Rant ‘n’ Roll: Timely Swing, Jazz News, Norwegian Reflections, A Brooklyn Octet, Heavenly Harp, & A Dog Leg Dilemma

Rant ‘n’ Roll: Timely Swing, Jazz News, Norwegian Reflections, A Brooklyn Octet, Heavenly Harp, & A Dog Leg Dilemma

—by , February 22, 2017

Eight O'Five Jive, Nashville TN-based swing band. photos by Bill Steber

Eight O’Five Jive, Nashville TN-based swing band. photos by Bill Steber

They’re called Eight O’Five Jive and their Swing Set (Red Rudy Too Tunes) is a thoroughly delightful time trip back to before rock ‘n’ roll. I’ve always wondered (and felt a little sorry for) generations who didn’t have that rock kick to let off steam. I have metal friends who tell me they need their metal to release their inner rage. No other music works as well. I can understand that. Nashville’s Eight O’Five Jive has reminded me that prior to Ike Turner masterminding what is arguably the first rock ‘n’ roll record (“Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston in 1951), folks turned to swing to get their craziness out in the open and on to the dance floor. It works as well as rock ‘n’ roll, kids!

That said, vocalist Lee Shropshire is right there with such belters as Big Maybelle, Little Esther and Memphis Minnie (three obvious influences whom she covered on the band’s 2014 Too Many Men debut). Now, on their sophomore release, she and guitarist husband Andy Scheinman lead their quartet—featuring the blazing sax man Patrick Mosser—on her originals like the way-cool “I Won’t Wear Flats (To Your Funeral),” Rudy Green’s 1956 “My Mumbling Baby” and a host of songs to get drunk to like “Make Mine A Double,” “One More Glass Of Wine,” “Watch Out For Their Wives” and the closing “A Little Bit Of Bourbon.”

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So you’ve staggered out of the bar into the night looking for an after-hours kind of intellectual purging of your basest desires…and somehow you’re still back in time trying to figure things out. That’s when you find yourself in the Pacific Northwest at a hip Seattle bar. You sit down, order another drink, and start to groove to what the jazz trio on the bandstand is puttin’ down. And you lose yourself. The scene is set.

Groovin’ Hard: Live At The Penthouse 1964-1968 (Resonance Records) by The Three Sounds Featuring Gene Harris is the antidote to your tension. Between 1958 and 1962, no one on the legendary Blue Note jazz label sold more records. Their 15-year career changed the rules for piano trios. Even The Beastie Boys, in 1989, sampled the trio’s “Put On Train” during their “What Comes Around” track off their second album, Paul’s Boutique.

As with almost every Resonance release, the packaging is magnificent, including a voluminous 20-page booklet with great reading and rare pictures. The music is funky and goes down easy. Pianist Gene Harris was a brilliant populist. With bassist Andy Simpkins and three different drummers (depending upon the track), Harris meanders through the hits of the day like “The Shadow Of Your Smile” from the movie The Sandpiper, “Girl Talk” from the movie Harlow (called the “last great 1960s male chauvinistic song” by cabaret singer/musicologist Michael Feinstein) and “Caesar and Cleopatra” from the Liz Taylor movie Cleopatra. Add Ray Brown’s classic jazz waltz “A.M. Blues” and the rousing closer, “The Boogaloo,” and you have a slice of history that has never ever been released in any format.

This one’s jazz news, baby.

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Reflections In Cosmo is from Oslo, Norway. Its self-titled RareNoise Records debut is an angry blister. Forget everything you’ve ever been taught about fusion. This ain’t jazz-rock. If anything, it’s hard rock/jazz. Metal Bebop. Prog-Swing. Electric Electronica. Totally experimental, Snah Ryan’s guitar slashings are even more extreme here than in his other band, Motorpsycho. Kjetil Moster’s saxophones recall not only Coltrane but the craziness of the most underrated and overlooked pioneering band of the 1980s, Last Exit. Keyboardist Stale Storlokken provides the Pink Floydian cloudscapes. Octopus eight-armed drummer Thomas Stronen is the key to it all. The elements in his playing stretch from Japanese Classical and West African “Wolof” music (with its unique dance rhythms and traces of folk music from Senegal) to ambient minimalism. Highlights include the aptly named “Fuzz Stew” and “Iron Horse” to their “Cosmic Hymn” and jumpy frenetic “Balk Lava.”

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Lyric Fury is the name of pianist/composer/producer Cynthia Hilts‘ octet as well as the name of her Blond Coyote Records debut. Trumpet great Jack Walrath (who played with Charles Mingus) might be the star attraction but it’s Hilts whose material crosses classical/jazz boundaries as if impressionist composer Claude Debussy [1862-1918] also played with Mingus. The Brooklyn pioneer came out of Tucson Arizona. She goes from her post-bop break-up tune (“Previously A Thing”) to some righteous blues (“Blues for the Bronchs”), written during a severe bout of bronchitis. With two saxophones playing tag, the hard-charging trombone of Deborah Weisz and remarkable cello of Marika Hughes are all welded together by a drum ‘n’ bass sticky glue tandem (bassist Ratso Harris is a monster!). Highly recommended.

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Chicago’s Carol Robbins lives on Taylor Street (Jazz Cats Records) where the mellifluous sound of her heavenly classical concert harp flutters its way through nine originals, backed by piano, Fender Rhodes, sax, clarinet, guitar, trumpet, acoustic and electric bass and drums. The two waltzes may be twin highlights but “Trekker” has a delicious Asian feel. Granted, I’m not a fan of usually boring “smooth jazz” but “Smooth Ride” is the exception. The sole ballad (“Grey River”) is stunningly gorgeous and the funky R&B of “The Local” proves the harp can also have soul.

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Toronto’s Dog Leg Dilemma has self-released its Not This Time debut. Nestled uncomfortably somewhere betwixt and between Frank Zappa, Ornette Coleman and Hollywood composer Bernard Herrmann, this way-out quartet consists of a sax man, electric guitarist, drummer, two-track guest violinist and secret weapon Peter Bull on bass, whistles, woodblock, acoustic guitar, organ and electric whip. The seven originals are unlike anything you might be currently listening to, especially “Shadow Puppet Patrol” and the closing “Nothing Always Doesn’t Change.” It’s a fun-filled roller coaster ride that straddles metal, disco, reggae, rock ‘n’ roll, funk, fusion, worldbeat, jazz and movie soundtracks.


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