by: Hobert Taylor
Max Richter - Recomposed By Max Richter * Vivaldi * The Four Seasons - (Deutsche Grammophon)
Electronic composer Richter uses looping samples from violinist Daniel Hope and from the Konzerthaus Kammerorchester Berlin conducted by Andre De Ridder as well has his own Moog synthesizer performance to re-invent this warhorse of the classical canon. Each movement starts in a familiar way then evolves into core emotion resonating like dissonant echoes in a wood. This music transcends genre, and for that reason I'll call it jazz. It is glorious and moving. As anyone who has read my writing knows, I'm at war with classification, and since most jazz artists share this disdain for labels, I ironically embrace them! Cheers.
Shivani Kumar - Where Do We Go From Here - (Cosmic Cat)
If you judged a book by it's cover and you are a sexist ageist pig, you'd see this CD with a face lifted 60 something and Farrah Fawcett's hair and start cracking wise. If you are a jazz fan and you listen with your ears and not your eyes you'll here phrasing and tonality, coloring and vocal dynamics from a great singer. Sticking pretty much to The Great American Songbook with some deviation into a couple of Monk tunes, Kumar and various trios accompanying her lay down precise and swinging renditions. Bottom line, this is the real deal. Best cut, "Midnight Sun".
Jua - Colors of Life - (Chocolate Chi)
While we are on the subject of jazz vocals Jua Howard has one of those voices that has the tonal purity and expressiveness of a great horn player. Like Chet Baker, Sarah Vaughn, Al Jarreau, and Elvis Costello,and yeah Mel Torme, Jua envelops you in song. Not all of his material is lyrically strong, but he brings passion and sensitivity to his work. As has been said of others before, I could listen to him sing the phone book. He takes an early Sam Rivers ballad to heart, "Beatrice", nails an original tune, a minor key ballad, "Time Past", takes Bob Dorough's "Love Came On Stealthy Fingers" to a wonderful place, and excels on his own tune the title cut "Colors Of Life".
Jess Klein - Learning Faith - (Motherlode)
In the Shelby Lynne,Lucinda Williams vein with a touch of Roseanne Cash, Austin's Klein is definitive Americana. She rocks out, or sings behind the beat with a lot of significant vibrato, and has the requisite self-deprecating weariness mixed with passion and concern for the state of the society. This is a testament...to her faith... to her politics... and to her commitment to understanding herself. The title cut "Learning Faith", sets the tone and is followed up by the obviously FCC unfriendly and ironic "So Fucking Cool". She attacks political and religious hypocrisy "If There's A God" and "Dear God" , puzzles out the virtues and hindrances of self sacrifice, "Surrender", accepts the consequences of bad love choices, "Open Road" and "Wish", and includes a gorgeous love song too, "Loving You". This is a keeper. Folk. OPI # 2.
The Jones Family Singers - The Jones Family Singers - (Arts and Labor)
Also out of Austin comes this crackerjack gospel record. With contemporary production and arrangements, this sanctified and funktified offering hits the spot. My picks "Down On Me", the rocker "I am", the evocative "Try Jesus" and "Bones in the Valley" Jazz/Gospel. No OPI.
Bombadil - Tarpits and Canyonlands - (Ramseur Records)
This North Carolina quirky songwriter's band (think Todd The Wet Sprocket) is in turns hilarious and touching.
I like "So Many Ways To Die","Kuala Lumpur", "25 Daniels" and "Matthew".
Sirens - Blossom Talk - (Community Records)
Lo-Fi anti-harmonies and rudimentary picking that has soul, heart, and spunk. These women make music it seems because they have to, and refuse to let technical limitations get in their way. I am fond of "Terror", "Big Blue", and "Callus". # 8 OPI. Folk.
Olga Bell - Krai - (NWAM)
New York composer and band member of the Dirty Projectors Olga Bell has composed a song cycle of Russian folk tunes radically altered by electronica, slant harmonies, jazz improvisational touches and general playfulness. Very KUCI.
Jazz. No OPI.
David Gray - Mutineers - (iht Records)
Like a younger and more contemporary Elton John, Gray constructs coolly rational and emotionally distant mid-tempo Art Rock, which these days passes for folk. A staple on British Radio with a loyal following here, he does give you something to chew on lyrically. Picks? "Mutineers" "Last Summer" and "Snow In Vegas". Folk. No OPI.
Bill Banfield's Jazz Urbane - Playing With Other People's Heads - (Sugo)
Soft and warm, the quiet storm. I almost always have a nauseous reaction to "soft" jazz, melodically predictable soul jazz that sounds like it was programmed into a synth in 1977 and gets perennially recycled. As I began listening to this I was about to toss it away into the reject pile, but I promised myself that if someone spent weeks, months,years making a record and it comes my way I owe it a fair listen. As a result I can say that this CD does contain music... It is very Hollywood, late George Duke with a touch of CTI, and the playing is slicker than snail snot. Most of the cuts have guest vocalists. There's some cool electronica touches "Are You Thinkin' About Me", a very tasty instrumental "Money Funny" and the best of the songs is "Happy". Jazz No OPI.