Monday, April 7, 2008

The Run-Off Groove #198

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us 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 the album is worthy of many listens. Click the following link and enter right now:
http://elemental-consulting.com/contest/forms/spirits_jb.htm



Aloha, and welcome to the 198th edition of The Run-Off Groove, with your host, John Book. 198, can you believe this? Amazing. More amazing? Perhaps the music that will be discussed in the following paragraphs.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us When I first heard about theBREAX's new album, titled When theBREAX Sold Out! (Eye Am), I actually thought it was some kind of April Fool's joke, especially since it was released on April 1, 2008. Here is a positive hip-hop group who are devoted to sharing their Christian values, and when I had first heard them I thought they were quite good. The cover for the album had the group looking hi-pro, blinging it a bit and showing off a name plate. I wanted to know how these guys were going to sell out, and more importantly why.

For older fans, this is not your favorite group truly selling out. The liner notes state that what they wanted to do is change up their style significantly to show that they can sound like all of the groups that are out there today, they can flow and make beats as if they were any other trend follower. In other words, they wanted to create an album that could be, in their words, "commercially successful", but at the same time creating satire while offering commentary on the state of hip-hop and the music industry. If you were to listen to this album, one might be surprised to know that they are a Christian group. Some of those deliberate overtones have been toned down a notch, but even without that, these guys show that they got some tight lyrics and know how to execute them in a slightly "harder" sound. In fact, one notices that Mic B, Beleaf Melanin, and Ruslan have a knack for dropping humor whenever necessary but not coming off as jokesters. In tracks like "Two Miles An Hour", "Swing", and "Get Ignorant" they create the kind of jams that someone might expect from Petey Pablo, David Banner, or Kanye West, and in the latter track they don't mind telling people with the bling that all they're doing is tryin' to use jewelry to cover your soul. "Swing" wouldn't mean a thing if these guys didn't have it, but here Beleaf tells people if you're going to swing, swing for what's right and what you believe in, and especially swing for your dreams, swing for your goals/go get that money, just don't sell your soul.

In many ways, this is a modern day version of De La Soul Is Dead, where theBREAX take a look at the present state of hip-hop and pokes fun at it while trying to explain that what they do is a representation of what made them rappers in the first place. One can't help but listen to these songs and nod the head, but hear every few lines and go "that is too true". Arguably, being a Christian group may have limited their appeal to some but by adjusting their formula for an album, they're telling people that in truth they aren't that different from any other group with a message to say. Of course in this era and time, it's hard to find rappers who have a message or mission statement, or if it has nothing to do with making that money, it's not worth your while. Honestly, these guys sound great in their "sell out" phase and could easily measure up with a group like Time Machine. The way they write is very much the same, all that is different is the musical backdrop, and with luck their longtime fans will know about hip-hop as a whole and not reject them because they think theBREAX have been blinded by the jewels and superstardom. New fans will be surprised at how they had not heard of this group, and maybe selling out for 58 minutes and 58 seconds was something that was needed to let people know who they are and what they are about. They decided to "break out of the box" and in the end created something that not only represents their power as a group, but what hip-hop once meant to all of us regardless of spiritual persuasion. Perhaps it's not the music that sold out, but the fans who wanted a piece of the unobtainable pie.

(When theBREAX Sold Out! is available from CDBaby.)



Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Creed Chameleon is originally from Guam but now calls Honolulu home, and in terms of indie hip-hop from Hawai'i, he is someone who is mentioned with some of the best, and rightfully so. Love Potion Cyanide (Siq) originally came out two years ago, but the album is one of those that has to be heard by those who love well-written lyrics spoken very well (in a Mos Def/Talib Kweli/Black Thought/Slug/El-P-type manner). His words seem to flow out effortlessly, as if he was born to do this, and it's no wonder people take to his music like crazy. Whether it's about the evil that MC's do, the hassle of living in paradise where every corner now leads to crystal meth, or falling in love with someone you hope is the right person (or missing the lady known as hip-hop in "Missing You") he does this with ease and without each style conflicting with what he is as an MC.

