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A Long List of Free Recordings for the Long Days of Summer

By Published: June 21, 2005
Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen is a hot item as this is being written, earning nearly universal accolades for doing a lot (of intensity) with a little (in terms of notes) on his new album The Ground. But maybe the mentality is just a Scandinavian thing, as the ten-member group Jaga Jazzist squeezes more ideas and variety into a seven-song, 37-minute collection than some contemporary jazz artists do in a career. From the mellow contemporary guitar-and-flute smoothness of "The Penguins Of Bartlome" to the discordant electric freeform funk of "Lithuania," it's tough to imagine many bands doing a better job of capturing their evolution so concisely. Their work doesn't always feel top-tier - whether their move into electronica constitutes progress is something fans can debate at length - but it's hard to dispute most of it attempts to be creative and original.

Karl Denson's Tiny Universe
Live At 17th annual DuPont Clifford Brown Jazz Festival

Variations on the phrase "funk/jam band" appear in a lot of these download reviews, since that seems to be the chosen genre of many bands posting material online these days. So here it makes sense to mention one that is a cut above most. Led by Denson, former saxman for Lenny Kravitz, this sextet's June 7, 2005, concert in Wilmington, Del., possesses true jazz/funk roots - compared to many groups that are little more than garage rock instrumental jammers - and this set of originals is crisp and mostly clean- sounding. Songs drop more into ordinary R&B territory during the vocal portions of pieces like "Groovy Thing" (although "Bag Of Funk" is livelier, better sung and meshes better with the instrumentation). There's also a few recording hitches, such as a brief severe level drop-out in the middle of the engaging "Jam." doesn't slow down for "Flute Down" (although I swear the song is based on some funky TV theme I can't quite recall). Still, generally solid work and, while this is the only show posted so far for 2005, there's more than 100 more from the same site for those who enjoy this one.

Boston Horns
Various live performance tracks

This intense funk sextet blends world, blues and neo-Dixie stylings into consistent high-energy jams that are simply a lot of fun—in both the (mostly) good and bad sense. Much like Maceo Parker or Tower Of Power, it's easy to latch onto their work immediately and stay in a groove throughout, but there's also a lot of repetitive and somewhat predictable riffing to keep what's no doubt a sizable dance crowd happy. It's hard to find much weakness in their effort, however, and that's considerably more than can be said for many acts. The seven lengthy songs at their web site are better both in sound and quality than a show from the Internet Archive, with the latter likely to be of interest only to serious fans.

The Woodshed
Hallapalooza 2005 and live at The Bistro

It's tough not to like a band with this variety (from "Take The 'A' Train" to '60s rock to modern funk originals) and incredibly liberal file-sharing policies ("if anyone is interested in older shows (not posted) just sent us an e-mail and we'll send you a zipped copy"). The only problem: Performances are uneven and the sound quality is lacking, especially for recordings from the band itself. They're generally best on fusion/funk/jam songs like "Andorra," competent and interesting on "'A' Train" and terrible on off-key vocal pieces like "Take Me To The River." In short, this is a band whose development one roots for.

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