Recognize the guy on the left? In 1965 and 1966, one Jimmy Hendrix was in Curtis Knight & The Squires. They left 40 masters in a vault after releasing a few poorly annotated, mostly live albums, many of which originally came out with a cover depicting superstar Jimi at the height of his Experience fame to music-starved Hendrix fans desperate for any new material. Those fans were ripped off because this is what they got. In 2003, the Hendrix family won rights to the recordings and now, for the first time, in proper historical context, comes this funky soul.
Hendrix was fired from the Isley Brothers band, down on his luck in New York City, even selling his guitar to pay his rent. Curtis Knight was a neighbor with an extra guitar. But by the time these tracks were ready for release, Animals bassist Chas Chandler [1938-1996] had already whisked him off to England to form The Experience, thus Jimi told Curtis what has now become the title of this fascinating era in the short life of a legend. “You Can’t Use My Name: The RSVP/PPX Sessions” (Legacy/Experience Hendrix) is 12 tracks of Knight singing as Jimmy bursts forth with glittery sonic bursts of genius craziness by a kid who never quite learned how to stay in the background.
Are there any real beatniks left? Originally a derogatory term for the late-’40s/early ’50s “Beat Generation” of Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs and Huncke, time has softened the word’s vitriol. I’m sure Ben Sidran, 71, wouldn’t flinch at such an appellation. For his 31st solo record, he’s released his inner beatnik in a song cycle of existentialism, romanticism, poetry and philosophy wherein his piano is produced by his drummer son Leo while The Brothers Peterson bop along on bass and organ. Recorded in Wisconsin and France, “Blue Camus” (Unlimited Media) is the fitting follow-up to his 2012 “Don’t Cry For No Hipster.” With its meditations on such literary figures as Lewis Carroll, George Orwell, Federico Garcia Lorca and, yes, Albert Camus, Sidran has now completed his literary cycle of projects that started with a book (“There Was A Fire: Jews, Music & The American Dream”) and the release of an earlier memoir (“A Life In The Music”) as an audio book. Sidran, a hipster’s hipster, transcended his former status as a “poor man’s Mose Allison” about five albums ago. He’s his own man. Sure, he still mumbles, and sometimes you can’t understand him. But that’s half the fun.
The music on “Gefion” (ECM) by guitarist Jakob Bro (37, from Denmark) is hard to define. It’s his debut as a leader, after mighty contributions to the late Paul Motian’s 2004 “Garden Of Eden” and Tomasz Stanko’s 2009 “Dark Eyes.” “Gefion” (the name of a Norse Goddess) is an elusive affair. Sometimes it’s there. Sometimes it’s not. When it’s not, a closer inspection is warranted to reveal subtle innuendos of silken nuance fine and complex like the web of a spider. If you’re only casually listening, though, you might get up and to put on some music forgetting that “Gefion” is already on. Its waves of sound waft through the air, buoyed by the effervescent double bass of American Thomas Morgan, 34, and drums of Jon Christensen, 72, from Norway. Somewhere between jazz and classical, these tracks melt into your consciousness like hash oil. Bro wrote all eight tracks ranging in time from the 2:24 “Ending” to the 10:33 opening title track. All three musicians have plenty of room to move and meander under, over, sideways and through each other’s wellspring of creativity. There’s a lot going on. But you have to listen. If you forget to listen, it disappears.
You’ll never forget that “Song For A New Decade” (TUM) is spinning because it hits you in your jaw with a powerful uppercut and follows it up with a quick right cross to the solar plexus. Saxophonist Mikko Innanen (37, from Finland) is pushed, prodded and poked to extremes by American avant-gardists William Parker, 65, on double bass and drummer Andrew Cyrille, 76. It’s a two-disc affair of trio (Disc #1) and sax/drums duo (Disc #2). The duo disc has no compositions, no rules and no plans other than six free improvisations. It’s a wild ride. Considering the fact that Parker was influential in the New York City loft scene of the 1970s and has led his own bands through 40 or so albums, Mikko has a rightful muse. Ditto for Cyrille who has drummed for Coleman Hawkins, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Mary Lou Williams before his decade-long tenure with pianist Cecil Taylor and his 30 or so solo albums. Sure, there’s more than your fair share of syncopated sax bleeps, blips, squeals, squalls, burps and honks, but there’s also some dreamlike sequences where you can float off to space and rest on a cloud.