Thursday, July 31, 2014

Dave Stryker, Eight Track

Dave Styker has been carrying on with his own version of the noteful rootsy tradition of down-home guitarists like Benson, Green and Martino for some time now. His latest album Eight Track (Strikezone 8809) pits him against some very groovy players--Stefon Harris (vibes), Jared Gold (organ) and McClenty Hunter (drums).

What's cool here is not just that this is a sharp-as-nails combo giving out with lots of soul and bluesy solidity. It is that in no uncertain terms. But they also address some soul and pop-rock classics from an era you might well (like me) have heard while giving driving a nifty new twist with an eight-track player going full blast while you cruised.

So "Superfly", "Superwoman", "Never Can Say Goodbye" and even the "Wichita Lineman" get the treatment here. All the songs were part of the wider age and the band finds fresh things to do with them throughout.

You know that Dave and Stefon can do their magic. But Jared Gold is a B-3 wailer of the old-school and he fits right in like a natural, which he no doubt is. McClenty Hunter has the soulful strut happening consistently on drums, too.

All this makes for a terrific album that also serves as a vehicle for some great Dave Striker guitar. If you got that old car out of your mental mothballs this would make a de rigueur eight track for it. But even so, it sounds very cool even inside your crib! Alrighty then!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Jason Anick, Tipping Point

Jason Anick is one mother, a terror of the violin and mandolin. He is excellent. The album Tipping Point (Magic Fiddle) gives a nicely composed and arranged fuzoid program that displays just how good he is. There are a couple of different bands and they are good, quite good.

There are about half standards, half Anick numbers. Lee Dynes plays some very nice guitar, Kris Jensen some very nice tenor sax, and the others kick in, too.

The line weaving on Jason's tunes is intricate and it sets you up for the extraordinary a-live-lee soloing.

His violin playing is bright and virtuoso, assured and strong. And his mandolin is pretty incredible, really. I cannot describe it but I haven't quite heard the like.

I've no reason to like this music. And my own integrity would prevent me from covering something with less than total honesty. So if I tell you this guy hits it on all-fours, I mean it. Listen him let loose lines on either the violin or the mandolin and you might let all the cards fall off the table. He's that cool.

And it IS a real gas to hear this album as music--not just a showcase. So get a hold of this and put it on. You'll see what I mean.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Daniel Lavoie and Laurent Guardo, La Licorne Captive

Avant pop? Cabaret and world fusion? Daniel Lavoie and Laurent Guardo's La Licorne Captive (Le Chant du Monde) defies categorization. Their album presents a musical meditation, all about the captive unicorn and ages gone by. Canadian Daniel Lavoie presides on expressive post-rock vocals; Laurent Guardo provides the unforgettable music and the arrangements, which are a rather exceptional combination of acoustic guitar, lute, viola d'amore and baroque violon and alto, violas de gambe, tabla, frame drums, dobro, bass and soprano.

It has a mythical, once-upon-a-time sound of a world long lost to us, which is totally fitting to the mythical subject matter--middle ages meets mideast meets French folk meets we the listeners. It took me a few listens to get into the beauty of it all, because it is one-of-a-kind.

But then I woke up to its excellence. If you open yourself up, too, to this one, you may be amazed. One of those rare events--the truly unexpected!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath

Who would have thought that a Black Sabbath tribute album could really hit it hard and sound great? Well to tell the truth it sounded like a good idea to me. Brownout Presents Brown Sabbath (Ubiquity) is even better than I imagined. One reason it works is that it's one band, Austin-based Brownout, getting into cool rearrangements of old Sabbath tunes. Alex Maas of The Black Angels is in there and they all get good leverage on the music.

They give the songs a real kick in the teeth with the heavy metal sound updated, then add horns and percussion to make it really push. Sometimes it sounds like a Crimsonian Sabbath reading of "20th Century Schizoid Man" in a funny way. Other times it just sounds vital and fresh. And that's plenty good enough!

The singing is Sabbath-worthy. And face it, early Sabbath did something to metal that it never recovered from--and set the pace for less worthy bands to follow, and some worthy ones too.

This album is a kick! You'll be surprised, then happy to hear the care with which they recreate the tunes anew. Seriously.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Jacob Young, Forever Young

Jacob Young plays guitar and he composes some very ECM sorts of plushly beautiful music. His third album for ECM is with us, Forever Young (ECM B0020848-02). He plays a very nicely together acoustic in ensemble and as a soloist. He switches off to electric too and then we are hard put to pin influence on him. The band is rather pan-Euro with Young being of Norwegian-American descent, tenor and soprano saxologist Trygve Seim is from Norway, and then there are three Polish players in Marcin Wasilewski (piano), Slawomir Kurkiewicz (double bass), and Michal Miskiewicz (drums).

Seim has some of that dramatically projecting Garbarek lyricism; Young has given Ralph Towner a good listen but goes his own way with that and has other things that happen when he lines on electric, nicely; Wasilewski has some Jarrett-Corea channeling and the music sometimes reminds me lyrically of early Eberhard Weber. But that is only to say that this is very much an ECM sound. Would you have been upset if you heard a Hank Mobley influence on an old Blue Note release? No. So if we take that as a given then we open up to the music itself, which is what it's all about, really.

We take it all in and find that a quintet of excellent musicians plays some very lovely, harmonically fluid music and solos with real style and eloquence.

Is this the album of the year? Well, not for me. But this is not a horse race either, so Jacob Young comes across with something very, very nice and the finish line we'll leave up to someone else for now. You will no doubt like it. And you can play it for your mom and she might well like it, too! It's people-pleasing without playing down to them. Nice!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Carol Saboya, Belezas

Brazilian jazz vocalist Carol Saboya has been garnering accolades and kudos for her music. Since I try and cover as much of contemporary Brazil as I can I scored a copy of her latest, Belezas (AAM 0704), and I've been listening. Antonio Adolfo arranged the music and produced the record, and he did a good thing!

It features some beautiful songs by icons Milton Nacimento and Ivan Lins. Adolfo in on piano in good form and we get some excellent acoustic and electric guitar work from Claudio Spiewak, an excellent rhythm section, and the appearance of the great Dave Liebman as guest on soprano sax.

The songs, the soloists, the arrangements make for very vibrant Brazilian jazz. But the presence of Carol Saboya puts it way over the top. She is impeccable, a vocal artist in the most classic sense.There are all the detailed aspects of a great Brazilian singer to be heard here. She has the magic!

Everything comes together for one terrific album. You should get this one if you dig the Brazilian thing. If you don't know what that is, all the more reason to get this one and listen. Wow!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Larry Goldings, Peter Bernstein, Bill Stewart, Ramshackle Serenade

I was more or less minding my own business sometime in the early '90s, attending a free outdoor jazz festival in the courtyard of Lincoln Center in New York, when the opening act came on--organist Larry Goldings with guitarist Peter Bernstein and a drummer whose name I do not recall. I did not know these players then but I listened intently and liked what I heard.

From that time on Goldings became one of the more important, more acclaimed jazz organists on the scene. Peter Bernstein eventually went his own way and now is a highly respected player as well.

But they belong together! I am glad to have the new album in my hands of Larry Goldings and Peter Bernstein in a trio with the gamer drummer Bill Stewart. The album is Ramshackle Serenade (Pirouet PIT 3077), a collection of Goldings and Bernstein originals and a few standards, played loosely but very much in the evolved tradition of the organ trio.

To my mind Goldings and Bernstein very much are capstone cohorts in this context (and so also Bill Stewart) for their very simpatico interplay, for their facility in getting great lines going, for the way they extend the organ trio sound with some soulful but sophisticated utterances of real strength.

It is music that has enough grits and gravy to satisfy the traditionalist, yet takes it to high places that ramify what today's world is like.

