Header Quote

"If you ain't got it in you, you can't blow it out."
— Louis Armstrong

Friday, May 27, 2011

Edie Brickell: Edie Brickell / The Gaddabouts: The Gaddabouts

There is a certain kind of tuneful folk-pop music that would be hard to criticize if one were to be fair, but that in 2011, with all the factors fully considered and summed up, also lands on the musical palate with a bit of a fssssss. A nice voice, an acoustic guitar, a sturdy verse ‘n’ chorus kind of songwriting, a gentle examination of personal foibles or relationships or culture: you know this kind of music if you’re over 30, and you probably love some of it. Or plenty of it. Because there is such a plenty of it.

Now, just because Joni Mitchell’s Blue exists does not mean that Edie Brickell shouldn’t make some more music. But here’s the thing: you are excused if even the high quality tunesmithing and breezy/breathy vocals of her two new discs don’t move you. You get a pass if you aren’t paying close attention to her twin releases on her own label, one eponymous and one with the Gaddabouts, which is led by drummer Steve Gadd and features Brickell and her tunes. This is, after all, a whole lot of folk-rock to absorb in one sitting.

Ready my full PopMatters reviews of Edie Brickell: Edie Brickell / The Gaddabouts: The Gaddabouts HERE. 

Edie Brickell is a smoother, more consistent disc, with an even band sound throughout—one that often leans back on the sturdy piano-pop of Elton John or, more recently, Bruce Hornsby.  The Gaddabouts refers to a wider range of different styles, and at its best it places Brickell's bluesy, slightly lazy voice into a swinging jazz area that is very strong.  Ronnie Cuber solos on baritone sax, and these tunes sound remarkably fresh.

Good music—well-crafted and well-written and fine indeed.  But just a touch of a snooze in 2011.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Marcus Miller: A Night in Monte-Carlo

I like Marcus Miller. I better like him—he's incredibly cool (and incredibly nice, as I interviewed him once when he was in an airport and found him utterly giving and kind) and he's about the best electric bass player on the planet. And he was the arranger and producer of choice for both Miles Davis and Luther Vandross.

But his solo records are not quite jazz classics. His latest, Marcus Miller: A Night in Monte-Carlo (read my full PopMatters review here), is typical of Miller's solo work: eclectic to a fault and sometimes brilliant. This is a live date with Miller's funky jazz group, a full orchestra, guest vocalists, and a ton of stylistic range. Opera, bossa nova, funk, classic jazz, snappy pop singing. There's "Amazing Grace" and there's "So What". We get groovy vocal percussion from Raul Midon and feather-cool flugelhorn playing from Roy Hargrove. It's a pu-pu platter of music for sure, but at times it all works wonderfully—as when the orchestra and DJ Logic are both grooving at "So What" with the backbeat perfectly in the pocket.

A Night in Monte Carlo is a neat representation of a great polymath musician to whom boundaries are beside the point. If it works for you, then dig it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Jane Ira Bloom's Sinuous Soprano

I'm a huge fan of the singular sound of Jane Ira Bloom's soprano saxophone. It's a sound so pure and so beautiful that it almost sounds electronic as it cuts through the air to your ear.

It's rare, of course, for a musician to focus only on the soprano sax. It's even more rare for a jazz musician who is not a singer or a pianist to be a woman. Bloom, in short, is a very rare player. Check out out latest JAZZ TODAY column about her here: Jane Ira Bloom's Sinuous Soprano.

Bloom's latest recording, Wingwalker, extends her long tradition of fine and bold programs. Her latest quartet features the pianist Dawn Clement, Mark Helias on bass, and her longstanding drummer Bobby Previte. Bloom is still using "live electronics" to thicken and process slightly the sound of her horn, though this gimmick is utilized with considerable skill and subtlety. And Bloom still walks the line between great loveliness of form and a certain beyond-the-harmony daring in how she plays.

Jane Ira Bloom, now and always, plays with with feminine grace but not a hint of cliche or schmaltz. She still sounds mesmerizing.