Monday, June 30, 2008

SOME STUFFS: When Donovan Quinn & The 13 Month get here...

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Donovan Quinn calls his music "American", with hints of folk, country, and rootsy songwriting. I'm sure you'll hear and read on how he was named after Donovan Leitch, but what you'll care more about is his music. As Donovan Quinn & The 13th Month, (t)he(y) will be releasing a self-titled debut album on September 24th through Soft Abuse. A single for the album, "Sister Alchemy", was released last year with a track not on the album. For a preview of what Quinn is about, you can download "Holy Agent" for free.

podcast of interest: Palm Trees & Gangstas

Is it possible to combine the beauty of palm trees with the rough ways of a modern day gangsta? Yeah, sounds like a press release but in the mind and vision of DJ Strong, it's a part of everyday living. He brings this to his podcast, the appropriately titled Palm Trees & Gangstas, which is archives of the radio show DJ Strong does on Sirius Satellite Radio on channel 40 every Friday night at 1am Eastern/10pm Pacific (not sure if that technically means Saturday at 1am for the East Coast, Friday night @ 10pm for the West).

To take a listen to the archives, click over to

podcast of interest: Home Of The Greats

Need some funk, jazz, and soul in your life? Check out the brand new installment of the Home Of The Greats podcast by clicking here:

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Run-Off Groove lifts up its needle for the dust flick

I'm in the middle of packing and moving, which means there will be no Run-Off Groove this week. I will return next week once I'm settled in. Mahalo nui.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Run-Off Groove #207

Aloha, and welcome to the 207th edition of The Run-Off Groove. I'm in the middle of packing and moving, thus the reason for the delay in this edition of the newsletter. I will try my best to be on time for next week's column, then I will take a break for a week and then program myself to be more timely. Enough of my issues, let's deal with the issue of "The Run-Off Groove", which begins now.

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I received an envelope from Weightless Recordings and I'm thinking cool, something new from Blueprint. I was half right. I had read somewhere, maybe on his site or blog, that Blueprint was in the middle of a project that may surprise a lot of people. I look at the CD in the package and it featured this cover:
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Gory, disgusting, "eh" but hell yeah. It was a crude illustration of some guy being eaten by a shark, with skin and bones and not much else. Oh yeah, there's a lightning bolt striking his finger from the clouds. I thought maybe this was Blueprint's entry into speed metal, for the cover at first reminded me of Wehrmacht's Shark Attack:
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Then I realized no, it's more like M.O.D.'s Surfin' M.O.D.
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The point is, is this something that Blueprint fans were going to be scratching their heads over? Truth is: no. This is not a metal album. This is hip-hop.

It should also be said that this is an album by Envelope, another Ohio native who will make himself known even more with the release of Shark Bolt (Weightless). Envelope has a flow that sounds close to Blueprint's at times, but the majority of this album is Envelope doing his own thing on his own terms. He is true to the roots of the music, sounding as dope, hard, and as funny as Redman can be, so what does this have to do with a shark eating a man down to his bones? Absolutely nothing, so before you hesitate to pick this up because of the cover, buy it because Envelope is an MC you want to show support for, and here's the reason why.

To me he is a genuine MC, I don't want to say "a real MC" because everyone has a definition of what that is. He's genuine because he's a natural, he has that "gift of gab" that makes him want to be heard and makes us want to hear him. He's talking about how he lived life for a week as a Republican, and that's at the start of a song (in this case, "I Got My Motivations"). Rather than wait at the end of the verse or after four lines, he's making the immediate punchline at the top, and you'll want to know why he wanted to get familiar with the grand ol' party. A bigger threat is the woman he speaks about in "Teeth Sucker", steered by a sped up soul sample with a hint of vocal that makes the loop a stand-out, and with Envelope talking about wanting some macaroni & cheese but being told that it's time to head to the mall. It's music and lyrics for the common man, the ego is in the bravado of the lyrics but Envelope sounds like that guy you've known for years, someone you'd shoot the shit with and this album is someone aiming high at every angle.

What I also like about Shark Bolt, and it was something I thought about before I read the bio, is that the album is short and sweet (a few seconds short of 38 minutes) and it's very cohesive. There are no goofy interludes, no time for the listener to divert to the fridge to brew up ice tea. It's 13 tracks, one right after the other, holding up like the classic album it will become. What makes it classic? For me, it sounds like an album I can relate to and believe in, and he does it over a wide range of styles, which comes directly from Blueprint's influences. I'll be honest, it sounds like the kind of album I've always wanted to do somewhere, where it feels like I'm digging up every other obscure record I can find and making tracks that sound somewhat unconventional. With the right person, he takes those tracks over the top, makes the music sound good but also is able to make himself sound even better in the process. The guy is a beer loving, Zig Zag rolling man with tales to tell, and I found myself going back to these tracks wanting to hear if he said what I assumed he said. He's that kid who was in that apartment in House Party as they were watching a Dick Gregory commercial or Hey Love. It's hip-hop for the common man, and as a common fan I can dig where this guy is coming from. He's not afraid to say what's on his mind, he's not afraid to crack a joke at any given time, or to be himself. This isn't about being too progressive, too diverse, or anything that goes beyond one's comfort zone. This is rap music, plain and simple, just like the type you had to drive 200 miles to find.

Image Hosted by Adventure in jazz is nothing new, but each adventure is a new process. Take for instance this new collaboration between Jacob Anderskov and Airto Moreira. I've heard of Anderskov before but I'm more familiar with Moreira's work. Ears To The Ground (Ilk) is literally what the title indicates. Throw two people out into a random field and have them make it back home with nothing between them but clothes and the sky. They put their "ears to the ground" and fend for themselves. It's an all improvisational album where neither of them knew what the other would do, so you might hear a bit of blues thrown in with the sound of what sounds like a Native American chant, or the slow crawl of a sound unknown or simply, the unknown. Each of them play with a passion to get into the other's head to see what they can find, and while Moreira comes off as the wild man, Anderskov's playing could easily be the loon within the machine. Each of them work well together but when they individually use space and time to enhance the song, that's when things move to unexpected places. Embrace yourself, you may want to throw your cares out the window too and join them in this celebration.

Image Hosted by Anderskov gets more adventurous in the context of his own band, in this case Anderskov Accident. The name conjures up chaos and disorder, and in fact "The Fourth K" opens up in just that fashion, bringing to mind the collision of sound one might hear on Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz or John Coltrane's Meditations, but when "Lisbutin E Morkola" starts, almost as if you're entering a funeral service, you begin to sense that these guys are going to do things differently. The album seems to be based on the headlines found in today's newspapers, there's a tone to this that is almost unsettling but that is a reflection of an unsettling world. It sounds more like a workshop than a group of musicians, think back to Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra where every sound and burst of energy turns into a specific statement, or helps stir up an emotion in you that is very much of the now. In other words, hearing this makes you feel as if they understand what's going on in the world's confusion, and if you had a way you'd join them in their workshop.

Newspeak says a lot without saying a word, it's one of those albums that would work perfectly live and I hope this album as a whole will be ranked up there with some of Charles Mingus' and Pharoah Sanders' classics.

Ears To The Ground and Newspeak are both available from

Image Hosted by Abi Tapia's The Beauty In The Ruin (Moonhouse) is the kind of album that would have been perfect if there was a Lilith Fair tour going on this summer. That's not an attempt to limit the potential of this album, in fact I think it's the kind of album that will sit and simmer and only become better in time, but it makes me wish the music industry was different, as it's an album that would have been huge 10 to 15 years ago. But perhaps that's what makes it stand out, the fact that this is a great album and Tapia may have to work four times as hard to get her music and message across.

I want to be proven wrong. Tapia's style of Americana is warm and inviting, as she tells stories about all that life has to offer from her view point. "How It All Started" is about the beginning of one's life, following high school graduation and looking at a car or bus as an opportunity to get out of town and find... something. "Sorry" has her singing about someone who may have done her wrong but knowing (or at least hoping) "that there's a heart beating in your chest/that you would tell the truth". Tapia could easily become a blues belter in the vein of Bonnie Raitt or a less threatening Paula Cole (or at least I don't think Tapia will be doing any beatbox routines anytime soon). Her music is very vivid, and maybe it's because I'm a fan of storytelling songs, I want to join the artist on that journey or at least meet them halfway. It's very accessible to the country and pop markets, and I hope this gets a bit more coverage so people will be able to not only find out about Tapia, but appreciate where she's coming from and where she's about to head in her life and career.

Image Hosted by Bart Davenport could take over the world of pop if people were willing to listen. Sometimes the best pop music has to be forced to a public who don't know better, or perhaps they should know better. Palaces (Antenna Farm) is proof of what can be and is better.

The songs here come from someone who knows not only his music inside and out, but other music, knowing all of the quirks and nuances and wanting to make it work... for him (ah). He reminds me a bit of a cross between Jack Johnson, Remy Shand, and Robbie Nevil, and some of the songs has him sounding like New Order vocalist Bernard Sumner. "Jon Jon", "When My Dream", and "Freeway Flowers" are the kind of music you'd like to hear while racing on the freeway on a cool summer evening... that is if gas wasn't $4.19 a gallon. There's a slight Athens, GA vibe to this, that carefree goodness that makes me want to hear more and see how Davenport develops his career. I look forward to the results.

Image Hosted by Calvin Richardson was one of many male soul vocalists who were striving for people's attention. Unfortunately, the major label grind got to a lot of people and those who deserved to be heard weren't. That left Richardson without a label home but he has brought his own label to the folks at Shanachie for an album that for the most part is quite good.

When Love Comes (Nu Mo/Shanachie) is 13 songs that most people should have in their libraries right now. Why this guy doesn't have a lot of respect, I don't know, because his voice is good and he is sure to move all the ladies in the right spots. He sings songs such as "Sexy Love", "Please You Baby", and "Holla At You", and he goes in to romance and doesn't go over the hill too much. But by saying "too much", that obviously leaves room for the negative side of the album. I know, there are only so many ways to say "I love you" but it hasn't stopped anyone from adding their own twist. Richardson does this, but what I can't stand from anyone is when they try to get too much into a cliche that they end up not being able to get out of. I don't want to know how modern or hip you think you are, just cut to the chase and sing, you know? Almost half of these songs are as trendy as Ray J., and unfortunately that's a bad thing. He knows how to honor the vocalists that came before him, but he falls into a rut when he sings about wanting "brain". C'mon now, that's as corny as Ray J's entire career.

If he can lay off the stereotypical drivel that has lowered the quality of soul music in the last ten years, he will be alright. He has a talent that shouldn't go to waste, but When Love Comes is not perfectly balanced. Maybe there are ladies who want to hear about the demands of brain, but I'd like to think that being subtle also helps.

Image Hosted by I was watching something on TV where they talked about why England has not had an MC that has blown up in the hip-hop world, and yet it seems the UK hip-hop community is stronger than ever. If someone like Roots Manuva can barely make a dent in the U.S., one wonders if Drapht has any chance. He's from Australia and has the kind of rhymes and music that should make people pay attention, and I hope fans are open enough to give Brothers Grimm (Obese) a chance.

What I like about the album is how Drapht keeps everything in line without ever going overboard, he sounds like the kind of guy who could go off because he knows that the skills he has is not to be messed with. Tracks like "Where Yah From", "Lost", and "A Good Year" each song like potential classics, and you can tell that his education comes from a lot of quality records from the past. At first, my immediate point of reference was Eminem and it has nothing to do with color of skin, but the way Drapht moves in and out of words, lines, and verses. He can speak to the hip-hop world at large, but some of it is very local and regional, not unlike Redman, and even in Australia he proves you can't escape from schemes and greed, as he describes in "The Money". Ruthlessness can be found anywhere, and he talks about hoping to maintain from going under.

My first reaction to the album as a whole was that his tone, somewhat sing-songy, was monotonous. It seemed to do the same thing in each song, but I had to metaphorically move back and think of some of my favorite rappers who many have called monotonous, including Rakim, whose lyrics I often recite like scripture. This allowed me to listen to Drapht's album in a different way and I was able to get a grip of things after a second and third listen. He's different from the few artists I've heard from down under, but I enjoy knowing that here's someone who doesn't want to sound like anyone else or be comfortable in being a part of the pack.

Image Hosted by I'm a bit familiar with Kenny Wheeler's work as I've heard his music and contributions to other albums over the years, and I was ready for this one too. Or I should say, I see the Kenny Wheeler name and I know that I'm going to hear some really good music. Other People is really good music, but it caught me by surprise because I didn't really look at the cover until the music started. It was then I noticed that it was Wheeler with the Hugo Wolf String Quartet, so the music was not as bold upon first listen, the immediate impact I thought would be there wouldn't happen until later in the first song.

The reason is because this is a classical album, which happens to be Wheeler's first voyage into this field. His trumpet work is as moving as anything he's ever done, but things are more reserved and, I don't know if the world is "calculated" but things are arranged down to the precise note, and most of it isn't played with the freedom Wheeler is known for. When he does break out, it sounds great and I know when I'm hearing "The Lucky Lady" or "Some Days Are better" I want to hear him just take off. But he doesn't, instead the listener has to wait for the next piece to develop to see/hear what happens.

It's a challenging listen, and as I've said in previous columns, I'm not well versed in classical music, I like what I hear but it doesn't go any deeper than the surface. What I do hear is something that works for Wheeler and everyone involved, it is those Other People that help him get his music across in this fashion, and he allows them to go their own way too.

Image Hosted by Fans of the saxophone may find a difficult time finding players that absolutely shine, but the great thing about being a fan of the sax is that there's that much more to enjoy. If you haven't done so already, you can add Todd Herbert to the mix.

The Tree Of Life (Metropolitan) sounds like the kind of jazz you want to mistakenly discover in the dark park of downtown at 3am, where things are eternal for a reason. Herbert is a guy who plays with the souls of those who came before him, playing with the kind of ferver that belongs to musicians who have been around for much longer.

With a band that features Jason Brown (drums), Anthony Wonsey (piano), and Dwayne Burno (bass), Herbert plays the kind of hard-bop you might expect to hear on Prestige or Blue Note in the early 1960's, when it seemed like everyone was on their toes just playing for the hell of it. "Do This" has the kind of jump groove that makes you want to head into a night club, find a beautiful woman, and dance the night away as the band dictate how you're going to move. His playing shows power but he never goes overboard or takes it easy, if anything he and the rest of the band don't make the time to take it easy. Even when it comes to a ballad there is a mission, nothing is ever put on automatic with these guys.

There is a classic feel to this album but it doesn't sound dated, which is due not only to Herbert, Brown, Wonsey,and Burno, but also to producer Stan Chovnick and engineer Lou Holtzman, who managed to capture these guys in the best way possible and in a unified manner so that it sounds like a group effort, even though you know Herbert is the leader. Good quality jazz continues to be made in the 21st century, look no further than this album for audio proof.

Image Hosted by Mary Fettig has been a musician for most of her life, always presenting herself in fine form, and on Brazilian Footprints (F Major) she gets to show her love of the samba and bossa nova through her work on the flute and saxophone.

The songs where she plays the flute are a bit like the work of the late Herbie Mann, where the approach is bright and lively and without stress. "Take The RR Train" should be getting a lot of smooth jazz radio airplay (if it isn't already), but it's not a song where you want to mistakenly doze off with, especially not with pianist Marcos Silva getting dressed up for the occasion with some great solos. Fettig travels throughout Brazil on this album and it's very much a fun voyage, one that involves a lot of strength, power, and of course soul. When the album reaches its final destination with "The Monster And The Flower", you almost don't want to board the plane home. You can sense the unity between Fettig and the musicians involved, and it almost sounds like a Carnival tribute of sorts, with the sun rising, setting, and rising again within a six minute duration.

While the album does feature vocals from Claudia Villella, I wasn't interested in hearing them (although her voice is nice). I preferred the instrumental work although the vocal tracks may help give the album a bit of airplay and exposure when needed. As a fan of percussion, this album is manic throughout and it feels like a cohesive album, one you'll want to here in completion a few times before picking and choosing personal favorites.

Image Hosted by Other than a nephew whom I love very much, I have not been fortunate to have children as a part of my life. But I am concerned about them and their future because the world seems a lot rougher than it was when I was his age. or maybe I've grown a hard shell that makes me see things in a bitter way. Nonetheless, there is optimism in the world if you look hard enough, and the Michael Jefry Stevens Quartet explore this idea with their new album, For The Children (Cadence Jazz).

While not a concept album, the front cover features photos of their children, and the songs themselves go back to when Stevens was younger, perhaps with a more optimistic look in life than he has now, but that doesn't stop him from looking back with fondness. The album is being released in 2008 but the songs were recorded in early 1995, but good music is good music regardless of the time. Stevens is one of those adventurous pianists that you have to take time to listen to in order to follow the beaten path he walks on. He plays with such intricacy that sometimes it's amazing that the band knows when and where to play. It's not a confusing barrage of sound by any means, but it seems Stevens is playing one way while the rest of the band (Jay Rosen on drums, Dominic Duval on bass, and David Schnitter on saxophone) are doing their own thing as a trio, and while that might sound like an "every man for himself" technique, take a deeper listen and you find that Stevens' way of playing compliments the band and they compliment him as well. Examples of this include "Henderson" and "Patato's Song", the latter written in honor of the late Cuban percussionist. The title track is more somber, and it's as if the musicians are playing in peace, or in a peaceful manner.

What I was also impressed with is the unspoken communication going on between Stevens and bassist Duval, it probably comes from them playing together for years and knowing how to benefit from one another. For The Children may not only be about tomorrow's children, but perhaps the children of jazz who will become the ones to take this music towards the next generation. With luck, they'll use this album as guidance.

  • On a self-promotional note, take a listen to the 72nd edition of my Book's Music podcast:

  • This, my friends is it, the end of #207. There's still more music ready for review and I will get to them within the next two columns.

  • If you have something you'd like for me to listen to and review, send me a message via my MySpace page and I'll pass along my contact information.

  • Summer is just around the corner up here in the Northern Hemisphere, not sure how much traveling you or any of us will be doing with gas prices as high as they are. If you are traveling this summer, stay safe. If you're going to explore the fantastic world of being local, check out some shows, bust out a Slip-N-Slide in a nightclub and see what happens.

    Anyway, I will return with an all new column next week.

  • Tuesday, June 10, 2008

    The Run-Off Groove #206

    Aloha, and welcome to the 206th edition of The Run-Off Groove. Slim Jim's? No, this has more value than corn-fed sticks of beef. We begin as we always do: with words.

  • For those of you who are new to The Run-Off Groove, let me explain what this is about. It is a music column where I review new music by anyone and everyone. It can be jazz, it can be hip-hop, it can be metal, punk, funk, Indian classical, country, whatever. You will find MP3's here, but if you're looking for hidden links, you will not find it. Each review is followed by a link to a website where you can purchase the music. I am a pro-format guy, and I want people to enjoy music in the best way possible, which in recorded form means vinyl or compact disc. I'm not stuck in the 80's so of course if there's a way to purchase their music legitimately, I will post a link to that. The best way to find more information about availability is to click to the artist's home page or MySpace page, which I will link to within my reviews as well. I want to share my reviews of the music I listen to, in the hopes you'll be moved to buy and support them as well. When there is a free MP3 available, download and take a listen. If you like it, buy it. If you want to hear more, maybe their MySpace features other tracks.

  • The Run-Off Groove is not a blog, it is a column. If you would like to see my music blog, you can find it here. But before you do that, there's a column to be read. Please do so right now. Thank you.

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    Image Hosted by New N*E*R*D can mean a good or bad thing, and I'm going to say it off the top, Seeing Sounds (Virgin) is a good thing. Pharrell Williams is arguably the focus of the group, only because he's the main guy rapping and singing and one might ask "is this Filipino fisherman hat-wearing Pharrell, or Billionaire Boys Club Pharrell?". Their first two albums were somewhat different in style and tone, with fans being split over which they preferred, but Seeing Sounds is the perfect balance of both, with a few new elements thrown in.

    I don't know what the perception of N*E*R*D is, are they the modern day innovators of hybrid music, making it possible for people of all persuasions to get into what they're doing? Some have said that while The Neptunes has always been hip-hop friendly, N*E*R*D is them plus Shay Haley trying to get some of that rock (read "white") dollar. How so? It's the idea that here's two black guys and a Filipino creating un-Neptunes-ish music, but what does that mean? Maybe in the end, like Linkin Park, it doesn't even matter-er-er-er er-er-er, because N*E*R*D is a bonafied success. Is their black music too white, and when they create alleged 'white music', is it too ethnic? Yes, these are the questions people ask and in the end it... yeah you know.

