Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 5/8/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Sunday’s album is #632:

Gil Scott-Heron – From South Africa to South Carolina

OK, for those of you who’ve been paying real close attention, this held down the #1000 spot on this list for a few months. But it’s time for us to give the great revolutionary jazz poet and his Fender Rhodes colleague Brian Jackson their due. Choosing one of their politically-fueled psychedelic funk/jazz albums over another is a judgment call; for better or worse, we’re going with this 1975 release, the second with their legendary Midnight Band. It’s got Johannesburg, the first rock song to call attention to the horrors of apartheid, and the chilling cautionary tale South Carolina, about nuclear waste being dumped on unsuspecting rural communities. A Toast to the People is an optimistic shout-out to freedom fighters around the world; it’s also got the warm, captivating Summer of ’42, Essex and Fell Together, the hypnotic Beginnings and the unexpectedly summery Lovely Day. It doesn’t have the casually terrifying We Almost Lost Detroit, which at this point in history may be the most important song ever recorded, a cautionary tale which cruelly came true when Fukushima blew. Here’s a random torrent courtesy of Flabbergasted Vibes.

May 7, 2011 Posted by | funk music, jazz, lists, Music, music, concert, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Magic Number’s Album Is Everything You Would Expect

From their name, Magic Number’s album Yeah Yeah Yeah is what you’d think it would be: upbeat and fun. It’s also absolutely unique. Eclectic violinist Zach Brock, jazz bassist Matt Wigton and drummer Fred Kennedy have joined forces to create a new genre: violin funk. Crisp and rhythmic, it’s a lot closer to jazz than James Brown, although it shares the Godfather of Soul’s split-second precision and fondness for simple, memorable hooks. Much of the time, Brock adds to the thicket of beats with spiky pizzicato plucking. Wigton plays as much judicious melody as Brock, and Kennedy’s smart, frequently minimalistic yet attention-grabbing colors and riffs are absolute magic: each instrument is completely equal in this unit.

The title cut kicks it off on a jaunty note: Brock gives it a staccato bounce on the first verse, plays steady eighth notes over a tricky rhythm, then it shifts to more of a dance. The rhythmic trickiness keeps going with Summer Dance, which morphs into what’s essentially a funk waltz, down to a brief cymbal splashfest and then goes halftime. Their version of You Don’t Know What Love Is, by contrast is moody and distantly bluesy, in fact almost trip-hop, finally picking up with vocalese as it winds out.

A bucolic, syncopated theme, Sno’ Peas gets going with brisk bass and matter-of-factly rattling drums, a chugging funk style bass solo and builds to the jazziest interlude here so far, up to a soaring, Jean-Luc Ponty-esque cadenza. The slow, pensive Brooklyn Ballad defines this album: incisive bass and terse, nimble drums trade textures beneath a judiciously sailing violin crescendo, then down and out gracefully. The hook-driven Golden Nuggets gives Wigton a chance to cut loose on the funk until Brock steps on it, gets everybody to chill out and then takes it out with a sly early 70s psychedelic soul feel. The anthemic Man of the Light pairs off Wigton’s prowling bass against Brock’s airy blues allusions, Kennedy bringing the intensity up with his cymbals. The album closes with In the Dark, Kennedy’s greatest shining moment among many where he finally gets to go up all the way and crash around after an eerie interlude with glockenspiel that builds intensity until it finally explodes. It’s a great headphone album. Brock is highly in demand as a live player: his next gig is on May 12 at 6 PM at Temple Israel, 112 E 75th St..

May 7, 2011 Posted by | funk music, jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ralph Peterson’s Unity Project Comes Together Mightily

If the names Elvin, Max, Philly Joe, or Tony Williams mean anything to you, you’ll love this album. It’s yet another first-class new B3 jazz record that breaks the mold. Drummer Ralph Peterson’s Unity Project’s new Outer Reaches album was originally conceived as a joint tribute to Larry Young, Woody Shaw and their iconic 1965 Unity album , but morphed into something more original. It’s melodic jazz with strong hooks, Peterson – one of the most consistently interesting and forceful drummers around, and also a strong composer – joined by Josh Evans on trumpet, Jovan Alexandre on tenor and Pat Bianchi on organ. Much as Peterson is a powerful, propulsive presence, he’s also a colorist, alternating between a rumble and a whisper, sometimes simultaneously. He also contributes trumpet here – it’s a fun ride.

