Posts Tagged ‘J Hunter’

LIVE: Guy Davis @ WAMC-FM’s The Linda, 1/17/14

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Guy Davis

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk

Guy Davis prefaced his lightning-fast opening number at The Linda by saying, “I’ve stolen so much, this song doesn’t even have a title!” And even if he hadn’t name-checked Charlie Patton and Blind Willie McTell after it was all over, the SRO crowd could easily hear about 100 years of the blues coursing through Davis’ acoustic 12-string guitar, right down to the off-time beat that recalled Robert Johnson’s original version of “Crossroads.” But as Davis says he tells his students, “It’s okay to steal music – but once you steal it, you have to earn it!”

Davis definitely earns his keep. A scholar of the blues who once paid the rent as a cast member of the soap opera “One Life to Live,” Davis pays mad respect to all those who came before him by mixing their sounds into his music – that’s when he’s not breathing shining life into some of the genre’s many touchstones with either his 12-string, his six-string (which had a rose stuck in the tuning pegs) or his banjo. That last instrument might raise an eyebrow or two; it certainly did for the English music critic Davis lampooned in one of his hilarious pre-song raps. But when Davis laid a chugging take on Muddy Waters’ “I Can’t Be Satisfied” on us, I swear I could hear a freight train whistling by.



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:

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.”


BEST OF 2013: J Hunter’s Best Jazz Albums, Part II

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Reviews by J Hunter

Having given credit where credit was due in our last episode… let’s count ‘em down:

ETIENNE CHARLES: Creole SoulNumber Ten…
ETIENNE CHARLESCreole Soul (Culture Shock Music)
Want some impressive numbers? This native son of Trinidad has four discs to his name, all on his own label – and he’s still in his 20s! Heeding the words of mentor Marcus Roberts that “going backwards is the only way to go forward,” Etienne Charles mixes the Afro-Caribbean beats of his native land with modern jazz idioms to create a set that makes you dance as much as it makes you think. Along with tasty originals like “Creole” and “Doin’ the Thing,” Charles re-shapes Monk’s “Green Chimneys” and Bo Diddley’s “You Don’t Love Me (no no no).” George Allen said, “The future is now” in the ’70s, but with young players like Charles on the scene, it’s jazz’s future that’s now!

ANTONIO SANCHEZ: New LifeNumber Nine…
Many artists try to do too much on their first release as a leader, and it usually turns into a train wreck in short order. But Antonio Sanchez – a big-time sideman who’s visited Greater Nippertown with Pat Metheny and the New Gary Burton Quartet – threads the needle perfectly, serving up 8 superb originals that are just complex enough to make the brain bubble but not boil over. Next-level keyboardist John Escreet joins sax monsters David Binney and Donny McCaslin on the front line, and Sanchez teams with bassist Matt Brewer to drive this beautiful machine up and up and up. Maybe next time we see Sanchez in these parts, it’ll be with his own band.


BEST OF 2013: J Hunter’s Best Jazz Albums, Part I

Monday, December 16th, 2013

By J Hunter

One of the “problems” with doing this thing on the radio – “Jazz2K” is also broadcast from 6-8pm on Tuesdays on WSPN (91.1FM), including this Tuesday’s (December 17) Best of 2013 edition – is that I have 60 or 70 discs to consider instead of 20 or 30. Whoever said, “Be careful what you wish for…” had a good point. Anyway, with the brand-new chainsaw I got for our anniversary (Thanks, honey! Love ya bunches!), I was able to cut the pile down to a Top 10 and eight outstanding “Honorable Mentions.” Let’s get the Honorables out of the way first – mainly because I need to get those bowling trophies off the mantle so we can hang the Festivus decorations:

Their performance at Freihofer’s felt like Saturday night during Mardi Gras, as opposed to the “jazz funerals” they’ve staged in the past. And it’s all thanks to That’s It, Preservation Hall’s first-ever all-originals release. Maybe My Morning Jacket’s Jim James produced the session, but there’s an Old School echo to the 11 studio tracks that makes them seem like gems from NOLA’s marvelously shady past. Even live takes on “Oh Liza” and “Tootie Ma is a Big Fine Thing” jump around like newborn colts. This righteous set is Preservation Hall’s message to “modern” marchers like Rebirth and Dirty Dozen: “Pump the brakes, youngsters! We ain’t dead YET!”

