Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mark Lanegan Band, Blues Funeral

Mark Lanegan was the guitarist with Screaming Trees. He comes up with his first new album since 2004 in Blues Funeral (4AD) and it has a kind of industrial-meets-hard-psych-bluesy combination that's different.

He's doing actual songs in this vein, not just a couple of riffs and a hook or two as some artists seem to think sufficient nowadays. The arrangements bring out the sort of heavy effects-loaded guitar work surrounded by a little empty space that allows the beat to come across and then wall-of-sound moments come in and out as well.

It's not what I expected but it also is quite a reasonably good effort that bears lots of listening without tedium. His voice gets a nice burr to it and there's that big guitar. So what's not to like?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Jacob Deaton, Tribulation

What we have on hand today is guitarist Jacob Deaton's album Tribulation (self released). I don't have a press sheet with this one, so I don't have much in the way of background. The music speaks though.

Jacob Deaton plays some worthy lines coming out of a fir-ey mainstream thing. His band may not be filled with names you necessarily know, but they can do what they set out to do. It's Akeem Marable on alto, Nick Rosen, piano, Craig Shaw, bass, and Justin Chesarek on drums.

The rhythm section cooks, Akeem and Rick can do some soloing that is up there, and the compositions give the band some good blowing vehicles.

Where there's smoke, there's fire. And there's fire. Jacob is quite generous, giving all the band members the time to express themselves. You end up with a collective conflagration playing some top-notch hard-bop and beyond. So get some ear time with this and I think you'll find no regrets on that score.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Jorge Liderman, Aires de Sefarad, Duo 46

In the course of receiving music to review for my blogs there is always some amount of serendipity. The willy arrives with the nilly and one combs through with a feeling of the mystery of the unknown. There are things I get that come as a complete surprise, but not all that many. One of those is today's CD, Duo 46's recording of Jorge Liderman's Aires de Sefarad, 46 Spanish Songs for Violin and Guitar (Albany 829).

Duo 46 is Matt Gould on classical guitar and Beth Ilana Schneider on violin. They sound very good on these 46 miniatures. Gould brings out the Spanish folk quality of the songs; Schneider combines a very beautiful tone with facility and a kind of Spanish abandon as called for.

Jorge Liderman's Aires are set firmly in the melodious, sometimes ornate idiom of a Spanish set of songs without words. The spirit of Rodrigo has some bit of haunting to do, yet there's a touch of the neo-classical Stravinsky as well. It's something Hovhaness might have done if he had Spanish roots instead of Armenian, which is only to say that Liderman gives forth in the minor strained songs with a kind of bedrock fundamentality that Hovhaness did so well in his most "ethnic" works. These however are only impressions and affinities. The cycle stands on its own.

It's music of brevity, beauty and rich association. Duo 46 gives it a very appealing spin. They approach the songs with a vivacity and elan that seems just right. This is music that never sounds out of place to me, no matter the mood. And so I very much recommend it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Divinyls Live DVD, Jailhouse Rock, 1993

Anybody who reads this blog knows I cover DVDs that have a pretty wide scope. If it has merit and it somehow relates, I cover it.

So today we have the rock group the Divinyls Live (MVD Visual 5363D). It's the band playing an 85-minute set at the Boggo Road Prison, Queensland, Australia, 1993.

It shows you the band could build and generate some hard-ish rock excitement. Vocalist Christina Amphlett prances, gets sultry and sexy, but aside from that really does have a good rock voice. She's a bit low in the mix for the first 20 minutes or so, then not. Lead guitarist (is it Lee Borkman?) does a credible job in the rock showman role and gives the guitar techie a headache no doubt by switching between around seven guitars, a different one for each song.

The band is tight, the sound decent, and they get an early '90s sort of head on things in ways that make for an entertaining go.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Jimmy Halperin and Dominic Duval, Changing Tranes

Tenorist Jimmy Haperin and bassist Dominic Duval have teamed up for a number of excellent recordings, with or without a drummer, devoted to the music of Monk and Trane. The latest to be released is Changing Tranes (CIMP 390), recorded in 2009.

For this one they scale back to the duo setting to explore the middle-period music of Coltrane. So there are such pieces as "Like Sonny," "Syeeda's Song Flute," "Countdown," and others not often recorded these days.

As with previous related projects the small-group format and their own inclinations allow for creative latitude. They work within the changes for the most part, spinning some very inventive improvisations on and around the songs. Head themes can be loosely or more strictly stated, or dispensed with occasionally to get right to the improvising.

This is another very good outing. Jimmy and Dominic react to one another dynamically. It is remarkable to hear Dominic's elaborate, fully developed way around the walking concept. He adds and subtracts to the pulse, solos as he keeps or implies the four-square soundings along with everything else he is doing. Jimmy waxes lucid, loose and exploratory yet holds to the basic framework of the changes implicitly or explicitly. He is inspired and sounds great to boot.

It's a remarkable performance. One of the very best in the series. Get this one and support the artists and the small-scale but essential CIMP operations.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Thing with Barry Guy, Metal!

A double LP called Metal! (No Business NBLP 47/48) has hit the streets and it's a kicker. It's a group called the Thing with guest bass master Barry Guy. In sum this is an all-star free-avant jazz lineup. Barry and Ingebrigt Haker Flaten handle the bass duties. They expertly, madly scrabble and scumble power arco and pizzicato lines in a kind of humming and thrumming hornet's nest of fire and chaos. Mats Gustafsson hits the ground at a run on baritone, tenor and slide saxophone. Paal Nilssen-Love, perhaps the reigning king of manically slashing, metallically clattering free drums, gets a froth to combust spontaneously throughout.

So you have four sides of wildly free music. Mats' baritone is grainy, blasphemous to jazz order, his tenor is no less compacting and his slide sax slithers. The two-bass team are astoundingly brash. Paal gets very impolite.

In short it's all a manic, panic attacked contemporary world needs to portray itself the way it is now. In other words this one really kicks up its heels and says a healthy f.u. to all that might have wanted to replace it. It's not getting replaced, people. This kind of music survives and thrives in the hands of these four demonic fellows. I mean that in the best way! Bass players beware. You are about to be smoked! Everybody else? Smoked. All are going to be smoked.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Allan Holdsworth, None Too Soon, 1996, Reissue

Guitar master Allan Holdsworth's ninth album, None Too Soon, focuses in jazz standards and familiar covers, done the Holdsworth way. It has been reissued (MoonJune 043) after a spell where it has not been around, and I for one am glad it is back.

Gordon Beck the late English keyboardist and periodic musical running partner of Allan puts in some very nice work here. Bassist Gary Willis and drummer Kirk Covington round out the picture with all the right moves.

As Barry Cleveland points out in the liners, though it's a standards project it is primarily a Holdsworthian kind of symposium. He plays in his usual brilliant manner here no matter what the song. The band may swing more than rock much of the time and that's where everything contrasts. Yes, there are familiar head melodies, there is good driving post-mainstream jazz from the trio, and there is sterling Holdsworth from Holdsworth.

So that's where this one distinguishes itself. Another gem from the plectral master. But not just another. It's a little different but no less brilliant. Dig on it without fear.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Charlie Rauh and Concetta Abbate Live at the Cornelia Street Cafe, February 5th, 2012

I don't find myself in the habit of covering specific gigs for a number of reasons. The audience for this blog is not primarily local, but rather world-wide for one thing. I cannot afford the transportation to get across the river to catch a gig these days, for another. And it involves a use of my time I can ill-afford at the moment, since my main objective now has to do with seeking out activities that supply my family with much-needed income.

But when Charlie Rauh was kind enough to send me a CD-ROM of himself and violinist Concetta Abbate playing live at the Cornelia St. Cafe in New York this past February 15th, and I liked what I heard, I figured "why not?"

It's over an hour of the two holding forth, nicely recorded by the inimitable and indefatigable Scott Friedlander. Charlie and Concetta create their own musical world, which combines their own predefined compositions and spontaneous improvisations.