    So what's Seeing Sounds about? If anything, the group are up to their musical and lyrical antics again, Pharrell getting off on enticing and exciting his listeners with snappy lines and a cockiness that has always been his trademark. In other words, "you're listening to me, I'll give you what I think you need" and that comes off in tracks like "Windows", "Anti-Matter", and "Sooner Or Later". The success of "Maybe" has lead to a number of similar ballads for the ladies, so after two bangers or so you get Pharrell oozing and schoomzing it up, yet you can tell he doesn't take himself too seriously. There's still that "how ya like me now?" attitude in N*E*R*D's music, but sometimes the gangsta limp is acknowledged and you can feel it. On the production side, Pharrell and Chad Hugo have upped their game quite a bit. One might mistake this for an album from the mid-90's with all of its excursions into drum-n-bass and jungle beats. A few may feel it's dated but I think it's their way of saying that the sped-up sample production style of Kanye West (who they'll be opening up for this summer) is nothing new. It sounds like the group are using more samples, but to my ears it sounds like they're simply sampling their own musicianship, as they always have. The drum programming is incredibly tight, they'll drop in a sweet ballad in the middle of a barrage of lunatic beats and yet comes off sounding like N*E*R*D. "Yeah You" should be a candidate for a single (complete with a vocal nod sounding eerily similar to Cee-Lo, and the album's best song, "Love Bomb", could become the song of the year with its addictive chorus We need a love bomb/to just blow us away/to fricken blow the lights out/turn the night to day/run from miles away/just to make it right now/fuck what the government says/we gotta save some life now/is that okay?, and the Mexican horns put this song over the edge at the right moment. It's a song about the world as we're living it, how we're in a Truman's World reality and there needs to be a break from everything in order to find a sense of who we are.

    There are messages here, but you'll have to take a deep listen to discover them. Pharrell, Chad, and Shay have never been afraid to speak their mind in their music, and Seeing Sounds is the visions explored in audio form. On the surface it's a very entertaining album with a lot of funky grooves, dancable tracks, tentative hip-hop jams, and ballads, with every song creating a nice balance that will make old fans happy and new fans want to discover their back catalog.

    (Seeing Sounds is available from CD Universe.)

    Image Hosted by Hussein Boon is a guitarist who is all about being smooth and in total control of his playing and his music. On Life Changes (Brown Baby) he plays over a soundscape that sounds like a mixture of the best elements of Santana (circa 1978's Marathon album), Pat Metheny, and even Jazzanova. In fact, if Jazzanova were ever in need of a live guitarist for future tours, I would highly suggest bringing Boon on.

    The album is very laid back with the kind of pace that never gets too complex or "out there", it would be the perfect Sunday morning album for me. "Ascension" sounds like one is about to go into prayer, whether it's contemplating life, heading into the ocean to surf a wave, or to kiss a woman for the first time. "Life Changes" has the same kind of strut that Steely Dan's "Home At Last" has, with the Bernard Purdie-styled shuffle guiding Boon along with his finger playing style. I also like how he lets the music drop for a moment, and slowly the rest of the sounds come in to join him for a chorus. "Night Train" begins with a slight Asian-motif (at least to my ears) before getting cool, calm, and collected in a very breeze performance. His playing is laid back and never extravagant, but it's very distinct too. Some of the familiarity comes in through the arrangements in these songs, sounding a bit old school but Boon's guitar playing and tone he gets out of the instrument makes you want to hear what he is able to do within territory that some may feel is very close to home.

    Life Changes is an album perfect for a romantic occasion, a way to get ready to hit the jazz clubs, and as the backdrop to surf films. There are times when a musician will want to play over an electronic backdrop and end up sounding like a mess, there's nothing like that here. The instrumentals compliment his playing but they also stand out on their own, which is why I made the Jazzanova comparison. All of the beats could easily have moved into unique directions but they stayed within reason, similar to Boon's own approach. He seems like a musician who wants to explore his own boundaries, and I hope he will be able to in future albums and any collaborations that come his way.

    (Life Changes is available digitally through Brown Baby Records and will be released on CD later this year.)

    Image Hosted by Want a bit of country and Americana in your life? Safe to say that in these troubled times, it never hurts to go back to the roots of how a lot of us first heard music, or first began to appreciate music for more than what we heard on the radio, and Anna Laube is someone who isn't a throwback but merely a continuation of what's good about acoustic music, without the trademarked "Unplugged" moniker. Down home music is what this is, and Outta My Head (Ginkgo) sounds like a bit of what Norah Jones has done as of late but with a bit more Dixie Chicks-style grit. What I like about Laube is not only her playing (she's credited with playing guitars, piano, keyboard, and a shaker) but also the fearlessness of her voice as she sings about loving, longing, hoping, and simply taking in the world she sees. She is a storyteller that speaks from the heart and soul about the mysteries of life, something that can be shared universally. In a song like "Something I Can Feel" she speaks about not knowing someone but knowing that she will because there's something inside that tells her that perhaps that person is someone worth holding on to. She creates the kind of music that is very accessible, but not too much to where Celine Dion might want to sit in and do some human beat boxing. It's the kind of music one might find on the last road on the last town in one's journey, where you're holding on to nothing but the hope of comfort. Laube is the audio comfort you've been looking for.

