This week, two rock boxes, a jazz-arranger compilation, a bluegrass beauty, one of the finest jazz albums of the year thus far, a powerful jazz pianist from Italy and a singer whose voice will remind you of Boz and Jon [portrait above by Rainer Magold]
What's interesting about the Allman Brothers Band is that they've always been as good on stage as they are in the studio. Best of all, they don't speed up live, so their concert recordings tend to be solid, unhurried rock-blues adventures. That's certainly true of the newly released double-CD Play All Night: Live at the Beacon Theatre 1992 (Sony) and the DVD Live at Great Woods 1991. Recent news that two original band members left and that the band will stop touring at the end of this year ends a four-decade run that introduced the blues to millions of rock-minded suburban teens. The Beacon Theatre in New York was always a much-anticipated extended stay for the Brothers and the band on the CD set sounds muscular and full of snap. From Statesboro Blues and Jessica to You Don't Love Me and In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, the recording is as sassy as At Fillmore East (1971)—only better recorded. The DVD serves up the band's wailing sizzle in color during their concert in Mansfield, Mass.
Mike Bloomfield has always been one of those legendary rock-blues guitarists most people know from conversations rather than actual listening. With the release of the four-disc career-spanning box (three CDs and one DVD documentary) Michael Bloomfield: From His Head to His Heart to His Hands (Sony), we finally get a robust sense of Bloomfield's chops and contribution. Bloomfield died in 1981 of a drug overdose, but he was ahead of many of his white peers early on when it came to recognizing the Chicago blues' value to album rock and integrating it neatly. Bloomfield also backed Bob Dylan when he went electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival and introduced Johnny Winter at the Fillmore East three years later. Unlike many of his blues-rock contemporaries, Bloomfield didn't employ feedback but instead played the blues straight up, a relief in retrospect. His early Columbia recordings as well as work with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Bob Dylan, the Electric Flag, Janis Joplin, Al Kooper and others is well represented.
Shortly after my post last month on arranger Johnny Carisi's unreleased Jazz Workshop album of 1956, Jordi Pujol of Fresh Sound emailed to let me know that he had just finished producing Israel: The Music of Johnny Carisi. The new CD is a survey of Carisi's work that includes all of the Jazz Workshop material and tracks with Al Cohn, Tony Scott, Urbie Green and Gerry Mulligan. Included are four tracks from Gil Evans: Into the Hot from 1961. The sound is terrific and the 20-page booklet features super notes and photos provided by the family.
Tony Trischka is a hugely gifted five-string bluegrass banjo player. His latest is Great Big World (New Rounder) and it's a work of sublime perfection. The list of musicians who appear with him on this album is extensive, and no two songs sound alike. What they have in common is the spirit of walking barefoot along a wooded trail to a quarry or driving along a country road in the late afternoon, when everything looks lazy and lemonade-like. When I put on this CD, I couldn't take it off—and I had to for a variety of reasons. It's that seductive and evocative of modern life catching it's breath. Sample The Danny Thomas. If you want an extensive taste, go here.
Saxophonist Sly5thAve's first album Akuma (Truth Revolution) is a revelation. Peppered with the artist's Nigerian heritage and American soul-modernism, Akuma takes you on a journey through the instrumental brush and exposes your ears to new cultural themes and references. Born in Texas and a graduate of the University of North Texas, Sly5thAve (Sylvester Uzoma Onyejiaka) has created a large colorful canvas brimming with lyrical funk-jazz intensity. Easily one of my favorite albums of the year thus far and one of the most promising young jazz artists I've encountered on disc. For more on Sly5thAve, go here. Remember, you heard about him here first.
Pianist Roberto Magris is out with a followup—One Night In With Hope and More Vol. 2 (J-Mood). Roberto is from Trieste, Italy, and plays like a strong cup of coffee. His take on Herbie Nichols Third World, I Can't Give You Anything But Love and Randy Weston's Little Susan are robust and rich. But he also can be dramatically tender—as on the standard Young and Foolish, his own Burbank Turnaround and Tadd Dameron's Whatever Possessed Me. Roberto is joined by bassist Elisa Pruett and Brian Steever and Albert Tootie" Heath on drums.
Dig Boz Scaggs' jazzy, soulful vocal sound? And Jon Hendricks' smooth hip tone? Push them together and you get Sean Sullivan. On his new album Hereafter (Megaforce), you hear shades of Scaggs on Sullivan's Don't Get Me Started and Hendricks on Gimme That Wine. The southern-born Sullivan lives in New Yorker. His mother was born in West Virginia of French and Cherokee descent while her father was a Nazarene minister and her grandfather was a bible‐toting circuit rider. Long story short, Sullivan has plenty of earth in his background and a fine jazz phrasing. His voice has the ache of a soprano sax, but Sullivan knows how to deliver a leathery, masculine sound. For more on the artist, go here.