It's a kind of chamber jazz with a new music influence. Each has an independent role in the duo; the guitar playing has a little of that Hall with Giuffre ambiance. There are well-chosen melodic strains and chordal compliments to Concetta's violin declamations. Her playing has a cultivated tone and an occasional Gypsy-like flourish.

It's the two in close interaction and the WHAT of the compositions and improvisations that make the duo well worth hearing. I hope some label folks check them out because they need and deserve the exposure of a release. This is music for folks who like things a little different--exploratory and sometimes rather free but expressing also a structural knack that melds the two personalities into a compositional-improvisational singularity. Go catch them if they are playing somewhere near you! And look for a CD release, I hope very soon.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mary Halvorson Quintet, Bending Bridges

Mary Halvorson has made a name for herself in recent years, not just as one of the foremost and original new avant jazz guitarists, but also a composer and bandleader of stature.

That trend continues and goes a step further in her new CD Bending Bridges (Firehouse 12 12-04-01-016). It's a fine quintet with Mary, Jon Irabagon, alto, Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet, John Hebert, bass, and Ches Smith, drums.

They combine a loose freedom with a good amount of significant compositional part playing that goes in and out without resorting to cliches or overworked phrasings.

The band is quite well-suited for this sort of thing, which is not surprising given the personnel. There is however a surprise is the trumpet work of Mr. Finlayson. I have not heard much of him and he holds his own here, most certainly.

Mary's guitar work sometimes combines the electricity of hard rock, the outness of post-Sharrock sound color and a harmonic-melodic sense that stands out as of great interest and originality.

Nine originals of substance grace the CD and if you are like me you'll find it all quite worth hearing, with nary a wasted moment. Definitely recommended.

Friday, May 11, 2012

King Tears Bat Trip

Well now here's one today that catches my fancy. A group called King Tears Bat Trip and their self-titled album (Table & Chairs 012).

This is out music like nobody else does. It's a Seattle-based outfit. The album is download only, five bucks. The ensemble is headed by Luke Berman, who plays an out, detuned guitar throughout. It's him, four drummers, chango-percussion and a big sounding tenor sax played by Neil Welch.

The sound of the band on this two-cut, 40 minute album is uncanny. The four drummers and percussion set up a monstrous quasi-African-Haitian groove, the tenor and guitar play unearthly themes, and the tenor solos rip a hole in the heavens.

It's wonderfully huge and crazy. Go to the Table and Chairs website to hear the music and order a digital download. A better quality sound version of one cut you can listen to at

Wowie-zowie! I hope they do some more!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Ravi Shankar, The Living Room Sessions Part 1

Ravi Shankar! Just the name was enough to inspire thoughts of musical enlightenment when I was young. After George of the Beatles studied with him, anybody who aspired to know what-was-what ended up with at least one of his albums, and listened in some fashion. Understanding came gradually for those who took the time to listen closely and repeatedly; more so for those who studied the music in any depth. But the accomplished virtuosity and brilliance of the music was palpable immediately for those with ears.

The hipness-by-association factor combined with musical genius gave Pandit Shankar and Indian (Hindustani) classical music a presence and creedence in EuroAmerica that was unprecedented. It wasn't as if he and the music came here out of nowhere, of course. There were those who knew and appreciated the music before. And the advent of the long playing record in the '50s helped the musically curious get fairly long raga performances that allowed enough time to approximate what was going on in a typical performance situation.

But once Ravi was recognized simultaneously as the de facto ambassador and greatest living exponent of Indian music, the melodic and rhythmic subtleties of extended raga performance had a huge influence on virtually all musico-stylistic avenues of western music. Rock perhaps most immediately so, then over the years as the musical forms and practices became better understood, the jazz and new music areas as well.

In some ways it was a lucky happenstance for those with musical sensitivity in those days. It was lucky for all of us that Ravi Shankar was truly gifted, a musician of phenomenal imagination and ability, a sitarist destined to take his place in the pantheon of legend, one of a handful of legendary Hindustani artists who influenced and enlightened the generations then and to come, an innovator, and of course a composer/arranger of the highest rank.

And so here we stand from a vantage point of nearly 50 years on. Ravi Shankar lives, his influence and stature undiminished, and at nearly 92 years of age, performs a number of ragas in the informal environment of his living room, joined by his tabla accompanist Tanmoy Bose.

The fruits of those several days of playing and recording have become available to us, the first half of it anyway, in the new release The Living Room Sessions Part 1 (East Meets West Music 1006).

What we have is Ravi in a relaxed setting, exploring four ragas, mostly in medium tempo, finding something new to say after so many years. One of the ragas, Satyajit, is of Pandit Shankar's own invention, inspired by the feelings and thoughts experienced when he heard of the death of the great film-maker and friend Satyajit Ray. The other three ragas are traditional, two performed in lighthearted Thumri style, the other featuring a Japthal in ten beats.

We have in this moving near hour of music Ravi Shankar in a profound musical state. His playing is paired down from the extreme virtuosity of his earlier days. He instead concentrates on the subtleties of nuance and phrasing of the middle movements of a typical raga performance. He shows the sort of depth of feeling and devotion to sound perhaps only someone who has played so exceptionally well and gotten so thoroughly inside the musical forms of the Hindustani traditions can do. He transcends the mundane world. Every note has meaning.

It is a wonderful album. It is not meant to supersede all previous recordings of course, but in its own way it begins to sum up who Ravi Shankar is, what the music comes down to for him. And that is sublime indeed.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Dennis Rea, Wally Shoup, Tom Zgonc, Subduction Zone

Dennis Rea, readers may recall, is the Seattle-based guitar innovator, composer and bandleader with a number of excellent recent albums under his belt as leader of Moraine, Iron Kim Style, and under his own name (do a search on the top of this page for my review articles).

He teams with altoist Wally Shoup and drummer Tom Zgonc for a collectively free-avant improvisation date, Subduction Zone (self-released).

This is pull-out-the-stops out freedom of an advanced sort. There are seven collective improvisations on the disk, all fully charged with high-voltage expression.

Shoup gives forth with the emotive wails, fanfares and hard-scrabbled sax work appropriate to the genre. Zgonc applies an all-over rock-heavy leverage to the sound, in multi-layered torrents of freetime. Dennis excels in a highly electric, heavily sound-colored series of onslaughts that alternatively soar, break up into fragments of noise patterns, and provide a melodic and textural outness that helps give the trio a specific, distinctive sound ambiance.

This is avant improv of the swashbuckling sort. They move together in cohesive directions. They go for the big sound. And they do it all with a sense of drama that gets your attention and keeps it riveted throughout. If you love adventure and electricity, Subduction Zone will be a place you'll want to visit frequently.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ramon and Jessica, Fly South

The contemporary singer-songwriter is very much alive. He or she (or he/she) may write and sing songs consistent with the short tradition of the category, or she/he may stretch the mode in different ways. Ramon and Jessica stretch. Their album Fly South (Porto Franco 037) shows them doing this. The result after a few listens is a feeling of refreshment.

There is much musicality to be had here. The songs themselves, the vocal parts, the touches in the arrangements all have that quality. Now there may be a certain slight tendency toward "cuteness" which you need to get used to. But when you do, there's plenty to like here. Jason Mraz starts cute and stays cute. Ramon and Jessica give you layers of musical content underneath the "cute" and you start digging on that as you listen for the third time or so.

It's not exactly pop. It has folk and composed elements and it's different. Different. And rather good. I like these folks. Sounds like the sort of people you might have over for dinner and have a fun evening. That's what their music sounds like.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Heddy Boubaker, Hernani Faustino, Domino Doubles

A sax-bass improvisational duet depends for its success on the abilities of the players to come up with captivating moods and modes, with expressive and productive spontaneity.

So a meeting of Heddy Boubaker, alto and bass saxes, and Hernani Faustino, contrabass, on their CD Domino Doubles (re:konstruKt 057) should be evaluated in those terms.

