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Music Reviews 6.07.06


The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions

In the mid-1950s, when Miles Davis enlisted John Coltrane (saxophone), Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums), one of the greatest quintets in modern jazz was born. Five of the band’s albums, The New Miles Davis Quintet, Cookin',Workin',Relaxin', and Steamin', have now been re-mastered and re-released in the sequence recorded. The 32 tracks in this boxed-set are among the greatest jazz tunes ever recorded. Among them are up-tempo masterpieces like “How Am I To Know,” “Four” and “S’posin’,” and perhaps the most gorgeous ballad performance of Miles’ career, “It Never Entered My Mind.” For collectors, there’s a bonus CD with eight previously unissued performances. Two tunes from The Tonight Show with Steve Allen are preceded by Allen’s nerdy introductions (“Got a cold, Miles?”) but then again, he was hip enough to have them on. Included are radio recordings from the Blue Note in Philadelphia and --- with Bill Evans on piano --- the Café Bohemia in New York . A 1956 rendition of “Bye Bye Blackbird,” featuring two substantial quotes from Leonard Bernstein’s “Maria,” reveals just how attentive to contemporary music Miles was; West Side Story had just opened on Broadway. Also included on the enhanced CD are five transcriptions of Miles’ solos.

--- Ron Netsky


Live At Tonic

As wonderful as studio recordings are, they sometimes don’t quite capture the essence of jazz, a live, in-the-moment music. On his latest recording, bassist Christian McBride offers a three-CD set chronicling two explosive nights with his band and guests at New York ’s Tonic club. It’s all bass-driven music. From funk to near classical, the full range of the acoustic and electric basses are on display, with some beautiful arco playing on “Sitting On A Cloud.” But the other musicians shine too. Ron Blake is constantly tearing it up on saxophone or flute and Geoffrey Keezer’s energetic keyboard riffs are ubiquitous. Discs two and three document group improvisations with two sets of guests. Charlie Hunter (guitar), Jason Moran (piano), and Jenny Schienman (violin) start with James Brown funk, but eventually gravitate toward late-1960s Miles Davis-oriented psychedelic jams. On disc three D.J. Logic (turntables), Scratch (beat box), Eric Krasno (guitar), and Rashawn Ross (trumpet) join the quartet for some hip-hop funk. Since many jazz fans are slow to accept the genre, McBride’s guests wisely provide a primer with rhythmic scratching and vocal beat box gymnastics. McBride and his crew are right at home, with Blake showing his Maceo Parker side and drummer Terreon Gully riding every beat.

--- Ron Netsky



There’s really nothing you can hear today without being able to name the hero behind it. And I’m not just talking The Beatles and Stones here, or even Zeppelin.

So here comes Aussie trio Wolfmother’s self-titled debut disc. It’s mammoth, it’s monster, even a little spastic. I can’t stop listening.

Never have a band’s influences been so blatant --- and yet so cool. Fortunately, in Wolfmother’s case, this totally works ’cause they’re all strains from bands I dig.

Generally everything a musician hears comes out tempered by other hang-ups filtered through the band’s lyrical input and level of talent. Consequently, Wolfmother is a jukebox of sounds and hooks you’ve heard in songs you’ve never heard…yet.

Check out the riff Soundgarden never wrote on “Joker & The Thief,” or dig the cascading “Riders On The Storm” keyboards on “White Unicorn” before they morph into Styx , ultimately winding up with Iommi slash and burn as if played by Jack White. And somehow a unique voice arises from the ensuing wreckage.

Wolfmother blasts through the 13 cuts like a chameleon chainsaw. It’s raw. It’s emotionally charged. It’s visceral and violent.

--- Frank De Blase


The Dark Horse

If every conceivable variation of hardcore hasn’t been invented yet, it’s probably because the genre is perpetually plagued by imitators who stay fixated on musical limits. With various hybrids mixing hardcore, death metal, and tech/math-metal currently being rehashed into the ground, it feels like a revelation whenever a band presents a fresh twist. Rochester’s Achilles follows in the well-worn footsteps of tech-core innovators like Botch and Converge but also has plenty of distinctions and reveals its forward-thinking mindset early on The Dark Horse. Tight, energized playing shows that Achilles means business, but the album’s excellent (though intentionally spare) production values underscore the band’s superior command of texture and harmony. Achilles has the versatility to pepper the album with eerie, slow-building moods that wouldn’t sound out of place in a film score. How many likeminded bands could even dream of doing the same?

--- Saby Reyes-Kulkarni


Vision Valley
Capitol Records

The Vines crept out of Australia a few years back with a mediocre record (Highly Evolved) that shouldn’t have gotten them much notice, except it featured the catchy-as-hell single “Get Free” and a carport sound that enabled them to ride the coattails of all the other plural bands igniting at that time, like the White Stripes, The Hives, and The Strokes. Vision Valley is the Vines’ third record, and the band sticks with what should be a fail-safe formula: AC/DC riffs combined with Beatles harmonies, crunchy chord rock commingled with thoughtful ballads. But “formula” is the operative word here. Though there are occasional highlights --- the blistering kickoff track “Anysound,” the twangy “Take Me Back” --- there’s no getting around the amateurish lyrics (“C’mon, c’mon, singin’ a song, it won’t be long, for we are gone”?) and the utter forgettableness of the entire 31 minutes. That’s right; 13 songs in 31 minutes. And they’re not the Ramones. Or even The Strokes.

--- Dayna Papaleo



There’s a section on guitarist and Rochester expat Adam Caine’s debut solo outing where he, bassist Ken Filiano, and drummer Phil Haynes create creeping menace that approaches the power of the Alien soundtrack. Though that’s a remarkable achievement unto itself --- especially with only three instruments --- the trio then glides with remarkable ease into a more contemplative mood. And that’s only one example; the band maneuvers through a seemingly endless procession of such nimble changes, from one ambiguous emotional state to another. The end result plays like a moving picture that conveys with amazing fidelity the everyday sensations that fill our lives between dramatic events. Still, the music is like nothing you’ve ever quite heard before. Long stretches without percussion only magnify the intensity of focus, and Caine shows masterful restraint in the way he spritzes the music with noisy, unconventional chord shapes.

--- Saby Reyes-Kulkarni