Eric Bibb is a blues hero. In his own way, he’s the equal of previous generations of blues heroes both rural and urban. Bibb is both. His 37 albums in a half-century contain nary a bum track. His brilliant Migration Blues (Stony Plain) perfectly captures the zeitgeist of Trump’s alt-right America. As Bibb writes in his liner notes, “Refugees are not the problem…prejudice is the problem. Fear and ignorance are the problems. Refugees fleeing from war and unbearable hardship…are courageous fellow human beings.” Besides his own brave compositions, Bibb covers Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan making “This Land Is Your Land” (which should be America’s National Anthem instead of that horrible war song) and “Masters Of War” sound vital again. Bibb, who co-produced, sings like Taj, like Lead Belly, like Muddy, with a knowing wink and a sly smile. He plays guitars and a special six-stringed banjo while the esoteric sounds of mandolin, triangle and harmonica stand center-stage with no drums on 13 of 15 tracks. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the blues album of the year so far.
Serenity Knolls (RareNoise) by guitarists Bill Brovold & Jaime Saft is the type of CD that if you’re not paying attention, you might go to put on some music not realizing that their music is already on. Saft on dobro and lap steel plus Brovold on electric combine for a soft travelogue of sorts on 12 of their inventions that drift lazily through the air via drones, Appalachian back-porch folk and minor key mystery. New Yorker Saft played with avant-garde composer John Zorn so he’s learned his oddball lessons well. Detroiter Brovold is also a luthier so he knows his instrument from the inside out. They met in Upstate New York’s Hudson Valley where they perfected the art of instrumental niceties like opener “Sweet Grass,” “The Great American Bison,” “Splintering Wind” and the closing “Silent Midpoint.” Recommended with reservation.
That crazed visionary—Brazilian tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman—is at it again, releasing no less than seven simultaneous CDs (Leo Records) documenting his musical kinship with extraordinary pianist Matthew Shipp. Their relationship extends back 20 years and 30 recordings. The seven-part series is called The Art of Perelman-Shipp and is all centered around their meticulous, miraculous, extemporaneous improvisations, be it in duo, trio or quartet settings.
From Neil Tesser’s illuminating liner notes: “They each can anticipate the other’s responses. A connection exists that some would call telepathy or even clairvoyance. Not only do they finish each other’s sentences; they also start them.” The precedent was set when John Coltrane teamed up with McCoy Tyner. The difference is that Ivo and Matthew “walk into the studio without any preconceived plan—no outline of the events that will take place—and simply start to play, allowing the music to go where it will and trusting their shared history to guide the proceedings.”
Both gentlemen researched “The Saturn Return,” an astrological phenomenon where the planet Saturn appears in the same part of the Earth’s sky roughly every 30 years. Ivo claims he can hear colors and see sounds. An essay by astrologer Chris Flisher accompanies each release. Apparently, as Saturn’s huge gravitational pull supports dozens of orbiting moons, every 30 years it affects Earth and some of its inhabitants. Ivo is one such Earthling. Volume #6, Saturn, according to Ivo, a duo project, is the “home world.” The six other CDs are the moons. Volume #1, for instance, Titan, is for bassist William Parker who joins this space dance. Volume #3, Pandora, with the addition of drummer Whit Dickey, reunites the early ‘90s quartet of Dave S. Ware [1929-2012], with Ivo replacing the brilliant saxophonist from Plainfield, New Jersey. You might need patience for Volume #4, Hyperion, as Ivo uses the altissimo octaves of his instrument, in other words, notes that squeak because they’re actually above the written range of a tenor sax. Pioneering free-jazz drummer Andrew Cyrille, 77, joins Volume #7, Dione.
One might think with all the spontaneous composition flying out of the room that things will be crazy and carnivalesque. Not true. Despite no charts, there’s an inherent structure and purpose that holds these moons within the orbit of this seven-part planet. As such, it is, indeed, eminently listenable.
Singer/Songwriter Hiromi Suda is one totally unique original. On Nagi (Blujazz), she sings in Japanese and Portuguese backed by flute, guitar, piano, Fender Rhodes, bass, drums and percussion. Growing up in Yamanishi Japan, she somehow got hooked on Brazilian samba. She writes in her liner notes that “Brazilian music is wordier and more rhythmic than Japanese music. When I sing a fast samba, I use less vibrato to emphasize the rhythms. I think that style also influenced my original music.” She picked the giants to interpret from Antonio Carlos Jobim and Sergio Mendes to Caetano Veloso. The 13 tracks juxtapose the Samba and the Baiao strains of South America with her own culture’s mellifluous folk stylings.
When Miles Davis thumbed his nose at pure jazz while inventing fusion in the process, folks freaked. When bands like Oregon, Weather Report, Passport, Return To Forever and The Mavavishnu Orchestra took what Miles laid down and made it palatable for the masses, critics scoffed but fusion grew up. Enter Adam Rudolph’s Moving Pictures. It’s been decades since the birth of fusion but Rudolph, a master percussionist who plays no drums on Glare Of The Tiger (M.O.D. Technologies), has let his octet move and groove in the spirit of such Davis classics as Bitches Brew (1970), Jack Johnson (1971) and Aura (1989). The players are superb. Alexis Marcelo on Fender Rhodes, electric keyboards and Hammond B-3 shines as does Graham Haynes on cornet, flugelhorn and electronics. Add Ralph M. Jones on alto flute, bass clarinet, sax and bamboo flute plus James Hurt on “smart phone synthesizer module” and you’ve got something that demands to be heard. Now.