Monday, April 04, 2011

Life - LA Record

Life - Keith Richards

Keith Richards claims to have been awake for more hours than any man but he has also probably been asleep while standing up more than any other man too. Through 550 large-type pages Keef stumbles his way around drug busts and overdosing friends to set the record straight about all the shenanigans he has been accredited with – there was no blood transfusion, he wasn’t concussed by a coconut and he has yet to snort the ashes of any of his family members. After shelling out nearly seven and a half million dollars for half the Glimmer Twins’ spotty memories it is understandable that Little, Brown and Co. may want a book they can sell to Costco by the pallet. Thus albums like Between the Buttons and Their Satanic Majesties Request are almost entirely ignored in exchange for extensive discussions of the potency of Merck cocaine and Mick Jagger’s diva needs while people like Brian Jones seem only slightly more significant than Gene Pitney to the history of the Rolling Stones. Nonetheless the book is charming. He survived, stitched together with bandanas and skull rings, and has the stories to prove it. For those interested in entertaining tales of excess and jokes about Mick’s dick should look no further. For those interested in, say, the music the man created, it might be better to check out Victor Bockris’ biography, an equally substantial door-stopper that addresses the music that afforded Keith the ability to own a speed-boat named Mandrax.

LA Record Issue 103

If By Yes - LA Record

If By Yes - LA Record

If By Yes is a transcontinental collaboration between vocalist/violinist/triplet Petra Haden and Yuka Honda of Cibo Matto and the recently reformed Plastic Ono Band. Haden’s melismatic trembles swirl amid a symphony of pulpy bass, electronics and subtly pulsing dance beats nimbly produced by Honda. Together they have created an album of effortless movement where the vocals ride like a sedate passenger on a high-speed train – spidery guitar lines and shifting keyboards fly by like small towns, each with their own characters and conflicts, appearing and disappearing just as quickly. Amid the ethereal charm David Byrne sings a few choruses and Nels Cline drops in with his banshee-ax to make inimitable waves. The rest of the instrumental work is done by members of pop maestro Cornelius’ band: Yuko Araki on drums and Hirotaka “Shimmy” Shimizu on guitar. The result is exactly what one might expect from all those musicians in cahoots: pop structures wrapped in velvet reverb, snug multi-layered vocals and space-lounge gauze.

LA Record Issue 103

Elliott Caine - LA Record

Elliott Caine Sextet - Hippie Chicks on Acid

One look at those classic Reid Miles designed album covers adorning countless Blue Note records of the 50s and 60s and it’s generally assumed that those guys were hopped up on Chesterfields and more than a few pulls off a cheap pint of whiskey. Nonetheless local trumpeter Elliott Caine has summoned the hard-bop gods with his propulsive sextet and saddled them with a title and cover evoking some rather horrible flower power imagery. Recorded live at Alva’s Showroom in San Pedro, Caine leads his band through over a half dozen straight-ahead swingers aided by great local instrumentalists like vibist Nick Mancini who pummels each note with his lightning-quick mallets, particularly on the simmering “No Way Out” and spacious “Little Rio”, while saxophonist Carl Randall provides a raspy-toned boast over driving waltz “Paying the Price”. Caine, who has been tearing up southern California stages for decades, displays his refined sense of swing and grounded writing skills throughout the record with articulate Lee Morgan-esque passages over the disjointed harmonies of “Defiance” and crisp ballad work on the deliberate “A Different Beauty”. Caine’s sextet has recorded a confident set of hard-bop, highlighting a great venue and some of the more captivating sidemen in town but, seriously, who chose that cover?

LA Record Issue 103

Hesitation Blues #4 - LA Record

Here’s some good news on the local jazz front: It looks like the Jazz Bakery will be getting a permanent home after all. Thanks to the persistence of local jazz doyenne, Ruth Price, the Bakery will be returning to Culver City next year with help from a $2 million Annenberg grant. In the meantime they’ll continue to host shows around town including a spoken word event with Luis Alfaro and pianist Bill Cunliffe on March 24th at the Culver Events Center as well as presenting guitar legend Jim Hall at the Musicians Institute on March 26th – one of the most regal 80 year old, 6-stringers still touring the globe. Over at Catalina’s jazz club dashiki-clad sax master Pharaoh Sanders will be blasting his free-jazz fury March 17th through 20th - one of the few Coltrane disciples still stalking the stage. For something completely different on the same stage Kurt Elling will bring his pomade croon April 20th to the 22nd. There should be enough soul patches in the crowd to fill a hot tub. I hope the bartender makes a good martini.

