CD

Compact Disc

Dylan Different

14 Jan 2016
Ben Sidran
CD
Nardis

This album from 2009 is a tribute to a poet and his lyrics. Ben Sidran has taken Dylan's words and recreated them in an original, unique and exquisite fashion. Sidran refreshes Dylan, who by now is an icon to a generation, and his large band of co conspirators breathe originality and life in to his mesmerising lyrics on a scale that allows the album to be considered an original.

The sound is best described as Steely Dan meets avant-garde with Mose Alison joining in, it is soulful, jazzy, poppy and almost entirely addictive. I own a large number of Dylan covers and IMHO his versions of ‘You've Got To Serve Somebody’, ‘Maggie's Farm’, ‘Subterranean Blues’ and ‘Rainy Day Woman’ are simply beyond comparison, they make the Bob more Bob and add a lot more Dylan to the Dylan in the process.

The album is the brainchild of Ben Sidran, an American artist who has released 35 albums, fusing jazz, pop, rock and blues. His early days included time with the Steve Miller Band and contributions to albums by the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison and Rickie Lee Jones among others. He is a song writer, musician and producer who plays keyboards and has a voice and singing style that will remind some of Donald Fagen. There is another recognisable voice on Dylan Different, that of Georgie Fame who collaborates with Sidran on one of the tracks. The album like many others was recorded and produced by Sidran’s son Leo.

This mostly happy-clappy-funky-jazzy-funny and witty musical treat is generated by a sizable band made of supremely talented musicians, they are: Rodolphe Burger, guitar, vocals,  Jorge Drexler, vocals; Georgie Fame, organ, vocals; Amy Helm, vocals; Marcello Giuliani, bass; Alberto Malo, drums; Mike Leonhart, trumpet;  Bob Malach, saxophone, and Leonor Watling, vocals. The recording is very good, the bass is fast the sound is warm and the joy is spread all across the frequency band. Best track award goes to ‘Maggie's Farm’ followed closely by ‘Subterranean Blues’.

Reuben Klein

Formats also available: 
MP3 download

Altamira

12 Oct 2015
Darts & Arrows
CD
ears&eyes Records

On Altamira Darts & Arrows have a unique sound, it’s something like Frank Zappa playing with Fairport Convention. It is prog with a post punk edge. There is a touch of John Scofield here and there and a bit of a Santana, but it always sounds fresh and original. Even if the atmosphere is murky with deliberate distortions and effects that form a musical fog around the instruments. The opener ‘Evergreen’ is not an easy number to start with, I was in the midst of sending a rant to the person who provided the review sample when I changed my mind and became transfixed by the music.

The band consists of musicians that don’t seem to be able to decide whether they are prog rockers or jazznicks with an attitude, they are: Bill MacKay - guitar, Ben Boye - keys, Kyle Hernandez – bass and Quin Kirchner - drums. Their site describes them as: "One of the most promising bands on Chicago's experimental rock and new music scene in recent years. Calling Altamira the quartet's most fully realized effort, retaining the edgy vitality of their improvised work while painting beautifully textured sonic pictures on a series of through-composed pieces."

The sound is very compressed but as the music is often accompanied by distortion effects it hardly matters. Either way it has an original something that makes such considerations almost unimportant. To my ears the quietest track ‘Carried There & Ponytailed’, with its long eerie Pink Floyd'ish themes, was by far the most evocative and special of the lot. This is an album that the brave few who get through the first three minutes of the first track will remember for years to come. The album is worth discovering and fans of Zappa, Medeski Martin & Wood, John Scofield and Shakti should form a line this way please. Turn on, tune in, and raise the volume.

Reuben Klein

Formats also available: 
FLAC download

1970 – 1975 You Can Make Me Dance, Sing Or Anything…

5 Oct 2015
Faces
CD
Warner Bros

This attractively presented five disc box set gathers the entire studio output of the band created when the Small Faces’s Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan and Kenney Jones joined forces with Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood (ex Jeff Beck Band) in 1969 to form one of the greatest rock and roll bands of its era. Released as the Small Faces in the US the Faces debut’s title First Step is a reference to the Bluesbreakers pastiche cover showing Ron Wood reading First Step Guitar rather than Eric Clapton’s Beano. It’s a stonking album that kicks of with Dylan’s ‘Wicked Messenger’ and introduces the tight but loose style that made their name. There is a strong rock element that culminates in the Zeppelin esque ‘Around The Plynth’ before the high point ‘Flying’, with Jones’s powerhouse drumming revealing why he was a natural replacement for Keith Moon in the Who a few years later. Among the extra’s the previously unreleased ‘Mona - The Blues (Outtake)’ instrumental has some great slide guitar and classic McLaglan piano, pub rock at its finest.

