Short Takes, Part 2

C. Michael Bailey By

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Columns like "Bailey's Bundles" enable me to address more music, hopefully providing the submitting artists the consideration and exposure they, and the reading/listening public desire. So, here are more recent releases that warrant your listening attention.

Clark Terry
George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess
(A440 Records)

Boy, is this a hard sell. Didn't Miles Davis already to this in the 1950s? Well, yes. But, then again, Miles Davis is not Clark Terry. Tasty is what this is. Tart, tight arrangements with Jeff Lindberg and the Chicago Jazz Orchestra make this collection from the Gershwin opera a veritable winner. Mr. Terry applies his trumpet and flugelhorn prowess to these time-tested tunes in a manner fully in the corner of Swing. Unlike Miles Davis, who with Gil Evans was making history with their iconoclastic vision of the rural opera, Terry chooses a more conservative approach with orchestration. His soloing, however, is another thing altogether. "Summertime" is dismantled and only partially reconstructed, leaving the familiar tune to stand on its own by the insinuation of notes. This is a superb recording that will disappoint no one.

The Bo Keys
The Royal Sessions
(Yellow Dog Records)

The Bo-Keys possess an updated Memphis Soul sound?and it is a damn good thing as they all came by it honestly. The guitarist Skip Pitts was responsible for the incendiary introduction to Isaac Hayes's "Theme from Shaft" as well as loads for work for Al Green. So, these guys are the real deal, delivering a good-natured Memphis Soul Stew on The Royal Sessions. It sounds as if the guys are having fun also. The group is of the Booker T variety being an organ quartet supplemented with horns. The sound is updated from the Otis Redding Sound of the late 1960s. No Motown allowed, only the sanctified soul of Southern R&B. For the real grease, listen to "Back at the Chicken Shack." See The Bo Keys.

Phil Ranelin
(Wide Hive Records)

Trombonist Phil Ranelin edges into the Free territory while remaining firmly tethered to harmony and melody. He has formidable chops honed by his many years of working with Wendell Harrison and his friendship with John Coltrane. The spirit of that great one infuses this recording, rearing its head full with a Pharoah Sanders cameo on "This One's For Trane." Ranelin leads a nonet on this date, giving the recording a rollicking big band feel. He focuses his considerable talent on those pioneers—J.J. Johnson, Eric Dolphy, Coltrane, framing their legacies with his sensitive and informed vision. See Phil Ranelin and Widehive Records .

Vic Juris
Blue Horizon
(ZoHo Records)

Vic Juris possesses a breezy free guitar style that sounds a bit like the marriage of Pat Metheny's warm, round tone with Dom Minasi's imagination. Backed by the likes of vibraphonist Joe Locke, bassist Jay Anderson, drummer Adam Nussbaum, and percussionist Jamey Haddad, Juris has managed to successfully push the freedom envelope without alienating the mainstream. His melody versus harmony is complex and always interesting as evidenced on "Soft Spoken." He is certainly capable of airing things out as he does on "Sunset on Vega." Juris is a formidable electric guitarist who does not overplay. On this all-original collection, the group sounds collectively like a modern jazz version of the George Shearing Quintet with vibes. There is a light and appealing ambiance to the disc. See ZOHO Records .

Eric Bibb
(Telarc Records)

All-star affairs like Friends tend to be less that the sum of the whole because, by their nature, are a collection of singular events, in this case duets between multi-instrumentalist Eric Bibb and artists that were inspirational to him—Taj Mahal, Charlie Musselwhite, Odetta, Mamadou Diabate, Martin Simpson, Kristina Olsen, Guy Davis, and Harry Manx. "Six O'clock Blues" with Charlie Musselwhite, and "Goin' Down Slow" with Taj Mahal are the best of the lot and while all of the music is very fine, there is little here to distinguish it among the many similar recordings available. See Telarc and Eric Bibb .

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey
Walking with Giants
(Hyena Records)

Walking With Giants is a noisy and challenging offering from the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. Long know for his electric jazz work, Giants is an acoustic trio disc whose closest relatives available are MM&W and the Bad Plus. The Jazz Odyssey stretches the boundaries set by these bands and fills in the gaps with wall-to-wall sound. Pianist Brian Haas both holds down and breaks up the festivities with his smart free playing. Featured prominently is bassist Reed Mathis, playing cello and bass and octave-induced-bass (Hear "Lola and Alice"). This disc will appeal to all avant-garde and free jazz listeners. It will also hold its charm with the patient mainstream who have tired of the "same old thing." See Hyena Records and The Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey .

Manhattan Transfer
(Telarc Records)

The second Telarc release for the vocal quartet. Vibrate is Manhattan Transfer's fist studio recording in four years and while there are the traditional element here the disc shows the group stepping out from their Swing/Be Bop window of comfort into slightly more modern climes. Central to this theme is "The New JuJu Man" based on Miles Davis/Marcus Miller's "TuTu," lyrics provided by none other than Mr. Jon Hendricks himself. Lew Soloff plays the Miles mart. Great stuff, as is the more traditional. Horace Silver's "Doodlin'" is dynamically blusey. "Embraceable You" is a sure thing for the quartet, who give it a straight-ahead treatment. Compare that to the Jobim "Core of Sound" based on the Brazilian's "Modinha" and you get the idea. See Telarc Records and Manhattan Transfer .

James Silberstein
Song for Micaela
(CAP Records)

Guitarist James Silberstein attracted major talent for his recording Song for Micaela. Regardless of the talent employed, the music is marked by Silberstein's smooth swing. The original "Red Carpet" provides Randy Brecker acres in which to improvise over Silberstein's harmonic base. On Horace Silver's "Nica's Dream" Silberstein is joined by bassist Harvie S, and tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander. This is a potent combination that provides for Latin-tinged sparks produced in double-time. Carla Cook donates her considerable wares to the project on "So Many Stars." This is a perfectly entertaining mainstream guitar disc. See CAP .

Various Artists
Merlefest Live, The Best of 2003
(Vanguard Records)

Merlefest is an annual festival honoring the late Merle Watson, son and long-time collaborator of American Treasure Doc Watson. Merlefest Live! collects the highlights of the 2003 edition of the festival. The lineup is conservative (no Nickel Creek) opting for the tried and true. Asleep at the Wheel covers Freddie Fender's "I'll Be there Before the Next Teardrop Falls" on one end and Donna the Buffalo playing "Conscious Evolution" at the other (did I say this was a conservative lineup?). Okay—the highlights: All the Doc Watson ("Rollin' in my Sweet Baby's Arms," "Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor," "Matchbox Blues"), Guy Clark's "Black Diamond Strings,: and Jimmie Dale Gilmore's "Go To Sleep Alone." For Traditional American Music, ist does not get any better than this. See Vanguard Records and Merlefest .

Various Artists
Creole Bred
(Vanguard Records)

One thing about Zydeco Music, it is like sex and pizza, the worst you have had was still pretty good. Vanguard records assembled some likely and unlikely suspects for their compilation disc Creole Bred. The disc works well for the most time. The unlikely Cyndi Lauper turns in a spirited "Allons A Grand-Coteau" and "Festival Zyedco" and Taj Mahal a precise "Two-Step de Grand Mallet," his acoustic guitar adding much to the mix and a subdued "Tit Monde." What the hell the Tom Tom Club is doing here is beyond me. But there is no question what David Hildago is do on this disc and that is transcending all musical boundries by taking on Creole French melodic cuisine. This is a fun record, but should you be interested in the real thing—Clifton Chenier's Bogalusa Boogie. See Vanguard Records .

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