Monday, April 30, 2012

Eivind Opsvik, Overseas IV

First a note: regular readers of my blogs may have noticed a couple of days where all three music blogs did not get a new review article. I apologize. The reason for this was that I have had several multiple CD sets I was reviewing, and in those cases (as per my usual) I listened to the set five times per disk, so there were 10 additional listens, and so for a few mornings I only had one or two CDs ready for review. My apologies.

On to today's music. Eivind Opsvik, Norwegian bassist, has been cropping up on some very hip sessions lately. But with his ensemble Overseas and its forth release, matter-of-factly titled Overseas IV (Loyal Label 001), I discover I have been missing Eivind the bandleader and composer.

Overseas is Eivind on bass, Kenny Wollesen, drums, etc.; Jacob Sacks, harpsichord, Farfisa, piano; Tony Malaby on saxes; Brandon Seabrook on electric guitar and mandolin. These are names you probably know and certainly should if you don't (if you read my blogs anyway).

But they aren't just talented players/improvisers. For Overseas they are dedicated to the service of realizing Opsvik's involved, refreshing, sometimes breathtakingly newish compositions. Don't ask me fully to describe them, not on a Monday morning at 8 am anyway. They have rock-fusoid and avant elements and a certain machine precision combined with deliberate looseness. And a sound. Eivind gets a fabulous sound from the band in the course of this album.

I will stop short and just say this: in a world of polyglotten hybrids abounding and rebounding around our musical world like out-of-control handballs in a gymnasium, the music of Overseas makes its own absolute SENSE. Brilliant! I say brilliant!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Guy Klucevsek, The Multiple Personality Reunion Tour

In addition to penning one of funniest album titles I've experienced in years, Guy Klucevsek is one mother. He's a mother of an accordionist. He's a mother of a cenceptualist. He's a mother of a arranger-composer. He's all that on The Multiple Personality Reunion Tour (Innova 819).

And the title is more than just funny. It fits. He's brought together on this album virtually all the strands of musical culture he's been immersed in. It's world music. It's Baltic-Eastern European music. It's accordion music. It's a kind of fusion, in it's own distinctive way. It's noteful. It has those wonderful odd-metered grooves. And it's just plain good music.

The album features Klucevsek in a variety of small-to-mid-sized band configurations. They travel a wide arc though the ins and outs of Guy's musical concept.

In the end you get some pretty wild and wonderful, woolly and well-honed music that you are unlikely to hear quite like this anywhere else...unless it's on Guy's next album.

Dig on this one!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Phil Lesh and Friends, Live at Warfield Theater, 1999

With the death of Jerry Garcia the Dead disbanded for a time but of course have since reformed in various guises. At the same time the individual band members formed units to tour and record. Today we look at a live show Phil Lesh and Friends did at the Warfield Theater, San Francisco, on April 16, 1999. Phil of course was and is the bassist for the Dead.

The show is available for free download (authorized) at

It was a nice night of jamming and familiar songs. Donna Jean Godchaux joins the band as guest on vocals. Otherwise it's Phil (bass and vocals) with an august company of Steve Kimock (guitar), Trey Anastasio (guitar, vocals), Page McConnell (grand piano & organ, vocals) and John Molo (drums). The combination of Phish members, Kimock, and Phil is a very good one and they get off to some nice long versions and quite decent jamming. . . three CDs worth. The sound is good and it does not disappoint.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Blaise Siwula, Dom Minasi, Live at the Matt Bevel Institute

Both Blaise Siwula and Dom Minasi are central figures today on the New York avant improvisational scene. So it is most fitting that they got together for a series of duets, Live at the Matt Bevel Institute (re:konstruKt download release).

It's the virtuoso out saxophony of Blaise and the guitar innovations of Dom with both freedom and a strong compositional element that brings it all together.

The point though, is that this is a bit different. Each has a particular sound, niche and approach that mesh excellently together for these performances. They are listening closely to each other. And the compositions magnify that interactive chemistry as they set up the improvisations that revolve around them.

As this point in their careers they have realized their own personal voices, a way of sounding and a way of playing that a familiar and attentive ear would readily identify in a blindfold test. They give an excellent performance and thankfully it was captured well on disk. Get info on downloading the set at It's not like anything else. That in itself is a reason to check it out!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Nick Moran Trio, No Time Like Now

The organ trio has returned, seemingly to stay. Not all of them sound like warmed over Jimmy Smith, though many do. An exception is the Nick Moran Trio on their new No Time Like Now (Manor Sound 10661-1). Think more of Charles Earland in his funk phase and that's closer to it. It's more contemporary, like on their funkified version of Cream's "Strange Brew." And there are contemporary originals here, not standards.

The trio is Nick Moran on guitar and Brad Whitley on organ, who extend and expand the tradition in creative and musically adept ways, along with the fine drumming of Chris Benham.

It really is a simple as that. This is the organ trio as a living tradition, making new jazz that has the finesse and drive of the past masters, but does not resort to copycatting.

Nick's a tasty guitar player too. Watch out for more of him and more of this. Meanwhile by all means hear No Time Like Now.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dawn of the Dead: The Grateful Dead and the Rise of the San Francisco Underground

Anyone with an interest in the psychedelic San Francisco of the later '60s and/or the Dead will find the two-hours-plus DVD documentary The Dawn of the Dead (Sexy Intellectual 569) an excellent go. It covers via contemporary footage and a bevy of talking heads all the salient aspects of the story. Bluegrass, blues, rock and avant origins, Kesey's Merry Pranksters, fellow travelers the Charlatans, Airplane, Quicksilver, Big Brother, the Fish, the Haight Ashbury scene, and the evolution of the Dead from a cover band to the premier psycho-jam band of the age.

There are insights into the early albums, the stylistic evolution and recording practices, the partial origins of the band's style in the Acid Test gatherings, where they were welcome to develop a loose freedom without the scrutiny of a crowd demanding pop hits, the disaster of Altamont in 1969 and a general turning away from the electric onslaught to a temporary acoustic orientation. The story of the band parallels the story of the counter-culture of the times and the film does a decent job tieing that together.

Good footage, intelligent interviews and a cohesive narrative makes this one of the better in-depth documentaries of the music of the era. Definitely catch it if you are into the history and origins of the Dead and the San Francisco Sound.

Chris Pugh, Jack Gold-Molina, One Hundred Years of Abstraction, for Electric Guitar and Drums

Seattle scene-makers Chris Pugh and Jack Gold-Molina give us an extended foray in what one could call free psychedelic jazz-rock on the 2010 One Hundred Years of Abstraction (SolDisk 0610). It's Pugh on electric guitar, Gold-Molina on drums and percussion. The guitar playing has a strongly psychedelic outness to it, with high-voltage crank, sustain and feedback an integral part of the presentation. Jack Gold-Molina's part is ultra-tumultous post-DeJohnettian free tumble, with intervals of relative restfulness in-between.

The music works best when Pugh concentrates on compositional phrase repetition, long tones and skronk. He occasionally reverts to rather standard rock phrases and is less effective in those moments. Jack turns in some excellent bombasted bombardment on drums. At many points in the long jams he is the focal point of interest and Pugh a weaver of accompanying figure work, almost as a sarod, sitar or sarangi might accompany a tabla solo in a classical Indian recital.

When taken on those terms it's a vibrant journey on a rocket trip to places far off. I dug that and kudos to it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Renato Samuelli, Castelnuovo-Tedesco Guitar Works

Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968) was encouraged in his writing of solo guitar pieces by the grand master Segovia. It is to Maestro Segovia that we owe many of the first recordings of these works and he was instrumental in establishing C-T's guitar compositions as mainstays in the contemporary repertoire.

On the current disk at hand, Renato Samuelli's Castelnuevo-Tedesco's Guitar Works (Newton Classics 8802106), Samuelli pairs the relatively under-recorded with some perennials, the moderately difficult with virtuoso show pieces, in a program that gives you a fairly full gaze at how C-T went about the business of composing for the solo classical guitar. The 16 examples from his "Notes from Notebook I,II" show how student pieces of moderate difficulty can also have the charm of the colloquial and a place in the classical guitar tradition.

The "Tonadilla" and the "Capriccio Diabolico", on the other hand, give you the fully fleshed-out composer of brilliance, the gifted professional writing for the guitar master.

Together a picture emerges of Castelnuevo-Tedesco the melodist, the composer who could coax magic from the gut/nylon strings, a lyrical architect of many moods. Samuelli handles the very different works adroitly, with subtle touch and judicious expression. This is not all of C-T's output for the solo guitar and it does not include all of his best, but it is a program that encompasses the full spectrum of the composer's oeuvre, nicely played.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Chad Wackerman, Dreams, Nightmares and Improvisations, with Allan Holdsworth

Chad Wackerman was perhaps the most talented of all the drummers to grace the stage in Frank Zappa's bands. As he has matured his playing and his group concept have blossomed, so that if he no longer so much wears his prodigious technique on his sleeve, he makes music that is as astoundingly virtuostic as it is challenging and interesting.

For the new Dreams, Nightmares and Improvisations (Chad Wackerman CD-5) he gets together with long-associated colleagues Allan Holdsworth, Jim Cox and Jimmy Johnson on guitar, keys and bass, respectively. Their many years spent together and some roadwork that Chad and Allan did recently, working on spontaneous composition/free improvisation, has given birth to a vibrant ambient album of music half-composed, half-jammed. The two halfs of the puzzle fit together without seams showing, and the results are very good; excellent in fact.

Chad sounds beautiful, a percussion orchestra unto himself. Allan plays the guitar in his own instantly identifiable way and as usual has a wealth of ideas. The translation of his playing to the synthaxe on some cuts gives him an expanded sound. As much as I tend to dislike the digital guitar interface, Allan's playing with it satisfies me the most--partly because the striking nature of his lines transcends the sound of the output, and also because the compressed nature of his guitar sound is not as far away from the synthaxe sound as some other players' guitar sounds can be. So there is more compatibility there in the first place. Similarly Jim Cox's synth work is so compatible with Holdsworth's style it is sometimes difficult at first to mark where Allan leaves off and Jim comes in--at those points where Allan is on the synthaxe. Jimmy Johnson has chops and excellent taste and so adds much to the session.

It's a driving yet ambient fusion style that these four have worked out by now. The monstrously accomplished Wackerman and Holdsworth never sounded better together. This one will curl your toes!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Roy Buchanan Live at Rockpalast DVD, 1985

Roy Buchanan has always been somewhat of an enigma. Though he is revered by many guitar-wielding cognoscenti, widespread recognition among the general public has alluded him. This was partly by choice, partly by circumstances. The DVD Live at Rockpalast (MIG 90397) gives you an hour of him and his group appearing in Hamburg for the Rockpalast TV show several years before his death.

He plays his guitar. There is a total lack of pretense. No gyrations or gimmicks. The band plays a set of blues, surf and rockers and he shows you what makes him special. It's him and his Telecaster, a moderate-sized amp with a bit of reverb, his band, and that's it. Oh and his vocals. They were "band" vocals. Old school.

What's nice about this video is that you get to see him in action. There is a special set of techniques he perfected, the staccato harmonic-plectrum hits, the envelopes of sound, the picking, all that he was you can hear and see him doing. And that's pretty cool both if you are a guitarist or if you just love the music.

It's no nonsense, the sound has a few glitches but is generally very good, and there you have it. You'll come away from viewing this one with a good sense of who Roy was. A player!!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tony R Clef, Tuesday Afternoon, Solo Acoustic Guitar

I won't say that I was skeptical exactly as I put Tony R Clef's Tuesday Afternoon (Big Round 9816) into my CD player. Having heard so many disks by unknown quantities on solo guitar I was wary, especially since the artist addressed some rock and pop standards along with Poulenc and Purcell.

It turns out I was in for a most pleasant surprise. This is good. Very good. Tony holds his own on the short classical pieces and then gets up some striking arrangements of "Tuesday Afternoon," "Pure Imagination," "Sunny Afternoon," "When I'm 64," and more as well. He does justice to the salient features of the songs and by transferring and rearranging them for solo classical guitar, with combinations of finger picking, harmonics and the full arsenal of classical technique, brings you to an appreciation for the songs themselves and their pure musicality. And Mr. Clef's artistry, which is most certainly well-in-hand here.

If you listen to his version of "Tuesday Afternoon" alone, you'll get it.

Beautiful performance. Sounds great!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Elysian Fields, Queen of the Meadow, 2000

Elysian Fields, a favorite band of mine, recorded their fourth album (though one was not released) in 2000, Queen of the Meadow (JetSet TWA 33). It has been reissued, as I understand it, on another label, but I have a used copy of the first edition so that's the cover I post here. The main creative forces behind the band are Jennifer Charles, vocals and co-composer, and Oren Blodoe, guitars and co-composer.

The music is darkly playful and Jennifer's vocals are inimitable. This particular album has some very strong songs and nice arrangements. I would say it's one of the best.

My wife, hearing this playing, queried "Who's that? I like it, especially the vocals. It all reminds me of the music from 'Twin Peaks'." Well I don't disagree, though I've come to appreciate the originality to be had here and the similarity to "Peaks" has something to do with the new noir dark-light sensibility they both have in common.

Well and so we go. This one should not be missed. I've already reviewed a number of their disks on these pages so I will not prattle on. It's a good go!!

Monday, April 9, 2012

New World Beat, "After Carnival"

With a name like New World Beat, you might assume you are getting some sort of world music hybrid. Well, yes and no. In fact New World Beat's After Carnival (CDM 1001) is a kind of cross between an updated take on the sound of the Gary Burton ensemble (especially thanks to Richard Sprince's vibraphone leadership) and the compositional world-ish-lyricism-with-pulse associated with Pat Metheny (thanks to Richard Sprince's compositions-arrangements). Now that's a good thing because it is well done. Matt Vashlishan has presence on soprano and alto, Tom Lippencott on 8-string guitar, Diogo Oliviera Brown on fretless bass, and Goran Rista, drums. Then there's Cezar Santana on nylon acoustic guitar and assundry others, some guests.

You probably wouldn't want this one for your aspiring musical offspring to cut his (or her) eye teeth on (meaning it is not exactly groundbreaking [or paradigmatic as one of my profs used to say]), but is a terribly pleasant listen. Not terrible. Terribly pleasant.

It will make you smile.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Donovan Quinn, Honky Tonk Medusa

Donovan Quinn. His quirky lyrics. His laconic laid-back vocals. His retro-modern rock song output. That's what his new album Honky Tonk Medusa (Northern-Spy 019) is about. It's contemporary, now, without being adonoidonal. (I refer to those vocalists that sound sort of young and cute while singing about hard-as-nails shyte that belies the sound of their wimpy little voices. You know the sort. And in their videos they are guaranteed to play their guitars in ridiculous postures, poses only possible if you are playing three bar chords with faux abandon!) No. It's new rock without the pretense. Underproduced. The band is doing what it does without any sort of slickness. Slickness would have messed it up. So that's cool.

So I listened once, said "OK," then kept listening until it started to gell in my head. This has trajectory, it goes where it does in a nicely underground-ish way.

I like it. He's got his thing going here and it's going well.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ian Hunter Band Live at Rockpalast DVD, 1980

Ian Hunter was a pivotal figure on the hard rock scene, as most likely you know. Starting with Mott the Hoople and then with his own band, he created some classics and made a mark. Throughout it all (more or less) fellow guitarist Mick Ronson was a part of the proceedings.

Ian Hunter Band feat. Mick Ronson Live at Rockpalast (MIG 90409) joins the band for an hour-long 1980 live broadcast as part of the West German television series. It's the band in good spirits doing familiar material and some new things at the time as well. There's good rocking and some Dylanesque numbers, as was Ian's wont.

The sound is fine, visuals clear and it is what it is. You will like it certainly if you like things Ian Hunter style. Good Hunter-ing!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Jukin', Another Volume in the Jukin' wit de Blues Anthology Series from Catbone

Here we have one more volume in the Jukin' wit de Blues series. It's Jukin' (Catbone CD 2006-2). As with previous volumes there is some wonderful classic blues. James Cotten, Billy Boy Arnold, Howlin Wolf, Mike Bloomfield, Jimmy Reed, and Little Richard turn in some blistering sides on well known numbers. There is one cut at the end, like in previous volumes, by one Jack Millman. It's OK bebop and doesn't belong here. But it's short and at the end, so it doesn't take away from the first 16 tunes in any way that matters.

There are gems and once again I, at least, listen and remember why I started listening to the blues in the first place. The masters had that thing going and it still sounds 100% as vital as it did then. A goodly handful is here for you if you don't know.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Jeff Parker, Bright Light in Winter

Guitarist Jeff Parker has become the "go-to guy" for modern and avant sessions in Chicago. His new CD Bright Light in Winter (Delmark 2015) helps you understand why. It's a trio of Parker with Chris Lopes on acoustic bass and Chad Taylor on drums. This is his third and it's a good one. The band straddles the line between the acoustic and the electronic in ways that make both ends talk to each other. Both Parker and Lopes make use of a Korg synthesizer for effective atmospheric washes and added texture at selected points. So too they straddle the lines between swinging, creating Afric-American polyrhythmic creative tensions, and flat-out funking out. It all works together. And it all works. Listen to "Occidental," a nice groove in seven that suggests all three at once.

The compositions are effective vehicles for the soloing and Parker gives us a good slather of post-Dunbar-Green bluesy post-bop that can stretch and go into some edginess or stay in the pocket. It's in the tradition and onto the farther borders of it at the same time. Chad Taylor, as always, can whip up a firey drum accompaniment that has the well-paced "smart smoke" of the master he is. Hyland Harris's well conceived liner notes mention Parker's arc soloing dynamics. And as you listen you hear how his solos build effectively, generally hit a peak and wind down.

All of this takes place in a situation where Lopes's bass gives the music that strong fundamental anchorage it demands, whether it be in a harmonic shift or laying down a pattern with style and energy.

There are some excellent rhythmic motifs, some really ear catching written lines and most of all there is the very hot interplay between Parker and Taylor, guitar and drums.

It's a winner all the way. A guitar trio with something to express, a new handle on the in & out tradition. Most definitely recommended.