Rant ‘N’ Roll: Back To The CD Pile

The self-released Completely debut of the Michael Gallant Trio is so damn impressive, I had to listen again to confirm what I just heard (gallantmusic.com). As keyboardist and composer, his nine originals stretch the limits of what a trio should be capable of. You have to hear what he does with Pearl Jam’s “Go.” On “Cornelia Street Tango,” you’d swear his electric piano and acoustic grand piano were overdubbed because there’s no way one human with only 10 fingers can play both instruments so evocatively at the same time. There’s where you’d be wrong. Tucking his trusty Electro 3 HP underneath the Yamaha Grand, he ambidextrously switches in a swinging rhythmic style between the two. He even gives bassist Linda Oh and percussionist Chris Infusino plenty of space to strut their considerable stuff. Amazing! This DC jazzman can play some mean New Orleans-styled stride as well as classical and on Completely, he showcases his multi-genre sensibility with daring resolve.

The self-released second album by Colorado-based Whitewater Ramble, Roots & Groove (whitewaterramble.com), starts off with a cover of U2’s “One Tree Hill” like you’ve never heard it before. Within the course of an hour, this freewheeling jam band traverses reggae, blues and country in what they call “jam-grass.” Between the dobro, banjo, pedal steel, piano, mandolin, twin fiddles, acoustic guitar, upright bass and drums, they explore multiple genres with a late-‘60s hippie aesthetic. I hear they’re a hoot live!

This, That & The Other Thing (Sadson Music) by the Rusty Wright Band is the fourth album by this old-school Michigan guitar band that plays the blues with the kind of feel usually reserved for the masters. Well, blues rock, ok? They’ve got Dennis Bellinger on bass (Grand Funk Railroad) and you should hear their version of “Alarm Clock Blues” by AC/DC.

Aaron Neville, 72, could sing my electric bill and it would come out gorgeous. On My True Story (Blue Note), he makes 12 classic songs from the early days of rock ‘n’ roll totally his own. Call it doo-wop if you want, but Neville (from the First Family of New Orleans, The Neville Brothers) now owns Dion’s “Ruby Baby,” Little Anthony’s “Tears On My Pillow,” Hank Ballard’s “Work With Me Annie,” Curtis Mayfield’s “Gypsy Woman,” three from The Drifters and more. His instantly identifiable voice is an American treasure and he sounds better here than he ever has.

Drummer/composer Kendrick Scott Oracle certainly has Conviction on his new Concord album. This is some serious stuff! Dense…complicated…it takes a circuitous route through blazing chops, messages (“Liberty Or Death,” anyone?) and the nonstop action (no breaks between tracks) of saxophone, clarinet (both by John Ellis), two guitars, bass, drums and human voice. There’s no getting off this freedom train until the last stop. From the covers of Sufjan Stevens (“Too Much”) and “I Have A Dream” (Herbie Hancock) to the solo bass track entitled “We Shall Overcome By Any Means” to “Be Water” that includes a spoken-word spot by the late martial arts hero Bruce Lee, Conviction may take some conviction to listen to all the way through but, if you do, you will be amply rewarded…like finishing a good book.

Finally, here’s a little combo you might have heard of from Macon, Georgia called The Allman Brothers Band. Universal Music Enterprises has released a best of, ICON, that’s as curious as it is seemingly random. Its strength is in its esoteric tracklist. The nine cuts are split evenly between Dickey Betts and Gregg Allman with a Muddy Waters cover (“Can’t Lose What You Never Had”) thrown in. The last two are live (“In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed” from 1971 at The Fillmore East in New York City and “Jessica” from 1975 at the Oakland Coliseum in California). It goes chronologically from “Whipping Post” off the 1969 debut, “Midnight Rider” (1970’s Idlewild South), “Melissa” (1972’s Eat A Peach), two (“Ramblin’ Man” and “Wasted Words”) off 1973’s Brothers And Sisters, the Muddy cover off 1975’s Win, Lose Or Draw and “Crazy Love” off 1979’s Enlightened Rogues.