Friday, August 10, 2012

The Week's News

Playing right now: Marilyn Crispell/Mark Dresser/Gerry Hemingway - Play Braxton (Tzadik)
Picked this up a couple weeks ago on a whim, mainly because I'm a Crispell fan. I'm not a Braxton buff, but I actually recognize one of the pieces on it!

Filed three reviews with JazzTimes yesterday, which explains why I haven't blogged about any new releases for over a week: I was getting to know the ones I had to write about.

On top of that, the Love Letters played the Rock 'n Bowl night at Arsenal Lanes on Wednesday. We didn't have the best turnout: three friends of mine, plus another three or four bowlers. But the friends made all the difference, and we played a good set. Once again, we had people figuire out our setlist by grabbing song titles from a pile of strips of paper (I forgot to bring the hat I normally put them in.) The evening felt so laid back that it didn't matter that we took forever between songs.

Then yesterday afternoon, I got an email offering us the opening slot for Chain and the Gang's Pittsburgh show on September 26. Ha cha! The Love Letters' first big show opening for an established out of town band! We did play with one touring act at Gooski's, but that was a case of someone wanting to get on our bill since they were on the road. This time, we asked if we could get on and they said yes. I never pursued this in the past with other touring bands because it always seemed like you had to stand on your head, play an audition and then sell two dozen tickets in order to be considered by the promoter as the opening act.

In other news, I also picked up the album by Spectrum Road, the tribute to the Tony Williams Lifetime that includes Vernon Reid, Cindy Blackman Santana, John Medeski and Jack Bruce. I'd read about it and lately I've been getting back into older Lifetime stuff, even though some of it sounds a bit overblown and a little unfocused. Despite that, I think they were an amazing band, the rare jazz band that really played rock with the same focus as the jazz they had played.

It was a sales incentive that the SR album is out on vinyl, and only a dollar more than the CD. It's also encouraging that my favorite Lifetime song kicks off the album, "Vuelta Abajo," which was originally on Turn it Over. I was pretty surprised how faithful this group is to the original and also how the production didn't go for a state of the art cleanliness. It almost sounds as muddy and raw as the original albums.

The rest the album is pretty strong too. I always skipped John McLaughlin's "One Word" on the TWL compilation I have because the vocals (by Bruce) always sounded too flaky and overblown. Here it sounds a lot more solid, and the changes in the middle section are more pronounced. Throughout the album Vernon Reid keeps his metallic indulgences low. He shreds, for sure, but it never gets excessive. These guys could've taught the revamped Return to Forever a thing or two. Of course part of the reason they got together is their belief that, unlike RTF, Williams never got due credit for the ground he broke with Lifetime, for which I agree. They were first and they did it best. Especially Larry Young, who I've always loved.

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