First off both players have plenty of avant credentials and we needn't rehearse them here. Second, the range of timbres produced by Faustino's bass and Boubaker's bass and alto saxes is considerable. Hernani gets bowed subtones, percussive cascades of abstract phrases, harmonics and the sheer sensuality of the force of bow and fingers against strings. Heddy responds with a full spectrum of avant sax sound-producing techniques: breathy whispers, subtones and "swallowed" notes, full voices and harmonic grittiness. The bass sax brings a special sound to the ensemble and Boubaker does well getting the behemoth to speak nicely. Both players come up with lines of interest when they are not concentrating on timbre.

The session succeeds. It succeeds because both artists are well-attuned to one another and have the imaginative and creative inspiration to work together along with the technical prowess to make it possible.

Duets such as these aren't designed to sell huge numbers of CD copies. They are disciplined statements on the art of bare-bones freedom. This is an excellent example. Grab it if you can!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Allan Holdsworth, Hard Hat Area, Reissue

Allan Holdsworth over the course of his dozen or so studio albums has established himself as a guitarist with a style so distinctive, so musical and a sound so inimitable that he is in a category of one: guitarists who sound exactly like (because they are) Allan Holdsworth.

His eighth album, Hard Hat Area (MoonJune 044) in a welcome reissue, gives a great example of how that is so. In Barry Cleveland's excellent liner notes, he emphasizes that this recording was the product of a working band, and so has a kind of cohesiveness and interactive ESP some of the others do not always have.

It's Allan on guitar and synthaxe along with Steve Hunt at the keys, Skuli Sverrisson on electric bass, and Gary Husband on drums. They tackle seven substantial Holdsworth compositions that have an almost orchestral dimension thanks to the fullness of the arrangements, the synthesized harmonies and the richness of the players' approach.

All the elements are in place and when Allan gives out with his inimitable solo work, it is an integral part of the musical matrix in the same way a concerto for violin and orchestra might be. It's much more than an exercise of Allan's formidable technique and beautiful harmonic sense and tone, though it certainly is that. It's music. Very good music indeed.

One of his very best. Great to have it available again.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Trio Caveat, Introspective Athletics; Josh Sinton, Pine Barren

Something different this morning: the Trio Caveat and their Introspective Athletics and Josh Sinton's Pine Barren (Engine 044) grouped together on one split release.

The trio consists of James Ilgenfritz, bass, Chris Welcome, guitar, and Jonathan Moritz on saxophones. It's an interesting free trio date with thoughtful interactions among the three. Chris Welcome's guitar alone is worth hearing for his flow of ideas. All three get something going that is not so much frenetic as it is abstract, in the new music sort of freeness mode.

Josh Sinton's solo spot on baritone saxophone, bass clarinet, and contrabass clarinet has a sense of space and structure. He has good control and good ideas, a kind of AACM-like attention to saying something with sound and form. The last piece is an interesting overdubbed sax ensemble that has a nice quasi-African riff feel.

This may not be an essential offering but it does give you two worthy albums of new avant music on one disk. The music has charms! Support small labels and up-and-coming improvisers. Buy this disk!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Eugene Chadbourne, Warren Smith, Odd Time

Eugene Chadbourne has been plying his brand of outness ever since I guess the earlier seventies. Warren Smith has been applying his drums-percussion-mallet talents to countless session and recordings as sideman and as leader and composer for many years.

The idea of pairing the two up might seem an odd one, but turns out it works well on Odd Time (Engine).

It's Eugene concentrating on the banjo (he plays guitar also, but not so much here) and the music is divided between some free excursions and Eugene's snide underground ragtime-bluegrass outer-spacial songs. He does some quite credible out-picking, some early jazz ragging and otherwise extends the banjo into the outer worlds in convincing and appealing ways. Warren is right there with him on vibes and the drum set.

"The New War" is a modern day not-so-pro-war song that sticks in the head. In fact the whole album does so. It's a collaboration that extends the music of both and keeps us interested in the process. Good going!