CLIFF HINESWanderlust (Self-released)
Some members of Preservation Hall have ties that are older than this fellow Big Easy resident. That said, multi-instrumentalist Cliff Hines really gets his his Marco Benevento on, with an eclectic assortment of musical styles and cinematic takes on everything from Tehran’s Green Revolution and the Fukushima meltdown to the firebombing of Dresden in World War II. Bewitching vocalist Sasha Masakowski is the not-so-secret weapon in this intricate tapestry, as Hines plays Second Line one moment, Indian raga the next, and quotes William Burroughs’ “Naked Lunch” while mashing up jazz and thrash. Wanderlust is truly addictive. More, please!


LIVE: The Aaron Parks Trio @ Skidmore College’s Zankel Music Center, 12/6/13

Thursday, December 12th, 2013
Aaron Parks

Aaron Parks

Review and photographs by J Hunter

Aaron Parks didn’t just look like a young college professor as he led his trio onstage at Zankel Music Center last Friday night (December 6). James Farm’s piano man had actually been teaching master classes at Skidmore College the day before, so the “mentee” of Terence Blanchard was now the mentor. Just one more step in an ever winding, always interesting creative journey that started when Blanchard plucked a teenage Parks out of Manhattan School of Music and showed him the world. And, as we saw on this night, that journey is far from over.

Given the prodigious nature of Parks’ compositional skills, having him start the night with a straight-down-the-middle take on Jimmy van Heusen’s “Like Someone in Love” was a bit of a shock. It’s true that Parks’ early recordings touch on the Great American Songbook, but we’ve become so used to Parks doing his own thing that it’s kind of weird to hear him doing anybody else’s tunes. More to the point, Parks eschewed the young musician’s urge to deconstruct an older piece, giving van Heusen’s music the loving touch it deserved.


LIVE: Michael-Louis Smith Quintet @ A Place for Jazz, 11/15/13

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013
Michael Louis Smith and Stacy Dillard

Michael Louis Smith and Stacy Dillard

Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu

Although Michael-Louis Smith has officially graduated from the Greater Nippertown jazz scene, the talented guitarist’s enduring links to the Capital Region – and to his birthplace of Schenectady, in particular – are strong enough to grandfather him into A Place for Jazz’s annual local-artist show. Besides, between his springtime drop party at The Linda and the trio he brought to the Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival’s Downtown BID Competition, Smith has definitely been around enough this year to re-acquaint him with the Local 518 scene. For this show, though, we got to experience the full MLS band, and that experience definitely left a mark.

And a mark would have to be made, as the closing show on APFJ’s always-too-short calendar is really the last time until April when area jazz fans will consider attending a show without asking, “How far is it? How cold is it? Is it going to snow?” The slight chill in the air was another reminder that climate change isn’t keeping winter away. But when Smith started his in-the-clear opening riff to “Up in the Air” and his cohorts literally slid into the tasty groove that pushes the tune, the approaching season went right down the memory hole – and a lid was put firmly on that hole when the tune turned on a dime and hit us with a big dose of sharp, blistering bop.

This group’s sound (both individually and collectively) is rooted in jazz tradition: Smith plays hollow-body guitar with minimal effects, Victor Gould’s crisp piano lines evoke early acoustic Herbie Hancock, and it’s not hard to hear Sonny Rollins in saxman Stacey Dillard’s massive attack. But their overall sound comes at you like a tailing curveball, bending your mental knees as the ball blows right by you and smacks into the catcher’s glove. Smith’s lines are high and taut, with none of the soft resonance associated with the hollow-body, and Dillard’s sensational forays outside the box take Rollins’ warm sound and add a level of complexity that is thoroughly modern and undeniably brilliant.


