Jazz / Blues Adds – 9/18/2014

Jazz / Blues Adds – 9/16/2014

Jazz Adds:

The Bad Plus – Inevitable Western (OKeh): “The Bad Plus’ tenth studio recording, ‘Inevitable Western’, is comprised entirely of originals and continues the band’s committed belief in what Nate Chinen of The New York Times dubbed ‘avant-garde populism’ — the idea that serious music can be as engaging and accessible as it is forward-thinking and provocative.”  This inventive trio features Reid Anderson (b), Ethan Iverson (p), and David King (d) and they do create both far-reaching and accessible music.  The group is a cooperative and based upon the compositions – three by each member – and performances, they pull this off quite well.  They shift rhythms and melodic conventions, but they don’t drive you out in to deep space.  They were also recognized as the Number 2 jazz band in the 2014 Downbeat Critics Poll.  Click here for an interview and sample performance.

Beat Funktion – Mandy’s Secret (Do Music):  Fourth release from this Swedish sextet “pays homage to instrumental early ’70s funk, groove, soul, disco and afro-beat jazz.”  Led by Daniel Lantz (keys), who composed all of the tracks, the band includes Karl Olandersson (trumpet), Olle Thunstrom (sax), Johan Oijen (g), Pal Johnson (b), and Jon Eriksson (d).  The inspiration clearly links to the lighter jazz fusion sound and the music is about the steady beat and cheerful sway.  The guitar catches fire on one occasion and the band is smooth, but don’t listen for any freaky synthesized moments.  Click here for a sample.

Andy Bey – Pages from An Imaginary Life (Highnote):  Veteran singer-writer-pianist Andy Bey, presents an intimate collection of standards, personal compositions of his own and some lesser known gems on this disc. His voice is quiet, melodic, and almost softly spoken.  His piano is sparse and played in a style that asks your ears to fill in the blanks.  Taken together, this is a interesting disc.  It is much like one would hear in a quiet club in the later evening and it seems like a conversation.  It may not appeal to everyone, especially those looking for a really smooth or full voice or more ornate piano, but it does have a certain appeal.  Click here for a sample performance.

Auction Project – Slink (David Bixler):  Leader David Bixler (alto) wrote or arranged all but one of these tracks and they are as warm, smooth and appealing as is the ensemble.  The band includes violinist and wife Heather Martin Bixler, Arturo O’Farrill (p), Carlo De Rosa (b), Vince Cherico (d) and occasional guests Mike Stern (g) and Isaac Alderson (uillean pipes) and the overall sound is a hip jazz-Irish folk.

Stefano Bollani – Joy In Spite Of Everything (ECM):  This disc features nine compositions from pianist Bollani who directs the soundscape from full quintet to duo and even solo segments at times.  Bollani has seemingly built a perfect group for this collection: in addition to his piano, Mark Turner shines on tenor, as does Bill Frisell on guitar, and the rhythm section (Jesper Bodilsen (b) and Morten Lund (d)) is exquisite.  The performance is delicate, perky, swinging, and permits each player to add his own flavor while blending with the others.  Click here for a sample and conversation with Stefano Bollani.

Jane Bunnett & Maqueque – June Bunnett & Maqueque (Justin Time):  Bunnett (flute, soprano, piccolo, marinbula, voice) leads this all female group in this hybrid Cuban music celebration. She also composed half of the songs, while bandmate singer Dayme Arocena contributed three more. The remainder of the band includes Magdelys Savigne (percussion, voice), Vissy Garcia (drums), “Yusa” (bass, tres guitar, voice), Danae Olana (piano, voice), and Celia Jimenez (bass, voice) with some occasional guests to augment the group.  The group is tight, with the vocals and Bunnett’s playing taking center stage.  The music itself is celebratory, with infectious rhythm and appealing vocals. There are strings added to several songs with more or less success depending upon how well they blend rather than overshadow the main players. Click here for a sample live performance.

The Cookers – Time And Time Again (Motema):  Billy Harper (tenor), Eddie Henderson and David Weiss (trumpets), Donald Harrison (alto), Cecil McBee (b), and Billy Hart (d) get right down to business from the opening notes on this disc featuring nine original compositions. Each of these players could easily lead his own band and, in this case, the whole is still greater than the sum of the parts.  These veterans bring the control, style, and chemistry one would expect from a group of master chefs.  They compliment each other while contributing their own personal style and strengths.  They turn the heat up or down to best serve each piece.  Their ensemble work is smooth and each song brings brings a new style while blending well with the whole and honoring the great sounds of the past with a new twist.  Well done!  Great fresh music by a great band.  One taste of this and you’ll be coming back for serving after serving!  Click here for a live performance from summer 2013.

Sammy Figueroa & Glaucia Nasser – Talisman (Savant) :  Percussionist Figueroa and vocalist Nasser have joined forces to present a vibrant and beautiful collection of Brazilian songs.  The supporting musicians (Bernardo Aguilar (pandeiro), Chrystian Galante (perc), Bianca Gismonti (piano), Chico Pinheiro and Michi Ruzitschka (guitars), Julio Falavigna (cajon), and Fernando Rosa (bass)) add to the harmony and rhythm but always keep Nasser’s lovely vocals as the focus.  Click here for an interview and sample performance.

Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trio – We’re Back (Whaling City Sound):  Drummer Gibbs has performed with numerous jazz musicians in the past several years and has organized and arranged various sessions as a leader of “Thrasher” groups from the “Dream Trio” featuring Kenny Barron (p) and Ron Carter (b) in trio versions of some of Gibbs’ favorites from the 60’s and 70’s to a “Buddy Rich style Thrasher big band”.  The Dream Trio received significant praise and what we now have is their return with jazz takes on a variety of R&B tunes composed by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Earth, Wind and Fire.  Gibbs brought in some additional “voices” (Warren Wolf – vibes, Larry Goldings – B3, and Steve Wilson – sax) to add variety.  As you might expect, the group interacts and compliments one another quite well.  There is some variability in the outcome, but the songs that allow for more exploration beyond the original melody work the best, in fact, wonderfully.

Alex Mercado Trio – Symbiosis (Alex Mercado):  Pianist Mercado and his trio, Scott Colley (b) and Antonio Sanchez (d), collaborate on ten Mercado compositions.  Mercado’s playing is fluid and dynamic, his compositions range from dramatically swinging to sweet and gentle.  The trio intertwines, blends and counters with beauty and skill from one piece to another as well as within a given piece.  A treat for the ears, the mind and your tapping feet!  Click here for a sample.

Jason Moran – All Rise: A Joyful Elegy For Fats Waller (Blue Note):   Now here is an intriguing idea: The Harlem Stage wants an interesting musical elegy for Fats Waller but not really just a retrospective.  How could we hip today’s crowd by having Fats muggin’ in today’s still?  Jason Moran, Jazz Advisor to the Kennedy Center, who has done several commissions already and played with and learned from such outside cats as Andrew Hill, Sam Rivers, Muhal Richard Abrams, and Lee Konitz, and who has been recognized as a major jazz talent by just about everyone who would know, thinks, “Hold Tight! When I’m done with this project, everyone will be saying the joint is jumping!”  So he calls Meshell Ndegeocello to sing and co-produce, Leron Thomas (trumpet,v), Josh Roseman (trombone), Stephen Lehman (sax), Charles Haynes (d, vox), Lisa E. Harris (vox), and former bandmates Tarus Mateen (b) and Nasheet Waits (d) – AND also decides to play all kinds of keyboards himself.  The result honors Waller and stands out on its own!  You should hear it for yourself! “One never knows, does one?”  Click here for some live samples.

Mitch Shiner & The Blooming Tones Big Band – Fly! (Patois):  Shiner is the percussionist/director/leader of this Bloomington, Indiana band, the BloomingTones and he is on a mission to bring big band back to the people.  On top of playing and directing, he composed half of the tunes on this disc.  Many of the members are current or former IU students and other local musicians who share or support Mitch’s mission. The band itself plays well, enthusiasm runs high and it works surprisingly well.  Click here for a discussion by Mitch Shiner about the big band project.

Blues Adds:

Graham Wood Drout’s Iko-Iko – Bullets In The Bonfire, v1 (The Songs of Graham Wood Drout) (Little Silver):  Long-standing Florida blues/roots/Mardi Gras/Gulf Coast Americana band led by Graham Wood Drout (v, b, g) who wrote or co-wrote all of the songs on this disc. Mostly a rockin’ band with intriguing lyrics on some songs like “Ghosts Of Mississippi”.  Drout’s somewhat raspy voice combines with those lyrics like mist on the bayou.  We used to call a band sound like this “good ol’ rock’n’roll”. Drout and company call it “urban voodoo”.   Click here for a live performance from 2011.

Hurricane Ruth – Born On The River (self-produced):  “Born On The River is intense and heavy, and has the same energy as a live Hurricane Ruth performance.  It directly reflects the evolution of our blues rock style.”  It should come as no surprise that a woman who names herself “Hurricane Ruth” has some attitude.  Based on her lyrics, powerful shouter style voice, and stripped down, in-your-face band (David Lumsden (g), Gary Davis (b), Jim Engel (d)), Ruth LaMaster is a Category 5.  There will be some damage done!  It’s probably too late to evacuate, so be prepared to be blown away.  This is your “in-the-face-with-a-bad-attitude-you-do-NOT-want-to-confront” blues rock wailin’ mama with her full bore slam-band.  Click here for a live performance (PG-warning).

Too Slim & The Taildraggers – Anthology (Underworld):  Tim “Too Slim” Langford wrote all but three of the 34 songs on this double-disc retrospective and he co-wrote two of the remaining three with drummer Tom Hambridge.  Tommy MacDonald handles the bass, while second guitar is Bob Britt and Jon Coleman plays keys.  Too Slim stepped out on the scene in 1986 with all the sass, strut, and fire of the best blues rockers on this planet.  His style is rooted in rock’n’roll and blues and he can trade licks with the best of ‘em.  His guitar style is very fluid and his slide is very direct.  Though his voice is scratchy and somewhat worn, it is effective and his lyrics are strong.  Disc 2 has more variety and more laid back with a different hipness than disc 1.  Make no mistake: this is blues ROCK at it’s best.  Click here for a live performance.

Johnny Winter – Step Back (Megaforce):  Winter’s final recording is a star-studded affair, seemingly intended as a celebration of his breaking his drug addiction.  Winter sings and trades licks with producer-bandmate Paul Nelson, Eric Clapton, Ben Harper, Brian Setzer, Billy Gibbons, Leslie West, and Joe Bonamasa and even gets a visit from Dr. John.  This sounds like everyone had a good time. Johnny handles most of the vocals effectively, though the ravages of time are clearly evident.  Winter’s playing is solid and shines on many solos.  Click here to go to Johnny’s 70th birthday performance with lots of guests!


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