New sounds of jazz, rock, latin, metal and blues

By Mike Greenblatt

Randy McAllister“Fistful of Gumption” by Randy McAllister and the Scrappiest Band in the Motherland on Reaction Records is a 10-track roots-rock and jump-blues party wherein the Texas singer/songwriter/drummer also plays harmonica and washboard with talented friends on guitar, fiddle, bass, back-up vocals, piano and organ. This Air Force veteran has 13 albums in 30 years to his credit, and if they’re half as much fun as this, we all have a lot of back-tracking to do. Opener “C’mon Brothers and Sisters” is a funky call-to-arms. “Ride To Get Right” is an Otis Redding and Earl King tribute. “Leave a Few Wrong Notes” is not only common-sense but one of four highlights along with “Background Singer,” “Band With The Beautiful Bus” and the closing “East Texas Scrapper.” Highly recommended.

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Zhenya_StrigalevDid you say you never heard of Zhenya Strigalev? His “Never Group” (Whirlwind Recordings) is totally unique. You’d be hard-pressed to find a musical precedent for his improvised meanderings and group telepathy. Born in Russia, based in Great Britain, he recorded “Never Group” in Germany when he took his mighty alto saxophone in the studio for four solid hours of jamming with mates on trumpet, keyboards, electric and acoustic bass, electronics and drums. The result is a carnival of sound: an hour of 20 original tracks edited from those jams with seven nifty percussive codas acting as glue to hold it all together. “Strange Party” is exactly that. “Bio Active” reeks of syncopated surprise. “Some Thomas” could be called post-bop and “Snail” is a total groooove. “I need to surprise myself,” Strigalev says. “That’s what keeps it interesting.”

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rachel-therrien2017 is shaping of to be “The Year Of The Woman.” Don’t even ask. Just accept it. With that said, let me introduce you to trumpeter/composer/arranger/band leader Rachel Therrien. Her “Pensamiento: Proyecto Columbia” on the Free Run Artists Productions label sizzles and pops like frying bacon in a pan. This is true fusion. I mean, sure, it’s Latin Jazz, but within its sub-genre, it’s wildly eclectic, moving with profound percussion and utilizing 13 musicians (five of 13 are percussionists) on 11 tracks of action-packed kinetic movement. This Montreal lass, after performing in South America with the Gypsy Kumbia Orchestra, has fused rhythms indigenous to both Atlantic and Pacific cultures. The result is a free-flowing montage of sound where her trumpet is buoyed by sax, guitar, piano, bass, voice, marimba, trombone and the delightful “tiple” (a baby-sized Spanish guitar) in a mix’n’match production style that doesn’t let up for one second. Feeling adventurous? This one’s for you.

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Brian DickinsonToronto pianist/composer/bandleader Brian Dickinson leads a quintet on his eleventh CD, “The Rhythm Method” (Addo Records). With a two-sax front-line of Luis Deniz (alto) and Kelly Jefferson (tenor), and a rhythm section of Neil Swanson (bass) and Ted Warren (drums), Dickinson makes a mighty sound, one rooted in the past but certainly forward-leaning in its complexity and meandering side trips (as intoxicating as it gorgeous). The past is represented by the two highlights: 1) “Orion” is a tribute of sorts to Wayne Shorter (still going strong at 83); 2) “Rhythm Method Suite” takes up the last half of the CD (five tracks!) inspired by his biggest influence, the legendary piano player Lennie Tristano [1919-1978]. Is it too early to be thinking of an entry for my 2017 Top 10?

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Jo Ann DaughertyMy newest crush is piano player Jo Ann Daugherty whose fingers fly fast and unerring over the 88 keys like Herbie Hancock (whose “Dolphin Dance” she so capably interprets). It reminds me of that Paul Simon line in “Duncan” where he’s “thanking the Lord” for his fingers. On “Bring Joy”—self-released, self-produced—she does Stevie Wonder’s “The Secret Life of Plants” so cool and even though she’s working in a format—piano, bass, drums—that’s been overdone and half-baked for years, she adds guitarist Neal Alger on the Wonder (and percussionist Geraldo de Oliviera on her own “Alive”). Smart move. This, her third CD, starts and ends with two tracks from Abdullah Ibrahim, the 82-year old South African pianist who, yes, is still going strong.

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Black-Anvil by Lani-LeeA decade in, the guys in New York City’s Black Anvil are making the best metal of their careers. Buoyed by new guitarist Travis Beacon, and still sporting originals Paul Delaney on bass and Raeph Glicken on drums (guitarist Jeremy Sosville joined in 2012), this quartet still knows how to dredge up the Satanic bile utilizing clean and death vocals to great effect. The twin lead guitarists provide the meat of the matter and the arrangements are complex, ever-shifting and detailed. “As Was” is my favorite metal CD of 2017 so far. The eight songs in 51:06 (their follow-up to 2014’s “Hail Death”) are atmospheric, extreme and progressive black metal (Black Prog, anyone?). It’s been years since I’ve liked this kinda stuff so a thousand hails to Black Anvil.

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Reverend FreakchildFinally, this month’s listening actually cleansed my sinful soul after digesting “Preachin’ Blues” by Reverend Freakchild on the TreatedandReleased label. He was on the road touring and reading a Kerouac novel during those long boring off-stage hours when his guitar and amp were stolen in San Francisco. Undaunted, he headed for the Pacific Northwest where he stopped at radio station KBOO in Portland Oregon to record this 16-track doozy of real rural blues like Blind Lemon Jefferson’s 1927 “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” and Blind Willie Johnson’s 1928 “In My Time Of Dying” with a new National Resonator guitar and harmonica. (No, Led Zeppelin did not write the song as they claim they did on the publishing credits for their 1975 “Physical Graffiti album.”) Son House wrote the title track in 1930. In-between each track comes a little spoken-word sermon snippet. His originals are funny. And he even covers “Kiss” by Prince.

About Mike Greenblatt

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

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