Mike Baggetta / Mike Watt / Jim Keltner - Wall of Flowers

Label: Big Ego Records, 2019

Personnel - Mike Baggetta: electric and acoustic guitars, live processing; Mike Watt: electric bass; Jim Keltner: drums, percussion.

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Mike Baggetta may not be as well known as his fellow guitarists Kurt Rosenwinkel and Ben Monder, but his creative playing is definitely a valuable discovery for everyone who bumps into his music. An adept of unconventional sounds and electronic effects, Baggetta was previously featured in solo, quartet, and trio sessions, and it’s precisely to the latter configuration that he returns on the album Wall of Flowers. This time, he is joined by unlikely bandmates such as veterans Mike Watt and Jim Keltner, bassist and drummer, respectively. The former co-founded the punk-rock group Minutemen and was a member of Iggy Pop’s The Stooges in the early 2000s; the latter played with the members of The Beatles plus Bob Dylan and Ry Cooder. The two had never met before, but the outcome of this one-day-only session mirrors the quality of these musicians.

Hospital Song” has a beautiful, if dismal, acoustic guitar intro. However, the trio kicks things into high gear by channelling their energy into a livelier indie rock marked by sturdy bass lines, an unflinching straight-up 4/4 rhythm, and guitar melodies punctuated by occasional atonal detours.

Blue Velvet”, the main theme of David Lynch’s cult film of the same name, is subjected to solo and duo treatments. Both have the rustic tones of the acoustic guitar coloring them, yet the former picks up on an undeniable ambiguity in contrast with the latter, soberly introduced by Keltner's soft brushwork.

A couple of collective improvisations reflect some of the best moments on the album. “I Am Not A Data Point” feels very experimental, relying on an intransigent, languid bass ostinato a-la Rage Against The Machine, percussive adaptability, and distorted guitar outcries that affect positively our ears with washes of capricious effects in often discordant audacity. The other impromptu experience is “Dirty Smell of Dying”, a dark, neo-psychedelic exercise carried in Sonny Sharrock-mode, and where the massive waves of sound coming toward you acquire both exciting and foreboding perspectives.

Fruit of Baggetta’s mind, the title track closes out the album as a shimmering art rock song. Musical moments like these demonstrate the trio’s rock affinity and the album is the expression of a fortunate collaboration.

Grade  B+

Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
04 - I Am Not A Data Point ► 06 - Dirty Smell of Dying ► 08 - Wall of Flowers


Dave Harrington - Pure Imagination, No Country

Label: Yeggs Records, 2019

Personnel - Dave Harrington: guitar, bass, synth, pedal steel, electronics; Lars Horntveth: electric piano, string synth; Will Shore: vibraphone; Jake Falby: violin; Andrew Fox: keyboards, synth, electronics; Samer Ghadry: drums.

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Listening to Dave Harrington Group can be a challenging assignment, especially for the ones who like everything neat and arranged with a sense of anticipation. On his latest effort, Pure Imagination, No Country, Harrington, who is an experimental multi-instrumentalist with a predilection for guitar, is accompanied by Will Shore on vibraphone, Andrew Fox on keyboards and electronics, Samer Ghadry on drums, Jake Falby on violin, and Lars Horntveth, a Norwegian multi-instrumentalist and one of the main songwriters of experimental jazz group Jaga Jazzist. This release finds them melding rock, jazz and electronic music with a gut-feeling that reflects our current times.

The short overture, “Well”, has the band diving headfirst into psychedelic rock. It presents a thoroughly crafted drumbeat, pretty active bass lines with some dirtiness surrounding them, and multicolored vibes. Hooked in the drumming showcase of Ghadry, “Belgrade Fever” intermingles the melodicism of Pink Floyd’s early years and the persistent krautrock-like atmosphere of Can. However, it was “Then I Woke Up” that quickly conquered my ear due to the gripping aesthetic of distorted guitars, dance-rock drumming, and consolidated electronics. The synth bass keeps this pop/rock circularity running as we hear sonic pollution covering the canvas in a progressive direction. The band makes atmospheric stops along the way, spreading some mystery in the air by way of a long-standing thrum.

Slides Redux” purges a giddy, paranoid sonority before brooding synth chords and searing guitar lines take over. Conversely, “Neoarctic Organs” is a slow-core exercise with some ethereal flights and a crescendo that terminates brusquely.

The group sets “Patch One”, the longest track on the record, with some doses of abstraction, proposing an unsettling murk. Percussive punches and cymbal splashes are a constant in a relentless exercise that feels feathery on one hand and heavy on the other. From midway through, a jazzy pulse meets the noise rock, thickening up the texture and reminiscing some works of The Cinematic Orchestra.

Counter-parting the more experimental flux of the album, which Harrington admits inspired by Miles Davis’ electric years, “Pure Imagination” works like redemption with its beautiful country/folk orientation. There’s something profound and special in this particular dreamlike ambience, which closes out the album like an act of emancipation.

Harrington, who has the capacity of sustaining a wealth of moods while building hypnotic tension, has a fine album here.

Grade  B+

Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
04 - Then I Woke Up ► 07 - Patch One ► 09 - Pure Imagination


Harriet Tubman - The Terror End of Beauty

Label: Sunnyside Records, 2018

Personnel - Brandon Ross: guitar; Melvin Gibbs: electric bass; JT Lewis: drums.

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Powerhouse trio Harriet Tubman (named after the African-American slave turned abolitionist and political activist) - Brandon Ross on guitar, Melvin Gibbs on bass, and JT Lewis on drums - continues to trail an audacious path in modern music without confining themselves to a particular genre. Notwithstanding, jazz, blues and rock, in its written and improvised forms, can be considered their strongest motivations, especially if we take a closer look to their newest album The Terror End of Beauty, a great addition to the Sunnyside Records’ catalog.

Gibbs penned the opening track, “Farther Unknown”, and shaped it as a danceable psychedelia, plotted with a steady, highly charged tribal African pulse and Hendrixian distorted guitar sounds. Call it acid Afro-rock if you like.

The bassist shows his compositional versatility by setting a completely different mood on the title track, a tribute to guitarist Sonny Sharrock and one of the hippest tracks on the record. There’s a balladic jazz vision here, but also the dirty texture associated with the alternative rock music genre, which is indisputably alluring. It evolves into something ampler, with Lewis’ kinetic drumming underpinning a massive noise-rock experience.

The remaining compositions are credited to the trio and their producer, Scotty Hard, except “Redemption Song”, a noir, free-form reading of Bob Marley’s song of freedom, here turned into a harmonically clear rock anthem. Although we can’t pronounce the latter tune as reggae, even coming from Marley, we can identify the genre disguised on the playful “Five Points”, which overlaps tempos and also melds funk and electronic music in an experimental crossing between Front Line Assembly and Parliament-Funkadelic.

3000 Worlds” also sprawls some funk through the work of Gibbs and Lewis, who stick to a rounded funky ostinato and a hi-hat-centered rhythm, respectively. In contrast, Ross dives in dark expressive melodies.

The Green Book Blues” is another danceable, hardcore, yet relentlessly groovy piece in the line of The Prodigy but with occasional percussive thumps instead of a highly syncopated rhythm. Regardless of the change in the groove, the arcane mood is maintained. Unlike this piece, “Unseen Advance of the Aquafarian” doesn’t have the word blues in the title but is heavily rooted in the genre. It also displays a strong electronic-like vibe.

Not conflicting with the rest, but definitely closer to a prog-metal à-la Nine Inch Nails, “Protoaxite” sort of suffocates in a raucous, rock-powered atmosphere.

By intelligently interspersing moments of opaque obscurity and sheer beauty, Harriet Tubman achieves a perfect balance in its incisive and concise writing. The record, not too dense but not too immediate, never refrains in emotion and rewards in abundance after multiple listenings.

Grade  A

Grade A

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Farther Unknown ► 07 - Redemption Song ► 09 - The Terror End of Beauty


JP Schlegelmilch / Jonathan Golberger / Jim Black - Visitors

Label: Skirl Records, 2018

Personnel - JP Schlegelmilch: keyboards; Jonathan Goldberger: guitars; Jim Black: drums.

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This cohesive new organ trio co-led by Brooklyn-based keyboardist JP Schlegelmilch, guitarist Jonathan Goldberger, and drummer Jim Black, ventures down creative paths of indie rock with a casual, serrated jazzy edge in its statements. Their album, Visitors, is staggeringly crafted with a rugged, psychedelic rock technique and assertive textural developments, featuring eight tracks whose instrumental depth is consummated by the magical interplay among the trio members.

Corvus” is a prog-rock archetypal that perhaps better illustrates this. Electronic manipulations precede the excavation of a 7/4 groove exalted by sturdy rock moves and fleshed out by an incandescent guitar solo that comprehends flickering sound waves, bluesy riffs, arpeggiated sequences, and jazzy chords. After a calmer passage, the groove shifts to six, seducing Schlegelmilch and Goldberger to embark on a cross-conversational dialogue while Black holds to a funky percussive flux.

Showcasing brighter tones and intense emotions, “Ether Sun” is a Pink Floyd-esque song elegantly arranged with soaring keyboard sounds, smooth bass coordination, and firmly fixed rhythm.

Stressing idiomatic rock textures, “Lake Oblivion” is divided into two distinct yet complementary parts. The first one carries a restless ambiguity in its classic hard-rock charisma, while the second, advancing at a 5/4 tempo, equips the same package with popish acoustic instrumentation and a distorted electric fizz.

The title track comes hooked in a triple meter. The versatile drummer moves with sheer boldness, supporting the use of methodical synth maneuvers for ambient and noisy guitar strokes for impact.

If “Chiseler” erupts with tactile dissonances and power chords in a clear inclination toward prog-rock, then “Terminal Waves” has its climatic peak with Goldberger’s cryptic metal-inflected solo over an exquisite textural work that becomes slightly tumultuous until mitigated by atmospheric organ layers and drones.

Being a deluxe product of like-minded cohorts, Visitors is also striking and rewarding, displaying enough personality and range to keep us thrilled.

Grade  A-

Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:

03 - Ether Sun ► 04 - Corvus ► 06 - Lake Oblivion II


WorldService Project - Serve

Label: RareNoise, 2018

Personnel – Dave Morecroft: keyboards, vocals; Tim Ower: saxophone; Raphael Clarkson: trombone, vocals; Arthur O’Hara: bass; Harry Pope: drums.

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Serve, the fourth album by London-based quintet WorldService Project, is composed of eight energetic tracks whose musical irreverence derives from a blend of impactful punk rock, stimulating funk, authoritative heavy metal, and light jazz.

Plagued With Righteousness” links passages that can go from acutely boisterous to soaringly atmospheric. The piece is a confluence of funk groove a-la Morphine and classic heavy metal with an easy melodicism, more in the line of Scorpions than Judas Priest. While the trombonist spreads energizing lines, keyboardist Dave Morecroft, the band’s principal composer, solos like if he had a guitar in his hands.

Sometimes disruptive, sometimes ultra-compact, “Dai Jo Bo” is a spunky punk exercise punctuated by a mild groove, horn ostinatos, and funky keyboard accompaniment. 

Playful, brassy, and burlesque, “The Tale Of Mr.Giggles” adds a vocalized narration to the initial Charleston-style rim-clicks, intensifying the rock posture along the way with an effect-drenched trombone solo. Also, “Runner” is quite playful, hooking in a repetitive Balkan-like riff before displaying a gorgeously intense sax-over-drums discharge as if it was announcing an acrobatic circus number. The final ramp inflates the adopted celebratory posture.
Words in English, Italian, French and German play an important role on “Now This Means War”, whose heavy textures are built with predictable power chord sequences. 

While “Ease” is rhythmically daring, exhibiting a singable riff at the end, “To Lose The Loved” contains naive melodies and a snare-induced marching passage with vibrant bass pumps. 
False Prophets” concludes the album as a static jazzified exercise at first that develops gradually toward a crescendo of distorted harmonies with vocals and horn outcries atop.

The rebellious attitude of the quintet is well alive, but some aspects of their sound feel a bit rigid, carrying a commercial tongue-in-cheek side that was not so attractive to me. I’m convinced this music should work better when played live.

       Grade  C+

       Grade C+

Favorite Tracks:
04 - Ease ► 05 - Runner ► 08 - False Prophets


Peter Erskine & The Dr. Um Band - On Call

Label: Fuzzy Music, 2018

Personnel - Bob Sheppard: saxophone; John Beasley: keyboards; Benjamin Shepherd: electric bass; Peter Erskine: drums.

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Consummate drummer Peter Erskine, a former Weather Report member, has always shown an inclination for electric jazz fusion. Commanding The Dr. Um Band with metrical depth and angular vision, he releases On Call, a new double album on his own music label, Fuzzy Music.

