JAZZ 2K: Cyber Monday Edition
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
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
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!
Cuneiform Records has been doing its best to warp the edges of jazz with monster releases from Alon Nechushtan, Anthony Pirog and the Cellar and Point. But it’s the blinding sophomore release from Dylan Ryan/Sand that shatters the windows, shakes the floor, and tells the neighbors it’s time to start packing. Drummer/leader Dylan Ryan listened to Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath growing up, and it shows in visceral compositions like “Visionary Fantasy,” “Mortgage on My Soul” and “Raw Rattle.” But guitarist Timothy Young isn’t just a shredder and a thrasher: He makes the midnight cruiser “Pink Noir” glisten like rain-soaked streets, and his lines in the soaring opener “Trees, Voices, Saturn” recall the awesome tone of Blow by Blow-era Jeff Beck. This one’s is not for the squeamish, but neither are Quentin Tarantino films, and Circa is just as much fun, and just as much of a thrill ride!
MANUEL VALERA & NEW CUBAN EXPRESS
For those who were knocked out by Manueal Valera & New Cuban Express at Jazz at the Lake back in September, this new set of Afro-Cuban goodness will be a sweet, sumptuous flashback. Trumpeter Alex Sipiagin and guitarist Tom Guarna join saxman Yosvany Terry on the front line to make the opener “Descargando” come off the launchpad in a blazing streak of light. The percussion machine that is drummer Ludwig Afonso and conguero Mauricio Herrera is every bit as riveting as it was in Lake George, putting the jump in dancing tracks like “Bantu” and “Factors,” while giving Jose Antonio Mendez’s loving “No Puedo Ser Feliz” the accents it needs. Valera’s breathtaking keyboard skills are amply demonstrated on the crystalline “Preamble” and the urban love song “Para Emiliano.” You’ll hear more of those skills on a trio date Valera will release early next year. For now, though, In Motion lets us blissfully live in the past.
The last time bassist John Davey crossed my path, he was riding the swirling world music of Globetrotting and the 2009 disc You Are Here. Davey’s back with another trio outing, but to say Open Range is a change of pace is like saying “Interstellar” is kind of a big movie. Instead of taking us around the world, Davey has concocted a homegrown road movie in the same mode as the Pat Metheny Group’s American Garage – only a LOT nastier! A lot of the credit goes to guitarist Ken McGloin, whose use of echoing feedback and crunchy chords literally puts the pedal to the metal on bonzo tracks like “The Squeeze,” “Freakshow” and “Hosni & Mommar Go Fishing.” McGloin’s not all slash-and-burn, though; he mixes electric and acoustic perfectly on “Tears for Oaxaca,” and we even get a whiff of Metheny on Davey’s driving reboot of “Wayfaring Stranger.” Davey’s tone is as fat and happy as ever, and his Easy Rider in the 21st Century concept is a joy throughout, but it’s his in-the-clear take on “Home on the Range” (accompanied only by crickets) that is wonderful in its simplicity. Like we always say: Think Global, but BUY LOCAL!