Friday, April 11, 2014

Michael Feinberg's Humblebrag

I get the occasional cd in the mail for review.  This is a very good thing for me.  Otherwise I probably wouldn’t have heard bassist Michael Feinberg's Humblebrag Live at 800 East.  As it is, I have been listening to it over and over.  It is proof that jazz is still generating great art. 
Featuring Drum Master Terreon Gulley along with Rising Stars, Including Trumpeter Billy Buss, Saxophonist Godwin Louis, and Pianist Julian Shore
Let me tell you: all these guys could have dropped into any classical jazz album and made his mark.  The interplay between the sax and trumpet is exquisite.  The brilliance of a combo is the brilliance of its leader.  When one horn cuts in and it seems like good news suddenly announced, that is the leader as much as the horn. 
Jazz is rooted in the blues.  The blues is essentially and alchemy by which the saddest passions are transmuted into ever present beauty.  There is all that in Live at 800 East, but there is more of the resultant joy that comes from taking all of life in.  
I am playing the title cut and ‘Puncher’s Chance’ on my Live365 station.  Listen for them and buy this disc.  You won’t be sorry you read this blog. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Out To Launch 50 Years Later

February 25th marks fifty years since the recording of Eric Dolphy’s most famous recording, Out to Lunch.  Kevin Whitehead has a glowing and penetrating tribute to the document at eMusic.  I have scarcely anything to add except this: the first time I listened to the album it weirded me out.  This is the thing that jazz, and especially avant garde jazz, does.  It puts the soul off balance, leaving one to grasp at the nearest hand hold. 
We all like music that we can fall into, the way one falls into a warm bed or a glass of single malt scotch.  Fundamental music has almost the opposite effect, at least at first.  It tilts us out of bed.  If you have a taste for that, you will never be bored. 
In Out to Lunch, everyone seems to be twisting out of their skins.  Dolphy plays alto sax, flute, and bass clarinet.  Richard Davis plays bass, Freddie Hubbard trumpet, and Bobbie Hutcherson vibes.  Tony Williams is on drums.  There is a lot of voodoo spirit in that lineup. 
This is one essential recording for your library.  It will keep you on the path.  I am playing the title cut and ‘Something Sweet, Something Tender’. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Lauren Kinhan Circle in a Square

When I was a kid my parents bought a cabinet stereo: wood panel and big, copper arm over the record.  Neither of them used it much, if ever.  I got their money’s worth.  I listened to the Thunder Ball sound track from the James Bond movie till the groves wore out.  I listened to the Beatles and Barbara Streisand.  I didn’t listen to jazz, because I didn’t know it existed.  I loved the music but I also loved the big album covers. 
Lauren Kinhan has an album that arouses my memories of those early stereo days.  The artwork clearly sets the atmosphere.  Early sixties.  Hi-Fidelity.  Her luscious, velvet voice is a good place to rest your weary head.  I don’t listen to a lot of vocal jazz, but I keep coming back to this one.  The band behind her is brilliant. 
Part of what makes Circle in a Square so revelatory is that it provides a rare 360-degree glimpse into Kinhan’s musical world. She wrote all the lyrics and almost all the music for every piece, and shaped each arrangement working with her core rhythm section of pianist/keyboardist Andy Ezrin and drummer Ben Wittman (the well-traveled Will Lee and David Finck divide bass duties). The steady personnel provides a cohesive feel throughout the album, while an all-star gallery of special guests contributes instrumental commentary and eloquent solos, such as Brazilian guitar great Romero Lubambo’s perfectly sculpted acoustic passage on the intricate, lyric-less “Chasing the Sun” and trumpet maestro Randy Brecker’s melodically charged passage on the title track.
This is page two jazz: improvisation is strictly on the margins.  The melody and narrative are all on stage.  You need to keep coming back to this to get the whole point of jazz.  Lauren Kinhan is someone to come back to.