Rant ‘N’ Roll: The Almighty Rock-Jazz-Blues Triumvirate

I’m boycotting Roger Waters, as he has seen fit to boycott Israel and attempt to get other bands to do the same. The Rolling Stones ignored him and reportedly played some dynamite shows in Tel Aviv (wish I could say the same for Stevie Wonder so fuck him too). I can write about Pink Floyd’s six-disc The Division Bell 20th Anniversary Collector’s Box Set, though, because Waters wasn’t part of the band at that time. This, their 14th and last studio album, came out in 1994, sold 12 million copies and featured the great “Marooned.” David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright had plenty of help: producer Bob Ezrin and Gilmour’s lyricist wife Polly Samson are among the 21 participating talents. Still, it was Gilmour’s show, his premise, lead vocals, compositions (some co-written with Wright), guitar, bass, keyboards, programming, mixing and co-producing. The box has three vinyl discs, five collector’s prints, a Blu-ray, edits, rarities and live tracks. It does not sound like a band on its last album, that’s for sure. Highlights? A live version of “Astronomy Domine” from Miami that year is killer…as is a live version of “One Of These Days” from Germany, also in ’94. Radio edits of “Keep Talking,” “High Hopes” and “Take It Back” sound concise and modern and there’s no editing “What Do You Want From Me.” At $149.98, it may be pricey, but it’s deeeeeep.


Get a place ready on my 2014 Top 10 Jazz Albums for the astonishing Hiromi. She’s so Alive (Telarc/Concord). The 35-year-old Japanese pianist wrote all nine compositions on this, her ninth CD as a leader, fronting her Trio Project with contrabass guitarist Anthony Jackson and drummer Simon Phillips, two lions who positively roar. Just ask Metallica’s Robert Trujillo. He calls this music “summertime fun with a groovy dangerous swagger.” Legendary jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal says that “Hiromi has discovered her own genre.”

It’s been 11 years of plugging away but Alive could be her breakthrough. Influenced by Jamal (her mentor) as well as McCoy Tyner and Thelonious Monk, every track is a trip of unvarnished creativity. Depending upon the track, you’d think she was a jazz-rock fusion artist, or a gospel pianist, a bebopper, a devotee of swing, a funkster, an avant-garde experimenter or a sophisticate of supper-club soul. Truth is, she’s all of the above and more, a supremely talented musician who has made over an hour of the kind of music that one can only sit and stare at the speakers in abject wonder over, then play it again.


Open Letter To The Nighthawks: Please come to Bethlehem, PA! This is one whale of a legendary roots band whose own history predates the entire Americana roots-rock format and I’ve never seen them live. I might just bust a gut if they ever played the Musikfest Café, my home-away-from-home. At least I can content myself with the 13 new tracks of 444 (Ellersoul/City Hall), recorded in Virginia (they’re DC-based). It rocks and honks with ferocity, it gets lowdown and bluesy, it even goes country. To think their Rock ‘N’ Roll debut came out in 1974. Man, I was 23 and wore that sucker out! 28 albums later, plus four solo albums from singer/harmonicat Mark Wenner, this one tops all. They’re fearless! They cover Muddy Waters’ “Louisiana Blues,” the Elvis Presley duet with Kitty White from his greatest movie, King Creole, as well as Presley’s “Got A Lot Of Livin’” from Loving You (his second-best movie). Along the way, there’s a balls-to-the-wall knock-down drag-out roadhouse blues ‘n’ boogie aesthetic that just makes you want to jump up on a table top and expose yourself.