The back states this album was released in 2009 but I received it for review recently, so here it is. This is the current incarnation of the Sun Ra Arkestra. While Ra is busy traveling the darkest depths of outer space, the Arkestra is under Marshall Allen‘s rule and he’s making sure Ra’s philosphies and music are being pushed into the 21st century, until it’s Allen’s time to travel in the great beyond.
This album was recorded in 2008 while on tour “throuh a minor district of the galaxy called Europe”, and Live At The Paradox (In + Out) shows how these songs are as valid today as they were when they were first recorded by the lord of the sun, Sun Ra. The album also features original compositions by Allen, and when you hear this kind of jazz, it’s as if you’re being involved in a sonic gangbang where every orifice is filled to the rim, and you don’t know whether to run or make the runs. It is very much the past, present, and future of jazz, and there’s no one who makes music quite like this, and it’s a trip, as Ra always intended. There’s no limit.
John Lee Hooker Jr. had a chance to perform in Istanbul, Turkey and he wasn’t about to waste a great opportunity. He brought the blues to a country not known for the blues but where there’s people, there are those who are in need of that music in order to survive. Live In Istanbul Turkey (CC Entertainment/Steppin’ Stone) is Hooker Jr. bringing his A-game overseas, singing songs about how the back door should be avoided, especially when the front is nice and wet (“Suspicious”) and how people aren’t liking what he’s doing because he’s too old (“They Hatin’ On Me”). He even makes a Tiger Woods reference, claiming that while he’d like to have that kind of hunger, he just doesn’t have that kind of “appetite”.
He also incorporates elements of funk, soul, and jazz, just as Hooker Jr. has done over the years, so while he does carry on the traditions of his father, this is his music done in his own way. Even in Turkey, they love the way John Lee Hooker Jr. swings.
It’s not often that I talk about jazz album cover artwork or photos, because while the artwork can be cool, the photos are often boring. However, the gatefold for Greg Lewis‘ Organ Monk has to be mentioned right off the top. It’s a photo of Lewis sitting on a chair with nothing but blue jeans on while his wife, in the nude, rides him. In front of them, their baby sleeping in a baby rocker. It’s funny, but it’s also honest and open, and as I’m playing the album staring at the photo, it starts to make sense.
Organ Monk could very well be a play in words for Lewis, but it’s also a way to share his love of the Hammond B-3 organ, and this guy tears it up like some of the best have in jazz’s history. “Criss Cross” has him riding the keys and just demolishing the instrument in a freeform manner, but the songs around it having him taking care of business, perhaps as he is doing in the gatefold cover. I’m a huge fan of the sound of the B-3, and when he creates sounds that to me sounds like he’s “digging” (perhaps as he is doing in the gatefold cover), I’m smiling from ear to ear. He plays along with drummer Cindy Blackman and guitarist Ron Jackson, and knowing this gives me a Cheshire grin. It’s great to hear Jackson and Lewis go back and forth, trading licks in “Light Blue” as Blackman helps maintain the sound in the way she does so in a grand (but not grandiose) fashion.
There’s a certain coolness to the B-3 that is immediate once you hear it, but team that up with a brilliant drummer and guitarist and it’s a formula for trouble, in a good way. I go through a lot of jazz albums on a regular basis but when you have one so well executed, it makes me want to hike up a mountain (I’d pass out but I would make it) and yell out “GET THIS ORGAN MONK RIGHT NOW!!!” As you hear these fifteen songs, you then look at that gatefold cover and say “damn, this man has nothing to be ashamed of.” Ride on.
Mike Herriott and Sean Harkness met each other on a quest for music, and found a camaraderie that made them want to try something out together. H2 is what they’ve called their union, and on Flights: Volume One they take listeners on a journey for them to hear what a jazz duo can truly do. It’s simply guitar and trumpet, nothing more, two guys jamming and making beautiful music that are immediate mood enhancers, whether it’s a reminder of the chaos of the big city, or the relaxation of the aptly titled “Hammock Time”. Half of the songs are Herriott and Harkness playing, the remaining half has them bringing in a band to make things more vivid.
If you are a guitarist or a trumpeter, you’ll definitely have a sense of the love they have for the music, and the admiration both of them have for each other as musicians. I wish more musicians would create duet albums like this, because it doesn’t have to always be complicated, it can be this simple and maybe that was the point in making this.
My picks on this include “Myffed”, “Hedge Your Bets”, and “Armario”.
Pacing on album is a key, even when you play it from end to beginning, and the Dave Bass Quartet understand this because they are musicians and performers. It’s about having an understanding of the craft, and they demonstrate this with Gone (self-released), which begins with a hitting tune before casually fading out into the sunset with a song ready-made for two lovers to fade out into the sound of love. “Another Ending” may remind some of the jazz albums of the 1960’s when jazz artists were willing to flirt with pop appeal, not too much but enough to help them reach audiences that might actually go and see them live.
Then again, jazz has that power to unite. Whether it’s the downhome gospel feel of “Someday” or the hot bluesy sweat of “Since I Found You”, you’ll want to tell people about this album or have someone in the room with you so you can get deep into its intentional emotions.
Maybe the reason why they called this album Spiral (Summit) is because these gentlemen stir up a whirlwind of sound. At least that’s what I felt when Dave Wilson (saxophones), Adam Nussbaum (drums), Tony Marino (bass), and Phil Markowitz (piano) play the kind of mindblowing jazz that brings to mind the chaos and beauty of Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, and to some degree Cannonball Adderley. Wven when Wilson applies his own arrangements to Ambrosia‘s “(You’re The) Biggest Part Of Me” and The Grateful Dead‘s “Friend Of The Devil”, it sounds as if these were the originals, and that they were covered all those years ago. I like Wilson’s way of playing, at times as gentle as Ben Webster while other times it’s as if he wants to bite the reed until his eyes fall out. Well, maybe not that extreme but it can lead that way. What I like about hearing Spiral is the idea that things may lead somewhere else, but don’t, and this is good.
It’s a nice and pleasant listen, but far from boring. Spiral is an album that will hold up through time, as long as people are willing to listen.
Sometimes all you need to see is the equation and immediately understand the value of its eventual sum. I do not speak of mathematics, but perhaps I am, for the math in this case is the equation of guitarist Ratko Zjaca, along with drummer Steve Gadd, bassist John Patitucci, saxophonist Stanislav Mitrovic, and trumpeter Randy Brecker. Got the mouth drooling? It’s understandable, and with Zjaca as leader, they create a fantastic album called Continental Talk (In+Out) that feels like the 1970’s jazz scene never stopped creating this level of intensity.
It’s fusion, it’s laid back but never smooth, it’s musicianship at its finest and you know what you’re hearing because they know this music is meant to be listened to. As the liner note indicates, “it was a very free session, musically speaking everyone played their hearts out” and it feels like freedom. Light up a candle, and “The New Life” could be the backdrop for your next intercourse session. Play “Breakfast In Tokyo”, inhale, and take in the sounds and scents of a new land. Play “Feather” and tickle yourself to remind yourself that this music and performances aren’t a dream. Whether it’s on his acoustic or electric, Zjaca plays with (p)reserved precision, and I myself liked it when he interacts with bassist Patitucci, as if they’re driving each other and everyone around them to dig deeper and come up with sounds of wisdom.
Musically and culturally, they let all borders go but still understand what it means to have a Continental Talk. Put this album and create your own means of dialog.
The Swedish Legal System are a trio that may or may not be from Sweden, since their bio says they are “from Sweden where it counts”. Interpret this as you must, but the band recently covered Carly Simon‘s hit song “You’re So Vain” and created a video for it outside of Seattle’s Lusty Lady, a strip club/theater that closed down after decades of being in business. Many songs and stories have been written about the events that have happened behind The Lusty Lady’s closed doors, even a small handful of books, and as the club was coming to a close, The Swedish Legal System felt it was more than appropriate to shoot their musky loins between their cavernous space.
If you want to hear more, here are the band’s cover of Lady Gaga‘s “Bad Romance”.