Full Moon Hacksaw
November 2018 jazz album snapshots:
Marcus Strickland: Tenor sax tone and technique, use of bass clarinet notable. But nothing from this album useable.
Christian McBride: Despite the tracks of fill and sketches, the creativity of open spaces, fragmentations serious improvisational statements and drive make this close to the attitude of a Max Roach or Elvin Jones ensemble sound. McBride shines as the obvious leader.
OJT (Organ Jazz Trio): Happening stuff, good original material and musicianship. Not too deep on groove or grease comparatively.
Aaron Goldberg: Reminds us of chamber jazz. Musicians empathetic and working well together.
Ernesto Cervini’s Turboprop: Appreciate the concept but want to re-name the music “turbo BOP.” Harmony of the horns create that impression. POST post bop.
Chucho Valdez: Outstanding, spectacular. Minimal instrumentation appreciated, more piano on this Chucho record than some of his live appearances at least as sideman. Story of how this is sequal to his Father’s 1952 recording commendable.
Jazz At Lincoln Center with Ruben Blades: Good amalgam of everyone, ensemble with conductor/custom rhythm section/front man. The orchestra disciplined & proper compared to the abandon of a Puente or Machito big band, Wynton’s trumpet sounds good over the rhythms, Ruben Blades tears it up, especially on the English language American standard popular material.
Little Victor-Deluxe Lo-Fi-Rhythm Bomb 2018
Little Victor plays distorted electric guitar, harmonica thru an invented contraption looking like an electrified shell that mounts to a neck rack, and sings with a voice rougher than Joe Cocker and Tom Waits combined, as if he’d just ingested Armagnac acid with a bleach-back.
European blues musicians do two things Americans musicians don’t: A) The innate sense of performing blues as a FEELING (with the same motive as past southern African-American masters), and B) an integrated attitude blurring lines between musical categories and not taking sides. The energy and rebellion of rockabilly is combined with the brand of blues described above. Congregating in musical cliques seems to happen less across the pond. Vocally Europeans share the same challenge as American blues-rockers: Sure, they might be able to replicate a slide guitar of Muddy, but no one will ever sing like he did. The merit of the European singers is they still develop their own style out of the opportunity, sometimes outrageously, while their American counterparts only imitate out of necessity. Instead of asking “how did this happen,” let’s instead enjoy the party.
The CD is a mixture of sessions and guests, sometimes in a minor key, other times with a surf beat, but it’s a blues disc all the way thru. That vocal and good guitar is evident thru the program. Lo fi is right, mono too. Hear controlled swing with a backbeat. Victor delays and extends or shortens bars and measures like an old Mississippi blues man. His voice begins to feel like a one-trick pony until track 6 where it’s so bad it’s good, severe agony. Continuing are nods to the slide guitar style of Elmore James, swinging barrelhouse piano, slow guitar tremolo tempo, calypsos or bossas, and he really doesn’t play that much of his own harmonica. Individual track guests like Harpdog Brown and Kim Wilson fill those slots. A really good assortment of deep grooves. Fans of old-time harmonica, electric guitar and blues piano will especially like.
RC and the Moonpie Band-All This-Houndsounds 2018
RC and the Moonpie Band supplies more groove than most American blues bands…there is a little more substance to the arrangements than usual and the frontman is a good vocalist. One problem however is the lead guitarist sounds like a VAUGHN-A-BE, a common trap that many young, especially American, musicians live in. This single dimension totally negates any other guitar feeling like a John Lee Hooker, or any solid example directly from R & B which is all the inspiration you need really need to play R & R.
After a couple enjoyable numbers on this Moonpie disc, including respect to Ruth Brown, suddenly track 3 is delivered in noticeably bad taste, and the sequence goes downhill from there. An attractive jazz selection is ruined by the vocal (which I can’t believe is the same individual), a funk potential is ruined by the wrong drum figure zapping the groove. By track 6 an acoustic slide guitar feature may redeem this disc, at least three selections from the second half sound good on blues radio. One unsolicited comment from a listener hearing only one track garnered “this band needs horns.” In the band’s defense, those horns are there and especially nice during the closing number.
Joe Filisko & Eric Noden “Destination Unknown” -RootsDuo ’18
Joe Filisko is the harmonica player, Eric Noden the guitarist. They share vocals and double on other instruments, they are original. Favorite tracks: Path you Choose, Four Letter “F” Word.
The music has good harmonies and is folky. The kazoo or accordion don’t do it for me but combined they give the music an an old-timy feel, very rural. On a Louisiana Song it might be accordion with rack-mounted harmonica in unison. Un-amplified harmonica is appealing and attractive. When electrified the tone brings back rare memories of ALAN BLIND OWL WILSON! (Quite different from Kim Wilson). The disc contains present-day serious lyrics, the minimal instrumentation and good tempo equal groove if you will. Other moments are suspended and introspective in emotion. Track 4 is simply excellent, track 5 sounds like a Piedmont picking style.
These guys have no inflated sense of who they are, just being themselves makes the results very genuine. The recording is warm, it’s just the duo and no other musicians throughout. No frills, honest. Once a while on a blues track the vocal (alternated between the two) just doesn’t fit the material, but despite that comment, this is one of the few five-star ratings I give for a 2018 blues release.
Snapshots of new release jazz albums played on-air summer 2018:
Yellowjackets with Luciana Souza. The group has matured into an intuitive jazz unit beautifully thru the decades, here typically busy and a little Brazilian. If not for Souza’s presence I still might hear it as mechanical fusion.
Lucia Jackson. I like her, something appealing and original about that innocent wavering vocal pitch and despite predictable choice of standards nothing wrong with her taste in material, excellent backing musicians.
Pianist Justin Kauflin. The first background impression sounded pretty fluffy with titles defying truth, like a lot of stuff today…But we liked “Country Fried” and soon became open-minded to hyperactive behavior. The good piano sound and playing in what first felt like a shallow setting soon changed our minds, upon careful consideration the music is quite happening, utilizing fairly standard instrumentation. The caliber of talent, especially the bassist, makes it stand out. We still don’t like all tracks.
Vocalist Cecile McLoran Salvant, “The Window.” We already liked Cecile’s voice from a previous release, needed no further authentication there. The treat of this release is the piano accompanist who we catch playing Bud Powell to Willie The Lion Smith to George Shearing….in just a few bars.
Pianist Yelena Eckemoff. This material has impact just from an instrumental standpoint. It’s more than technique or talent, it’s a philosophy & positive attitude applied thru playing styles. We don’t know who’s rising to the occasion here, soloists, horns or rhythm section parts, but suspect the pianist is the ringleader. Vocals of the Psalms are simply icing on the cake. Studious progression is obvious, noticed and appreciated.
Pianist Christian Sands. His EP was a drastic sweep between studio fireworks and live extended technical calisthenics. The only useable tracks off this latest disc for us are 3, 5, 6 and 7. Mr. Sands is not showing his promise. We’re out with the tricky time signatures, pseudo-smooth jazz, this guy is talented and we’ve heard him really play with fire. All we have here is kindling. We rate because In past offerings he’s been Tyner and Jamal, here he’s Hancock. The concluding track deals with meditation, just how deep we can’t yet say.
Myriad 3, obviously a jazz trio. Any such thing as “Contemporary Out?” This would be it, piano the strongest link, percussion a bit predictable and limited, perhaps less dimensional. This is not Corea’s and Holland’s and Altschul’s Circulus, nor do we claim those are the intensions, times or conditions here. We only know which we’d cue up next if given the choice.
Paul Simon, Into the Blue Light. Paul can do no wrong, at any time in his career. The overproduction of recent releases, such as sampling sweetening here and say since 2000, can be a bit irritating. We feel that could date the material in just a few years, whereas even his ‘70s/‘80s production remains timeless.
Vocalist Kandace Springs, Indigo (Blue Note). Admirable combination of covers and originals. We’d been warned of her voice by those who’ve heard her live. Bits and pieces of audio, tracks that are only preludes, interludes or epilogues are frustrating as only teases (We also detected the same thing on this year’s earlier EP from Kandace). Bad news? A good track is “Love Sucks” but is in bad taste, is she a millennial! Good news: “Unsophisticated” is simply excellent, (the late) Roy Hargrove as guest on trumpet is really nice.
Pianist Xavier Davis, Rise Up Detroit. This release may be the most substantive of what we’ve reviewed lately but still not a TKO. It has a very good vibe which we attribute to its title. We like the leader’s playing. After calling Regina Carter “overrated” all these years, recognizing her success as leader and guest everywhere, this album might highlight her most aggressive playing yet on record? We will play most tracks, favorites are Exodus which is Elvin-Tyner-like, and Oh Henry with good energy. Great Migration reminds us of Tony Williams’ composing side, another track deals with meditation, just how deep we can’t yet say.
Saxophonist Greg Fishman. A rare 5 stars for rising to the occasion. No obligation to cut new ground or look forward at expense of being less than the masters of whom he fits alongside simply perfectly. Perpetuating and respecting tradition, two qualities very much lacking among new musicians.
Cyrus Chestnut Trio (Buster Williams and Lenny White) fall '18
We can agree Chestnut is a high-level player, as are any of his sidemen. But tonight all stars. Almost no amplification at start, and guys were holding back, light touch. 1st thing evident was Lenny is left-handed, right-footed, making his Tony-Williams-like ride cymbal to the upper left. He was sideways on right facing in. I had closer more middle seat to better appreciate Chestnut’s hand work. Didn’t take long, soon as 2nd #, Never Been in Love, the sound was set and Buster’s fat sound detectible. Then what reminded me of Rachmaninoff, but was Chopin’s prelude (I think he said written C # minor but they transposed up a quarter step)? And put blues touches in. The opening was very well subtly done, & Williams’ bass obligatti really nice. The stoic expression of the sidemen were soon broken as they’d laugh @ ea other over a nuance a time or two. Almost sticking their funny bone. A little fire then really building well to climax. Close to the perfect trio, soon moving into to my sub conscience, Buster making a big difference. Bossa House is Not a Home. Nardis w/backbeat, Buster was the BOMB. He didn’t do a lot of chat this X until after several numbers. “I’ve been a good person up to this pt. Followed the set list but don’t feel like doing next one. Instead,” I Hear Rhapsody, collective improv w/brushes. Satie # 1 really special, Golliwog’s Cakewalk good Lenny fours. 3/4 Blame Youth/Entered Mind/Lush Life. Savored Minority. Really good energy from musicians and crowd all the way around, no encore.
Melanie fall '18
Melanie & Jeordie, who opened. Former a NY girl. Her daughter was a little nervous, but nice to me, liked my Vegas shirt. Lives & plays around here. Something @ a Johnny Mr. AZ? Know where you go Before you Stay? Above average from start. Then Brother Beau-Jarred joined playing first electric cello w/bow backwards. Then a six-string special, no hole, sounded like an 8 in places like Hunter but less consistent. Highways of Love, Ego! Melanie came out appearing more like Mama Cass than the hottie on those album covers. Good Guys Hymn, Beautiful People (’69 Netherlands hit). Man…was the son gifted on lead playing, pretty hyper until X to play, maybe Autistic? Broad-shouldered, deep vocals. This kid Beau-Jarred remastered discovered tapes by his late dad Peter of a Central Park ’72 or ’74 concert now available as a Melanie CE, playing from it Johnny Boy (dedicated to a friend from Boston acting school). Then her 2 biggest hits in a row, Brand New Key and Look What They’ve Done. She called the crowd this night family & friends, iterated very practically for me “right here, right now.” Despite just a few months it’ll be 50 yrs since Woodstock. Personally since it was my birthday eve, I thought of 6 yrs ago Leuven, & some reason roughly 8 yrs ago Bisbee. Probably since that’s when blues radio resumed. I never would have picked this concert, and didn’t know any more about her than the public, but by this point starting to get, and like, her and her art. She wanted to “gauge the vibe” for sequencing. Not at all the circus that Patrick previewed. Except maybe one pt. where Beau-Jarred went backstage quickly to noisily blow nose. He did solo guitar version Paint it Black to standing ovation. Request for Alexander Beetle. Talk how Donavan told her “We’re both still here” at Gottschalk TV taping. I liked her new stuff: Round Round Round, Duck Bottom Boat. Called Jeordie “Pixie Beast” out to rejoin on background vocals. More new, Ruins. Then she read from her book, Beau-Jarred was touring w/his parents when dad Peter died beginning of tour he himself booked, mother & son finished tour, at end staying in AZ a good yr. Couldn’t go back home (NJ? Boston?) where three had left but only two would return. She was unclear as to exactly how it happened, other than it was early in the tour, near a Whole Foods, and police showed up to inform her. Her dad was a Capitalist, she’s 60s idealism. Music cont’d past the 2-hr mark, New Break, My Love which she wanted Aretha to sing. I’m sure she did Ruby Tuesday as promised, maybe the Woodstock-inspired Lay Down (Candles in the Rain). She became more to me this night than just a pop singer. Wiki lists 38 albums.
Karrin Allyson (Lewis Nash drums) fall '18
Met quartet backstage, all very friendly, not nervous, sociable a la the drive of Popovic. Patrick introduced us, Karrin asked what I was gonna say. Well, didn’t have X to tell crowd, but told her @ the 2002 Chuck Niles compliment along w/Kitty Margolis. “Don’t remind me how many years ago!” She’s still young. Classy. Liked the ghost tie I donned. Lewis Nash! Hug, he asked if I still drumming, oh yeah. The trio got on stage uncustomary as we did intro’s, this X politically CORRECT statement that this lady is HOT STUFF. Critics, you the public, and other musicians. Touring behind Sunshine album, and soon realized this is her first all-original words/music album. Several as stand-up singer to start. Wish You were Mine, friendly and into it. Home, Sunshine. SECURE. I recalled liking her performance broadcast live one Toast NYE, I believe she played all piano that night? And figured as with most, to see her live would help w/my criticism that her records sounded wimpy. Live most definitely did it, I was already convert. The ballad Just As Well has Houston Person on the record. Shake it Up, inspired by Obama’s “Democracy zigs and zags.” Break for Rogers & Hammerstein pairing: Happy Talk, then she took over at piano, regular player switching to Rhodes for good layering & effect. Got to be Taught, obscure immediate post-war from South Pacific. “And here we are today.” Todd Straightlo wrote the ballad I Can do Anything. Staying at piano, opening riff chords like Peel me a Grape (which would REALLY work for her voice more so than Krall or others), Nobody Said Love was Easy. Mose Allison (who w/Muldauer would make good Mose by ladies set). Paul Simon, something the little girl played on sax in Simpsons? One number along here she really projected unlike her records. And I got to that spot where the music was allowed to consume me, up to then didn’t know if it could or would. Back to stand-up singing, Sophisticated let her get down to lower register, and when that ended, she looked up as to God, Duke or someone, and I got touched so that I removed glasses to wipe eyes, they fell to floor. Under someone’s seat. Rest of show trying to blot out possible sound of crowd walking on them. She took break & let trio do Monk’s Dream very effectively, that Nash is a brush master and reads like a HAWK. So busy world-wide he can’t back this lady too often. Brazilian Little Boat Paquino, Happy Now, Miro Sprague piano, Jeff Johnson (Hal Galper, PJ Jones) bass. About her style? You know it’s her, credit for that originality. The class and sharpness of Holly Hofmann with more energy & show-woman-ship. “Just about to release you, resume your evening, go sit by a cactus? I would.” Right Here Right Now (a message Melanie left us) and I Like It, no encore.
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