Friday, March 30, 2012

Marc Rossi Group, Mantra Revealed

Marc Rossi has a take on Indian-influenced fusion that is thoroughgoingly sophisticated, eminently musical and well put-together. His Marc Rossi Group recording Mantra Revealed (Innova 816) gives us much to experience, admire, and enjoy. It's a core group of Marc on keys, Lance Van Lenten on tenor and soprano, Bill Urmson on electric bass, and Mauricio Zottarelli on drums and percussion. They are joined in important cameo roles by vocalist Geetha Ramanathan Bennett, and the guitars of Prasanna and Bruce Arnold.

This is the sort of fusion that derives its principal thrust from the compositional-arranging prowess of Mr. Rossi. The finely enthusiastic performances in general and the appropriate idiomatic solos from tenor, piano, vocals and guitars give the music depth and drive.

"Jazz Impression of a Kriti" starts off the program with great strength, taking an Indian Kriti (Carnatic compositional element) and transforming it into a well turned fused onslaught in ten with some remarkable guitar work by Prasanna, who plays a nuanced solo that is both informed by traditional Indian phrasing and blazes beyond it into a realm where it mixes with rock and jazz in a post-McLaughlin fashion. The two following pieces pit the limber vocals of Ms. Bennett with some sterling fused-ensemble writing.

The album continues on with an interesting cornucopia of ornate fusion compositions that bring in at times various well-conceived indo-fused elements, as well as Afro-jazz and a hint of Brazilian jazz. The second half of the album generally excels in the architectural intricacy of the melody lines, rhythmically heightened solo work and heavily burnished ensemble work. Bruce Arnold and Bill Urmson stand out for their work on "New Beginnings." "Sahara" has a Tyner-Sanders feel to it, grooves nicely and highlights some rather scorching Van Lenten soprano.

"Voice of 1000 Colors" has a very attractive Afro-Reichian beginning then segues to fused bossa. "Vertical Fantasy on 'You Know You Know'" gives Rossi a chance to comment upon, embellish and give his improvisational impressions of the classic McLaughlin line.

"Feast or Famine" ends the program on a nicely turned modulatory fusion mode.

In the end there are spots of sheer brilliance in the Indo-fused introductory pieces and then some very well wrought mainstream fusion in the following pieces. Rossi is a composer-arranger of great promise and definite talent. The performers give their all (which is a goodly sum) and you go away feeling happy. What more can you ask? Indo-fusologists will love the first half of this program; general fusicologists will appreciate it all I suspect. I reveled in the first half; enjoyed the second.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dominic Duval, Songs for Krakow, for Solo Contrabass

Dominic Duval is one of the foremost improvisation/jazz contrabassists practicing today. His work with Cecil Taylor, Trio X, his own units and countless other associations has won him an avid following, deservedly so. And when a bassist of this caliber goes it alone to make a full album of unaccompanied solos, it is sure to be an event. Songs for Krakow (Not Two) is such an outing, and it has been garnering my enthusiastic attention for more than a week.

The solo bass outing only makes sense with the most accomplished and imaginative artists. It's just you, your bass, your ideas, and what you can make of it all. Happily Songs for Krakow makes much of it. In fact it is one of the handful of such efforts that strikes me should be of interest not only to bass players but to all lovers of the improvisational arts.

Of course Dominic's formidable technique is very much on display, in pizzicato and bowing modes. He uses the natural elementality of the instrument, its open string configuration, the open string(s) along with the simultaneous sounding of stops on adjacent strings, and other aspects of the idiomatic nature of the instrument to bring a primal directness of communication to the ears. There are figures he develops and works variations around and there are free-soaring flights into good blowing areas. And he goes far beyond fundamental string combinations and multiple stops that lay close to hand into stratospheric realms that express potently and emphatically what the solo bass can be capable of under his command.

He cuts lose here. Songs for Krakow gives you about an hour of why Dominic Duval is a bassist of enormous stature. There is structure, there is freedom and there is some wailingly down expression to be savored throughout. Grab it and let your ears travel with the sounds!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cantors, Klezmorim and Crooners 1905-1953: Classic Yiddish 78s from the Mayrent Collection

If you think my double review posting of today on this site has a particular design, you would be right. The message is peace through music. I don't need to elaborate.

We look today at a rather marvelous 3-CD set Cantors, Klezmorim and Crooners 1905-1953: Classic Yiddish 78s from the Mayrent Collection (JSP Records 5201). It's a wide-ranging smorgasbord of Yiddish music as it came to be in the New York of the turn-of-the-century and covers well its gradual incorporation of jazz and popular elements over the years while never losing its roots. There are well-loved traditional melodies, Cantorial gems, unusual combinations and Yiddish popular songs and humor. So you have Yiddish theater star Aaron Lebedeff, the Abe Schwartz Orchestra, Morris Goldstein, Sophie Tucker, the Bagelman Sisters, Naftule Brandwein, Clara Gold, Molly Picon, and any number of Cantors and other artists now perhaps little known doing what they did in a masterful transfer to digital audio that brings the sound and inflection of the music to us in as bright a sound as I've heard.

It may not be for the novice listener, or if it is, it has to be one with the patience to absorb such a huge assortment of authentic sides in styles that may sound rather unfamiliar today. Any lover of the music of the era will revel in this collection, as I most certainly did. And the comedy!! This is so much a part of the roots of New York that it is as essential as stories of Babe Ruth, old pictures of Coney Island or the literature of the Harlem Renaissance.

Kayhan Kalhor and Ali Bahrami Fard, I Will Not Stand Alone

The rich tradition of Persian classical music is something I have experienced with great interest and pleasure over the years. Yet nothing quite prepared me for the recent recording of Kayhan Kalhor and Ali Bahrami Fard, I Will Not Stand Alone (World Village). I say that because the music is quite beautiful but also strikes me as sounding like a furthering of the tradition into a realm of tone and style of an original kind.

The sound of the music is deeper in that the bass santour, well played by Ali Bahrami Fard, has an expanded range that goes well with the sound of the shah kaman, a bowed instrument that was made especially for Kayhan Kalhor. The latter has an expanded range as well and in Kalhor's hands, an attractive, slightly hoarse tone.

According to the information on the press website, Kaylan Kalhor created the music on this album as "a meditation on one of the most difficult stages in his life, where darkness and violence seemed to be taking over yet through music and his connection to the people, hope rises. This album is a bittersweet reflection on love, life and country."

The music is very moving. Excellent. Kalhor is an artist of the very first rank and Fard an excellent accompanist and a soloist of distinction as well. This is music to make you reflect. It is very beautiful music.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Michael Schenker Group, Live at Rockpalast 1981, Hardrock Legends Volume 2

There was a point in the early '80s where hard rock had not yet totally morphed into the cartoon-like exaggeration of professional wrestling. The Michael Schenker Group featured Schenker, a lead singer, a guitar-keys man and a drummer. Their on-stage demeanor was more geared to the honest presentation of their music than it was to a creation of otherwordly persona, of comic-book super heroes with guitars. That of course was going on with Kiss and other bands and it was to dominate the stage style of arena metal in the years that followed.

This is shown refreshingly on their 1981 appearance on the Rockpalast TV series, with a DVD entitled Hardrock Legends Vol 2 (MIG 90227). It's about an hour of the band doing their music on stage. The sound is generally quite good. Schenker plays some nice hard rock lines. The band is tight. After tenures with the Scorpions and UFO this is his first major solo band effort and the emphasis is on the pyrotechnics he was known for. The songs themselves have the typical pristine straightforwardness of the hard rock of the times.

Fans of the heaviness of 1981 in general and Schenker in particular will find this a good way to spend an hour now and then.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Public Image Limited, Live at Rockpalast 1983

When Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols broke up and Johnny went on to form Public Image Limited in the late seventies-early eighties, I was so immersed in my schoolgoing world that I missed it. Turns out that was a pity. Luckily we can retrace our steps later on and I have done that.

One good bit of the band in full flower is on the recently issued DVD of Public Image Live at Rockpalast 1983. This was a West German TV series that put bands in a medium-sized venue and set them loose. And so did they with Rotten and crew. Public Image straddled a line between punk and new age in ways that kept the aggressive thrash aspects of the Sex Pistols and added a bit more riff power and finesse, comparatively speaking.

So you get an hour of the band in good form, doing what they did. The sound is full, Rotten dynamic, the band primed. The DVD includes a short punky sort of interview and a fair bit of the sound check.

Those that lock into this period will find this a good show. These guys had it going then.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Rick Drumm and Fatty Necrosis, Return from the Unknown

When Larry Coryell cranked his guitar in an early incarnation of the Gary Burton group back in the mid-sixties, it caused a sensation. One side felt that this jazz-rock, as it came to be called, was the music of the future. Another very vocal side thought it an abomination. The music persisted and flowered with Miles Davis, John McLaughlin and scores of others creating masterpieces in the medium. Some of the music was sufficiently inclusive of world, funk and other influences that it came to be called fusion, but the controversy never went away. For a time formulaic versions and the Marsalis contingency served to discredit the music and it nearly fell into eclipse. It was too powerful and open-ended to succumb and there has been continuance, resurgence and new life in the music in the past decade or so.

Enter on the scene one Rick Drumm and Fatty Necroses, and their first album Return from the Unknown (self-released). It's a fairly large band with Drumm on the drums, two guitarists, Fred Hamilton and Corey Christiansen, who also write the music, plus contrabass, piano, trumpet, sax and trombone.

Drumm has an interesting background. Besides his musical world he is in the business world (currently heading up D'Addario strings) and has an MBA. For all that our focus is on the album at hand. It's a good one with a varied palette of music that goes from balladry to fusion to metal to funky. The music is quite well put-together, the ensemble parts have a nice feel to them, the guitarists can tie some fire to their plectrums, the rest of the band can get some solos in there that are worth hearing and the program flows nicely from start to finish.

Now there is much more in the way of detail I could add, but what counts is the togetherness of the unit and their cohesive sound regardless of the stylistic variation. Drumm's drums are the glue that holds it together. There is so much music to be had here in the 63 minutes of the CD, good music, that I will leave off giving further description and just say that if you appreciate the full band sort of jazz-rock, this is one of the better efforts so far this year.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Jamie Ousley, "A Sea of Voices"

Bassist/jazz tunesmith Jamie Ousley is onto something on A Sea of Voices (Tie Records 1276). Take the Jarrett Trio at its brightest and bubbliest, make Gary Peacock the musical director, sprinkle the nicely turned originals with just a few well-chosen standards ("How Deep is the Ocean," "Rocky Top," "Shenandoah") and then of course be yourself because you AREN'T the Jarrett Trio. That is more or less what is happening on A Sea of Voices.

Ousley and pianists Joe Davidian and Gabriel Saientz (who share the piano chair) sound phenomenal, and not always Jarrettesque, Austin McMahon drums us into a great place with his natural and creative propulsion, and Carlomagno Araya gives us the added spice of percussion when needed.

A high point is a very stunning and unexpected version of "Shenandoah", with the beautiful vocals of Nanami Morikawa and Ousley's well conceived bass and that's all. But this is good music top-to-bottom. Bassists will appreciate Ousely's solo work, as will anyone who loves a good go from the bottom end. And it will appeal to anybody who likes their mainstream freshly served and not warmed-over leftovers.

This one brightens the corner where you live!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bar-B-Cue'n Blues, Another Classic Blues Anthology from Cat Bone

The classic blues recordings of the '50s and '60s speak to us today with directness. So much has come under the spell of this early electricity, yet to hear some of the originals carry their bare-wires jolt is to KNOW what the blues are about.

You get that in the Jukin' the Blues series volume Bar-B-Cue'n Blues (Catbone 2003-2). You get some classic but lesser known sides from Billy Boy Arnold, Howlin Wolf, James Cotton, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters and Little Richard. The final cut is an OK bebop single by Jack Millman and it is out of place. But it's less than three minutes in an otherwise sparkling one-two punch of electric blues. Hooker's "Sally Mae" is here again, as it was on a previous volume, and I can only assume that was a programming glitch.

But whoo, just listen to "Dirty Mother Furriers," "Louise," "So Glad I'm Livin," "Built for Comfort" and "I Feel So Good" and you don't have to explain anything. It is THERE.

So get there if you don't know this music! The rest of us are there at the bar-b-que joint, digging on it all, so join us.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Carlos Bica & Azul, "Things About"

The fifth album by Carlos Bica & Azul is in front of me, or rather the cover, as I listen again for the fifth time this morning. So it's five by five by three, since Azul is a well-developed trio. Carlos Bica plays the contrabass and writes most of the music (with band members contributing in several collaborative efforts and a few of their own compositions). Then there is one by Joao Paulo. Jim Black is on drums. He's a player that can fit into all kinds of situations productively and most certainly does so as part of Azul. Finally there's Frank Mobus on guitar, sounding very good, with a rechanneling of Scofield and Abercrombie influences in part perhaps, but also something definite and tangibly self-originated. He has a way with a line.

There's a good bit of solo space for bass and guitar. Bica and Mobus come through with interesting things, advanced sorts of harmonic implications in the lines. Bica is as effective soloing with the bow as he is pizzicato, which is nice to hear. And his tone is full, lush, resonant.

The compositions are mostly changes based (some rocking back and forth between two chordal-tonal centers) and tend to be in a lyrical jazz-rock mode with some modern balladry as well. The music ought to appeal to ears thirsty for content that has a certain prettiness at times, a grittiness at times, too. And all three are eminently musical, which will satisfy the more demanding ears. I love listening to Frank Mobus get rolling on this one! But then all three are most certainly on a roll here.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Elektriktus, "Electronic Mind Waves" 1973-76

Elektriktus hearkens back nicely to an era when "electronics" were very much a new element on the rock, jazz, improvisational scene. The album Electronic Mind Waves was released on LP in 1976 and saw reissue a couple of times through to today, when it is out as an Ictus CD (702). That is appropriate because in reality "Elektriktus" is in fact Andrea Centazzo on electronic keys and percussion-drums, with Franco Feruglio joining in on contrabass for one cut.

I suppose the first thing to say, or things rather, is that this is not a typical album from Maestro Centazzo, and perhaps it is not his very best album either.

What it is is a cosmic trip in an early ambient mode. Repeating motifs, pulsing, and space electronics dominate in ways that are musical and appealing. There is a melodic-compositional aspect to the music that sets it apart from a mere stoner head-music sort of thing. Yet it is of its age.

A creative exploration that's nice to hear, that's what this is. I would not put it at the top of my "must have" list. But it's good space music of its time. And so it captures something that perhaps we have lost today.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Anne Walsh, "Go"

Anne Walsh has one beautiful voice. It has a ringing clarion sort of projection and tons of nuance. On her recent album Go (self-released) pianist Thomas Zink does the arrangements. They sparkle and set off Ms. Walsh's wundervoice. The lyrics-added version of Wayne Shorter's "Go" is a cut to listen to first if you want to be floored. Gary Meek plays some nice soprano there and elsewhere, but more than that, to hear "Go" sung this way is to believe.

There are lots of good song vehicles, some not often heard, some I don't even know, and then some originals. The closing cut is Anne's own "Spring's Unfold" and it is a beauty. Since it seems at last to be spring here in this part of the Western Hemisphere, it is a song that puts it all together.

All together is what this album is. Wow. It made me an Anne Walsh FAN!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Alan Silva, Keiko Higuchi, Sabu Toyozumi, Takuo Tanikawa, "Crimson Lip" (Free Download of Excerpts)

Bassist, composer, keyboardist, avant garde giant Alan Silva joins with Keiko Higuchi (vocals), Sabu Toyozumi (drums and percussion), Takuo Tanikawa (electric guitar and electronics) in a live performance from Yokahama in the album Crimson Lip (Improvising Beings). The performers have generously provided a 13 minute set of excerpts from the album, which you can stream or download from this page.

Judging from these lively snippets, there are some beautiful interactions between acoustics, electronics and vocals. I won't further comment at this point, not having heard the full album. Sounds very interesting though!

