Rant ‘N’ Roll: Funky, Jazzy, Bluesy Magic

Drummer-Composer Gregory Hutchinson steps away from his usual jazz purview to bring Da Bang to alarming life on his solo debut after playing with greats like trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and vocalist Betty Carter. The 15 tracks are a panoply of pulsating Black pop utilizing hip-hop smarts, funky asides and spoken word skits amid an overall cinematic approach. His lyrics are from his own diary. And he’s got friends. Chief Xian a Tunde Adjuah blows some bad-ass trumpet. Living Colour lead guitarist Vernon Reid shreds. Javier Starks raps. Sy Smith sings. Highlights include “We Got Drumz” and “Last Time We Gon Be Polite.” This is a variety show like a futuristic Soul Train.

Meet Arina Fujiwara.  She got her Masters at the Manhattan School of Music. Her absolutely stunning self-released Neon debut has her at the piano with a hint of Chick (Corea) buoyed by the celestial sound of two violins, viola, cello, vibraphone, guitar, bass and drums on four of her complex originals, an ancient Japanese children’s song and a solo-piano closer of Scott Joplin’s 1899 “Maple Leaf Rag.” She traverses waltz and folk within her jazz and isn’t afraid of taking chances.

No-frills barrelhouse blues’n’boogie permeates the 10 originals of Damn The Rent, The Dig 3’s follow-up to their 2022 self-titled debut. Vocalist-Guitarist Andrew Duncanson is an old-school hellraiser and when he’s with Chicago one-man-rhythm-section Gerry Hundt on drums, percussion, bass, guitar, harmonica, mandolin and organ plus Detroit blues-harp master Ronnie Shellist, it gets positively primal. 

It’s been 20 albums in 25 years for Al Basile so when he went to choose 17 out of the 200+ songs he’s recorded, “these are the ones I feel closest to,” he says, “working with Duke Robillard and the Blind Boys of Alabama…from swing to gospel to R’n’B to Soul to acoustic blues and electric blues, even to psychedelic rock…my cornet tone is personal…there’s a lesson in my stories.” B’s Time (Sweetspot Records) captures it all. Highlights include “Tickle My Mule” from 2016’s Mid-Century Modern and “Hooray For Me (And To Hell With You)” from 2004’s Blue Ink

The latest installment from Bob Corritore & Friends is Somebody Put Bad Luck On Me (VizzTone Label Group). These are new tracks from the Arizona harmonica master with a glittering array of blues heavies shouldering the load. Bobby Rush is “As Good As It Gets.” From Prime Time Smith and Hideaway Bridges to Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin, Kid Ramos and Ben Levin, this sounds like a real Saturday Night Fish Fry.  Don’t bother knockin’, just come on in.  

Take a no-chord trio of sax, bass and drums. Add two string quartets. Make an album but three tracks long. “Scorpio” is 18:60. “Pendulum” is 14:02. “Sagittarius” is 19:52. Straddle that sweet spot between jazz and classical. Welcome to the world of tenor saxophonist-composer-producer Quinsin Nachoff’s Stars and Constellations (Adyharopa Records). The follow-up to his 2006 Magic Numbers debut, Stars… has drummer Dan Weiss and bassist Mark Helias returning to weave more magic between two genres as the two string quartets take turns commenting upon the trio action like a Greek Chorus. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait another 17 years to 2040 for his third album.