A Dozen Free Concert Downloads
Another performance where the set list tells it all: Nine songs such as "Maiden Voyage" and "Spain," all 11 to 20 minutes long. This quintet gives fusion classics of the '60s and '70s their due, with solos and arrangements reflecting tradition rather than attempts to remake them for the modern era, if not quite on par with Corea, Hancock and Shorter. Either Colin James or Ben Hovey (they both have keyboard credits) does a spirited run through "Spain," for instance, but can't wring the atonal twists Corea brings to the numerous recordings of his composition. But there's a consistently even quality to the set and band members interact well, making this as rewarding a listen as a person might reasonably expect.
Robert Randolph and the Family Band
Live At The Promowest Pavilion
February 19, 2005
When "teases" for Ozzy Osborne and "When The Saints Go Marching In" are part of the set list, it's fair to assume one of them is going to get a radical makeover. If you thought it'd be tradition because of the "Family Band" moniker, guess again. This gig in Columbus, Ohio, also features four long, vaguely defined "jams" and a roaring crowd prominent during songs like "Shake Your Hips" and a 15-minute "Thank You." There's at least as much familiar crowd-pleasing R&B covers as anything, but guitarist/ vocalist Robert Randolph and keyboardist/violinist Jason Crosby fill plenty of space with Scofield-like neojazz instead of whatever happens to easily fit in a 12-bar blues progression.
Live at the Tonic Lounge
The debut album by this young smooth jazz group sounds like Spyro Gyra on a good day, so it's worth enduring some awful audio quality to hear them expand on those concepts and tackle mainstream compositions like "Impressions" during this 80-minute show. Saxophonist Chris Hardin, able to stand out best in this harmonic setting, sounds and plays more like Rollins than Beckerstein during mainstream segments and drummer Drew Shoals keeps things interesting with mostly loose rock/fusion backings. Unfortunately the mono mix is a muddy messmaybe the worst of the shows here - reminiscent of a cheap tape deck left in the center of the stage. It does mean the show fits into a mere 27MB (maybe one-third of a normal quality MP3 recording), but it's also a continuous fileso listeners can't pick and choose favorite songs.
Live at the McKenzie Ballroom Springfield, Ore.
March 16, 1999
Gets bogged down at times
it's a nearly five-hour performance
but with enough more than enough standout moments to make sorting through it worthwhile. Sometimes just picking favorable song titles works best: "Hillbillies on PCP," "My Favorite Things" and "A New Africa" are proof of the quality and diversity of this group at their best. Lead guitarist Steve Kimrock stands out, playing everything from bop ballads to near heavy-metal rock with authority. The sound quality is also solid, a definite bonus if one is spending half a day listening to it.
Manhattans in Syracuse, N.Y.
November 6, 2004
Modern fusion for people who want music in the foreground rather than background is delivered skillfully by this New York quartet formed a dozen years ago. Suke Cerulo is an impressive Scofield disciple on guitar (and a more breezy one on flute). Bassist Paco Mahone reflects the fusion side of John Patitucci, whom he studies with. Jesse Gibbon is more choppy and introspective than twisting on organ and keyboards, but seldom dull. The group can get lost in overly long and muddy jams at times, but returns to more interesting ground before most listeners who can appreciate them are likely to wander off.
Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra
Live At The Middle East Cafe
November 3, 2004
Bring an open mind and your visa to this 2 1/4-hour show in Cambridge, Mass., because the 13- member jazz/Nigerian Arfobeat group has a world of collective exposure and compositions typically go way beyond the typical four-minute American express. They reject the "jam band" concept, instead having vocalist Amayo, trombonist Aaron Johnson and saxophonist Stuart Bogie conduct various parts with improvisations interspaced throughout. This show is heavy on funk (and some anti-Bush remarksit was election time, after all) and interaction with the crowd is top-notch. The main annoyance is mediocre recording quality, although it's distinctive enough most of the players can at least be heard.
Live At Southpaw
February 12, 2005