LIVE: The Joshua Redman Quartet @ The Egg, 11/7/13

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Review by J Hunter

Joshua Redman’s played The Egg’s Swyer Theatre quite a bit over the years, both with his own bands and with the jazz supergroup James Farm. “This one of my favorite places to play,” Redman told us after breaking off a fast, nasty take on George Gershwin’s “Summertime” in concert last week. He added with a smile, “I only hate the big theater because I can’t fill the big theater!” Later in the show, he amended his take on the Hart Theatre. “Hate is a very strong word… That’s what I tell my seven-year old. ‘I hate eggplant!’ ‘No, no, you just hate the way DADDY makes eggplant.’ Let’s call it ‘envy’…”

It’s interesting to see the father in Redman, which we also saw in his post-tune description of the wild off-time rollercoaster “D.G.A.F.” He got big laughs when he confided, “That’s a tune I wish I HADN’T written…” The careening original would be a hefty job for any player, but that wasn’t the interesting part: The interesting part was when Redman refused to expand on what the title’s acronym stood for (not that it’s much of a guess), and then quickly corrected his language as he spoke about “when we play the shit out of it… I mean, the STUFF out of it!” Apparently, Redman does not subscribe to George Carlin’s satirical take on parents swearing in front of their children. (“Don’t say that, Johnny! Just hear it!”)

Maturity wears well on Redman. For instance, he wouldn’t have chosen to take on Great American Songbook pieces like “Summertime” and Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” in the past, preferring to stick with his own compositions. That moratorium ended after his time as Artistic Director of the interpretive powerhouse SFJAZZ Collective, which made him way more comfortable doing other people’s stuff. “Summertime” was definitely not the hot, lazy blues Gershwin wrote for “Porgy & Bess,” and Strayhorn’s protagonist in “Lush Life” is downright unapologetic in Redman’s funk-tinged take, only returning to the original version’s saloon-song vibe where the protagonist declares, “I’ll live a lush life in some small dive…”


A Few Minutes With… Bryan Brundige of the Chronicles

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
Tyrone Hartzog, Daniel Lawson and Bryan Brundige

Tyrone Hartzog, Daniel Lawson and Bryan Brundige

Interview and story by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu from the Chronicles’ record release party at Red Square, 10/25/13

Here’s a tip: If you want to see the Chronicles in concert (and I mean really see the actual band members do their funked-up live thing), get next to the stage right before the show, because once trombonist-bandleader Bryan Brundige counts his partners in, the crowd floods the dance floor like pea-soup fog on a dark night in London.

That wasn’t so bad at last year’s drop party for the Chronicles’ eponymously titled debut disc because the stage at the Bayou Café (now the Hollow Bar + Kitchen) is somewhat raised. But the drop for this year’s model – the digital & vinyl-only release Spanning the Gap – took place at Red Square in Albany on Friday night (October 25), and while that NOLA-flavored downtown club is some kind of awesome, its performance space doesn’t have a stage as much as it has a three-sided cubicle with monitors and speakers. Thirty seconds into the Chronicles’ opening number, the band had disappeared behind a major chunk of the most diverse fan base in Greater Nippertown. If he’d brought a stool with him, Brundige could have stage-dived and never touched the floor!

You can fight it if you want, but my second tip would be to find a space of your own and proceed to dance your ass off. It won’t be too difficult, given that the Chronicles’ heady mix of jazz, hip-hop and funk is the freshest thing on the menu. One moment you’ll have saxman Jeff Nania name-checking the late great J. Dilla and rapping as well as he plays on the title track of Spanning, and the next, the sextet is laying down a monster take on Grover Washington Jr.’s “Mister Magic” that brings new life to Smooth Jazz radio’s version of “Stairway to Heaven.”


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