Friday, December 21, 2012

Chris McNulty The Song That Sings You Here Challenge 2012

Sometimes life is about explaining the unexplainable. Such is the case with Chris McNulty and The Song That Sings You Here.

The recording, the set list, McNulty's two compositions and the conceptual glue that binds the piece of sonic magic together all took place before her son Sam departed this world far too soon. While the recording was put together three years before Sam's passing there is the remarkable gift that there is some sort of conceptual bond that still lingers which is why McNulty herself was quoted as stating, "I sing for him. I sing him here always."

An eclectic yet incredibly accessible journey finds McNulty's voice immersed in swing and blues and is as raw, real and naturally organic as a vocalist can get. Transcending from traditional "singer" to sublime vocalist or storyteller is an effort but a half dozen singers have done successfully this past year with McNulty shooting straight to the top of the leader board for an incredibly moving yet somehow delightfully entertaining session that will long be remembered after the last note fades out. McNulty doesn't sing from the heart nor the soul, she goes deeper for a rich full bodied effect with an eclectic set list and an emotional connectivity to her audience that is other worldly.

Some singers take dictation and over annunciation to the extreme, McNulty holds true with a natural warmth and an effortless ebb and flow without the typical announcement made by most singers, "Look at me!" No where is the warmth and flow better communicated with the audience than with "How Are Things in Glocca Morra" and the 5th Dimension classic "One Less Bell To Answer" with both turned into a master class in performance 101. While The Song That Sings You here is full of some forgotten if not slightly eclectic standards from such artists as Fats Waller, Horace Silver, and Burt Bacharach, there is no doubt McNulty is a fine lyricist with one of her own tunes "Letter To Marta." A more open ended spatial approach that walks a harmonic tightrope of dynamic tension while McNulty's vocal master class would make most singers consider leaving the arts permanently. A slightly melancholy tune that never makes that hard left to the morose, simply stunning. "Long Road Home - The Song That Sings You Here" if you had no reasonable working knowledge of the catalog, one would consider this either a standard waiting in the wings or perhaps a forgotten gem from yesterday.

There is a tightly clustered pack of female jazz singers. Instead of diving into the cold murky waters of the overtly commercial, McNulty swings somewhere between Independent star on the rise and simply a raw honesty that transcends songs. One of the most beautiful vocal records that I have heard in years.

Tracks: How Little We Know; How Are Things In Glocca Morra; Jitterbug Waltz; Lonely Woman; On The Street Where You Live; Last Night When We Were Young; One Less Bell To Answer; Letter To Marta; Long Road Home - The Song That Sings You Here.

Personnel: Chris McNulty: voice; Ugonna Okegwp: bass; Marcus Gilmore Drums; Paul Bollenback: guitars; Andrei Kondokov: piano (4,5,8,9,10); Graham Wood: piano (1,2,3,6,7); Graham Wood: rhodes (10); Igot Buttman: tenor saxophone: (1,3,5); Igot Buttman: soprano saxophone: (4); Anita Wardell: guest vocals (7).

Rudresh Mahanthappa Gamak ACT 2012

The irony was not lost when just a few short hours ago, I mentioned there could be one or two major releases to hit the shelves. I love being right....Today the mail person left me tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. An absolutely dynamite 4tet offering from  will be hitting the streets on Jan. 29th 2013. Naturally that is a bit early to call it one of the best of 2012 but when the hybridization of jazz is all the rage, some of the finest music one can hear will be coming from these find players. Now my former editor would often caution me to stat as neutral as possible and never till the listener what to expect, I don't - I share a perspective.

This is progressive jazz with an adrenalin shot straight to the heart and alto saxophonist's Rudresh Mahanthappa's thirteenth as a leader. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Gamak would be the reharm or better yet reinvention of tunes some as far apart as a decade but there is a freshness and originality found no where else I can think of. Having worked with a variety of pianists, Mahanthappa decided for the fluidity and sonic variation of alternate tunings to he opted for David Fiuczynski who may well be the finest player you may never have heard of. Bassist Francois Moutin is an "A" list first call bassist that helps round out a stellar rhythm section with ace drummer Dan Weiss. Progressive jazz or "prog-rock" could easily be a misnomer. Gamak is a jazz collective that draws from a myriad of influences and explores the more modern ground few fear to tread.

