Archive for the ‘CD Reviews’ Category

CD Reviews: Jazz 2K for January

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

Reviews by J Hunter

In an effort to keep the momentum going from the last month of 2014, here’s some music you need to check out – either on your own, or on “Jazz2K @ The Saint”:

Between working with Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band and being the George Gee Swing Orchestra’s musical director, trombonist David Gibson has been plenty busy since his tasty 2011 Posi-tone release End of the Tunnel. That said, the Oklahoma native must have found a few minutes to scribble down some notes, because Boom! comes out of the chute like a Brahma bull on Red Bull and doesn’t let up for a second. That doesn’t mean it’s all pedal-to-the-metal like the hard-bopping “Eyes of Argus,” the swirling dervish title track or the charging opener “The High Road”; some of the best moments are the softer ones, like the loving ballad “The Dance” and Gibson’s joy-filled take on “Change the World.” What keeps this date’s emotional needle pinned in the red is Gibson’s choice to bring in two players who match his intensity volt for volt: Josh Evans’ trumpet has the kind of counter-punching power Freddie Hubbard delivered back in the day, and Theo Hill’s Trump-rich keyboard lines weave stunningly striking colors, be they acoustic on Gibson’s high-flying treatment of Tom McIntosh’s “The Cup Bearers” or electric on the sneaky-good “Grass Fed.” David Gibson may have been doing great work for others, but Boom! shows it’s time for him get out there and really blow his OWN horn!



CD Review: Tas Cru’s “You Keep the Money”

Friday, January 9th, 2015


Review and photographs by Wanda Callagy

There’s the CD release party. And then, there’s the music…

On their way south to Memphis for a three-night stand at the International Blues Challenge on January 18-20, Tas Cru and members of his band, the Tortured Souls, recently stopped by the Fuller Roadhouse Grille in Albany on December 28 to introduce their new CD, You Keep the Money at the Capital Region Blues Network’s Sunday Night Jam. The house was full with standing room only, with many familiar faces and new ones taking the stage to jam after Tas Cru’s opening set.

The wait for this was worth it. And here are some of my impressions:

On this new album, Cru carries through some familiar themes. His tongue-in-cheek love song “Half the Time” is fun and hard not to tap your foot to. The upbeat tune has a lot of interesting guitar exchanges, with strong harmonica skills from Dick Earl Ericksen. Here, I looked up a couple of his other songs, including “Cover My Love” from his 2006 album Biscuit and 2008′s Gravi-Tas. No boring repeats – almost a continuum or, let’s say, another chapter.

The instrumental “La Belle Poutine” brings to the album one of the most soulful pieces I have listened to, ever. Here I hear skills and a sound that remind me so of jazz guitarist Pat Metheny. Cru’s French influence from his time in Montreal is a treat. Haunting.


BEST OF 2014: Greg Haymes’ Top Concerts & Albums

Thursday, January 8th, 2015
The Ed Palermo Big Band

The Ed Palermo Big Band @ Proctors’ GE Theatre, 4/18/14

By Greg Haymes
Photograph by Rudy Lu

1. Rosanne Cash @ Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy (March 5)
2. The Ed Palermo Big Band @ Proctors’ GE Theatre, Schenectady (April 18)
3. Mary Lambert with Howie Day @ College of St. Rose’s Massry Center for the Arts, Albany (October 17)
4. The Mavericks @ The Egg’s Hart Theatre, Albany (November 6)
5. Harriet Tubman and Cassandra Wilson Present Black Sun @ The Egg’s Swyer Theatre, Albany (March 15)
6. Chris Thile & Edgar Meyer @ Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, Troy (October 10)
7. Paul McCartney @ the Times Union Center, Albany (July 5)
8. King Crimson @ The Egg’s Hart Theatre, Albany (September 9)
9. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band @ the Times Union Center, Albany (May 13)
10. Queens of the Stone Age with Brody Dalle @ the Palace Theatre, Albany (July 13)
11. Wussy with Bloodshot Bill @ the Low Beat, Albany (July 24)
12. Beck with the Ghost of the Saber Tooth Tiger @ MASS MoCA, North Adams (June 23)
13. Nick Lowe’s Quality Holiday Revue featuring Los Straitjackets with the Cactus Blossoms @ The Egg’s Swyer Theatre, Albany (December 19)
14. Living Colour with Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds and Mirk @ Empire State Plaza, Albany (June 4)
15. Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue @ The Egg’s Hart Theatre, Albany (January 12)
16. Nickel Creek @ Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival at Walsh Farm, Oak Hill (July 17)
17. Dust Bowl Faeries with Swamp Baby @ Steamer No. 10 Theatre, Albany (March 1)
18. Dom Flemons @ Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs (August 15)
19. Chris Isaak @ The Egg’s Hart Theatre, Albany (September 16)
20. Regina Carter @ The Egg’s Swyer Theatre, Albany (March 29)


BEST OF 2014: Michael Eck’s Top 10 Albums

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

Joe Henry: Invisible Hour

By Michael Eck

Joe Henry’s Invisible Hour is so relentlessly, ridiculously beyond good that speaking about it reduces me to gibberish. It is my Top 10 for 2014. I don’t mean to say that it is at the top of the list, no, it is the entire list.

