Lucid Culture


Good Cop and Bad Cop Review Atsuko Hashimoto’s New Album

Good Cop: Wow, they gave us a new assignment! We must have done a good job with that last review, no thanks to you…

Bad Cop: Just doing my job. Can you pass me that bottle please.

Good Cop: I didn’t hear that. Pass it yourself. I’m on duty.

Bad Cop [pours himself a huge glass of wine]: Today’s album is…how do you pronounce this…

Good Cop: Until the Sun Comes Up.

Bad Cop: No, the organist…

Good Cop: That’s Atsuko Hashimoto. Her new album is just out on Capri Records and it’s a throwback to the days of B3 jazz organ lounges in the 60s. When jazz was the people’s music, that everybody danced to and kept the bars open until closing time. Which explains the title…

Bad Cop: God, what a generic track listing. You’d think they could come up with something more interesting. Henry Mancini, Satchmo, You Are My Sunshine. Wake me up when this is over.

Good Cop: C’mon, let’s give it a spin. The opening track is All or Nothing at All – this makes me edgy, I can’t sit still. OK, give me a splash of that wine, I need to calm down here.

Bad Cop: Wow, this is fast. Did you just hear that nasty bluesy phrase she just ran for a couple of bars? This is juke joint jazz! I’m down with this!

Good Cop: You’re breaking character. Listen up, stay in character or risk the consequences.

Bad Cop: Such as?

Good Cop: Me turning bad. You don’t want to risk it.

Bad Cop: OK. The next track is Soul Station. Swing tune. Hank Mobley. Everybody’s done it. This sounds like Jimmy Smith – nothing wrong with that I guess. Who’s the guitarist?

Good Cop: Graham Dechter.

Bad Cop: Monster player. Listen to that tremolo picking, it’s like he’s lighting a match in the wind. I can’t understand why he’s not famous.

Good Cop: He’s not in New York. Colorado guy, from what I can figure.

Bad Cop: Come to New York, dude, plenty of work, even in a depression. And people will know who you are.

Good Cop: That’s Jeff Hamilton on drums.

Bad Cop: Noooooo…not the guy whose album we totally disrespected about a year ago….

Good Cop: Yup. Jeff, it’s about time we made it up to you. You wail.

Bad Cop: The organist won’t understand that…

Good Cop: Don’t assume that. That doesn’t make you look very openminded.

Bad Cop: OK. What I mean specifically by that is that I’m digging those shuffle beats and the fact that he’s not phoning it in, that you can just focus in on the drums and really enjoy being surprised…and the next track is So In Love. I don’t know this one. Curtis Mayfield did a great song with this title back in the 70s but this is new to me…whew…this is fast, I need another drink, pass me the bottle please…

Good Cop [passes the bottle]: OK. Now you know why every jazz bar had this kind of music back in the day…

Bad Cop: Amen [burp]. Wow. Joe Pass filigree runs, sixteenth notes, the crowd is on their feet…

Good Cop:…and a lush suspenseful passage when you least expected it. She knows how to work a crowd…

Bad Cop: The next song is Moon River, reinvented as a swing tune. Can I tell you a story? I saw REM – you know, the rock band – play this one before they got really famous and it was really cool. And this is kinda the same, it barely resembles the original and that’s why it’s great…

Good Cop: C’mon, say something bad, you’re out of character.

Bad Cop: REM sucks now.

Good Cop: I love this version, it’s such a river. What can I say. It blows away the original. Moon River – fluid, unstoppable, she nails it.

Bad Cop: OK, next track, What a Wonderful World. What a boring choice.

Good Cop: What a sweet rippling solo about three quarters of the way through….

Bad Cop: OK, next track. Blues for Naka. Club owner somewhere in Japan. Rescued and then consigned to obscurity with this song. But it’s good – swing blues with a balmy guitar solo, something you don’t expect from a requiem. Hey, I’m going upstairs, can you hang with this album for awhile?

Good Cop [quizzically]: No problem.

[ten minutes later] Good Cop: I have just been informed that Bad Cop has been overwhelmed by America’s favorite Chilean wine and will not be reappearing this evening. So to recap the album, I think it’s something that the new generation of kids, who like something fun and retro to dance to, will be into. Obviously, the indie crowd won’t dare to like this because the concept of fun doesn’t exist in the indie world. You know, if you express emotion, that might not be pre-approved for your peer group, and in that case you have to face the consequences. So I guess that means me facing the consequences! I like the delicious, unexpecting phrasing in You Are My Sunshine. I love how, in Cherry, the guitar solo goes intense when least expected. The way the guitar and organ, and then the drums, have fun playing back and forth with each other on You’re in My Heart Alone is just plain fun – I love that guitar solo – and I like how the last track combines a sort of Stevie Wonder feel with…wait a minute…whoah! This is California Sun! Did whoever wrote the Beach Boys’ California Sun steal it from a gospel song? Wouldn’t surprise me! Listen to this and decide for yourself. It’s out now on Capri Records.

February 26, 2011 Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: The Frank Potenza Trio – Old New Borrowed and Blue

The first thing that hits you when you hear this cd is that it sounds an awful lot like Joe Pass. Which is no surprise, considering that guitarist Frank Potenza is a protege of the late, great jazz player. This new album has an evocatively retro, early 60s feel, enhanced by the arrangements and the ensemble behind Potenza: Joe Bagg on Hammond organ, Steve Barnes on drums and Holly Hoffmann guesting on flute on several cuts. Most of the tracks here blend warm introspection with a carefree, smoky late-night vibe. They kick it off with Jimmy Smith’s Ready and Able, Bagg’s solo followed by one by Potenza showing off an effortlessly purist, subtly Pass-like approach to fast eight-note runs. I’m Walkin could have been a trainwreck (a vocal cover of a Brother Ray tune? Get real!) but it works because Potenza reinvents it, taking what was originally one step removed from Louis Jordan and transforming it into a smoothly swinging shuffle with a round, bluesy tone while maintaining Charles’ knowing certainty. Lee Morgan’s Party Time keeps the swing vibe intact, Potenza as sparing and incisive as before. Wes Montgomery’s Road Song/OGD adds a welcome edge of uncautiousness under the blue-sky fluidity of the melody.

The ballad A Weaver of Dreams has Hoffmann adding dark shades that may come as some surprise until you realize that’s her typical approach, with more of a reed player’s sense of texture and forcefulness. Star Eyes, popularized by Sarah Vaughan and countless others is understatedly catchy and winsome. Interestingly, the best track here is the lone Potenza original, Jacaranda, a straight-up groove number moving from almost hypnotic organ to expansive, purposeful guitar bluesiness.  

Not everything here works; I Wanna Be Loved only really makes sense if a chanteuse or a soul belter sings it and Potenza is neither. Of the two covers of schlocky pop songs here, they take Ode to Billie Joe up a notch but not enough to make it worth the effort; ironically, James Taylor’s You’ve Got a Friend, as odious as the original is, is redeemed by a very smart major-to-minor change that Potenza introduces on the chorus, giving it some striking gravitas (and he had the sense not to sing this one). If there’s any criticism of Potenza’s playing, it’s that it’s so close to Pass, so purist and so tasteful, no wasted notes anywhere – it would be interesting to see what indelibly personal touch he might add. Or maybe this is just how he likes to play – if so, that’s a good thing. Potenza is head of the jazz guitar school at USC: southern California readers are encouraged to go see him live.

July 2, 2009 Posted by | music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment