Sunday, 31 March 2019

No Face Music 21

Shawn James - The Dark & The Light, album review

I'm Proclaiming

More rock and raw as James puts it, and as I have reviewed here before, and on opener Orpheus added horns are an enabling amplification.

The vocal is potent as ever: soulful on that opener; falsetto-sweet to start on second Love Will Find a Way I, merging into emotive harmony in this autobiographical account of a father lost when James was 5 years old, and the bitter history, for various reasons, that pervades; and it segues into the third track which is part II of the same song, the rousing harmony as link and then a lamenting, soaring ballad intoning the hope of its title, returning to falsetto for its yearning line.

Fourth There It Is brings back the horns to introduce, and this soulful song continues the introspection delivered in the honest projection of James’ powerful singing. The Weak End puns to a more acoustic and gentle aside, though it does rise to its concluding with pedal steel attending. Sixth Burn the Witch broods in a bluesy, Country-whistled storytelling. A stomp blues haunts Haunted, fine slide supporting the vocal's tune-mapping glide. And just how beautiful are eighth The Curse of the Fold, ninth Chicago, and closer When I'm Gone...

This is another fine work in the oeuvre of an artist who deserves more public proclaiming of his excellence.

Steering Wheel Music 14

Robin Trower - Coming Closer to the Day, album review

Trademark: Tick

It's easy to recognise and to therefore like and to therefore dislike.

Slow brooding blues? Trademark: tick

Elastic reverbed fuzzed/feedbacked guitar? Trademark: tick

Fine enough vocal duties? Trademark, as of late: tick

Easy to like if you like? I like: tick

Easy to dismiss if too formulaic? If that way inclined: tick

I've read mixed reviews that says it all, just seems to labour on this bifurcation. I think it's a surer deal than Brexit; perhaps not on the new Marmite peanut butter.

But you may have another opinion.

Coming Closer to the Day? History suggests and empathy prompts: tick

Thursday, 7 March 2019

The Bonzo Dog Band - Best Of

Great Fun

Musically my day started well, listening to the Townes Van Zandt 1973 Sky Blue album [originally recorded then, released today] and being reminded of how brilliant such brilliant simplicity is - though lyrically that would be an inaccurate summation, and musically too in one sense - but I think those who know will...

This sweet moment was informed by much of other stuff I have been listening to, not necessarily bad, but perhaps I'm a little underwhelmed by some over-production and complexities as many strive for nuance all these years down the road from '73, yet that also would be too simplistic. But those...

Anyway, continuing the simple enjoyment, I am listening to a wonderful compilation of The Bonzo Dog Band, obvious songs like I'm the Urban Spaceman and Canyons of Your Mind, but reminded [or more honestly, re-introduced] to gems like the crazy My Slater's Parrot, the socially satirical and observant Sport (The Odd Boy), the ironically good blues boogie of Can Blue Men Sing the Whites, and the birth of comic rap in Humanoid Boogie.

Yes, so much is knucklestuff for 2019, but nothing as crass as Amber Rudd today referring to Dianne Abbot...

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Into the Distance Music 87

Durand Jones & The Indications - American Love Call

It Is Though Isn't But Is, Definitely

Retro-soul makes a nonsense of its adjectival qualifier, though that is the ultimate ruse of its purpose. If you were told this was from the 60s/70s, you’d have to be a supreme nerd-geek to know it wasn’t.

Its sweetest recreation that isn’t really [no, the sweet is] are the exquisite harmonies - just hear ninth track Listen to Your Heart - though there are also some great individual breaks from the generic tradition like the fuzzed guitar close to first track Morning in America.

Every track is a classic – that’s in the making rather than time-given.

You’ll know what I mean.

Friday, 1 March 2019

Steve Waterman with the Blue Vanguard Trio - Gipsy Hill Hotel, 28th February, 2019

All Shades, All Hues

I don’t always do this, but before seeing trumpeter Steve Waterman at the Blue Vanguard last night I did listen to some of his work, the avant-garde Narc├ęte and orchestral October Arrival.

In the former, Waterman accompanies Italian poet Erika Dagnino, who performs in English; Italian violinist Stefano Pastor, and fellow countryman George Haslam on saxophone. The often punchy and no doubt significantly improvised interplay between horn, sax and violin is lively and disruptive so a [welcome to me] challenge as a listen; the spoken word element provided by Dagnino adds to the overall experimental sound and feel.

October Arrival is on another area of the musical spectrum – and I mention these two albums precisely for a point about the breadth and interest of Waterman’s playing, involved heavily in big bands too – the title track a beautiful paean to autumn and horn-lyricism, written by Waterman and played with his jazz orchestra. It was also his penultimate song at last night’s gig, a sweet ballad on sweet flugelhorn.

I’m never good at remembering all the songs/standards played at a Blue Vanguard gig, though I sometimes take a notepad and pen. I was without such support – that is apart from my gig buddies who, like me, always hugely enjoy the BV jazz experience – but I do recall the second song played was by Freddie Hubbard, and Waterman was on flugelhorn again for that: it is such a pure tone, as instrument and in the finesse of his playing. You could call it the silky slither of a snake [that’s an ‘in’ joke, by the way].

My favourite of the night that gives me a chance, as ever, to celebrate the Blue Vanguard Trio was Miles Davis’ All Blues. Wow, what a stormer this was! Coach York on drums delivered beats that pulsed and sailed and soared; Al Swainger on upright bass caressed and plucked such sublime rounds, including chords, and always those bended/blended notes, and Craig Milverton on keys produced his familiar bristling runs but also trademark chord sequences that mesmerise in their shifting tones and timings. Steve Waterman played with speed and sensitivity, a combination that informed the whole wonderful evening at Exeter and Devon’s premier jazz venue.