Jamaican-born saxaphonist Joe Harriott was an influential figure on the British jazz scene of the 1960’s. Unfortunately he died of cancer at the tragically young age of 44, and most of his recordings have long been out-of- print…until now. Harriott was a contemporary of Ornette Coleman and in fact developed his own unique style of “free jazz” at roughly the same time, documented here on FREE FORM. Compared to our modern expectations of “free form,” this 1960 recording is more “form” than “free.” Musical themes are introduced and re-stated to begin and end a piece, time signatures are followed fairly strictly, etc. But there is a great exuberance to the solos here that keep the recording from sounded dated in the least. Harriott went on to even more original projects, fusing classical Indian ragas with jazz in a series of albums with John Mayer, before his death in 1973.
In 1962, veteran jazz drummer Chico Hamilton re-aligned himself with a more modern style of jazz by recruiting a lineup of talented young players for his new Quintet. Included among them were Gabor Szabo on guitar and Charles Lloyd, the group’s musical director, on alto and tenor sax, flute, and clarinet. The resulting album, DRUMFUSION, is a relentlessly rhythmic and bluesy album sure to keep your feet tapping. All six tracks are great, but I’m particularly fond of the three on Side B: the growling sax lines on “Homeward,” the more subtle flute and guitar duets on “A Rose for Booker,” and the hard-swinging finale, “Transfusion.” This quintet was very successful at the time, and the two members mentioned above went on to even more success in solo careers. A great reissue, even if it is a bootleg.
Here we have a trio of animation professionals from southern California who moonlight as the band Gigante, combining analog synths, live and programmed beats, guitar and bass into a spacey and exotic instrumental mixture. Mostly lo-fi and low- key, with a jazzy sort of attitude, Gigante! sounds at times like a Martin Denny version of post-rock. They appear to be equally adept at playing live, as the two live tracks on here attest. Very intriguing release.
Gadget’s sound is a unique fusion of hip hop and electronics, both funky and tweaked. “Black Acura” features a sort of electronic siren over heavy beats, ever-so-slightly augmented by acoustic instruments. “Wide Open” commands you to “open up your mind” via scratched vocals over electronically distorted beats; the “Low Down Mix” adds some Eastern flavor. “Behold the Future” is a throwaway that begins with an answering machine and degenerates into electronic wankery. An interesting debut, though.
Congratulations on your purchase of the new Funkstorung Audio Processor! With this remarkable new device, any musical performance may be reconfigured to the Funkstorung aesthetic for easier integration into your busy lifestyle. Previously- irritating music by artists such as Bjork, Finitribe, and Wu- Tang Clan will be effortlessly replaced by the exhilarating electronic aesthetic of the Music Aus Strom group of companies. To get started quickly, simply insert the silver Funkstorung Audio Processor disc into any CD player, and press “Play.” For more detailed instructions, or information on additional Funkstorung lifestyle accessories, please consult the Aesthetic Standards Manual included in this box. Thank you for selecting Funkstorung.
Founded in 1988, The Fire This Time is a musical and political collective which attempts to maintain a dialogue and cooperation between African and indigenous peoples around the world. In 1994, they released the album DANCING ON JOHN WAYNE’S HEAD, and four years later, they’re still dancing. Ethno-dub is the name of the game here, with “guest speakers” Chuck D, Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, and samples of various and sundry indigenous peoples. Among the better-known producers involved in the project are Michael Franti, Asian Dub Foundation, Mad Professor, and Adrian Sherwood. The tracks are varied enough in style and substance to really think of this as a Various Artists compilation, and all tracks are well worth checking out.
Without a doubt, the most affecting performer in Wim Wender’s documentary of the “Buena Vista Social Club” was the 72-year-old singer Ibrahim Ferrer. Not only was his vocal talent a major musical revelation, but Wender’s footage of him reflecting on his life, as well as coming to terms with his newfound success, was especially poignant. For this first solo album, Ferrer is rejoined by producer/guitarist Ry Cooder and many of the musicians on the original “Buena Vista Social Club” album. The result is a triumphant success, a transcendant recreation of Cuban music from a bygone era.
Pop singer Francis Faye was reaching for a new audience when she cut this album of jazz-inflected folk songs in the late 50’s. Arranged by Russ “Fantastica!” Garcia, the album is apparently a one-of-a-kind entry in the Faye catalog, and perhaps a one-of-a-kind effort in all regards. The orchestral arrangements are incredibly vibrant, especially on the jazzier cuts “Frankie and Johnny” and “St. James Infirmary.” I’ve always been partial to “John Henry” and it’s also given a swell treatment here, complete with steel drivin’ and engine chuggin’. Faye’s vocals are husky but strong, and easily hold their own against Garcia’s powerful orchestra. An unusual but very successful album.
Here we have Michael Fakesch, one-half of the group Funkstorung, with his first solo EP on the group’s own Music Aus Strom label. Compared with Funkstorung, this music sounds a bit more minimal and fragile to me, and at times even a bit meandering. But hey, it’s experimental and it’s good for you, so stick with it! Four tracks in total, all with different flavors and textures. Side A features a remix by Boards of Canada. This is the kind of record that works well “in the mix.”
One of the great divas of modern times, Cesaria Evora hails from the Cape Verde Islands, a former Portuguese colony off the coast of western Africa. Her specialty is the morna, a melancholy song of nostalgia, sadness, love and longing, sung in a Creole- Portuguese dialect. Nicknamed the barefoot diva, Cesaria has been compared to Edith Piaf and Billie Holiday for her world-weary style and technical mastery. MISS PERFUMADO is Cesaria’s fourth recording, originally released in 1992 to international acclaim. It is indeed a brilliant album, and not half as depressing as one might think. The music is a unique blend of styles, recalling Portuguese, Brazilian, and even American ragtime influences. And the simple arrangements (acoustic guitar, cavaquinho, and piano on most tracks) highlight the beauty and expressiveness of Cesaria’s vocals. Out of sorrow comes a stunningly beautiful album for the ages.
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