    (Outta My Head is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by From Bubblegum To Sky is a one-man project, and that man is Mario Hernandez. A Soft Kill (Eenie Meenie) is a sugar-coated pure pop album for pure pop music fans, the kind of guilty pleasure that will make you gitty because you know you can take the sweetness. Hernandez has a nasally voice that might sound good in other genres (and perhaps perfect for others). I remember hearing similar artists on Beavis & Butt-Head where they would both make fun of them, and perhaps at first listen it sounds funny but this guy makes some fairly good songs with such titles as "Captain Tennille", "Flies On A Jet Plane", "Say Goodbye", and the soon-to-be-great "I Always Fall Apart".

    I don't know how different these songs would sound with a woman singing them instead of Hernandez but when this album gains a cult following in 20 years we'll find out when "The Flash" is used for a digital camera commercial. That is, if there are still TV's.

    A Soft Kill is available on vinyl and CD directly from Eenie Meenie Records.)

    Image Hosted by Tilly And The Wall rock, can I say that right now? They play pop where things can be sweet and wholesome while other times they'll turn the guitars up and kick your shin guards. Their third album doesn't have a proper title but you can call it simply O (Team Love) since the album will be packaged in an oval-shaped case.

    As for the music, Tilly And The wall are the kind of band you want to see live because they provide the kind of energy that will make you want to jump and raise your fist, new anthems for a new generation. A song like "Pot Kettle Black" rocks but is also sexy when they cat catty and call other women sluts and ho's. "Cacophony" doesn't quite sound like it's title but the lyrics talk about how these modern times just aren't right. This song sounds like something buy The Breeders if they overdosed on The Who's Tommy album. The group are very clever in an XTC sort of way but never go too far to where they come off "too smart", but that isn't to say that they're trying to play dumb. In other words, the group are more than capable of creating their own indie pop rock opera but are too busy having fun with their cool and intense pop ditties, most of which never go past the three minute mark (only one song, "Chandelier Lake", clocks in at a meaty 4:16). It's interesting to hear a group perform and write as a group, so while you hear a wide range of topics thrown into the ring, it still has a very cohesive sound. Very fancy, very fancy indeed.

    (O. is available directly from Team Love.)

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    Explorations (Big Bang) is the latest effort from the David Leonhardt Trio, with Leonhardt's piano work as remarkable as ever. Along with drummer Alvester Garnett and bassist Matthew Parrish, the album is trio jazz in its finest form, with "Whispers Of Contentment/Shouts Of Joys" being the perfect way to welcome the listener in as Leonhardt and Parrish both get to solo while Garnett remains the anchor throughout. Leonhardt's playing is so fluid that you want to listen to him for much longer than the CD provides, and Garnett has a groove about him that is undeniable, he knows how to do the fills and gets into every nook and cranny but without ever playing too much like Elvin Jones or an Art Blakey. Parrish warms up each song beautifully, whether it's straight up jazz or a blues number like "Late Night Blues", where you can imagine a woman coming into the room with nothing on but a smile.

    Explorations explores not only Leonhardt's material, but a diverse range of material chosen to cover, such as Elton John's "Your Song", The Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (a nice performance, especially since the guitar is absent), Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love", and James Taylor's "Fire And Rain", all done with respect to the originals. At times these musicians give the songs a fresh of fresh air, especially the AM-worn "Fire And Rain", proving that a good song is still a good song that just needs the cobwebs cleaned from its crevices. Leonhardt's own "Winter Waltz" would make Dave Brubeck smile as it has the kind of feel the jazz maestro is known for, with the brightness and feel that fans have come to know and love

    What also makes it work is that the album was engineered by Parrish and produced by Leonhardt, so you're truly hearing a jazz album from the ground up, as meant to be heard by the musicians.

    (Explorations is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by I'm a huge fan of Latin jazz, especially the music that comes out of Brazil. There's just a different state of mind down there, a unique form of intensity that can and will blow you away no matter what and the Brazilian Trio of Dudka da Fonseca, Helio Alves and Nilson Matta do just that on Forests (Zoho.)

    Only one song is less than five minutes long (the 3:40 "Flying Over Rio"), so what you hear from these gentleman is musicianship at its very best. "Samba Alegre" could easily go on for another 7 minutes as they sound as if they're parading around each other and making the music speak, or at least making their visions and thoughts audible through their fantastic playing, one could imagine Gato Barbieri stepping into the studio and taking things on to a new level of things. There's a moment where Alves sounds like he's playing a completely different song but returns to his solo about 30 seconds later before touching on the theme. Da Fonseca's playing will delight any fan of the drums, especially Brazilian drumming, it sounds like he's a well-versed painter with all of the right strokes. Matta's bass work is very impressive too, I love it how in "Pro Zeca" he will play along with the band and then mimic some of Alves' playing for a few chords, only to return to where he left off before. This trio reminds me a bit of the spontaneity of Ahmad Jamal, where you can hear the freedom. Freedom sounds damn good from here.

