These Two Guys
Mark Turner and Ethan Iverson are Temporary Kings on their new ECM Records record. It’s but those two guys on six originals by pianist Iverson (one of which, the grandiloquent “Yesterday’s Bouquet,” is solo) and two by tenor sax man Turner. Their seemingly unlimited purview includes blues (“Unclaimed Freight”), swing and post-bop with flourishes of modernist chamber classical. Mood music of the highest order, it can also be used as make-out music for that important seduction. Turner blows like Lee Konitz and Iverson tickles those ivories like Lenny Tristano [1919-1978]. Turner’s hard-as-hell-to-play “Myron’s World” is a concentrative exercise in zen. “Lugano” reeks of those 1920s Parisian street café where the artists congregated and hero novelist Henry Miller used to bum money and not pay it back from the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. It’s all very atmospheric and dreamy and, as such, wholeheartedly recommended.
Spicy Red Gravy
I’ve been down to New Orleans on three separate occasions and I can truthfully say that it is, far and away, my favorite city in the world. Where else can you walk down Rampart Street, swallow a different genre of live music in club after club while keeping your drink as you cakewalk through the French Quarter, ducking into a topless bar or the lair of a mystic fortune teller after dining at a five-star epicurean eating establishment. The ghosts of Marie Laveau, Professor Longhair and Buddy Bolden permeate the atmosphere. Take the graveyard tour. Eat some jambalaya and crawfish etouffee. Or, if you don’t want to get off your couch, just watch the four seasons of HBO’s Treme and read Jerry E. Strahan’s 1998 Managing Ignatius: The Lunacy of Lucky Dogs and Life in the Quarter.
But I digress.
Keith Stone with Red Gravy have self-released Blues With A Taste Of New Orleans, their second platter of spicy gumbo. Opening with “Ain’t That The Blues” and closing with “Something In The Water,” this quartet has been augmented by sax and slide to provide the ride. It’s certainly cheaper than airfare.
After Louisiana, Visit Iqaluit, Nunavut
The self-released Internal Combustion by Lawful Citizen is a stunning debut from this Montreal band of guitar/bass/drums/tenor sax. Inspired by the sound a motorcycle makes upon ignition, it goes from metal to jazz to electronica, from beauty to rage, from testosterone-fueled adventurism to lyrical love letters. Saxophonist Evan Shay is the composer. “The Day After (Reprise)” is in tribute to one of his main influences, Jimmy Giuffre. Four of the nine tracks constitute the amazing title suite where guitarist Aime Duquet, electric bassist Antoine Pelegrin and drummer Kyle Hutchins all get to shine. “Shatter” approximates the sound of a brick through a glass window. “The Road To Nowhere” approximates walking through Iqaluit, Nunavut (a desolate Canadian territory) at 3:30 in the morning.
Where Shakespeare and Coleridge Converge
Poet-Philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge [1772-1834] and actor-playwright William Shakespeare [1564-1616] converge on Persistent Fancy (Ropeadope) by Kyle Nasser who takes his inspiration from literature’s most foul bad guys. John Falstaff is a character in four of The Bard’s plays but truer words were never spoken when he intoned, “t’is no sin for a man to labor in his vocation.” Of course, Falstaff was a purse-snatcher, and Nasser just plays the sax. The title of this 14-track gem is from Coleridge who wrote of the difference between imagination and fancy. Between the two three-track suites (“Baroque” and “Eros”), the opening “Split Gut” (composed in his very real pain) and his closing homage to the much more pleasant “Coffee and Cannabis,” Nasser’s alto sax/guitar/piano/synth/bass/drums crew shine in support of the leader’s tenor and soprano. “Sticky Hipster” is the highlight, though, a wild-ride for his fellow Brooklynites.
Like a bee that must prick your skin, Sting’s 1979 “Message In A Bottle” pierces with alacrity when covered — and jammed out on for 10:43 — by the Marcin Wasilewski Trio Live (ECM) from Antwerp, Belgium for a crowd of 4,000+ as broadcast on Flemish radio in the summer of 2016. Ditto for Herbie Hancock’s 1974 “Actual Proof” at 10:40. Pianist/Composer Wasilewski is surrounded by genius. Double-bassist Slawomir Kurkiewica and drummer Michal Miskiewicz have to be heard to be believed. This Polish trio breaks all the rules and invents a few new ones in the process. You really cannot dance to “Sudovian Dance.” Believe me, I tried. “Austin” is in tribute to American pianist Austin Peralta who died at 22 from pneumonia. Wasilewski has previously covered such pop artists as Bjork and Prince. His touch is light, fleeting, mesmerizing and filled with the kind of runs that takes one’s breath away.
Ask saxophonist/composer Dave Anderson what the root of his Melting Pot (Label I) is and the man from Minnesota will tell you that it’s to counter-balance the dangerous state of current American xenophobia. His band includes Americans from Columbian, Venezuelan and Austrian heritage. Add a Canadian, a Brit and an Israeli on music from India and you’ve got this Melting Pot of diversity. The sound swirls with way-out action aplenty. The 21-minute three-track “Immigrant Suite” is the highlight. Imagine sax (2), piano, organ, bass, drums, percussion, sitar, voice, tabla, (2), trumpet and flute all mixed’n’matched for maximum effect. This is in the conversation for jazz album of the year.
Still All Hopped Up
The year was 1977. I was 26, singing in a rock ‘n’ roll band that practiced in a barn on Route 22 all day while my wife worked a real job as some executive’s secretary. That band never even had one gig, but I miss that barn. Anyway, when this crazy-ass album came out called All Hopped Up with covers of Big Joe Turner’s 1953 “Honey Hush” (where the singer threatens to hit his big-mouthed girlfriend with a baseball bat), not to mention the theme song to NBC-TV’s “Bonanza.” Little did I know the album was even weirder than I thought. The band was NRBQ, already on their fifth. The weirdness manifested itself most blatantly in a cover of the 1926 Whispering Jack Smith song “Cecelia.” Plus, I thought my favorite track (“I Got A Rocket In My Pocket”) was theirs but found out later it was first recorded by a Jimmy Lloyd 20 years earlier. Between their charm, humor, eccentricity, and the fact that they rocked like a bitch with a looseness and swing in their strut made me a fan for life.
Omnivore Recordings has now spit-shined the sound and re-released All Hopped Up with four bonus tracks. This is the stellar lineup that had remained steadfast for 20 of the band’s 50 years (High Noon is the must-have boxed set). Al Anderson’s “Ridin’ In My Car” is still joyous. “Call Him Off, Rogers” by Terry Adams (still touring today with three new guys) is funny (it’s about a dog with teeth sunk in your arm). Only death could prevent drummer Tom Ardolino from kick-starting each song with his particular swagger like he does here. (He died in 2012 at 56 from diabetes.) Joey Spampinato’s “That’s Alright,” “Doctor’s Wind” and “Still In School” are all highlights.
In a year that saw the release of AC/DC’s Let There Be Rock, Pink Floyd’s Animals, Cheap Trick’s In Color, Eric Clapton’s Slowhand, David Bowie’s Low, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Street Survivors and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, with the hindsight of 41 years, All Hopped Up is still the best rock ‘n’ roll album of 1977. And now of 2018 too.