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A Dozen Free Concert Downloads


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Free online concerts are either getting more frequent or I'm just spending too much time downloading them.

Either way, I'm now backlogged with shows I've been meaning to review, but putting aside halfway through as I discover and listen to new ones. So I'm taking the easy way out and offering quick summaries of some more notable postings from early 2005.

There's considerable variety of jazz genres including folksy instrumentals, straight-ahead, classic fusion, contemporary smooth and heavily accented worldbeat. Not to mention inevitable jam bands seemingly more numerous than anything online, although only those well into the above-average range get a notice here. For the most part the shows are among the most recently posted, even if actual performance dates don't reflect this.

Many bands have additional shows posted—hundreds in some cases—and members belonging to groups with other online collections. As a result, I've already found enough new material to get backlogged again, so look for another roundup in the near future.

Swing Set
Live at Dulcinea's in Denver
January 22, 2005

Those with a desire to genetically splice Bela Fleck and Thelonious Monk can get their fix with this quartet led by Dave Johnston on banjo and BlackDog on guitar. The nearly 2 1/2-hour performance is highlighted by a large number of standards such as "All Of Me" and "Love For Sale" in a folkish vein, plus plenty of modern work such as "Country Funk" and the R&Bish nine-minute "Un-named Tune." Sound quality is somewhat muffled and sometimes solos hang out too long in simple crowd-pleasing indulgences, but for the most part it's lively, intriguing and highly interactive work by a loose group of players on their game.

The Connecticut Yankee
January 21, 2005

The debut online concert by this San Francisco jazz/experimental quartet deserves a full review, but will have to settle for the short and sweetly worded treatment instead. They play modern blues-laced styles all over the map—evident from their completely meter-twisting rendition of "Afro Blue"—and players like saxophonist Barry Thompson demonstrate experience with everything from big band to garage band rock. The sound is a bit muddy, but it's definitely above audience tape quality and more than good enough to sustain interest during the 2 1/2-hour appearance.

Drop Trio
Jake's Sports Cafe
February 22, 2005

In the hopelessly vast jungle of online jam bands, the Houston-based Drop Trio is solidly entrenched somewhere in my top 10 due to a mixture of proficiency and excessive generosity (they post new material at their site weekly). This 2 1/4-hour performance has an audience tape quality and some previous shows are more impressive, but it's addicting to see what new marathon treatments they give compositions such as "AbbeyRhodes," "Mothership" and "Melody-Melody" (even if the latter shuffles along a bit leisurely). Keyboardist Ian Varley holds his own with any modernistic player when he's at his best, bassist Patrick Flanagan never disappears from consciousness even when he's merely anchoring a riff, and drummer Nuje displays a keen sense of when to back off for others and when to go nuts.

The Living Daylights
Live At Casanova's
March 19, 2004

Expectations were sky high for this modernistic trio since it is led by saxophonist Jessica Lurie, whose separately reviewed concert of Feb. 18 is already on my list of top online performances for 2005. This nearly three-hour-long Hawaiian gig doesn't disappoint other than audio quality, which like many shows in this article is rather muffled. The beat can get monotonous, but Lurie keeps it alive with bop, funk, rock and freeform—often in the same solo. Bassist Arne Livingston adds the kind of heft most modern acts could learn a lot from, mixing detailed note-heavy essays with easy reference hooks. It also helps they're comfortable with cross-genre and cross-era stylings, giving listeners a better appreciation for their "latest thing" efforts by providing interludes of traditional and cultural spice.

Yonrico Scott Band
Jake's Roadhouse
August 15, 2002

Look at the set list by this organ-backed fusion/blues group—tunes like "Watermelon Man," "Back At The Chicken Shack" and "Shake Everything You've Got"—and it's pretty obvious what lies ahead for 100 or so minutes. For the most part it lives up to the billing, delivering the kind of night you'd want on a Friday when you're in the mood to get down with something better than the average band. The only hitches: Recording quality ranges from very good to barely above an audience tape and sometimes things are so loose there's missteps by players apparently uncertain what's happening next.

Way Of The Groove
Alligator Alley
February 15, 2005

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.

Three-Fifths Compromise
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 mess—maybe 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 file—so 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 remarks—it 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.

Dub Trio
Live At Southpaw
February 12, 2005

An electronic/punk/reggae/jazz group that opens for shows like Antibalas and Soullive, this 43-minute Brooklyn performance is a good way to sample the vast collection of online jam music without the teeth-knashing experience of enduring musicians who don't actually know how to play or innovate. There's the expected synthy tech/trance jams, but plenty of rawer rock- and reggae-influenced moments, often evolving from the initial "experimentations" as mood and tempo changes are frequent. Also, since all of the songs are three to seven minutes long, there's no risk of enduring 30 minutes of somebody getting lost in their own exploratory musical universe without letting anyone else know where they are.



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