By Melissa Fossum
By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Troy Farah
By New Times
Here's how you can spread those boneyard bonus bucks, blues first.
Can't start planning for the holidays too soon: Bite Me! (Bullseye) by Smokin' Joe Kubek is the perfectly offensive Mother's Day gift. Guitarmonger Kubek wrings some vulgar Texas blues out of his tool of trade, inspired by a geographic location centered about three inches below his oversize belt buckle. Such nastiness was born of patriarchs like Magic Slim and the Teardrops, a guttural guitarist and band who personify the best of Chicago blues on Snakebite (Blind Pig). Slim and company come pretty damn close to exhibitionism with their unapologetic, testosterone-fueled bravado.
From the female perspective, when blues guitarist Deborah Coleman sings "make me crawl on the floor/I've haven't done that before" on Soft Place to Fall (Blind Pig), she's probably not looking for Easter eggs. Just hearing Coleman sing her come-ons whups anything this writer spent on last week's table dances.
Much jazz: a song titled "Don't Wake the Violent Baby" is reason enough to check out Turbulent Flow (Blue Note) by saxophonist Mark Shim. You'll also encounter a striking contrast between the leader's gutsy, punchy improvising and the softer sounds of vibes, a marimba and Rhodes piano. Shim gets some pretty intimidating grooves going, which, if the band practices in his basement, might account for them violent babies. The guy's one of the better new Blue Note figures.
Twang jazz guitarist Bill Frisell is a national treasure, suggesting on albums like Ghost Town (Nonesuch) that he's the poet laureate of American music, given how he bounces from George Gershwin to Hank Williams as though the two had everything in common. Randy Johnston is another energetic six-stringer whose sense of rhythm and swing is so well developed on Homage (J Curve) that he spits out flashes of funk as effortlessly as cuss words come to someone with Tourette's Syndrome. Lots of Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery evident in his stuff. On Duet (Dreyfus Jazz), guitarists Bireli Lagrene and Sylvain Luc tackle an interesting set of compositions ranging from Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" to Benny Goodman's "Stompin' at the Savoy." Lagrene's last decade's worth of recordings haven't held up well, making this a resurrection of sorts.
On Bump (Verve), axe-strangler John Scofield stretches his funk jones into new territory with an altered tone with help from radical funk punks like Soul Coughing, Sex Mob and Medeski, Martin & Wood. Unfortunately, the guitar ends up fairly far back in the mix, which no doubt will frustrate Scofielders who have come to appreciate his soulful soapboxing. He swears that the song "Kilgeffen" is about a fictitious Irish town, not about the imagined death of one of the music industry's most prominent bloodsuckers. Sure.
Some of Pastoral Composure (Thirsty Ear) sounds like there's a hell of a lot more players than just the foursome in the Matthew Shipp Quartet. Pianist Shipp and bassist William Parker made a lot of noise, literally, throughout the '90s due to heavy support by Henry Rollins, of all people. It's a good intro to someone whose work isn't always this accessible.
You could call the World Saxophone Quartet the jazz equivalent of an a cappella group, given how the four saxes of this all-star band (John Purcell, Oliver Lake, David Murray and Hamiet Bluiett) create killer harmonies with no rhythm section as support. On Requiem for Julius (Justin Time) they pay tribute to departed WSQ member Julius Hemphill. If you want more mainstream WSQ as a primer, try their earlier tributes to Duke Ellington and Miles Davis. Speaking of: WSQ member Oliver Lake has long been an adventurous jazzer, having created some fine jazz reggae albums back in the '80s. Kinda' Up (Justin Time) by the Oliver Lake Steel Quartet isn't as good, but it's a unique project with steel drums as the focus.
Must have been a trip for a relatively young jazz whippersnapper like Greg Osby to snag guitar patriarch Jim Hall and esteemed pianist Andrew Hill for the session released as The Invisible Hand (Blue Note). Osby moved from playing innovative hip-hop jazz as part of the M-Base movement to churning out some pretty tepid stuff on many, maybe most, of his Blue Note releases. Seems he might be back on top again with this dark, almost hardbop outing, featuring killer drumming by Terri Lyne Carrington and the sax of M-Base peer Gary Thomas.
Two solo albums into his career, pianist D.D. Jackson has created a style that, by reworking the speed and key hammering of the late Don Pullen, places him more than a few steps beyond the competition. On Anthem (BMG), his early gospel and classical music influences also extricate him from the pack of diet jazz players whose roots run no deeper than a Charlie Brown soundtrack.