Rant’n’Roll: Korean Jazz, Human Horn, Soul Man, Two Legends, Beatle Blues, Heavy Metal & Swamp Pop

Rant’n’Roll: Korean Jazz, Human Horn, Soul Man, Two Legends, Beatle Blues, Heavy Metal & Swamp Pop

—by , June 28, 2017

06-28 Rant 'n' Roll - Heyseon Hong courtesy Holly Cooper

Ee-Ya-Gi (Mama Records) by the Hyeseon Hong Jazz Orchestra is a flower in early spring yearning to bloom. Hong is from Seoul, South Korea, but has been living and working in New York City for the last 15 years, gathering up the musicians who inhabit her 18-piece orchestra. It’s a delightful debut, filled with swing, classical flourishes, post-bop and, most enticingly of all, traditional Korean folk melodies, especially the instantly-likeable 7:14 opener “Harvest Dance.” Outstanding solos from two guests—saxophonist Rich Perry and trumpeter Ingrid Jensen—add drama, as does a native Korean “Chang” vocal by Subin Park on “Boat Song,” which approximates the rolling waves of the ocean. Hong even uses a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale as the basis of “Disappearing Into Foam” about a weeping mermaid wherein a gorgeous piano cadenza by Broc Hempel is helped by a sweeping orchestral arrangement by Hong who wrote all seven elongated compositions.

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Could there be a more perfect jazz name than Jazzmeia Horn? A Social Call (Prestige/Concord) is the 26-year-old Dallas interpretive vocalist’s impressive debut. The title track is a hard bopper by Gigi Gryce. Her purview, maybe because she’s been living and working in New York City since 2009, spans the gamut from the gospel of “Wade In The Water” and Betty Carter’s “Tight” to the 1994 Mary J. Blige hit “I’m Goin’ Down,” the 1970 Stylistics hit “People Make The World Go Round,” a standard like “East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)” from 1934 PLUS the title tune of the 1975 Jimmy Rowles/Stan Getz album, The Peacocks. Greatly influenced by “The Divine One,” Sarah Vaughan, Horn uses her voice like, yeah, a horn.

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The songs of Memphis singer/songwriter Don Bryant have been recorded by Etta James, Al Green, Solomon Burke, Albert King and Ann Peebles who took his “I Can’t Stand The Rain” into the Top 20 in 1974. They married in ’78. She retired after a stroke in 2012 and he kept writing. Many of the tunes he penned while caring for her (they’re still married) have turned up on his brilliant new Don’t Give Up On Love (Fat Possum Records). It’s an old-school soul-man record filled with funky wisdom and hot licks. At 76, it is only his second album as he worked at Hi Records behind-the-scenes with producer Willie Mitchell. His vocal talent, though, is too soulful to keep quiet. Highlights include covers of O.V. Wright’s “A Nickel And A Nail” and “I Got To Know” by The Five Royales. He takes his own “It Was Jealousy” and makes a showstopper out of it going from a whisper to a scream in an escalating fusillade of wise grunts.

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Taj Mahal and Keb Mo are both blues legends for their particular generations. That’s why the release of TajMo (Concord Records), their inaugural collaboration, is bigtime news for the blues. The 11 tracks are filled with guests like Bonnie Raitt, Sheila E, Joe Walsh and Lizz Wright. But it’s the show of these two like-minded giants be it on The Who’s “Squeeze Box,” John Mayer’s “Waiting On The World To Change,” “Diving Duck Blues” by Sleepy John Estes [1899-1977] and eight more, highlights all, that puts a smile on this old blues fan’s face. They’re on the road now to support it. Let’s hope Mo can put up with the incorrigible curmudgeon Taj long enough to finish the tour.

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I can’t help but think that when Mick Kolassa & Mark Telesca brought up the idea of recording an album of Beatle songs done as the blues, everyone must have said “You Can’t Do That!” Thus, since that’s a great Beatle song itself, they used it as the title tune for what has to be thought of as one of the year’s most refreshingly oddball and eminently entertaining CDs of the year in any genre. You Can’t Do That: Acoustic Beatles Blues (Swing Suit Records) fulfills the premise and the promise from two old cats like these. The two guitarists/vocalists have a solid musical bed upon which to lie: altogether four guitars, percussion, bass, drums, harmonica, trumpet, flugelhorn, fiddle and mandolin complete this dream sequence of “I’ll Cry Instead,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “I Feel Fine,” “Fixing A Hole” and eight more that, yes, all shoehorn into a tight blues format. Bravo!

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John Frum is a deeply psychedelic/psychotic death metal band from Philadelphia whose 40-minute debut on Relapse runs red with bloody nuance, down-tuned jam-band riffage, lion’s-roar vocals and the kind of feedback-drenched leads that shriek like a banshee from former John Zorn guitarist Matt Hollenberg. Drummer Eli Litwin is of the eight-armed octopus school of percussion while bassist Liam Wilson is a graduate of The Dillinger Escape Plan. It all congeals behind the gaping open wound that is “singer” Derek Rydquist whose guttural vocals, thankfully, are kept as a thin line hovering above the mix, thus making A Stirring In The Noos quite liberating, exciting and rage-inducing to the point where you just might want to break something.

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You may not have heard of any of the artists on Let’s Get Together Tonight: Swamp Pop By The Bayou from London’s Ace Records but its genius is in the collecting of these incredible sides that span the years 1958-2017. So many highlights, so little space, so suffice it to say that just like Memphis spit up a host of Elvis-type singers in the wake of the big boom, New Orleans coughed up a generation of Fats Domino acolytes. Warren Storm does Bessie Smith’s “Jailhouse Blues” while Robert Owens admits “I’m Too Tired To Rock.” “Crazie Baby” by Texas Guitar Slim is an instrumental from a kid who would grow up to become Johnny Winter. Between the delicious shuffles, laid-back mantras and rockin’ little novelties, these examples of Swamp Pop hit home hard with validity and nostalgia.

 

 


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