Rant’n’Roll: Happy Juice, Guitar Hero, Beat Girls, In Praise of Oliver Nelson & Metal Death

Rant’n’Roll: Happy Juice, Guitar Hero, Beat Girls, In Praise of Oliver Nelson & Metal Death

—by , September 6, 2017

09-13 Rant - Alex Goodman by Arnaldo Vargas

On Happy Juice, pianist Jon Davis interprets the piano men who influenced him most: Bill Evans, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner and Keith Jarrett. Five brilliantly creative originals flesh out the five covers. Davis has been in the bands of Jaco Pastorius, Stan Getz and Milt Jackson. Thirty years and 50+ album appearances, he’s written hundreds of songs. A native New Yorker, he moved to Boston, then to San Francisco, and back to New York, always chasing the muse. This, his fourth CD for Posi-Tone Records, transcends its limiting piano/bass/drums format due to its obvious love and appreciation for the five aforementioned giants. The title, by the way, refers to his love of wine.

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Wow, you gotta hear Alex Goodman play guitar! His Second Act (Lyte Records) reflects his five years living and working in New York City. His quintet of seasoned pros from Texas, Israel, Montreal and Connecticut help this Toronto native on 11 originals that quake with nervous energy, profound sincerity and the kind of hustle’n’bustle that approximates the city in all of its non-stop exuberance and sometimes frightening power. The closing 8:12 of “Acrobat” is worth the price of admission alone but there’s just so much to savor here. Dig those wordless vocals that add a sixth sense as the human voice is just another instrument to him. “Empty” wouldn’t be out-of-place in a prog-rock fan’s collection. “Heightened” goes from a weird whisper to a swing-scream of joyousness. Highly recommended.

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I missed out on all of the original releases from the various females now collected in London’s Ace Records compilation of she-pop called Marylebone Beat Girls 1964-1967. You can’t blame me, though, as I was 13 to 17 in Newark during those years with little exposure to what was happening in England at the time, over and above my favorite male rock bands. Well, this was happening. And if some of it, well, most of it, is rather dated, it still rings true with femme propensities and oddball productions and arrangements. I mean, it was the ‘60s, man, a time of crazy-ass pop experimentation. So you get the pre-disco Liza & The Jet Set (“Dancing Yet”), Alma Cogen’s “Love Is A Word” written and produced by early Stones guru Andrew Loog Oldham, a cover of the Chuck Willis classic “What Cha Gonna Do” by Billie Davis, “Don’t Do It No More” by Julie Driscoll (that’s her on the cover), plus a ton of sexy fare like “Ain’t That Fun” by Linda Laine & The Sinners and “Suffer Now I Must” by Cilla Black; 25 songs in all.

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When Oliver Nelson abruptly died from a heart attack in 1975 at the age of 43, the jazz world lost a giant. Composer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist, big band leader, there’s no telling how much more he would have accomplished. As it was, his 1961 Blues and the Abstract Truth album, recorded when he was a mere 29, is still a landmark recording. I was but 10 when my mom was dating a window-washer named Arnie who bought me my first record player and that album, which I grew to love. I can still remember its shiny blue cover. Seven years later, I’d be rolling joints on it.

   

Stolen Moments: Celebrating Oliver Nelson (Acoustical Concepts) by Philadelphia trumpeter/composer/arranger/conductor John Vanore brings back a lot of that music in a fevered rush of new arrangements. His 14-piece band—alto sax, soprano sax, flute, tenor sax, bass clarinet, trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone, bass, French horn, drums, piano, guitar, percussion—doesn’t so much ape Nelson but reimagine him in nine pieces of complex circuitry that moves, grooves, wiggles and shakes in all the right spots. Thus, this timeless music has been invigorated, transcended through a modern scope of dexterity. It’s bound to please. Nelson didn’t write all the tracks but they’re all associated with him. “A Taste Of Honey,” the 1965 hit from Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, recorded by everyone from Barbra Streisand to The Beatles, sounds amazing here all dressed up in its new clothes with a muscled chart and lots of heart. From “Greensleeves” (which dates back to 1580) and “St Louis Blues” (1914) to Nelson’s tribute, “El Gato,” in honor of Argentinian sax man Gato Barbieri [1932-2016], the great thing about Stolen Moments is the pin-perfect accuracy of Vanore’s vision. It’s not just a recitation of the Nelson style. It’s a Vanore-ization.

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They’re called Dawn Of Disease and they blew me out of my own house this morning with the most virulent vomit of sound since, well, since I edited Metal Maniacs. That was a quarter century ago though, and I’ve long lost my lust for this kind of aural violence. Until lately. So yeah, their fifth album in the last 14 years of wicked stagecraft and a ton of members, break-ups, reformations and more personnel changes is called Ascension Gate (Napalm Records) and it will, indeed, stay in my rotation, at least for now. Not that I even like the concept of melody within metal (power metal is stupid), but within the blast beats and the guttural rasp of the seemingly demonic Tomasz Wisniewski, the three guitars strike a balance that wouldn’t even be in accord with each other were it not for super-drummer Mathias Blasse. Thus, this thing is actually listenable. Germany has been the birthplace for many a great metal band be it black, death, thrash, prog, industrial, doom or goth (and, yeah, even some stupid power metal haha). Ascension Gate is non-stop, all 50:16 of it. That’s a bit much for me in one sitting but apparently, at 66, I still have a certain amount of rage left in my oftentimes tormented soul where I need stuff like this to go with my mood and get my jerk neighbor all bent out of shape.

 


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