One, Three, Two
The Vinny Golia Quintet
Multi-woodwind ace Vinny Golia will undoubtedly be cited as one of the hardest working jazz artists in recent times. On this 2-CD set, recorded live in Brussels, Belgium, Golia, and his fellow Californian jazz aces cover quite a bit of ground. Performing on a variety of reed instruments, Golia and electric guitarist Nels Cline jab and spar through a cavalcade of metrics and vibes, while trombonist Michael Pierre Vlatkovich adds a gruff, and rather poignant element to the band’s chemistry. During these two discs, you’ll hear foot stomping swing vamps shaded with soaring lines, amid free form improv and complexly woven time signatures. And while the live recording itself tends to sound a bit raw and unpolished, the musicians’ line of attack and deterministic intentions speak proverbial volumes.
Modern jazz guitar hero John Abercrombie’s fruitful affiliation with violinist Mark Feldman continues with this recently issued outing. Supported by the dream rhythm section of bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joey Baron, this recording could have also been titled A Touch Of Class. Four stylists at work here, folks. Moreover, Abercrombie and Johnson’s combined fusion of elegance via sanguine interludes and spiced with heated exchanges, offer a multihued element to the overall game plan. The preponderance of this engagement equates to a rather mindful journey into a musical roller coaster ride.
One Moment More
A New York native who subsequently migrated to Nashville, singer/songwriter Mindy Smith’s blossoming star potential cannot be underestimated. Coupled with a voice that could only be fabricated in the heavens, this young diva’s compositional skills are downright noteworthy. Several songs would seemingly enjoy widespread radio airplay. Ms Smith’s music might be categorized as a potpourri of C&W, pop and folk. More importantly, she casts a singular identity throughout this undeniably alluring production. Stay tuned; Ms Smith has distinguished herself in prominent fashion with this superb debut released back in January 2004.
Trumpeter Vaughn Nark can surely hit those high C’s! Tinged with a contemporary jazz vibe, the artist and his large ensemble render a mixed bag. They cover Nat Adderley’s “Work Song,” Miles Davis’ “All Blues,” Gershwin’s “Crush On You,” and seven other standards of various flavors and genres. However, this rather audacious event literally starts and stops on a high note. Check out the band’s passionate and soulful re-working of “America,” featuring the leader’s earnest vocals.
Live In Paris
Soft Machine aficionados can rejoice once again, as Cuneiform Records raises some old tapes from the ashes featuring a lineup that lasted for six months. These two CDs highlight the musicians’ improvisational prowess via Elton Dean (sax/electric piano), Mike Ratledge (keys), Hugh Hopper (bass) and John Marhsall’s respective or group based comps. The good news is that the sound quality is much better than most undertakings of this ilk. Soft Machine still maintains a cult-ish following, although the members have since ventured into a plethora of projects of various colors and genres. But there’s no doubting the band’s intent and deterministic mode of attack during these twelve jazz centric works, recorded live at a venue in Paris.
Live At The BBC
These recordings were made for BBC radio in 1976, after guitarist Jan Akkerman left the band due to philosophical differences regarding the unit’s direction. Belgian guitar great Philip Catherine replaces Akkerman while American session drummer Dave Kemper handles the brisk time changes. Two original members, keyboardist/flutist Thijs Van Leer and bassist Bert Ruiter, round out this version of Focus, as the band performs its smash hit, “Hocus Pocus,” and Catherine’s high-octane jazz-fusion piece, “sneezing Bull.” With that, the recording quality, while a tad muddy in spots, is not a deterrent.
Music for the Feature Film: The Boys
The Necks are an Australian trio that employs minimalist concepts in concert with ostinato grooves, a trance-like momentum and elongated melodies. This newly reissued recording serves as the score for a 1998 Aussie film titled The Boys. Having not seen the film, the music presented here is truly hypnotic, and gradually climactic in scope. One of the uncanny attributes of this band is how less equates to more. The music is meant to roll along in a straightforward direction amid textural treatments, a few free jazz type piano solos, and sweeping synth-based effects. Needless to say, the trio possesses a unique identity.
Home of the Blues
Burton Gaar/Sound Venture Records
Louisiana’s Burton Gaar belts out the blues with conviction. Not a new release, but noteworthy. The CD has created a buzz down in the New Orleans area, partly due to Neville Brothers guitar hero Shane Theriot (now leading his Grease Factor band), and ex-Allman Brothers keyboard ace Johnny Neel. Gaar receives soulful support from a Nashville area horn section. No frills or gimmicks, Gaar’s exciting vocal delivery gets the job done in a robust and soul-drenched sort of way.
Upstairs At Larry’s – Lawrence Welk Uncorked
Upon my initial inspection, I figured this CD to be a reissue of sides by bandleader Lawrence Welk. Essentially, I was primed to run out and snag a bottle of top-shelf champagne for the occasion. Lo and behold, the “uncorked” motif translates into a modernist’s view, ala remixes by various DJ’s and electronics performers. Complete with samples and overlays of Welk’s salutations to various live audiences, his music is transformed into dance grooves, abounding with synths, and techno beats. And while Welk’s muse was primarily geared towards the 50 and over crowd, these musicians succeed at discombobulating a portion of the artist’s songbook. Perhaps it’s a musical parody. Either way, Rob Evanoff’s insightful production offers a truly fascinating and curiously interesting spin on the man who was synonymous with New Year’s Eve galas amid his TV show. Moreover, this wacky portrait of Welk serves as the antithesis to ultra-conservative party music.
The latest from the contemporary jazz titans features more of the same – sensuous, mood-evoking passages, nicely coordinated soloing and affable arrangements. Perhaps not as memorable – in a compositional sense – as some of the band’s earlier albums, but the laid-back vibes offer a calming effect.
Fires Were Shot
Here we have an Austin, Texas guitar duo dishing out a sense of the visual throughout these softly woven guitar parts, in concert with effects processing. The music might be akin to viewing a scientific documentary film of black hole stars. The musicians’ melodic output is spiced with dark, ethereal musings and other elements. The superb recording enhances the blissful presentation.
Avant-garde percussionist Ingar Zach recorded this outing live in an abandoned chocolate factory in Oslo, Norway. He also uses a zither. A very organic and predominately quiet set, as the artist seemingly explores various tones and micro-motifs to coincide with the factory’s acoustic environs. Zinging cymbal swashes, melded with intermittent plucks of the zither and resonating press rolls, evoke eerie and at times, menacing notions.
MerleFest Live! – The Best of 2003
The best of 2003 culled from the 16th annual MerleFest event, featuring four days of bluegrass, country, folk, and other related genres. This jubilant gathering offers a wonderful assortment of works from the likes of legends such as Doc Watson, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and others of note. More importantly, this recording highlights the stylistic differences among the various performers. It’s equal parts artistic excellence and toe-tapping entertainment.