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April 2005

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Jethro Tull

(DVD) Nothing Is Easy: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970

Eagle Rock Entertainment

2005

New limited edition DVD of the famed British rock band performing in front of 600,000 fans, which by all accounts represents the largest audience in the annals of pop. This wonderful footage highlights Tull's early stages, steeped within blues-rock and counterbalanced by an occasional jazz riff. The film is augmented by a recent interview with Tull's ever-articulate leader and flutist/vocalist Ian Anderson, who provides the narrative, amid humorous anecdotes. Simply stated, it's an enchanting trip down memory lane.

Yo Miles! Henry Kaiser & Wadada Leo Smith

Upriver

Cuneiform Records

2005

Latest two-CD installment of guitarist Henry Kaiser and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith's electric Miles Davis tribute schema, fortified by a contemporary groove. Again, it's a star-studded cast featuring bassist Michael Manring, sax heroes Greg Osby and John Tchicai, and other notables. Featuring lengthy tracks and lots of improvisational episodes, this release in particular is not quite as poignant as the previous outings. But it's an electrifying jamboree consisting of spacey interludes, snaky funk-grooves and top-flight soloing ventures by the respective artists. And whether or not you own a SACD unit to capitalize on the Super Audio sound, a decent CD-based system will yield stunning sonic attributes.

Peter Cusack

Baikal Ice (Spring 2003)

ReR Megacorp

2005

During the spring of 2003, Peter Cusack trekked to Lake Baikal in Siberia to record the sounds of ice breaking up, where he transfers the sounds of mother earth to your listening space. It's nature at work, highlighted by trebly, rumbling sounds and honking gulls and jangling icicles. Cusack provides insight into the project via his liners. Essentially, he correlates the basis for this undertaking along with some of his traveling experiences within this remote and incredibly scenic area. Regardless, Cusack's brainchild looms as a rather unique aural endeavor, as the sounds of nature might not appear to be as obvious as many of us would surmise.

Ron Levy's Wild Kingdom

Voodoo Boogaloo

Levtron

2005

Hammond B-3 expert Ron Levy's self-identified "jungle grooves speak proverbial volumes throughout this wildly entertaining set. Along with noted saxophonist Karl Denson and various guest artists, Levy melds '70s style soul-funk with melodic hooks atop snappy rhythms. At times, the ensemble pursues some delectable cheesecake fare by way of Levy's clavinet work, hearkening back to earlier musical times. In addition, these pieces strike a significant chord, aided by the artists' strong soloing endeavors, and good-timey vibes. Levy and his bandmates fuse tasteful grooves with a pumped-up attack, firmed up by a raucous, party-like atmosphere. They mix the old with the new, and the overall results are quite impressive.

Machine and the Synergetic Nuts

Leap Second Neutral

Cuneiform Records

2005

This Japanese jazz/progressive-rock quintet's latest outing packs a mighty wallop. It's variable parts: hard-edged, Hammond B-3 licks, with booming bass lines and crunching rhythms. However, saxophonist Mahi-mahi offers a jazzy edge with melodic lines and torrid soloing. The quintet's penchant for churning out harmonious voicings with lyricism that becomes etched in your mind signifies an added bonus. They're quite unlike many jazz-rock units that focus more on technical gymnastics and ungodly time changes, sans quality compositions. No doubt, this affair looms as one of the top picks of its ilk for 2005!

Ithamara Koorax

Love Dance: The Ballad Album

Ithamara Koorax

2005

Rio De Janeiro resident jazz vocalist Ithamara Koorax placed near the top of Downbeat magazine's 2002 readers poll for best female jazz singer. This recording features the vocalist performing with notables such as guitarist John McLaughlin, pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and others. Here, Koorax provides delicate and sensuous treatment to works by Jobim, Claus Ogerman and originals by her band-mates. Nonetheless, Koorax possesses an amazingly beautiful voice, partly enhanced by the producers' apparent decision to add a dash of reverb to her vocals. To that end, her passionate delivery and stamp of authenticity is perhaps akin to someone divulging their innermost secrets. (Zealously recommended...)

Quick Picks

Charlie Byrd

Homage to Jobim: Live at the Fujitsu-Concord 26th Jazz Festival

Concord Records

2005

New release culled from a 1994 concert featuring the late jazz/bossa nova provocateur, guitarist Charlie Byrd and his septet. Byrd's finesse shines resplendently atop fervent soloing by clarinetist Ken Peplowski and pianist Alan Farnham. A must-hear for the legion of Byrd aficionados...

DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid

Drums of Death

Thirsty Ear


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