Monday, October 18, 2010

Perfect Sounds Listening Booth: Fall 2010 vol. 2

A few more records, this time jazz and hip hop. More rock and related later in the week.

Jazz & related:
  • Jon Irabagon: Foxy (Hot Cup) - Sure, the cover is a tacky if slightly funny take on Sonny Rollins' Way Out West, and the fact that most of the song titles have variations of -xy endings makes this seem a bit gimmicky, particularly when you consider that instead of the 12 tracks named, the album is in fact one long and quite hectic improvisation, only separated by slight changes in themes or temper, and often quite subtle changes at that. But it's the music that counts, and this is a loud, rumbling set of free rolling post bop. Irabagon blows all the way through the set, moving between short melodic bursts and cry outs. Given his free spirited wailings, it is perhaps no surprise that bassist Peter Brendler plays more conservatively than Moppa Elliott from Mostly Other People Do the Killing, the group Irabagon is perhaps best known from, though Brendler's bass booms with the best of them now and then. 67 year old semi-legendary drummer Barry Altschul provides skitting rhythms and keeps the trio moving. The music here is very impressive at times, but themes tend to be lost ones they are stated, replaced by non-linear blow outs rather than varitions of the themes. It is a trick I can appreciate greatly - note e.g. Charles Gayle & cos terrific Touchin' On Trane - but at a single piece at album length, the music gets a bit one paced and can lose a bit of dynamism that way. (7/10)*
  • Rudesh Mahanthappa & Bunky Green: Apex (Pi Recordings) - Altoist Bunky Green had a short stint with Charles Mingus' live band ca. 1960 (can't find a credit on any Mingus record that I recall), brought in to replace Jackie McClean. Left shortly after and moved from NY to Chicago, but had only passing contact with the city's AACM movement. Recorded a few records as a leader in the 60s, a couple in the late 70s, and a few more in the 80s, before moving to Florida on to teach music, only resurfacing on record around 2006. His 60s records were fairly straight ahead post bop, not too gruff and informed by a pop sensibility, marked by Green's clean alto sound and only occasionally hinting at more avant garde territories, while his later efforts have been credited as foreshadowing the M-base sounds of Steve Coleman et al. Green's new record Apex, a collaboration with fellow altoist Rudesh Mahanthappa, takes more risks than I think his previous output have done. Sprightly, mostly very fast and inspired hard bop, with great interplay between the two altoists, taking turns at leaping solos as well as tricky, interwoven melodic themes. Only having access to a digital copy of the album at the moment, I have no idea who the composers of the respective tunes are, though having heard some of Green's past material and knowing Mahanthappa's records fairly well, I'd bet Green has discovered a newfound fondness for experimentation from his younger acolyte. The hard driving band has such mainstream stars as pianist Jason Moran and Jack DeJonette, who takes turns with Damion Reid on the drums (again, not been able to tell on which tracks), with long time Mahanthappa collaborator Francois Moutin on bass. This may have potential beyond this initaial grade. (7/10)*
  • Henry Grimes & Rashied Ali: Spirits Aloft (Porter Records) - A live duo recording by two elder statesmen of the avant garde. The often primitive sounding Grimes switches between violin and the upright bass he is known for, plucking and bowing. Ali's skitting and occasionally funky drumming moves purposefully over and under Grimes' almost tentative but increasingly assertive bass lines, and the interplay between the two is enjoyable. This is sparse free jazz, but quite enganging at that. (7/10)*
  • Mary Halvorson Trio & Quintet: Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12) - Tricky, subtle, noodeling guitar lines, offset by the occasional fuzzy riff, and nicely balanced by a nimble but laid back rhtyhm section. This time, Halvorson moves from a trio to a quintet format on about half of the album's ten tracks, without losing her knack for weaving and intricate melodies. (7/10)*
Mixtapes: So much good hip hop today is released as downloadable mixtapes only. This is not an easy landscape to find your way in, so I tend to consult Southern Hospitality and Jaywalkers, among others, for guidance. These are three of the most interesting I've been able to hear.
  • OFWGKTA: Radical (Odd Future) - Bratty young'uns with a wicked sense of humor and a penchant for odd sounds. Sure, the subject matters, where they are decipherable, seem dumb at times, but so did the Angry Samoans'. Like them, they seem fully aware of their childish hang-ups, and exploit them for effect. Tyler the Creator's deep voice over off-kilter soundscapes conjure up some of the best weirdo hip hop this side of Old Dirty, Kool Keith and MF Doom. (7/10)*
  • Young Gully: The Graant Station Project - GSP recalls jazz tinged 90s hip hop in the best possible sense. Steady flow over mostly laid back beats, barring the "Revolution Will Not Be Televised"-sampled fight song named "Peace", oddly enough. (7/10)*
  • Wacka Flocka Flame: Flockaveli - The most gangsta, and probably convetional, sounding of these three. Synth heavy, booming hip hop. Wacka a hang-up with guns and money, but he sounds convincing in his role, and his husky rapping and the threatening soundscape makes it a worthwhile listen. (7/10)*
* Grades are tentative, based on three or four listens, sometimes a few more. Much of the writing is done during listens, and should be considered notes more than final reviews.

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