For more info go to

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Strange Fruit: The Beatles' Apple Records, A New DVD

Sexy Intellectual has produced another "unauthorized" documentary of interest, this time focusing on the Beatles' Apple Records venture. Strange Fruit (SIDVD570) lingers for 162 minutes or so on the overall story of the label, its changing fortunes, influences and guiding personalities.

This is not so much concerned with the Beatles own output on the label as it is with the other artist brought into the fold, Jackie Lomax, Mary Hopkin, James Taylor, Badfinger, and others.

How interesting you find this documentary depends on how interesting you find this bit of music industry/Beatles history. It has good documentary footage, interviews by many concerned, and a comprehensive narrative.

In the end it is a story of smashing successes and egregious mistakes, chaos and creativity, the story of a period of cultural and musical efflorescence and its gradual decline, of the four fates of the Beatles, their personal and musical triumphs and peccadilloes. If you don't know about the ill-fated single, "The King of Fu," for example, here's your chance.

It absorbed my attention and I came away knowing much more about the story than I did before. It informs and entertains.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Jeff Kaiser, Tom McNalley, Ted Byrnes, "External Logic Machine"

External Logic Machine (pfMENTUM 066) is the provocative product of the trio collective of Jeff Kaiser (Bb trumpet, quartertone trumpet, flugel), Tom McNalley (acoustic and resonator guitars), and Ted Byrnes (percussion). This is free, abstract fare, with all three players playing top-tier outside music in the contrapuntally dense and noise-encompassing manner of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, to take an example.

They have their own way of going about it and they do it well. Jeff K. plays muted and open horn with inventiveness, occasionally evoking an earlier time in jazz via the cup mute, but mostly contributing his brass sounds to the dense mix. Tom M. plays in a complementary mode with irregular abstractions of notes sometimes sounding like Delta blues off in space (his handling of the resonator must give me that impression in part), other times sounding nicely out and irregular. Ted Byrnes has an appealing all-encompassing junkstra sort of percussion style, with metallic, skin and wood tones setting up a wide spectrum of sound colors that lay out well and give the other two improvisers a carpet to work off of.

There are a few occasions that seem less inspired (though not less intense). Nevertheless this is an excellent set of avant improv overall. All three realize personal voices; together they have a supra-personal sound.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Andy Fite, "A Different Temperament: The Well Tempered Clavier, Book 1" for Multiple Solo Guitars

An indie music distribution source of some note that carries this album stated in their usual "people who like x will like this" section that those who like Django Reinhardt, Bach and Warne Marsh will find this album to their liking. Well, I guess. This may be the only album I can think of where those three names don't seem like a stretch. Aside from talking about why Warne Marsh and not, say, Tristano, Konitz, or Connie Crothers (and I suppose that is a moot point in terms of rough net approximations), I must say that Andy Fite makes such combinations seem natural and also seem more like Andy Fite than a combination.

Here I am rattling on but it is usual to name here the title of the album and such, so: A Different Temperament: The Well Tempered Clavier, Book One (Other Street Music). It's Andy on one or more tracks (overdubbed) with his classic Epiphone guitar, in his uniquely interesting improvisational rethinking of Bach's "Well Tempered Clavier, Book One."

And what an different way to go about it! The contrapuntal lines are there or implied, but so are some really nifty guitar improvisations, some swing chord harmonizations, and any manner of other rather brilliant ways into, around and through Bach's wonderful music.

I think I should just say that it's a monument to Andy Fite and his musicianship. And it extends Bach in ways Bach would have dug, being a significant improviser himself. Do a Google search and you'll find places to order this one physically or digitally. But you probably shouldn't forget to do that if you are a guitar-type! Or even if you are not.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tim Siciliano, Dominic Duval, Skip Scott, "JZ Rhythm"

Classic jazz compositions are the order of the day on Jz Rhythm (Kerava Jazz), played classically well. Tim Siciliano is a guitarist's guitarist, Dominic Duval a monster of the contrabass whatever the style, and Skip Scott a swinging drummer who puts a great spin on the "rhythm" of the title in the best sort of way.

