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Jazz Finery Again Awakens

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The Holmes Brothers play rock n
It's great to remember that no American musical style has "rung out the old and rung in the new" as consistently and inventively as jazz. This assortment of new releases combines music old and blue with styles borrowed and new, a multicolored snapshot of the myriad possibilities inherent in modern music at the time the 2003 - 2004 calendar pages turn.

Verve//Unmixed2 (Verve)
This compilation presents the source material, the original Verve sessions (most produced by Norman Granz or Creed Taylor) for the Verve//Remixed2 project. Female vocalists dominate, with two songs each from Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald plus tracks by Astrud Gilberto, Betty Carter, and Sarah Vaughan. Unmixed2 cuts from Cal Tjader, Willie Bobo, and Dizzy Gillespie also highlight VerveÂ's contributions to Latin jazz.

Co-composed with Walter Fuller and Chano Pozo, "Manteca" is one of Gillespie's most enduring and hard-driving Latin vehicles, and this celebrated live at Carnegie Hall concert recording gets rocked hard by bassist Art Davis and three percussionists. Gillespie is all fire and brimstone business, and the percussion break before the climactic call-and-response ending is the stuff of musical legend. Gillespie and Pozo also co-wrote this title track to Tjader's Soul Sauce LP, served in barely more than a quick dash but still spilling over with Tjader's vibes. Willie Bobo, one of Tjader's percussionists on "Sauce," continues to serve just the right mix of relaxed groove and hot Latin spice in the next cut, "Fried Neckbones and Some Homefries."

Miss Sarah is the very personification of sophistication as she sashays through "Whatever Lola Wants" from Damn Yankees, while Ella glides with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra through the Gershwin's "Slap That Bass" from the Astaire/Rogers' film Shall We Dance, then returns with the sad ballad "Angel Eyes" in duet with whispering guitarist Barney Kessel.

Ramsey Lewis on electric keyboards rocks hard with bassist Cleveland Eaton and Earth Wind & Fire founder and stalwart Maurice White on drums through "Do What You Wanna," one of those old-school, good-time soul instrumentals that modern music sadly seems to have left behind - yet still sounds simply great.


The Holmes Brothers: Simple Truths (Alligator)
Simple Truths is an album full of songs like that, but with gospel and blues vocals, too.

The Holmes Brothers play rock n' roll like a band that grew up playing the blues on Saturday night then played gospel in church on Sunday morning: Popsy Dixon on drums, Wendell Holmes on guitar and keyboards and Sherman Holmes on bass, play rough and tumble with the blues; but their vocal harmonies, most often casting Sherman's baritone and Popsy's falsetto in harmony with Wendell's rough leads, ring like a churchbell with sweet, sweet gospel (their hometown: Christchurch, Virginia).

Simple Truths rings both simple and true, from its abundance of classics by such songwriters as Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zandt, and Bob Marley, to its other blues ("Big Boss Man") and R&B (Bruce Channel's soul-stirring "Hey Baby") classics, its four new originals, even to its bluegrass-y, hop-skippity up-tempo cover of "Shine" by grunge-popsters Collective Soul (which comes off better than the idea might sound).

Like a musical summit between the Five Blind Boys of Alabama and George Thorogood & his Delaware Destroyers, "Run Myself Out of Town" opens up a can o' good old-fashioned rock & roll whoop-ass then sweetens when serving with heavenly gospel harmonies. A grinding, metallic "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" also shoots off sparks, raw old-school Chicago screaming electric guitar blues possessed by the spirits of Son Seals and Hound Dog Taylor.

"Hey Baby" is another one of those cool little songs of the kind you almost never hear any more: Close your eyes and imagine Ray Charles (Sherman) on vocals soulfully swinging unplugged, acoustic guitar backporch funk with Eric Clapton (Wendell and guest guitarist Chris Bruce).

The Holmes Brothers have been performing together since the late 1970s. Their resume includes sessions by Peter Gabriel, Van Morrison, the Jungle Brothers, and Joan Osborne, who also asked them to be her backing band when she toured opening for Bob Dylan. You can also hear The Holmes Brothers supporting Osborne, Odetta, Phoebe Snow, and Victoria Williams on Shout, Sister, Shout (M.C. Records), a tribute album to Sister Rosetta Tharpe.


Rewind3! Original Classics Reworked, Remixed, Reedited and Rewound 3 (Ubiquity)
"The Rewind concept is simple: a selection of our current favorite artists, producers, and bands record new versions of tunes that inspired them to make the music you love 'em for now."


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