The Run-Off Groove, in conjunction with Shanachie Records, is giving you have a chance to win a copy of Spirits In The Material World: A Reggae Tribute To The Police, featuring new interpretations of classic Police songs by Horace Andy, Inner Circle, Junior Reid, Toots & The Maytals, The Wailing Souls, and even Joan Osborne. I reviewed the album in Run-Off Groove #190, and I think it's album worthy of many listens. Click the following link and enter right now:
When you do, come back here, as there's a lot of reviews waiting for you. Ready? Let's continue.
I had never heard of Kelpe before until an online friend told me to take a listen to a track. It moved me to hear more and find out about this Kelpe.
Come to find out that Kelpe is the moniker of Kel McKeown, an electronic artist from England who has not quite gained a massive audience stateside but should. Ex-Aquarium (D.C. Recordings) is an incredible album with a dense layer of sound and groove, coming from a mixture of what sounds like analog synths and the digital realm, where drum and percussion samples mix in with natural sound and the kind of bass that makes you want to pull out your teeth. In a few reviews I came across, Kelpe has been compared to Boards Of Canada and Four Tet a lot, artists who are able to take their creative ability in making electronic music, and taking it to higher and proper nether regions. There are moments when it sounds like it could turn into something of the dub variety ("Pinch And Flare") while "Bread Machine Bred" has a bit of German minimalism going on, as if something was shipped from 1978 and arrived 30 years later. Some of the songs are quite full with a lot of textures, while others are painfully spare, and I say painful because one can imagine these songs being filled with a hell of a lot of over-production, but they aren't. "Colours Don't Leak" sounds like a song that could go overboard, with a rhythm track that sounds like it was pulled from a jazz label's tape vaults, where one might mistake it as a Jazzanova outtake or something from the Future Sound Of London. There are some lounge qualities to their music, but just when it gets easy to describe his sound, he turns a new direction and comes up with a surprise or two. Things get jazzy and funky "Cut It Upwards", and one can get caught up in the soundscapes quite easily.
I guess with all the comparisons made, one can say that Kelpe is IDM, but as someone who generally hates those types of sub-genre names, I wonder if Kelpe would be happy with that association. Nonetheless, Ex-Aquarium is an excellent album for those who have wondered about where electronic music has gone, and more specifically where is it headed. The best electronic-based music heads in all directions, and it seems Kelpe is one of many musicians who will be taking it everywhere with this album and all future endeavors.
(Ex-Aquarium will be released on February 25th, and can be pre-ordered through CD Universe. Samples of the album can be heard by going to the D.C. Recordings website.)
Bing Ji Ling could be an exotic name to most, but in truth it's the moniker being used by... Quinn Luke. Liner note junkies may not even recognize his name at first, but he has worked with the likes of Blackalicious, Honeycut, Curumin, and The Rondo Brothers. If you are familiar with those artists, you may be surprised to hear what he created with June Degrees In December (To The Curb), a fantastic 5-song EP that is an ode to late 70's/early 80's pop and soul. I'm talking about soothing grooves on a Christopher Cross/Michael McDonald/Peabo Bryson, or what some trendoids have called "Yacht Rock". That's right, if you're cruising harbors looking for husband-less MILF's while wearing your special brand of scented Dove shorts, this is the perfect music for you.
Jokes aside, Bing Ji Ling takes his musical expertise and creates music that might not be expected, a hint of modern day pop craftiness that has become the blueprint of a lot of pop music for the last 30 years. With tracks like "Be Here With You", "This Song Is For You", and "Home", you may want to grow out your beard and get into what Bing Ji Ling is trying to promote and celebrate: a good life with a big yard and that boat that may or may not come, but you know about the finest woods, wines, and women. Ooh, the women. Robin Thicke has nothing on this guy, trust me, and while there is a thin layer of irony in this project, it's actually quite good. No no no, very good. I'm impressed by the charm, going back to a time when MTV didn't dictate musical tastes.
(June Degrees In December will be released on March 4th. His 2003 album, Doodle Loot Doot Doodle A Doo, is available from CDBaby, and can also be streamed in its entirety by clicking here.)
Roommate are a band that take the dark side of our pessimistic lives and tries to turn it inside out in order to see the joys that we as humans have left in this world. Or at least that's what they're trying to do with We Were Enchanted (Plug Research), an album that explores the blurred thin life between the real life and the alternate world that some people in a modern generation live through video games and multi-personalities through the internet. In other words, people are living that alternate world as real life because for some it's far better to grip and understand than the reality of the real world, especially when the real world is nothing more than 80 distinct reality shows on 9 networks.