The disc one includes brand new material recorded in the studio whereas disc two encapsulates previously recorded tunes performed live in Occhiobello, Italy. All the members of the quartet - saxophonist Bob Sheppard, keyboardist John Beasley, and electric bassist Benjamin Shepherd - penned compositions for the studio session, which opens with Erskine’s “For The Time Being”. Initially enigmatic, the piece veers to a daring, dark-toned jazz funk, with the band keeping the groovy pose on Sheppard’s “Might As Well Be”, a crossover fantasy that salutes saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi. The versatility of Beasley is perceptible through attractive attacks and strange sounds. The keyboardist contributes to the song lineup with a pair of compositions - “If So Then”, inspired by the Miles Davis Quintet, is boosted by an adventurous piano solo and exceptional collective interplay; “Silver Linings” is a respectful homage to Horace Silver whose borrowed moods adapt to the band’s style.

Penned by the bandleader, “Uncle Don” displays a ceremonious organ as the introduction and a scratching backbeat in an early stage. Afterward, the band places cool harmonic progressions on top of rock-steeped rhythms, having funky bass lines running along.

The live session, filled with enthusiasm and excitement, opens with a couple of tunes by Erskine: the cerebral, blues-based “Hipnotherapy” and the funk-inflected “Hawaii Bathing Suit”. The former thrives with woody bass grooves decorated with wha-wha effects and concordant drumming, while the latter is a playful avant fusion that captivates through gorgeous unisons, apt improvisations, and an effusive drumming with strong Latin accents. 

After the soaringly atmospheric first section, Henry Mancini’s “Dreamville” combines bossa nova rhythms with balladic tones, whose silky textures result from mixing light funk, smooth jazz, and malleable R&B elements. The tune was retrieved from the album Second Opinion (Fuzzy Music, 2016), just like “Eleven Eleven”, a frenetic steeplechase with rock-solid rhythmic passages and powerful wha-wha bass lines. Although not too temperamental, the soloists opt for dazzling, straightforward approaches to express their lines of thought. 

Erskine’s mutable “Northern Cross” is not a softer either, displaying influences of American music while bridging the worlds of funk, jazz, and rock. This could be a possible outcome of having Joshua Redman playing with Return To Forever. 

With the live recording surpassing the studio session, On Call sparks with tremendous rhythmic engagement as it shows Erskine’s productive modus operandi.

       Grade  B+

       Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
03 (CD1) - If So Then ► 02 (CD2) - Hawaii Bathing Suit ► 04 (CD2) - Eleven Eleven


Dan Weiss - Starebaby

Label: Pi Recordings, 2018

Personnel - Craig Taborn: keyboards, piano; Matt Mitchell: keyboards, piano; Ben Monder: guitar; Trevor Dunn: bass; Dan Weiss: drums.

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Those who are familiar with the work of American drummer Dan Weiss, a praised bandleader and sought-after sideman, will agree that openness, big ears, and versatility are vital elements of his business.

His new album, Starebaby, it’s an unheard blend of heavy metal, electronic inspirations, Twin Peaks eerie moods, and a dash of jazz. The outcome is an unparalleled dark symphony filled with both mercurial meters and ethereal passages. The orchestration was made with ubiquitous presences in the New York jazz scene such as keyboardists Craig Taborn and Matt Mitchell, guitarist Ben Monder, and bassist Trevor Dunn, who, sharing the same taste of rugged sounds, captured Weiss’ compositional spirit with attitude, turning possible a project that was envisioned ten years ago.

The opening track, “A Puncher’s Chance”, starts off with electro-acoustic guitar sounds in a sheer classical moment, but soon bursts into a powerful alternative rock mode created by dirty keyboard sounds, well-fixed bass notes, and powerful drumming. After a middle passage designed for dreamlike piano and wrapped in a smoky effect, the band reinstates that monolithic riff over a gush of energetic rock.

Depredation” kicks off with a dragging pulse, sustained synth chords, agitated guitar, and sparse bass activity. It mutates to a vehement synth-metal intoxicated by trashy power chords, trance-like electronic vibes, and a scalding guitar solo that causes trepidation.

The quintet plunges into reflectiveness on “The Memory of My Memory”, but that initially gracious if mysterious state morphs into a snarling toil firmly planted in doom metal. Weiss’ dried spanks on snare and tom-toms grow in fierceness and the tenebrous atmosphere, somewhere between Anathema and Paradise Lost, also encapsulates Monder’s brief solo.

