A New Miles Davis EP

  Well, it’s only five different mixes of the same song but still. The year was 1985. The notoriously impossible-to-deal-with Miles Davis, curmudgeon that he was, abruptly left Columbia Records, signed a one-off deal with Warner Bros., and reportedly told co-producer Zane Giles, “I don’t wanna do my usual stuff. I wanna do something different.” The idea, at the time, was to get Chaka Khan and Al Jarreau in a Los Angeles studio with Miles on trumpet and keyboards amidst three other keyboardists, percussion, sax and drums. Thus, the slinky funk of Rubberband was born. It was worked on from October until into the new year.

  Then it was scrapped.

  Miles went on to record the brilliant Tutu.

  Rubberband sat in a vault for 32 years until Rhino Records — excavators extraordinaire — dug it up, dusted it off and had Giles co-produce it anew with vocals by soul singer Ledisi. Originally re-released as a one-song vinyl single last Record Store Day, it’s been expanded into a radio edit, Ledisi soul song, instrumental, original version and electronica remix, complete with a Miles Davis painting gracing the cover. Taken together, the five tracks paint a groove-laden picture of an artist still at the top of his game, blowing his horn like Miles of old over sensual rhythmic thrusts. But it is — buyer beware — one song gussied up five ways.

 

Courtesy of Frank Roszak

East Texas Blues Legend

  Texas blues are a breed apart. That state has its own blues parameters as exemplified as much by Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan — who built upon the foundation of Lightnin’ Hopkins and T-Bone Walker — as it is by Delbert McClinton and Albert King.

  Enter Randy McAllister and the Scrappiest Band in the Motherland. He’s been an East Texas mainstay for 30 years with 15 albums. A propulsive drummer, he also blows a mean blues harp like fellow Texas stalwart Kim Wilson of The Fabulous Thunderbirds. What sets him apart, though, is his singing. Man, the guy can croon a tune and when he wraps his vocal cords around Ivory Joe Hunter’s 1956 “Since I Met You Baby,” it’s positively swoon-worthy. It’s on his new Triggers Be Trippin (Reaction Records). His compositions are raw and unyielding like “Math Ain’t Workin,” “Makeshift Molly” and, especially, “Beauty and Ugly Upside Down (Ode to Lizzie Velasquez).” He ends it with the all-too-true “We Can’t Be Friends (If You Don’t Like Jimmy Reed).” Still, highlights here have to be opener “In A Flick of a Bic,” “Batter Up” and “Vacation In My Mind.” The dude can do no wrong.

Movie Magic

  I know I still gotta see A Star Is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody but the music movie I most want to see is Blaze, Ethan Hawke’s warts ‘n’ all tribute to two of Texas’s fallen-angel drunken poets, Townes Van Zandt [1944-1997] and Blaze Foley [1949-1989]. If the movie is half as good as its soundtrack Blaze: Original Cast Recording (Light in the Attic Records/Cinewax), I’ll die while watching it and go to honky-tonk heaven. (The last time I died and went to honky-tonk heaven was at a Marty Stuart concert.)

  The 12 songs here are accompanied by clinking beer bottles, guffaws and the participants cheering each other on. Charlie Sexton plays Townes. Chef Ben Dickey was pulled out of his kitchen to play Blaze. When he sings Blind Willie McTell’s “Pearly Gates,” you believe it because it’s true. It’s about how death makes an artist’s music that much more profound. And when the actors start to sing and the singers start to act, and Townes comes alive again, if only for a few hours, it all dissolves into a miasma of heartbroken proportions.

 

Credit – Andi State

All About That Monk

  Vial Plays Monk:  Sphereology Volume #1 (Chromatic Audio) is the first of a proposed series by Montreal pianist Andres Vial (with guitarist Peter Bernstein and two different rhythm sections) of the music of Thelonious Sphere Monk [1917-1982], the most enigmatic, mysterious, confounding, mentally ill, troublesome genius of them all. Monk’s music has stood the test of time. Despite it being incredibly difficult to play, musicians have been attempting — with varying degrees of success — to interpret this master since his death of a stroke at the age of 64. He hadn’t played the piano in years by that time, and was nursed by a wealthy patron of the arts, Pannonica de Koenigswarter, in her New Jersey mansion. (She’s the same benefactor who nursed Charlie Parker in his final days.) Vial eschews the obvious to dig a little deeper, thus this project is, indeed, infinitely rewarding.

  Also of note is a six-CD boxed set — Monk’s Dreams: The Complete Compositions Of Thelonious Sphere Monk (Sunnyside) — by pianist Frank Kimbrough, sax/trumpet/clarinet man Scott Robinson, bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Billy Drummond with all 70 of Monk’s compositions.

 

Credit – Steve Korn

A Man Named Cuong

  He’s a professor at the University of Washington. He was in one of David Bowie’s many bands. Born in Vietnam during the war in 1969, Seattle trumpeter-composer Cuong Vu leads his 4tet on the rich tapestry of Change In The Air(RareNoise Records). It’s a masterpiece, due in no small part to the ubiquitous guitarist Bill Frisell, electric rock bassist Luke Bergman and amazing human drum-machine Ted Poor. The 10 tracks ramble on with a verve and alacrity all their own as if each composition was a living breathing entity. Highlights? “All That’s Left Of Me” could’ve been a soundtrack to a 1940s detective movie. There’s a fractured waltz, prog-rock curves and tender, elastic moments as finely etched as a spider’s web. Brilliant!

My New Favorite Dude

  He’s only on his second album but drummer/composer/producer/bandleader Anthony Fung is a monster on his self-released Flashpoint. One meaning of the title is “a critical situation or area having the potential of erupting in sudden violence.” And erupt he does on nine originals with 13 players providing the colors of strings, percussion, vibraphone, bass, piano, synth, trombone, soprano sax (2), alto sax, tenor sax and vocals.

  He mourns for Puerto Rico and the mainland’s tepid response to its recent natural disaster on “A Call For Peace.” He celebrates a comic book hero on the 8:12 extended jam-happy “The Flash” where Panamanian drums introduce this cinematic opener. He even wrote lyrics for the first time on “Forever,” a bitter regret. The highlight, though, has to be “St. Augustine and The Devil” (inspired by a Michael Pacher painting from the 1400s) where his string quartet arrangement has the four leadlines dancing like pixies. Wholeheartedly Recommended.  

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