The music on the album is a nice mixture of rock with hints of psychedelia, pop, rock, and occasionally jazz although that comes primarily from the arrangements more than anything. Imagine of Linkin Park didn't suck, or if Mike Shinoda was the main man behind their sound and it comes close to what Roommate create here, with heavy use of atmospherics, space, and adapting their lyrics into creating different levels of intensity in their music, especially with such verbal statements as someday we'll let the machine do everything/someday we'll never complain, as heard in the title track. Apocalyptic it isn't, but with their hybrid of real instrumentation, synthesizers, and electronic beats, it is the soundtrack of today, with an outlook that struggles with the traditions of yesterday and the fulfillment of instant gratification ordered via PayPal.
(We Were Enchanted will be released on April 15th through Plug Research.)
Actress Nancy Priddy released a few albums in the 1960's before fading into a bit of musical obscurity, but not without gaining a following for that album. Some may also recognize her name as the voice behind a series of Signs Of The Zodiac albums the late Mort Garson recorded for A&M, on which she asked "what makes Cancer tenacious?... The moon moves the fluids, including the inner juices of human beings, that which assimilates and feeds the body, so the crab feeds the astral planes, assimilating and distributing all that he receives... slowly, until it becomes a part of him." But for a generation or two, she is known as the mom of actress Christina Applegate.
In 2007, Priddy decided to return to one of her original muses to record a great album, with a little help from her friends, called Christina's Carousel (Monte's Moolah Music), where she sings songs in various styles from folk to jazz and pop. For the most part they sound like great backyard songs, and perhaps that's the point, as these are the kind of songs that would have been perfect in the late 1960's or early 1970's, when times were different and perhaps a bit more optimistic. Her voice is still as strong as youthful as it was 40 years ago, but now she sings with more experiences behind her and perhaps with a view that comes from living in the second half of her life, especially with such songs as "I Saw The Face", "Little Bit Of Rain", and "Sweet Jerusalem". "Y2K Drinking Song" sounds like the kind of song one would sing if your friends were The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and David Crosby, where all you need to worry about is drinking and smoking the night away without fear.
Christina's Carousel is very much a community album, in this case Priddy's community of friends and the bonds that they share in life and music, and yet it doesn't sound dated. In fact, if one is to call her a folk artist, then Priddy sings for all of the folks who are still open to listening to someone with a positive outlook on life. Perhaps surprisingly, the album sounds approprirate today as it would when she first started making music. An excellent piece of work.
(Christina's Carousel is available from CDBaby.)
Tom Dempsey and Tim Ferguson play the guitar and bass respectively, and for their new album What's Going On? (City Tone) they take that simple approach and make a very good album of acoustic jazz.
All of the songs are laid back and cool, imagine a bit of Jim Hall and Ron Carter going at it on a beach front, a hint of tropicana, or just two jazz lovers playing music together because it feels good. That's what you get on this album with wonderful renditions of ""First Song (For Ruth)", ""Stardust", "Three And Won", "Deep River", and of course the title track as made famous by Marvin Gaye. There are also a number of original pieces from each musician, including Dempsey's "As Spring Begins" and "Tandem", and Ferguson's ""Julie's Tabouleh". There are moments that sound like Ferguson wants to take on the role of being the lead with his stand-up bass, and at times he does, maybe without Dempsey knowing. For good duo jazz that is relaxing without being smooth, opt to pick this one up.
(What's Going On? is available from CDBaby.)
The Eric Byrd Trio have gained a lot of attention through their musicianship and live performances, leading to them winning a number of local and regional awards and touring around the world. As a trio, Byrd (vocals and piano) Alphonso Young, Jr. (drums), and Bjagwan Khalsa (acoustic bass) are as tight as tight can be. For their new album Brother Ray (Foxhaven) they have expanded their sound by four with the inclusion of a horn section (Brad Clements on trumpuet, Paul Carr on tenor sax, Chris Watling on baritone sax, and Lyle Link on alto sax) to honor the man behind the album title, which of course is the late Ray Charles.
It's jazz and blues rolled into one phat joint, which of course helped create the music that we all know as R&B. It's a chance for Byrd to hit the big time with this music, not only towards gaining a wider audience but musically "big time". Byrd has that kind of sweet soul voice that you can't help but be charmed buy, and along with his piano runs and phrasing this is a musician who is not only confidence about the music he plays, but in himself. Hear him sing "Them That Got" and "Get On The Right Track Baby" and Mr. Charles would be honored to hear these songs done in this manner. The album also returns to the trio lineup, but features the vocals of Lea Gilmore, who helps take "Baby It's Cold Outside" and "Watch Them Dogs" closer to home while raising a few curious eyebrows at the same time. Also impressive is Link's flute work in "Don't Let The Sun Catch You Cryin'", worthy enough to stand out in its own right and definitely one of my favorite songs on the album.
It's good music meant to be revived during any time of the year, and whether it is in a trio setting or +4, these are a set of musicians that should be heard under any circumstances. Eric Byrd is a musician who has the passion to soothe any painful soul, and hopefully with this album he'll be able to do that on a wider scale.