Creed Chameleon is an MC that truly commands the mic, not just someone who let's it dangle just because there's nothing else you can do, there's something in his music that shows the hunger that I like in an MC, even if they are a few titles into their discography. Ion Myke's productions dominate the entire album and it shows his love of sample-based production, along with tweaking bass frequencies to make your teeth ache, but the album also features songs produced by Old Joseph, Educated Guess, and Riff Raff. Why Creed is not bigger right now in terms of popularity, I have no idea but someone needs to spread the word about this guy, and fast.

(Love Potion Cyanide is available from Access Hip-Hop.)



Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Originally from the Bay Area but now calling Kaneohe, Hawai'i home, Joe Dub (a/k/a Old Joseph from the previous review) is an MC with the attitude (at least in his music) that a lot of people fear. It's the kind of attitude that shows a bit of cockiness, ruthlessness, arrogance, and of course with that is balancing on that fine line between that and confidence. As Flavor Flav once said about Chuck D., he doesn't swear he's nice, he knows he's nice, and the way he represents himself is himself, as shown on his new album Pooretry (Asita).

I'll be honest, I've been sitting on this album for a few months, letting it sit in, simmer, feel free to add a metaphor of your own here. One reason a lot of people have taken to Joe in the last few years is because he knows the craft, and yes it becomes his craft. His Bay Area roots is very much evident in tracks like "Renegade Music", a laid back track which could easily be mistaken for E-40 or Lateef The Truth Speaker, and over a song that is perfect to cruise to he talks about how someone might tell him he can't step to microphone without proper clearance, and he finds a way to say "fuck that" in so many ways without actually uttering those words. "The Dream" could easily be a track from the archives of Pete Rock, complete with a solid beat, filtered synth line and a hint of turntable rumble as Joe speaks about his roots as a rapper, friends who have come and gone and who he is today.

He handles most of the production on this album, but Pooretry also features production help from Alex75, Presto, Kaiyuga Pro, Deeskee, Matth, and Aksim, and outside of the lyrics and beats, what I like about the album as a whole is that it has the feel of a classic East Coast album but with a bit more musicality that the West has been known for, so it's not just hard lyrics with dusted beats. The musicality can also be heard in his flow too, the guy sounds like he's having fun. Some of his MC friends help out in the fun as well, including 2Mex, Riddlore, Hugh EMC, and Topic, the latter his rapping partner in the group Painkillers. I honestly wish Topic would do a lot more, as I've been a fan of her style for a few years and her verses in "Khan" and "The Dream" are worthy of their own paragraphs.

Joe Dub isn't watered down, this is pure uncut hip-hop from someone who isn't afraid to say "this is my variation, and I'd like for you to hear how I express myself". Whether it's as a rapper or as a producer, he is someone who knows how to execute himself as an artist, right down to the notes in the introduction and all the way until the inevitable fade. He is someone who is also not afraid to challenge himself in his music, and it's nice to know people are willing to do that at a time when it seems so easy for other rappers to press record and play and make that ringtone money.

(Pooretry is available from Asita Recordings.)



Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The group All Natural are about to release a 4-part series of albums which "uses the natural elements (fire, water, earth, wind) to explore styles of hip-hop." They went in for the kill and decided to start off with a bit of heat with an album called Fire (All Natural).

The aura of the album is that if there was a way to create an album that was "all heat", it would have to be packed with intensity. Bring on a mandatory "Intro" that creates anticipation, and all of a sudden they begin to talk about youse a shit starter, I'm a shit ender/put your money where your mouth, Mr. Big Spender, and the vibe never lets up. Fire is an album made as an album, where album tracks matter and filler is something you will find on less fortunate albums. "Backslap" could be that album track that fans will want to remember and recite as an example of excellence, while old school heads will be saluting them after hearing the free form "Poppers Pop, Breakers Break". They talk about being the baddest cats while condemning "trash rap", all behind some incredible music that shows their love of 90's hip-hop before its soul was gutted out, and it doesn't sound dated at all. The album represents the music that felt "real" because it felt honest, music without issues and one that didn't single anyone but the suckers who thought they could be holier than thou even if they didn't have anything to prove. If anyone wanted to know where grown hip-hop ended up, here it is.

(Fire will be released on May 6th.)



Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The jazz fusion enthusiasts known as Rented Mule call Philadelphia home, and their brand of jazz is heavily influenced by the jazz mixtures and hybrids of the mid to late 70's. As some jazz musicians flirted with accessibility, some moved towards a lighter sound while others became more soulful and funky. This is a bit on the soulful and funky side of jazz. The guys in the band have played with a diverse range of artists over the years, and together they create a sound that is loose and tight at the same time, complete with horns, a fierce bassist, and the kind of musicianship that comes from experience. That funkiness shows up in "Double D", coming off as if Weather Report and Return To Forever decided to jam with Tower Of Power and Bootsy Collins. "Thelonius Monster" grooves on the Steely Dan side of things, "Unintentional Insanity" would fit well by a jazz band on any late night talk show, and for some ultra stank funky doo doo vibes, there's the pungent "Trout Sandwich", with bassist Dan Greenberg digging deep with his thumb while the group (Don "D.A." Jones on drums, Frank Williams on percussion, Jason Mescia on tenor sax, Todd Horton on trumpet, electric trumpet, and flugelhorn, and Joel Kunreuther on guitar) sound like Miles Davis jamming with Primus and Gov't Mule, quite progressive in its approach compared to the rest of the album.

Some of the songs sound fairly standard in their arrangements, but branching out (as they do in "Trout Sandwich") shows the true power of this band when they allow a groove to take over and each of them build amongst each other to create a really nasty sound (and that's nasty in a good way).

(Rented Mule is available from CDBaby.)



Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Exploratory is a word that applies to John Coltrane's approach to music, never slowing down his need to find something new until he was no longer on this planet. The fact that people continue to explore their own music through Coltrane is a testament to what he represented, and for John Tchicai, Jonas Müller, Nikolaj Munch-Hansen and Kresten Osgood they move forward and inward with the release of Coltrane In Spring (Ilk).

The majority of the songs on this 9-song album are original pieces by those involved in this session, and there is definitely the presence of Coltrane throughout this album, or at least it sounds like the kind of music he and his quartet created on such adventurous albums as Olé and Crescent. Tchicai's sax work dabbles in the familiar sheets of sound Coltrane turned into a mission of his, but sometimes may sound more like Ornette Coleman than Coltrane, especially in some parts of Müller's "Dashiki Man". Müller's cornet work is very sleek and tends to be the definition compared to Tchicai's description, and when they play the main theme together it sounds beautiful. Unfortunately the song fades out at the moment when I wished they would have come to a conclusion.

Coltrane would increasingly take his jazz outside of its American roots and go exploring, taking it to Spain, India, and Africa. The four men on this CD handle that exploration well in Tchicai's "Angel Wing", where Müller plays his cornet as if he just walked through New Orleans and decided to pay his respects, as it has a happy, festive sound compared to the song's dark contrasts. Margriet Naber-Tchicai's "Row Your Love Boat" sounds like the sound of two mischievous lovers trying to entice each other with what they have when in truth what they want is unity. The playfulness between Tchicai and Müller is obvious, while bassist Munch-Hansen and drummer Osgood get to speak to each other in a way which says "we are talking on our own terms, leave us alone", and when they do, the bassist and drummer are pushed in the forefront and their own dialogue is revealed. By the end, they're all speaking the same language and the love boat reaches its destination.

Coltrane In Spring is a tribute album without any actual Coltrane compositions, but instead honors the musicianship and craft of someone whose impact is still being felt today. Tchicai, Müller, Munch-Hansen and Osgood are incredible together, playing music that sounds perfect as is but could be open to new explorations if other musicians are allowed to play along with them in a live setting.

(Coltrane In Spring is available directly from Ilk Music.)



Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Jazz vocalist Diana Perez, who simply uses the name Perez, titled her new album It's Happenin' (Zoho) but I wondered... when was it happenin'?

Let's get to the meat of the matter, I thought Perez's voice was just okay, not something I would want to hear during a full performance, or a full CD. Her voice doesn't appeal to me only because at times it sounds like she's a few notes off, and it's sad because these songs are great standards generally done well by everyone else. She has a light husky tone, not quite Carmen McRae but... I don't know, I wanted to like it but I found it hard to listen to without being critical during the listening experience.

The musicians on the album are the main reason you should listen to and buy this album, as they include Joe Farnsworth on drums, David Hazeltine on piano, Jed Levy on also sax and flute, Steve Davis on trombone, Nat Reeves on bass and Ron Horton on trumpet. When Perez sings in "Blame It On My Youth", it makes me wish Horton or Levy would do a solo instead. Unfortunately Perez's voice does nothing for me, but if you want to hear a set of musicians who can play and subliminally outshine the one at the microphone, pick It's Happenin' up.

(It's Happenin' is available from CD Universe.)



Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The album cover featuring a manipulated black & white photo of a bunch of school students with the heads of well known scientists (musical and otherwise) while saxophonist Gust Spenos plays on is a clever one, and one that represents the great music found on Swing Theory (self-released). The album is called Swing Theory for a reason, because the damn thing swings. It goes back to the big band sound in a major way through the courtesy of peopel such as Wycliffe Gordon, Eric Schneider, Marvin Chandler,Kenny Phelps, and Frank Smith. The album begins with a banger, Irving Berlin's "Cheek To Cheek" and immediately you're put into a period in time when this was the music of the day. It has the energy of a Newport Jazz Festival or something in a warehouse down the road, where the energy is uncontrolled and all you want to do is play, jam, dance, or just listen. This can be heard in songs like "Secret Love", "Ow", "Mountain Greenery", or "At Long Last Love". The vocals were a bit of a surprise for me, and at first I felt that they slowed down the pace of the album quite a bit. But just as many groups did (and still do), a vocalized song allowed the band to mellow out and ease up until it was time to play again. Everett Greene doesn't have a bad voice at all, so when he steps up to sing "Looking For Someplace To Be", written by his brother Larry Greene.

The quartet are a solid group but when they expand that sound with two additional members, it's a sound that you never want stopped. Spenos plays with passion, and when he has his time to do a solo, it sets him apart from everyone else. The theory is swing, and it's all here in a way that will demand repeated study sessions.

(Swing Theory is available from Smashed Productions.)



Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Bom Dia (Soundbrush) may only be a brief hint of the kind of music played on this album by the Roger Davidson Trio, but "Fabiana" opens the album with a bossa nova feel that is almost dominated by Davidson's piano work, only allowing bassist David Finck to take the spotlight about three minutes into the song. When he has his time, Davidson comes back in and takes everyone home with him.

Davidson's style is more Ramsey Lewis and George Shearing than Dave Brubeck, although someone with a finely tuned ear may catch other influences. Bom Dia is influenced by the sights and sounds of Brazil, and there are moments when Davidson's approach is more classical than jazz, or at least that's what I hear in "Soir Bresilien", "Ela Me Ama", and "Patient Soul", and it makes for a nice contrast to the Latin sounds that dominate. It might sound foreign and distant, but once the music kicks in and everyone is playing, it sounds as close as the music you might hear being played by a next door neighbor. Finck is a great accompanist, and one can focus on him and be amazed by what he adds to the proceedings. Drummer Paulo Braga is great playing a ballad as he is in something more uptempo, and yet one can't get over by how great Davidson play.

On top of that, I can't get over by how well this album sounds, thanks to recording engineer Will Schillinger along with Finck and Davidson who handled production duties. You can almost smell the wood and metal on this one, although if one uses this for a romantic occasion it may be better to think of scented candles and perfume rather than mahogany and steel. Nice music, nice recording, definitely worth buying.




Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Her website states that on Let's Get Lost (Spanish Shawl Music), Dawn Lambeth offers her lilting effervescent style and along with her band she does just that.

All of the songs are reinterpretations of the standards, be it "Let's Misbehave", "On The Sunny Side Of The Street", "C'est Si Bon", "Isn't This A Lovely Day (To Be Caught In The Rain)", and Lambest has somewhat of a June Christy vibe in some of these performances. The music also sounds like the kind of jazz and pop made in the late 30's and early 40's, before jazz made significant changes on some of those V-Discs only made available to servicemen in the military. Regardless of how old these songs are, they hold up very well because of what the lyrics try to convey, a certain humbleness and simplicity that regardless of what anyone says, has not been lost in time. These are the songs that dreams are still made of, and Lambeth has the kind of voice that will soothe and warm up any cold night. It has a retro feel but yet still sounds like it was made in the 21st century, perhaps a way to say that what's old can be made new again. That, or that these songs age gracefully.

(Let's Get Lost is available from CDBaby.)



Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Christine Albert has brought together her love of Texas with her French roots and has come up with an album that is sure to be favored by more adventurous Americana listeners. Paris, Texafrance (Moonhouse Records) is an album full of great country, bluegrass, and folk, some of it sounding like it comes from a time long gone and yet still very familiar to anyone who listens to these styles.

What I get out of this album is a sense of roots and family. When Albert sings in French she does so with honor. When she sings in English she does so with grace, and one can imagine every cowboy and businessman saluting her because she may remind them of home. Her music sounds familiar and warm, and perhaps those who have seeked her music for the last few years come to hear just for those reasons. Imagine a mix of Linda Ronstadt and Barbara Mandrell and you have a good sense of what Albert is capable of doing, but in her own unique way. The songs themselves are a diverse selection of songs that have a common thread running through, all of them chosen because they meant something to Albert, whether it was a song that reminded her of her grandmother or citing a song like "The French Song" (recorded by Lucille Starr) that became a surprise international hit. Each show a love of her culture, but the country flair adds a unique quality to these songs. When the direct approach is taken, it also works extremely well, as it does in her rendition of a song Edith Piaf made famous, "Chante Moi". Albert handles it with a lot of conviction, and even if like myself you don't speak French, you can sense the sorrow and longing of some of these songs which have been brought back to life, or perhaps the old wardrobe has been replaced by the new.

I hope Paris, Texafrance brings to Albert a lot of attention for this very bold project. In a live setting, it would be great if she was able to have former Duhks singer Jessee Havey sit in on a song or two. It is Americana at its best, and I hope people who like good down home music will appreciate this for the masterpiece it will become in the next ten to twenty years.

(Paris, Texafrance is available from Moonhouse Records.)





American Beat Records are back with some brand new reissues, and this time around they are releasing some classic albums by the soul group The Impressions

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Each of the discs are two-fers, which means you get two albums on one CD. The first one teams up the soundtrack to Three The Hard Way and the album First Impressions The Three The Hard Way soundtrack has been a staple of blacksploitation films for years, and yet one can still listen to these songs without knowing how these songs relate to the images in the film. You have some great soul dancers on this, but these guys were always known for their ballads, as they display in "Wendy" and the lusty "Have A Ball". You also have some tracks that have a nice disco flair (it was 1974, after all), plus you get to hear fierce conga solos and string section that may be familiar to the sample happy.

First Impressions begins with the silky smooth funk track "Sooner Or Later", complete with opening dialogue that leads to a memorable chorus and thought provoking lyrics about someone who did someone wrong. The rest of the album seems to move at a better pace than Three The Hard Way, I'm not sure if it's due to not working within the context of a soundtrack or just having better songs available to them, or the musicians on the album having a good day in the studio, but there's a lot to take in.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us The second disc I listened to brings together Loving Power and It's About Time, both released in 1976 respectively.

Loving Power was the last album they recorded for Curtom Records when the label was distributed by RSO, which up to this point was distributed by Atlantic in the U.S. On this album, the influence and success of such bands as Earth, Wind & Fire, The O'Jays and Tower Of Power is evident in the vocal harmonies. This is obvious in the opening title track and in their rendition of The O'Jays "Sunshine". Even a hint of War's "Deliver The Word" canbe heard in "Keep On Trying". Vocally the group were being challenged by what was currently successful, which allowed them to show that despite their age they were able to put it off and show the young kids how it was done.

Loving Power still has a lot of lasting power, and yet even though it would only be a few months before they followed it up with It's About Time (their first for the Atlantic-distributed Cotillion label), it was obvious that disco was slowly dominating the marketplace. While some might have felt that this dated them even more, these songs hold up quite well today, especially the songs that had a bit of pop accessibility ("This Time" and "I'm A Fool For Love").