They open with Woody Shaw’s The Moontrane, shuffling briskly with absolutely blazing trumpet and more casual sax from Alexandre. Bianchi takes it even more tersely as Peterson lurks on the perimeter, and then the two join forces as they will throughout the album, bubbling up in tandem. Peterson alludes to distant thunder against the horns as it winds out. The second cut, Monk’s Dream is a deliciously radical reinvention, constantly shifting shape – at one point Bianchi takes over both rhythm and melody as Peterson prowls aggressively, Rudy Royston style. The false ending is a lot of fun. A nimble, purposeful organ tune, the title track – an original dedicated to Peterson’s dad – features more expansive perimeter work from the drums, Alexandre again bringing it down to earth after Evans’ joyous extrapolations.

Shaw’s Katrina Ballerina is as lyrical as one would hope, Evans’ understatedly wounded solo followed memorably by a warily expansive one by Alexandre. Peterson can’t resist playfully sideswiping every other beat on a lickety-split version of Shaw’s Beyond All Limits; arguably the most captivating of all the Shaw stuff here is Zoltan, with its artful, shifting horn segments, allusively martial drum intro and jovially spiraling guitar from guest Dave Fiuczynski. But the real standout tracks here are the originals. On My Side is an all-too-brief, slowly unwinding, classic late 50s style ballad with a warmly memorable Alexandre solo; Beyond My Wildest Dream portrays Peterson’s wife as somebody who’s bright, really has her act together but also has a lot of fun, lit up by Evans’ ebullient attack and some more killer interplay with Peterson shadowing Bianchi as he wheels around. And Inside Job is a juicily noirish, catchy theme that Bianchi tackles with casual hints of menace.

You know implied melody, right? Well, Peterson gets deep into implied rhythm on a stunningly terse, minimalistic take of Ritha, by Larry Young – when the organ drops out and leaves it to the drums, the effect is that the blithe shuffle is still going on even though Peterson is only playing about 20% of the time. It’s arguably the high point of the album. There’s also a blistering, funky cover of John McLaughlin’s Spectrum, Fiuczynski in “on” mode all the way through, blowing the Mahavishnu original to smithereens. The only miss here is an attempt to jazz up the Xmas carol We Three Kings – it’s better than Jethro Tull’s version of Good King Wenceslas, but it’s hard to do much with a grammarschool playground singalong: “We three kings of orient are/Tried to smoke a rubber cigar.” No, they don’t sing it. Maybe they should have. Peterson and crew play the cd release show for this one on June 4 at 9 PM at the Cornelia St. Cafe.

May 7, 2011 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 5/7/11

Every day, our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Saturday’s album is #633:

Webb Pierce – King of the Honky-Tonk: The Original Decca Masters 1952-59

Webb Pierce was the prototype for Elvis. He wore Nudie suits, always had great musicians in his band, pulled a lot of girls, was no stranger to intoxication and was one also one of the best country singers of his era. Why was Elvis more popular? Because he was tamer than this guy. Pierce lived hard, was a lot more versatile as a singer, with a high lonesome, wounded wail, and also wrote some of his own stuff. This album collects most if not all of his best and most popular stuff from the peak of his career. Pierce’s signature song is There Stands the Glass – “it’s my first one today.” His other hits range from heartbreak songs – Wondering and It’s Been So Long – to cheating songs – Broken Engagement and Back Street Affair – to more retro stuff like a killer cover of Jimmie Rodgers’ In the Jailhouse Now, his first big hit Slowly and the defiant Tupelo County Jail. Here’s a random torrent via Western Swing.

May 7, 2011 Posted by | country music, lists, Music, music, concert | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment