Living Colour: "Shade"

November 2017

Megaforce
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Outrageously overlooked in the annals of recent rock history in favor of other mid-’80s bands like Metallica and Guns N’ Roses, Living Colour is back, and sounding tougher than ever. The quartet’s sixth album -- its first since 2009 -- is an extended meditation on the blues that is stuffed full of slamming guitar hooks and uncompromising social commentary.

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Gregg Allman: "Southern Blood"

October 2017

Rounder 1166100054
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
*****

The first music review I had published examined an album by Gregg Allman. By then, 1977, I’d already been hearing his voice for seven years. So I approach his final recording with both sadness and a wealth of historical context. Although I met Allman only once -- very briefly on a beach in Macon, Georgia, in 1979 -- I feel like I’m saying farewell to an old friend.

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Vijay Iyer Sextet: "Far from Over"

September 2017

ECM 2581
Format: CD

Musical Performance
*****

Sound Quality
*****

Overall Enjoyment
*****

There’s a common refrain in the wider jazz community that there are few stars left, and that those who still remain -- Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Sonny Rollins are those most often cited -- are well into their senior years. The people who repeat this refrain like a mantra mourn the days when, as my colleague Howard Mandel wrote, “giants walked the earth.” The typical roll call of giants includes Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and select others of their generation.

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Randall Bramblett: "Juke Joint at the Edge of the World"

August 2017

New West 6398
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Beck’s idiosyncratic mashups generally defy cover versions, let alone by veteran southern jazz-rock artists. So finding a credible version of “Devils Haircut,” one of the core tracks of Beck’s breakthrough Odelay, on the 14th album by Randall Bramblett is a surprise.

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Steve Coleman's Natal Eclipse: "Morphogenesis"

July 2017

Pi 69
Format: CD

Musical Performance
*****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
*****

Alto saxophonists Ornette and Steve Coleman share more than their instrument of choice and surnames; the younger Coleman was the first major bandleader since his namesake to make music that moved mind and body in equal measure.

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Valerie June: "The Order of Time"

April 2017

Concord B01MF9RD6H
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

I celebrated my 60th birthday by catching one of the best concerts I’d seen in a couple of years. Consider the context: as someone who reviews music for a living, I see a lot of live performances. Yet this one still resonates, and it wasn’t just the monumental anniversary that made it memorable.

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Delbert McClinton & Self-Made Men: "Prick of the Litter"

Hot Shot 001
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

It’s easy to see the humor through the world-weary cynicism when Texas-born singer Delbert McClinton half-drawls lyrics like “I gave up drinking / I gave up pills / I gave up everything that gave me a thrill / Nothing salty and nothing sweet / I skip it all, from milk to wheat / I got a trainer and a diet guy / Sprouts and protein shakes, that’s all I buy.”

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Brian Eno: "Reflection"

February 2017

Warp 280
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***

Sound Quality
*****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Brian Eno is one of the rare figures in music who has preferred to work offstage and never claimed instrumental authority. Aside from a brief period with Roxy Music and even briefer forays with Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera and King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp, Eno has remained in the studio, turning out more than two dozen albums under his own name and, much more successfully, serving as a producer for U2 and Coldplay.

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BassDrumBone: "The Long Road"

January 2017

Auricle 16/17
Format: CD (2)

Musical Performance
*****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

For both commercial and musical reasons, longstanding bands are rare in improvised music. The trio BassDrumBone, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2017, is unusual, then, in terms of longevity, but even more unusual in instrumental makeup. Bassist Mark Helias, 66; drummer Gerry Hemingway, 61; and trombonist Ray Anderson, 64, were all up-and-coming young men in 1977 when they got together for the first time to play in New Haven, Connecticut. Hemingway, a New Haven native, was already teaching and developing a unique approach to codifying non-traditional percussion sounds. Helias was studying at Yale, and Anderson was a nascent member of Anthony Braxton’s group. Hemingway thought they might gel as a trio, and clearly they did.

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Keith Jarrett: "A Multitude of Angels"

December 2016

ECM 5702466
Format: CD (4)

Musical Performance
*****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

David Mott -- baritone saxophone master, former music department head at York University, and martial artist -- once told me that the best musicians play without ego. By creating an unmediated flow of ideas, artists like John Coltrane channel something approaching the divine.

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