Music Review

R.I.P. Pete Cosey, Doc Watson

In an increasingly bad month for music lovers, we have lost two more beloved greats, guitarists of the highest caliber: folk/country icon Doc Watson and jazz/blues/soul/avant-garde legend Pete Cosey. Watson was a star, certainly; just as certainly, Cosey was not. But aficionados of their respective genres had the highest respect for them.

Thrilling to the Ears & Easy on the Eyes

Carole J. Bufford in speak easy.
Metropolitan Room, NY

Hearing Carole J. Bufford sing backed by Vince Giordano & the Nighthawks is a rare alignment of stars not to be missed. Chronicling the Prohibition Era through its music, speak easy. brings this bygone time of legal restraint and social release to life in a relevant manner that is laced with nostalgia but not dependent on it. Deep within Bufford's dazzling and somewhat puckish eyes is a spark that sets fire to the music that radiates from her. Exuding playful sexiness, her presence is well suited for this genre and her connection to it is displayed by her genuine grasp of every note. 

Sviatoslav Richter's Teldec Recordings Reissued

Sviatoslav Richter: The Teldec Recordings (Teldec/Warner Classics)

This three-CD set returns to print some fairly fascinating items from the discography of the most venerated pianist of his generation.  It’s an import from England that’s distributed by Naxos; at its $24.99 list price, it’s a great bargain, and thus easily worth acquiring even if you already have one of its discs.

May Jazz Review Roundup

Dheepa Chari: Some New Fashion (Dheepa Chari)

A young New York singer releasing her first full-length (after an EP I haven't heard), Chari is part of the new breed of jazzers who are looking beyond standards for their repertoire. Not that other jazzers haven't already covered the Beatles (she sings "Here, There, and Everywhere") or Billy Joel (in my youth I heard Count Basie play "Just the Way You Are," which not only closes this album but also gives it its title), but I bet she's the first to take on Depeche Mode's "World in My Eyes" and Linkin Park's "Shadow of the Day." The funny thing is, as much as I was ready to look down my nose on the latter choice, it works beautifully, thanks not only to her vocal delivery but to Vikas Hebbar's lovely arrangement, which features violin and muted trumpet.

Goodbye to Flying Burrito Brother Chris Ethridge & Bee Gee Robin Gibb

As my friend Pam Grossman put it, "Yes, universe, I know. I know too well that time passes and we are all going to die, sooner or hopefully later. I also know that cancer sucks. You do not need to drive these points home by killing off musicians I love every other day." This was prompted by the passing of Robin Gibb just after we lost Donna Summer and several other greats. Meanwhile, my friend Davie Kaufman, the biggest Flying Burrito Brothers fan I know, was disappointed that I hadn't yet marked the passing of Chris Ethridge, an original member of the Burritos, also taken from us by cancer.

Four Music Greats Pass

This was a particularly sad week for the musical world. We lost four greats: Chuck Brown, the godfather of Go-Go; country-rock pioneer Doug Dillard; supreme disco diva Donna Summer; and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, who did more to promote art song than anyone else in the recording era.

Chuck Brown was the most innovative of them, and the funkiest. Born in 1936, he paid his dues as a guitarist in various R&B bands in the '60s. His funk band The Soul Searchers made two classic albums for Sussex, We the People (1972) and Salt of the Earth (1974). "Ashley's Roachclip" on the latter includes a drum break that became one of the sampled breaks in hip-hop; "Blow Your Whistle" from the same LP is also much-sampled.

Brooklyn Jazz With Universal Appeal

David Bindman Ensemble: Sunset Park Polyphony (David Bindman)

Bindman -- familiar from the Brooklyn Sax Quartet and his work with Anthony Braxton, Fred Ho, Ehran Elisha, Kevin Norton, and others -- has been slowly but surely building a small yet impressive discography as a leader. This self-released two-CD sextet album is his masterpiece so far, mixing modal jazz with worldbeat rhythms in a sort of concept album about places, finding one's place in the world, and interaction -- the sort of socially aware jazz program that Shepp and Coltrane were known for in the second half of the '60s, with some musical similarities as well, albeit still sounding like 21st century jazz.

ANNIVERSARIES: Gil Evans Born 100 Years Ago

Gil Evans, perhaps the second-greatest arranger in jazz after Duke Ellington, was born Ian Ernest Gilmore Green on May 13, 1912 in Toronto, Canada (Evans was his stepfather's name). Though best known for his collaborations with Miles Davis, Evans released many great albums as a bandleader and created a highly influential style that changed the course of jazz history.

Though self-taught, by age 21 Evans was leading a big band that became the house group at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Balboa Beach. Eventually it was fronted and then led by singer Skinnay Ennis, and Claude Thornhill joined Evans in providing arrangements for them. Thornhill then moved to New York to start his own band, and in 1941 invited Evans to New York to write arrangements. Soon Evans's arrangements with their lush, hazy, floating textures defined the Thornhill style.

Prime Gig from Big Brother & Janis Joplin

Big Brother and the Holding Company: Live at the Carousel Ballroom 1968 (Columbia Legacy)

This 71-minute sonic document was recorded and produced by the late Owsley "Bear" Stanley (famed personal soundman to the Grateful Dead), who stated, shortly before he died last year, "I believe this album will be hailed as the definitive Big Brother live album of all time."

I think he's correct. Even before I pulled out the booklet and read the notes, I was already thinking that I’d never heard lead singer Janis Joplin sound so explosive.

Old-School Singer

Roslyn Kind: Coming Home
Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College
April 28, 2012

Roslyn Kind is an authentic song artist and entertainer. The audience at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts was treated to a full hour-and-a-half of her fine voice and lively presence. Using her magnificent instrument, she beautifully rendered songs, "standards" and otherwise. Her infectious self-delight never faltered as she sang, conversationally spoke of growing up in a nearby Brooklyn neighborhood, and engaged with the audience as if the theater were her living room.