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

December 16th, 2013, 4:00 pm by Greg

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!

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Jazz2K: CD Picks of the Month

August 27th, 2013, 3:00 pm by Greg

CD reviews by J Hunter

It’s “Back To School” time, and speaking from experience, you need good tunes to get through the first few weeks… and the following nine months. Here are a few suggestions to relieve the tedium – whether you’re a student, a parent or a teacher:

Christian McBride Trio: Out HereCHRISTIAN McBRIDE TRIO
Out Here
(Mack Avenue)
On the surface, Out Here is a logical extension of the fervor bassist Christian McBride put into his mad trad group Inside Straight, a killer quintet that puts a straight edge onto straight-ahead jazz; below the surface, McBride is morphing slowly into former mentor/leader Ray Brown by building solid platforms for the next generation of jazzers to show their stuff. Out Here strips Inside Straight’s attack down to the bare essentials, giving us a piano-trio date that has something most piano-trio dates don’t have – teeth! The savory blues “Ham Hocks & Cabbage” might burn your mouth here and there, but you’ll revel in the taste of it. Pianist Christian Sands gives Billy Taylor’s “Easy Walker” the heart and the touch of its late, great composer, while Johnny Taylor’s iconic shouter “Who’s Making Love” gets stamped into the New Great American Songbook with a soul-jazz arrangement that’s unerringly driven by drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr. Sands and Owens both feature on Inside Straight’s latest disc People Music, so they’re dialed right in to McBride’s vibrant take on all things jazz. Sands’ roaring keyboard work on the superfast gospel “Hallelujah Time” is one of those calling-card solos people will remember, and his vast exploration of “My Favorite Things” almost makes you forget that some guy named Coltrane recorded it, too. But that’s Christian McBride, who’s been playing fearless music for over three decades – and, for once, “more of the same” is a really, really GOOD thing!

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