Review: Dave Douglas Quintet – Time Travel

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Jun 042013
 
Dave Douglas Quintet - Time Travel

Following trumpeter Douglas’ moving album for his late mother, Be Still, which featured an almost folk music feel and vocals, Douglas returns with a quintet recording that is a cousin, stylistically, to the Miles Davis “Second Great Quintet of the mid-1960s.” Jon Irabagon (saxophone), Matt Mitchell (piano), Linda Oh (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums) are tight, matching musical wits with Douglas on a series of seven new compositions. The title track, indeed, “time travels” with rhythms that seem to break up and reconstitute themselves, with solos ranging from post-bop to virtually free. “Law of Historical Memory” is slow and deliberate, while the following “Beware of Doug” has a hard-swinging, upbeat Art Blakey feel. The fast-paced “Garden State” builds to a climax which, in turn, leads to an inventive solo by Oh. In short, Time Travel is yet another triumph for the sometimes chameleonic Douglas, who breathes fresh life into the concept of the classic quintet lineup. Douglas, in celebration of his 50th birthday, has announced plans to tour all 50 states; at deadline time, there was no word of a Kentucky date, but let’s hope that will work out.

Review:Mark Kleinhaut & Neil Lamb

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Mar 122013
 
Kleinhaut & Lamb Jones Street

Mark Kleinhaut & Neil Lamb – Jones Street (www.invisiblemusic.com)

By Martin Z. Kasdan Jr.

I have only been to Savannah, Georgia, once and spent all too little time there. This album of guitar duets was recorded there during 2010 and 2011, during vacations by Kleinhaut and Lamb. All the tunes are originals; indeed, according to Bill Milkowski’s liner notes, they were distilled from many hours of casual recordings. They evoke the warmth and genteel nature of Savannah, beginning with the upbeat opener, “City Market.” “Trickster” lives up to its name, with tricky syncopations. “Guitar Bar” is laidback and bluesy, while “Twilight Garden,” has a somewhat eerie feel, apparently inspired by Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. This is a recording that is like a conversation, in music rather than words, between two old friends, and will be savored by fans of guitar jazz.

Jimi Hendrix : People, Hell & Angels (Columbia/Legacy, www.legacyrecordings.com, www.jimihendrix.com)

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Mar 122013
 
Jimi Hendrix People, Hell & Angels

Jimi Hendrix : People, Hell & Angels (Columbia/Legacy, www.legacyrecordings.com, www.jimihendrix.com)
By Martin Z. Kasdan Jr

After the release of Valleys of Neptune and West Coast Seattle Boy, the Hendrix fan might well view another album of previously unreleased material with a certain cynicism. However, People, Hell & Angels does provide a series of audio snapshots of the creative arc Hendrix was pursuing in the studio following his breakup of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. While it boasts twelve unreleased recordings, many are songs familiar to the fan, although in different versions. One of the more interesting is the opening “Earth Blues,” featuring Hendrix with just Billy Cox and Buddy Miles. The lesser known “Somewhere” is next, with Miles and Stephen Stills on bass. Two more staples of the live repertoire follow, “Hear My Train A Comin'” and “Bleeding Heart,” which demonstrate how Hendrix enlarged the language of the blues. What comes next is more unique, “Soul Food,” a fast-paced, funky tune featuring saxophonist Lonnie Youngblood. Skipping over alternate versions of other well-known pieces, another unusual piece is “Mojo Man,” with the Ghetto Fighters, Albert and Arthur Allen. In short, there is plenty of intriguing music here.

CD Review: Charles Lloyd/Jason Moran – Hagar s Song (ECM 2266)

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Mar 082013
 
Hagar's Song - Charles Lloyd/Jason Moran

By Martin Z. Kasdan, Jr.

Charles Lloyd continues to experiment with different lineups, here choosing to record an album of duets with his current pianist, Jason Moran. The first six songs and the final three are, with one exception, interpretations of jazz and pop standards, including a delicate performance of Billy Strayhorn’s “Pretty Girl,” also known as “Star Crossed Lovers.” The duo remain in Ellington territory with “Mood Indigo,” featuring saxophone embellishments over a straightforward read of the classic. After three more pieces, the five-part “Hagar Suite” begins. As there are no liner notes, I will quote from the ECM website: “The centerpiece of the set is the title suite composed by Lloyd and dedicated to his great-great-grandmother, who was taken from her home in south Mississippi at age 10 and sold to a slave-owner in Tennessee. ‘When I learned the story of her life it moved me very deeply,’ says Lloyd. ‘The suite mirrors the stages of her life; loss of family, loneliness and the unknown, dreams, sorrow, and songs to her newborn children.'” Indeed, the first four movements, even without the backstory, clearly represent a winding journey, tinged with sadness and yearning. The third and fourth movements, ominous in tone, flow into one another, with tambourine accents. There seems to be resolution in the closing “Hagar’s Lullaby.” The album concludes with Earl Hines’ “Rosetta,” a happy contrast to the suite, and two ballads, “I Shall Be Released” (dedicated by Lloyd to Levon Helm) and The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows.” It’s clear as Lloyd approaches 75 (on March 15) that he continues to explore his art and passion, not resting on his laurels. A box set of his first five albums for ECM, collectively entitled Quartets, is scheduled for release in April, and documents Lloyd’s artistry from 1989 through 1996.

Review: Grateful Dead – Road Trips No. 4 and Europe 72 Vol. 2

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Oct 032011
 

Grateful Dead - Road Trips No. 4

Grateful Dead - Road Trips No. 4


Grateful Dead Europe 72

Grateful Dead Europe 72


Grateful Dead

Road Trips Vol. 4 No. 4 and Europe ’72, Vol. 2 (www.dead.net)

The Dead have released decade-apart concert recordings from 1972 and 1982, which demonstrate the change in their sound and approach. The original Europe ’72 was a 3-LP set, reissued later on 2 CDS. The new 2-CD set is drawn from a massive 73-disc set including all the recordings from the tour. Volume 2 wisely presents an entirely different set of songs than those on the original album. The Dead, touring at a relatively relaxed pace to new audiences, sparkle and shine through shorter pieces such as the then-new pieces “Bertha” and Pigpen’s “Chinatown Shuffle.” Although he was in seriously declining health, Pigpen could still rouse an audience with his patented workouts on “Good Lovin'” and others. The deeply exploratory side of the Dead is represented by the legendary, almost hour-long “Dark Star>Drums>The Other One” from the Bickershaw Festival. As of this writing, complete individual shows from this tour will be available separately. The original deluxe box sold out its 7200 edition within days, and a bare-bones pack was then made available.


A decade later, the Dead had returned to its two-drummer lineup, with Brent Mydland on keyboards and vocals. Road Trips Vol. 4 No. 4 is a 3-CD set of the complete April 6, 1982 Philadelphia concert, with excerpts from the prior night there. During this era, the band’s sound was a bit more polished, yet more predictable. The first disc comprises a typical first set for the era. The second set allows more room for jamming, with the funk of “Shakedown Street” leading into “Lost Sailor/Saint of Circumstance,” which in turn rolls into the mythic lyricism of “Terrapin Station.” The drummers take over with exotic percussion, devolving into the Garcia/Weir/Lesh “Space” noodling. The editing is odd, as the opening strains of “Truckin'” fade, followed by some songs from the prior night, before “Truckin'” resumes on disc 3. In any event, this release is enjoyable, but perhaps essential only for those who were there or whose early shows were in this ’80’s.

Review: Jimi Hendrix – Hendrix In The West and Winterland

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Oct 032011
 

Jimi Hendrix - West

Jimi Hendrix - West


Jimi Hendrix - Winterland

Jimi Hendrix - Winterland

Jimi Hendrix

Hendrix in the West and Winterland (Sony Legacy, www.legacyrecordings.com)

These two releases expand on the prior versions, a boon to fans. In the West has been out of print, and as newly issued substitutes some takes of songs from the LP with other versions, while adding newly released material. “Voodoo Child” is a standout here. This includes the Jimi Hendrix Experience as well as other groups led by the guitarist who, in many ways, revolutionized guitar playing. Winterland , originally a single CD in 1987, is now a 4-CD set, with lots of photos and an essay by respected Rolling Stone writer David Fricke. A caveat: one apparently knowledgeable reviewer on Amazon points out that some songs as presented here have been edited oddly, with solos missing from some pieces. Even if this is true, the set still is worth having for a look at how, like a jazz musician, Hendrix could do the same song two or three nights in a row, but with fresh improvisation and musical nuances. Some of my favorite material comes on Disc Two, from October 11, 1968, where Buddy Miles’ flutist Virgil Gonsalves adds a different flavor to “Are You Experienced” and more. Drummer Mitch Mitchell’s jazz background comes through clearly, as on most songs he does not merely keep time but solos as one-third of a band, prodding Hendrix and bassist Noel Redding. While expected tunes such as “Foxey Lady” are here, so too are such relative rarities as “Spanish Castle Magic” and Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love.” There is also a 19-minute interview, displaying Hendrix’s wise beyond his years appreciation for his influences and his focus on creating something unique. A single-disc “Best of Winterland” compilation is available, but Hendrix fans will probably want all the live material they can get.

Review: Charles Lloyd Quartet – Athens Concert

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Oct 032011
 

Charles Lloyd - Athens Concert

Charles Lloyd - Athens Concert


Charles Lloyd Quartet

Athens Concert (ECM 2205, www.ecmrecords.com)

Saxophonist Charles Lloyd continues to push boundaries and play inspirational music. Back in the 1960s, he shared the stage at the Fillmore in San Francisco with artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Love and the Grateful Dead, while maintaining an acoustic lineup featuring then-youngbloods Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette. Almost a half century later, Lloyd continues to challenge himself, his band, and his audience. After exploring a blend of Indian music and jazz on the 2006 release Sangam , Master Lloyd has now turned his attention to the music of Greece. One word review: exquisite.

Athens Concert was recorded last June (2010) and features Lloyd’s current, all-star quartet: Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers on bass, and Eric Harland on drums. They are augmented here by Takis Farazis on additional piano and arrangements, Socratis Sinopoulos on lyra (a bowed instrument), and the remarkable vocalist Maria Farantouri. Over the course of the two discs here, Lloyd revisits his early classic “Dream Weaver” and his more recent composition, “Prayer,” written for his late friend drummer Billy Higgins. Two other Lloyd compositions are “Blow Wind,” with evocative lyrics, and “Requiem,” with lyrics by Agathi Dimitrouka. All lyrics, whether originally English or translated from Greek, are included in the booklet. The concert opens with the ethereal “Kratissa Ti Zoi Mou [I Kept Hold of My Life],” one of two compositions by Mikis Theodorakis. Lloyd’s saxophone playing is like a warm ray of sun, with subtle accompaniment by his quartet and heavenly singing. Much of the concert is given over to the three-part “Greek Suite,” incorporating traditional (even ancient) Greek music with modern Greek compositions and Lloyd’s synthesis of styles. While songs such as “Dream Weaver” may clearly be jazz, this is not a “jazz album” in any standard sense of the word. Rather, it is a voyage through time and space. Followers of Charles Lloyd will appreciate this, as will lovers of world music and exploratory jazz.

Stan Getz: The Complete Columbia Collections

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Aug 082011
 

Stan Getz: The Complete Columbia Collections

Stan Getz

The Complete Columbia Albums Collection

(Sony Legacy, www.legacyrecordings.com)

By Martin Z. Kasdan, Jr.

Sax great Stan Getz needs no introduction, his works having crossed over into popular culture with his early tenure as one of the famed “Four Brothers” in Woody Herman’s Second Herd, and continuing through his Grammy-winning rendition of “Girl from Ipanema” in 1965. His jazz credentials remained solid throughout the decades. His work for Columbia, spanning 1972-79, has now been issued as an 8-disc box set, which spans the stylistic range from the searing fusion of Captain Marvel to the lush orchestrations of the little-known Forest Eyes soundtrack. Mainstream is well represented by The Master and his classic recording with Jimmie Rowles, alternately known as Stan Getz Presents Jimmie Rowles and The Peacocks . His collaboration with Joao Gilberto, The Best of Two Worlds, is a delightful continuation of the 1960s run of Bossa Nova albums. A bonus disc includes live recordings with Getz as a featured soloist with Woody Herman’s New Thundering Herd (Carnegie Hall, 1976), a 1977 piece from Montreux, and the two songs previously released as part of Havana Jam 2 . Rounding out the collection are two late ’70s albums, Another World and Children of the World . Taken as a whole, the collection encompasses virtually every style of jazz other than traditional and avant-garde. Getz’s warm playing, of course, is the constant. Captain Marvel , in particular, should be more widely known, as Getz joins forces with Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke, Airto Moreira and Tony Williams for a program of songs which presage the Return to Forever Light as a Feather album. On Another World , Getz incorporates electronic effects into many of the pieces, with the title track finding the saxophonist weaving a solo, echo-laden tapestry redolent of Terry Riley and some of John Surman’s ECM works. However, this 2-LP-on-1-CD set also includes many straightahead pieces as well. Children of the World is a bit glossy and more pop oriented than the other albums. The only drawback to this box set is that the booklet, which includes complete personnel listings and recording dates, does not include the liner notes from the original albums, which are reproduced in tiny CD scale on the individual covers within the box.

