DVD

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

Jeff Buckley, Gary Lucas, Songs to No One, 1991-1992

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.

Monday, October 31, 2011

AOMusic, "....and Love Rages On!": Music for Another New World

Some CDs come in the mail and you open them up and ask yourself, "what the hell is it?" Very few get the kind of "what the hell is it?" reiteration as they are first playing on my music system. AOMusic's ...And Love Rages On (AO Music 0907) got that reaction from me. So what is it, then? It's various children's choirs and vocalists from over the world and quasi-world-ethnic percussion and strings joined with various world musicians, etc. doing some very unique sounding music. It's too good to be new age. It's not jazz, not pop, not anything but a sort of new world music. The ensemble Dead Can Dance is about as close as I can come to the "sort of like" category, but it is not the same exactly, either.

It is very captivating. Richard Gannaway (vocals & string instruments), Jay Oliver (keyboards, synths, samples) and Miriam Stockley (vocals) are the people behind the music. This is their third album. I will not try to describe the music further. It's very beautiful. Try to hear some of it it and you'll see what I mean.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Slivovitz, "Bani Ahead": A Crack Jazz-Rock Outfit from Napoli in Their Second Outing

Today a very cool effort from the Napoli jazz-rock-fuze combo Slivovitz, Bani Ahead (Moon June 039). This has compositional-arranged goodness and solos with bite, in a Zorn-Zappa meets a mid-eastern mode, Slivovitz-style. It's a seven-man band: D. Angarano, bass guitar, D. Di Perri, harmonica, M Giannini, electric guitar, S. Rainone, drums, C. Riccardi, trumpet, P. Santangelo, tenor and soprano, R. Villari, violin.

This second album for the band comes through as only something a very seasoned, well rehearsed and well-gigged band could do. They are tight and musically integrated. This is all-original music penned by various band members. The music is strong, driving and unique, with the minor mode predominating, and front line voicings in deft counterpoint with the leveraged rhythm team. Solos are strong and set off the arranged material nicely.

It's a definite corker of an album! Like the other Moon June recording artists Moraine (whose new album I reviewed on this site yesterday), Slivovitz come up with another new way to be new. There is lots of excellent music to be had on Bani Ahead. Grab a copy or get more info on the Moon June site listed in the link section.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Steve Howe's Remedy Live, Well-Captured on DVD Release

Steve Howe with Yes over the years defined a way to play in a largely conceived, almost orchestral prog context. He could be flashy but mostly he was distinctive in sound and very musical in the parts he developed for himself. The Steve Howe of his own group Remedy continues and extends that legacy in ways that go beyond Yes while still keeping to the initial impetus and sound he made such an important part of the overall ambiance.

Steve Howe's Remedy Live (MVD Visual 5252D) presents Howe and company in an extended concert footage DVD. It features his five-piece outfit (with his two sons on keys and drums, respectively) running through the repertoire of originals and some classic Yes numbers in 2004. The DVD also features a short solo acoustic set and good footage of Howe and band members in rehearsal and talking about the tour.

The sound is offered in the 5:1 option or as conventional stereo and it is very good.

It's certainly a disk that Steve Howe fans will appreciate. And it will give you some good ensemble and guitar work to get with if you have not followed Howe's career in any detail.

It's a thorough gas and a prog rock document of some importance. Give it a spin and dig on some fine sounds.

Moraine, Metamorphic Rock: The Band in Good Form Live at NEARFest, 2010

Moraine's first album showed the world they were a very smart prog/fuze outfit that offered a sound alternative to the usual ways of being new. Dennis Rea's torrid guitar styling led the way for a kind of great adventure in electric sound that drove home the idea that Moraine had an original vision and were well on their way to putting it forward for the world to dig.

Their subsequent 2010 appearance at NEARFest was well-captured and we now have what they played there on the new CD Metamorphic Rock (Moon June 040). This is especially strong as a all-band effort, with solid compositions by Dennis Rea and other band members and some interesting adaptations of traditional and contemporary world music. The instrumentation of electric guitar, baritone-winds, violin, eight-string bass, and drums is used to excellent effect in ways that make for an even more identifiable sound this time out.

The music generally is more sonorous and less edgy in this go-round, but no less original. It shows once again that Moraine is a band to follow closely in the years to come. And it's a terrific listen as well! Very much recommended.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fractale, "Suranne": Horn-Centered Prog EP

French saxologist Julian Julien and his bandmates in Fractale have put together a live EP offering called Suranne (A Bout de Son). It's a guitarless, bassless grouping of three saxes, two trumpets, one tuba and drums. Occasionally there's a synthesizer sound in there as well.

They achieve an interesting, composition-arrangement based prog rock/jazz rock that manages to achieve a drive and density one usually associates with the guitars and electric bass configuration. It has a King Crimson, Zappa, Magma sort of feel to it, though there is a distinctively original sound in the end. Improvisation is minimalized in favor of an ensemble presentation.

It's different. It remains to be heard where they would go beyond this 27-minute EP. A promising beginning! Hear some samples at