The Maturation of Bonamassa Redemption (J&R Adventures), Joe Bonamassa’s 13th solo studio album, is all-original and it burns like arson. He’s taken his blues-rock to creative new heights as produced by long-time sound scientist Kevin Shirley. Recorded in Tennessee, Australia, Nevada and Florida, with three guitarists, bass, drummer Anton Fig, keyboards, horns and five singers, the widely disparate styles run the gamut from almost-metal, alt-pop and boogie to blues, Americana (dig that Jamey Johnson duet!) and personal confessional (lyrically, “Self-Inflicted Wounds” sounds like Joe’s been listening to Joni Mitchell). Highlight has to be the stripped-down “Stronger Now In Broken Places” with just acoustic guitar and vocals. Considering his last album, British Blues Explosion Live, debuted at No. 1, Redemption has to be looked at as an artistic gamble. This guy just keeps on getting better and better.
Dedicated to Art “Bu” Blakey I Remember Bu (Onyx Production) is the two-fisted action-packed storm of a debut CD by Ralph Peterson’s Gennext Big Band as recorded live in Boston at Sculler’s, one of the best jazz rooms in the country. It features Big Chief Donald Harrison, 58, the New Orleans saxophonist who got his start in Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers. Like Blakey, Gennext features two drummers. Unlike Blakey, it also has rapper Ryan Easter rhyming in double-time. These are some of the Berklee College of Music’s most impressive players and their nine tracks pack a Major League wallop, especially on Wayne Shorter’s 1965 “Free For All” and Joanne Brackeen’s 1981 convoluted “Egyptian Dune Dance.” Peterson was the last Messengers drummer, on the stool from 1983 until Blakey’s death in 1990 at 71 from lung cancer. His sole original is the title track. Highly Recommended.
From Sickness Comes Art Peter Nelson chronicles a painful five-year health ordeal on Ash, Dust and the Chalkboard Cinema (Outside In Music). Featuring three different ensembles (trio, quartet and septet) spread out over 10 tracks, the Brooklyn trombonist-composer wrote music in an effort to approximate the pain of dystonia (a neurological condition which causes muscles to atrophy into abnormal postures) and chronic hyperventilation. The three formats permit Nelson to solo mightily and arrange vibes, wordless vocals, piano, bass, drums, alto sax, trumpet and bass clarinet accordingly on the many facets of what he went through: Beginning with “It Starts Slowly” and “State Of Fear” on through “As We Grow Unfamiliar” and “Cyclical Maze,” a portrait emerges of a wounded but heroic musician. By the time it ends with “Closure Is A Wasted Prayer,” one can only marvel at the incredible panoply of sound Nelson has dredged up from the rock-hard bottom of his soul.
New Jersey Blues The Bob Lanza Blues Band’s fifth album, Kids, Dogs & Krazy Women (Connor Ray Music), recorded in Raritan on vintage analog equipment with Lenny Kravitz producer Anthony Krizan, is a blues-busting tour-de-force with great vocals, raging guitars, Hammond B-3, piano, harmonica, drums, bass and slide. The producer and artist met when they were both on a landscaping job. Two years later, they found themselves at a Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation fundraiser. “The best part of the New Jersey music scene is how small and connected it is,” says keyboardist John Ginty. “Great blues records are made here in New Jersey and this is certainly one of them.”
World Jazz Enrique Haneine is a Lebanese Mexican New Yorker who has now followed up his Instance Of Time with 11 of his delicately arranged originals on The Mind’s Mural (Elegant Walk Records). Filled with circuitous routes of jazz, Latin and folkloric Middle Eastern strains, the two-sax/bass/drums lineup gets wild and free as the estrogen-fueled frontline of tenor Anna Webber and soprano Catherine Sikora run circles around each other in a spiraling overflow of ideas. Haneine plays drums, cymbals and an udu drum. His compositions and arrangements will keep you on the edge of your seat like a good mystery novel.
50 Years of Tower Of Power Hard to believe but World-Class Oakland funk band Tower Of Power is celebrating its half-century mark with the release of its 25th album, the 14-track, all-new Soul Side Of Town (Artistry Music/Mack Avenue Records). The slippery soul of highlight “Butter Fried” is only the tip of the iceberg. Founding member/chief composer/sax man/bandleader Emilio Castillo did up 28 new songs with producer Joe Vannelli (so a second volume seems likely). Longtime bari saxist Doc Kupka and drummer David Garibaldi are still funkin’ up the house with a cast of seven “new” guys. Some of the songs include singer Ray Greene (now in Santana) and others have new singer Marcus Scott. The sound is wild, horns fly, the bass snaps, the vocals are gritty and the ballads are pretty. Like Earth Wind & Fire on steroids…like Kool & The Gang on uppers, Tower of Power sizzles with authority. May they go ever on.
Touched By A Spaceman
Pianist/Composer/Producer/Arranger Alex Clough’s self-released near, far, beyond is a delightful and captivating romp with sax/trumpet/bass/drums. Half is piano trio. Half is quintet. It’s been over a decade as a sideman for Clough. Graduating from the State University of New York, and planting his musical seed in the hotbed of jazz activity that is Brooklyn, these eight originals bespeak an elegance rare for a debut. David Smith and Steve Kortyka are monsters on trumpet and sax and when they tussle and play in their hot soloing, it’s akin to two puppies going at each other so lustily you’d think they’re fighting. But they’re not. The twin highlights have to be the 8:45 “Incantation” and the 8:17 “Leaps And Bounds.” Get ready to be touched by a spaceman.
Octogenarian Trumpeter Swings
Dig those Undertones (Chronograph Records) by Al Muirhead’s Canadian Quintet. After playing in dance bands at the age of 12 and the Regina Symphony as a teen, this sprightly, energetic 82-year-old trumpeter/composer/arranger/sideman/bandleader once played alongside the legendary Dizzy Gillespie and, more recently, backed up vocalist Diana Krall. His quintet — guitar, bass, drums, tenor sax and Muirhead’s rare bass trumpet — swings mightily on Benny Goodman’s 1926 “’Deed I Do,” Bing Crosby’s 1932 “I Don’t Stand A Ghost Of A Chance With You,” Jimmy Giuffre’s 1947 “Four Brothers,” Henry Mancini’s 1963 “Charade” plus Muirhead’s engaging originals. You know what they say, don’t you? It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing and with Muirhead, swing’s the thing.