by: Hobert Taylor
Kat Edmonson - The Big Picture - (Sony Masterworks)
A star is born. A protege of Lyle Lovett, Edmonson has produced the freshest sounding retro record you could imagine. Produced by Mitchell Froom, this has a late '50's early '60's pop vibe... a little Peggy Lee in the song selections (Which are amazingly all new songs written by Edmonson), a little Mary Ford in the singing, a little Neal Hefti in the arrangements. The tunes bounce like silly putty or meander along like a slinky. The whole project is a delight, but I am singling out "You Said Enough", "Oh My Love", "Crying", "You Can't Break My Heart", "The Best" (very upbeat), and "Dark Cloud". Jazz.
Vic Ruggiero - This - (Unison Music)
First off, the title cut is a classic. It could be included in the Great American Songbook. Like Elvis Costello, Ruggierio is a chameleon with a keen sense of how to replicate genre based yet personal tunes. "This" stands out both in it's compositional sophistication and it's jazziness. The other songs here are mainly country based with a couple of New Orleans style number as well. Check out "Don't Give Me Your Love". Folk.
Hardin Burns - Down The Deep Well - (Ithaca Records)
The duet of Andrew Hardin and Jeannie Burns are pleasant enough folkies with pleasant enough songs. I was underwhelmed until I heard "Get Back Home", a real piece of work full of craft and craftiness. Also fine is their cover of Richard and Linda Thompson's "Walking on a Wire". Folk
Annie Lennox Nostalgia - (Blue Note)
Lennox takes her crack at the Great American songbook with mixed results.. She is at her best channeling Billie Holiday "God Bless the Child", "I cover the Waterfront", and her version of "Mood Indigo" is grand. Other songs seemed less engaging. Jazz.
David Buckingham - The view - (Tamesis)
A virtuoso of folk and flamanco guitar, this young Briton provides skillful and safe renderings. Great for production. Folk.
James Leary - Together - (Lifeforce Jazz)
This is two CDs in one. The first seven songs were recorded and released by bassist James Leary on vinyl in 1980 and feature some of the Bay Area's jazz masters including Joe Henderson, George Cables, and Eddie Marshall in an innovative big band setting. The remaining six smaller ensemble numbers feature Eric Reed, Billy Higgins and Oscar Brashear. Leary is a under recognized composer. Amazing compositions with lightning changes and subtle surprises abound. Jazz.
Clarence Penn - Monk: The Lost Files - (Origin)
Drummer Penn along with the amazing Chad Lefkowitz-Brown on Sax, tears apart and puts back together Monk's greatest hits like William Burroughs when he cut up and reconstructed text. Like "Naked Lunch", this re-construction is revelatory. Particularly successful are "In Walked Bud", "Bemsha Swing","Rhythm-A-Ning" and Penn's sole original "Solato's Blues". Jazz.
The Spin Quartet - In Circles - (Origin)
This is very soothing jazz with just the slightest hint of an edge. Harmonically rich and melodically appealing, it is reminiscent of middle Miles, just before the electric period. I am particularly enamored of "Little Marrionette", "Simple Song (For Esme)" "Place To Be" and the up tempo ""Haberdasher". Jazz.
Ryan Shultz Quintet - Hair Dryers - (Origin)
Soul jazz. This is just fun. Tunes you can grok quickly and hum back to, and yet still be impressed with their humor and sophistication. The title cut, "Hair Dryers", the carnival infused "Joe's Time"", "All Things Equal", the moody "Tinge" and the hard driving "Scooter" all are on my playlist. Jazz.
Jeff Denson with Joshua White - I'll Fly Away - (pfMENTUM)
Bassist Denson with rising piano star and Monk competition winner Joshua White take African-American hymns and deconstruct them, (the title cut three different times). The playing is exquisite, the results, mixed. For my money, the second version of "I'll fly Away",, "Just As I Am", and "When the Saints Go Marching In" work best. Jazz.
Sam Amidon - Lily-O - (Nonesuch)
This is a simple tour de force. Folk/Experimental with a little Jazz, this record is a meditation on the natural world and the wistful roles humans play in it. Joined by guitar giant Bill Frisell playing electric guitar in a nuanced and conversational way, Amidon's seemingly rudimentary folk tunes well up into carefully orchestrated emotional revelations. My favorites are the banjo driven "Down The Line" and "Pat Do This Pat Do That". "Lily-O", the title cut, is gorgeous. Folk.
Greylag - Greylag - (dead Oceans records)
From Portland comes this Alt folk acoustic and electrnica mix produced by Phil Ek (Modest Mouse, The Shins, Feet Foxes). Arresting and unique in their sound, no easy comparable acts come to mind. They are charming and seductive. "Yours To Shake", "Arms Unknown", and especially "Kicking" are great tunes to introduce you to their sound. Folk.