Sheldon Reynolds, Larry Dunn, Morris PleasureDevoted SpiritsDevoted Spirits
This is a new tribute release performed by three members of famed R&B/pop supergroup Earth, Wind & Fire. Along with a cast of session musicians that includes bassist Bobby Watson, this effort does indeed surpass expectations. The group retrofits 22 pieces culled from the EW&F songbook into hip and vivacious, modern-day representations. The band jazzes it up in spots via a few peppy swing grooves and fluid synth solos. With a large ensemble, the one-time members contemporize classics such as "Serpentine Fire and "Fantasy. This isn't one of those half-baked marketing attempts to earn a few extra bucks. All parties involved did their homework here. Strong arrangements, in-the-pocket grooves and the players' enthusiastic musical demeanor stack up rather nicely.
Aki Takase, Alex von Schlippenbach, DJ Illvibe
This trio investigates the division of reality and fantasy. A husband and wife team of pianists, Alex von Schlippenbach and Aki Takase, align with Germany's DJ Illvibe. The premise for this recording containing twenty brief pieces is framed upon the artists' interpretations of exotic cities. Sure enough, it's an anomalous musical venture, brimming with quirky three-way dialogues and spiced up with EFX/turntable scratches amid free-style improv. Outings like this are becoming more in vogue these days, especially when implemented within the context and applications of like-minded visionaries. Ultimately, the musicians delve into strangely exotic terrain, while not taking this imaginary, fun-filled trip too seriously.
Avant guitarist/composer Fred Frith's multifaceted legacy continues with his latest classically-tinged two-CD program. Featuring the Arditi String Quartet among other instrumentalists, the recording fuses chamber elements with dabs of John Cage modernism and stark Germanic overtones. Frith's arrangements are at times ambient and sometimes dissonant. He also counters the strings section with subtle electric guitar lines, perhaps emulating a cranky codger via his terse phrasings in contrast to somber passages. After his previous avant-classical stylizations, each new recording adds credence to Frith's ongoing relevance in modern music. He's a modernist who envelops such a wide array of influences into his idiosyncratic implementations.
Enrico Pieranunzi & String Quartet
Highly regarded jazz pianist Enrico Pieranunzi, bassist Marc Johnson, and saxophonist Rosario Giuliani wondrously engage in lush, contrapuntal arrangements with a string quartet. With refinement, elegance, and chops, the jazz musicians bridge a third stream approach with moments of unrequited romance. Pieranunzi is apt to turn up the heat with bustling arpeggios and fluid single-note runs. Guiliani's whispery sax lines and Johnson's firm bottom end round out a production bustling with sinuous movements and heavenly choruses.
The Marty Nau Group
At The Bouquet Chorale
Marty Nau leads a three-man frontline alto sax section (also including alto sax great Phil Woods) for this perky bop-based set. Nau and company bridge old-school Charlie Parker vibes with a modern-day appearance along with a piano-bass-drums rhythm section. Saxophonists Vince Laudear and Woods contribute compositions to complement the sextet's rendering of a few jazz favorites. It's a democratic engagement as the soloists' trade zesty fours and rapid unison choruses along with some general hell-raising. This is the type of jazz session where everything seems to click...
Off The Cuff
Shane Theriot (Grease Factor)
In July of 2004, this band almost tore the roof down at New Orleans' Howlin Wolf venue. A Louisiana native and guitarist for the Meters, Shane Theriot leads this funk/rock/blues quintet through a conglomerate of soul-stirring and generally blistering tunes. Super drummer Jeff Sipe adds polyrhythmic aplomb to these hard-driving romps, while Theriot's sizzling licks and Johnny Neel's bluesy Hammond B-3 grooves serve as accelerators. Simply put, this band smokes! And percussionist Count M' Butu adds a Santana-like edge to some of these zesty works, spanning various modulations and flows. Theriot is in the driver's seat, and the respective soloists are afforded ample soloing space, including a few for bassist Derek Jones' killer riffs. Consequently, this band casts a nouveau spin to the Big Easy's sometimes conservative musical disposition.
The Art Of Intimacy