Both “Annica” and “Cry Box” expose piano in their introductory sections. Even non-aggressive, the former brings uneasiness and causes foreboding apprehension through the fatalism of its somber shadows, reminiscing the ways of My Dying Bride. On the latter, the band builds multiple textures with a forthright sense of tempo and attention to detail, passing through a grungy tunnel with electro melodies before achieving peace.

A tribute to the American composer of Twin Peaks, “Badalamenti” has a fluid bass-drums flow underpinning ethereal harmonic incursions and Monder’s heroic guitar mobilizations. Alone, the bandleader packs glorious chops, preparing a virile, odd-metered rock passage that would be an asset in any of David Lynch’s inscrutable thriller films. It all winds up in the contrapuntal electronic wizardry of Taborn and Mitchell.

The influence of contemporary electronic music is particularly strong on “Veiled”, a polyrhythmic epiphany with dramatic piano and shades of Karlheinz Stockhausen, and “Episode 8”, a shape-shifting phenomenon with vivid drumming, whose humoresque trance house melodies oppose to the austerity of a metal that wouldn't embarrass Black Sabbath.

Starebaby proves Weiss as a boundless drummer and unlimited composer. Whether a singular case or not, this 360-degree turn in his career will be a challenge for jazz fans. Love it or hate it, you'll find multiple transfusions of energy invading your body.

       Grade  B+

       Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
01 - A Puncher’s Chance ► 03 – Annica ► 06 – The Memory of My Memory


Living Fossil - Never Die!

Label: Self produced, 2018

Personnel - Gordon Hyland: tenor sax; Neil Whitford: guitar; Torrie Seager: guitar; Andrew Roorda: electric bass; Mackenzie Longpre: drummer + Mike Murley: tenor sax; Sam McLellan: acoustic bass.

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Toronto-born saxophonist Gordon Hyland gathered a conceptual post-bop ensemble that he named Living Fossil to release musical pieces he wrote between 2013 and 2017 plus a few modern orchestrations of world-known tunes.

Resorting to deft arrangements and bracing solos, Hyland stamps his distinctive signature on every tune of Never Die!, entrusting the harmonization to electric guitarists Neil Whitford and Torrie Seager and assuring groove-oriented underpinnings through the work of electric bassist Andrew Roorda and drummer Mackenzie Longpre. With the exception of Seager, all the members mentioned above were partners of the bandleader in the electro-prog rock band Ninja Funk Orchestra.

Macrophages” opens the recording with ominous chimes and other disconcerting guitar sounds that hover and dissipate. There’s a mysterious electronic-like vibe that comes from the electric bass, encouraging the bandleader and his inventive drummer to explore several timbres on their instruments. While soloing, Hyland presents a dark, wry vein that feels very Henry Threadgill.

Embracing openness but not devoid of a certain ambiguity, “Living Fossil” takes us to quieter post-bop waters where we listen to a composed description of the Nautilus, a living creature that, according to Jacques Cousteau, hasn’t evolved since the Triastic period. The music sounds like something that David Binney would do. While these tunes worked up an appetite, the standout title track, “Never Die!”, packed a powerful punch with its rock-solid moves and magnetic melody. It was extremely easy to identify myself with the inspired drumming provided with stamina and syncopation, the groovy bass lines tinged with funk, and the sinuous saxophone phrases delivered with muscle. The parts are irreproachably put together, oscillating between the soft jazzy glow of the main statement and the funk-rock of the improvisational sections, escalating into a zesty prog-rock to accommodate a ‘dirty’ guitar solo wrapped in effect.
 
In order to tackle a trio of jazz classics, Hyland calls in tenorist Mike Murley, who also co-produced, and contrabassist Sam McLellan. The rendition of Ornette’s “Lorraine”, perfect for a modern spaghetti Western, is seasoned with sugar and salt in its both solemnly cool and hasty swinging passages. This is by far the most playful tune on the record, while Coltrane’s “Giant Steps”, here melodically altered and re-entitled “Baby Steps”, flows unflappably tuneful with saxophone dialogues and a drum solo over a circular progression. In turn, “Lessforgettable”, a variation on Irving Gordon’s “Unforgettable”, was devised with bowed bass, flickering guitar chords, and decorative electronic sounds.

On “Satellite”, the band cuts loose on a dynamic driving rhythm and bass groove, emulating the force of a funk-metal song. They soften it up for a serene middle section, bringing tremulous yet limpid guitar chops and sunny smiles delivered by Hyland’s resplendent melodicism. The saxophonist flies higher as the tune progressively gains that density typical of bands such as Body Count and Faith No More, and Longpre shows some more of his abilities behind the drum kit.

Living Fossil boasts eminent sonorities well rooted in today's jazz and rock genres, but wisely seeks inspiration in essential jewels from the past. Never Die! is an auspicious debut for this flexible Canadian band.

       Grade  B+

       Grade B+

Favorite Tracks: 
02 - Living Fossil ► 03 - Never Die! ► 05 - Satellite 


Meyer/Slavin/Meyer/Black - Other Animal

Label: Traumton Records

Personnel - Peter Meyer: guitar; Wanja Slavin: saxophone, synth, flute; Bernhard Meyer: bass; Jim Black: drums.

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Other Animal is a quartet led by the German brothers Peter and Bernhard Meyer, guitarist and bassist, respectively, who take all the credit for the twelve compositions on the band's debut album. They are joined by the Berlin-based saxophonist Wanja Slavin and the American drummer Jim Black, a pivotal figure in the New York jazz scene.

The animated beat that introduces “Drown Dreams”, an oblique, dreamy, chamber pop song, doesn’t dissemble some solemnity attached to its melody and harmonic conduction. There are a few grey clouds encircling it, but shining sunrays make the liberation possible. Exclusively on this tune, Slavin plays synth and flutes.

The sluggish drum chops of “Name of Cold Country”, sparse yet well coordinated with the bass lines, go along with the melodious saxophone and soaring electronic effects. The lightness of this architecture of sound gains further depth with Peter’s beautiful harmonics and warmly distorted chords. Yes, it may feel ponderous and wintry, but comes stuffed with emotion. 

Mr. Manga” and “Qubits” share vibrant pulses characteristic of the alternative rock genre. The former shifts tempo with resilience and autonomy, unraveling into interesting experimental passages, while the latter adopts a cool danceable posture reinforced with syncopation and the presence of a shaker. The opposite scenario is set up on “Downbear” whose dark and gloomy textures depicted by distorted guitar would give a great doom-metal piece. These sonic waves impel Black to adventure himself a little bit more by the end.

Obeying intricate time signatures and packed with clear-cut unisons, “Nongeniality” showcases strong melodic ideas turned into ostinatos. They keep echoing all through Slavin’s eloquent, cliché-free improvisation.
The somber “E Dance” concentrates forthright bass plucks, flickering guitar cries, and an edgy drumming that toggles between adaptably human and metrically robotic. A unified sonic cloud grows simultaneously spacious, intense, and haunting.

Slightly jazzier, “Spectral” is a ruminative song whose sound propagations lead us to atmospheric realms borrowed from ambient electronica and neo-glam. With bass and drums anchored in a polyrhythmic web, both guitar and sax comfortably seek freedom to roam.

Sometimes thinly polished, sometimes strenuous and unyielding, Other Animal creates interesting and variegated soundscapes dipped in the independent rock genre.

       Grade  B+

       Grade B+

Favorite Tracks:
01 - Drown Dreams ► 02 - Name of Cold Country ► 06 - Nongeniality


Burning Ghosts - Reclamation

Label: Tzadik, 2017

Lineup - Daniel Rosenboom: trumpet; Jake Vossler: guitar; Richard Giddens: bass; Aaron McLendon: drums.

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Blending musical genres to sound unique is an art. Despite commonly practiced nowadays, only the most skillful artists have the privilege of being truly called innovators, and that is the case with the Burning Ghosts, an L.A.-based fiery quartet that aims at today’s world injustices by verging on electric fusion genius to impress. Led by trumpeter Daniel Rosenboom, who soars in several glorious solo sections, the band features a massive rhythm section composed of Jake Vossler on guitars, Richard Giddens on bass, and Aaron McLendon on drums.

Following the well-received self-titled debut album, released last year on the trumpeter’s label Orenda Records, Reclamation sets the bar even higher, captivating with a musical approach whose muscle, inspiration, intensity, and responsiveness have opened the doors of John Zorn’s record label, Tzadik.

The first track, “FTOF”, erupts with the drumming endurance and incendiary beat stresses of McLendon, whose actions synchronize impressively with Rosenboom’s articulated phrases. The punky distortion spilled out of Vossler’s frantic guitar strokes creates a propitious scenario for elliptical trumpet runs, which, despite boisterous, encompasses moments of sheer melody and even funky groove at some point. It’s legit to think of a wild crossing between avant-jazz and prog-rock.

