3 CDs PROVE TO BE EXEMPLARS OF 3 DIFFERENT GENRES

LuxuryEven those of us who shy away from grandiose pop-art prog statements have to admit that The Luxury brings a vital melodic and harmonic dramatic sweep to its epic sound on “Bones & Beaten Heart” (self-released). Lead singer Jason Dunn crosses Liam Gallagher (Oasis) with Jon Anderson (Yes) while their arrangements cross Pink Floyd with U2. (There’s even a choir.) Yet nothing is stilted or over-produced. Brimming with potential hit singles, The Luxury has found that satisfying sweet spot. The album is meant to be listened to as a whole, each track complementing each other in perfect segues as albums once did a long time ago. Sure, they may be a throwback in that sense…but a delicious one. Their 2007 debut (“This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”) garnered them the opening Coldplay slot at the 20,000-seat Boston Garden when Chris Martin and company came to their home town. But in 2010, lineup changes and a year-long sabbatical led composer Dunn to rethink his priorities. “Bones And Beaten Heart” is the result. Divided into a “Bones” section (the first seven tracks) and a “Beaten Heart” crescendo (the last seven tracks), the album flies in the face of 2015 trends to be proudly anachronistic and, that, right there, is its rather special calling card. Tom Paxton photo copyright Michael G. Stewart095Legendary folksinger Tom Paxton says the songs on his 63rd (or so) album “Redemption Road” on his own Pax label, are not auto-biographical. But they sure sound so. Especially “The Losing Part” (he lost his wife of 51 years recently). There’s a joyous joie de vivre on “Virginia Morning” (not unlike some of Jorma Kaukonen’s ragtime rants). “Ireland” is wistfully romantic (“Arlo was on the stage when I slipped in and took your hand”). Classic folkie Dave Van Ronk [1936-2002] is remembered in one of the album’s best songs, “The Mayor Of MacDougal Street.” John Prine takes a chorus of the absolutely silly “Skeeters’ll Gitcha.” The spirited “Susie Most Of All,” a hippie pipe dream which makes me think of the underground humor of 1960s Zap Comics, puts a huge a smile on my face. Back in the politically charged and angry 1960s protest days, his songs were always ahead of the curve even with such brilliant minds as Phil Ochs [1940-1976] and Bob Dylan hogging the headlines. Now, Tom Paxton, at 77, stands as the last of a dying breed (especially since Pete Seeger passed last year at the age of 94). This Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner says he’s quitting the road after his current tour with Janis Ian (who sings harmony on the title track) to maybe write his memoirs but not before he stops in his hometown of Bristow to be inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. May he go on forever.  RudreshMahanthappa_lowerresIf alto sax man  Rudresh Mahanthappa keeps making albums like “Bird Calls” (ACT), his will be a household name. That’s “Bird” as in Charlie “Bird” Parker, not the feathered winged vertebrates. His quintet (with the incredible 20-year old trumpet prodigy Adam O’Farrill), uses Parker’s pulse as a jumping off point (Parker would’ve been 95 had he not died in 1955 at the age of 35.) The thing is, Mahanthappa doesn’t use any Bird compositions! It’s all original but that particular essence of what made Bird so legendary is smeared all over these tracks like fingerprints. Each song takes a particular solo or melody and extrapolates it into new exciting realms of influence. Reimagined. Recontextualized. O’Farrill is the son of pianist Arturo O’Farrill and he has plenty of space to shine. Pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist Francois Moutin and drummer Rudy Royston round out this most adventurous and creative quintet. Mahanthappa, born in Italy and raised in Colorado, is a Berklee College of Music graduate who also received a Masters Degree in jazz composition at DePaul in 1998. Thirteen albums later, he is one of the pre-eminent alto saxophone players in the world today. This one’s a keeper and should be on numerous Top 10 2015 lists. It certainly will be on mine.

About Mike Greenblatt

A longtime music journalist, Mike Greenblatt is a contributing editor with Goldmine magazine.

Leave a Reply