  • American Beat have also released three more two-fers for The Impressions, but I did not get copies of them for review. For the two discs that I did review, the sound quality is very good (at least to my ears). These reissues are for the budget minded, so with the exception of liner notes that were on the original LP's, there's nothing new to learn about the recording and production of these albums, or the reason these songs were selection. But if it's music you want (and good music at that), you have them here. All five Impressions reissues are available right now through CD Universe:

    Three The Hard Way/First Impressions
    Loving Power/It's About Time
    This Is My Country/Young Mods Forgotten Story
    Preacher Man/Finally Got Myself Together
    Check Out Your Mind/Times Have Changed



    ...AND NOW, THE HAWAIIAN MUSIC CORNER

    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Reggae music from Hawai'i can be a challenge, at least for me. The music was embraced in a major way only after the death of Bob Marley, enough to where it spawned its own genre, Jawaiian. Some of it can be as generic as Albertson's macaroni & cheese, but even within the mundane you can find a spark of something special that at least for me shows that a bit more went into the music than just the song title chanted 64 times in a row. The select few that do make an effort seem to be a bit more rootsy in their approach, or at least have the voice or musicianship that separates them from the pack. Dani Waring is someone that has that something extra, and going under the name Dani Girl, she wants to prove that if you have good songs behind you and a great voice that makes it all worth listening to, you'll want to remain a fan for a long time.

    It's About Time (Island Soul Entertainment) is her debut album, but fans of Jawaiian music will recognize her from her appearances on a number of compilations. What moved me first and foremost is her voice, it's nice to hear a Hawaiian reggae album by someone with a voice that sounds mature, and in turn creates music that sounds like it could be appreciated by kids in their pre-teens and grandmas in their 60's and 70's. "Give Me That Touch" brings to mind such vocalists as Yvonne Elliman, Nohelani Cypriano, and on the reggae side, Nadine Sutherland. She sings with such grace and elegance that one can also see her singing in other genres. In fact there's a sense of soul that is quite surprising for this Maui girl. I don't know if she spent time on the mainland, had good parents who listened to good music all the time, or she was inspired by the best, but this is the kind of voice I wish more singers in Hawai'i would inspire to. There is a slight gospel influence but it isn't dominant, nor does she sing too puritanical, and I say this because sometimes other vocalists will hold back musically and lyrically due to their beliefs. In a track like "I Don't Wanna Wake" she talks about not wanting to wake up from her dream and hopes and prays that her dream state of love will be everlasting. She expresses her faith in "Without You", where she sings without you, my mind goes crazy/without you, I'll go insane/He'll never leave nor forsake me/one day he'll take me home with him and yet it's not in your face as some gospel-flavored music tends to be, the subtlety works but you can still feel its message. What I also liked was how she did the background vocals as well, and she knows how to accent everything in the right spots.

    While none of the songs were written by her, she does have a good team of songwriters and musicians who helped find the right material for her and her voice. The lyrics do not sound childish or immature, Dani Girl is a woman with emotions to express and with the help of such people as Kenoa Kukaua, Bruce Hoopai, Vernon Kapuaala, DJ Audissey, and Love Pacheco, they help to define the artist that she is. Yet the choice of covers have got to be her own. Her cover of Leann Rimes' "More Than Anyone Deserves" will definitely please fans of the original, and if someone has to find the source of her soulfulness, perhaps it can be heard in "Meeting In The Ladies Room", the 80's classic by yes, Klymaxx.

    It's About Time are the words I said after hearing this album in full, because it's so nice to hear an album by a vocalist who shows her love of reggae but isn't afraid to share her love of country and soul, something you rarely see done in a manner that would help make it accessible to people outside of the islands. Yeah, I'm someone who wants to say "protect her, no one should hear her but us", but Dani Girl has a voice that sounds genuine, and that realness is too good to be locked up. Watch out for her, for once you hear her, she will be impossible to forget.

    (It's About Time is available from Mele.com.)



    Image Hosted by ImageShack.us With a name like S and S, someone might be thinking "oh, saimin", but in this case it represents guitarist Stephen Inglis and pianist Shawn Livingson Moseley. As a duo, S and S combine ki ho'alu (slack key guitar) and classical music to create a unique blend that benefits each side of the coin through their musicianship, creating an album that is both unique and a statement in itself. Na Po Makole - The Night Rainbows ('Aumakua) is as mysterious and beautiful as the night rainbows of Hawai'i are. I had a friend who had talked about going to the beach at about 3 or 4 in the morning, and her boyfriend had never seen one, didn't quite believe these rainbows existed. As if by magic, there they were. The music is very much like that, and in this case it brings together two elements that one might not regularly hear together on a regular basis, but when it is, the end result is quite remarkable.

    I became aware of Inglis' music last year through his great album, Mahina O Wai'alae, and I became an instant fan, wanting to know what he would be doing next. Na Po Makole is an interesting album for while those who love slack key guitar will love this, there is the added element of the piano that takes things a few steps further. In other words, it's not just a casual "guitar and piano" duo album, there is a sense of tradition on the Hawaiian side of things, but what appealed to me is how they appear to be thinking outside of the box. "Kalaupapa Kalico" is the sound of Hawaiian guitar played over a bit of jazz, while "Loihi" is a bit of folk mixed in with hints of classical and new age. I know, the thought of those elements together might bring back ugly Jay Larrin nightmares, but this is actually quite nice. Even though the songs are in a new setting, it still feels like backyard music, but backyard music for a modern world that struggles hard to keep to the traditions that are passed on from generation to generation. Inglis' guitar work is a standout, but I was also impressed by Moseley's playing, especially in the title track (which I initially thought was "Pupuhinuhinu" until the song shifted and I was forced to look at the CD cover). There's also a brief moment in this song where Inglis' plays a chord structure that sounds very close to Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird" (it happens at the 4:51 mark), not sure if that's what it's supposed to be, but perhaps it was a freebird making its way to see the night rainbow.

    Musician Cindy Combs makes an appearance on the album but sitting in on two tracks, and one where she is left alone with 'ukulele.. The other two tracks have her on the instrument she has become known for, the slack key guitar, and anyone who has ever heard her albums or seen her live will know how true she is to her playing and the style that is her own, very much in the style of Keola Beamer where each strum and hand movement is deliberate and effective towards the inevitable sound. Hearing her play along with Inglis and Moseley expands the palette a bit, and there are moments, as in "Po Lani", when Moseley takes the lead by playing the melody, only for Combs and Inglis to speak as only guitarists generally do.

    What I really liked about this album is the improvisation involved. Some early Hawaiian music were based on the same set of chords, but to my ears they not only go in and out of the melody, but they are playing with more of an emphasis on the lyric, so if something sounds somber or more uplifting, they seem to steer the song along a particular route. They also do this by taking some of the material to durations longer than five minutes, such as "Ka Ua O Ke Kau Anu" (5:53), "Paliku" (9:00), "Lo'ihi" (6:39), and "Po Lani" (9:00). The pace too is deliberate, but let the music, the melody and (if you know it) the lyric move you and the length of these songs will not (and should not) matter.

    It's also nice to hear musicians who are in the same room at the same time, and captured so well by Moseley, who also recorded, engineered, and mastered this project at his studio, Witchdoctor Recording. The recording itself is not just a bunch of microphones capturing something and leaving it alone, there was some thought put into this and the end result is quite nice. I would not mind hearing this remastered for vinyl, as it has the kind of intricacies that would give all audiophiles chicken skin. However, the CD will do just fine for now.

    One may be lead to ask "so what's the mystery?" Even if you know your Hawaiian music inside and out and will not hesitate to sing or pull out an instrument when someone yells out KANIKAPILA!, there's still something more to offer in a style of music that continues to thrill and excite anyone who dares to get lost in its beauty and simplicity. Na Po Makole - The Night Rainbow are for listeners who are willing to step out of their comfort zone and be ope to the possibility of something new, only to discover that the new method is just another interpretation of the old, and thus extending the life of culture and tradition in an honorable manner.

    (Na Po Makole - The Night Rainbow is available from Mele.com.)




  • That's it for this week's installment of The Run-Off Groove, two more until column #200. More music, as always, is on the way. If you have any music, books, or audio equipment you'd like for me to review, you can contact me through my MySpace page.
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