Like a cavernous heavy metal symphony, “Harbinger” is shrouded in a much darker brume, opening with jagged bowed bass as the primal foundation and quickly adding unruly, ultra-fast drumming and lots of electric noise. This is what you have when the jazz-metal of Otomo Yoshihide meets with the esoteric darkness of Harriet Tubman and the noisy guitar slashes of Black Sabbath.

Still dark, yet beautifully textured with sparse harmonies and precise snare drum rudiments, which confers it the shape of an unhurried march, “The War Machine” stands between Cuong Vu and Dave Douglas's High Risk ensemble. It features a vociferous guitar solo infested with ultrasonic hammer-ons and hot licks.

Embracing a 3/4 time signature that periodically flips to a 4/4, the striding “Radicals” contains an eloquent, catchy bass solo that made my ears rejoice. It boasts an intoxicating funk-infused metal à-la Rage Against the Machine.

Another great example of eclecticism is given with “Betrayal”, where the amalgam of colorful sounds involves lofty unisons, rock pulses, Eastern melodies, and authoritative bass flows that are seamlessly transferred to the following tune, “Gaslight”, acquiring a jazz swinging flux.

If “Zero Hour” deals with concurrent doses of playfulness and eeriness while evolving from atmospheric to cacophonous, “Revolution” initially recalls the grunge of Nirvana, employing as much trailblazing revolt as tangy political elucidation.

If you’re the adventurous type, Burning Ghosts will make you spin with the immense force of their underground volleys. I trust this band will have all the attention they deserve to keep protesting with this quality.

       Grade  A

       Grade A

Favorite Tracks: 
01 - FTOF ► 03 - The War Machine ► 04 - Radicals


Charlie Hunter - Everybody Has A Plan Until...

Charlie Hunter: guitar; Kirk Knuffke: trumpet; Curtis Fowlkes: trombone; Bobby Previte: drums.

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Charlie Hunter, a New York-based guitarist with a catchy sound and superior technique, has a new album whose long title, Everybody Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Mouth, was taken from a quote uttered by the heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson.
Hunter returns to the quartet format, adding the extraordinary trumpeter Kirk Knuffke to his regular bandmates - focused trombonist Curtis Fowlkes and exciting drummer Bobby Previte, who had partaken in his previous album, Let the Bells Ring On.
 
The title track invests in a persuasive jazzy bass groove, intuitive guitar chops, and well-calibrated drumming. The horn players, whenever not blowing in the same direction, fill the available spaces with tasteful detail. First solo of the recording was conceded to Fowlkes who didn’t disappoint.
(Looks Like) Somebody Got Ahead Of Schedule On Their Medication”, doesn’t stand out only because of its super enigmatic title, but also for being slightly more abstract in its approach. Hunter shows off an engaging sound, establishing a fruitful connection with the reedists while Previte substantiates he's a true master in rock-style cross-cuts. 

Leave Him Lay” and “No Money, No Honey” are sketched with chunks of funk, blues, and rock. The former begins in the guise of an effulgent blues before shifting into a horn-driven extravaganza delivered at typical 4/4 tempo; the latter bursts with punchy rhythms occasionally disrupted to let the horns assume the command with authority.
The gently exotic “Latin For Travelers” does justice to its title, changing completely the mood and displaying the best solo of the record, splendidly conceived by Knuffke.
 
Who Put You Behind The Wheel?” adopts the form of a cartoonish dance in which we find the bandleader smothering the sound of his strings. It reserves a surprising variation for the finale. 
In turn, “(Wish I Was) Already Paid And On My Way Home” flows at a more relaxed pace than the brassy and reggae-ish “The Guys Get Shirts”, which inevitably takes the path of blues afterward.

Hunter shows all his polyvalence on guitar and forges a great album strongly rooted in the traditions of blues and rock. The quality of his arrangements is an asset.

         Grade  A-

         Grade A-

Favorite Tracks:
02 – (Looks Like) Somebody Got Ahead Of Schedule On Their Medication ► 06 – Latin For Travelers ► 08 – Who Put You Behind The Wheel?


Snaggle - The Long Slog

Graeme Wallace: tenor sax; Max Forster: trumpet; Nick Maclean: Rhodes, organ, synth; Mike Murray: guitar; Doug Moore: bass; Tom Grosset: drums + Brownman Ali: trumpet.