(Brother Ray is available directly from Eric Byrd's website.)
I first heard of Tangria Jazz Group through their second album, Mebane's Eleven: Tunes for Two, which I felt was like a union of the musical mind, or minds in this case with Sheryl Mebane (drums), Justin Hellman (bass), and Simon Rochester (piano) creating the kind of jazz that sounds as if they are perfect for each other. The trio are back with a new one, self-titled this time around and upon hearing their rendition of "Nature Boy" it is obvious that that love of playing jazz and with each other has grown stronger. The song begins with the melody we all know and love before Rochester begins to travel and make his presence know, as if he becomes the nature boy himself, as Hellman holds things down by describing the scenery, and of course Mebane pulling everything together to let them know that she will set the pattern and keep things at a lively pace. There are countless versions of "Nature Boy" out there, but what I like about this is how it remains at a steady pace for the first half before it reaches the bass solo, and then it proceeds in half time, to become as sensual and mysterious as the song wants to be.
The mystery aspect is what makes this album great, in that you know what these three are capable of doing but you don't know what's going to happen next, which makes the listener want to concentrate on the music a lot more. One word that is mentioned often when describing the Tangria Jazz Group is "inventing", which for me means that they play things that sound as if they come out of the blue, with an "of the moment" intensity yet with the confidence in each other which results in the kind of playing that you can't stop listening to. One can hear that in well known pieces (John Coltrane's "Impressions" or Joe Henderson's "Isotope") or original songs (Mebane's "Teach Yourself To Live Elsewhere" and "Bamako Love Walk"). They are good in playing bebop and hard bop as they are in incorporating Latin sounds, or to make the kind of luxurious jazz that would be perfect in a romantic setting for a big budget Hollywood film, all without compromise. Well played jazz for fans who demand the best, and the Tangria Jazz Group are some of the best musicians out today.
(Tangria Jazz Group is available from CDBaby.)
Vince Seneri has been playing the Hammond B-3 organ for years, recording a string of albums that have taken him around the world, and he loves the instrument so much that he is also a full time dealer. That kind of expertise takes a lot of determination and dedication, and you can hear both in The Prince's Groove (Prince V).
The prince in this case is himself, a/k/a "Prince V", which of course he has a lot of respect for those B-3 masters who came before him. Anyone who loves mean B-3 jazz will fall in love with this album instantly, and his style and touch will remind many of the West Coast jazz flavor of Richard "Groove" Holmes, and at times some of the British soul of Steve Winwood. In the uptempo "Dearly Beloved" he completely rips things left and right without any room to breathe, but allowing guitarist Paul Bollenbeck to pave the way for an amazing solo. The title track is a bit loose and funky, almost downright slinky in its after hours style, where Seneri is helped out by Bollenbeck, Randy Brecker (trumpet and flugelhorn), Buddy Williams (drums), Gary Fritz (percussion), Richie Flores (percussion), Houston Person (tenor sax), and Dave Valentin (flute). The mood is very reminiscent of some of the work Santana and Steely Dan did in the late 70's, or all of those great mid-70's Blue Note and CTI albums that continue to influence generations. Yet the core of these songs is, of course, Seneri's playing, who knows how to be subtle at the right moments, and then kick things open by letting people know why he is the prince. This one is vinyl worthy.
(The Prince's Groove can be ordered directly from Vince Seneri's website.)
When you put together two jazz legends, anything can happen. More often than not, a bit of "musical magic" is created, and both the musicians and listeners are rewarded with the kind of excellence that some might say is a rarity these days. But if you take a listen to this new album by Louie Bellson and Clark Terry, their union sounds like it's a common occurrence, as it should be.
Louie & Clark Exposition 2 (Percussion Power) is the second time they've teamed up for a project like this, where big band jazz is the name of the game and nothing else will do. For this album, Bellson serves not only as the primary drummer, but also composer and executive producer. As any Bellson fan will tell you, his music are a lot more than just drum expeditions, although with his drumming and that of Sylvia Cuenca and Kenny Washington, it is definitely a drum heaven. As he has shown in the past, Bellson is an incredible composer who enjoys expressing himself with some powerful pieces. In fact, the album begins with a 4-part "Chicago Suite" where one is allowed to hear and feel the power and influence of the windy city. It then leads to "Davenport Blues", where you almost feel like doing your own strut with the help of saxophonist Steve Guerra and of course Terry on the trombone.
Let's not forget about Terry, whose playing has been a major part of jazz for over six decades. He knows how to decorate songs as a fantastic accompanist, but when it comes time for him to blow, he carries it through. The rest of the musicians hit all the right spots at the right time, and that's what big band jazz is all about, enhancing the emotions to higher levels and then keep people there, wanting and demanding more. The arrangements are stylized, and while subtle, I was also very impressed with the piano work of Helen Sung, who has played with Terry a number of times in the past. She gets to shine on "Piacere" and it makes me wish she had taken the lead on some of the other songs, but that's what her solo albums are for.
