June 2006

Glenn Astarita BY

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Wittwulf Y Malik & Ge-Suk Yoo

White Room



On this album German cellist Wittwulf Y Malik and Korean vocalist Ge-Suk Yoo pursue minimalism, sparked by echoing avant tonalities, in an exhibition hall that's awash with crystalline acoustics. Yoo's vocal chants and electro-acoustic sounds offset his counterpart's nimble plucking, and this session is full of abstruse contrasts. At times the duo seemingly mimics jungle sounds through quaint interplay and oscillating motifs. Malik's creaky cello movements, in unison with Yoo's softly uttered vocal parts, equate to fuzzy logic. On "Room IV, the musicians generate a miniature wall of sound and bizarre classicism comes to the forefront. It's not background music per se—the musicians dish out penetrating input for the mind and soul.

Asaf Sirkis & the Inner Noise

We Are Falling



Israeli drummer Asaf Sirkis and his trio rekindle the musical spirit of '70s Soft Machine, with dribs and drabs of Tony Williams' fabled Lifetime unit. Adopting a garrulous progressive/jazz-rock line of attack, the music surfaces as a rising force, complete with Steve Lodder's swarming keys and Mike Outram's ringing guitar lines. The spacey treatments and Sirkis' propelling drum patterns generate excitement in spots. Yes, it's all been done before. Unfortunately, the somewhat formless and derivative compositions taint this project with a garage-band jam session stigma. On "We Are Falling, Outram's sustain and legato lines draw from the Allan Holdsworth book. On the flip side, there are some exciting passages and climactic overtures, but stronger compositions would have yielded more fruitful dividends.


The Soul Dances



Tom Teasley (percussion) and Charles Williams (vocals) expand their decade-old duo stint with brass and woodwind instruments on this recording, exploring jungle jazz through hearty horn charts and vivacious rhythms. In some areas, they fuse gospel with cyclical percussion maneuvers and choral motifs. Williams also narrates sociological issues atop African percussion beats. However, his vocal style is an acquired taste. Williams' steely-edged tenor at times sounds more like a seasoned public speaker tinged with operatic attributes. "Kamiole is constructed upon a subdued tribal chant, counterbalanced with the background vocalists' call and response verse. "Babethandaza is a curiously interesting composition with crashing drums, indigenous sounds and John Jensen's groaning trombone lines. There are some arresting moments, yet the album's rite of passage wears a tad thin approximately two-thirds of the way through.

Liquid Soul

One Two Punch



Acid jazz pioneers Liquid Soul incorporate house beats, funk, razzle-dazzle horn charts and soul-funk-drenched jazz arrangements on One Two Punch. The band signals in a party-time atmosphere with jazz-rocker Vernon Reid's blistering glissando fills and the rhythm section's tight, in-the-pocket undertow. Lead saxophonist and founder Mars Williams blends classic Motown with mainstream material, including several DJs and hip hop artisans. It's a potpourri of popular frameworks. But after all the hoopla of the first six or seven tracks, the disc tends to lose some steam, since many of the ensuing pieces tend to sound like regurgitations of previous ones. However, the band's sense of good cheer cannot be undermined.

Ellynne Plotnick

I Walk Alone

Self Released


This intimately rendered jazz vocal affair would seem to fare rather well at an upscale New York City hotel lounge, and some of these tracks were recorded live at a New York City theater. Ellyne Plotnick and her quartet mix it up rather nicely with a blend of standards and originals. Plotnick receives sympathetic support from her jazz piano rhythm section as she performs a potpourri of brisk swing grooves and sultry love ballads. The singer works the crowd with her witty lyricism, upbeat vibe and joyous overtones. She also uses wonderful diction to complement her silky vocal chords and acute dynamic sense. These days young female vocalist seem to crop up faster than weeds growing out of concrete. But Plotnick's style and delivery looms as a high point, especially when considering many of her peers who seem satisfied to rummage through the tried and true.

Joel Penner Sextet

The Church Of The Little Black Dog

Sea Breeze


This cheery modern/mainstream jazz jubilee is brought to us by West Coast trumpeter Joel Penner and his sextet. There's nothing particularly novel here, but Penner and saxophonist Michael Rose render snazzy, finger-snapping charts through vigorously flowing swing, jazz-funk and other styles. The band also delves into Latin terrain, along with fast-paced bop lines. The highlight for me is their radiant, quasi-jazz-shuffle-blues spin on Keith Jarrett's "The Windup, where guitarist Doug Macdonald trades sprightly fours with the soloists as they respectively redefine melodies and harmonic intervals. Ultimately, Penner and his sextet churn out a series of stridently conceived and slightly edgy jazz standards. It's a workmanlike effort, performed with passion and gusto.

Dub Syndicate

The Rasta Far I

Collision: Cause of Chapter 3


Dub Syndicate is a collective of space-dub heroes like bassist Bill Laswell and drummer Style Scott. This two-CD extravaganza is all about echoing trance overlays, booming bass lines and vocals by Big Youth, Junior Reed, Yasus Afari and others. Naturally, it's a groove-oriented endeavor; the artists capitalize and reformulate the sounds of reggae beats with Rob Smith's so called "mega-mixes and reverberating background treatments. Beyond the subculture implications, including the snazzy and ultra-hip text often used to describe these DJ/hip/groove/dub recordings, the music offers high-end entertainment. The dual CD package packs a mighty wallop, effectively revealing the various ways and angles in which a dub motif can be spun.

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