Hazel Eyes I Will Lead You
Hazel Eyes I Will Lead You is Foster's first official full-length solo album, after some very limited-release bedroom recordings and various stints in groups like Born Heller, Children's Hour, and The Supposed. It comes as a welcome revelation, a chance to finally witness Foster's full character unhampered by band tectonics. What emerges is chrysalis-like: pure, minimalist melodies in the folk vein that sound simultaneously fresh and ancient.
Ukulele, acoustic guitar, harp, kazoo, bells, handclapping, whistles, and some instruments I can't even name adorn the fabric of the 14 songs on her new album. But not all at the same time. Songs like "The Way is Sweetly Mown" start with simple voice and guitar, gradually adding instruments until they form an orchestra of tiny sounds. And those sounds perfectly complement her fluttery voice, which is as light as a skipping stone bouncing across the water.
Foster counts Spanish opera singer Victoria De Los Angeles and African-American children's folk singer Ella Jenkins as influences, but she's best when she avoids the incense-and-peppermints-inspired acid-folk you hear in "The Siren's Admonition." I've only had the album for a week, but according to iTunes, I've already listened to the last track, "Hominy Grits," 21 times (and that doesn't include the many times I've listened to it outside my laptop). Hazel Eyes I Will Lead You is the perfect soundtrack for a long walk to nowhere in particular.
--- Michael Neault
Dizzy: the Music of John Birks Gillespie
This new CD is as essential to own as Dizzy Gillespie was --- and is --- to jazz. Essentially Afro-Cuban jazz's daddy, Gillespie and peers like Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker augmented big band jazz with be-bop and polyrhythmic textures. What resulted was something with big band's bombast, be-bop's hip-swivel swing, and an irresistible groove coming from all directions.
Dizzy covers the period from 1950 to 1963 when this music was still new, though already at a full boil. Cuts like "I Know What You Know," "Exactly Like You," and a bongo crazy version of "Caravan" are undeniable classics.
--- Frank De Blase