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Music reviews - 8.23.06

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JAS. MATHUS KNOCKDOWN SOUTH

old school hot wings

219 Records

 

Clarksdale, Mississippi’s Jimbo Mathus is every bit one of the Old South characters that he routinely resurrects and salutes in his music. With a timeless grace and a bare-bone rootsy approach, old school hot wings is more a gather ’round the porch with a guitar and a jug-o-shine party (some tracks were actually recorded in bassist Justin Showah’s house) than the Tin Pan Alley he strolled with the Squirrel Nut Zippers, or the Delta evil he wrestled with on subsequent solo projects. The album opens up with the1911 ditty “Voice Of A Porkchop,” goes gospel for a spell with “Old Rugged Cross,” and gets lonesome with “Torture Blues.”

Overall it’s a lighthearted jugband Saturday night with Mathus and pals laughing and singing with Dixie’s ghosts.

--- Frank De Blase

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Jurassic 5
Feedback

 

On its newest album, Jurassic 5 extends its traditional 1980s tag-team rhymes and harmonized choruses into more contemporary territory with a refined, slicker production sound. A certain unnamed daily newspaper would be proud of J-5’s “quest to put real hip-hop on the radio” --- the group documents their distaste for drug pushing and street violence --- but even hip-hop’s most visibly progressive, and positive, group sticks with the N-word. The album’s conscious push toward commercial success is forgivable, especially for a group so intent on proving that intelligent hip-hop can still come through in FM.

--- Andrew Frisicano

 

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Nina Assimakopoulos

Points of Entry

Capstone Records

 

Points of Entry is a celebration of two languages, English and music. It’s a light the candles/silence the phone/get into the zone kind of classical CD featuring Nina Assimakopoulos, a virtuosic player who commissioned dozens of American women composers to write new pieces based on literature. Assimakopoulos plays with passion and discipline: her rich tone and deft technique astonish. Her instrument sings, clicks, and moans. The flutist also recites some of the poetry that inspired the music, giving listeners the chance to consider the interface between the spoken word and the inexpressible.

For example, Assimakopoulos reads a poem by Emily Dickinson (“Of all the sounds dispatched abroad...”) to introduce California composer Maggi Payne’s interpretation, “OF ALL,” in which the music flutters, pauses, and moves again like the winds going “round and round” in the poem. In “The Ball” by Ruth Lomon, the instrument intones in a low, then high voice to represent two dancing people.

Points of Entry is the first volume in a series of CDs from The Laurels Project, a long-term effort to inspire American women composers. Contemporary music lovers will appreciate Assimakopoulos’ creative achievement and look forward to hearing more.

--- Brenda Tremblay

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Marc Cary

Focus

Motema

Washington-raised pianist Marc Cary has carved out a reputation as one of the top young musicians on the New York jazz scene. Over the last decade and a half he has played with Arthur Taylor, Roy Hargrove, and Betty Carter. He has also served as Abbey Lincoln’s pianist and arranger. The mission of Cary’s current group, the Focus Trio, is to bring together American jazz and indigenous rhythms. Given that jazz, for the last hundred years, has merged European song traditions with African and Afro-Cuban rhythms, this seems a logical idea, especially at a time when world music is gaining in popularity. The resulting album, Focus, is a wonderfully impressionistic CD, filled with gorgeous piano solos riding atop a variety of rhythms. Cary is prone to intricate right-hand runs that get nicely lost in swirls of notes. His wonderfully in-sync trio is rounded out by David Ewell on bass and Sameer Gupta on drums and tablas. The group’s playing is so cohesive that the album’s 10 tunes feel like a song-cycle, beginning with “Appointment in Gahna,” and continuing through “Elephants Eye” to “A Long Walk Home.”

--- Ron Netsky

 

 

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