Longplayer from ’71 has a broader mix of styles with ballads, rocking live tracks and a more mature approach to songwriting. The blues are still a major influence but the presence of a ‘Jerusalem’ on acoustic guitar indicates an appreciation of their roots. Rod’s renderings of ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ and the ‘Sweet Lady Mary’ are stand outs, and ‘On The Beach’ could have come from a Stones album of the period. Bonus tracks include the chaotic ‘Whole Lotta Woman (Outtake)’ cheekily credited to M. Rainwater and ‘Too Much Woman (Live)’ an excellent blues followed by ‘Love In Vain (Live)’, which sounds great in all respects.

The Faces peaked in 1971, as much is obvious from Nod Is As Good As A Wink… To A Blind Horse, it contains some of Stewart’s greatest work in ‘Stay With Me’ and ‘Miss Judy’s Farm’. The former is also as riff tastic as you could want with doubled guitar lines over the solid yet shambolic backing of Jones and Lane. It’s the latter ‘Debris’ that stands out as the best song in a spectacular set, it lacks Stewart’s belting and has a poignancy that sets it apart from the rambunctiousness elsewhere. If Stewart was the band’s ego Lane was its heart, that much is plain.

Having released his solo debut in 1969 Stewart’s career had overtaken that of the group by 1973 when they recorded Ooh La La, so it was difficult to get him in the studio by all accounts. Nonetheless it includes their finest song in the title track, a Wood/Lane composition that find’s Stewart singing of regret against a peerless acoustic backing. The fifth disc in this set adds to the array of outtakes, session tracks and alternate takes found on each of the albums with singles, B sides and rarities. It fills out what is a comprehensive collection of the short lived glory that was the Faces and serves to remind us that there was more to the band than Rod Stewart.

Jason Kennedy

Track Listing:
 
THE FIRST STEP
1.      “Wicked Messenger”
2.      “Devotion”
3.      “Shake, Shudder, Shiver”
4.      “Stone”
5.      “Around The Plynth”
6.      “Flying”
7.      “Pineapple And The Monkey”
8.      “Nobody Knows”
9.      “Looking Out The Window”
10.   “Three Button Hand Me Down”
11.   “Behind The Sun” (Outtake) *
12.   “Mona - The Blues” (Outtake) *
13.   “Shake, Shudder, Shiver” (BBC Session) *
14.   “Flying” (Take 3) *
15.   “Nobody Knows” (Take 2) *
 
LONG PLAYER
1.      “Bad ‘n’ Ruin”
2.      “Tell Everyone”
3.      “Sweet Lady Mary”
4.      “Richmond”
5.      “Maybe I’m Amazed”
6.      “Had Me A Real Good Time”
7.      “On The Beach”
8.      “I Feel So Good”
9.      “Jerusalem”
10.   “Whole Lotta Woman” (Outtake) *
11.   “Tell Everyone” (Take 1) *
12.   “Sham-Mozzal” (Instrumental - Outtake) *
13.   “Too Much Woman” (Live) *
14.   “Love In Vain” (Live) *

 
A NOD IS AS GOOD AS A WINK…TO A BLIND HORSE
1.    “Miss Judy’s Farm”
2.    “You’re So Rude”
3.    “Love Lives Here”
4.    “Last Orders Please”
5.    “Stay With Me”
6.    “Debris”
7.    “Memphis”
8.    “Too Bad”
9.    “That’s All You Need”
10. “Miss Judy’s Farm” (BBC Session) *
11. “Stay With Me” (BBC Session) *
 
