B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)

B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Apr 30, 2018  |  0 comments
Fleet Foxes, insofar as I have been able to determine, is a millennial cult item from Seattle. Their first album in six years, Crack-Up is an exercise in high-minded art for art’s sake, in which densely orchestrated and intensely overproduced music obscures reverb-heavy lyrics whose meaning is known only to their author or his acolytes. Was the reverb intended to evoke the sensation of a live performance? Throughout most of these inscrutable compositions, one can hear echoes of every ambitious big-statement pop-rock album of the past 40 years. Some tracks are intriguing – or have intriguing parts – and the musicianship is very good, but for the most part Crack-Up is heavy-handed, self-indulgent, pretentious, overwrought, over-engineered, and baffling beyond comprehension.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Apr 09, 2018  |  0 comments
This contemplative, introspective collection by saxophonist David Haudrechy and pianist Grégoire Aguilar is what classical composers would have called ‘variations on a theme’. The key to what lies ahead is all contained in the opener, ‘Melancholia’. In the ensuing tracks, the two musicians do their best to find out how many ways they can plough the same plot of ground, but it’s a refined and delicate kind of ploughing. Lost Lake would serve well as background music for a moody French film, in which two obsessed lovers quarrel and copulate until they’ve exhausted their enthusiasm for both.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Apr 02, 2018  |  0 comments
The latest from a stellar group – drummer Gerald Cleaver, pianist David Virelles, bassist Reuben Rogers, and trumpeter Stanko – December Avenue is a collection of beautifully rendered tone-poems. There is a great delicacy to the musicianship – they are all fully engaged with their bandmates – and each track seems approached as if they have all the time in the world, and all the space they could possibly need to explore it. Even at his most upbeat, Stanko has a sweetly mournful quality. The opposite of frantic jazz, this collection is maturely intelligent, emotionally resonant, aesthetically unassailable, and gorgeously executed, without a hint of cliché.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Mar 19, 2018  |  0 comments
Remember Ten Years After? This is the sort of ‘roots music’ that inspired that band, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Golden Earring, Little Feat, and countless others. Heavy white-boy blues, simple lyrics, extremely repetitive rock arrangements with almost no rhythmic variation, an exaggerated bottom octave, and too much slide guitar all add up to minimal interest for this reviewer, but despite its utter familiarity, or perhaps because of it, lots of blues-rock fans will likely devour this album. Opinions vary, and that’s a very good thing. Many of its songs have been done better by other bands (‘You Got To Move,’ ‘Bid You Goodnight’) and fortunately, none of them runs longer than five minutes.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Mar 12, 2018  |  0 comments
Fifty minutes of Charlie Parker’s hard bop could induce trepidation in some listeners, but that’s not what this intriguing collection is all about. Instead of Parker retreads or outtakes, it’s an assortment of all-star reinterpretations of Bird’s compositions, some of them superbly soulful and engaging (Madeleine Peyroux’s opener, for example) and others requiring true-believer enthusiasm for bebop (Barbara Hannigan’s ‘Epitaph Of Charlie Parker’, Jeffrey Wright’s ‘So Long’). The band features veterans from David Bowie’s Blackstar, with Craig Taborn on keyboards and musicianship is beyond reproach, as is the recording quality. This album will grab your attention – listen to it once, then maybe via the ‘random play’ function on your player.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Feb 19, 2018  |  0 comments
Her breathy contralto and big compositions have long been the core of Diana Krall’s appeal, but this release goes in a sadly soporific direction. Her band almost starts swinging on a handful of tracks, including ‘Blue Skies’ and ‘I’ll See You In My Dreams’, but it’s more tease than fulfilment. ‘Sway’ has huge interpretive potential, but here it’s given a ponderously intimate treatment loaded down by an overproduced cinematic ending. Krall’s singing isn’t quite up to the fine standard she’s set over the decades: frequently awkward phrasing made more apparent by shortness of breath on sustained notes, all while keeping the dynamic lid on tight.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jan 29, 2018  |  0 comments
The Brodbeck trio is a group at the peak of its considerable artistic power. This hour-long instrumental expedition opens with three densely orchestrated, upbeat, and engaging pieces (‘Ich Will Meine Seele Tachen’, ‘Im Strom Der Gezeitzen’ and ‘The Night Comes Soon’) then takes a contemplative detour with ‘Song For The Ancestors’ and the languorous ‘Brahms Ballad’. An extended bass solo in ‘Juno Is Touching Down’ leads to a compellingly rhythmic, melodically forthright section that in turn ushers in a sweet piano passage in ‘Return/No Return’. The punchy ‘Rocka-Roas’ showcases the trio’s interplay, running the gamut from fascinating to maddening with a repeated figure near the end.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jan 08, 2018  |  0 comments
‘World Music’ is a catch-all genre covering a wide and deep territory and Mali In Oak is among the best of the cultural hybrid variety. This gloriously happy blend of traditional Malian music is updated and westernised by performers who themselves are cross-cultural phenoms, including kora player Tunde Jegede, of Nigerian/Irish ancestry, and South African guitarist Derek Gripper. Gripper manages to interpolate melodies for the 21-string kora to the six-string western classical guitar, and also to accompany the kora when used as a lead instrument. This album is the first recording by the pair, and their interplay is marvellous to experience – simultaneously serene, contemplative, and uplifting.
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jan 01, 2018  |  0 comments
The emotional tenor of this journeyman jazz ensemble ranges from joyous and celebratory, as in the title track, to imploring (‘No. 9’, ‘Lycklig Resa’), to near-rock frenetic (‘Bullet Train’) to insistently screechy (‘The Poet’). Among the eleven tracks are a few that touch on all these (‘Song For Jorgen’), then there’s the mysteriously compelling ‘Dance Of Masja’. Capable of swinging hard or taking it easy, Lundgren and bandmates Jukka Perko, Dan Berglund and Morten Lund are never far from moody traditional late-night musings (‘Never Too Late’), nor are they strangers to extended improvisation (‘Twelve Tone Rag’).
B. Willis (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Dec 04, 2017  |  0 comments
This contemporary jazz release covers a wide territory – the title track which opens the album is a sort of exposition with a restless introspective quality that draws the listener in, provoking without providing resolution. The questioning continues with each succeeding track – from the hesitant, semi-morose ‘Intensive Care’ to the almost-uplifting ‘Triad Song’ and ambling ‘Wolfgang’s Waltz’. Most pieces here are lengthy, taking their time to roll out, but all have the sense of being fully developed compositions rather than improvisational exercises. Performances are moderately paced and melodically engaging, but sacrifice emotional engagement for intellectual stimulation.