An excellent recording on all levels.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Fred Hersch and Julian Lage, Free Flying

If you follow the contemporary jazz scene you are probably familiar with pianist Fred Hersch, since he has been doing some very exciting work. You may be less familiar with guitarist Julian Lage. But in fact Julian is in many ways Hersch's equivalent and equal as the "complete" contemporary jazz guitarist.

So it was a fortunate gathering when the two got together to make an album, Free Flying (Palmetto 2168). These are Hersch compositional vehicles, very good ones, with the exception of Sam Rivers' classic "Beatrice" and Thelonious' "Monk's Dream". The twosome are caught live in a NYC club Jazz at Kitano and that adds to the energy and spontaneity it would seem.

They both are on a roll here, both individually and as a group. Julian Lage can spin original and complex lines on changes with the best of them, in an original way no less, and then can get subtle and nuanced in the quieter balladic moments.

Fred Hersch is in every way himself here and so the two get quite a rapport and make for an every-moment-counts set. It's rather wonderful.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Joel Harrison/Anupam Shobhakar MULTIPLICITY, Leave The Door Open

Fusions of Indian and jazz music go back a pretty long ways. I wont rehearse the history for you right now. Suffice to say that there are commonalities musically and cultural convergences that have made it so.

Today we have another effective confluence between the two musical cultures--guitarist Joel Harrison joins forces with the classical Indian sarod master Anupam Shobhakar and their co-led group MULTIPLICITY on the album Leave the Door Open (Whirlwind).

What's nice about this album? Plenty. Shobhakar is an excellent player and his influence gives more real Indian flavor than can be sometimes the case with these sorts of gatherings. Drummer Dan Weiss has real facility with Indian music, as anybody familiar with his work knows. Dave Binney, Hans Glawischnig, Gary Versace and Todd Isler make good contributions as sidemen and give the music a real push. Joel Harrison sounds excellent here, especially on slide guitar but otherwise as well.

The compositions have real jazz-Indian heft and that also goes a long ways to putting the music in a special orbit.

Anyone who digs the Indian-jazz nexus will find this one among the best of such projects. That's enough to make this essential listening.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Melingo, Linyera

Argentianian songwriter-singer-instrumentalist Daniel Melingo takes traditional Argentianian song and more-or-less turns it on its head. His album Linyera (World Village) gives your ears a cabaret-tango-cum-expansive music of dramatic impact and unexpected twists. So that suddenly you think Pink Floyd may have had a reincarnation of sorts, but no not exactly. It is beyond classification.

There is a pre-rock feeling to his music that manages to sound old-school while also projecting a new take on Weil's theater music and a contemporary quality. Then it can get downright psychedelic.

I honestly don't know what to make of this guy. I've been listening with interest. You may like this a lot or you may hate it. I cannot say what you'll think. Avant crooning? Composer-iconoclast? Argentinian post-post.

Oh and he apparently plays the electric guitar--nicely here and there in an atmospheric way.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Present, Triskaidekaphobie (Remastered / Expanded)

Belgium's avant rock outfit Present was one of the prime "Rock in Opposition" "chamber" groups of the '80s. Cuneiform has reissued their first album Triskaidekaphobie (1980) in a remastered-expanded edition that includes live tracks and lots of music, 20 minutes of previously unreleased live cuts plus the original album.

The brainchild of Roger Trigaux, composer, guitarist, keyboardist, Present comes through here as a band that does not show its age. The music sounds absolutely current, with intricate avant ensemble sounds that combine minimalist mesmerizing with avant rock and classical landscapes.

There are some of the intricacies of the serious side of Zappa, not necessarily alike in sound but equally committed to progression.

Triskaidekaphobie remains central to the avant rock lineage. If you missed this first album now is the time to catch up. Essential in its own way.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Mario Adnet, Um Olhar Sobre Villa-Lobos

This album has some nice guitar work on it but that is not its primary function. Composer Villa-Lobos wrote masterpieces for the guitar. But this album is more in line with a re-arrangement of some beautiful Villa-Lobos for a Brazilian popular mode. There's a full orchestra, some samba touches with percussion and whatnot, some nice guitar parts, and vocals that fit into the bossa-samba saudade feel.

