Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Trumpeter Jim Rotondi’s Third Album Doesn’t Mess Around

Trumpeter and Ray Charles alum Jim Rotondi’s new album 1000 Rainbows is a brisk, no-nonsense romp through a mix of strong, memorable themes that an inspired cast – Joe Locke on vibraphone, Danny Grissett on piano, Barak Mori on bass and Bill Stewart on drums – lock onto and charge through with gusto. The opening track, Bizarro World moves from a rumble to a scamper and back and then fades out. A cover of the Beatles’ We Can Work It Out is completely disguised until the verse kicks in, the band messing with the time signature – it would be cool to see what they could do with Penny Lane. Locke takes a long chilly glasses-clinking solo, Rotondi takes his time and goes a little bluesy, then takes it up for Grissett to chill it out again.

An original, One for Felix has Rotondi opening it pensively, then Locke comes slinking in and has the room spinning in seconds flat, Grissett following in a similar vein. The title track, a Bobby Montgomery composition, has piano and bass locking into a hypnotic bossa-tinged groove, Rotondi in tandem with the vibes and then taking a couple of absolutely gorgeous strolls down to the lower registers followed by a pointillistic Locke excursion. Locke’s composition Crescent Street isn’t a New Orleans piece but instead a straight-up swing joint that motors along with some potently rapidfire playing by its author, Rotondi taking his energy level up as well. A bluesy One for My Baby-style ballad, Born to Be Blue gives Rotondi a long, comfortable and expressive solo followed with a wink and a grin by Grissett, who eventually sounds “last call,” Rotondi returning for one more after a long time at the bar. There are also two scampering swing numbers: Rotondi’s Gravitude, where Mori and Grissett push the beat as hard and fast as they can without leaving the rest of the crew in the dust, and an ebulliently bustling take on Bill Mobley’s 49th St. as well as the impressively vivid, almost rubato Not Like That, a conversation between Rotondi’s wistful horn and Locke’s otherworldly, reverberating chords. The album is out now on Posi-Tone. Rotondi’s next NYC appearance is a two-night stand with his quartet featuring Antonio Hart at Smoke on Sept. 3 and 4 at 8 PM.

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August 12, 2010 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 8/12/10

Every day, we count down the 1000 best albums of all time, all the way to #1. Thursday’s album is #901:

The Lounge Lizards’ first album

Corrosive punk jazz from 1981. Bracingly assaultive for a few minutes, viscerally painful to listen to for much longer, especially at high volume, it’s the high moment in the history of the brief No Wave movement in New York. Other than a more-or-less steady beat and bassist Steve Piccolo walking a new scale with every measure, loud and growling, the tracks here don’t have much structure. Alto saxophonist John Lurie, his brother Evan on keys and the actually quite talented Anton Fier on drums blast away, with former DNA guitarist Arto Lindsay adding an ominous undercurrent of distorted, atonal chicken-scratch skronk. Other than the originals, there’s a warped version of Harlem Nocturne and even less recognizable ones of a couple of Monk tunes. Easy listening? Hardly, but great fun for fans of angry, noisy music. One suspects that the Luries were more talented than they let on here, especially considering how diversely melodic later incarnations of the Lizards would be. Many of their other albums are worth owning: the ROIR collection of live takes from 1979 through 1981 has a similar gritty savagery; their Live in Tokyo album, from 1986 mines a vastly more suave, somewhat noir vibe, albeit with an almost completely different cast of players. Out of print for years, the debut album is extremely hard to find – most recently, there was a torrent for several dozen Tzadik albums that doesn’t seem to be working anymore. If you find one let us know!

August 12, 2010 Posted by | jazz, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Couldn’t Stand the Weather Revisited

A cynic might say that Stevie Ray Vaughan played pretty well for a cokehead. To be fair, an awful lot of players were doing that stuff back during his 80s heyday. Twenty years after his death in a helicopter crash, Vaughan still owns a cult audience, all of whom will want the new double-cd reissue of his wildly popular Couldn’t Stand the Weather album, originally released in 1984. To those not in the Stevie Ray cult, Vaughan is a somewhat lesser figure. Some see him as little more than a generational reference, the one blues musician that the metalheads of the 80s listened to. Another camp views him as a selfish, self-indulgent player, a cautionary tale on wheels for other guitarists. A more balanced view sees him as a talented if erratic soloist who’d finally overcome his demons and achieved true greatness, only to be cut down at the peak of his career. Which encompassed three distinct periods: his early years, trying to establish himself and usually overdoing it in the process; his cocaine period during the early 80s, where he’d sound like a genius one minute and a buffoon the next; and his later, sober years, where he backed off the incessant volleys of notes, chose his spots more judiciously and in so doing refined his sound to embody genuine soul amidst the barrage of sound.

This album was his second, his first to go platinum, from the coke years. Even so, it holds up well – when he’s on, he’s exhilarating, and when he’s not it’s more because he’s trying to sound like someone else (usually Hendrix, whom he never could come close to emulating), not because he’s wired to the point where he’s off his game. The blistering clusters of notes in Scuttle Buttin’ (the reworked version of Lonnie Mack’s Chicken Feed), the understated funk of the title track and the almost shocking intensity of his version of The Things I Used to Do are no less exhilarating today than when they came out. This new repackage also includes several cuts originally included on his late-career collection The Sky Is Crying, as well as two unreleased tracks: a furiously intense version of that Elmore James classic, and a raw but equally blistering romp through the swinging blues Boot Hill (also known as Look on Yonder Wall). Also included is a complete live show from the Spectrum in Montreal on August 17, 1984.

The show is a Wolfgang’s Vault type of deal – it’s pretty good, to the point that it makes you wonder why it’s never been released until now. It follows a definite trajectory, an early peak, a calculated dip and then an upswing with many genuinely transcendent moments. The way he builds a solo on The Things I Used to Do, alternating sustained, anguished bends with maniacal chord-chopping and sizzling flights down the blues scale is a clinic in imagination and good taste. His eerie, Jeff Beck-style winds and bends on the upper registers on Tin Pan Alley, and his unaffectedly pretty Chuck Berry-isms on Love Struck Baby remind how versatile he could be. And on the eight-and-a-half-minute version of Texas Flood, he builds a fire-and-brimstone crescendo, judiciously adding a tinge of distortion to his usually clean-as-a-whistle tone, continuing to wail up and down on his chords even as the last verse kicks in – and then keeps going almost all the way to the turnaround! His bandmates hold it all together. Tommy Shannon was always a better bass player than anyone ever gave him credit for, his casually simmering chordal work on Texas Flood and his jazzy walks on the utterly joyous version of the instrumental Stang’s Swang give Vaughan a perfect stepping-off point, and drummer Chris Layton holds a steady, straight-up rock beat, keeping Vaughan from jumping the rails. Admittedly, there are an awful lot of notes here, but so many of them are exquisite.

August 12, 2010 Posted by | blues music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Walking Hellos’ Debut Album is Delicious

The Walking Hellos’ new album Because I Wanted to Know is unpredictable, counterintuitive, tuneful fun. It’s a blast of rosemary cayenne popcorn flavor from down the hall. It makes you ravenously hungry. This band would have been huge in 1989. With their clear, sweet, sometimes chirpy, sometimes hypnotically atmospheric harmonies, the all-female, four-piece Brooklyn band reminds a lot of Lush, with the guitar-fueled, insistent intensity of the Throwing Muses and some growling, snapping Slits rhythm as well. Accordionist/banjoist Myla Goldberg (novelist and author of Bee Season, which earned her a song dedicated to her by the Decemberists), guitarist and occasional Pauline Oliveros collaborator Val Opielski, bassist Rose Thomson and drummer Heather Wagner shift unexpectedly and joyously from one style from another with an understated aplomb.

The album’s opening track, Botched contrasts woozy, out-of-focus slide guitar on the verse with an eerie, crescendoing chorus with goth tinges. The second cut, Little Boys is even creepier and explodes in sudden fireball of distorted guitar. The title track grows from a lot sparsely populated by hypnotic, reverberating guitar textures to an orchard of vocals and accordion – and a neat little bridge with some sort of wind instrument. “”I know how to do this, I know how to disappear, I’ve been on this job a thousand years,” Goldberg relates mysteriously.

Undertow 1 and Winter Remedy are cleverly arranged, dreampop-flavored numbers that contrast shimmery harmonies with Thomson’s marvelously trebly, gear-grinding, melodic Jean-Jacques Brunel-ish basslines. Lane 5 – unquestionably the coolest song ever set in a swimming pool – starts gentle and summery and goes out with a long yet terse distorted guitar solo. The album winds up with a percussively hypnotic, wickedly catchy, blazing dreampop rocker, an echoey instrumental fragment, the early Lush soundalike The Unloved and a dub-hop instrumental, Lane 5 After Hours. Wow. It’s been awhile since a band has packed so much fun into forty minutes or so. Look for this one on our upcoming Best Albums of 2010 list in December.

August 12, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment