Sparing no expense and subjecting himself to an appalling level of moral compromise, Gumbo has secured numerous seedy contacts in the music industry who now supply yours truly with all manner of smut and trash on musicians who play roots music. So you think that National Public Radio interview with Mister Global Consciousness and His Dulcimer represents how he acts on Friday night after French-kissing a 12-pack of Mickey's Big Mouths? Brace yourselves, naive folkies and virgin jazz babies for: True Music Facts That Aren't Made Up!
TMFTAMU! #1: A sudden resurgence of pianist Keith Jarrett's Epstein-Barr Syndrome resulted in a need for emergency hospitalization, requiring local firefighters to remove a wall of his home in order for his ego, then strapped to a flatbed truck, to accompany Jarrett to the hospital. Jarrett threatened to respond to their destruction with a 10-CD set of improvising called Don't Think You're Going to Get Me, Keith Jarrett, to Wear One of Those Gowns With No Backside.
Tired of all that extra money creating the wrong kind of bulge in your pants? Then smack down those surplus samolians for the seven-CD box Live Trane: The European Tours (Pablo), covering John Coltrane's 1961-'63 tours. Various versions of "My Favorite Things" fill a full two of the set's eight hours. Still burdened by your bundle? Check out Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia (Columbia/Legacy) -- 10 discs featuring literally everything she recorded for Columbia Records, including loads of unreleased goodies.
Shine their shoes, Billy Joel: Thankfully, on Inside Out (ECM), pianist Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette passed on churning out another album of standards, returning to Jarrett's long-abandoned preference for spontaneous composing. Nobody whups the Keithster at spinning an embryonic idea into highbrow pontificating with the pacing of a tent-revival evangelist. Demonstrative pianist McCoy Tyner, who could probably pound nails with his fists, revisits the days he sat on the left hand of God on Plays John Coltrane (Impulse!), sounding as ominous as ever. Another old lion who has not lost a lick is Dr. John, whose Creole Moon (Blue Note) will infect you with his voodoo funk. Much credit is due to the Blue Note label for leaving the grit sanded off by Dr. J's last handful of label homes. Pianist Michael Wolff & Impure Thoughts continue to mine the '70s fusion vein on Intoxicate (Indianola Music Group), where his very Miles-ish groove includes a take on Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing," with guest guitarist Charlie Hunter.
Gumbo was so appalled at the blatantly sexual cover art used to promote Diana Krall's newest, The Look of Love (Verve), that he has called her nightly at 3 a.m. to share how hard it is, seeing her reduced to the status of Love Muffin. This bossa nova-heavy outing will getcha partly because of the arrangements of Claus Ogerman, whose previous work with Antonio Carlos Jobim and Michael Brecker have shown him to be the best orchestrater since Gil Evans.
Mucho guitars: The Charlie Hunter Quartet brings in four sets of diverse tonsils (jazzers Kurt Elling and Norah Jones, rapper Mos Def and Galactic's R&B crooner Theryl de Clouet) to warble through Songs From the Analog Playground (Blue Note), which covers Roxy Music's "More Than This," Nick Drake's "Day Is Done" and the blues perennial "Spoonful." Check out the doofus funk of "Mitch Better Have My Bunny." James Blood Ulmer lays aside his signature guitar droning for some hard-core electric blues bellowing à la Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf on Memphis Blood: The Sun Sessions (Label M), produced by guitarist/protégé Vernon Reid. Brazilian guitarist Carlos Barbosa-Lima joins Eddie Gomez for Mambo No. 5 (Khaeon), a collection of mostly Latin standards popular from the '30s through the '50s. Barbosa-Lima crossbreeds classical music, jazz and Brazilian music, even whupping the late, stylistically similar Charlie Byrd with his monster solo guitar arrangements and exceptionally clean execution. Bill Frisell With Dave Holland and Elvin Jones (Nonesuch) drops the picker's rural, corncob-pipe jazz in the laps of sidemen known for their work with Miles Davis and John Coltrane.
On Jim Hall & Basses (Telarc), guitarist Jim Hall tweaks the classy style he developed accompanying Sonny Rollins and Paul Desmond, here switching from 12-string to a nasal, John Scofield-ish tone on duets with bassists Scott Colley, Charlie Haden, Dave Holland, Christian McBride and George Mraz. Rodney Jones is James Brown-funky on Soul Manifesto (Blue Note), thanks in part to Brown's former saxophonist Maceo Parker lending his nasty honking to the proceedings. A perfect album of '70s-era soul jazz, featuring a sultry version of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine." Nitelife (Columbia) is a bit of weirdness from British guitar wizard Martin Taylor, here coupled with the slick sax of Kirk Whalum. Is that a power drill on Dionne Warwick's "Déjà Vu"? Well, yeah, it is, say the liner notes, though they don't specify which Black & Decker tool is responsible for the whirring in Earth Wind & Fire's "That's the Way of the World."
Really fast reviews for those with Attention Deficit Disorder: Jump for Joy! (Columbia/Legacy) by Hot Lips Page, and Lunceford Special: 1939-1940 (Columbia/Legacy) by Jimmie Lunceford -- upbeat, flash-them-panties dance fare by two swing band jazz monsters. Omkara (Dreyfus) by Didier Lockwood and Raghunath Manet -- percussive, violin-led Indian droning that should be of interest to fans of Shakti. Lonnie Plaxico's Melange (Blue Note) -- significant M-BASE-era bassist throws equal portions of hard bop and funk in a blender. Bill O'Connell Latin Jazz Project's Black Sand (Random Chance Records) -- intense Latin big band jazz that's admirably complex, danceable stuff only if you're having a seizure.
Faster, faster: The Line Between (Whaling City Sound) by Bob Kaufman, Bruce Gertz and Jerry Bergonzi -- simultaneously disturbing and serene stuff, like William Burroughs reading nursery rhymes, by a fierce, bare-bones sax/bass/drums unit. Garrison Fewell Quintet's City of Dreams (Splasc[h] Records) -- the Guitar Magazine columnist boxes with saxophone throughout a set of serious, sweating-blood, introspective improvisations. Singer Kitty Margolis makes jazz of Pink Floyd's "Money" and Randy Newman's "Lonely at the Top" on Left Coast Life (Mad Kat). And The Cosmosamatics (Boxholder), a quartet of double sax, bass and drums (Sonny Simmons, Michael Marcus, William Parker and Jay Rosen, respectively) from outer space, bulldoze with schizo rants demanding your respect even as your ears bleed.
Southern blues guitarist/warbler Chris Thomas King released a load of albums prior to his appearance in O Brother, Where Art Thou? as legendary Delta bluesman Tommy Johnson. It's a Cold Ass World -- The Beginning (Arhoolie) is a reissue of his first album from 1986, which is solid, but lacks the classy New Orleans attitude of 1999's Me, My Guitar and the Blues.
From the late John Fahey's label, Revenant, comes Charlie Patton Screamin' and Hollerin' the Blues -- a project Fahey had been obsessed with completing for 40 years prior to his demise. Virtually everything the legendary blues guitarist recorded -- including his accompaniment on other artists' releases -- is included in the seven-CD set, detailed at length in an enclosed reprint of Fahey's 1970 book on Patton. Speaking of John F., acoustic guitarist Robbie Basho sounds like an Indian version of Fahey, the latter having produced the departed picker's albums and distilled them into a career overview, Bashovia (Takoma). More interesting than most of Fahey's own stuff, actually.
Other nods to the blues gods: Dipping into distinct recording periods, rather than presenting career overviews, are The Best of Mississippi Fred McDowell (Arhoolie), taken from recordings between 1964 and 1969, and The Best of Lightning Hopkins (Arhoolie), which jumps from 1947-'50 sessions to 1961-'69 material. Don't let the "best-of" angle fool you -- these are more for completists than novices.
In the liner notes of Here I Go Again (Blues Express), gutsy blues croaker Frankie Lee thanks Jesus, his schoolteachers and Albert Collins -- a pretty well-rounded bunch of mentors who keep him grounded in the southern testifying of '50s-era R&B. How could you sound insincere if your name is Frank Lee? In the same vein, blues guitarist Kid Ramos, born in Fullerton, California, birthplace of the Fender Stratocaster, had better play like a natural, by God. And he does, featuring a load of hotshot blues harp players on Greasy Kid Stuff (Evidence). 51 Phantom (Tone-Cool Records) by the North Mississippi Allstars sounds like Delta Metal -- guitarist Luther Dickinson conjuring up a band that's one part Led Zeppelin and three parts Muddy Waters.
IIIrd Tyme Out has won so many bluegrass vocal awards that the members should have their throats insured by Lloyd's of London. Back to the Mac (Rounder) is another live album from the hard-core traditionalists. Born in the same barn is honky-tonk/old-timey singer Ginny Hawker, whose Letters From My Father (Rounder) is so down-home you'll feel guilty for not owning a tractor. Entirely a 180-degree turn from that is the David Grisman-like bluegrass/jazz wackiness of mandolinist Chris Thile's Not All Who Wander Are Lost (Sugar Hill), which brings bluegrass back from FDR-era sensibilities and makes it okay to not want to breed farm animals. On Treasures From the Folk Den (Appleseed Recordings), ex-Byrd Roger McGuinn apes the Alan Lomax field recording thang, hauling his portable audio equipment to the homes of some impressive folk musicians -- Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Odetta, Tommy Maken and Jean Ritchie, for starters. The result is wonderfully crude, unadulterated stuff that makes obvious the folk half of the folk-rock movement founded by the Byrds in the '60s.
Csokolom, a string band from Greater Transylvania -- a real hotbed of European nightlife, no doubt -- manages to turn "The Pink Panther Theme" into gypsy music on Ludo Luda/Fools Fancy (Arhoolie). From the same label comes The Campbell Brothers' Sacred Steel on Tour, a hard-core Pentecostal gospel show driven by steel guitars twanging at tempos for tweakers -- so intense even Scientologists will speak in tongues.
Otherworldly world music: On Alive in an Ultra World (Epic), flashmeister Steve Vai pays tribute to each of the 15 countries where he played on his last tour. Most of the two-disc set is pulsating and ominous, guaranteed to turn little kids xenophobic if ever used on National Geographic soundtracks.
Let's hope Rankin' Scroo isn't what his mama named this reggae vocalist whose mix of dancehall, hip-hop and R&B has resulted in Godfada (Clutch). Sure, he's to Bob Marley what Madonna is to Edith Piaf, but, hey, have some more Ecstasy and get those hips bakin' like yer Jamaican. Purists will find him to be the dread part of dreadlocks. The mid- to late '70s recordings of Jamaican rhythm gods Sly & Robbie, on drums and bass, respectively, resurface on Good Dubs: The Prime of Sly & Robbie (Music Club).
Sly's drumming also backs the dual basses of Jah Wobble and Bill Laswell on the latter's Radioaxiom: A Dub Transmission (Axiom) -- more great spacy snarling from Laswell, whose music is just the stuff for jukeboxes in hell.
TMFTAMU! #2: Against the wishes of other family members, several close relatives of the late, irascible Miles Davis have quietly succeeded in fulfilling the trumpeter's request that his tombstone be positioned with its back facing gravesite visitors. Underground sensors will now trip a recording of Miles saying, "What, you never seen a dead person before, motherfucker?" and "My ghost is gonna come slap your silly white head and piss on your geraniums."
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TMFTAMU! #3: Saxophonist Boney James has recently launched a $35 million lawsuit against the Hunkums Lard Corporation. When asked to explain his actions, he stated, "The stuff just tastes too much like what I play and I demand royalties."
TMFTAMU! #4: From Bowling Green's Daily Sputum: A recent study showing that banjo players have larger than average penises may be tied to the sudden disappearance of bluegrass legend Dr. Ralph Stanley who, it is rumored, has holed up in a mountain cabin with three University of Kentucky cheerleaders. Local trappers say they have heard echoes of Stanley making "that high and not-so-lonesome sound."
TMFTAMU! #5: Reggae DJ Jah Dub Hooligan has surgically replaced his left lung with a five-gallon bong. Hooligan states that "now I don't have to put down de pipe when sprinkling ganja on me Cocoa Puffs."
TMFTAMU! #6: Two Sedona women, creating their version of "a Native American flute healing ritual," successfully cured a 19-year-old Paradise Valley debutante of herpes; the process, however, left her glassy-eyed and drooling, hurling fistfuls of diet pills at "the Indian fry bread demon."