Snaggle-Long-Slog

The music of Snaggle, a fruitful sextet based in Toronto, translates into mature compositions and stupendous executions. The members of the band, virtuosos in their respective instruments, resort to a laudable sense of unity and superior taste to creatively orchestrate the nine pieces of The Long Slog, their sophomore feature album.

“Snaggle #7” brings us lots of fun through a riveting electro-jazz-funk that consistently alternates between smooth and powerful. In this track, the horn players showed improvisational acuity, and Mike Murray’s guitar sound was particularly appealing to my ears in its mixed hard-rock and jazz incursions.
“Sad Ritual” starts introspectively but doesn’t remain too long in that state. The initial wailing slides into an energetic rock where the super-active drummer, Tom Grosset, shows how he combines speed with accuracy.
Breezy and smooth modulations adorn “Tree Assassin”, which proudly distribute several catchy grooves outlined by organ, bass, and drums. This plot serves to support strong solos that never felt strained or misplaced.
“Theorum” is a thrilling, up-tempo tune that features the trumpet of Brownman Ali, an illustrious guest whose fluidity of language is remarkable. He found solid ground in the spunky, forceful movements of the rhythm section.

A penetrating wha-wha plays a crucial role in “SAW”, a mutant exercise that lives from surprising effects. Polished jazzy melodies blend with more aggressive bass lines inspired by Rage Against The Machine, while keyboardist Nick Maclean shows his gripping musicality.
Murray’s tuneful guitar, interplaying with Ali’s trumpet, is decisive to wrap “Lagaan” in a relaxing crossover jazz that slightly makes a turn in the direction of a danceable orgy of R&B and avant-jazz-funk. Here, the band members build up a crescendo, using their skills and expertise to deliver an overpowering finale.
The title track closes the album, leaving traces of rock, jazz and funk in the air.
 
The Long Slog inherited the same power and straightforwardness of Snaggle’s members who were capable of rendering a burnin’ hot fusion inclined to explore an infinity of possibilities within the same composition. In a certain moment they’re confronting Miles Davis with Medeski Martin & Wood; in the other, you may find the Red Hot Chili Peppers colliding with Incognito or Mahavishnu Orchestra.

Favorite Tracks:
01 – Snaggle #7 ► 07 – SAW ► 08 – Lagaan


Marc Ribot - The Young Philadelphians Live in Tokyo

Marc Ribot: guitar; Mary Halvorson: guitar; Jamaaladeen Tacuma: bass; G. Calvin Weston: drums; Takako Siba: viola; Yoshie Kajiwara: violin; China Azuma: cello.

It’s curious to see two explorers and recognized avant-gardists such as the guitarists Marc Ribot and Mary Halvorson adapting disco, funk, and soul to the current days in the Young Philadelphians, a band that besides the guitarists and a couple of Phillies, Jamaaladeen Tacuma on electric bass and G. Calvin Weston on drums, also hinges on a Japanese trio of classic strings - violin, cello, and viola.
In my eyes (or ears), “Live in Tokyo”, with its mash-up of influences and inheritances, didn’t extract the better of these two creative guitarists. However, this doesn’t mean they haven’t done a competent job.
The first tune, “Love Epidemic”, is a soul-rooted disco tune from the 70’s, recreated with hints of David Bowie’s spatial rock. Ribot’s delirious guitar riffs are complemented by Halvorson’s fills, which come wrapped in effects.
The soothing wha-wha grooves in Teddy Pendergrass’ “Love Tko” make it the best rendition of the album. A breezy sensuality flows, spiked by Ribot’s bluesy approach and Tacuma’s bass solo. 
Far more festive is “Fly, Robin, Fly”, a 70’s disco hit popularized by the German group Silver Convention, whose funky guitar chords bring to mind the Doobie Brothers’ “Long Train Runnin”. 
TSOP” unfolds sentimental melodies within a commercial approach, heavily contrasting with “Love Rollercoaster”, a rock celebration with a chorus sung with the tics of David Byrne. “Do It Anyway You Wanna” throws up an energetic compound of funk, rock, and R&B, moving in the same line of James Brown, while “The Hustle” is more ABBA style but packed with Halvorson’s odd effects.
Nostalgic and gleeful, “Live in Tokyo” is set as a wingding. Although not my cup of tea, this is another peculiar entrance into the guitarist's multi-colored discography.

Favorite Tracks: 
01 – Love Epidemic ► 02 – Love Tko ► 06 – Do It Anyway You Wanna