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Ray's Music Exchange: Blue in the Face (2005)

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Ray's Music Exchange: Blue in the Face How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

It's generally considered bad writing to describe one thing in terms of something else that the reader may also need described. This may be considered bad writing, then, but I've gnawed for weeks on this Cincinnati quartet's second studio release, and fifth overall, and this is my best attempt at describing its sound.

Imagine yourself in a room with two CD players. One plays the horn-driven bop of a late-model Jazz Messengers and the other features the guitar-stoked progressive rock of King Crimson. Except that the CD players keep cutting in and out and over each other, so that sometimes you only hear progressive guitar rock, other times just funky hard bop, and sometimes horns bopping hard and funky on top of progressive rock guitar.

Got that? That's Blue in the Face.

Nick Blasky on bass and vocals; Brad Myers on guitar; Eli Hludzik on drums; and Michael "Mad Dog" Mavridoglou, who also splits time in Jazz Mandolin Project, on keyboards and trumpet form a true jazz-rock quartet that, with special thanks to guitarist Myers and trumpeter "Mad Dog," jazz and rock fans would be wise to explore.

"Gapers" and "Bowie Knife" (where Steve Kortyka guests on alto and tenor sax) end up more than the sum of their jazz-rock parts as Hludzik dips his sticks into the pool of liquid Crescent City funk (especially on snare), Myers shakes out feelin'-loose rock grooves, and Mavridoglou's trumpet busts out bebop and blues. Trumpet leads the ensemble through the melody sections of the ten-minute "Free Ride and a Hotplate" like a Jazz Messengers tune (think Terence Blanchard), alternating with guitar interludes until one erupts into a free-for-all that sets the table for more Mavridoglou.

Myers' flash guitar illuminates the electric spectrum of prog-rock explorers Bill Nelson and Robert Fripp, his angular, oddly rhythmic lines showcased in the scalding hot "Jimmy Jenga" (fusion wrapped tighter than shrink-wrapped crystal) and as the only soloist in "Red Rocket."

"Watch the Lights" provides a great description of this jazz-rock instrumental as, on top of churning bass and hard metal drums, measured half-notes switch on colorful, fat light bulbs in single file. "Mad Dog" drops in a Spanish trumpet interlude, a Latin tinge reinforced in the subsequent "Boris the Bedsnake," serpentine jazz-rock fusion with seething Latin passages led by trumpet. Myers burns this one up, too, with a solo that skirts Latin, jazz, and rock styles.

(Note: the name of Ray Charles' music shop in the original Blues Brothers movie was Ray's Music Exchange.)

Track Listing: Intro/On With the Show; Blue; Gapers; Free Ride and a Hotplate; Watch the Lights; Boris the Bedsnake; Synchrocosmic; Exidor; Jimmy Jenga; Red Rocket; Bowie Knife

Personnel: Nick Blasky: 5-string fretted bass, 6-string fretless bass, vocals; Eli Hludzik: drums, percussion; Michael "Mad Dog" Mavridoglou: trumpet, keyboards, vocals; Brad Myers: guitar; Steve Kortyka: alto saxophone, tenor saxophone

Record Label: Ray-Mayd

Style: Fusion/Progressive Rock


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