The Smoke Wagon Blues Band cordially invites you to their Cigar Store (Indie Pool) where lead singer Corey Lueck spits out his phlegm all over the first few rows. He also plays a hell of a mean blues harp, as well as co-writing some instant classics like “Hoodoo Woman,” “White Mule” and “Mean Old Lady,” three of 13 certified slabs of Grade-A ground beef. They’ve rocked festival stages for almost 20 years since forming in Ontario, Canada in 1996. Luell’s a real entertainer. Besides singing up a storm and blowing that mouth harp, he writes of the Yukon, New Orleans, voodoo, the Underground Railroad, lost love and moonshining. His band of guitar/keyboards/sax/bass/drums/percussion is a killer-diller so even if they never go south of their border, you can visit their Cigar Store before digging up their five previous CDs.

*

The Albert Marques Trio is Live in the South Bronx (Zoho). “Doble Sur” starts it off on an Afro-Caribbean trip like a helping of rice and beans but with some Afro-Mediterranean side dishes. “IDN” follows as pianist/composer Marques shrewdly vamps until bassist Walter Stinson and drummer Zack O’Farrill start their own percussion discussion. Wayne Shorter’s “Iris” gets a hushed respectful rendition before piano and drums start to fight during “Jazz Is Working Class.” Drummer O’Farrill wins by a TKO and winds up soloing like mad. Their interpretation of “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers is my personal highlight, probably because its melody is tattooed on my brain. Highly recommended.

*

Zentuary (Favored Nations) by Dewa Budjana (his tenth) is a sparkling 2-CD trip from the Indonesian guitarist. I bet he made label head Steve Vai smile. Filled with incessant curli-cue noodling adrift on a lifeboat in the middle of a storming sea, Budjana—fresh off his 2015 Hasta Karma—more than holds his own with the kind of all-star super-hero progressive band he’s assembled. None other than the legendary drummer Jack DeJohnette (Keith Jarrett/Miles Davis) does what he’s been doing for the last 40 years. Other tracks have drummer Gary Husband from the bands of Jack Bruce and Robin Trower. On bass is Tony Levin from King Crimson and Peter Gabriel. Prog-Rock, alt.jazz, soundtrack music (to a movie that doesn’t exist), worldbeat and Asian motifs are the order of the day. Saxophonists Tim Garland (Chick Corea/Bill Bruford) and Danny Markovich share time as two female singers hang tough in the face of greatness and cacophony. Hell, even the Czech Symphony Orchestra gets its licks in. All hands on deck! Wow.

*

Bassist/Composer/Vocalist Nicole Saphos has self-released her self-produced Tiptoe with guitarist John Lee and drummer Ele Rubenstein where she gives Fiona Apple’s “Hot Knife” the same kind of exquisite reading that she does to Irving Berlin (“Say It Isn’t So”) and Cole Porter (“Just One Of Those Things”). Her originals tend to be on the doom side (“Broken Ballerina”) but when she gets her hands on Artie Shaw’s “Moon Ray,” she can be as perky as Katy Perry. Well, not really. There’s a sadness to her music that even rears its head on Thelonious Monk’s “Ugly Beauty” where she sings it minus lyrics. Recommended with reservation.

*

Fusion comes in many forms (usually jazz-rock). Enoch Smith, Jr.’s The Quest: Live at APC (Misfit Me Music) is the pianist/composer’s fourth CD of gospel-jazz fusion. Recorded in a Monmouth County, New Jersey, church, with vocals, bass and drums, Enoch can swing (“Wheels Up”), chant (“Creator”) or go the traditional call-and-response route (“The Quest”). He covers his obvious influence, Chick Corea, on “Open Your Eyes You Can Fly.” Picking a highlight on this one is tough since it all hangs together so beautifully and is meant as a 45:59 listening experience but “Jesus Loves Me,” written in 1860 by Anna B. Warner [1827-1915] and popularized by Newark’s own Whitney Houston [1963-2012] in 1992, is so nice Enoch does it twice, one with vocals and one without.

*

Bobby Previte’s Mass (RareNoise Records) is not to be taken lightly. The drummer/composer has had this thing rattling around his brain since 2003. With the 11-voice Rose Ensemble fronting what is, essentially, metal machine music, Previte has taken a 15th century religious work, Missa Sancti Jacobi, by the Franco-Flemish Renaissance composer Guillaume Dufay [1397-1474], and modernized it into black metal. I hear traces of Swedish death metalers Therion here too and that’s a good thing. With Marco Benevento on cathedral pipe organ and Previte on drums and synthesizer leading five thrashy electric guitarists into the abyss, Mass satisfies in a most underground way. Not for the squeamish.

*

Finally, guitarist/vocalist Tas Cru is Simmered & Stewed (Vizztone) on his follow-up to last year’s terrific You Keep The Money. Although he ends with Jackie Wilson’s 1967 “Higher And Higher” soul classic, it’s his originals—especially “Grizzle N’Bone,” “Road To My Obsession” and the mouth-watering “Biscuit”—that cut to the core. It’s a blues-fest and the trimmings are lush: harmonica, honky-tonk piano, Hammond B-3 organ, ripe background vocals and a kickin’ bass/drums rhythm section. Get down!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*/ ?>