ALBUM REVIEW: Jeff “Siege” Siegel Quartet’s “King of Xhosa”

December 6th, 2017, 3:00 pm by Greg

Review by Jeff Nania

Drummer-composer Jeff Siegel’s newest album King of Xhosa marks a return to the era of heavy jazz grooves with some additional South African flavor mixed into the stew.

The record charts many moods throughout its 13 tracks – from “Inner Passion’s” quiet and tame melody with an all-encompassing vibe that embraces the listener to the brightness of “Erica’s Bag,” and “King Of Xhosa’s” fierce bass line and the two percussion tracks that sandwich the album from either end.

As soon as you turn it on you are welcomed with “Totem,” a beautifully captured chant accompanied by percussionist Fred Berryhill’s African drums that transports the listener into this absolute journey of an album and lets you know that you are in for something a little bit different – something steeped in tradition and yet brilliantly modern in its fusion of jazz and some deep roots music.

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CD REVIEWS: Memos from the Underground III

September 29th, 2017, 10:00 am by Greg

Album reviews by Tim Livingston

Some recent album releases that you may have missed but are well worth a listen:

THE GODFATHERS: A Big Bad Beautiful Noise (Metropolis)

Led by singer Peter Coyne, London’s the Godfathers return with a mean, lean, straight-up rock n’ roll record. Sometimes garage-rocking, sometimes a bit psychedelic, the band just flat-out rocks. Fuzzy, layered guitars, thundering drums and a jangly pop number or two all combine to make this release a powerful statement for the band.

The title track is a hard-rocking steamroller of a tune. “Till My Heart Stops Bleeding” follows with a pulsing tempo and sing along-chorus. In a perfect world “You Don’t Love Me” would be a radio hit, and “Lets Get Higher” is a psychedelic guitar feast. The closer, “You and Me Against the World” perhaps gives a vocal nod to David Bowie and is a great song that serves as a fitting tribute (if, in fact, that was its intent).

You like hard hitting straight-on rock? The Godfathers deliver the goods. Get this now!

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CD Reviews: Memos From the Underground II

August 22nd, 2017, 11:00 am by Greg

Album reviews by Tim Livingston

Some recent album releases that you may have missed, but are all well-worth a listen:

RUTS DC: Music Must Destroy (Restricted Release)

One of the early punk bands, the Ruts had so much promise. Their 1979 full length release The Crack was a powerful punch of punk and edgy reggae that combined with a bunch of equally great singles showed the band as true contenders for the punk-rock throne. Alas, it was not to be as their mercurial singer Malcolm Owen, succumbed to the pressures of stardom and some of the temptations that come with it. He tragically passed away in 1980.

The last single “West One (Shine on Me) was a great one, a fitting finale for the band. However, the other three original members, with an appropriate name change to Ruts DC, soldiered on with a few more dub-oriented releases over the years, but soon faded away.

When original guitarist Paul Fox was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2007, the Ruts reformed for a benefit concert for him with long-time fan Henry Rollins filling in as lead vocalist. Fox died later that same year.

Seemingly the end of the Ruts story, but, no, not to be. The two other original members bassist John “Segs” Jennings and drummer Dave Ruffy recruited a new guitarist and recently recorded a new album “Music Must Destroy.” The results are stunning – a rock album much in the tradition and spirit of the original band and a monster of a release.

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CD REVIEWS: Memos From the Underground

August 16th, 2017, 10:00 am by Greg

Album reviews by Tim Livingston

Some recent album releases that you may have missed but are well worth a listen:

PETER PERRETT: How the West Was Won (Domino)

Peter Perrett’s punk-era band the Only Ones weren’t really a punk band at all. They were a step above many of their contemporaries in both musicianship and songwriting. Known mostly for the seminal “Another Girl, Another Planet,” the band’s catalog ran much deeper with Perrett’s songwriting and melodies shining bright with several flashes of pure genius. Their career, though, was brief, and by the time the ’80s rolled around (with only three albums produced), Perrett was lost in a world of addiction and looked like just another casualty, a falling star to be remembered only for the promise of what could of been. A few brief comebacks, including one in the ’90s called The One, came and went with out much impact, but then…

Jump forward to 2017… At the age of 65, Perrett returns with a new album, How the West Was Won, and he returns in a glorious fashion. The album is smashing. A brilliant collection of romantic songs of love, addition and redemption. The melodies soar, the lyrics are both introspective and witty, and Perrett shows that his former genius was no flash-in-the-pan. The musicianship, provided by his sons, Jamie and Peter Jr. and their band, is top-notch in the fine tradition of the Only Ones reputation for excellence. Perrett’s South London drawl and sharp pen take you through a journey of undying love, and it is an amazing and fascinating trip.

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BEST OF 2016: Albert Brooks’ Top Jazz Albums

December 28th, 2016, 2:30 pm by Greg

Yes, it’s that time of year once again – best of the year list-time, that is. We’re gathering together Best of 2016 from various media outlets, our own contributors and our readers, too.

