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July 2004

Glenn Astarita By

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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.

Class Trip

John Abercrombie

ECM Records

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

Mindy Smith

Vanguard Records

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.

Trumpet Prism

Vaughn Nark

Summit Records

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

Cuneiform Records

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


Hux Records

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


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


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