The harmonic exploratory and dynamic tension created with the opening progressive infused tune "Waiting Is Forbidden" and closes with a more edgy punk style of "Majesty of the Blues." Everything else that happens between these two tunes is simply sonic gold. There may be but a half dozen alto player that are playing on Mahanthappa's level and Fiuczynski does things with the electric guitar that would seem utterly impossible. "Wrathful Wisdom" is a personal favorite and a Buddhist conceptual tune that while philosophical in nature, requires at times awkward counter intuitive fingerings. Back story and irony are often fun if not apt in the world of jazz. Another philosophical tune happened to be a sign on the Jersey Turnpike that was to have read "Stay In Lane." Mahanthappa took this as a sign to stay true to yourself as an individual and continues to do just that. While 2013 is weeks away and there are some heavy hitters to look out for, Gamak may well be one of the finest quartet pieces available. Mark your calendar!

Tracks: Waiting Is Forbidden; Abhogi; Stay I; We'll Make More; Are There Clouds In India? Lots of Interest; F; Copernicus; Wrathful Wisdom; Ballad for Troubled Times; Majesty Of The Blues.

Rudresh Mahanthappa: alto sax; David Fiuczynski: electric guitar; Francoise Moutin: acoustic bass; Dan Weiss: drums.

Myriad 3 Tell

A jazz collective on equal footing, Myriad came together almost as an accident waiting to happen. One night some subs (players not the sand which) where needed for another band;s gig and the three found themselves on stag at the same time. When something is right you just know it. A jazz exploratory of rhythm and groove, Myriad was in desperate need of playing in a many environments as possible as to tighten their swing and explore the relationship with other musicians. Thus, the birth of Myriad 3.

While most bands start doing the road in an effort to try and have their first record take off, a little something different happened on the way to the recording studio, Myriad 3 was getting their sound out and about the Toronto area and then and only then did they head off to the studio. A sightly backwards approach that seems to work incredible well for this tight knit working band from Toronoto. Spreading the word and heeding the Gospel jam that is Myriad 3 has allowed their sound and musical identities to flourish under these slightly unusual circumstances.

The band is pianist Chris Donnelly, bassist Dan Fortin, an drummer Ernestro Cervini. While all three were aware of the others works, some happy accidents brought them together to create one of the hottest and most refreshing sounds on the Toronto scene today. The most interesting part of this sonic backstory would be pianist Donnelly is perhaps best known for his work as a classical pianist, bassist Frotin cut his musical teeth and the raw edge of rock with maybe just a touch of blues touched for flavor and drummer Cervini is a jazz man through and through while frequently  gigging with his sisters band the Amy Cervini Quintet. A true musical collective that includes the business decisions which are all handled on a Democratic scale while as a band it is an harmonmic exploratory to be relished.

The melodic focus is never found in the jazz witness protection program. There are inventive twists and turns, harmonic and dynamic changes on the fly and a hard swing boarding on the infectious. "For The Dreamers" ebgins alsmost like c alassical hybrid then gradually moved towards a lyrican intentsity that easses back into the melodic wonderful from where it starts. "C Jam Blues" is a brimmiant redenition of  an old shol classicmade new cool again with a variety of dynamic range and intensity to match. "Myriad' opems this showcsae with a warm spantiety of sound and session alike. What makes Myriad 3 work so well is not only the undeniable chemstry but the bands unqiue ability to stop ouside their comfort zone. . Fromer Arsenio Hall music dirctor MichaelWolf referred to ervinii as one that swings as hard as any session type drummer todau - the classic undersell.Mriad 3 is cutting edge, the future of modern jazz and their new relesae Telll is just the beginning of what is to come!

Tracks: Myriad; Fractured; For The Dreamers; C Jam Blues; Disutbuing Inspiration (Part 1); Distrubing Inspiration (Part 2); Tell; Drifters; But Still And Yet; Mr. Awkward; Lament/PEX

Personnel: Chris Donnelly: piano; Dan Fortin: bass; Ernestro Cervini: drums.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Tedeschi Trucks Band Live Everybody's Talkin Sony 2012

In reviewing jazz I found myself eventually moving into world music, blues, and funk. The sophomore release from the Tedeschi Trucks Band is a two disc live set that fully captures the magic of this eleven piece ensemble. Don't get me wrong, the first release Revelator was solid but slightly stiff which may be due largely in part to trying to capture the spontaneous raw energy of what amounts to a small blues orchestra in a studio setting has to be a daunting task to say the least.

Everybody's Talkin' is a virtual snapshot in time of a prolific duo with an incredible band that hides out in a musical happy place somewhere between the Allman Brothers and Bonnie Raitt. Speaking of which Tedeschi's constant comparisons to Raitt are inherently unfair but perhaps this is why the pairing both personally and professionally between Tedeschi and Trucks works so incredibly well. Derek Trucks is a former member of the Allman Brothers Band, his uncle Butch Trucks was a founding member while Tedeschi has long been compared to Bonnie Raitt and the legendary Janis Joplin. Trucks is also a slide guitar virtuoso having played with the great Buddy Guy when he was just 13 years old.

Shacking off the shackles of the studio, Everbody's Talkin' kicks off with a funk reharm of the Harry Nilsson classic that is guaranteed to melt your speakers. The tunes were for the most part hand picked as a sort of a musical flash back on the bands first year together and bring that raw edge of a unique blues hybrid transformed with jazz sensibilities. The release simply never lets up in intensity or in a literally perfect set selection including "Midnight In Harlem" which serves as somewhat of a psychedelic intro into the classic "Little Martha." The cover of the Muddy Waters standard "Rollin' And Tumblin" is infectious and the first disc wraps with the Joe Cocker tune "Darling Be Home Soon." Tedeschi's vocals are spot on and Trucks has never sounded better. Two of the highlights on the second disc include Stevie Wonder's "Uptight" and a little funk nasty from the Staples Singers tune "Wade In The Water."  

While my thoughts if not taste in popular music can sometimes be as cold and lifeless as the disposable music society seems to be force fed today, The Tedeschi Trucks Band simply kicks it up a notch. This live set is high octane foot to the floor music that still manages to maintain an organic root of raw emotion and joyous abandon so lacking in pop culture today. Revelator was a good release to be sure, Everybody's Talkin' is about as close to a perfect live recording as you will find. Rock, blues, world music influence and all handled with a deceptively subtle jazz sensibility that makes this release a must. Trucks fans may argue it is a Tedeschi record but it simply does not matter. When something works this well then splitting hairs is simply taking hyper-critical to the next level.

Tracks: Everybody's Talkin'; Midnight In Harlem (Swamp Intro With Little Martha); Learn How To Love; Bound For Glory; Rollin' And Tumblin'; Nobody's Free; Darling Be Home Soon; That Did It; Uptight; Love Has Something Else To Say; Wade In The Water.

Personnel: Derek Trucks: guitar; Susan Tedeschi: guitar, vocals; Oteil Burbridge: bass; Kofi Burbridge: keyboards, flute; Tyler Greenwell: drums, percussion; Mike Mattison: vocals, acoustic guitar; Mark Rivers: vocals; Kebbi Williams: saxophone; Maurice Brown: trumpet; Saunders Sermons: trombone, vocals.

Mariel Roberts Nonextraneous Sounds Innova 2012

Only 24 and Mariel Roberts is making a defining statement as one of the most dazzling cellists on the New York scene. Another fearless debut recording on Innova has the aptly titled Nonextraneous Sounds charting a new course in artistic expression and lyrical direction while others would be far more content to play it safe. An accessible Philip Glass like minimalism that transforms the contemporary cello techniques using five stunning solo works and three which incorporate electronics into a very special statement of an artist who is indeed as technical proficient as she is artistically gifted.

Roberts refers to the ability to relate to the cello due to the wide sonic spectrum with which the instrument can navigate while never losing the human touch of expressiveness. While only five pieces in length, each has been especially commissioned for Roberts and serve as one act plays within a play. The somewhat conceptualized nature of the release is for Roberts, " an album that sounds like the city I live in." That it does...

Opening with "Three Shades, Foreshadows" ironically inspired by Rodin's sculpture, "The Three Shades" the layered texture resulting in a cerebral attack on the senses due largely in part to the liver performer and the three digital playback parts. A percussive pulse seems to form a musical bond with the bell like tones resulting from placing mini-clothespins near the base of the fingerboard. There is an ominous spatial warmth while using these deceptively subtle production oriented slights of hand that could have been a sonic disaster in the hands of lesser talent. "Teaser" shows the ability to change dynamics at will while maintaining an engaging and creative harmonic direction is a thing of beauty. Improvisational classical? A critics worst nightmare. The beauty of this work is that every present quality in those gifted few of attempting to place a square peg in a musical round whole. The mysterious tension created by "Saint Arc" from the bow work and the multi dimensional harmonics that explode from Roberts hand combine with pre-recorded and processed cello work to again push ones cerebral cortex into sensory overload. New sounds seemingly emerge in an endless stream with each subsequent spin.

A delightful marriage of the abstract and the conventional with neither overshadowing the other with self-indulgent pretentiousness. Nonextraneous Sounds takes the often played out term "organic" and gives real meaning to an abstract word often used when a critic can think of nothing else to say. Free your mind.

Tracks: Three Shades, Foreshadows; Teaser; Saint Arc; Flutter; Formations.

Personnel: Mariel Roberts: cello.