Sunday, 29 April 2012

Nguyên Lê - Songs of Freedom‎ (2011)

Format: flac + cue + log
Genre: jazz,fusion, Smooth jazz, Blues
Original Release Date: March 25, 2011
Label: ACT Music

By JOHN KELMAN, Published: April 15, 2011 For over twenty years, Nguyên Lê has collaborated with a growing cadre of like-minded musicians—mostly Paris-based, where the guitarist of Vietnamese origins resides—building a body of work that is, in the truest sense of the word, "world music." From the Afro-centric band Ultramarine, and exploration of his own roots on the seminal Tales from Vietnam (ACT, 1996), to recent explorations of a nexus where programming and spontaneity meet on Homescape (ACT, 2006), Lê has carved out a unique space—often fusion-like in its electricity and energy, but avoiding the negative connotations; undeniably jazz-centric, too, but largely eschewing overt references to traditionalism. These days, plenty of jazzers draw on pop music, but you'd be hard-pressed to find another taking a crack at one of the 1960s' most iconic—and, often, reviled—songs, Iron Butterfly's "In A Gadda Da Vida," as Lê does on Songs of Freedom. With an unorthodox core quartet, reliant on mallet instruments for much of its chordal support, Lê tackles other '60s chestnuts, like Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love"—which, after a seemingly non sequitur introduction, filled with thundering percussion and wailing voices, turns relatively faithful, albeit at a brisker pace and with an uncharacteristic complexity of percussive detail. But once singer Himiko Paganotti gets past the first verse and chorus, the harmonic center shifts, and suddenly, with vibraphonist Illya Amar layering a shifting cushion of chords over bassist Linley Marthe's lithe underpinning, the song turns into an odd-metered solo feature for Lê, his mesh of oriental microtonality and occidental grit and grease moving in parallel with background vocal percussion, leading to a knotty, thundering finale.....

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Amine-Hamza - Perpetual Motion 2011

Format: flac + cue + log
Genre: World
Original Release Date: 2011
Label: Network

By Bill Tilland Tunisian brothers Amine and Hamza M’raihi, who play the oud and qanun (zither), respectively, are seasoned musical veterans well versed in the Arabic classical tradition. But their curiosity has prompted them to pursue a vision of contemporary world music which, as they state, “attempts to break down borders and barriers.” Perpetual Motion came out last year, but you probably haven’t heard of it, because it comes without the marquee value of world-music projects attached to superstars like Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel or Sting. Experiments of this sort often have mixed results, especially when stars from various cultures are thrown together into a kind of jam-band format with few guidelines and limited rehearsal time. But this fully realized effort has no such issues or deficiencies. The M’raihi brothers are the primary instrumental focus throughout, Hamza’s qanun bringing a bright sound similar to the eastern European version of instrument, although here it is plucked and strummed rather than beaten with hammers. It pairs nicely with the deeper, darker sound of Amine’s oud. To embellish individual tracks, the brothers enlisted a handful of skilled, sympathetic musicians on vocals, guitar, clarinet, flute, percussion, and the Boston String Quartet, arranged by Polish pianist Nikola Kollziejczyk. He uses the strings effectively – even dramatically at times — but always in a supportive role, providing sensitive backing for the M’raihi brothers’ sparkling melodic oud-qanun interplay....

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Santana - Abraxas (1970) {1991 MFSL Gold Ultradisc II UDCD 552}

Format: flac + cue + log
Genre: Latin rock, jazz fusion
Original Release Date: 1970
Label: In 1991 Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab released a remastered version on their Ultradisc (24K) Gold CD (UDCD 552)

Allmusic Review: The San Francisco Bay Area rock scene of the late '60s was one that encouraged radical experimentation and discouraged the type of mindless conformity that's often plagued corporate rock. When one considers just how different Santana, Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape, and the Grateful Dead sounded, it becomes obvious just how much it was encouraged. In the mid-'90s, an album as eclectic as Abraxas would be considered a marketing exec's worst nightmare. But at the dawn of the 1970s, this unorthodox mix of rock, jazz, salsa, and blues proved quite successful. Whether adding rock elements to salsa king Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va," embracing instrumental jazz-rock on "Incident at Neshabur" and "Samba Pa Ti," or tackling moody blues-rock on Fleetwood Mac's "Black Magic Woman," the band keeps things unpredictable yet cohesive. Many of the Santana albums that came out in the '70s are worth acquiring, but for novices, Abraxas is an excellent place to start.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Rob Whitlock - Sketchin' 2006

Format: ape + cue + log
Genre: Jazz Rock/Fusion
Original Release Date: 2005
Label: Sketchin' Records

Rob Whitlock's Sketchin' explores a wealth of styles, from jazz-blues fare and vintage tunes to Caribbean-flavored pieces and soul-jazz with a touch of gospel. Eclectic and diverse, Whitlock keeps the production palatable and accessible to the average listener. Although the musicians on this album are some of the best soloists and jazzers in the business, Whitlock manages to keep this bunch focused on the groove and feel of the music, as well as some featured highlights for each of them. The arrangements are tasteful and well executed. The record starts off with an energetic retro Herbie-esque piece; "At Golden Pawn" which features Rob soloing on synth over tracks of himself (and the other musicians) on B3 along with Michael Brecker's stellar horn stab stacks. "To Heather With Love" features a trip down memory lane with a CSI style string arrangement that has one reminiscing about the chill jazz of the 70's. "I Deal", a cooking little number is treated as an organ trio swing piece with an overlay of horns punctuating the songs highlights. A remake of a Billie Holiday classic "God Bless The Child," features Rob's wife, Amber Whitlock on expressive and smokey vocals and successfully, and surprisingly, finds a new and whimsical way to express the popular jazz classic. The song also features great and soulful sax work by Michael Brecker." Po Man's Gravy," dedicated to Mom, has that Texas Jazz/Crusader's vibe with a funky down home soulfood cookin' flava' of it's own. Featuring Jaco Pastorius famed steel pan player Othello Molineaux, "Rob's New Tune " has a South Florida Jazz/ Caribbean vibe that at once simmers and stews while cooling you like a subtropical breeze. The finale, and title cut "sketchin" features old pal from Florida days, Scott Henderson on a fierce bluesy fusion number featuring Scott's ripping guitar riffs along with Rob's hot organ comping and soloing, over Vinnie Colaiuta and Anthony Jackson's deepest fat groovin' shuffle. Playing the role of writer/arranger/producer/player of any project is a major undertaking, and Whitlock has risen to the challenge beautifully. This record was sucessfully made to be enjoyed for multiple listens, by jazz fans and musicians alike....

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Jing Chi - 3D (2004)

Format: flac + cue + log
Genre: Jazz Rock/Fusion
Original Release Date: 2004
Label: Mascot Records

By JOHN KELMAN Following a 2003 release, Live at Yoshi’s , which leaned a little more towards the jazz side of the jazz-rock fence, Jing Chi returns with 3D , a pounding affair that places itself more firmly in the rock camp, influenced strongly by power groups from the late ‘60s and ‘70s including Cream, Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies, Led Zeppelin and even shades of the more guitar-centric period of mid-‘70s King Crimson. That’s not to say that Jing Chi—guitarist Robben Ford, bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta—forgets about jazz altogether. “Hidden Treasure,” featuring guest organist Larry Goldings, has some precedent in the Tony Williams Lifetime, although the sound is much cleaner, assertive without being as aggressive. But tunes like “Colonel Panic,” “Mezzanine Blues,” “Time Is A Magazine” and, in particular, “Tangled Up,” with its almost anthemic power chords and head-banging riff, clearly come more from Jimmy Page than Jim Hall....