A Man Named Ilhan
As the fourth installment of his esteemed “Istanbul Sessions,” Solar Plexus (Nublu Music) by Ilhan Ersahin, is one of the most adventurous, satisfying, eclectic, cinematic, far-out CDs of 2018. A fascinating individual — saxophonist, keyboardist, composer, arranger and the head of New York City’s hip room on Avenue C called Nublu — this guy’s music traverses all known boundaries. His quartet is augmented by an octet of players that create swirling motifs of outer and inner space on 10 tracks of pure controlled bedlam best played LOUD. Producer Dave Harrington plays guitar, pedal steel, organ, synthesizer and his various electronic blips and bleeps. Add three trumpets and four percussionists and you’ve got a Euro-styled stew of scintillating proportions. Get Down!
Tommy James Latin-Style
You haven’t heard “Crystal Blue Persuasion” until you’ve heard it by San Francisco’s Hip Spanic Allstars on their self-released Old School Revolution. With members of Santana, Tower Of Power, Michael Franti’s Spearhead and Primus onboard, this multi-culti assemblage (15 cats in all) mixes’n’matches Zydeco with Salsa (“Welcome Back”), Latin with Rock (“This World Is Made For Lovers”) and Funk with Dance (“Funky Cha Cha”) on an insistent free-wheeling kaleidoscopic joyride that’s hipper than hip. So many highlights! I can’t stop playing “Bacuna Wow Wow Wow” and “Conga Radio.”
London Live (Artists Recording Collective) by the Jeff “Siege” Siegel Quartet — with drummer/producer/composer Siegel leading Erica Lindsay (tenor sax), Francesca Tanksley (piano) and Uli Langthaler (bass) on an eight-track show at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in England — is certainly worthy of repeated listening. It’s the type of set that the more you hear, the more you discover its intricacies. John Coltrane’s 1966 “Peace On Earth” may be a pipe dream today but it never sounded better. The ancient African-American spiritual “I Want Jesus To Walk With Me” has such a haunting melody, even atheists will dig it (thankfully, it’s instrumental). The interplay, drawn out to almost seven minutes, is, in a word, stunning. In fact, the entire concert is filled with incendiary soloing and dazzling support underneath each solo. Wholeheartedly Recommended.
Reckless Saints is an acoustic duo comprised of Roy Schneider on guitar, harmonica, dobro, drums, banjo and bass with wife Kim Mayfield on guitar, baritone ukulele, mandolin and piano. They both sing and they both write. Their self-titled debut only has one cover: “Election Day” by the late Blaze Foley (the subject of Ethan Hawke’s new movie, Blaze.) Bonnie Raitt bassist Freebo is on hand as is the legendary Nashville harmonica player Charlie McCoy and fiddler Keven Aland. It all amounts to an Americana gem that fans of real pure mountain-stream country will love.
Canadian Guitar Hero
Play It All Day, the self-released sophomore effort by hotshot Canadian singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer/arranger Terry Blersh, is an amalgam of blues, folk, rock, Tin Pan Alley and Elvis. The eight originals are striking and hit home hard yet it’s the three well-chosen cover nuggets that rule the roost. The time couldn’t be more right to honor Gordon Lightfoot’s haunting 1966 “Early Morning Rain.” He rocks out on the Lieber/Stoller Hollywood-Elvis “King Creole.” And to close with the 1924 Isham Jones hit “I’ll See You In My Dreams” is a stroke of genius. Blersh’s version taps into the song’s original intent and stands up to versions by Ginger Rogers (‘40), Jeanette MacDonald (‘44), Doris Day (‘51), Eddie Cochran (‘53) and Diana Krall (‘17).
Thatcher Plays Clapton
The Craig Thatcher Band blew us all away at The State Theatre in Easton, Pa. with two dynamic sets of Eric Clapton delving into deeper-than-deep Cream cuts as bassist Wayde Leonard played the part of Jack Bruce. To hear these songs come alive in full bloom — loud and invigorating — was something I’d thought I’d never see. Thatcher is the Lehigh Valley’s best-kept secret. He’s so damn good at shredding, at getting inside the music, of leading a band of all-stars at every position (particularly amazing violinist Nyke Van Wyke), that my jaw dropped and practically stayed that way for the duration of the show. Open-mouthed, agog, bedazzled, to me, it was positively spiritual. The songs of my youth, songs I have an intimate relationship with, were right there in front of me again. Like with The Fab Faux, this material is just too good to take off dusty record shelves every great once in a while. It should be celebrated and experienced in-concert.
Just. Like. This.
Blues purist Clapton quit The Yardbirds after the 1965 release of “For Your Love” which he hated as pop fluff. Thatcher played it garage-rock-style and I was transported back to when I was 14 asking my mom to buy me that song at the Belmont Record Shop on Bloomfield Avenue in Newark. Clapton played lead on the Beatle record “While My Guitar Gentle Weeps” in 1968. Thatcher went beyond his original solo to lift the roof off the venue. From “Crossroads,” “Layla” (Derek & The Dominos) and “Can’t Find My Way Home” (Blind Faith) to “Badge,” “Tulsa Time,” “Sunshine Of Your Love” and “Let It Rain,” the sound, the presentation, the exquisite musicianship and artistry, were, in a word, spellbinding. You can bet I’ll be there when he does the same thing for Hendrix on Dec. 29 at The MusikFest Café in Bethlehem, Pa.
Upcoming at The State Theatre: Kenny G (12/6), Straight No Chaser (12/8), Moscow Ballet “Great Russian Nutcracker” (12/9), “Magical Cirque Christmas” (12/21) and The Wizards Of Winter (12/23) (which contains former members of Rainbow, Alice Cooper, Blue Oyster Cult and Trans-Siberian Orchestra).
It’s been seven years since drummer/composer Devin Gray’s self-released Dirigo Rataplan record. Welcome to Chapter No. 2. The Brooklyn jazzer says he doesn’t set out to make “jazz.” It just comes out that way. All-instrumental, with flourishes wildly careening from post-bop and swing to late-night jam-band introspective noodling, tenor sax man Ellery Eskelin, bassist Michael Formanek and trumpeter Dave Ballou make a quiet noise. Concentrative, elliptical, mysterious, this is mood music of the highest order. The highlight has to be the closing “Micro-Dosage” where all bets are off, all rules are broken, and it’s almost as if they needed to bust out after the relative calm of the preceding nine tracks. No chords were played in the making of this CD. Thus, it’s a high-wire act…with no net. But can they do it live? Find out Dec. 1 at The Greenwich Music House in Manhattan and Dec. 4 at Korzo in Brooklyn.