Rant ‘N’ Roll: Swingin’ Authenticity

A Canadian Songbook (TPR Records) by Ernesto Cervini’s Turboprop (a solid sextet with a monster front-line of alto and tenor sax plus trombone) has the esteemed drummer/composer/publicist leading his crew for the fourth time, this time on songs only by Canadian Artists (including “When I Fall” by Barenaked Ladies). It’s a freewheeling carnival of unexpected delights as the arrangements are sharp and crisp with syncopated surprise and dramatic swoops of both in-the-pocket ensemble playing and daring/inventive soloing.   

Tenor saxophonist-composer Willie Morris always loved tenor titan Joe Henderson [1937-2001]. He listened to Henderson’s 1963 Page One over and over, and here he recreates one of its tracks, “La Mesha,” in such loving tones that it shines like a jewel. Attentive Listening on PosiTone Records has two of producer Marc Free’s go-to guys – bassist Boris Kovlov, drummer Rudy Royston – as the glue that binds the piano of Jon Davis and the alto sax/alto flute of Patrick Cornelius together in spiraling progressions of free-flight fancy. But it’s Willie’s show from the getgo. He’s playful and daring with an adventurism that satisfies and he has a darting wild flair for improvisation.

The rockabilly boys are back. Germany’s Bear Family has continued perhaps the most artistically successful compilation of early white rock’n’roll ever in Volume #43 of That’ll Flat Git It:  Rockabilly & Country Bop From The Vaults Of Allstar Records. These 35 tracks in 79 minutes will make you shake, rattle and roll. There’s great reading and photos about this Lone Star State indie label and its two subsidiaries, Kool and Nu-Craft. Then there’s Johnny Bush, “The Country Caruso.” The remastering is exquisite on such long-ago and far-away regional artistry as Kenny Everett & The Texas Showboys, Red Mansel & His Hillbilly Boys, Johnny Huskey & The King Bees, Tommy Hammond & The Rockin’ Rebels, Prince Arky & His Westerners, and that crazy Wiley Barkdull whose version of “I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tiger By The Tail” (originally recorded by Buck Owens & The Buckaroos), is the highlight.

Pacific Northwest bari sax man/composer/educator David Larson, 12 albums deep into a career that has seen him jazz it up yet perform with the Spokane Symphony, happens to check out an East Coast assemblage of cats touring in his area and winds up bringing them out to work with some students and gig with him. “I wanted to capture some of the great vibes I heard from this group with my new compositions. These styles were a bit foreign for me, but I love a challenge so I leaped in with both feet.” The result is the absolutely exquisite self-released all-original Cohesion where his baritone goes modal like Coltrane, Afro-Cuban, and Hard Bop. The East Coasters (tenor/piano/bass/drums) bop and swing hard alongside him and it all gels like a big machine.

With a cast of 11 to make the songs of folksinger Tom Rush, 83, come to life, Gardens Old Flowers New (Appleseed Recordings) “runs the gamut from light-hearted and cheerful to sad and lonely,” says the icon who was there for the 1960s college campus folk boom, adding “I’ve been accused of seeking emotional whiplash. I deny everything. I was never indicted!” Rush ushered in the 1970s singer-songwriter era by being the first to record songs by Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, and James Taylor. All 14 songs here ring with authenticity and wisdom. The last one is “I Quit.” Let’s hope not.