The two main musicians are in their 80's and flirt with it in "Back To The Basics (Old)" and "Now (The Young)", but they and the musicians in these sessions show that regardless of the number, good music is the perfect union between good music and good musicians, which often turns up great results. Louie & Clark Exposition 2 is not only about the two of them, but everyone who has been a part of the jazz community, and the result of strong friendships and the friendships to come from playing and hearing music as grand as this.
(Louie & Clark Expedition 2 is available from CDBaby.)
Lolita Sweet's vocal style mixes the old soul and gospel stylings of the 70's and 80's with occasional hints of modern groove on her album I'm Taking Applications (self-released), and that mixture is bittersweet. On the good side, there are times when her sweet voice sounds like some of my favorite singers, such as Natalie Cole and Chante Moore, and it becomes the perfect Sunday morning music, especially "Place It In His Hands" (which on the surface could be about her singing to her man, but could also be about a higher power). Her vocals, the background vocals, musicianship, and arrangements go back to a much better time in R&B, that good ol' quiet storm when all you needed was an album and a few candles to set the mood up right.
The bittersweet part happens when she tries to cater to modern R&B tastes, when she would have been better in setting up her own space to say "this is me, this is where I am, step up to me" instead of trying to sound trendy. I understand timeliness, but being trendy only makes you sound dated in a year or two, where in today's marketplace you want to stand out for being an incredible talent. She is, but the modern cliches should be replaced by the confident songwriting she displays on the rest of the album.
To tie in with the name of the album, she also includes an application in the CD booklet for men she may be looking for. While I do not have any fears of going downtown, I am flirty and nerdy, freaky and geeky, and my current credit score sucks at this present time. I'm not the perfect guy, so my submitted application would be half impressive, half "eh", therefore I would be put into the trash bin before she would even read the Financial section. Relationship applications aside, her album presents a great singer with a lot of emotion and talent, but with room for a few adjustments in terms of material. It's not flawless by any means, but it shines in all the right places. In terms of musical applications, she may be the one you've been looking for. In terms of endurance and performance, yes indeed.
(I'm Talking Applications is available from CDBaby.)
...AND NOW, SOME STUFFS (a/k/a MUSIC NEWS):
05/09 Washington, DC @ Patriot Center *
05/10 Philadelphia, PA @ Wachovia Spectrum *
05/11 Hoboken, NJ @ Maxwells
05/12 Boston, MA @ Agganis Arena *
05/14 Montreal, PQ @ Bell Center *
05/15 Toronto, ON @ Air Canada Centre *
05/15 Toronto, ON @ El Mocambo
05/16 Chicago, IL @ Allstate Arena *
05/16 Detroit, MI @ The Magic Stick
05/17 Chicago, IL @ Beat Kitchen
05/18 St. Louis, MO @ 2 Cents Plain
05/19 Kansas City, MO @ Starlight Theatre *
05/21 Denver, CO @ Red Rocks Amphitheater *
05/22 Denver, CO @ Lorimer Lounge
05/23 Salt Lake City @ E Center *
05/24 Boise, ID @ The Venue
05/25 George, WA @ The Gorge Sasquatch! Festival *
05/26 Vancouver, BC @ General Motors Place *
05/28 San Francisco, CA @ Bottom Of The Hill
05/29 Santa Barbara, CA @ Santa Barbara Bowl *
05/30 Los Angeles, CA @ Troubadour
05/31 Los Angeles, CA @ Hollywood Bowl *
06/01 San Diego, CA @ The Casbah
06/02 Anaheim, CA @ Chain Reaction
06/03 San Diego, CA @ Cox Arena *
06/04 Phoenix, AZ @ Dodge Theatre *
06/04 Phoenix, AZ @ The Sets
06/06 Dallas, TX @ American Airlines Center *
06/07 Austin, TX @ Music Hall *
06/07 San Antonio, TX @ Rock Bottom
06/08 Austin, TX @ Emo’s
06/09 Houston, TX @ Toyota Center *
06/11 Tampa, FL @ St Pete Times Forum *
06/12 Orlando, FL @ The Social
06/13 Fort Lauderdale, FL @ Bank Atlantic Center *
06/14 Gainsville, FL @ The Atlantic
06/15 Atlanta, GA @ Gwinnett Civic Center *
06/16 Charlotte, NC @ Charlotte Bobcats Arena *
06/18 Cleveland, OH @ Cleveland State University *
06/19 New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
06/20 New York, NY @ Madison Square Garden *
06/21 New York, NY @ Radio City Music Hall *
You can listen to a streaming sampler of their past work by clicking here.