When the Black Eyed Peas hit No. 1 in 2003 with “Where Is The Love?” they had no idea 15 years later it would be turned into a hot six-minute jazz jam. When Stevie Wonder hit No. 36 in 1976 with “As”, he might have had an inkling that jazz cats would, indeed, cover it. It’s been covered numerous times, most notably by fusion violinist Jean-Luc Ponty in ‘82 and George Michael/Mary J. Blige in ‘98. Both songs have now been deconstructed and reassembled in fine zip-pop-bop-swing fashion by Toronto trumpeter/composer/bandleader/producer/arranger John Pittman on his exquisite Kinship debut (Slammin’ Media) with bari sax whiz Shirantha Beddage, pianist Jeff McLeod, bassist Mike Downes and drummer Curtis Nowosad. They’re the only two covers on an eight-track post-bop trip that’s as adventurous and entertaining as it is soulful and surprising.
Into The Ether
Whenever one delves into the closeted sound laboratory of Manfred Eicher, worlds of meaning are exposed if only one has the temerity to boldly go into uncharted regions of the brain. Eicher has been the guru of his ECM Records for 49 years, perfecting an aesthetic that is alternately soothing, confounding, subliminally entertaining and exotically mysterious. Case in point: Life Of by Steve Tibbetts. The guitarist/pianist/composer has been with ECM for nine albums in 37 years. You could’ve fallen into his last one. It was eight years ago and Natural Causes was as obstreperous and unyielding as anything in 2010. Curiosity would’ve had you peering in closer and closer until you fell into a rabbit hole of unfathomable dimensions.
Life Of will drag you into that same rabbit hole, for it is here where his Martin 12-string acoustic guitar and his way with the 88 notes of a piano might bring you to the brink of an Indonesian Orchestra if you didn’t know any better. He may be from Minnesota but it’s the Far East that has captured his soul. Tibbetts is armed with the percussive toys of Marc Anderson (including the rare handpan which consists of two metal half-shells glued together with seven or more possible tones depending upon shape and how it’s manufactured) plus the cello and drones of Michelle Kinney and field samples of gongs from Bali. It all amounts to a sublime ear adventure. Don’t overthink it. Just let it pull you by your lapels into the ether.
Sons of anarchy everywhere love her. Barbara Blue is a Fish In Dirty H20 on her 11th self-released CD. As produced by Jim Gaines (Stevie Ray Vaughan/Van Morrison/Santana), “The Queen Of Beale Street” has never sounded better. She’s got the pick of the litter behind her (including drummer Bernard “Pretty” Purdie) on 13 scintillating tracks of blues, soul, funk, hip-hop, rock ’n’ roll and Americana. She does ‘em all and she does ‘em good: check that title tune duet with rapper Al Kapone on an old Koko Taylor B-side. This is a gal who came out of Pittsburgh fully formed to lead various bands literally around the world, stomping adoring crowds into submission with her balls-to-the-wall approach. She might’ve got her start in biker bars but international festival crowds adore her. So will you. Highlights include her own “BBQ Man” (which will make your mouth water) and “Wild Women” (drawn from experience, no doubt) plus the blockbuster closer of Robert Johnson’s 1937 “Come On In My Kitchen” which has been interpreted by Johnny Winter, Delaney & Bonnie, Eric Clapton, Patti Smith, Steve Miller Band, Allman Brothers and George Harrison. Barbara Blue’s rendition stands up to any of ‘em.
Sam’s The Man
The self-released Emergence of bassist/arranger/composer Sam Bevan should come as no surprise. Dude’s a monster. His nine originals on his fourth CD spark with creative tension. His revolving three-horn front-line (dizzying in execution) wails with dynamic drama. His “Grass” smokes! His “Blues For CM” is filled with incendiary soloing. Think about it: bass, drums, alto sax, two tenor saxophones, two bass clarinets, two trumpets, baritone sax, flute and percussion are all strategically added to a blender, shaken at post-bop speed, spiced with the kind of free-jazz changes that Ornette Coleman pioneered and served piping hot. There’s not one chord on the whole album.
The Jazz History of Queens
Just Cross The River (Triple Treble Music), by clarinetist Dennis Lichtman and the Queensboro Six, celebrates the history of Manhattan’s ignored borough, Queens, through the lens of the jazz legends who lived and played there: Lady Day, Pops, Fats, Ella, Basie, Prez, Benny, Lena, Diz and ‘Trane. A savagely swinging affair that never lets up, this debut is a document of the jams Lichtman has been running at Mona’s Bar in the East Village for the last 11 years. His sextet is sublime. The highlight has to be “For Bix”, dedicated to the legendary cornetist Bix Beiderbicke who mysteriously died in his Queens apartment at age 28 in 1931.
Blues Belter Gets Topical
You know things must be desperate as heavyweight blues belter Shemekia Copeland, on her sixth Alligator record, goes the Americana route to display her angst over her country’s hateful direction. She is, after all, America’s Child, so with the vocal help of John Prine and Emmylou Harris plus the lead guitar of Steve Cropper, as produced by Will Kimbrough, she gets loud and proud on her father Johnny Copeland’s 1992 “Promised Myself” and even The Kinks 1966 Classic “I’m Not Like Everybody Else.” It all starts with “Ain’t Got Time For Hate”, “Americans” and “Would You Take My Blood”. As the tracks flow, an unerring sense of anger mounts. Shemekia has transcended her blues into the kind of righteous indignation we all should be feeling in these queasy times.
Velvet Space Love (Spona Records) by Tomislav Goluban featuring Toni Staresinic is all instrumental, containing eight originals, three remixes of those originals and one cover (Ennio Morricone’s 1972 “Man With A Harmonica”). Goluban (harmonica) and Staresinic (keyboards) are from Croatia and if their weirdly repetitive/droning/heavily synthesized navel-gazing electronica sounds slightly askew, they want it that way. A kitchen-sink of horns and guitars adds to the fun. Velvet Space Love certainly takes some getting used to, but might impress your friends when they ask, “What is this shit?”