The weather has made a much needed turn and the festival season kicks off in a month. For the second installment of our playlist series at the Watch we look at recent releases from performers at Telluride Jazz Festival and The Ride Festival.
The good Doctor Lonnie Smith released his first live album since his landmark Live At Club Mozambique in 1970. The Healer is six extended tracks dispensed on Dr. Smith’s artist controlled label Pilgrimage Records. At it’s shortest is the eight-and-half-minute “Mellow Mood,” and at its longest “Backtrack” goes over thirteen minutes. Each skillfully explores the Hammond B3 organ-lead jazz fusion that the man helped flagship himself. With assistance from young players Jonathan Kreisberg on guitar and Jamire Williams on drums, this half dozen live gems shows the doctor still has the chops on the ivory.
Although John Scofield lacks a recent release, his discography literally stretches over decades and includes dozens of original, collaboration, and compilation projects. All equally important to the jazz and fusion spheres, the most prolific album in his catalog may be Uberjam. Hell, this might be the most important record of all those mentioned in this playlist series. The music is best explained by the major players involved, which include John Medeski, Karl Denson, Adam Deitch, Avi Bortnick, and Jesse Murphy. Bouncing between the Indian acid jazz of the appropriately named “Acidhead,” to the high mile per hour driving funk of “Offspring,” the depth and creativity of this project was captured in just five studio session. Throw in some risky rap on “I Brake 4 Monster Booty” mixed with subliminal drum and bass on the title track “Uberjam,” and this record becomes a manifestation of why Scofield is such an important figure in the music world at large.
For a band that is known for a full sounding psychedelic take on New Orleans funk, Galactic’s Carnivale Electricos propels their mind bending sound waves into beautifully rough textures like the gritty vocals of Maggie Koerner and David Shaw on “Hey Na Na,” and Ivan and Cyril Neville’s chops on “Out In The Street.” Chock full of Louisiana legends lending a hand on feature duty, everyone from rappers Mannie Fresh and Mystikal on “Move Fast,” and the eccentric vibraphonist Mike Dillon, make proper appearances on the eclectic party record. Crafted for the annual all night party Lundi Gras which melts into Mardi Gras, this is the perfect late night Summer spin.
The Pour Une Ame Souvaraine: A Dedication to Nina Simone album released by Meshell Ndegeocello last year fanned the flame of the neo-soul resurgence she is credited with sparking. Filled with Meshell taking on Simone standards such as “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and “House Of The Rising Sun,” the bold undertaking results in her making the timeless cuts her own. The duet with Sinead O’Connor on “Don’t Take All Night” is something special as well. With splashes of sultry soul and extended notes that jump all over the original layout of the tracks, the tribute to one of the most important vocalist of the Civil Rights era is worth more than a couple of spins.
Springdale Quarter’s Noisefactory is an early sign of a rising name to keep an ear on in the nu-funk category. Soaring organs and guitar interplay on “Drop My Stick” clash well with 70s porno funk on “Courtney’s Way.” Almost always having a strong Hammond B3 in the mix, the rest of what makes the Springdale Quartet’s sound on this project in emphasized on the slap bass lick during “The Ivory” and jazzy drum tech of “Ernie’s Intrigued.” Do not miss the album’s final track “Discotron” for a truly danceable outro we can only hope they thrown down live this Summer.
Most of us would listen to anything David Bryne puts out into the music universe, but it’s a treat when he hands over an unlikely collaborative project that hits a homerun. Sometime eccentrically funky on “Who” before becoming explosively experimental indie rock on “The Forest Awake,” Love This Giant is a cool record that should translate well live. Laced with tons of horn leads, Bryne and his partner in rhyme St. Vincent, craft impeccable soundscapes that fall way outside of anything being made in modern pop music right now. Then again, should we expect anything less from the Talking Heads mastermind? Other standout cuts include “I Should Watch TV” and “Optimist.”
The acoustic duo Rodrigo y Gabriela’s fifth release Area 52 taps Cuban orchestra C.U.B.A. on all nine tracks of the album. Being their first ever collaboration in the studio, the pair elected to rework tracks from their first two studio efforts. Both Sanchez and Quintero’s feverish guitar playing is never lost among the twelve piece ensemble, and six other featured artists like drummer John Tempesta on “Hanuman” and sitar player Anoushka Shankar on “Ixtapa.” Finding balance with their high energy acoustic guitar dexterity, this is remix album of sorts is likely the masterpiece that the twosome has been chasing for years.
Grammy winning singer-songwriter Steve Earle named his fourteenth release I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive after a Hank Williams song, and gravitates more towards a country feel than his earlier body of work. The writer that has songs recorded by everyone from Johnny Cash to Emmylou Harris was nominated for yet another Grammy in the “Best Folk Album” category, and it’s tracks like the drunken ballad “Little Emperor” and the progressive country tune “God Is God” that affirm the selection. Experimental blues tracks like “Meet Me In The Alleyway” are also worth a hard listen for anyone that likes harmonica and filtered vocals.