Archive for the ‘CD Reviews’ Category

BEST OF 2014: J Hunter’s Best Jazz Albums, Part I

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

Reviews by J Hunter

I had planned to write a lot more about new jazz this year, particularly in the last couple of months. Then I found out all it took to move a radio show from one station to another – and that’s BEFORE I had to learn how to drive the tractor-trailer! Well, anyway, I’ll try and do better next year, particularly since this year’s crop gave me over 100 CDs to consider for this list, and the stack’s already growing for 2015!

With that in mind, we’re splitting the column in two again, with the performance awards first:

Bobby Hutcherson: Enjoy The ViewLIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD:
BOBBY HUTCHERSONEnjoy the View (Blue Note)
Despite long-term health issues, vibes legend Bobby Hutcherson still gets around, making the occasional appearance in concert and – in this case – in his first studio recording as a leader for Blue Note since 1977. And even though Enjoy the View is more of an ensemble date than a star turn, Hutcherson’s elegance (and eloquence) is knockout beautiful on a date that has more than a whiff of Blue Note recordings from back in the day. Whether it’s on altoist David Sanborn’s grooving “Delia,” B3 master Joey DeFrancesco’s bluesy waltz “You” or Hutch’s own roaring flag-waver “Hey Harold,” Hutch brings home the goods every time. Enjoy gives us a sweet time trip, as well as one more tantalizing glimpse of one of the greats. But unlike most looks we get of legends nowadays, this music is happening now.

Arch Stanton Quarte5: Blues For SoliLOCAL HERO AWARD (CD Division):
ARCH STANTON QUARTETBlues for Soli (WEPA)
After creating a sound on their 2012 debut Along for the Ride that nobody else in Greater Nippertown had made, the next goal for the Arch Stanton Quartet was to conjure up another set of kickass originals while avoiding Sophomore Slump. As some guy who likes to paint his feet in the bathtub nowadays might have said: Mission Accomplished. The second half of Blues for Soli says the Stanton Quartet could have made this happen without their whirlwind tour of Egypt in 2013. That said, the tone that’s set by the four monster tunes contained in the opening “Lady Egypt Suite” is about as blood-and-guts tough as you’re going to get. It’s still “garage-band jazz,” in that the ASQ is a no-frills outfit with a license to kill; however, there are layers of richness to this music that were only hinted at on Ride. What the future brings for the ASQ is anyone’s guess, but as far as I’m concerned, the guy in the bathtub said it all: “Bring it on!”

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Best of 2014: Tim Livingston’s Top 10 Albums

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

By Tim Livingston of WGXC-FM’s “Radio Warfare”

Almost all of my fave albums this year are new releases by old school rockers…

THE BOYS: Punk Rock Menopause
Joey Ramone named them as his favorite band and for obvious reasons, as between 1977-1980 the band released four LPs of punk-driven power-pop, rivaled by few at the time for pure melodic power. This year they returned with their first album as a band since the day, and it is a scorcher! Ringing guitars, booming drums & bass, punk swagger and grit, mixed with pure pop melodies, vocal harmonies and most importantly – great songs. This album picks up right where the Boys left off. Original members Honest John Plain, Casino Steel and Matt Dangerfield deliver the goods with newly minted pop classics like the rumbling “How Hot You Are,” the super-catchy “She’s the Reason” and the very Beatlesque “Baby Bye Bye,” all of which sit nicely alongside straight-up, old-school punk-rockers like “1976″ and “Punk Rock Girl.” The whole album is S-O-L-I-D, from the opening riff to the ending notes and is essential for fans of the band, or anyone missing the old-school sound… ALSO OF NOTE: Original Boys bassist Duncan “Kid” Reid (who was not involved in this project) and his solo band Duncan Reid & the Big Headsput out a cracking new power-pop keeper of his own this year, Difficult Second Album, which is well worth checking out.

THE NEW CHRISTS: Incantations
Radio Birdman frontman Rob Younger’s side-project since 1980 returns with a new album of dark, brooding garage rock that sits along the top with the Boys as No. 1 for me this year. A bit more complex and diverse than some of the band’s previous straight-up nuggets-style garage-rock/Detroit-worshiping efforts, this album, however, lacks no power. It’s just a more subtle fury, rather than a head-slamming guitar attack. Oh, there is still plenty of powerful six-string assaults to be had, but presented in a moodier, smoldering context. Sinister yet romantic, Younger has one of the best rock voices out there as his deep, dark pipes snake their way through 11 devastating songs such as the killer opener “Ghostlike,” the surf-guitar-inspired single “Waves Form,” the brilliant “A Window to See” and the goth-tinged “We Are Lovers,” which could have been an ’80s dance-club classic back in the day. A brilliant album from a band whose entire back-catalog is worth searching out.

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JAZZ 2K: Cyber Monday Edition

Monday, December 1st, 2014

CD reviews by J Hunter

I’ve always preferred Cyber Monday to Black Friday – less wounding and trampling, for one thing. And since you’re already searching for something to wrap around your loved one’s ears (that ISN’T a scarf or a wool hat), here are a few suggestions:

Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood: JuiceMEDESKI SCOFIELD MARTIN & WOOD
Juice
(Indirecto)
As the chunky Picasso brother once said, “That’s right, the party is back!” And you know it’s a party from the first chunka-chunka notes of Eddie Harris’ “Sham Time,” which opens MSMW’s delicious second studio effort. True, “effort” is kind of an overstatement, because John Scofield and Medeski Martin & Wood absolutely love making tasty jams together, like the grooving “Juicy Lucy” and the electric Afro-Cuban mix “Stovetop.” Though their reading of the Doors’ “Light My Fire” is pretty flat overall, MSMW more than make up for it with an epic ska reboot of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” and a touching, disc-closing take on Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A’ Changin’.” That hushed coda aside, move the furniture to the walls and get ready to dance!

Avishai Cohen's Triveni: Dark NightsAVISHAI COHEN’S TRIVENI
Dark Nights
(Anzic)
A trumpet trio should not be this deep, this dark, and this filthy stinking rich! And while Avishai Cohen’s stripped-out, junkyard dog of a group does get help from sister/clarinet master Anat Cohen, keyboardist Gerald Clayton and vocalist Karen Ann, their respective footprints on Dark Nights (while amazing) are minimal. It’s Cohen, bassist Omer Avital and drummer Nasheet Waits that smoke the blues on the opening title track, and make “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” even more mournful than any recording since Charles Mingus’ original session. That said, Triveni also brings sexy back with Frank Foster’s “Shiny Stockings” and breaks Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” down to its component parts. Yes, there’s more than a little overdubbing (so Avishai can play with his effects box), but otherwise, it’s just three guys playing killer tunes. Cool!

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JAZZ2K: Nels Cline & Julian Lage’s “Room”

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014
Julian Lage and Nels Cline (photo: Justin Camerer)

Julian Lage and Nels Cline (photo: Justin Camerer)

NELS CLINE & JULIAN LAGE
Room (Mack Avenue)
Realse date: Tuesday, November 25

In a 2013 interview, Nels Cline described his collaboration with Julian Lage as “200 percent power.” A cursory listen to the soon-to-be-released Room might make one wonder if there are sound files on a laptop somewhere with the Wilco uber-guitarist and the prodigy-made-amazing creating mutual screaming feedback that only the hearing-damaged could love. But once you get tuned into the subtlety and harmony throughout this mesmerizing duo date from these two guitar wizards, you realize that Room is one of the more intense projects of 2014. And the guitar duo is slated to preview the new album in concert at The Egg in Albany at 7:30pm on Thursday night (November 20).

The album’s opening track “Abstract” seems pretty straightforward. Lage lays down a simple riff that Cline works off of with remarkable restraint. A quick bit of formation flying, and the exercise is repeated… except this time, it goes from an established relationship to dueling monologues in nothing flat. The relative cacophony threatens to send the piece careening off the road and into the ditch, but Lage and Cline back together on the nominal melody line relatively quickly – only there’s an obvious edge to both players that sounds like people speaking quietly through very clenched teeth. The piece resolves as if both of them would like to leave this subject behind, but the intrigue has been hatched: If this isn’t a wail-fest, then what is this?

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The Capital Land Crate Digger: “Bluegrass” (1964)

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Red Allen, Frank Wakefield and the Kentuckians: Bluegrass
Review and photograph by Ross Marvin

The Capital Land Crate Digger brings you reviews of vinyl obscurities found for $10 or under at Capital District record stores, thrift shops, garage sales, and junk emporiums. The vinyl archeologist behind this column is Ross Marvin, an English teacher and music enthusiast who lives in Saratoga County. Ross has over 1,000 pieces of vinyl, is running out of shelf room, and can be found getting his fingers dirty in a box of records near you.

ALBUM: Bluegrass
ARTIST: Red Allen, Frank Wakefield and the Kentuckians
LABEL: Folkways
YEAR: 1964
PURCHASED: Rock n Roll Expo, Albany Marriott
PAID: $10
DATE: October 19, 2014

Well, it’s that flannel shirt time of year. The smell of burning leaves, the drop in temperature, and the death of garage sales makes me question my vinyl sickness: Do I stay in my warm bed, or try to make one last score before the good hunting season comes to a close? Though the thought of a thick newspaper and a home-scrambled breakfast was tempting, I dragged my ass out of bed a couple of Sunday’s ago and made the trek to the sterile conference room of the Albany Marriott for another fine rendition Felix Iavarone’s biannual Rock N Roll Expo.

Record fairs are the ugly step-children of record commerce. Less hip than an independent record store (because they aren’t located in an urbane downtown), and a lot better than a garage sale gamble, the Marriott conference room setting of the Rock Expo looked a lot like the floor of some throwback casino where almost everyone has a wild look in their eye, a shared addiction, and the uneasy feeling that a heavy wallet will quickly be made light if you find a lucky table. Gotta love what I overheard, while digging around my fellow crazies. Said one octogenarian with a horrendous come-over to a dealer: “But, what have ya got as far as polka 45s? Here, I got a list. I mean I gotta find this record, man. Even if you find it someday and want to keep it, you could at least make me a CD.” I don’t even think the dealer had ANY polka, but the guy kept yelling at him about some world-forgotten 19th Century dance music. At least I don’t collect polka 45s, I thought. That makes me less of a nerd. Affirmation! Right…

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A Few More Minutes With… Roger Noyes of the Arch Stanton Quartet

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014
Roger Noyes

Roger Noyes

CD Review and interview by J Hunter
Photograph by Rudy Lu

THE ARCH STANTON QUARTET
Blues for Soli
(WEPA Records)

In hindsight, I may have done the Arch Stanton Quartet a disservice by referring to their stripped-out underground sound as “garage-band jazz.” All us grey-haired rockers can wax poetic about garage bands like the Music Explosion, the Count Five and – my favorite – the Standells serving up two minutes-and-change of nasty, uncultured excellence… but the Electric Prunes and the Count Five never had a chance to experience sophomore slump because they dropped out after the first semester! Well, the Arch Stanton Quartet is back with Blues For Soli, and there are two bits of good news: First, no sophomore slump here; and second, Greater Nippertown’s musical ambassadors are STILL as nasty as they want to be!

It was their short-but-intense tour of Egypt in 2013 that helped birth the disc’s first four tracks (also known as the “Lady Egypt Suite”), and there’s a definite intensity to the opening track “Kofta.” The introduction has this swirling, almost drunken quality to it that makes you wonder, “How bad will this trip be?” Then drummer Steven Partyka hits this sweet groove straight out of Freddie Hubbard’s “Red Clay,” and the ASQ is serving up the funk their way; that involves mixing whip-tight guitar from Roger Noyes with open, almost snarling trumpet from Terry Gordon (who is SO on his game throughout this date), while bassist Chris Macchia bows a counter that evokes Frankenstein skanking down the street while sipping from a bottle of schnapps.

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The Capital Land Crate Digger: “Out After Dark” (1979)

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Roy Loney: Out After Dark

Review and photograph by Ross Marvin

The Capital Land Crate Digger brings you reviews of vinyl obscurities found for $10 or under at Capital District record stores, thrift shops, garage sales and junk emporiums. The vinyl archeologist behind this column is Ross Marvin, an English teacher and music enthusiast who lives in Saratoga County. Ross has over 1,000 pieces of vinyl, is running out of shelf room, and can be found getting his fingers dirty in a box of records near you.

ALBUM: Out After Dark
ARTIST: Roy Loney & the Phantom Movers
LABEL: Solid Smoke
YEAR: 1979
PURCHASED: Last Vestige Music Shop, Albany, NY
PRICE: $6.99
DATE: August 30, 2014

Here’s a little story that sums up the Capital Land record store scene. At the end of July I had my annual record garage sale in Clifton Park and despite ridding myself of several tons of tunes (making my wife immeasurably happy), I was still left with some quality merchandise. Like most serious record collectors, I deal to pay for the habit. So, I took a stack of wax to Troy’s Citizen-of-the-Year Jimmy Barrett down at the River Street Beat Shop in Troy. The always fair Barrett gave me some credit at the store, and before you know it I was pulling out more records than I expected. I felt a heady rush when I came across an extremely clean promo 12” single of legendary Flamin’ Groovies frontman Roy Loney doing the Elvis hit “Return to Sender”.

Norton Records co-founder Miriam Linna probably said it best about the Groovies that they were the American Rolling Stones, raised on Sun Records rather than Chess. It’s a fitting description of the Groovies early records like “Teenage Head” and “Flamingo” that sound more ’50s rock and rockabilly informed than blues derived. When Loney left the band in the early ’70s, he became a record clerk in San Francisco, but never exactly stopped recording, making several records on the Solid Smoke and War Bride labels as Roy Loney & the Phantom Movers. The Phantom Movers may well have been called the Phantom Groovies as they included original Groovy drummer Danny Mihm, and sometimes-Groovy lead guitar player James Ferrell. The group was rounded out by Maurice Tani on bass, and Nick Buck on keyboards, with Loney belting out snarling lead vocals and acoustic rhythm guitar.

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JAZZ2K: Top Discs for September, Part I

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Reviews by J Hunter

Okay, I’ve been sloughing off on this feature for WAY too long! And since September is essentially Jazz Month in Greater Nippertown (with the Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival, Jazz at the Lake, and – of course – the return of A Place For Jazz), here are a few discs I’ve been meaning to talk about for some time. Next week, I’ll talk about some new stuff on the way, some of which you can see performed live this month! Until then, feast your eyes and feed your ears:

Stanton Moore: ConversationsSTANTON MOORE
Conversations (Royal Potato Family)
When I heard Galactic drummer/leader Stanton Moore was doing a straight-ahead release, I was decidedly unenthusiastic. Then I saw the liner notes for Conversations and exclaimed, “Stanton Moore AND David Torkanovsky? FUCK yeah!!” Torkanovsky’s one of those righteous NOLA pianists who proves technical excellence and downright fun are not mutually exclusive. Moore does play it (kinda) straight, with killing takes on bassist James Singleton’s waltzing “Lauren Z” and the Herbie Hancock cruiser “Driftin’,” but dancing tracks like “Carnival,” “Tchefunkta” and “Big Greaze” have that Galactic “LET’S PARTY” attitude in full force. A piano trio disc you can party to! Who knew?

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