Rant’n’Roll: Mostly Other People Do The Killing, Ray Lyon, A Planetary Prince, Wordless Vocals, ‘Bone Man, A Reunion & Mad Props For Eager Earnestness

Rant’n’Roll: Mostly Other People Do The Killing, Ray Lyon, A Planetary Prince, Wordless Vocals, ‘Bone Man, A Reunion & Mad Props For Eager Earnestness

—by , April 5, 2017

04-05 Rant Nick Finzer by Ricardo Nelson

Library Pennsylvania (just south of Pittsburgh) was originally known as Loafer’s Hollow prior to the town’s first library being built there in 1833. The jazz septet known as Mostly Other People Do The Killing has named its second CD, Loafer’s Hollow, after the original name of that town. In fact, six of the eight originals herein are either named after Pennsylvania towns or characters from the novels of James Joyce (“Bloomsburg”), Kurt Vonnegut (“Kilgore”), Cormac McCarthy (“Meridian”), David Foster Wallace (“Glen Riddle”) and others. The music is decidedly demented and rooted in 1940s swing, especially Count Basie. Bandleader/Bassist Moppa Elliott leads Sex Mob trumpeter Steven Bernstein, sax man Jon Irabagon, trombonist Dave Taylor, guitarist Brandon Seabrook (on banjo and electronics), pianist Ron Stabinsky and drummer Kevin Shea through a whirlwind pre-bop trip, all in under 40 minutes.

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North Carolina keyboardist/producer/composer Ray Lyon, 60, interprets “Solar (Flare),” the 1954 Miles Davis classic, with but bass/drums as the only cover on Trinity One (Burning Blue Records). Lyon has worked and played in the company of legends: Jaco, Herbie, Wayne and Dizzy. He made his solo mark within ambient music, runs his own studio and label and is an accomplished engineer. Born in Virginia, raised in England and Florida, this is his fifth CD. His compositions lean towards quiet reflection (“In The Day of Small Things”), soulful balladry (“Don’t Let Me Fall”), synthesized modernity (“Ezekiel’s Wheels”) and a fractured waltz (“/4 Odd Dance”). If Pat Metheny played piano instead of guitar, he might sound like this.

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West Coast Get Down (WCGD) is a cool collective of like-minded musicians who are splitting the jazz atom to release a seismic burst of creativity. Most say it started last year with Kamasi Washington’s daring three-disc debut, The Epic. Keyboardist/Composer/Producer Cameron Graves was all over those discs and now adds to the luster with Planetary Prince (Mack Avenue Records), a bombshell of a record. The members of WCGD will do anything to get your attention from jazz, classical, metal, prog-rock and hip-hop to worldbeat and funk. Almost 80 minutes long, its tracks range in length from 7:29 to 13:39 and not one second is wasted. Washington’s trail-blazing tenor sax is here as is the trombone of Ryan Porter, bassists Thundercat Bruner/Hadrien Feraud, trumpeter Phillip Dizack and drummer Ronald Bruner, Jr. Graves is an inventive piano player. He’s a martial artist, a deep thinker and an exquisite improviser. But most of all, he’s a genuine visionary. It’s amazing he even had time for this project as he is a member in good standing of superstar Stanley Clarke’s current globe-hopping band. I’ve already put this one on my 2017 jazz Top 10.

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Genius does what genius wants and although that word has been bandied about way too often, it’s apt here as wordless vocalist Beata Pater is engulfed in a Fire Dance (B&B Records) of her own creation. Well, actually composer Alex Danson had a little something to do with it as well since he wrote it all. Pater’s fifth CD has her producing her seven sidemen on Danson’s 11 originals but the arrangement of her vocals is key. Overdubbed on some tracks by as many as 16 layers of her own voice from bass to soprano, buoyed by a three-sax front line plus keys, bass, drums and percussion, it’s a soulful exotic world-beat festival moving and grooving from the Middle East, North Africa and Eastern Europe folk strains to Moroccan “gnawa” music and the Ukraine’s “DakhaBrakha” sound. Pater’s voice serves as a woodwind section all its own. She can sound like an oboe or alto flute. Hey, she may not be singing words but this gal is wildly expressive all the same as she slides, slips, flies, flutters and grunts in a primal yet sophisticated language all her own.

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Nick Finzer plays what Dinah Washington used to call that “big long sliding thing.” Finzer’s a Rochester, NY ‘bone man of the hardest order. His trombone positively wails on his third CD, the politically-charged Hear & Now (Outside In Music). Eight of his originals sit astride some Ellingtonia (“Single Petal Of A Rose”), helped along by his sextet of tenor sax/bass clarinet, guitar, piano, bass and drums. Opener “We The People” sets the scene but “The Silent One” is a brooding contemplation in frustration over how inchoate emotion rather than logic seems to be in play ever since the election. “Race To The Bottom” is cynical in this age of greedy capitalism run amok. Other tracks cry out for resistance and it all ends on a hopeful note with the gorgeous “Love Wins,” applauding marriage equality.

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Lifelong friends who bonded over jazz in their native Sao Paulo Brazil now reconvene for Varanda (Capri Records) after 20 years as The Reunion Project. The nine originals and one cover (Jerome Kern’s 1933 “Yesterdays”) bespeak a fiery eloquence, especially with the addition of young lion bassist Bruno Migotto (hear him roar). Guitarist Chico Pinheiro, pianist Tiago Costa, drummer Edu Ribeiro and the phenomenal Felipe Salles on tenor and soprano saxophones, flute, clarinet and bass clarinet positively make this thing sizzle with spark, alacrity and a positive chemistry that transcends their individual efforts. In other words, the whole is way greater than its parts. Highlight has to be the title tune, a riff on the traditional Brazilian “choro” (a folkloric 19th century lament, ironically enough played fast and happy), which takes a surprising left-hand turn mid-way through.

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Finally, mad props to vocalist/pianist Gianni Bianchini on his beautiful self-released Type I where he admits “I’m Old Fashioned.” That he is. He sticks out like a 2017 sore thumb with his nostalgic cabaret flair on tunes like “A Foggy Day” (1937), “Time After Time” (1947), “My Romance” (1962) and nine more chestnuts he polishes off to present with eager earnestness.

 

 


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