    My only complain is that a few of these songs fade to silence, and I would have preferred to have heard them end to its proper conclusion. Other than that, Forests is a brilliant recording, jazz or otherwise.

    (Forests is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by Michaela Rabitsch and Robert Pawlik are a couple who create music together, and on Moods (Extraplatte) they show how good it can be to live, love, and jam together.

    The entire album are original compositions either written by them individually or as a team, with Pawlik playing some mighty fine jazz guitar while Rabitsch balances things between singing and playing the trumpet. She is very good at both, although with this German-born singer it seems the emphasis of her English lyrics isn't always at the right spots. It's not a mess by any means, but you can tell English is not her native language. But when she plays the trumpet, language doesn't matter.

    I also like they incorporate a number of Latin and African influences into their music, always acknowledging the roots of their love and where it has traveled over the years. Pawlik is generally reserved in his guitar work but I could easy see him getting more into his playing in a live setting, I would like to hear that more in their studio work. Overall, not a bad album at all.

    (Moods is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by Like any instrument played in jazz, the one chosen will lead to its own world. Trombonists are in their own world, but the best know they are because of the years they spent perfecting their craft. Michael Dease is one of those musicians who brings a lot to his music, allowing the world to hear his talents, which he shares on Clarity (Blues Back).

    Throughout the album he plays at the top of his game, doing it with the same type of class not unlike James Pankow or Steve Turre. "Relentless" has him forming an aura for the rest of the album, and when he incorporates the other musicians (including pianist Kris Bowers) into the mix, before they blend together until they reach the theme, it's a defining moment that helps guide the listener to what the rest of the album may be like. "You Dig" is a mid-tempo groover that sounds like the attitude of a mack in a big city, and all of the musicians (Dease and Bowers plus Brandon Lee (trumpet), Kenneth Salters (drums), Sharel Cassity (alto saxophone), Matthew Heredia (bass)) sound like they're all in it together. They don't play competitively, it's not a race to the finish, but they all respect the leader of these sessions by making sure their actions bring them all to the end in one peace. When Cassity plays her solo, she brings her flavor into the mix and helps bring her style to the forefront, but she also knows she's a link to the music, the song, and the other musicians carrying each other forward. It's a nice lead in to "Believe", slowing things down a bit but still as intense as the songs before it.

    Dease is very much about the name of his album, playing with clarity and without pain or strain. It's a joy to listen to this and hear him backed by incredible musicians who help bring his music to life (9 of the 10 songs here are Dease originals). Clarity definitely has the feel of a quality jazz album of the past, and of course jazz at its best is timeless so this is an album I hope will inspire musicians to play at their best.

    (Clarity is available from CDBaby.)

    Image Hosted by Simon Star says his music is inspired by "nu-jazz, sexy house, and electronic dance". He is a drummer who was out of playing and creating music for years, but the power of percussion brought him back and he has unveiled his debut album.

    Blue Lights To Saturn is definitely nu-jazz with a bit of new age to it, so it's laid back and relaxing without it being mind numbingly boring. Even though the guy is a drummer, some of his programming leaves a lot to be desired, and perhaps that has to do with whatever technology he's using to create it. That's the only drawback, to hear an album created by a drummer where the drumming sounds too much like a robot. I like the music but it becomes too repetitive too fast, and that's not a good thing. I hope he tightens things next time and gets more familiar with the equipment he is using.

    (Blue Lights To Saturn is available from CDBaby.)

  • That is it for this week's installment of The Run-Off Groove. If you made it to the end, I want to thank you for taking time to read my column, and I also want to apologize for not having a column last week. There's a move on the horizon, so I may miss another week or so but I will get back on track immediately.

  • If you have music, DVD's, or books you'd like for me to review, send me a message through my MySpace page and I'll pass along my contact information.
  • SOME STUFFS: Daptone take on the holy ghost with new album

    Image Hosted by A label known for its soul, funk, and Afro-rhythms will have to eventually take it back to the church, where much of these styles originated. The guys at Daptone Records went looking for gospel and they found themselves in the South with singers and musicians who were more than willing to share their faith and spirituality in song. I can't imagine how difficult it was to edit these performance to create an "ideal album" but that's just what they did in what will be known as Como Now: The Voices of Panola County, MS, to be released on August 19th.

    The album (which I'll have a review of next week) features hints of the past with the passion of the people living today. Even if, like me, you are not of the faith, one cannot help but admire their devotion and be moved by the power they convey through their music. Here is the confirmed track listing:

    * 1. When the gates swing open - Mary Moore
    * 2. It's Alright - The John Edwards Singers
    * 3. Can See So Much - Brother and Sister Walker
    * 4. Jesus Builds a Fence Around Me - Della Daniels and Ester Mae Smith
    * 5. Trouble In My Way - Como Mamas Featuring Mary Moore
    * 6. If It Had Not Been for Jesus - Irene Stevenson
    * 7. What Would I Do - Brother and Sister Walker
    * 8. New Burying Ground - The John Edwards Singers
    * 9. God's Unchanging Hand - Como Mamas featuring Mary Moore
    * 10. I Can't Afford to Let my Saviour Down - Rev. Robert Walker
    * 11. Talk with Jesus - The Jones Sisters
    * 12. Lil' Old Church House - Irene Stevenson
    * 13. Send Me I'll Go - Como Mamas featuring Mary Moore
    * 14. Help Me to Carry On - Brother and Sister Walker
    * 15. Move Upstairs - Della Daniels and Ester Mae Smith
    * 16. Somebody Here Needs You Lord - Mary Moore

    The singing and musicians are all brothers, sisters, cousins, fathers, mothers, and friends, a tradition that continues even though the pop mainstream tells you that "the best" groups are manufactured and put together by record label CEO's. If you take a listen to a wide range of country, blues, and gospel compilations featuring recordings from the first half of the 20th century, it was families and regions that gave everyone a distinct sound, with harmonies you would not find in the next town three miles away. But these recordings are not taken from old 78's, this is a modern day album. If you're not moved by that fact alone, prepare to be.

