Georgia ‘Bone Man
There’s nothin’ like a good ‘bone man. My favorite TV show of all-time, Treme, had, at the heart and soul of its story about New Orleans post-Katrina working musicians, a ‘bone man, Antoine Batiste, played by Wendell Pierce, who’d lug his big trombone around in an effort to get gigs. The music of such ‘bone legends as JJ Johnson [1924-2001] and Jack Teagarden [1905-1964] has stood the test of time and today’s ‘bone stars like Trombone Shorty and Michael Dease are making some of the most exciting music around. Dease’s eleventh album has him Reaching Out (PosiTone Records) towards Paul McCartney (“Live And Let Die”), Boston rock band Extreme (“More Than Words”), the late Dallas pianist Cedar Walton (“Something In Comnon”), Babyface (“Water Runs Dry”) and fellow ‘bone man Steve Turre (“Blackfoot”) while chipping in some originals and leading a tight septet of tenor sax, alto sax, vibraphone, piano, bass and drums in a freewheeling post-bop swinger. Highly Recommended!
Mingus at Montreux
In the annals of jazz history, there are about two handfuls of eccentric colorful characters whose outsized personalities almost eclipsed their legendary productivity. Charles Mingus may be the most outrageous of them all. He was a violent man — he once almost broke ‘bone man Jimmy Knepper’s jaw with a punch to the face — prone to depression and wild political diatribes against racist America. He played with Pops, Hamp and Duke before starting his own legend fusing gospel, jazz, blues, Dixieland, swing, bebop, Latin and classical. Rock ’n’ rollers loved him. Joni Mitchell made her Mingus album for him. In 1975, he took to the stage at the prestigious Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland and tore the house down, playing material from his Changes One and Changes Two albums a year earlier. Eagle Rock Entertainment has preserved the moment with Charles Mingus: Love At Montreux 1975, a two-disc doozy with five extended jams. The sound is amazingly pristine, the playing divine.
His “Devil Blues,” “Free Cell Block F, ‘Tis Nazi USA,” “Sue’s Changes” and his Lester Young tribute “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” are filled with incendiary performances by pianist Don Pullen, drummer Dannie Richmond, tenor saxophonist George Adams and trumpeter Jack Walrath. The only cover is an effervescent slice of Ellingtonia by Billy Strayhorn, “Take The A Train,” where Gerry Mulligan (baritone sax) and Benny Bailey (trumpet) sit in. Even if you already own the studio versions of these five, the stretched-out jams on this night of nights is still worth it. It’s a keeper.
Heartbreak Song for the Radio (self-released) by The Lynnes is the stone gem debut of 10 Americana beauties by this Canadian duo of Lynne Miles and Lynne Hanson. “I took your words,” they sing on the title tune, “stumbled strummed and hummed along/Hammered ‘til they spelled out the world’s saddest broken-hearted song.” Besides pin-perfect harmonies, they each compose and play guitar and piano fronting a rock-solid band with mandolin, vibraphone and Hammond B3 organ. In “Heavy Lifting,” they bemoan “I’m tired of falling for cowboys in the dark/I’m tired of giving away my heart/Of walking a line that’s always shifting/Being the hero and doing all the heavy lifting.” You go, girls!
Enter The Seeker
Home On The River (Bella Blue Records) is the follow-up to Caroline Cotter’s 2015 Dreaming As I Do debut. The nine originals and one cover bespeak a quiet elegance with thoughtful lyrics sung in her gorgeous soprano. Born on Rhode Island and raised in Maine, she can sing in six languages, has traveled to 31 countries, teaches yoga and tours non-stop. With songs about her parents and grandparents, her aspirations and her dreams, Caroline Cotter is the living proof of Willie Nelson’s great line that “moving is the closest thing to being free.” She’s a wandering free spirit with a fresh, organic take on American folk music. Hey, anyone who covers Woody Guthrie (“My Peace”) is alright with me. (I’ve always said that Woody’s “This Land Is Your Land” should be our National Anthem instead of that horrible war song.)
Bobby Hutcherson [1941-2016] was a masterful jazz vibraphonist who doubled on marimba. The Tribute To Bobby (Challenge Records International) by Steve Hobbs, on the same two instruments, is a freewheeling feel-good testament to the power of their friendship. Backed by sax/piano/bass/drums, Hobbs plays just like his great mentor while adding some of his own personal embellishments. Oddly, there are no Hutcherson covers. Instead, Hobbs gets down with Bob Dylan’s “Blowing In The Wind” (now there’s a great National Anthem). He ends with the 1937 chestnut “Where Or When” (I still say Dave Edmunds and Dion do it best). His originals roll and wiggle with entertaining flair, hitting upon post-bop, Latin, funk, calypso and fusion. Hutch would’ve loved it. So do I.
Best Rock Of 2018
Guitarist/composer Dusan Jevtovic is Live At Home. It’s the follow-up to his semi-brilliant No Answer and has some of the same songs in an elongated concert context. Leonardo Pavkovic’s MoonJune label is hip enough to almost completely delete the crowd noise and with such sophisticated recording technology as todays, this sounds so studio. Home, in this case, is Serbia. Jevtovic’s wildly exciting electric guitar is the lead voice here on an all-instrumental hard rock adventure featuring Serbian musicians Vasil Hadzimanov (keys), Pera Krstajic (bass) and Pedja Milutinovic (drums). Man, they rock! The six originals and one crazy-sick arrangement of the folkloric “Angel/Al Aire/Soko Bira” are totally in-your-face. It doesn’t let up. Its passion, its intelligence and, most of all, its courageous daring, makes it listenable over and over again to the point where you will, indeed, hear new moments with each new listen. Bravo!
A Woman’s Journey (Tzigart/Promiseland) by Madeleine & Salomon celebrates female protest songs with a minimalistic musical bed as underpinning. A libretto is included so you won’t miss one word. From Nina Simone (“Image” and “Four Women”) and Janis Ian (“At 17”) to Billie Holiday (“Strange Fruit”) and Josephine Baker (“Vous Faites Partie de Moi”), these are songs of defiance, resistance and overt independence; perfect for the dystopian age we seem to be approaching.