May 2003

Glenn Astarita By

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In Swing Guitar

Duke Robillard & Herb Ellis

Stony Plain Records

This is the followup effort to Conversations In Swing Guitar. The title says it all, as guitarist Duke Robillard (Bob Dylan, Fabulous Thunderbirds) and jazz guitar great Herb Ellis cook up a warmly swinging set. Rhythm guitarist Terry Holmes, bassist Marty Ballou and drummer Marty Richards provide sympathetic support. No train wrecks here as the duo exchanges breezy licks throughout these six affable pieces.

Street Wise

Doug Lawrence

Alltribe Records

Tenor saxophonist Doug Lawrence meshes a Texas chitlin’ circuit vibe with a series of motivated performances via a sax-guitar-drums-bass, groove-centric outing. Lawrence blows a mean tenor in concert with memorably melodic, jazz drenched foundations. The saxophonist has supported Aretha Franklin and others during his busy career, spanning one hundred recordings. He surfaces as an energetic hipster throughout this finely crafted and fun-filled affair.

Just Friends

Joe Beck Trio

Whaling City Sound

Guitarist Joe Beck gained notoriety back in the '70s, primarily due to his work for CTI Records, a hugely popular smooth jazz/jazz-fusion record label. However, Beck’s resume consists of numerous engagements over the years. With this effort, he aligns his talents with highly respected session aces, drummer Danny Gottlieb and bassist Mark Egan for an altogether modish program. They skirt the borders of jazz-fusion while also residing within the classic jazz guitar trio format. Beck and company cover quite a bit of ground, as they raise the tempo and pitch while also opting for a sleek approach on occasion. Consequently, the trio often raises the proceedings to a heated boil during several passages.

Duets 2 – Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Ramon Lopez

Leo Records

Spanish drummer/percussionist Ramon Lopez renders a series of unlikely duets with an estimable consortium of modern/free jazz artists such as bassist Joelle Leandre, guitarist Noel Akchote, and others. Curiously, there are no saxophonists on this date, but the ever-inventive Lopez covers eight Kirk originals amid one piece composed by the drummer and vocalist Mojid Dekkos. And if you’re looking for literal translations of Kirk’s songbook, you’re flat out of luck. These pieces are framed upon free form and at times, humorously devised arrangements. You’ll hear Emmanuel Bix’s wacko Hammond B-3 frameworks, amid the other instrumentalists’ surrealistic musings. Sort of like a hazy dream. Yet a most interesting release at that!

Naked On The Floor

Naked On The Floor

Valid Records

There’s a burgeoning modern jazz movement taking place in New Orleans, and this quintet serves as a prime example of what has been transpiring. Here, famed Big Easy bassist James Singleton along with drummer Mark Diflorio supports a sax-guitar-trombone front line. The band is apt to swing hard, in concert with a raw, pulsating mode of attack. Part of the beauty of it pertains to how the ensemble integrates mainstream jazz with oscillating shifts in strategy. The musicians’ rhythmic nature features pumping lines, curt unison choruses, and gradual alterations of meter, providing a basis for complex exchanges and multi-layered arrangements.

Morton Feldman - Violin & String Quartet

Peter Rundel - Pellegrini Quartet

Hat [now] ART

This 2-CD presentation of the late contemporary classical composer Morton Feldman’s Violin & String Quartet is performed by violinist Peter Rundel and the Pellegrini (strings) Quartet. Perhaps an exercise in discipline, featuring quaint and at times barely detectable variations of a theme, where tonal shading plays an important role. This recording conveys Feldman’s seemingly ambiguously constructed emotive characteristics, where his music defies any semblances of jubilation or sadness. But that unto itself offers an element of surprise.

Jing Chi Live!

Jimmy Haslip – Robben Ford – Vinnie Colaiuta

Shrapnel Records

This recording represents the trio’s follow up to its somewhat plodding debut release. With this effort, the highly visible solo/session musicians kick it up a notch or two. Strong soloing abounds to coincide with guitarist Robben Ford’s somewhat innocent sounding vocals on “Going Nowhere" and the band’s cover of Dylan’s “Cold Irons Bound.” And of course, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta is a master, thanks to his transparently flawless time keeping and blistering fills. Concisely, the band has found its synergy with this solid outing recorded live at Yoshi’s in Oakland, CA.

Live At Tonic

Wally Shoup – Paul Flaherty – Thurston Moore – Chris Corsano

Leo Records

Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore’s free jazz inclinations surface once again on this release. Coupled with the dual sax attack of Wally Shoup and Paul Flaherty atop drummer Chris Corsano’s wily polyrhythmic forays, Moore’s electrified musings serve as an accelerator. More like a musical slugfest, where the music is ballsy, intense, and at times frenetic amid very few lulls in the action. Hence, this music is about as free as it gets. Yet there’s an overriding sense of purpose that prevails here as they lob exchanges and swap roles yet rarely collide. (Saxophonist Marc Russo performs on “Blues MD,” while keyboardist Otmaro Ruiz rounds out the core trio.)


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