On March 6th avant-conjurer Adam Rudolph will bring his Organic Orchestra to the Electric Lodge in Venice Beach. His ensemble will not only include woodwind icon Bennie Maupin (Bitches Brew, Headhunters) but also tow-headed son of skate-rat, Austin Peralta. Peralta’s recent Brainfeeder release Endless Planets rattles across jazz history with glimpses of 50s quartal harmonies, 60s free jazz and glistening 70s smoothness. His impeccable command of the 88 has been on display since he was pre-teenager. Now that he’s no longer a child prodigy Peralta has stepped up his game, bringing deliberate, jack-hammering piano without all the cheek-pinching novelty.

May 3rd will be the ten year anniversary of Billy Higgins’ passing. Higgins’ contribution to jazz drumming was immense (Ornette Coleman, Dexter Gordon, Charles Lloyd) but his contribution to Los Angeles is even greater. His Leimert Park club, the World Stage, still continues to host weekly jam sessions, a tradition that has provided a swinging center-point to one of the most culturally-rich blocks in Los Angeles for decades. On March 26th saxophonist Dale Fielder will bring his Donald Byrd/Pepper Adams homage to their cramped stage. Fielder, a local journeyman, has made it a personal mission to hip the world to the sounds of baritone saxophonist Pepper Adams – a challenging task but well worth the time.

Bill Frisell, ethereal guitar hero, will be playing in the dark to accompany a series of Buster Keaton shorts at UCLA on April 2nd. For some old school floor stomping the French Quarter’s own Preservation Hall Jazz Band will be walloping Royce Hall’s stage with tubas and crawfish on May 12th. Madeleine Peyroux, French chanteuse by way of Georgia and Brooklyn, will bring her hushed vocals to the Luckman Arts Complex on April 9th. Her Billie Holiday vocals combined with a fedora-sporting backing band make for an interesting show, deliberate and pure with torch-singer shades, minus the heroin and squalor.

Meanwhile down Orange County way Branford Marsalis and Terence Blanchard will present their own ensembles at Segerstrom Hall on April 3rd. Easily the most challenging of the Marsalis brothers plus Spike Lee’s go-to composer splitting stage time should be well worth the drive down to Costa Mesa.

LA Record Issue 103

The Bad Plus - NYC Jazz Record

The Bad Plus - Never Stop

Pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and
drummer Dave King have been performing as The Bad
Plus for over ten years. Although each is now waistdeep
in their own projects, they have stuck together
without a lineup change, building a rapport that is
almost unmatched in sheer playing hours logged as a

Although this is their eighth album it is the first to
consist entirely of originals - suitable considering their
last record For All I Care consisted entirely of covers,
after mixing the two liberally in earlier releases. Their
previous compositions have always been complicated
beasts that twist and turn without notice and make full
use of their instruments’ potential. This record is no

“The Radio Tower Has a Beating Heart” opens the
album with a cacophonous rattle, which veers wildly
through shimmering levels of noise - at times it sounds
like the band may be playing with axes rather than
their arms - before finding a pneumatic pulse courtesy
of Anderson’s bass. The title track is almost straight
pop with a minimalist quarter-note piano line that
slowly turns over on itself until some disco hi-hat
relieves it of its metronomic universe. Head-turning
bass and piano unisons, something of a specialty with
these guys, boil under Iverson’s right hand on “You
Are” and the pummeling “My Friend Metatron” with
impressive precision.

Midway through the record “People Like You”
slows the band down for a very straightforward ballad,
guided by brushes and a simplistic left-hand piano
part that crescendos over nine patient minutes. “Beryl
Loves to Dance” gets things as funky as they can get
with King riding the bell of his cymbal while all hell
breaks loose on the piano.

The first real bass solo occurs during “Snowball”,
wherein Anderson takes a wistful approach to lull the
listener before “2 P.M.” explodes into a lurching
bombast that uses every key on the piano at least twice.
“Bill Hickman At Home” and “Super America” close
out the record, evoking Randy Newman and Cecil
Taylor at the same time. The former finds Anderson
providing a Scott LaFaro-esque bass solo before
Iverson contributes a drunken honky-tonk stroll while
the latter is a hand-clap revival with a boogie bassline
that quickly closes out the album.

Never Stop is a powerful statement from the band.
Shorn of their clever covers they prove that their only
gimmick is camaraderie, brewed in the Midwest but
earned over an attentive decade on stages and in the
studio. The sky is the limit for their telepathic

Bad Plus @ New York City Jazz Record