Catching up on recent listening


I recently had a birthday and got showered with a bunch of CDs from friends (which made me wonder how we’re going to give specific music as gifts in the download age), and realized I hadn’t posted anything about my current listening in a long time – so here are some snippets.

“Truth and Reconciliation” (Darrell Grant)

I was driving in to work one morning and heard a piano trio version of the old Jerome Kern classic The Way You Look Tonight, one of my favorite jazz standards, with a completely intriguing reharmonization. It turned out that it was by Portland pianist and music prof Darrell Grant. I immediately downloaded his latest recording from emusic and have been listening to it frequently. There’s a renaissance of good piano trios happening these days, and Darrell’s is among the finest.

“Something Like Now” (Moutin Reunion Quartet)

“Power Tree” (Moutin Reunion Quartet)

I caught the Moutin Reunion Quartet at the Ballard Jazz Festival in April and was totally
blown away by the musicianship and energy of this French quartet led by brothers Francois (bass) and Louis (drums) Moutin. Intense (but not humorless) modern jazz with lots of swing and post-modern bombast (in a good sense). Well worth listening to!

“Bad Blood in the City: The Piety Street Sessions” (James Blood Ulmer)

Blood Ulmer was part of the harmolodic fusion scene around Ornette Coleman and his Prime Time band in the seventies, playing extremely dense and multi-layered free funk. It’s interesting to watch him in the new millennium reinventing himself as a down-home blues musician, along with his producer and collaborator (and guitarist extraordinaire) Vernon Reid. To my ears none of Blood’s blues recordings has been entirely successful yet, but this outing, recorded in post-Katrina New Orleans in three days, is the best yet.

“My Heart’s in Memphis: The Songs of Dan Penn” (Irma Thomas)

As an old R&B and soul musician I’d been vaguely aware of Dan Penn as a Memphis songwriter associated with the Muscle Shoals recordings of the sixties, who wrote such classics as Do Right Woman for Aretha, Dark End of the Street for James Carr, I’m Your Puppet and others. A few years ago a friend (happy birthday!) turned me on to Penn’s more recent recordings, and I became a fan. On this CD from 2000, New Orleans soul great Irma Thomas sings some old Penn songs and adds some new ones. I have to say that overall I think the old songs resonate more than the new ones, and the production is a little slicker than I’d like, but it’s great to hear some real old-school soul music from some worthy masters.

“Night & the Music” (The Fred Hersch Trio)

Another lovely piano trio recording, with the terrific Drew Gress on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums. Somewhat introverted but deep, with great interplay among the trio. A modern take on the Bill Evans tradition.

“Live at the Fillmore East” (Neil Young and Crazy Horse)

I was a big fan of Neil Young’s Everybody Knows This is Nowhere when it came out in 1970, and this is a great live set from that era. Crazy Horse – wow. I have to agree with a review I saw that it sounds like an early version of Tom Verlaine and Richard Loyd in Television.

“The Fawn” (The Sea and Cake)

I chanced upon this 1997 release on an emusic list of the “50 Greatest Summer Recordings” (it was number 39) and downloaded it. As the band says on their own web site, they play “dreamlike, hot-buttered pop music that sounds delicately handcrafted, yet effortless all the same.” I intend to check out their new release, Everybody, too.

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