It is Mario Adnet in charge. The album is Um Olhar Sobre Villa-Lobos. Of course Villa-lobos wrote music so Brazilian that the music survives this transposition not only well, you would think it was made for this treatment. In a way it was.

I can't say enough good things about this music and the arrangements and performances. They haunt. It is a blockbuster of lyric and vibrantly rhythmic Braziliana. Beautiful.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Rebel Tumbao

Rebel Tumbao has the social awareness of Bob Marley and a reggae feel that is compounded by an equally vibrant Latin groove and a touch of hip-hop. Their album Rebel Tumbao (self-released) shows us what they can do. It's a band with a full Latin percussion section, various lead singers who deliver and a two-trombone brass punch. Matt Jenson seems to be the musical leader on keys, assorted percussion and arrangements. Joe Claussell does arrangements as well and plays a wide assortment of percussion instruments. The arrangements are well done and give us convincing fusions of the three strains mentioned above and at times a pronounced jazz flavoring.

The program covers some Bob Marley classics, some good Matt Jenson originals, and Trane's "Love Supreme" juxtaposed with Marley's "Exodus".

It works and works well. I know of no better reggae-Latin compounding out there. And the music gets to you in the best ways. Auspicious beginnings!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Stick Against Stone, Live, The Oregon Bootleg Tapes

I never had the chance to hear the post-punk, no-wave band Stick Against Stone in their original ten year run (1981-90). That reflects in no way on the music. I was terminally busy in those days with school and otherwise broke (so what else is new?), so I missed a few things. They had a number of albums out and at the same time had a rather fluid set of shifting lineups.

We join them in 1985 for a rare bootleg camcorder recording that has been cleaned up and sounds quite decent considering. Stick Against Stone Live, the Oregon Bootleg Tapes (MediaGroove 004) captures them at two venues in Oregon in the summer of that year.

The line up thrives with the presence of vocalist-percussionist Sari Morninghawk, who has a vocal directness that fits right in with the times and plays some fetching percussion too. Richard Vitale (who left us in 2010) is the drummer. David Soule plays bass; Daniel Ramirez is on guitar; Robert "Xeres" Shepard plies the alto sax and flute. These names may not mean much to you at this point but for fans of the band it will help to situate what goes on in the tracks.

What is very cool is the loose togetherness of the band, which has some reggae feels, an occasional family resemblance to Beefheart lineups, the B-52s, Talking Heads, but no, really this is an original band. But there are hints of those influences now and again. but outside them and unique at the same time.

The guitar, bass, drums, percussion unity is very together and then the alto sax-flute floats atop in between Sari Morninghawk's choruses. The songs are memorable and different in their own way.

This was a band that had an attitude and a driving sound. They are on the beam, totally on top of things here. I am sorry I missed them. If you like out rock that fits in with the period you'll dig this one, I do expect!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Dudu Tassa & the Kuwaitis

Dudu Tassa is that most unusual of phenomena, an artist with a natural ability to synthesize his musical roots. He has been long a popular commodity in Israel. For this, his Kuwaiti project, he combines a rock and contemporary Jewish sensibility with his ancestral roots in Iraqi Jewish music. His grandfather and grand-uncle were famous composers of Iraqi music in the '30s and '40s.

Dudu looks backward at those roots and converts them to a music of today in Dudu Tassa & the Kuwaitis (Rock Paper Scissors CD & DVD).

A DVD of interviews and concert footage supplements and makes you very open for the excellent CD that maps it all out in sound for you. What's remarkable is how he captures with musicians and vocalists the traditional early 20th-century mid-eastern music with a modern sometimes pretty heavy rock rhythm section and electric guitar--Dudu plays the often electric guitar and sings most of the lead vocals that have the mid-eastern melisma and all the nuances of the age-old musics, ornate instrumental playing on traditional instruments, yet the drive and freshness of rock today.

It's rather incredible music. Many promise synthesis out there. Dudu Tassa delivers, with the soul of a true artist and all the excitement and attraction such a combination of musical elements should give you. Dudu delivers with all you might hope for--and the results are magical.

Do not hesitate. Grab this one!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Dino Saluzzi Group, El Valle de la Infancia

What is typical of an ECM album these days is not necessarily what was typical, say, 30 years ago. But there is a family resemblance, surely. Eicher and company come up with music that you don't expect, still. Today we come upon one like that. It is the Dino Saluzzi Group. Dino is a talented bandoneon player and composer of jazz-meets-the-world music. The album is called El Valle de la Infancia (ECM B0020544-02).

This is Argentinian music in its roots and in its expansion. And it hits you as you listen carefully that such is not such a pat thing, because Dino Saluzzi makes much of the possibilities that fit in an ECM mode, that fit in an Argentinian mode, yet not in any "typical" way.

The band is very good. Dino has much to say on the bandoneon. Jose Maria Saluzzi plays the classical guitar and requinto guitar; Nicholas "Colacho" Brizuela also plays classical guitar; and they both sound very finessed, beautiful. Matias Saluzzi will surprise you on electric bass and give the grounding to the band on double bass. Felix "Cuchara" Saluzzi plays effectively on tenor and clarinet, and Quintino Cinalli does yeoman's work on drums and percussion.

The music haunts you after a while. The interplay between guitars and bandoneon has a special feel to it that is partly traditional but also very distinctive and improvisational.

It satisfies the ears and heart when you want to hear something rooted yet ahead. I am very glad to have a copy!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Sleepy John Estes, Live in Japan, with Hammie Nixon, 1974-76

Blues master Sleepy John Estes (1899-1977). . . . There has never been anyone quite like him for his inimitable vocal delivery, the prototypical strength of his lyrics and, yes, the fundamental rhythmic guitar style (and piano playing), all delivered with that patented totality that was his and only his. Of course he is one of many great bluesmen, but one of the most consistently original.

As with many long-time music devotees I have many personal associations with the greats, not necessarily face-to-face. Usually purely experiential. I believe it was 1967 and my friend and I went on a sponsored trip to the city, Greenwich Village, for a visit with the anti-war Methodist Church then very much active in the community. They gave us a talk about their work, their social activism, then took us on a personal tour through the Village as it was flourishing then. I remember we walked past the Purple Onion, then one of the hot clubs, but mostly I remember we stopped at a very hip record shop where I found both a Sleepy John Estes and a Blind Willie Johnson album there, original '30s recordings reissued on the now long-defunct RBF label.

I had been listening to Jimmy Reed, Bobby Blue Bland and John Lee Hooker by then and knew the blues were very cool. But Sleepy John had something very unique going on (not to mention Blind Willie J) and I listened repeatedly and carefully. He was an important part of my musical experience and still has a special place inside me.

So Sleepy in his later years had a comeback by signing with Delmark, creating an album or two to some acclaim. In Japan they absolutely adored his music as a result. Several tours to Japan happened in the wake of his recordings' success. Now after all these years, we get to hear high-quality recordings of the best of the Japan tours, on the new release Sleepy John Estes Live in Japan (Delmark DE 835). He is seconded on vocals, harmonica, jug, etc., by Hammie Nixon, who was an old friend and a very capable singer in his own right.

So we have Sleepy John on acoustic guitar and vocals, Hammie as second, and for a few cuts a backup band. They do some of the signature tunes such as "Divin' Duck Blues" plus what were by then old-time standards like "Corrina, Corrina".

Sleepy John by then was entering the twilight years of maturity, but all the things that made him great were still there, one way or another, even if they were more well-worn and golden than firey and raw like the original recordings. But that doesn't matter if you dig Sleepy John Estes. This is John towards the end of his road, a huge success, a star in Japan and subjected to rapid recognition all the world over after years of neglect. You feel the triumph with him, hear him give his all. You should find his early recordings if you don't know them, then get the Delmarks. This one gives you a lot of music and it's the real John, so get it too!