Que Descaida by the Samuel Pompeo Quinteto, straight out of Sao Paulo, Brazil, is an intriguing blend of two distinct genres that came out of the 1800s. The first is jazz from New Orleans. The second is choro from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Choro — with its strains of European polka, Scottish folkloric tradition and the highly syncopated dance music called Mazurca from Poland — seemed a natural choice to fuse with jazz.
It took two years for saxophonist Pompeo to entice the two genres to be friendly, but with guitarist Dino Barioni, pianist Fabio Landro and bassist Gibson Freitas, Pompeo has invented an amalgam of sound that heralds his debut with alarming intensity.
One problem was the steadfast sameness of choro through the decades while jazz has constantly evolved from ragtime to the avant-garde. Pompeo wondered what choro might sound like today had it evolved like jazz. The answer is in the swirling rhythms and contrapuntal craziness of Que Descaida, his self-released gem in which he blows some righteous bari and soprano sax plus clarinet. He wrote three of eight and expanded the premise of five more traditional choro numbers that, truth be told, sound nothing like when they were originally written. Bravo!
Regret as an Artform
So here’s this dude — singer/songwriter/producer — with a sour expression on his face who poses for his fifth CD cover sitting on a park bench with his back to the camera in front of lush sepia-toned greenery. Rivers is his self-released, self-produced 10-track manifesto of alienation. He’s considered something of a Dylanesque genius up in Toronto town. Truth be told, Mark Martyre is, indeed, impressive as hell, and the more you listen to Rivers, the more you’re carried away on the rushing rapids of his travels and the inherent wisdom he’s gleaned thereof. The song titles give a hint of his brand of reconcilable transgressions and world-weary cynicism: from “Anywhere But Here” and “Nowhere Else to Go But Up” to “I Think We Might Be OK” and, especially, “The Next Song.” Sung in a friendly rasp with his guitar and harmonica, buttressed by piano, guitar, drums, bass, accordion and violin, Martyre can lay claim to making regret an artform.
Gabriele Tranchina is Of Sailing Ships and the Stars in Your Eyes on her new Rainchant Eclectic record. She sings Bizet’s “Je Crois Entendre Encore” in French; Jobim’s “O Morro Nao Tem” in Portuguese; Mancini’s “Meglio Stasera” in Italian; her pianist/husband Joe Vincent Tranchina’s “Ein Alter Tibetteppich” in German and Vernon Duke’s “Autumn In New York” in English. Her voice is just as much an instrument as the keys, melodica, programming, bass and percussion that accentuate her dizzyingly delightful worldview. With samba, salsa, swing, balladry and free improv on rhythms from all sorts of exotic locales like the closing 10:11 of “A Song For India,” she seems to sing, chant, rap and speak in a different character on each of the 12 superb tracks.
Temptress in Fishnet Stockings
Boston’s Erin Harpe and the Delta Swingers have been on the Big Road (Juicy Juju/Fizztone Records) for so long, they’re a finely-tuned machine, pouring out the funk, blues, soul and rock in this 10-track keeper. I love how she handles Randy Newman’s “Guilty” (my favorite version since Bonnie Raitt’s). The Raitt comparison is apt since she sings, composes, arranges, produces and plays lead guitar. The follow-up to their 2014 Love Whip Blues debut, Big Road sizzles with both electric and acoustic, going from rural delta primitivism to roadhouse Americana. She wrote four, but it’s her modernistic arrangements of such legendary songwriters as Mississippi Fred McDowell, Tommy Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt and Slim Harpo that stand out. As a guitarist, she hits all the right notes, going from acoustic finger-picking to electric rave-ups complete with heavy use of her wah-wah pedal and whammy bar. As a singer, she’s sexy and succinct, getting her points across with ease and without seeming to try too hard. With a minimum of overdubs, this live-in the-studio feel wears well for a band that I truly hope heads south towards The MusikFest Café in Bethlehem, Penn. so I can thrill to her curves.
51 Years On With NRBQ
With the indefatigable Terry Adams still leading the charge for this most uniquely American band of them all, NRBQ keeps bouncing along on its own joyous trail of oddball covers, shifting genres and novelty kicks. The title cut of the new five-song EP, Happy Talk (Omnivore Recordings), is from the 1949 Broadway musical, South Pacific. Fresh off the heels of the 5-CD High Noon: A 50-Year History of NRBQ, Adams has written two typically weirded-out originals: “Head On A Post” and “Yes, I Have A Banana.” Roy Orbison’s 1960, “Only The Lonely” was certainly ready for its Q treatment, and Michael Locke’s “Blues Blues Blues” is the type of song I’d love to hear them play live. There’s hope for the country as long as NRBQ is still with us.
Solo Spin Doctor
Angels and One-Armed Jugglers (Chrysanthemum Records) are what Spin Doctor frontman Chris Barron is singing about these days. Hunkered down in New York City with a slew of in-demand session guys, the 49-year-old rock star wrote, sang, played guitar and co-produced these 11 tracks despite suffering a paralyzed vocal cord midway through. Saturday Night Live Band drummer Shawn Pelton constantly kicks things forward on material with no genre restrictions. The Spin Doctors sold millions of records in the 1990s. This one album is better, wiser, more profound and more musically satisfying. “Too Young To Fade” could be his anthem on aging. And no, he’s not quitting the band. Wholeheartedly recommended.