Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Fabrizio Sotti’s Computer Crashes; His Album Doesn’t

Fabrizio Sotti may be best known as a producer, someone who’s worked with hip-hop luminaries like Dead Prez, Ghostface Killah and reggae toaster Half Pint (and also some who are less than luminary). He’s also a thoughtful, stylistically diverse jazz guitarist. What he seems to be going for on his latest album Inner Dance is an update on the expansively playful vibe of those Wes Montgomery/Jimmy Smith albums from the 60s. This is a feel-good story in more ways than one: halfway through recording, Sotti’s hard drive died and he lost everything (yet another argument for the benefits of two-inch tape). And he also lost the services of bassist James Genus, who’d played on the original tracks but whose schedule had become too busy to accommodate further recording. So Sotti brought in B3 organist Sam Barsh, and suddenly they had a new vibe to work with. What they ended up with is actually a very 80s sounding album – but 80s in a good way. Sotti frequently utilizes a watery chorus-box tone, Barsh alternating between tasteful atmospherics and good-natured exuberance. Victor Jones handles the drum work with a crafty understatement, with Mino Cinelu taking over the throne on the title track.

They open with a gently purposeful swing blues, and then the acoustic guitar ballad Kindness in Your Eyes, Sotti negotiating his way through it nimbly, with some nifty tremolo-picking over atmospheric waves of organ. They segue into the title track: finally Sotti kicks into gear with a very Wes solo after an interminable one by guest harmonica player Gregoire Maret, then segue out and pick up the pace with I Thought So, a showcase for fluidly dancing, staccato fretwork and bubbly, classically-tinged arpeggiation by Barsh. Amanecer, a cowrite with brilliant Chilean soul/jazz chanteuse Claudia Acuña (who also sings on the track) has an aptly hushed beauty, Sotti’s flights up and down the scale midway through the song wisely and poignantly restrained. A Michael Brecker homage, Brief Talk actually more closely resembles the blue-sky ambience that Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays were mining circa As Falls Wichita. Then they pick up the pace with the best of the upbeat numbers here, Last Chance, offer a tribute to Monk with the swinging, artfully voiced Mr. T.M. and close with a brief, ruminative nylon-string solo vignette. When he’s not behind the board, Sotti is sought after as a sideman: one listen to this album and the reason for his popularity becomes clear.

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August 8, 2010 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Chang Jui-Chuan – Exodus: Retrospective and Prospective 1999-2009

Global hip-hop doesn’t get much better than this. Rapper/college professor Chang Jui-Chuan is a bonafide star of the hip-hop underground in his native Taiwan, and this collection – largely culled from a 2006 release – has him poised to cross over to an English-speaking audience. A gifted, frequently ferocious bilingual lyricist in his native language, Hokkien and also English, he delivers his English raps in a menacing, slurred Taiwanese-accented drawl. This is conscious hip-hop raised to a power: people have been executed for tackling the topics he addresses. He has little use for globalization:

You say free trade gets us out of poverty and hunger

Free trade saves my family from pistol triggers

Free trade assures good drugs for my son’s cancer

Then tell me why we’re dying faster than ever…

Exploitation disguised as freedom and democracy

Global corporations feed Third World Dictators

Paying less than one dollar per month for child workers…

He fearlessly takes the stand for dissidents who risk their lives around the globe, especially those who dare stand up to the mainland Chinese regime:

…when I’m placing an order on this free-speech website

It’s taken over by the interface in Chinese Simplified

Propaganda’s never simplified, can only be vandalized

I orchestrate lyrical drive-bys

The most potent lyric here is in Hokkien, titled Hey Kid, a scathing account of Chang Kai-shek’s invasion of Taiwan, the February 27, 1947 massacre of Taiwanese nationalist freedom fighters, and the subsequent terror that lasted decades and left tens of thousands of innocent civilians dead. He also addresses spiritual concerns without coming across as doctrinaire (he’s a Christian) and the need to preserve indigenous cultures in the face of western cultural imperialism. The backing tracks here deserve mention too because they’re excellent, ranging from spacy psychedelic funk, to roots reggae (Chang sings respectably well), to ominous, chromatically-charged funk-metal played by a live band rather than sampled. Fans of the best conscious American hip-hop acts: Immortal Technique, the Coup and Dead Prez are in for a treat here. Or maybe this guy can hook up with the Hsu-nami and we can get a real Taiwanese-American crossover.

November 13, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Song of the Day 12/18/08

If you’re going out this weekend and wonder where our constantly updated NYC live music calendar went, it’s here. In the meantime our top 666 songs of alltime countdown continues, one day at a time all the way to #1. Thursday’s is #587:

Dead Prez – They Schools

A hip-hop companion piece to Schools Are Prisons by the Sex Pistols/Ex-Pistols. This is a terse, defiant and spot-on look at why so many inner city residents find public school absolutely irrelevant, simply a type of incarceration preparing kids for life behind bars and nothing else. From the 2000 cd Let’s Get Free.

December 17, 2008 Posted by | Lists - Best of 2008 etc., Music | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment