REVIEW: Dean Magraw’s Red Planet’s “Space Dust”

Photobucket Jazz guitarists, there are many, but they are usually divided between the completely mundane (if not embarrassing) and very-close-to-brilliant. I’d like to think Dean Magraw is on that upper level of musicians who understands his talent, pushes himself, and is willing to flirt with the kind of music he wants to present. He does so with a bit of distortion not common in jazz, but one that certainly fits <i"Space Dust (Gone Jazz), one that has Magraw playing with a group he calls Red Planet, which features Chris Bates (bass) and Jay Epstein (drums).

I’m a huge fan of jazz trios, and upon looking at the track listing, with such songs as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, Jimi Hendrix Experience‘s “Little Wing”, and two John Coltrane pieces (“Saturn” and “Africa”), I thought cool, this will definitely be some nice and hopefully-respectable playing. But then to hear these familiar songs sound unfamiliar, as if all of them went to Saturn looking for Sun Ra while Magraw dipped his amps in fuzz and sweat… this is jazz? Very much so, or at least Magraw has an appreciation for harder, more abrasive styles of guitar work and playing. The original material here (six tracks total) definitely stand up on their own and I can easily see other trios and groups taking and expanding on them too. To sum it up in a simple way, these guys sound like they know and respect each other, play with each other as if it’s some game of basketball with the same kind of passion they may have had when they were in the 3rd grade. In this case they’re a jazz band, and it’s the kind of playground time any musicians would love to be a part of, it not witness.

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REVIEW: Jay Epstein with Bill Carrothers & Anthony Cox’s “Easy Company”

Image and video hosting by TinyPic Jazz like this isn’t meant to be placed in a display case to gawk at, this is jazz to bathe in so you can allow it to explore your pores. This is music meant for serious listening, because when it comes to Jay Epstein (drums), Anthony Cox (bass), and Bill Carrothers (piano) they will not settle for anything less. Easy Company (GoneJazz) is the sound of jazz brilliance at its best, where you will either smile with glee or cry in approval.

These guys are incredible musicians, years of experience behind them and nothing but optimism to guide them through a collection of 14 songs that will make any jazz fan and purist smile. Each of them play like leaders in their own game, but they come to the table to create the kind of perfect harmony that is somehow unique in music. Listen to “Ida Lupino”, “Never Let Me Go”, “For All We Know”, or “Maus” and you can’t tell me this is some of the best jazz you’ve heard in years. Epstein doesn’t pound the drums or beat it to a pulp, he colors the music with delicate touches and helps to anchor everything when need be. Cox is very subtle to the touch, gentle as a gentleman and manly as a man, he doesn’t play the guitar as he seduces it, Charles Mingus fans will pee in envy. Then there’s Carrothers, who would fit in on old albums by Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy as he fits in perfectly with the notions of today. It feels good, it feels right, this is just damn good music, the music that moved a generation to want to kill it, but Easy Company is uneasy listening for the conservative listener who feels this is the devil’s music. I’m not a religious man, but this is truly heavenly.