Tag Archives: music review

The Moore-McColl Jazz Society, Electric Fantastic | The Vinyl Anachronist

The long-lasting appeal of old-fashioned blues rock, full of blistering riffs from hollow-bodied Gibsons, Hammond B-3s and the mandatory three-piece horn section, the kind of music G. E. Smith used to play on his Telly when he was leading the SNL Orchestra and heck, even the Blues Brothers themselves, has always perplexed me. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t grow up with this music while growing up in Southern California–aside from Steely Dan, perhaps. This was the music for the young people in towns like Chicago and Detroit, where big, joyful and raucous music was the order of the day. The Moore-McColl Jazz Society plays that sort of music, the kind that borrows the ingredients from many different kitchens and serves you up something unique. The real secret to this nebulous musical genre is more than identifying all those elements–soul, R&B, rock and roll, blues and jazz–and showing how adept you are at playing each one. On their new album, Electric Fantastic, the Moore-McColl Jazz Society adopts that strategy. Singer/keyboard player Beth Moore and singer/guitarist Chance McColl got together last year to record their takes on various jazz and blues genres and assembled not just a band, but a society, to [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Madre Vaca, Winterreise | The Vinyl Anachronist

Just a few days after writing a review on jazz arrangements for Prokofiev, I’ve stumbled upon another CD in the review pile that takes classical compositions and arranges them for a jazz ensemble. In this case we’re talking about the eight-member “jazz collective” known as Madre Vaca and their new album Winterreise, which uses music from Franz Schubert to draw a complex and varied study of melancholia while using many different types of ensembles. Drummer-pianist Benjamin Shorstein arranged these pieces to take advantage of Madre Vaca’s ability to create a multitude of perspectives, with constantly changing moods and sounds. Schubert based his own composition on 24 poems by Wilhelm Muller, which focus on “the story of a rejected man who left his beloved’s home to wander away in the middle of a winter night.” That sounds dreary and full of sadness, but Madre Vaca approaches this subject matter as a way to reflect on our emotions, and how we are sometimes led down a path that’s dark, scary and cold. Through the use of such strong voices as saxophone (Juan Rollan), trumpet (Steve Strawley), trombone (Lance Reed) and guitar (Jarrett Carter), Madre Vaca seems determined to show us the lifelong [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Spirabassi’s Improkofiev | The Vinyl Anachronist

What’s an improkofiev? For that matter, what’s a spirabassi? Spirabassi‘s Improkofiev has one of those inscrutable album covers, letters going every which way, so it’s hard to figure out what this CD’s about without listening. Here’s the low down: soprano sax player Stephane Spira has teamed up with pianist Giovanni Mirabassi, along with drummer Donald Kontomanou and bassist Steve Wood, to record this album, which is called Improkofiev. It includes a jazz arrangement of Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No.1–a favorite composition from one of my favorite classical composers. Spirabassi is the name of this quartet, and Improkofiev refers to the fact that only “excerpts” of Prokofiev’s angular yet stunning themes appear. My first reaction to ideas explored in Spirabassi’s Improkofiev was oh, this is like the Jacques Loussier Trio performing all those fabulous jazz arrangements for popular Johann Sebastian Bach compositions. Spirabassi doesn’t restrict itself by sticking solely to Prokofiev, which I have to admit is an album I would buy in a second. Instead, the quartet runs through a few tracks first before launching into the three-part suite, giving us superb and lush interpretations of Erik Satie’s Gymnopedie No.1, Carla Bley’s “Lawns” and a couple of original tunes from Spira. The [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Event Horizon Jazz Quartet, Event Horizon | The Vinyl Anachronist

Event Horizon, the eponymous debut album from the Chicago-based quartet, arrived under strange circumstances. I had just read an article on the 1993 space-horror film of the same name, and how it has achieved cult status over the last few years because it’s so twisted and graphic and ultimately disturbing despite mediocre reviews and general box office floppage. After watching some of the more gruesome scenes on YouTube, I had just come to the conclusion that I sorta kinda wanted to see it. And then this album appeared, and I asked “Kismet?” I wondered if Event Horizon, the jazz quartet, was as foreboding as the film–I immediately thought it would sound like a combination of Art Zoyd and Ornette Coleman. Instead, we get a lively and imaginative jazz quartet that prides itself at being fluent in several musical genres while staying ultimately true to jazz. Ostensibly led by “reed player” Jim Kaczmarek, Event Horizon is a quartet where all four members contribute equally. That’s unusual since this debut album is comprised of original compositions, which usually suggests a singular vision in the world of jazz. According to Kaczmarek, he’ll come up with an idea and the others–keyboardist Scott Mertens, bassist [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Dave Askren and Jeff Benedict, Paraphernalia | The Vinyl Anachronist

Paraphernalia: Music of Wayne Shorter from guitar player Dave Askren and sax player Jeff Benedict was released back in May–it’s another one of those wonderful releases that almost slipped through my fingers during my recent cross-country move. I remember being very impressed with it on first listen and putting it at the top of the review pile, but those piles were shuffled around and packed up and driven 3100 miles. I’m lucky I found it again. I’m lucky that I listened once more to find out why I originally felt it was so special. I feel like this is a tale I’ve told before, maybe just a few days ago. First of all, the sound quality on this CD is nothing short of oh yeah, baby. I’m talking reference quality, the kind of CD I’d bring to a high-end audio show back in the day. Lots of contemporary jazz releases have excellent sound quality, possibly because there is a huge overlap between audiophiles and jazz lovers. This is better than that. Jeff Benedict and Dave Askren are joined by bassist Jonathan Pintoff and drummer Chris Garcia, and they play deep into their instruments, coaxing precise sounds that don’t necessarily rely [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Louis Armstrong, Live In France | The Vinyl Anachronist

Many years ago, an audiophile buddy of mine said that the difference between an audiophile and a music lover is that the audiophile won’t truly appreciate mono recordings, especially those that are considered historically important because they represent a lost moment in time. The tide has changed somewhat, especially since many audiophiles have been prompted to appreciate monaural recordings reissues–Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, I’m looking in your direction–when the tonality is preserved. Louis Armstrong Live In France, another essential from Dot Time Records, poses a dilemma for audiophiles–will you buy something like this? Is it of value to you? It should be. Louis Armstong Live in France captures an important moment for the titular trumpet player and bandleader. Taken from performances at the 1948 Opera de Nice Festival, this LP shows another side to Armstrong, the intense and unrelenting side. According to trumpeter Humphrey Lyttelton, who was there, he was “quaking at the ferocity with which he directed the band. If Sid Catlett’s drums started to intrude too heavily upon a solo, Louis would turn to him and hiss like a snake.” In other words, Louis Armstrong Live in France is all about the music, the heated performances and [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Ole Bull, Stages of Life from 2L Recordings | The Vinyl Anachronist

When I received Ole Bull–Stages of Life from 2L Recordings in Norway, I suddenly realized that I’ve been playing a game for some time with these releases. The front covers of most 2L albums share a similar design–fonts, themes, overall visual uniformity despite vastly different images. So I feel a moment of anticipation when I load the disc into my player and hit play before really settling down with the jewel case to see what’s up. I have no idea what’s going to come out of those speakers. With 2L, it can be anything. It can be a lush Mozart trio quartet, or it can be a strange experimental sojourn into the land of naturally manipulated sound. When the first sounds of Ole Bull emerged, I was pleasantly surprised. Full orchestra, early to mid-Romantic, violin concerto here, violin and piano duo there, glorious music that lifts your spirits with its vivacity and briskness. My first listen to Ole Bull was uninterrupted, and by that I mean I got through the entire album, all five pieces, without even bothering to check the liner notes. I had no idea who or what an Ole Bull was supposed to be? Was it a [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Igor Kogan, In a Big City | The Vinyl Anachronist

Everyone who still clings to the notion that jazz is a “distinctly American art form” isn’t really paying attention to the contemporary jazz scene. So-called Distinctly American jazz isn’t getting the nods and bows it once did simply because there’s a new game in town, one that involves passing through the world and coming out on the other end with new ideas about jazz, and what it can be. Igor Kogan is a bassist-composer-bandleader who has taken a triumvirate of rich cultures from Russia, Israel and New York City and turned it into a lively and sophisticated blend of be-bop. In a Big City is the debut album for Igor Kogan. It’s simply described in the liner notes as nine original compositions for jazz quintet, which suggests nothing out of the ordinary. Extra points are handed out for including Grammy-nominated vocalist Tierney Sutton on “Big City,” the final track–I’ve reviewed her albums before and she’s an intriguing talent in a quintessentially LA way. For me, this album is mostly about New York City, the sounds of jazz filling legendary back alleys and creating sound waves that echo across the fire escapes. I can hear the childhood in Russia, the teen [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Jeremy D’Antonio, Spinnin’ Wheels | The Vinyl Anachronist

I had but one thought when Chris Estey sent me this 45rpm pressing of Spinnin’ Wheels from singer-songwriter Jeremy D’Antonio: this guy really knows me. Chris is a publicist that I’ve worked with over the last couple of years, and we have a lot in common when it comes to music. We’ve never met, but he still has a knack for sending me the really good stuff from the indie world. He knows I need subtext, something that suggests either deep layers of meaning or, more importantly, sounds great. I bring this up because on the surface, Jeremy D’Antonio is interested in musical history. His brand of Americana is decidedly old-school, like Hank Williams’ idea of old school, the type of country music you’d listen to on the AM radio in your ’55 Studebaker. You know, down by the levy, with your friends, out in the middle of nowhere. This is haunting stuff, isolated by memories and incredibly simple times. There’s something live and real about the five tunes on this EP–four originals from D’Antonio and a cover of John Prine‘s “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness”–and this is where the subtext (or context) comes in. On the surface, Jeremy [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

PureAudioProject’s Music Odyssey – China | The Vinyl Anachronist

Have I mentioned my recent obsession with Chinese music? It’s not just Chinese music per se, but recordings of Chinese music that I find fascinating. The sound quality is always magnificent whether it’s from First Impression Music (FIM) CD/SACD hybrid discs, or LPs from Rhymoi Music or Todd Garfinkle’s MA Recordings. But this new pressing of Music Odyssey – China from PureAudioProject might be classified as a first among equals, an incredible sampler of traditional folk music as well as modern symphonic works that seems to build upon that fundamental love I have for this music. In a way, Music Odyssey might be the perfect entry point into Chinese music for just about anyone–especially audiophiles. Ze’ve Shlik from PureAudioProject was very excited about this album when he first told Scot Hull and me about it, and how this was a labor of love. On the PureAudioProject website, Ze’ev summarizes Music Odyssey this way: “This project is not a typical  ‘commercial act’ for a loudspeakers company. It is more of a sharing of our own unique musical and audio journey with all of you.” Like me, Ze’ev grew fond of the Rhymoi Music catalog the minute he listened to a track. [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile