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July 2006


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Mike Keneally Band

Guitar Therapy Live



Guitarists Mike Keneally (right channel) and Rick Musallam (left channel) steer a high-impact progressive rock slugfest on this genuinely exciting live date, which is chock-full of knotty time signatures and propulsive rhythmic explosions; Keneally sweetens the boiling pot with heartwarming lead vocals. The quartet soars toward the heavens with aplomb, not looking back. Drummer Joe Travers is a force to be reckoned with, largely due to his often dazzling polyrhythmic technique alongside bassist Bryan Beller's fluid bottom end. The group conveys a comprehensive progressive rock viewpoint, going for the jugular on more than just a few occasions. Keneally's craft is well-versed, informed by his work with avant-garde guitarist Henry Kaiser as well as a string of divergent solo outings and orchestral projects. In sum, the musicians make everything seem effortless and exude an optimistic demeanor throughout this inspiring set.

Frode Gjerstad/Anders Hana/Morten Olsen/Per Zanussi

Born to Collapse

Apartment Records Mail Order (Circulasione)


Renegade Norwegian multi-reedman Frode Gjerstad takes charge of this woodwinds/guitar/bass/drums outing, which teems with shrieking lines, split tones and free improvisation. The album consists of three variations of the title piece. Especially through bassist Per Zanussi's live electronics and Anders Hana's chopping and slicing electric guitar lines, the music primarily occupies the red zone. Gjerstad performs on alto sax and clarinets, and the band opts for an acoustic-electric approach, yielding a wild and wooly ride that's unfettered by borders or strictly visualized regimens. Born to Collapse is not for the squeamish traditional jazz aficionado, however the concepts and improvisational encounters work out, given these musicians' willingness to sojourn into the unknown. They explore the twilight zone, so to speak, with an asymmetrically centered, balls-to-the-walls approach.

David Kweksilber/Winnyfred Beldman/Guus Janssen

Futeristische Historie

Data Records


This Dutch church organ/clarinet/violoncello trio explores a quaint musical schematic where basic jazz concepts merge with religious overtones and chamber musings. Clocking in at 41 minutes, the record is short and sweet. On "Into My Heart, David Kweksilber's whispery clarinet lines acquire vocal attributes, complementing the group's lightly buoyant impetus. Guus Janssen comps with a church organ groove as he establishes the pace through sobering passages. Moreover, the group engages in plenty of experimentation, although matters seldom stray toward extreme shifts in strategy. Overall it's a soothing and most enjoyable listen—in contrast to what might seem like austere intentions, given the instrumentation involved.

Tab Benoit

Brother To The Blues



Southern Louisiana-reared bluesman Tab Benoit revisits his roots on this hybrid country blues/rocking blues/country & western set. He uses the pedal steel guitar to supplement his driving electric six-string attack, spicing the music up with sonorous vocals and a few shuffle grooves. As a proponent of the Voice of the Wetlands Festival in Houma, Louisiana, Benoit—with the assistance of other notables and lesser known musicians—has been trying to beef up awareness for the area's eroding coastline. He cites his passion for putting this project together to serve as a personalized summarization of his early musical influences. Accordingly, he augments his upbeat electric-blues palette with disparate slices of Americana. Benoit is a merchant of good cheer, touching on sanguine horizons during most of these thirteen pieces.

Skerik's Syncopated Taint Septet




Exploring quirky, edgy, and hard core jazz/funk/hip-hop movements, Seattle saxophonist Skerik generates a jazz vista with this series of interlinking grooves. Using a gutsy and sometimes dry sax sound, the artist commandeers a rather playful jaunt with nods to various genres, morphed into a divergent sequence. You'll hear sprightly shuffle beats, rowdy gospel-blues passages and boisterous swing vamps throughout the generally upbeat mix. Skerik and his ensemble surface as a gang of rebel rousers, all enamored with a sense of youth and commitment. On Husky, the art of cogent simplicity merges with buoyant underpinnings and odd-metered twists and turns. The band's approach, coupled with deft expressionism and trips into a few oddball nooks and crannies, skirts the fringes of radio friendliness.

Vernon Reid & Masque

Other True Self

Favored Nations


This recent studio date is guitar hero Vernon Reid's second outing with this band. And as the guitarist ruminates, "We're on a planet hurtling through space. We're all so lonely. So we make connections. We build connections. A portion of the musical ideology of Reid's manifesto derives from a strong bond with his band, a community of like-minded individuals, which often yields positive results. The quartet covers the late, great drummer Tony Williams' "Wildlife and Radiohead's "National Anthem," along with several Reid originals. It's not as mind-boggling in scope as Masque's previous effort, but it's accelerated by a divergent morphing of genres: dub grooves, an Irish-jig breakout, jazz inflections and pulverizing funk-rock. Reid's heavily sustained guitar licks generate a massive wall of sound, and his speedy runs are razor-sharp and often climactic. This multifaceted, well-schooled stylist has the ability to adopt numerous slants and influences within this uniquely extrapolated project.

In Your Dreams

MD 2020



MD 2020 is an intimately concocted jazz trio date of eight collective improvisations. The glib album title references a cheap wine (MD 2020 = Mad Dog 2020). However, the serious nature of the band's demeanor offsets any implications of rambunctious interplay. Think of rolling hills and linear developments, often spearheaded by soprano saxophonist Henry Lee's warmly articulated and soaring lines. In addition, the trio makes excellent use of space, infused with bump and grind movements and loosely swinging vamps. They cover jazz-blues and mood-evoking scenarios by alternating flows, generally with a noticeable camaraderie.

Jorrit Dijkstra + John Hollenbeck




These two noted improvisers/composers generate a dynamic and inventive series of tone poems by combining disparate rhythmic angles with contrasting electronics and gruff dialogues. Dijkstra and Hollenbeck keep matters on the up and up by multitasking with divergent instrumentation, including tin whistles, lyricon, autoharp, and more conventional tools of the trade. At times they execute fractured stop/start movements with antique-sounding electronics and creaky explorations. They cross borders throughout this rather playful session, where surrealism attains a judicious mix with modern jazz improvisation. Dijkstra and Hollenbeck convey a hodgepodge of musical notions, and their abstract musings reap substantial dividends.

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