CHRISTIAN ARTMANN/Uneasy Dreams: Starting off with something that sounds like a nightmare, this set kicks into gear with a lot of retro hipster angular jazz. With too many pomo touches to recall church basement experimental jazz, these are cats that know how to play but they are young and insist on blowing the wax out of the moldy fig's ears. Hell, Bob James once recorded experimental stuff for ESP Disk before taking a career making ride in a taxi so you just have to realize that hard rock isn't the only place in music for young hormones to go flying.
YAALA BALLIN/On the Road: Ballin is one of those jazz vocalists that doesn't do anything really new, but what she does do simply sounds so nice. Kicking it out in fine style on a bunch of familiar oldies, her jazzbo pals all bring the right vibe to the table and it's fun because it sounds like everyone is having fun. Not retro, not hipster, not diva, just a grand showcase for a working musician to really strut her stuff and show she knows how to bring you back to the table for that fourth slice of chocolate cake. Check it out.
RELUCTANT SAINTS/Long Drive: This bunch of cats were probably born in the late 80's and were raised on classic southern rock but aren't limited by it. They're probably what Marshall Tucker would have sounded like if they grew up in the wake of punk and in the swim of grunge, rejecting all of it and finding their own way through the kudzu. Tasty stuff that shows the south will rise again.
SATOKO FUJII ORCHESTRA NEW YORK/Eto: The multi faceted Fujii continues to seem like she's continuing in the footsteps of Carla Bley with all her different sides. This outing finds her leading her long time, experimental big band in a celebration of one of the players 60th birthday which gets explored in terms of the Chinese zodiac. Certainly left leaning jazz that goes it's own way in much the same way as a river would, this is cerebral, sitting down jazz that progressive tastes will love.
SATOKO FUJII MIN-YOH ENSEMBLE/Watershed: The side of Fujii that finds it's roots and spirit in Japanese folk music is back in nearly new age mode where the minimalist music is supposed to carry you along. Existing in a place where world beat meets science fiction, Fujii taps into her inner college kid for non-linear music that just makes you realize the hopelessness of the universe as we know it. Just pass the blunt and let it wash over you.
KAZE/Rafale: In which we find Satoko Fujii submerging herself into the group identity of her four piece, cross cultural crew in which she actually let's herself record other people's work. The debut recording of this crew, you really have to have experimental tastes with arts council leanings to follow this yellow brick road. It's a minimalist trip through the cosmos.
THOMAS PORTER: Hey, kid, c'mon, blow your horn a little bit. A package from a bluegrass guitar tyro shows up without so much a way to get in touch and there's a bunch of stuff to show he's been making a lot of headway in a short time. Ostensibly Porter's debut record, he's unabashedly mainstream bluegrass and manages to show plenty of flash and fire without resorting to million mile and hour licks. If you can manage to merge pop and bluegrass in your mind, Porter is currently at the head of that class. An auspicious debut whose guitar is ringing out more good things to come.
THOMAS PORTER & the Copper River Band/Trolley Days: A 2011 release shows that Porter put a lot of something under his belt in a year and it isn't a beer belly. Hanging out on that corner where country and bluegrass meet up like the old friends they are, this is a fully realized date that finds Porter in the same league of The Roys, Grascals, and Steep Canyon Rangers. An absolutely unexpected treat, this is first class, unaffected Americana that comes straight from the heart if not the heartland. Well done.
Volume 34/Number 248
July 8, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2011 Midwest Record