Archive for the ‘CD Reviews’ Category

New Release Rack: The Matthew Shipp Trio’s “The Root of Things”

Friday, March 14th, 2014

The Matthew Shipp Trio: The Root of Things

THE MATTHEW SHIPP TRIO
Root of Things
(Relative Pitch Records)

Regardless of the format – solo; with such saxmen as Roscoe Mitchell and David S. Ware; or with his trio of drummer Whit Dickey and Michael Bisio – prolific pianist Matthew Shipp conjures up a brainy brand of jazz. But what sets his work apart from the strict proponents of math-jazz is that Shipp and his bandmates pour their hearts into their playing. It’s passionate stuff – adventurous and often angular, but certainly not inaccessible.

And that comes through loud and clear on Root of Things, slated for release on Tuesday (March 18).

There are a half dozen tunes on the disc, each reflecting moments of eloquence, elegance and experimentation. “Jazz It,” for example, is built on a solid foundation of traditional swing, thanks to Bisio’s walking bass. And that makes it all the more exciting when the threesome reach for the stars and take it all stratospheric. “Path” is Bisio’s showcase, as he takes the lead with a five-minutes-plus unaccompanied bowed bass solo that seamlessly segues into rumbling trio ruminations.

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New Release Rack: 2Late’s “10 Years 2Late”

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

10 Years 2Late

It’s been a full decade since Vicki Gayle and Mike Short first teamed up as the singer-songwriter duo 2Late, so named because, “We were too late for a major recording contract,” according to Gayle. So it seemed only natural that they would title their new album – the twosome’s fourth – 10 Years 2Late.

The new album reflects a focus that could only come through years of hard work. “It took us a long time to find our sound,” explains Gayle. “We come from different backgrounds. I’m country girl at heart, where Mike’s southern roots are pretty much southern Wisconsin. But when his family got together, they played a lot of old-timey music, bluegrass and gospel tunes. So when he writes for 2Late, you hear the country sound influenced by traditional roots music.”

The new album features 14 of the duo’s original songs, and it’s their best album yet. “We’ve worked hard on our singing and gotten coaching to refine our sound, and it’s really helped,” says Gayle. “We’re better musicians, we practice better, we write better songs, and I think this album reflects that,” adds Short.

2Late will be celebrating the release of “10 Years 2Late” with a performance and party at 7pm tonight (Wednesday, February 26) at Café NOLA in Schenectady. Admission is $15, which also includes appetizers and a copy of the new CD.

Phantogram’s “Voices”: Review Round-up

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Phantogram’s new album Voices was released this week, so we thought we’d give you an idea of what critics all around the country are writing about Sarah Barthel, Josh Carter and their new music:

From Matt Moore at Associated Press: “Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter have found an equilibrium that pulls the very best of each other’s talents to the forefront and blends it for songs that have a stunning heft. This isn’t music for jubilant parties. This is music for listening, parsing for meaning, for introspection and for making bold declarations that, as the song ‘Howling at the Moon’ proclaims: ‘Let the shooting stars, let the crashing cars, let the future pass, wasn’t made to last.’ Phantogram has crafted an epochal album, a generational capstone that will reside in the playlists for a generation to come and returned to in times of heady joy and nostalgic reminiscence, too.”

From Nathan Stevens at PopMatters: “There’s a fairly common trope dominating parts of the indie music world and it goes like this: pixie voice female leads a band surrounded by male orchestrated electronics. Just look at the way Purity Ring and Chvrches have been lauded by critics. There are even mutated versions of this theme: the twisted insanity of Crystal Castles and the one-woman pop machine that is Grimes. But if there’s one outfit ready to flip this trope on its head it would be Phantogram. With their newest album the New York-based duo have turned from a promising indie-rock group into a full-fledged, ass-kicking, genre-mashing superhero team.”

From Stuart Berman at Pitchfork: “[Sarah Barthel's] not afraid to place herself in a vulnerable position in service of a song, and on Voices‘ most immediately arresting tracks — in particular, the back-to-back, arena-rattling R&B bangers ‘Black Out Days’ and ‘Fall in Love’ — she invests her performances with a heightened sense of desperation that feels raw and real. Likewise, her wistful turn on ‘Bill Murray’ serves as the album’s emotional center; though it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the iconic actor, the song’s soft-focus synth washes and hazy-headed romantic longing would be right at home on the ‘Lost in Translation’ soundtrack.”

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New Release Rack: Sandy McKnight & the Idea’s “What Did You Expect?”

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Sandy McKnight: What Did You Expect?

CD review by Allison Gregory

A mixture of surf, ’60s rock ‘n’ roll and folk revival, ballads and a hint of smooth jazz, country-rock, and waltzes – what an idea!

Sandy McKnight & the Idea’s album What Did You Expect? (released in late October, 2013) gives the listener a large range of styles over 12 tracks which mesh perfectly together. From the opener “Never Miss a Trick” to the closer “Setting the World on Fire,” you’ll be hooked on this idea. Because of its catchy melody and chorus, “Never Miss a Trick” will get you hooked right at the start of this album. With a surf and pop-inspired sound and four-part harmony by Liv Cummins, Jennifer Bennett, Dave Labrecque and Craig Hazen, you’ll be singing along in no time. With Johnny Easy completing the live line-up, what else would you expect from a cast of experienced musicians like the ones Sandy McKnight brought together?

“Someone.” a catchy and lyrical song, covers up the pain and struggle of the people in the song with a light-hearted sound. By going from a soft, cheerful sound during the verses to a harder rock sound during the chorus and interludes, it accentuates the deeper meaning of the lyrics. Former David Bowie guitarist Earl Slick also makes a cameo on this song playing guitar and the enthralling and gripping fuzz guitar solo.

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JAZZ2K: CD Picks of the Month

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Reviews by J Hunter

Okay, the holidays are over, so it’s time to get back on the horse. “Jazz2K: The Radio Show” returns to the airwaves & computer streaming on 91.1 WSPN from 6-9pm tonight (Tuesday, January 7), and here are five pieces of goodness you’re going to hear as we wind our way through the first weeks of 2014:

John ScofieldJOHN SCOFIELD
Uberjam Deux (Decca/emArcy)
Forget the rules about sequels that we got from “Scream II”: The real first rule about sequels is that they usually suck – lookin’ at you, “Die Hard (insert Roman numeral here).” Happily, Scofield follows the lead of “Aliens” and “The Two Towers,” making this sequel to the guitarist’s 2002 Verve release Uberjam both a logical extension from the original and a kickass good time! True, Scofield’s never really been away from this style, what with his presence on the Jam Band festival scene and his brilliant collaborations with Medeski Martin & Wood. Even so, having crunchy morsels like “Boogie Stupid” and “Al Green Song” definitely warms things up on a really cold day.

Archie Shepp & The Attica Blues Orchestra: I Hear The SoundARCHIE SHEPP & THE ATTICA BLUES ORCHESTRA
I Hear the Sound (Archieball)
This isn’t a sequel as much as it is a visit to hallowed, blood-soaked ground Shepp dug out in 1972. The saxman’s original Attica Blues was both a searing indictment of the prison system’s inherent brutality and a celebration of the rebellion launched by inmates who’d finally reached their boiling point. Although Shepp revived his opus with a full orchestra (complete with Cecile McLorin Savant on background vocals), the power of Shepp’s compositions still shines through on this live date. Ambrose Akinmusire’s laser-guided trumpet solo on “The Cry Of My People” aims right for the heart, and the pain is as strong as the swing in “Goodbye Sweet Pops.”

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New Release Rack: Michael Jerling’s “Halfway Home”

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

Michael Jerling: Halfway Home

“Where the black dog scratched at the old blue door
And the greasy grooves in the kitchen floor
Something moves just outside the frame
It’s a long climb
But you’re halfway home…”

Halfway Home is a marvelous new album from veteran North Country singer-songwriter Michael Jerling. It’s the follow-up to his 2009 live album Music Here Tonight, which was recorded in concert at Caffe Lena. It’s also his first album of all new material since 2007′s Crooked Path, but it was worth the wait, jam-packed with 14 songs.

Recorded at his Fool’s Hill Studio in Saratoga Springs, Jerling is joined by his regular musical sidekicks – Tony Markellis on bass, Teresina Huxtable on reed organ and accordion and Danny Whelchel on drums and percussion, as well as special guest contributions by Danny Gotham on mandolin and nylon string guitar, Victor Sanders on electric guitar, Kevin Maul on slide guitar and Mike Vlahakis on keyboards. In addition, Don & Victoria Armstrong, Bob Warren & Joy MacKenzie and Dale Haskell chime in with their distinctive voices.

Not only a multi-talented musician – he plays guitar, mandolin and harmonica on the disc – Jerling is also a masterful craftsman, a songsmith with a confident strength and a keen eye for the details that bring his eloquent songs to life. He’s a magnificently understated vocalist with echoes of such masters as Guy Clark, John Gorka and Lyle Lovett. And just when you figure you’ve got him figured out, he effortlessly shifts gears to crank out a bluesy anthem (“Bigger Hammer”), a wry Tin Pan Alley stroll (“Personal Appearance”) or a lilting samba (“No Solid Ground”).

Michael Jerling celebrates the release of “Halfway Home” with a performance at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs at 8pm on Saturday (January 4). He’ll be accompanied by Teresina Huxtable and Tony Markellis. Veteran Canadian singer-songwriter Lorne Clarke opens the show. Tickets are $16 in advance; $18 at the door.

BEST of 2013: Mike Hotter’s Favorite Albums

Friday, December 27th, 2013

Reviews by Mike Hotter

While there were no new albums I felt very passionate about this year (besides the Dylan reissue), here are some that I admired and listened to quite a bit – in alphabetical order:

Neko Case’s The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You: Gorgeous voice delivering gorgeous tunes about unsettling matters.

Bob Dylan: Another Self PortraitBob Dylan’s Another Self Portrait (1969-1971): A couple of self-professed Dylan fans I know scoffed when I told them how much I loved this two-disc set – such is the stigma attached to anything having to do with this era. But if you sit down with this objectively, I promise that your conception of Dylan will be enlivened, enriched and rejuvenated. Filled with some of his finest singing ever captured on tape, you also hear a person deeply in love with song. And the demo version of “When I Paint My Masterpiece” that closes, with its slightly different lyrics, is so much better than the one we are familiar with. My favorite release of 2013.

The Knife’s Shaking the Habitual: As forbidding as an electronica version of “Finnegan’s Wake,” this 96-minute-long behemoth may not be really “enjoyable” at some points, but it seems important in an almost historical way – the first bonafide hybrid human-computer classic, as chilling as it sounds.

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BEST OF 2013: Fred Rudofsky’s Best Albums of 2013

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

Reviews by Fred Rudofsky

In 2013, I saw a lot of music and I bought a lot of music – yes, I’m that 21st century Luddite who still believes in owning a physical copy of an album, on CD or LP. There are a few albums that I’m sure would have made my list that I just haven’t picked up yet, but here’s a baker’s dozen of where it stands as of today… and a list of other noteworthy titles to consider as well. (Note: archival, box set and/ or reissue albums will appear on another list):

The Holmes Brothers: Brotherhood1.) THE HOLMES BROTHERS: Brotherhood (Alligator Records)
Available in Europe, but oddly not in the USA til April 2014, this album is tremendous from start to finish, as all the albums in the Holmes Brothers’ catalog have been since 1989. Blues (“My Word is My Bond,” “Passing Through”), soul (“Soldier of Love,” “My Kind of Girl”), folk (a superb cover of Ted Hawkins’ “I Gave Up All I Had”) and gospel (“Amazing Grace”) – they can do it all, and their three-part harmonies have no rival. Wendell Holmes sings and plays guitar with swagger; Sherman Holmes sings with warmth and plays some of the coolest bass lines around; and Popsy Dixon hits falsetto notes as deftly as he plays the drums. Do what I did: buy the album online, and be sure to order a few copies for friends and family.

Candye Kane: Coming Out Swingin'2.) CANDYE KANE (FEATURING LAURA CHAVEZ): Coming Out Swingin’ (Vizztone)
The self-proclaimed “Toughest Girl Alive” (her five-year battle against pancreatic cancer is a profile in courage and an endorsement for the healing power of music) cuts a jubilant blues album live and direct to analog, with a fine group of musicians, most notably, Laura Chavez, a guitarist who deserves the press coverage that has been given lately to Gary Clark, Jr. and Joe Bonamassa. Kane’s vivacious and sanguine, delivering several originals (check out the title cut, “Rise Up!” and “Barbed Wire Mouth”) alongside choice covers of Benny Carter, Rick Estrin and Lala Guerrero. It’s a life-affirming album for any occasion.

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