Abundance (Anzic Records) by Ernesto Cervini’s Turboprop has the wildly eclectic Canadian sextet reaching out simultaneously in numerous directions, oftentimes in the context of the same song. That’s because this Turboprop is jet-fueled with the kind of soloing that not only catches the ear and brain with daring invention but is capable of soothing the savage soul within us all via lush arrangements: Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 “Smile” has the most mellifluous ‘bone solo you’re ever likely to hear (by William Carn). Their interplay/chemistry demands attention. Firmly post-bop, they also mightily swing and fuse disparate elements into a cohesive whole. With an impressive sax/flute/trombone frontline, they all write, and they all play with a heightened sense of adventure (Cervini’s the drummer). Harold Arlen’s 1943 “My Shining Hour” is dug up, dusted off and damn if it doesn’t instantly equal any version I know. And how cool is it that baseball fan Cervini wrote “Song For Cito,” an ode to Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston from back in that team’s glory days of winning two consecutive World Series in ‘92 and ‘93.
A New York Maestro
New York City Pianist/Organist/Composer Brad Whiteley’s follow-up to his impressive 2014 Pathless Land is Presence (Destiny Records) where he stretches — really stretches –to include elements of balladry, rhythm, rock, funk, world, avant-garde and even some cool drum ’n’ bass action. His band is amazing, filled with incendiary soloing and ensemble playing by Michael Eaton (tenor saxophone), Tom Guarna (electric guitar), Matt Pavolka (acoustic bass) and Kenneth Salters (drums). Whiteley, the longtime Regina Spector keyboardist, has worked with David Byrne, and has been in the pit band for Broadway’s Avenue Q as well as being the organist at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in the Bronx. His Presence is powerful, filled with 11 originals inspired by the cross-cultural music of Duke Ellington and McCoy Tyner.
Copping A Feel
The various artists on Wild Life: And All About Love (Koko Mojo) has 28 rarer-than-rare ‘50s R&B and R’n’R burners as compiled by Euro DJ Little Victor (The Mojo Man) by the likes of Redd Foxx, Little Preacher Boy, Lloyd Price, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Louis Armstrong, Tipple & The Clover Men, Big Charles Green, Doc Starkes and Jimmy Tender Hart on material that will make you dance and laugh at the same time. Songs like “Twisted,” “All Messed Up,” “Chills & Fever,” “She Knocks Me Out,” “Don’t Touch,” “You Excites Me Baby,” “Love Me Like Crazy,” “Crazy Man,” I Dare You Baby” and “Wow Wow” will touch your ear, brain, feet and loins. And check out that cover!
Devotchka Means Girl in Russian
For the last 21 years, Devotchka — Nick Urata (vocals/guitar/piano/theremin), Tom Hagerman (violin/viola/accordion/keyboards), Shawn King (drums/percussion) and Jeanie Schroder (bass/tuba) — has been one of America’s most eclectic, fascinating and fearless bands. With material written by Urata (who also just happens to be a successful Hollywood film score composer), this Denver quartet, on eight albums, has bridged the widening gap between alternative rock, Americana, classic rock and tribal mysticism. On This Night Falls Forever (Concord), they’ve upped the ante on their individualism. They’ve also added more ingredients to their already percolating stew: more guitar/viola/violin, an ancient 15th Century Portuguese 10-stringed vihuela, background singers, three cellos, trumpet, baritone sax and bass clarinet. The result is a what they used to call exotica. It meanders around corners of instrumental spit and polish on songs that matter, especially lyrically. This just may be the hippest band in the land.
The Ron Spencer Band delves Into The Blue on its third Real Gone Records release. The 10 tracks veer stylistically from New Orleans, Chicago and Memphis to rhumba, rock and oldschool R&B. The covers are O.V. Wright’s 1973 “Blind, Crippled & Crazy” and Moon Martin’s 1978 “Cadillac Walk.” New Yorker Spencer plays guitar like B.B. King. Mark Gibson can sing with the best of ‘em. Bassist Bob Purdy and drummer Ross Moe are one. Help comes in the form of keyboards, sax, percussion and backing vocals. Spencer’s a 30-year music veteran who used play behind Big Time Sarah. He formed the band in ‘07, performing what he calls “future retro” up and down the East Coast. Highly Recommended.
Sister Sparrow hopes her new CD goes Gold (Thirty Tigers) but it fails to live up to her incendiary live performances. This septet comes complete with the kind of brass usually reserved for New Orleans, not their native Brooklyn. They’re called The Dirty Birds and when they get pumping behind the Sister, it causes her to twitch and shake like jello on a plate. Her voice is strong, real strong, her presence is dynamic. One day, I have no doubt, they will make the kind of CD that takes their visceral gut punch of a live show and transcend it for the studio. Not yet, though. You can see what I’m talking about on Dec. 1 at Irving Plaza where she will raise the roof, I’m sure.
Steely Dan at The Sands
Steely Dan is just as much a religion to us Dan nuts as the Dead has been to Deadheads everywhere. On its recent gig at The Sands Event Center in Bethlehem Pennsylvania, they put on a transcendent show with beloved material by the irascible beatnik Donald Fagen (Ray Charles crossed with Jack Kerouac). No Walter Becker anymore but that just makes this band more streamlined with a greater kick as lead guitarist Jon Herington is a monster. Drummer Keith Carlock is still up amongst the best rock drummers yet can swing, reggae and do the soul like no one else. When The Danettes sang “Dirty Work,” it’s positively swoon-worthy. That four-piece horn section provided the biggest thrills of all. The Dan is still one of the best bands in the land to see live. The sound was superb. Upcoming at the Sands: Elvis Costello, Nov. 2; Doobie Brothers, Nov. 4; Alan Parsons Project, Nov. 14; Whoopi Goldberg, Nov. 17; Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience, Nov. 24; Jerry Seinfeld, Nov. 30; Jewell, Dec. 7; Lindsey Buckingham, Dec. 9.