by: Hobert Taylor
Billy Childs - Map To The Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro - (Sony Masterworks
This is an extraordinary work of art. Masterful arrangements accompany these nuanced and deeply personal tunes by one of the most beloved songwriters of the New York late 20th century scene. Singers and musicians as diverse as opera star Renee Fleming with cellist Yo Yo Ma, bluegrass star Alison Krauss, Rickie Lee Jones, Wayne Shorter and Esperanza Spaulding, are well served by the brilliant production of Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell) and the commitment of the amazing pianist, arranger, and project's visionary, Billy Childs. For those of us who yearn for a new era of music that transcends genre based strictures, this is a template. First of all, the songs are earnest, thoughtful, and passionate both melodically and lyrically. In addition, all of the artists give themselves over to Nyro's vision, but in their own unique and special ways.
For example,Ledisi's rendition of "Stoned Soul Picnic" or Alison Krauss and Jerry Douglas performing "And When I Die" remove these familiar hits from their popular contexts and liberate the songs from pop music. Indeed every cut is truly an art song. Every cut is a revelation. Having said this, Two cuts stand out for me at the moment as exemplary. They are Becca Stevens' rendition of "The Confession" and Rickie Lee Jones and Chris Potter's version of the deeply moving "Been On A Train". Next week it could be two others.
Beat Function - Mandy's Secret - (Do Music
Funky jazz from Sweden.... at first a little disco like but "Mandy's Secret", "Kandahari Airport" and "Thunderlips" are pretty interesting.
Dr. John - Ske Dat De Dat: The Spirit of Satch - (Concord
Produced by trombonist Sarah Morrow (who also did the horn arrangements), this is a re-invention for the most part of Louis Armstrong classics. Sometimes it clings a little close to New Orleans traditional music so it sounds "right", but not interesting, but because it is a tribute to Satch, some of the best horn players around are on this disc. Most notable are Terence Blanchard on both "Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams" and "Mack The Knife", Nicholas Payton on a superb reworking of "Gut Bucket Blues", James "12" Andrews (known in NOLA as "Satchmo of the ghetto") on "Dippermouth Blues", and best of all Arturo Sandoval on "Tight Like This" and Memories of You"
Base 4 - Axes Of Symmetry - (Analog Records
In turns sweetly melodic almost to Burt Bachrach standards, and jarringly atonal, this trio, Bruce Friedman, trumpet, Derek Bomback, guitar, and Alan Cook, drums crawl inside their covers and snuggle up to the tunes. Most notably their version of Carla Bley's "Lawns" is perfectly tempoed and feels like they wrote it. The Carlos Jobim cut "If You Never Come To Me" and Monk's "Straight No Chaser" are also intimate and full of passion. Their own improvisations feel not fully formed to me... works in progress. I am fond however of "Improvisation 4".
Jason Moran - All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller - (Bluenote
Produced by Don Was and Meshell Ndegcello this swings from straight ahead to funked out renditions of Waller classics. Moran is a virtuoso but he doesn't let his skill get in the way of finding the inherently bemused character of Waller's songs or arrangements. My picks, "Yacht Club Swing", "Fats Elegy", "Handful of Keys", and especially "Sheik of Araby/I Found a New Baby".
The Westerlies - Wish The Children Would Come On Home: The Music of Wayne Horvitz - (Songlines
Composer pianist Horvitz has straddled jazz and classical with deep roots in the American folk song. The Westerlies, a brass quartet, bring color and tonal richness to his music. It's all really good. My faves, "The Store, The Campfire", "The Band with Muddy", the circus prospered, and the title cut.
The Bad Plus - Inevitable Western - (Okeh Records
Jazz for people who like rock and roll. This is edgy and the changes are Monk like. There is a lot of broken time and super strong melodies. It is simultaneously innovative and accessible. Like Phillip Glass or Robert Fripp, serilism tinged with hooks makes for cult hits, and they are on the move in the jazz world as the crossover de jour.
Having said all of this,I can also say it is really fun. "I Hear You", "You Will Lose All Fear", "Epistolary Echoes" and "Mr. Now" get my vote.
Nick Levinosky - Special Opinion - (Butman Music
Pianist Levinosky, part of the St. Petersburg/New York scene joins with frequent collaborator saxophonist Igor Buttman to make a modern big band record that resonates with the spirit of Don Ellis or Frank Zappa without the sarcasm. Randy Brecker and electric guitarists Mitch Stein and Mike Stern as well as tnor player Bill Evans have created a propulsive and contemporary sound while still swinging in the Woody Herman tradition. I like the funky "Special Occasion", "Uncle Joe", "Exodus" and the funky/majestic "Procession".
Vlatko - Subjective Experience in a Commercial Free Zone - (PFMentum
I pretty much felt that their music was as pretentious as the title of this CD, almost a parody of free jazz, a paint by numbers rendering of random melodic and non-melodic snatches. But maybe there is something else going on as well. Some of the tunes emerge from the dense cloud of obfuscation to reveal hard shiny things. Composer Michael Vlatkovich on trombone along with guitar, bass, and drums, refuses to get to the point, and eventually that becomes the point. This is not Ornette. There is no clear attempt to communicate here on any level i can perceive. This is not Cage, an attempt to document life as it is. This sounds like music by people who have listened to Ornette Coleman and John Cage and said "I can do that!" And yet it swings too... I like "Strodaad","If Only Maybe Were a Probability" "saint something of Our Lady of Whatever" and "undoug fug=-(doug unfug)".