By Nicki Escudero
By Amy Silverman
By Brian Palmer
By Chris Parker
By Troy Farah
By Lauren Wise
By Lauren Wise
For those who mainline Brazilian jazz, empty your wallets on the cashier's counter -- the Verve label has reissued a handful of early bossa nova albums first released when the craze hit the States back in the early '60s. We and the Seaby Tamba 4 still holds up as solid piano-driven Brazilian jazz, while vibist Cal Tjader's impressive improvising on the three-minute cuts filling Plays the Contemporary Music of Mexico and Braziloccasionally drown in the kitsch of Yma Sumac-like vocal padding. The style of guitarist Luiz Bonfa, one of the top four or five major bossa nova composers, is well-represented on Plays and Sings Bossa Nova. Bola Sete was a far more intense guitarist and improviser than his bossa nova peers, making At the Monterey Jazz Festivalthe most lively of these reissues. Sergio Mendes Presents: Edu Lobo introduced Americans to a significant post-bossa nova composer whose lyrics sound far too pretty to have been considered the threat they were to Brazil's mid-'60s dictatorial government. As for the two reissues by Antonio Carlos Jobim: Tidemakes gorgeous elevator music out of the composer's early writings, while the orchestrated Jobim, first released in 1973, is by far one of the composer's best albums.
Blues you can use: Gumbo would definitely let bald and tattooed guitarist John Mooney cut in line for the urinal. On Gone to Hell(Blind Pig), this protégé of both Son House and Professor Longhair sounds as mean as he looks, his Crescent City grit backed by Dr. John. The far more subtle and seductive Chris Thomas King is an aural blues centerfold on Me, My Guitar and the Blues(Blind Pig), where, Prince-like, he plays all the instruments. His greasy mix of acoustic and electric guitar sex music reminds us how seldom blues players offer anywhere near this much personality.
Mojo(Music Club) compiles live material recorded by Muddy Waters in 1971 and 1976. The aging hootchie-coochie man holds his own with longtime Mudsters Luther Johnson, Pinetop Perkins and Bob Margolin in this set of teeth-baring blues, though cuts like "Mannish Boy" had become predictably stale by this point in his career. Finally, mucho credit to whoever suggested that bellowing blues diva E.C. Scott cover Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" on Masterpiece(Blind Pig), which works far better than you'd think.
Other stuff you'll never hear on the radio: Bill Miller sounds like a Native American version of Bruce Cockburn on sections of Ghostdance(Vanguard). Bono and Eddie Vedder are fans (Pearl Jam performed with him at a Mesa benefit), and Tori Amos has had him open for her some 200 times. Miller rails for good causes with an equal mix of pontification and seduction.
Mandolinist Ronnie McCoury, from supremo bluegrass group the Del McCoury Band, releases his first album, Heartbreak Town(Rounder). The career of Vietnam-era protest singer Malvina Reynolds is revisited on Ear to the Ground(Smithsonian Folkways Recording), which includes the song "Little Boxes," made popular by Pete Seeger. Patriarchal bluegrassers the Monroe Brothers smack guitar and mandolin for Jesus on the hard-core What Would You Give in Exchange for Your Soul?(Rounder) -- who could pass on a CD with a title like that?
Anyone who's ever gotten drunk and acted stupid listening to the Poguesor Van Morrison will want to check out what, apart from Guinness beer, has been their primary source of inspiration. The Chieftains 1 and The Chieftains 2(Claddagh/Atlantic Records) were recorded more than three decades ago by a group of now-liver-spotted grandfathers who were once Ireland's equivalent of America's Beach Boys. Speaking of Ireland, if you're inclined to yak yer beer up out on the dance floor, you might as well be international about it and switch continents with Reggae Floorfillers: A Collection of the Best Reggae Dance Hits(Music Club), booty bizness culled from the vaults of the Trojan label. And when you feel guilty tomorrow over your disgusting behavior, slip in Devotion: Spiritual Music of the Indian Subcontinent (Music Club), a contemplative collection of meditations from Hindus, Sikhs and Sufis.
Overlooked and underrated: Jazz wackos Oranj Symphonette released only two albums, Plays Mancini (Gramavision) in 1996 and The Oranj Album(Rykodisc) in 1998, both outlandish revampings of '60s soundtrack fare. Basically, it's music from thrift store albums honked, whacked and beat out with a Looney Tunes perspective.