Toronto’s Bad Luck Woman & Her Misfortunes are Cursed on their hot debut. Bassist/lead singer/bandleader, Raha Javanfar, is the one with bad luck and she sheds her skin 10 times here, backed by guitar/drums/sax/trumpet/piano/back-up vocals. They’re all about reviving good-time, ass-kicking rhythm ’n’ blues of yesteryear, thus she took her name from a Memphis Minnie song of the 1930s. Opener, “Snatch & Grab It,” could be a taunt to our current president. Elsewhere, the band cooks up some hot fried versions of songs originally recorded by Big Maybelle (1924-1972), Little Sylvia (1935-2011), Ella Johnson (1919-2004), Etta James (1938-2012) and Muddy Waters (1915-1983). They smoke. They sizzle. And, I hear, they’re hot as hell live.


For his first new studio effort in over a decade, pianist/composer/mathematician Rob Schneiderman has taken on the role as a Tone Twister (Hollistic Musicworks). Backed by a terrific front line of Brian Lynch on trumpet and Ralph Moore on tenor saxophone, augmented by drummer Peter van Nostrand and bassist Gerald Cannon, Schneiderman performs nine originals plus the 1952 Nat King Cole hit, “Unforgettable.”  A veteran in the 1980s bands of James Moody, JJ Johnson and Art Farmer, Schneiderman will be the first to tell you that he’s an old road dog who has performed in such exotic locales as Brazil and Indonesia.

Opening with “Footloose Freestyle,” it is here where he takes the slap-happy funk of Eddie Harris (in whose band he also toiled) and juxtaposes it with the Latin fire of Eddie Palmieri. “Left Coast Lullaby” is for his San Francisco roots while “Windblown” is a rewrite of “Lover,” a song Jeanette McDonald sang in the 1932 movie, Love Me Tonight. The highlight has to be the 7:30 “Slapdance-Tapstick,” where he approximates the kinetic artistry of tap dancer Buster Brown (with whom he once backed). The blues of both the title tune and the languorous 8:36 closer (“The Lion’s Tale”) give Tone Twister extra profundity. Wholeheartedly recommended.


Lena Bloch & Feathery understands that the Heart Knows (Fresh Sound New Talent). Born in Moscow, educated in Israel, tenor saxophonist/composer/bandleader Bloch, now based in Brooklyn, was a student of sax men Lee Konitz and Yusef Lateef (1920-2013). Her Feathery quartet with pianist Russ Lossing, bassist Cameron Brown and drummer Billy Mintz incorporates incredible whiz-bang collective simultaneous improvisation on “Three Treasures.” After getting started with the 12:02 “Lateef Suite” tribute, the 12:54 “French Twist” uses “French Suite in D-Minor” by some guy named Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) as its jumping-off point. The 10:35 “Esmeh” even adds some super-cool Persian folk strains. The 8:53 “Munir” has all kinds of Middle Eastern snake-charmer motifs running in, over, around and through its extended format. It’s in tribute to Munir Bashir (1930-1967), Iraq’s pre-eminent oud player and this oud-less jam approximates the sounds, sights and smells of ‘50s-era Mosul, his hometown, before it became a bombed-out shell of its former self. “Counter Clockwise” is the obligatory ballad. Finally, “Newfoundsong” is for her impressions of the beautiful Newfoundland countryside. Bloch and her Feathery men are constantly creative, wide-ranging and with chops to spare. This is some big-time world-jazz for the ages.


So there’s this house in Toronto where local jazzers go to jam, groove, drink and create. By 2016, it had become a hip hub for the artistically hungry. The result was a swinging post-bop covers project called Volume One and the 17 musicians who collaborated called themselves Collective Order. On the self-released Volume Two, their ranks have swelled to 19 but this time, they wanted to compose, arrange and produce their own damn selves. It’s just as much an R&B project as it is jazz. With vocals (3), bass (4), drums (4), piano (2), saxophone (2), trombone, trumpet, guitar (2) and Hammond B-3 organ, the tracks flow by in a free and easy totally breezy funkified picnic. The highlight is the closing “Millionaires,” with lyrics from the stoned-out poet Charles Bukowski (1920-1994), author of the classics, Notes Of A Dirty Old Man, Ham On Rye, Pulp and Play The Piano Drunk Like A Percussion Instrument Until The Fingers Begin To Bleed A Bit. (Quick Cinematic Tip: you gotta see Mickey Rourke as Bukowski in the 1987 film, Barfly, which contains the classic line, “I’m just a dick looking for an asshole.”


Her name’s Cristina Vane and she can twang that Mississippi National Steel Guitar like the late Johnny Winter although instead of being from Texas, she’s from California–Venice Beach, to be exact–where the singers sing for free on the boardwalk, the skaters skate, the surfers surf and the doctor is always in to sign you up for a medical marijuana card. Her six-song self-released EP, Troubled Sleep, is a folksy, bluesy roots-righteous record so forget the fact that she also plays flute, piano and can sing some opera. These days she’s more at home fingerpicking an acoustic, jamming out on her claw-hammer banjo or sliding up and down the fretboard of her signature silver Resonator. Her voice is a powerful instrument. Her compositions reek of dusty bars, unforgiving men and too many late nights. I’m in love.


The title cut of Eilen Jewell’s scintillating new blues bash, Down Hearted Blues (Signature Sounds) was first recorded by Bessie Smith in 1923. Booze was banned and blues was dangerous like rock’n’roll in the 1950s. Jewell’s something of an archeologist, ferreting out rare nuggets of pure gold, buoyed by the sax of Curtis Stigers and her band including co-producer/drummer/husband Jason Beek. You’ll find songs by Little Walter, Otis Rush, Howling Wolf, Memphis Minnie and Big Maybelle all sung in her own idiosyncratic way with slurs in all the right spots. This is a rare gal out of Idaho who hit the open road for New Mexico before landing in Los Angeles and then Boston. I have yet to take this thing out of my boombox. It’s that good.

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