All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Serving jazz worldwide since 1995
All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

From the Inside Out

Exploring More Exploratory Ensembles

By Published: November 21, 2008

Arranged to a rousing blend of classic blues styles—the chugging locomotive of electric Chicago blues lugging a boxcar bursting with New Orleans brass—"Don't Ever Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down" proves the perfect closer. Vitro tugs and pulls with all her might though she sometimes seems a bit overmatched if not by Werner's arrangements then by the material (Lil Green's "In the Dark," for example). Even so, Werner and guitarist Adam Rogers rip off electric blues solos almost as torrid as the call and response between Brecker and Anderson, who proceeds to blow out all the windows with his trombone solo rampage.

JJ Grey & Mofro
Orange Blossoms
Alligator
2008

JJ Grey and Mofro's follow-up to their critically and popularly acclaimed 2007 Alligator debut, Country Ghetto, sounds a little less shocking but no less rocking. It feels as if that first release, in retrospect, was a shout designed by songwriter, producer, singer and multi-instrumentalist Grey to get your attention. Orange Blossoms stretches out into real conversation now that he's got it.

Grey and his ensemble, Mofro, offer one of contemporary music's most authentic blues sounds. Their songs, and the singing and playing that give them life, just sound and feel so very real. Several tunes groove with Mofro's update on the funky, shuffling backwoods rhythms of Creedence Clearwater Revival and other roots-rock progenitors, such as "The Devil You Know" and the exceptionally lively "On Fire," which breaks down into a smeared blues trombone solo before it cooks up nice and hot.

But Grey & Mofro dig much more than just some same old ground. "Higher You Climb" overflows a musical form that's just as much bayou funk as it is rock 'n' roll with bad intentions. A guitar solo that echoes renowned Elvis guitarist James Burton pumps more rock into the R&B rave-up "Ybor City." "WYLF" further accelerates the pace, bubbling over its rock steady quarter-note bass line with a guitar solo that whirls in the freewheeling style of Gov't Mule, the Allman Brothers and other jam-band rockers from the American south.

On several other tunes, Grey &; Mofro go deep. "Dew Drops" returns to what seems to be one of their favorite, familiar themes—the simple pleasure of enjoying the beauty in nature that surrounds us. "She Don't Know" and the song it melts into, "The Truth," sound like personal, private meditations that Grey might have written more for himself than anyone else.

The set-ending "I Believe" sounds like the coming of age song that Grey's been waiting his whole life to write, one that celebrates faithfulness and honors honorableness with the resounding emotional impact of genuine gospel and soul—and even fades out with a repeated chorus that brings to mind The Beatles' famous "Hey Jude" coda. It seems a good bet that "I Believe" closes their live performances, and that concluding a concert with this promise of faith, hope and love sounds pretty sweet.

Paradigm
Melodies for Uncertain Robots
Paradigm Music / Ropeadope
2008

Paradigm's second album roams the free range of progressive jazz-rock fusion to harvest, thresh and bale every kaleidoscopic color and sound. It also clearly reflects the disparate makeup of this electric quintet with the band members hailing from Maine, New York, New Jersey, Kentucky and Tennessee; everyone met while studying jazz at the University of Louisville; and contributed to jazz projects led by Clark Terry, Andy Narell, and Paquito D'Rivera, before coming together into this fusion Paradigm.

In addition, Robots is quite democratic: Though most tunes are led by some combination of saxophone, guitar, and keyboards, every rhythmic and melodic voice seems equal. Light and breezy if curiously-titled, "Mourning" is probably the jazz-iest tune. Led by Myron Koch, whose saxophone sets up the melody and rhythm, then counter-rhythms, then counters those counters, all while popping off toe-to-toe with drummer Evan Pouchak. Led by keyboard player Brian Healy, "Particles" blows out of its starting gate then settles into a longer stride that Jonathan Epley's lead guitar catalyzes into a tightly-focused jazz jam that honors the conquering electric keyboard and guitar spirits in Return to Forever. Epley gets his turn to lead in the burning hot "Smokey."

Even more ambitiously, the first four tunes merge into an extended progressive rock/jazz suite. "Firefly" lights the path that Robots generally follows, bringing Supertramp piano rock together with Al DiMeola guitar jazz under one bright, energetic cover. "Firefly" spins into meandering "Orbit," circling upon acoustic piano then breaking down into a cool jazz trio interlude, a most dramatic lurch from rock to jazz. "Orbit" lights upon the quicksilver "Laurette," a framework which Koch hops, skips and jumps both inside and out; this shifts into the colorful, sweet and juicy fusion of "Pomegranate Eater."



comments powered by Disqus