When Muddy Waters claimed his manhood on "Mannish Boy" in 1955 by shouting "No B," he was talkin' 'bout how boyhood left him long ago. The Brooklyn ladies in Jane Lee Hooker also say 'No B!' Their Ruf Records debut of the same name is revelatory.
On February 1, 1976, a living legend performed at the University of Chicago Folk Festival. His name was Henry Roeland "Roy" Byrd and he played the piano and sang. Most of the folks in the crowd knew him as Professor Longhair. He was 57 at the time. 'Live In Chicago' (Orleans Records) documents the short seven-song set. Still at the height of his powers, this architect of New Orleans rhumba and R'n'B who could shout a blues or rock the "Mess Around" should be a staple of every American record collection.
It was November 1981. I was still married to my ex-wife. With no kids yet, we could rock'n'roll and the Rolling Stones were in town. When they went into "Brown Sugar," there was saxophonist Ernie Watts blowing big to recreate the iconic Bobby Keys sax solo. Man, did he wail! I've loved him ever since. There isn't any rock'n'roll on his new 'Wheel Of Time' CD (Flying Dolphin Records). It's only jazz but I like it.
Every year since 1982, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) names who it feels are Jazz Masters. Pianist/composer Kenny Barron, 72, was awarded his in 2010. His 40+ albums as a leader, his hundreds of sessions and concerts-most notably in the bands of Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Getz-make this Philadelphia native the perfect NEA pick. On 'Book Of Intuition,' he performs like the master he is.
Charlie Ballantine, 26, is one of those new breed of guitarists unafraid to incorporate non-jazz into his jazz. So like Bill Frisell and John Scofield, he's widened his palette to include rock, tango, funk, atmospheric instrumental pop and blues. Alternately playful and intense on his self-released `Providence,' he's upped the ante from his 2015 'Green' debut.
Tweed Funk lead singer Smokey Holman ain't gonna let a little thing like cancer slow him down! Despite facing chemo and an elongated absence from the road, 'Come Together' (Tweed Tone Records) positively reeks of that oldschool Memphis mentality. The horns, the excitement, the songs, and, especially, the vocals, sound straight outa Stax until you realize they're from Milwaukee.
Michael Dease cuts loose with a wildly swingin' post-boppin' assemblage of talent on vibraphone, piano, bass, drums and two alto saxophones wherein the trombone man serves as 'Father Figure' to some crazily talented youngsters on originals and well-picked covers, or, as we like to say in the music-listenin' business: discreeto pickos.
Digest your Oatmeal Jazz Combo, children, it's good for you, especially 'Instant Oats' (LGY Records). This adventurous quintet started out just for fun in 2009 at Stony Brook University in New York and is now on its fifth CD. Dig how they will play anything and everything including the closing "Transformers" theme.
One cannot possibly describe the action going on during WorldService Project's 'For King & Country' on London's RareNoise Records. It's inexplicable, outrageous and dares you not to like it. But if you're like me, born into rock and raised on fusion, metal, the avant-garde, King Crimson and Led Zeppelin, there's something about these eight blasphemies that will appeal to your sense of rebellion.
Although just a tad under what finding The Holy Grail would mean to Christian culture, the discovery of 'Some Other Time: The Lost Session From The Black Forest' (Resonance Records) by legendary pianist Bill Evans [1929-1980] is something akin to a revelation.
The 2016 big band renaissance marches on with the Dick Oates/Mats Holmquist New York Jazz Orchestra's action-packed Hancock nod, A Tribute To Herbie+1 (Summit Records) in which the legendary piano player's acclaimed '60s and '70s catalog is combed through to pick eight gems. It proves to be a whole new way to dig Herbie Hancock and I, for one, love it.
It's a party. Billed as a "Blues Supergroup," the self-titled Golden State Lone Star Blues Revue debut (Electro-Fi Records) is a stone-cold "Wang Dang Doodle" of epic proportions (although they don't cover that 1961 Howlin' Wolf hit, they just epitomize it) Come to think of it, they should have. Just put this sucker on the box and let her rip over and over again.
What a rare treasure chest! For the fourth installment of the greatest living tenor saxophonist's look-back at cherished in-concert moments (this one spanning 1979-2012), 'Holding The Stage' by Sonny Rollins, 85, is highlight after highlight until it ends and then you just want to play it over and over again.
Pianist Louis Heriveaux's 'Triadic Episode' (Hot Shoe Records) with drummer Terreon Gully and bassist Curtis Lundy covers Mulgrew Miller ("From Day To Day"), Cole Porter ("Everything I Love"), Johnny Green ("Body and Soul"), Kenny Dorham ("Blue Bossa"), Jerome Kern ("All The Things You Are") as well as trio originals.
'Shuffle Along' (Blue Heron Records) by Ehud Asherie is a gas gas gas. Ehud may look like a rock star but he's an excavator. For his 12th CD, he's excavated the music Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle wrote in 1921 for the first all-Black Broadway musical of the same name. Rather than treat it as a a museum relic, he uses it as the root for his playful experimentations.