Here’s a list of Top Jazz Albums from Nippertown contributing photographer Albert Brooks:

A Master Speaks by George Coleman is indeed a master class by the esteemed master of the saxophone. Accompanied by Mike LeDonne on piano, (the late) Bob Cranshaw on bass, George Coleman Jr. on drums and Peter Bernstein on guitar, Coleman’s tone is like a warm sable wrap and his improvisational choices a primer in erudition, taste and excitement. The Master Speaks, and those with ears that hear must listen! (Smoke Sessions)

All hail Kenny Barron, who is the unmitigated, incomparable and peerless exemplar of pianism and quintessential jazz trioism. The combo a trois that delivers Book of Intuition includes, along with Barron, the amazingly simpatico Johnathan Blake and Kiyoshi Kitagawa. They operate as one intuitive organism, and “Magic Dance” – one of many highlights on the album – is commended as required listening for anyone having a bad day, who’s lonely, who may be depressed about the recent elections or who is just in need of sonic uplift. This album is a paragon of beautiful energy and therefore a musical embodiment of hope, something that is sorely needed at this time. (Verve International)

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BEST OF 2016: J Hunter’s Top Jazz Albums (Part Deux)

December 19th, 2016, 12:00 pm by Greg

By J Hunter
GO HERE to read Part I

Okay, we’ve handed out the awards and revealed the “Rest of the Best.” Now it’s time to make my brown eyes blue. IT’S “FOR THE WIN!”

Beauty Within (Origin)
Composer/arranger Anthony Branker doesn’t play on his own pieces; like Maria Schneider, he’s got people for that. But where Schneider literally needs an army to paint her pastoral pictures, Branker employs an uber-tight quintet of notorious killers to conjure music that soothes your soul one moment, then goes for your throat the next – on the same tune! The front line of saxman Ralph Bowen, guitarist Pete McCann and pianist Fabian Almazan is simply monumental, while bassist Linda Oh and drummer Rudy Royston make their own substantial voices heard while building a tremendous foundation. The beauty within Anthony Branker must be a sight to see, because the music that comes from that place is a joy to experience.

Aziza (Dare2)
It never fails: Every time I think, I’ve got my Top Ten set, one disc always flies in at the last minute and screams, “Get that spreadsheet out, sucker! You ain’t done yet!” This year’s self-titled gatecrasher is another fire-breathing group date from legendary bassist Dave Holland. But where the fusion of 2013’s Prism stayed on the “traditional” jazz/rock path, Aziza serves up a cornucopia of jazz, funk and world music, thanks to dizzying contributions from reed wizard Chris Potter and guitarist Lionel Loueke. Drummer Eric Harland is the sole holdover from Prism, but given that the Houston native can create shoulder-shaking rhythms for any group of any size or direction, he takes to Holland’s new vision like a duck to water. So did I – and then I got out the spreadsheet and started sorting again.

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BEST OF 2016: Don Wilcock’s Top 10 Blues Albums

December 15th, 2016, 1:30 pm by Greg

By Don Wilcock

Blues recordings made a strong showing this year. The trend across all genres of music continues to marginalize artist income from recordings and depreciate the value of intellectual property. This forces performers to do live concerts to survive and reduces recordings to calling cards in order to create demand that puts asses in the seats. The CD then becomes of secondary importance, and less time and money are spent on them as “product.”

Blues, too, as a genre, is always in danger of being painted into a box of clichés. But none of these potential drags materialized in this year’s crop of CDs. And we, the listeners, are presented with a cornucopia of great music:

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BEST OF 2016: J Hunter’s Top Jazz Albums (Part 1)

December 6th, 2016, 1:00 pm by Greg

By J Hunter

“Jazz2K @ The Saint” was just going to be a sideline thing, but it became something other than else. It’s like when you get in a relationship that you think is going to be casual; the next thing you know, you’re wearing better clothes, you’re driving a better car, you’re shopping for rings you can’t possibly afford, and your friends want to know why you don’t hang out any more.

We’ll see if things change (or moderate, anyway) in 2017. But while I didn’t see a ton of live music this year, I did experience one of the best years in recorded 21st-century jazz since Y2K went bust. Boiling over 150 discs down to the best of the best was especially difficult, because nearly every artist or group I heard could make a case for itself as something to be remembered. In the end, though, the winnowing had to occur, so let’s start by handing out the usual bowling trophies:

DR. LONNIE SMITH: Evolution (Blue Note)
As Michael Sarrazin tells Tim Matheson in “The Gumball Rally,” “Some things get meaner as they get older.” That certainly sums up one of the grand masters of the Hammond B3, who made his return to a resurgent Blue Note after a gap of over four decades. With cameo appearances by Joe Lovano and Robert Glasper, and a core group featuring alto sax fiend John Ellis and mammoth drummer Jonathan Blake, the good doctor sets it all on fire with burning takes on Monk and Rodgers & Hammerstein, sandwiched between killing originals like “Play It Back” and “African Suite.” The evolutionary process includes survival of the fittest, but Smith isn’t just surviving – he is most assuredly thriving.

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