OOH LA LA
1.    “Silicone Grown”
2.    “Cindy Incidentally”
3.    “Flags And Banners”
4.    “My Fault”
5.    “Borstal Boys”
6.    “Fly In The Ointment”
7.    “If I’m On The Late Side”
8.    “Glad And Sorry”
9.    “Just Another Honky”
10. “Ooh La La”
11. “Cindy Incidentally” (BBC Session) *
12. “Borstal Boys” (Rehearsal) *
13. “Silicone Grown” (Rehearsal) *
14. “Glad And Sorry” (Rehearsal) *
15. “Jealous Guy” (Live) *
 
BONUS LP
1.    “Pool Hall Richard”
2.    “I Wish It Would Rain” (With A Trumpet)
3.    “Rear Wheel Skid”
4.    “Maybe I’m Amazed”w
5.    “Oh Lord I’m Browned Off”
6.    “You Can Make Me Dance, Sing Or Anything (Even Take The Dog For A Walk, Mend A Fuse, Fold Away The Ironing Board, Or Any Other Domestic Short Comings)” (UK Single Version)
7.    “As Long As You Tell Him”
8.    “Skewiff (Mend The Fuse)”
9.    “Dishevelment Blues”
 
* previously unreleased
 

Formats also available: 
vinyl

Rising Son

4 Aug 2015
Takuya Kuroda
CD
Blue Note

Born in Kobe, Japan trumpet player and leader Takuya Kuroda picked an ensemble of brilliant musicians to make Rising Son.  Kuroda is the Trumpeter Medeski, Martin and Woods should have included in their line up. Blue Note's Rising Son is the fourth he has been Kuroda involved in. It comprises a sophisticated and refined set of enticing tunes that turn from heavy jazz funk into something African, and hip hop and many other styles. Innovative rhythms are the main forté of the mighty talented quintet and the many musical collaborators and partners who helped to make the album. They include Kris Bowers (keyboards), Solomon Dorsey (bass), Corey King (trombone) and Nate Smith (drums). They produce a confident, creative and original sound that is essentially an amalgam of hip hop and jazz.

Kuroda's trumpet pays homage to the jazz of the seventies while evoking the sound of the fifties. He is as much a Freddie Hubbard as a Lee Morgan. Kuroda has had an interesting musical voyage, his trombone playing brother was his inspiration and he followed him into playing with a big band. When he finished his music studies in Japan he migrated to Boston where his career took off. On this his second album as leader Kuroda makes a statement about the future of jazz at the same time as paying homage to its past. More importantly this album does something that few others can, it makes the cerebral sound emotional and spontaneous, it makes the well practiced sounds like a variation on a theme.

The piece that makes this most obvious is a homage to Roy Ayres' ‘Everybody Loves The Sunshine’ that is punctuated throughout by brilliant musicianship, the result is one of the most incredibly funky tracks I have heard in a very long time. It is hip hop based but still jazz.  This is African drumming playing soul music. It is the best ever CTI album that was never made and it is a delight to listen to for the 10th time. From the first note to the last it is one of the most refreshing and exuberant albums of recent times. Even the quality of the recording which sadly is somewhere between lamentable and average can't put a dent in my enthusiasm. It’s very hard to place a one track above the rest but this is certainly one the best albums I have heard this year.

Reuben Klein

Formats also available: 
MP3 download

v2.0

17 Jun 2015
Go Go Penguin
CD
Gondwana Records

This album owes much to dear old Bach yet is funky, rocking, indy and many things besides. It is the most delightful album I have heard this year. And I have heard some notable and unique releases. Another compelling reason to love this album is that it has some of the meatiest, tightest bass lines that have been etched into the pits and lands of a CD.

V2.0 can be described as a set of organised musical explosions that are contemporary in style yet played on traditional instrumes, it is also lovely to hear at high volume. The sound is a musical amalgam that can only be described as very, very cool. There is something contagiously energetic and engaging about it, it is a northern European instrumental mish mash with influences that include flamenco, jazz, modern rock, and lots that can't be described (electronica perhaps, Ed), but is ultimately very pleasing to the ears.

The recording a is a marvel, the double bass line alone is a good enough reason to purchase it. The people that make up this oddly name band are three Mancunians: Chris Illingworth (piano) Nick Blacka (bass) and Rob Turner (drums). The next time they play London I will be there to see if they can do this live, but for now they look highly likely to be one of the last two candidates for my albums of the year. Don't waste a minute, listen to their music or miss one of the best bands out there.

Reuben’s stand out track: The Letter, Editor’s choice: To Drown In You

Reuben Klein

Formats also available: 
vinyl, DL

World of Pixinguinha

8 Jun 2015
Hamilton de Holanda
CD
Adventure Records

Hamilton de Holanda has written a 52 minute love poem. The pen he used was his mandolin, the object of his admiration is Alfredo da Rocha Viana Jr., better known as Pixinguinha.  A composer, arranger, flautist and saxophonist born in Rio de Janeiro before the turn of the 19th Century Pixinguinha lived in Rio de Janeiro until he died in 1973.

On World of Pixinguinha de Holanda collaborates with some very well known musicians and some completely unknown ones, the album is made of mostly duets played by de Holanda and his musical guests.12 tracks feature what is described on the sleeve as a musical bridge between jazz and choro (pronounced SHOH-roh, and  best described as the New Orleans jazz of Brazil). For most the music will sound like romanticized gypsy jazz a la Django Reinhart. The tone is always happy and soulful, the tunes and rhythms have a distinctive Brazilian/South American flavour that is not often played outside of Brazil.

To rock/blues/pop ears the tunes may sound initially as if the strings of the mandolin have been laced with honey, there is a ‘schmaltzy’ feel to some of the tracks, but a second listen reveals a joie de vivre that is at times intoxicating. Those who are familiar with the ‘countryfied’ sound of David Grisman's mandolin will find nothing in common here, the sound of de Holanda is more akin to that of a guitar than a mandolin. De Holanda's skills are augmented by a list of 12 very able musicians, among them Wynton Marsalis, Omar Sosa, Chuco Valdes and Richard Galliano.

The recording is very measured and smooth, sometimes at the expense of transparency. This is a a gentle album that would be a perfect soundtrack to a lazy summer afternoon. A musical journey to a yesteryear from another time and place, on a different continent, filledd with emotion and overflowing with nostalgia. World of Pixinguinha is an enjoyable journey and a very fitting tribute.

Reuben Klein

Formats also available: 
none

Everyone Was A Bird

1 Jun 2015
Grasscut
CD
Lo Recordings

I have to start by saying that Grasscut’s 2012 album Unearth is truly a thing of joy and wonder and Everyone was a Bird only increases their standing IMHO. This band has the ability to transport the listener into the English landscape and with this new selection of eight tracks we are cast into a more wintery realm of town and countryside, by contrast Unearth was a light dappled nostalgic summery affair.

This time the pairing of Andrew Phillips and Marcus O’Dair is joined by collaborators, musicians who bring additional vocals and instrumentation to their intimate sound. In truth I think it is the addition of live strings that gives the overall sound its cool dark, winter aspect. Where Unearth is full of catchy, poppy songs whispering of English magic in the hidden ponds and stone lions of deserted old estates and verges of a hot summers twilight. Everyone Was A Bird glides over a cold, ploughed landscape, reflecting perhaps the maturing of their own lives in and of the moment.

The album is more of a grower than its more immediate sounding predecessor with different layers and aspects becoming apparent with each listen. The live instrumentation gives the album a very rich and full sound, and a good quality sound system reveals beautiful depth and quality in the recording. Something I liked about the previous recordings was the selection of old radio and movie samples that enhanced the overall sense of floating through a musical story. This continues here but to a lesser degree, perhaps because this is harder to reproduce successfully when playing live. But with Everyone Was A Bird Grasscut continue to create beautiful, immersive soundscapes for the listener to fly through.

Patrick Kennedy

Formats also available: 
vinyl, DL

Sounds Of Life

13 Apr 2015
Simone Sou, Guilherme Kastrup, Benjamin Taubkin
CD
Adventure Music

Sounds Of Life is charged with energy and innovative rhythms, but not in commonplace way. On it a very special cast of highly talented musicians create percussive haunting and beautiful music, but there is a caveat, the listener has to be patient (and this listener was not patient enough for one track) because it is not always familiar. The music varies from grand flowing piano to ringing percussion miniatures, from sampled voices to classical, it is jazz, it is samba, it is many things. The musicians who create all of the above are a very unusual mix of talents. Benjamin Taubkin (piano) has made an artform of unifying contrasting rhythms.  On Al Qantara/The Bridge he collaborated with Moroccan musicians. Here Taubkin shares the musical space with percussionists Simone Sou and her partner Guilherme Kastrup, but percussionist is a very loose description of what they do so well. It would be far more appropriate to describe them as sound creators who use percussion, sampling, mixing and voice to form enchanting rhythms and harmonies. I half expected to hear a theremin so diverse is their palette.

This album grows on a listener, it is constructed from what appear to be musical tales with chapters inserted in them, some of the tracks are made up of as many as three parts. The parts are related to one another but often quite loosely, but that hardly matters. The music is compelling from the very start, but each time the album is replayed it becomes more special and more compelling. There is a strong presence of jazz, Caribbean styles, samba and African themes. The interaction between styles that verge on the avant garde and native themes is constant. Yet it cannot be described as world music. The album mixes world sounds to create a unique individual signature of its own.  Sounds of Life is also well recorded, it has a live feel even though various electronic effects are constantly present. There are three stand out tracks: Pifaiada, Gota D'Agua and Mozambik Bembe. This is a very special album that’s worth every Grosch, Piastre, Lireta or Drachma you have to pay.

Reuben Klein

 

Formats also available: 
none

Slant Signature

23 Mar 2015
Benny Sharoni
CD
Papaya Records

Let's get one thing straight from the start, this album is fabulous. It is filled with talent and verve and amazing music on top. It’s one of a kind, a bebop tour de force of the highest calibre. It doesn't just be and bop, it shuffles it goes Caribbean and does some of the most inspired and tightest jazz things I have heard in many years. A happy, and for the most part rhythmic affair, that provides an incredibly talented sextet the space to impress and beguile in equal measure. The musicians are: Benny Sharoni (tenor sax); Jim Rotondi (trumpet); Joe Barbato (piano); Mike Mele (guitar); Todd Baker (bass); Steve Langone (drums). Sharoni is a Boston based Israeli who has made one other album as a leader and collaborated on three others, if Slant Signature is anything to go by there need to be a lot more of both.

The album is made up of both originals and tributes to the music composed by Lee Morgan, Freddy Hubbard and pianist Ray Bryant. The band plays the finest bebop one is likely to hear today, they play with confidence, accuracy, sensitivity, speed and a rhythmic groove that you rarely hear, they have the be and the bop sorted. Jazz is not always fun but this album will be cherished by jazzers of all persuasions. This is helped by a recording that does the musicians justice, it is clear, fast and clean but also sweet and natural, instruments are placed realistically and solidly across and within the soundstage. To my ears Freddy Hubbard's Down Under and Sharoni’s Bitter Drops are the strongest. But each and every track is a sheer and rare joy to listen to. Very highly recommended. Even though it is only March, I have put this album at or near the very top of my best of 2015 shortlist. Buy it.

Reuben Klein

Formats also available: 
MP3 download

La Vie En Rose: Rencontres avec Edith Piaf et Gus Viseur

16 Mar 2015
Richard Galliano & Sylvain Luc
CD
Milan Records

The French must be music connoisseurs, this album proves as much if nothing else. Frenchmen Richard Galliano (accordions) and his very able partner Sylvain Luc (acoustic guitars) play a nostalgic tribute to a unique style of music. The album is a marriage of Gallic passion, verve and virtuosity, it is an intimate musical romp through the era and ambiance of France when chanson was all the rage.
They play renditions of South American music as well as well known French songs that span the years from the forties to the sixties, the nineteen sixties that is. The performances are breathtaking. Richard Galliano is without dispute one of the most prolific, capable and musically intriguing accordionist on our blue planet, what he does with various accordions and instruments can only be described as magical. Galliano is joined by a guitarist who has recorded a wide variety of music, from blues to French gypsy jazz and regularly plays with another French guitarist, Bireli Lagrenes. Galliano and Luc weave tunes and harmonies in a manner that very few musicians will ever be able to equal. The music is always very tuneful and lyrical, flowing gently but with plenty of energy. The album is recorded in a manner that places the listeners in a small venue. For some this album will be a trip down memory lane, for most it will be an introduction to fabulous melodies performed by two musical geniuses. A very highly recommended album that gently captivates and excites through all and every one of its 16 tracks.

Reuben Klein

 

Formats also available: 
none

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