    SOME STUFFS: Sebadoh gets the Deluxe treatment, courtesy of Sub Pop

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    One of the greatest bands of the last 20 years will have one of their albums get the Deluxe Edition treatment. I speak of Sebadoh and their album Bubble and Scrape, originally released in 1993 with a number of good reviews. An album considered to be one of their best would result in the split of the group, but fans maintained their devotion to them and their music.

    The Deluxe Edition will have the original 17-track album released as is, with a second disc dedicated to 15 previously unreleased material. Here is a track listing for disc 2:

    18. Reject
    19. Sister
    20. Bouquet For a Siren
    21. Emma Get Wild
    22. Flood / Ken
    23. Messin' Around
    24. Visibly Wasted II
    25. You Are Going Down
    26. Old Daze
    27. Part 1 - Lou
    28. Part 2 - Eric
    29. Part 3 - Eric
    30. Part 4 - Jason
    31. Happily Divided
    32. Soul and Fire(Acoustic Demo) (free MP3 download)

    The new edition of Bubble And Scrape will be released on July 8th by Domino via Sub Pop, followed by a performance of the full album at this year's Pitchfork Festival in Chicago on July 18th.

    SOME STUFFS: DJ A-Trak runs for the money

    Image Hosted by DJ A-Trak has been extremely busy in the last few years, the hard work and determination has paid off for him. Now he's about to release a full length album with the help of Nike.

    The album is called Running Man: Nike+ Original Run and is being released on June 24th as part of the Nike+ Original Run Series. For those who haven't heard what A-Trak has done lately, he's moved away a bit from his hip-hop core and has experimented with a bit of electro. As is the case with anyone influenced by hip-hop, his core can still be heard within the music, but he's just messing around with the potential of what he can do. With luck, he will not pose in pools like DJ Skribble but you never know what A-Trak will do next.

    SOME STUFFS: Jay Reatard compiles 7" series for deluxe CD/DVD package

    Image Hosted by Fans of Jay Reatard will want to be on the lookout for Singles 06-07, a new compilation gathering a number of 7" singles Reatard put out in limited edition form. On top of that, expect a second compilation to be released later this year featuring singles released in his current 7" series on Matador Records. Want more? He'll have an album of all-new material due out in 2009.

    Until then, see where he will be playing next:

    Sun July 6 Roskilde Festival, Roskilde, Denmark (with Slayer, Judas Priest, Neil Young)
    Mon July 14 Philadelphia Johnny Brendas
    Tue July 15 Brooklyn Prospect Park Bandshell (with Spoon)
    Thu July 17 Providence Lupo's (with Spoon)
    Sat July 19 Chicago Pitchfork Music Festival (with King Khan & The Shrines, Times New Viking, Dinosaur Jr.)
    Sun July 20 Minneapolis Triple Rock (with Cheap Time)
    Mon July 21 Fargo The Aquarium (with Cheap Time)
    Thu July 24 Seattle Capitol Hill Block Party (with Le Savy Fav)
    Fri July 25 Vancouver Commodore Ballroom (with Le Savy Fav)
    Sat July 26 Portland Doug Fir (with Cheap Time)
    Mon July 28 San Francisco The Independent (with Cheap Time)
    Wed July 30 Los Angeles The Echo (with Cheap Time)
    Thu July 31 San Diego The Casbah (with Cheap Time)
    Fri Aug 1 Mesa AZ Hollywood Alley (with Cheap Time)
    Sun Aug 3 Austin Red 7 (with Cheap Time)
    Mon Aug 4 Dallas Club Dada (with Cheap Time)

    SOME STUFFS: Snoop Dogg get animated on new DVD

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    Snoop Dogg has done a lot and he deserves the right to be called uncle. Now he can call himself "animated", which is what he is in The Adventures of The Blue Carpet Treatment, a full length cartoon that will be released on DVD on June 24th. You can pre-order a copy here, but to get a feel for what it's about, check out this trailer.

    SOME STUFFS: Peter von Poehl American debut is released today (June 10th)

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    Going To Where The Tea Trees Are is an album you may be hearing a lot about this summer, and you will no doubt be hearing a lot about its creator, Peter von Poehl.

    The album was released today on the Bella Union label, and von Poehl has been compared to everyone from Air to Sebastien Tellier and José González, and with those comparisons come the claims of him being the new pop "wunderkind". He has gained a buzz in Europe, and it's time to see if that buzz will catch on in North America.

    You can now sample his work by downloading this free MP3, an alternate version of "A Broken Skeleton Key".