Rant’n’Roll: Taking A Look at Maurice Brown, Luke Elliot and More!

Rant’n’Roll: Taking A Look at Maurice Brown, Luke Elliot and More!

—by , October 25, 2017

10-25 Rant'n'Roll - Dustbowl Revival by Talley Media

After being mentored by Wynton Marsalis, providing horn arrangements for the Tedeschi Trucks Band and working with Santana, Maurice “Mobetta” Brown now has his custom-made trumpet from Switzerland and has used it to record The Mood (Ropeadope Records), a joyous slab of funk jazz soul incorporating the talents of Talib Kweli on highlight, “Stand Up.” Highly Recommended.

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Jersey boy, Luke Elliot, had to go all the way to Norway to first get his music appreciated and wound up spending two years as a Euro rock star as a result. Now home, he’s Dressed For The Occasion (Julian Records) for his stateside full-length debut. His compositions have a dark edge. His vocals are gritty and sandpapery. It’s produced by John Agnello (Kurt Vile/Sonic Youth/Dinosaur Jr.), with an ear for alternative. In other words, this dude just might be the hippest singer/songwriter to come out of New Jersey since Bruce, especially on songs like “This Gun Of Mine” and “The Great Rondout Train Robbery.” Plus, his version of the late Tim Hardin’s, “Reason To Believe,” sent shivers down my spine.

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Welcome to the Stompin’ Ground (Alligator Records) of Tommy Castro and the Painkillers. It’s a place where this 30-year veteran of houserockin’ blues lives. (Alligator pioneered the sound with Hound Dog Taylor & The Houserockers 47 years ago in Chicago.) It’s Castro’s 15th album and, like all the others, is all killer, no filler. They do Taj Mahal’s “Further On Down The Road,” Delaney & Bonnie’s cover of “Soul Shake,” Elvin Bishop’s “Rock Bottom,” Buddy Miles’ “Them Changes,” Ray Charles’ “Sticks and Stones,” and a host of solid new smokin’ originals. What else do you need to know?

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You can thank Catty Town Records for bringing the rockabilly music of Australian femme fatale Cherry Divine to the fore via Cherry Divine Presents Rockabilly Chicks vs. Mean Evil Women, a 14-track manifesto of independence, sexuality and balls-to-the-wall in-your-face hiccups. The guitar is electric; the drums are mic’d up for maximum R&B; the big stand-up bass is acoustic; and Ali Penny provides the pumpin’ piano but the show is Divine. She spits her lyrics out with a vengeance, not unlike Wanda Jackson in 1958 or Debbie Harry in 1976. Highlights? “Vintage Pin-Up Girl,” “Baby Play Bass,” “Juniors In Love” and “I Need A Man” will tattoo you with the kind of musical ink that can never be erased.

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I’ve got a new favorite octet. The Dustbowl Revival of Los Angeles breaks all boundaries of genre restrictions on their self-titled party of an album (Signature Sounds). Produced by Ted Hutt (Flogging Molly/Dropkick Murphys), these 11 tracks just don’t quit. I’m a sucker for horns. Those big blasts of trombone and trumpet fill the room Stax-style. Liz Beebe’s fuck me-vocals are the icing on the cake. Stand-up bass and fiddle are played through wah-wah peddles. The mandolin is plucked hip-hop style. “Honey I Love You” features guest vocalist Keb Mo. Ten years on, this band is just now reaching its prime.

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The fact that Ahmad Jamal, 87, is still cranking out albums as wonderful as Marseille (Jazzbook Records) is testament to the fact that he is, without a doubt, one of the world’s greatest living piano players. A peerless pioneer composer and practitioner of old-school swing and bebop, Jamal (a longtime favorite of the late Miles Davis) has put together a band for the ages on this tribute to a great French city. Drummer, Herlin Riley, was on the stool for Wynton Marsalis. Bassist, James Cammack, has been with Jamal for 32 years. Weather Report percussionist, Manolo Badrena, is one of the best in the business. He’s outdone himself here with his panoply of cowbells, bongos, congas, rainsticks and woodblocks. French rapper, Abd Al Malik, makes the title track come alive with new verve for this old man. Jamal is nothing if not progressive and he has yet to lose his touch for the unexpected (his 1958, “Poinciana,” was a pop hit).

Then there’s “Autumn Leaves.” I once wrote that this 1948 French hit by Yves Montand, that has since become an American standard, should be retired and all singers who continue to record it should be boycotted. I was being rebellious, sure, but now, in Jamal’s hands, and with the lingering memory of how Miles blew it with Cannonball Adderley in 1958, it has been officially transcended with an ache in the melody. Jamal came out of Pittsburgh as a child prodigy playing Franz Liszt (1811-1886) before falling under the sway of Art Tatum (1909-1956), generally perceived as being the greatest piano player of them all (although Oscar Peterson (1925-2007) might have had a little something to say about that). Once meeting Tatum, there was no looking back and Liszt took a back seat to the syncopations of pure jazz. The fact that he’s still doing it is cause to rejoice.

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Palestine Blues (Coffee Street Records), by Lew Jetton & 61 South, hurts. This is not houserockin’ music. This is painful. Opening with that musical question, “Will I Go To Hell,” continuing with “For The Pain,” “Drinking Again,” “Don’t Need No Devil” and “Christ Have Mercy,” this is some dark, deeply disturbing stuff. And that’s the way Jetton wants it. He wrote all 10 tracks with pen dipped in his own blood. Chronicling severe depression, alcoholism, drug addiction, joblessness and his own particular brand of existential dread, it’s Jetton singing and playing guitar with bare-bones drums and bass behind him (with a few lonesome harmonica wails thrown in on two tracks). You ready for this? It’s positively cleansing. Give this guy a Grammy Award.

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Wilson Pickett Sings Bobby Womack (Ace Records, London) is a soul-man motherlode. You can’t get much better than this:  it’s 20 songs one late legend wrote for another late legend. And they’re all gems. Buy it.


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