The music? It's an A list of the art of jazz tunes. There are great choices--some prize Metheny (Question and Answer, Bright Sized Life, Waltz), Wayne Shorter (Yes and No, Iris), Herbie Hancock (Tell Me A Bedtime Story), Chick Corea (Windows), Benny Golson (Along Came Betty), Atilla Zoller (Struwwelpeter), Victor Feldman (Joshua) and McCoy Tyner (Search for Peace).

Of course it's not enough to get a great list of vehicles to improvise on and around. And this is where things kick in. This is a date that emphasizes the blowing. The changes and motifs are utilized as you might expect. Dominic is a pleasure to hear in this context--not one he is often featured in in recent times. Just listening to him is to listen to the art of jazz bass--his way with the changes, walking or doing some very hip things within the song structures, and soloing with power and fire. Tim Siciliano is a guitarist who has impeccable chordal and line building credentials--he sounds great and seems endlessly inventive, a classic stylist who manages to avoid sounding like any particular forebear. And the swinging time and nice solo work of Skip Scott makes sure that this session gets where it needs to and stays there.

This is a release, as I understand it, that is available privately only, on Kerava Jazz's website It's a beautiful set so don't hesitate. Hear their way with "Joshua" and you'll know why you came to this music!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Catherine Russell, Strictly Romancin'

Catherine Russell takes us to an earlier time with an album of well and not-so-well known swing tunes about love and its many moods. Strictly Romancin' (World Village) could have been made around 1950. The arrangements have that big band transition to mid-size band post war flavor to them and they are well put together. Catherine has one hell of a voice. Dead on pitch, beautiful range and tone, and soul! A little Dinah Washington there maybe. But this is Catherine Russell and we should listen because she's got it!

What to say more except hear her and be happy. A major sort of voice there and a great retro-recall program. Yes!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Saturday Night in Shankletown, Blues Anthology

Alright, here we have another volume in Catbone's "Jukin' with the Blues" series, Saturday Night in Shankleton (Catbone 2001-2). Some of the things that were true of the first anthology we covered are true here. "I Ain't Got You" (Billy Boy Arnold) is mistitled as "8 Dorado", there is the inexplicable presence of a short bebop cut ("Woody n You" by Jack Millman) which is undistinguished and doesn't really belong here to boot. And there are a few "blue eyed" examples that may not quite be of a caliber of the rest of the music (but also some good ones).

Aside from that, though, there are some classic corkers. "I Wish You Would" by Billy Boy Arnold, Muddy's "Forty Days and Forty Nights," Cotton's "You Know it Ain't Right," the Wolf's "Goin' Down Slow." Some gems.

I would not put this quite at the level of the Mean Street volume discussed a few days ago here. This one is is 3/4 great, 1/4 not as great.

Nonetheless it's nice to hear those classics again, and many of the versions are not especially common.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Permanent Clear Light, Neo-Psychedelia for a New Millennium

I find myself continually attracted to those who look to expand the initial psychedelic sounds that came out in the late '60s. And it's not just because that was a music that formed a big part of my musical upbringing. It's a sound that has nearly infinite plasticity.

So when I first heard the Finnish band Permanent Clear Light I naturally gravitated toward them. Like XTC in their psychedelic guise, these four guys work within the song form and extend the original sounds. The band doesn't have a lot of music released in conventional hard format. But no matter. That will happen I hope in time. Meanwhile you can go onto My Space and Facebook, look up the Permanent Clear Light pages and get yourself samples and ways to buy downloads and/or a few singles out there.

"Wherewithal" and "In the City" are good places to start. Nice songs, well sung. Well-built walls of psychedelic sound.

May they thrive. Meanwhile check out the music.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Mili Bermejo, Love Songs of the Americas

Vocalist Mili Bermejo joins cellist Eugene Friesen, Tim Ray on piano, Dan Greenspan on bass, and the Berklee World String Orchestra for a fine program of Love Songs of the Americas (self-released). It consists of some well-chosen songs from Latin-America, Brazil, and a few in English.

The arrangements are good, the contributors essential, the strings tastefully positioned and Ms. Bermejo in fine voice. It's all about love, of course, in its various permutations, happy, sad, longing, beginning, ending, and everything in between.

It's a very good listen and a significant addition to Mili Bermejo's discography.