If you ride due southwest, following the sun, out of Albany, into the hilltowns, that is best… Open the moonroof, too. Even if it’s winter.

Fred Rudofsky’s Top 21 Live Music Events
Albert Brooks’ Top 11 Albums
Gene Sennes’ Top Concerts & Albums
J Hunter’s Best Jazz Albums, Part II
The Capital Land Crate Digger’s Cultural Top 10
J Hunter’s Best Jazz Albums, Part I
Stanley Johnson’s Favorite Things
Rudy Lu’s Top 10 Concerts
J Hunter’s Top 10 Concerts (And More)
Tim Livingston’s Top 10 Albums

BEST OF 2014: Albert Brooks’ Top 11 Albums

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

By Albert Brooks

Nippertown contributing photographer Albert Brooks weighs in with his Top 11 albums (plus a few honorable mentions) of the past 12 months:

Jimmy Greene: Beautiful Life1. JIMMY GREENE: A Beautiful Life (Mack Avenue Records)
This album is a special gift that Greene is graciously sharing with the world. It is an album of simply beautiful music that honors the beautiful life that was his daughter, Ana Grace. The album has a stellar line-up of world-class musicians offering their musical support to Greene in this moving tribute: Renee Rosnes, Christian McBride, Lewis Nash, Pat Metheny, Kenny Barron and others. This is a must-have album!

2. ANTHONY BRANKER & WORD PLAY: The Forward (Towards Equality) Suite (Origin Records)
This is one of the more thought-provoking albums I heard this year. With The Forward, Branker has composed a suite of music inspired by personal reflections on what America means to him as a first-generation American. One highlight among many here is the powerful recitation of Claude McKay’s poem “If We Must Die.” The impressive line-up here includes saxophonists David Binney and Ralph Bowen, trombonist Conrad Herwig, pianist Jim Ridl, bassist Kenny Davis, drummer Donald Edwards, conguero Renato Thoms and vocalist Alison Crockett, as well as 16 fifth grade students from Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary in Piscataway, NJ providing spoken word contributions.

3. AZAR LAWRENCE: The Seeker (Sunnyside Records)
The Seeker is a powerful album recorded live at the Jazz Standard in New York. Lawrence is a ferocious and lyrical saxophonist who may come out of the Coltrane lineage, but is his own man both as a composer and improviser. This album features a powerful line-up – Nicholas Payton on trumpet, Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums, Essiet Okon Essiet on bass and the fine young pianist Benito Gonzalez – and all the excitement of a live performance.


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

Friday, December 26th, 2014

Reviews by J Hunter

Okay, now that the Honorable Mentions are out of the way… DRUM ROLL, PLEASE!

Orrin Evans' Captain Black Big Band: Mother's TouchNUMBER TEN…
Pianist Orrin Evans has two other discs that are showing up on more than a few Top 10 lists: The Philadelphia native’s own Smoke Sessions release Liberation Blues and Sean Jones’ killer Mack Avenue date As great as those discs are, I couldn’t ignore this tremendous set of 21st-century big-band jazz. Propelled by a powerhouse unit that includes Marcus Strickland, Duane Eubanks, Conrad Herwig and Luques Curtis, Evans’ blues-soaked “In My Soul” sets the wide-screen tone for the date; his soaring “Prayer for Columbine” finishes it off, and in between are monster arrangements of Wayne Shorter’s “Water Babies,” Eric Revis’ “Maestra” and Donald Edwards’ “Tickle.” Big Band ain’t dead – thanks to Evans and Captain Black, it ain’t even SICK!

CLARENCE PENN & PENN STATION: Monk: The Lost Files (Origin)
Drummer/educator Clarence Penn has firsthand knowledge of how tough it is to sell today’s young musicians on music that’s anywhere from 60 to 100 years old. It was that resistance to the “jazz canon” that sent Penn into the studio to give ten Thelonius Monk compositions a serious re-boot. Mixing sampling and studio wizardry with ragged-edge arrangements, Penn brings classics like “Well You Needn’t,” “Evidence,” “Bemsha Swing” and “Rhythm-a-Ning” into the 21st century while keeping them as savory and singular as the original recordings. And that’s not even the best part: Due to a mishap with a computer and some wine, Penn erased the tracks a few months after recording them; we only have them now because the Englewood, NJ studio Penn recorded them in hadn’t cleaned out its hard drive. WHEW!


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):
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!”


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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