Jazz CD Reviews
Jazz CD Reviews Part 2 of 2
Published on February 1, 2005
January-February 2005 Part 2 of 2 [Pt. 1]
Archie Shepp & Mal Waldron – Left Alone Revisited (A Tribute to Billie Holiday) – Shepp, tenor & soprano sax & vocals; Waldron, piano & spoken word – Synergy Music SMCD 80025 *****:
This disc was a surprise to me on more than one account. I had thought Waldron died some years ago, but it turns out it was only last year and this session was recorded in Paris in 2002. I had also equated Archie Shepp with the wildest free jazz and expected nothing but ugly honking sounds out of him; I was dead wrong there too. He does have a gruff and often hoarse-sounding approach to the sax, but it never descends to atonal blowing session on this disc. In fact it seems to be the perfect timbre for conjuring up reminders of the often troubled-sounding voice of Billie Holiday, which wasn’t a slick show-biz type voice at all. The ballads on the CD benefit greatly from Shepp’s high-register choked-off soprano sax sound.
Waldron was the last pianist to accompany Holiday and he is also the perfect choice for a Holiday tribute album. He was always a chordal pianist with a percussive style which here melds successfully with the rugged sax sounds of Shepp. This session was the only encounter of the two legends of modern jazz as a duo. For a change of pace from the sax & piano setup of most of the ten tracks, Shepp sings the vocal on his own tune, Blues for 52nd Street. And the final track features Waldron simply reading the three emotional stanzas of lyrics to Holiday’s Left Alone, which he had played with Shepp on Track 4. This was a unique combination of talents which deserves the attention of most any jazz collector.
Tracks: Easy Living, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Everything Happens to Me, Left Alone, When Your Lover Has Gone, I Only Have Eyes for You, Blues for 52nd Street, Porgy, Lady Sings the Blues, Left Along (spoken lyrics).
ShapeShifter – (Paul McCandless, tenor and soprano sax, bass clarinet, English horn, oboe; Art Lande, piano; Peter Barshay, bass Alan Hall, drums) – Synergy Music SMCD 80022 ****:
McCandless – probably the most important voice in the group Oregon – has settled in the Denver area and is heavily involved in this jazz label based there, along with compatriot Art Lande. One of the other appears on many of the albums in the label’s catalog. This recent one was taped at Fantasy’s studios in Berkeley CA and ten of the 11 tracks are originals by Lande. The tunes are fairly avant but not eschewing tonality. Although written for just a quartet, the great variety of reed instruments played by McCandless makes for a welcome variety of sound among the tunes as opposed to the typical quartet featuring a tenor sax. This is modern jazz for serious thinkers.
Tracks: Majestorum Enborum, Shapeshifter, Rattling the Cage, Rigamarolee, Angels in the Sky, Argument, Pompanuk Pond, Sultana, On a Misted Moor, Pietroglyph, Musiverse.
- John Henry
And now for a change of pace, let’s explore a bit of the pop/rock scene…
Two Siberians – Out of Nowhere (Yuri Matveyev, electric guitar; Artyom Yakushenko, electric violin; with guests Michael brecker, Don Byron, Richard Bona & Mino Cinelu) – Heads Up WA-0101, 53:49 ****:
This unique duo soars across all musical boundary lines with their debut album. Their electric-string duo is a potent hybrid of jazz, rock, folk, bluegrass and what-have you, rolling along on a foundation of Russian folk culture. One of the young musicians is the son of Russian folk dancers and the other is the son of a musician known as The Father of Siberian Rock. In 2000 the pair made their first visit to the U.S. with no money and no place to live. They played on the streets and were soon heard by saxist Michael Brecker, who ended up being one of the executive producers of this record. They got together the money to make their debut CD by collecting and selling the many meteorites which seem to fall in Siberia. The several guest soloists add a fine touch to the duo’s electric sounds. Dig Don Byron’s great clarinet solo on Vodka Diaries.
Tracks: Outpost Radio, Allergic to Gravity, Cagey Bee, Come With Me Anyway, Natasha Havana, Amoroso, New Russian, Lake Baikal, On the Tundra, Vodka Diaries, And then Nika…, Indigo Breeze, Out of Nowhere, Evidence of Things Not Seen, Searching for Power.
- John Henry
Bill Laswell – Version 2 Version: A Dub Transmission; Reachout International Records RUSCD 8288 CD, ***:
This is Laswells’s fifth release for Reachout. The record started off with weird, churchy-sounding music that transitioned into ambient/trance music. Recording quality is okay—frankly, it is hard to tell since much of the sound is computer generated. Brass and percussion are not as clean compared to better recordings. The second track continues in the same vein as the first—repetitive bass mixed with cymbals, guitar sound, strange effects, and other percussion that approaches a consistent melody and then veers off.
The band is made up of bassist Jah Wobble, keyboardist Bernie Worrell, percussionist Karsh Kale, and drummer/percussionist Abdou Mboup. Jah Wobble was the bassist from the band P.I.L. and has played with Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel. Bernie Worrell was part of Parliament and Funkadelic and has played with Talking Heads, The Pretenders, Pharoah Sanders—to name a few. Laswell has been a player/producer with names like Bootsy Collins, George Clinton, Herbie Hancock, Iggy Pop, Maceo Parker, Mick Jagger, Ginger Baker, and the list goes on and on.
For the astute listener the songs are varied enough and should be engaging to the intended degree. Here’s a quote from the press release: “…the listener is drawn into a musical ecosystem full of life, death, earth, wind, fire and brimstone and a fecund existence as powerful as life itself.” I don’t think I could have said it better myself. Most of the songs are nine minutes or more in length, so aural stimulation will last almost an hour. The song titles will give some (limited) hint at the musical content, but really, you either like this type of music or you don’t. Songs included are: Dystopia; Simulacra; Space-Time Paradox; Babylon Site; Night City; System Malfunction.
REM/Around the Sun – Warner Brothers 48894-2 – 55:21, ****:
The latest effort since 2001 by REM, Around the Sun – the band’s 13th studio release – resembles the great REM of years past. They have gone back to their roots and started over fresh and daring. REM’s lead singer Michael Stipe pours his guts out in every song. All 13 tracks devour the listeners ears awaiting the next verse or chorus. Even without Bill Berry (retired drummer), the threesome makes Around the Sun an instant classic. If instruments are like a fine wine Michael Stipe’s is his voice, and it is definitely only getting better with age. The raw vocals of Stipe with his band are still as revealing as they were twenty years ago. We were ready and waiting for this album for a long time, and it was time well spent. On The Outsiders, track 3, they even get some assistance from Hip Hop Guru Q-Tip (A Tribe Called Quest and solo efforts). Following their recent Vote For Change Tour, get ready for another successful world tour. Let’s all hope for another studio release within the next 3 years. The only worry I have is when will I listen to anything else?
- Paul Pelon IV
The Killers – Hot Fuss – 11 tracks – Island B0002468-02 – 45:39, ***:
If new rock is coming, it is here! Island Records has recently released The Killers’ Hot Fuss, 11 track album; and it IS rock and roll. Playing recently on Saturday Night Live made a statement for The Killers. If you haven’t been Killed yet, you should be. Lead singer Brandon Flowers works the mic over like a cheap pair of tube socks. They definitely impress with their melody, and the beat is contagious. You will catch yourself singing along and if your car radio is loud enough, you’ll catch the person next to you singing too! The Killers’ radio singles Somebody Told Me, and Mr. Brightside are climbing up the charts, as well as Hot Fuss being in the top 30 of Billboards top 100 albums. There are few bands that bring as much originality as The Killers do, and if they continue to bring it as they are, The Killers fame won’t die any time soon.
- Paul Pelon IV
Nirvana, With the Lights Out, Box Set; 3CDs plus 1 DVD – Incl. 61 page color booklet – DGC Geffen Records B0003727-00 – CD Length 1; 1:11:23, 2; 1:11:29, 3; 1:13:29 ****:
Closing in on the 10 year anniversary of the release of Nevermind, Geffen Records has issued With the Lights Out, a Nirvana box set that consists of 3 CDs and a DVD. Nirvana helped define the 90s and will mold rock music for generations to come. With over 80 unreleased tracks With the Lights Out will please even the mediocre fan. There are your favorites, as well as some new songs that will turn you on.
There are several cover songs on With the Lights Out; Led Zeppelin’s Moby Dick, Leadbelly’s Where did You Sleep Last Night, and the Velvet Underground’s Here She Comes Now, to name a few as well as a home made video of the original lineup practicing Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin.
CD 1 covers their first live performance in 1987 and continues to 1989. CD 2 goes from 1990 to 1991; their beginning of “Alternative” rocking, with radio performances and Butch Vig recordings. CD 3 continues with 1992-1994. With B-sides and solo acoustic pieces by Kurt as well as DO RE MI, an eerie look into the future – an almost good-bye cruel world.
In the liner notes of the 61 page color booklet, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore describes the lust that people really felt for Nirvana and their music. This is the pure emotion that drives people to purchase such an item as With the Lights Out. Thurston writes, “Nirvana were their generation’s greatest voice, and continue to be.”
Categorizing Nirvana as Rock and Roll or even Punk rock would be a disservice to them. They are in a category of their own. Verse-chorus-verse has changed the way music has evolved and will continue to change forever; Nirvana will have a big part to do with that.
- Paul Pelon IV