Short Takes, Part 2
Columns like "Bailey's Bundles" enable me to address more music, hopefully providing the submitting artists the consideration and exposure they, and the reading/listening public desire. So, here are more recent releases that warrant your listening attention.
George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess
Boy, is this a hard sell. Didn't Miles Davis already to this in the 1950s? Well, yes. But, then again, Miles Davis is not Clark Terry. Tasty is what this is. Tart, tight arrangements with Jeff Lindberg and the Chicago Jazz Orchestra make this collection from the Gershwin opera a veritable winner. Mr. Terry applies his trumpet and flugelhorn prowess to these time-tested tunes in a manner fully in the corner of Swing. Unlike Miles Davis, who with Gil Evans was making history with their iconoclastic vision of the rural opera, Terry chooses a more conservative approach with orchestration. His soloing, however, is another thing altogether. "Summertime" is dismantled and only partially reconstructed, leaving the familiar tune to stand on its own by the insinuation of notes. This is a superb recording that will disappoint no one.
The Bo Keys
The Royal Sessions
(Yellow Dog Records)
The Bo-Keys possess an updated Memphis Soul sound?and it is a damn good thing as they all came by it honestly. The guitarist Skip Pitts was responsible for the incendiary introduction to Isaac Hayes's "Theme from Shaft" as well as loads for work for Al Green. So, these guys are the real deal, delivering a good-natured Memphis Soul Stew on The Royal Sessions. It sounds as if the guys are having fun also. The group is of the Booker T variety being an organ quartet supplemented with horns. The sound is updated from the Otis Redding Sound of the late 1960s. No Motown allowed, only the sanctified soul of Southern R&B. For the real grease, listen to "Back at the Chicken Shack." See The Bo Keys.
(Wide Hive Records)
Trombonist Phil Ranelin edges into the Free territory while remaining firmly tethered to harmony and melody. He has formidable chops honed by his many years of working with Wendell Harrison and his friendship with John Coltrane. The spirit of that great one infuses this recording, rearing its head full with a Pharoah Sanders cameo on "This One's For Trane." Ranelin leads a nonet on this date, giving the recording a rollicking big band feel. He focuses his considerable talent on those pioneersJ.J. Johnson, Eric Dolphy, Coltrane, framing their legacies with his sensitive and informed vision. See Phil Ranelin and Widehive Records .
Vic Juris possesses a breezy free guitar style that sounds a bit like the marriage of Pat Metheny's warm, round tone with Dom Minasi's imagination. Backed by the likes of vibraphonist Joe Locke, bassist Jay Anderson, drummer Adam Nussbaum, and percussionist Jamey Haddad, Juris has managed to successfully push the freedom envelope without alienating the mainstream. His melody versus harmony is complex and always interesting as evidenced on "Soft Spoken." He is certainly capable of airing things out as he does on "Sunset on Vega." Juris is a formidable electric guitarist who does not overplay. On this all-original collection, the group sounds collectively like a modern jazz version of the George Shearing Quintet with vibes. There is a light and appealing ambiance to the disc. See ZOHO Records .
All-star affairs like Friends tend to be less that the sum of the whole because, by their nature, are a collection of singular events, in this case duets between multi-instrumentalist Eric Bibb and artists that were inspirational to himTaj Mahal, Charlie Musselwhite, Odetta, Mamadou Diabate, Martin Simpson, Kristina Olsen, Guy Davis, and Harry Manx. "Six O'clock Blues" with Charlie Musselwhite, and "Goin' Down Slow" with Taj Mahal are the best of the lot and while all of the music is very fine, there is little here to distinguish it among the many similar recordings available. See Telarc and Eric Bibb .
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey
Walking with Giants
Walking With Giants is a noisy and challenging offering from the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. Long know for his electric jazz work, Giants is an acoustic trio disc whose closest relatives available are MM&W and the Bad Plus. The Jazz Odyssey stretches the boundaries set by these bands and fills in the gaps with wall-to-wall sound. Pianist Brian Haas both holds down and breaks up the festivities with his smart free playing. Featured prominently is bassist Reed Mathis, playing cello and bass and octave-induced-bass (Hear "Lola and Alice"). This disc will appeal to all avant-garde and free jazz listeners. It will also hold its charm with the patient mainstream who have tired of the "same old thing." See Hyena Records and The Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey .