Rant ‘N’ Roll: Three Great Albums & a Coffee Table Book

I’m a sucker for anything that has Brian Blade’s name on it. Blade kept the beat in Wayne Shorter’s band for the last 23 years of the sax legend’s life. He also drummed for Chick Corea, Joni Mitchell, and Herbie Hancock. Now he takes the seat for Europe’s most famous father-son team: alto-saxophonist Ben Koppel and his Hammond-B3-organist dad Anders. Time Again (Cowbell Music), by Koppel/Blade/Koppel, is a modernistic take on the classic organ trio format. The telepathic interplay between these three is stunning. They seem to know exactly where each other is heading as the music spirals up and away. All original, they jump into action with “Puerto Rican Rumble” and by the time the 8:25 “Blind Man” finally succumbs to silence, all you’ll want to do is play it again. Sax man Koppel also has Story Of Mankind—A Requiem out now (with American trumpeter Randy Brecker), where he also plays vibes and gongs, colored by cello, drums, bass, keyboards, and vocals. 

Discordia (Earshift Music) by Jeremy Rose and the Earshift Orchestra pushes the boundaries of big-band sound in ways that will delight, enthrall, and captivate serious ears. Rose writes, plus plays soprano sax and bass clarinet on this Australian project that features amazing drummer Chloe Kim and a cast of 17. “The Illusion of Perfection” uses dissonance to create the kind of palpable tension that is felt as much as heard. “Just For Laughs,” is, as the title implies, totally whimsical. “Bring Back The Nineties” uses nostalgia as but a mere jumping-off point for such a futuristic musical adventure. “Echo Chamber” uses repetition to pound its point home within a crescendo of harmony. Bravo! 

The new large coffee-table book from Goldmine magazine, The Rolling Stones: The Early Years, is a sumptuous feast for the eyes. Photographs usually accompany the prose. In The Early Years, the prose accompanies the fascinating shots from a moment-in-time that might never happen again. Dig it: with the ascent of The Beatles like a nuclear culture bomb, enterprising young music-bizzer Andrew Loog Oldham positioned his clients to be the anti-Beatles, advising them to play up their scruffiness, their dirty appeal. Boy, did it work. These photographs, meticulously picked by Patrick Prince, can be gazed on for hours. Just look deep into the faces of these young Stones – the chemistry between them is apparent. Authored by Dave Thompson (who is smart enough not to tell most of the tales we already know), a story emerges to the point where you can almost hear the music. Listings of the songs and who wrote them on those first few albums are also fascinating. This was a blues cover-band with the sole mandate of bringing Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, and their ilk to Brit ears. Oldham forced them to write their own damn songs, and the moment they realized that what they had was phenomenal is a moment in the book that gave me the chills. For more information and purchasing info, click here.

We may not have Robert Johnson or Son House around anymore, but we damn sure still got pre-eminent blues master Eric Bibb, 71. After 40+ albums, this New Yorker never fails to sooth, entertain, enlighten, and speak truth to power. Be careful with him. You just might learn something. Live At The Scala Theatre Stockholm (Stony Plain Records) has this blues giant in concert in Sweden in 2022. It’s a full production with bass, keyboards, drums, backing vocals, bass, pedal steel, electric guitar, mandola, fiddle, harmonica, kora, violin, viola, and cello – all supporting Bibb’s acoustic guitar and vocals. When Bibb sings, it’s like an old friend coming over for dinner. He’s believable, friendly, soulful, and angry, with the kind of communicable enthusiasm that’s downright irresistible.