Nick Peay – Life & Love & Us

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Aug 082011
 

Ukuleles and Dogs


Nick Peay - Life & Love & Us

Nick Peay - Life & Love & Us

Life & Love & Us (Independent)

Nick Peay

The ukulele is such a distinctive sounding instrument that it is almost a make-or-break thing. Reactions might vary from “hey, that’s a good tune for a ukulele” to “why the hell is there a ukulele in that song?” This is why you don’t hear a lot of ukuleles in death metal.

Louisville’s Nick Peay puts the ukulele front and center in his fun and happy songs, and guess what? It sounds right at home – almost to the point that it would be tough to imagine Peay’s music without that familiar tone of the miniature stringed instrument.

His new album Life & Love & Us is a happy little jaunt. It kicks off with the merry ditty “Wild Dreams,” which is about getting away from life and leaving your cares behind you. Musically, it is driven by the ukulele and adorned with a brief guitar solo and whistling.

“Swept Away” is a weather metaphor connecting last spring’s ridiculous flooding and getting swept away with emotions. This track has some gorgeous backing vocals that help give it, pun intended, necessary depth.

“Haunting Place” follows a couple from their first date through the end of their lives together. While the title sounds heavy, it really is just a song about enduring love. It even mentions going on a picnic and taking along a box of wine. This song reminds vaguely of the style of Fran Healy of the Scottish band Travis – a great compliment. Besides, you gotta like a love song that mentions boxed wine, right?

Again, all of this illustrates the point that ukulele, an inherently happy sounding instrument, simply fits in Peay’s music. Much like the ukulele, Peay is almost impossibly upbeat, and even his vocal delivery seems inherently bright. In a time of the angst-filled and sexually-driven music on the airwaves, this collection is a nice breath of fresh air. Almost literally.

The album culminates with “A Day in the Life (of My Dog),” which is exactly what the title suggests. As Peay notes in a video introducing the album, “in a dog’s mind, pretty much every day is the best day ever.” And there you have it. Dog lovers need to have this song on their iPods, like, now. The rest of the album is worth a shot for all you fans of life and love and happiness.

Find out more at nickpeaymusic.com. Peay’s CD release show is Aug. 13 at Monkey Wrench.

Butch Rice – Fall For Me

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Aug 082011
 

Pure Pop


Butch Rice - Fall For Me

Butch Rice - Fall For Me

Fall For Me (Independent)

Butch Rice

Butch Rice is pure pop. For some, the “P” word is dirty, but Louisville mainstay Rice is undeterred. As evidenced by his latest, Fall For Me, he spins out the emotions and sticky hooks with abandon. And he does it well.

Far removed from his debut Acoustic Pop (1999), Rice’s latest effort is similarly melodic and emotionally driven, but there is production where there should be production, adding depth and completing the varying moods of each song.

The title track leads off the eight-song disc with classic mournful Rice longing for someone who seems just out of his reach. The slowly marching rhythm, acoustic guitars and piano provide just enough of a backdrop for lyrics like this one: “Lost in all your subtleties/I kiss your face and taste your mysteries/You whisper you might let me see/Who you are, you might be wanting me.”

See? Pop. But Rice does it deftly – he’s a Ryan Adams disciple, an influence which blends nicely with his roots in 1960s, 1970s and ’80s pop (catch a live show sometime and request his take on “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” – you won’t be sorry).

“Love Falls Down” is another album highlight. Bursting with energy, this track builds from the word go and rides a big chorus that culminates with a chorus of backing vocals, a gorgeous keyboard backdrop, and a deftly played lead guitar.

But what drives this set more than anything is Rice’s distinctive voice. It is truly unique, both soulful and intense, with a timbre that fits his emotionally-driven songs perfectly. His singing style is similarly unique, because he fills in gaps – even when he isn’t belting out a lyric, often he will fill space with oohs and ohs that somehow sound just as heart-wrenching as lines like, “As I fall to the floor/On my knees I scream your name.”

Tracks like “Too Late” and “Wasted” show Rice in his more familiar stripped-down persona, which lends plenty of breathing room to his voice and, therefore, his emotive storytelling. It sounds cliché, but if you let yourself really listen and get into the songs? You’ll find yourself getting chills.

This is a welcome return that sets the bar higher still for Rice’s music. Here’s hoping Fall For Me is the launching it sounds like it could be.

Find out more at butchrice.com. The CD release show is Friday, Aug. 5, at Saint’s Skybar in St. Matthews.