Monthly Archives: May 2017

Fred Mills: Recent 45 Reviews (and some not-so recent..)

Ed. note: We dig vinyl here at the BLURT temple of wax. And we dig it no matter the size. A number of singles have been turning up in the post of late, so who are we to complain? Here’s the lowdown…

FEEDERZ – WWHD (What Would Hitler Do?) 7”

Slope / www.sloperecords.com

Two slices of searing guitars and political screeds.

The Bay Area-Phoenix punk connection has always been symbiotic, and this 7” platter by Arizona’s Feederz neatly bridges the temporal divide between the early ‘80s and now: guitarist/vocalist Frank Discussion is joined not only by early member Clear Bob on bass, but also by drummer DH Peligro—yes, THAT DH Peligro, from the Dead Kennedys, San Fran legends who befriended the Feederz as early as 1981 then the band appeared on Alternative Tentacles compilation Let Them Eat Jellybeans.

As produced by the Meat Puppets’ Cris Kirkwood, WWHD serves up a twin-pack of pure outrage and sonic scree. Side A, “Stealing,” boasts a sinewy, fuzzed-out riff, a metronomic rhythm, and Discussion’s edgy vocal sneers, growls, and grunts as he mounts a call to arms for citizens to rise up and take to the streets: “Tonight we’re settin’ the world on fire.” And “Sabotage” makes explicit Discussion’s attitude to the current Republican administration – as if the sleeve art depicting a scowling Trump as Hitler didn’t already tip you off – with a snarling challenge set against a staccato, almost Wire-like minimalist funk-punk backing:

Time to put this country out of our misery…
You wanna fuck with Mexicans, you wanna fuck with blacks,
You wanna fuck with all o us? Then you better watch your own fucking backs.
We’ll be taking down your empire
And turning it into a bonfire.”

Clearly this band is, as the saying goes, “fired up.”

The single, incidentally, is pressed on beautiful orange vinyl—perhaps the same color as a certain politician’s hair and spray-on tan? Included is an inner sleeve with complete lyrics and a photo of the band wielding automatic weaponry. Best take them seriously.

THE SWEET THINGS – “Love To Leave” 7”

Spaghetty Town / https://www.facebook.com/SpaghettyTown/

More cowbell! Dolls/Stones acolytes know their sonic debauchery…

They could only be from Noo Yawk—East Village denizens The Sweet Things serve up a twinpack of Dolls, Stones, Hanoi Rocks, G ‘n’ R, and the like. Weaned on punk, subsequently smitten by glam, all scarves, mascara, and a serious Jack Daniels habit.

The fiery foursome kicks off their latest 7” single—grab it on hot pink or midnight black vinyl, collectors— with “Love To Leave,” all power riffs, sleazy slide leads, pounding ivories, and clanking cowbell. (But of course.)

Flip for the sensitively titled “Cocaine Asslicker Blues,” and no, it’s not a GG Allin cover. Instead, think Johnny Thunders backed by the original Alice Cooper band. You’ll fill in the cowbell parts mentally. Some things just continue to be revived as each new generation consults the classics. God bless The Sweet Things for diving wholeheartedly in. Sweet!

BALKANS-PEDRO FOUR-WAY – 4-song 7” EP

ORG Music / www.orgmusic.com

Garage pop and funk punk from the Mike Watt extended family.

The curious band name owes to the fact that the four bands on this 7” EP hail from  Zagreb, Skopje, Belgrade, and San Pedro, CA—the latter, of course, being Mike Watt’s home base. (You may have heard of him.) It’s a stellar slab of wax at that.

Thee Melomen kick things off with a spot-on slice of guitar-organ garage that bears worthy overtones of earlier European garage avatars the Nomads and the Watermelon Men. Up next is Vasko Atanasoski serving up a minimalist bit of pop-funk—the funk being supplied by Watt on Bass—not unlike recent material by distaff rockers Warpaint. Flip the platter—you remember how to do that, right?—and the stereo spews forth with a kind of Beefheartian blues-skronk take on Watt’s song “No One,” courtesy Disciplin a Kitschme. And Watt and his Secondmen themselves maintain that mood for “Do Not,” which was penned by fellow bassist Koya, from DaK, turning the dial up to “hectic” in true Watt fashion.

The EP arrived for this year’s Record Store Day, incidentally, limited to 1800 copies and pressed on both green and black vinyl—the two colors were inserted randomly in sleeves, so you basically flip the coin when you break the wrapper

THIGH MASTER – “B.B.C.” (7” 45)

12XU / www.12xu.net

Power pop riffage takes a Pavement-esque distorto detour, Australian stylee.

Hoo-boy, don’t even try Googling this band unless you still cling to adolescent fantasies of Suzanne Somers (that’ll date you). Instead, direct your jizz in the direction of the Brisbane (Australia) outfit’s Stateside label, which will kindly provide you with a Soundcloud link to the group’s latest A side. It is, indeed, the sonic equivalent of—as the band’s bio assures us—“a lost Flying Nun band.”

Now, I don’t expect anyone reading this, other than my partner-in-Oz (and BLURT blogger) Tim “Dagger” Hinely to fully dig that ref. So perhaps I should laud the Oz outfit’s masterful deconstruction of twinkly power pop riffage, in which they overlay distorto-rumble stylings and Pavement-esque rhythmic ruminations, ultimately emerging with a tune that, verily, defines Indie Rock 2017. (Or maybe 1987, take your pick.) But that would be saying a mouthful, and life is short.

Once upon a time, Amerindie labels would take a chance on Down Under artists, damn the quarterly reports. The golden era of 1985-95 (or thereabouts) passed long ago, however. Perhaps with folks like 12XU and In The Red stepping into the commercial fray anew, other labels will pick up the baton.

FITS OF HAIL – Belmore 7” 45

Sound of the Sea / www.soundofthesea.com

The Upshot: Velvets-esque folk rock and choogling drone, with a distinctive Clevo vibe, and on colored wax to boot.

This utterly gorgeous—sonically and visually—splatter-colored vinyl 7” comprises a pair of must-hear tracks, along with a bonus digital tune should the consumer opt for the CD or download versions. If you are a regular reader of BLURT, you no doubt already know which format we strongly recommend. It’s by Cleveland quartet Fits of Hail, the brainchild of vocalist/guitarist Chris Anderson, who did the bulk of work on the previous two FoH releases, and is now joined by bassist Alan Grandy, guitarist Mike Reilly, and drummer John Kalman. Together, they make a moody-yet-joyful noise of an irresistible earworm quality.

Main track “Clutter” has a kind of low-key, subtly choogling Velvets vibe, a folk-rockish drone ‘n’ chime emitted from the guitars and Anderson’s yearning vocal powering the narrative. Flip the single, though, and be prepared for, as the saying goes, something completely different: “Came Through the Change” has a brash—in places almost ground-zero, late ‘70s NYC punk—vibe, all tumbling percussion and fuzztone riffs spliced by Verlaine/Lloyd-style fretboard strafing.

It’s only one man’s vote, but allow me to just state for the record: Fits of Hail. Long-player. Now.

You are welcome to head over to their Bandcamp page where the three Belmore tracks can be downloaded for a ridiculously affordable price. Once you do, though, I predict you’ll find yourself coveting the aforementioned color-wax physical artifact, so surf on over to the label website and order away.

BORZOI – Surrender the Farm  7” EP

12XU / www.12xu.net

Australian noize-rock that will have you camping out at the Ticketmaster office.

Are they from Melbourne, Australia, or recent transplants laying seed in Austin, Texas? Considering the sheer brazen, brutal (but serene to we tinnitus-afflicted music fans) racket this trio makes, it’s a moot point. On this four-songer, Borzoi sings of flak jackets, millipedes, Florida, Skoal chaw, and existential dread (of the latter topic, I’m not certain, but work with me). It’s kind of like fellow Oz-ites feedtime, if feedtime’s members were reincarnated as glue-sniffing teens, recorded all their material live, and then processed the resulting tapes through a CB microphone.

I’m sorry if most of you have no idea what a CB is.

There’s something remarkably energizing about this band, the kind of “energizing” that one dares not attempt to put the proverbial journalistic finger on. If records, in 2017, are supposed to be groups’ calling cards for tempting the public to spring for tickets and tees, consider this Oz aficionado “sold.” Where do we queue up?

 

 

SCHIZOPHONICS – Ooga Booga 10” EP

Pig Baby / www.pigbabyrecords.com

The Upshot: With a sound hearkening back to the MC5’s Motor City ramalama, the San Diego trio unapologetically kicks out da… you know.

Ooga booga, indeed. San Diego’s Schizophonics—the unholy spawn of Roky Erickson, Sky Saxon, and Rob Tyner—serve up a sonic scorched-earth policy guaranteed to singe even your nether hairs. I mean, seriously, folks, the music on this EP erupts from the grooves with such primal velocity, you can practically see a hologram of guitarist Pat Beers in full stage-leaping flight hovering over the turntable. (Check these photos at their website for confirmation.) The trio has been around since 2009, built around the nucleus of Pat and Lety Beers, plus bassist Brian Reilly, and has a couple of 7”ers to their credit, on Munster and Ugly Things, so you know that’s a TMOQ.  Ooga Booga seriously ups the ante, with nary a throwaway or B-side among the five tracks here.

From the outset they serve due notice: “Ooga Booga Boogalo” commences with a brace of klassic Kinks-style riffage and a Kick Out The Jams-esque arrangement (hence the aforementioned Rob Tyner namecheck). That’s followed by the riotous rumble of “Electric,” powered by sinewy, fuzzed out leads and Pat’s extemporaneous grunts and whoops. Flip the platter and get caught in the “Rat Trap,” another Nuggets-esque garage rockin’ gem of vintage Yardbirds aplomb. “Two Thousand Seventeen,” with its Keith Moon-worthy percussion and dark chordage, contemplates our contemporary era of reverse evolution to signpost the annum  in much the same way the Stooges marked the year of 1969.  The band wraps things up with “Venus Transit,” another slab of MC5 ramalama, all chaos and convulsion with a take-no-prisoners ethos.

Whew. Six successive spins of the rec, and I’m exhausted. Partially deaf as well. If this band tours anywhere near you, don’t miss it. But make sure you don your flame-proof pants before entering the club….

Consumer note: The EP is pressed on electric orange 10” vinyl, and each of the 1,000 copies pressed comes in a hand-numbered sleeve. It’s like getting Record Store Day early, so what are you waiting for, punters?

SOMERSET MEADOWS – We Will Rock 7″ EP
Self-released / https://somersetmeadows.bandcamp.com

The Upshot: The New Wave of the late ‘70s meets the alterna-nation of the early ‘90s.

Hey kids, nostalgic for the early/mid ‘90s? Me neither! The members of Portland’s Somerset Meadows clearly remember the era, but they’re smart enough not to emulate it despite having sonic overtones of Guided By Voices—which they preemptively state on their bio—as well as other indie/garage/lo-fi outfits such as the Grifters, Sebadoh, and the Mountain Goats. Like those avatars, SM have a knack for penning tuneful, hooky pop nuggets marked by careening guitars, riotous, Keith Moon-like drumming, and yowling vocals.

Lead track on this four-song EP (the follow-up to mini-album Time and Relative Dimensions in Sound) is “She Is Waiting,” a slice of revved-up British Invasion filtered through a Hold Steady lens, while the 1 ½-minute “Time to Shine” adds some surf-y riffage to the mix reminiscent of vintage Blondie. Hold that thought: this band wouldn’t have been out of place in new wave Manhattan, holding court in dives like CBGB and Max’s Kansas City and going for broke in front of a leather jacketed crowd night after night. All four songs here inhabit that rock ‘n’ roll fairytale universe, and luckily enough, for us the setting is 2017.

This limited-edition (250 copies), hand-numbered vinyl platter may or may not be sold out by now, but even if it is, you can preview it at the Somerset Meadows Bandcamp page and buy it digitally.

MINT TRIP – “Ghosts” 7″ (colored vinyl)
Blue Elan / www.blueelan.com

The Upshot: Sultry, sexy, danceable trip hop, pop and soul.

L.A. 2 guy/1 gal trio Mint Trip swirls and skitters in a mélange of pop, soul, and electronica that suggests a summit between classicists Saint Etienne and trip hoppers Portishead. For this vinyl 7” debut—comprising three songs from the five-track Books digital EP—the focus is squarely on sultry singer Amy Gionfriddo, originally from St. Leonard, MD, as graceful as a lioness, and blessed with the kind of supple pipes that could find a niche no matter the genre; indeed, the band’s “soul” component is decidedly jazz-infused. Amy is joined by L.A. native Brian Gross and Cary, NC, guitarist Max Molander. The three met at the University of Miami prior to landing in Los Angeles.

“Ghosts” is elegance personified, powered by a purposeful bass bumps and synth pulses, and of course that ethereal voice. Flip the platter over for “By The Sea” and “Virga,” the former a hypnotic, ethereal pop ballad; the latter, a luminous, gospellish slice of chilled-out soul. Point of fact, you can hear these tracks and additional two at the band’s Soundcloud page (“Canvas” is particularly compelling), so you have no excuse for not immersing yourself in Mint Trip’s sweet, hummable, danceable music.

Bonus points for the gorgeous turquoise vinyl, too. A download card is included that will net you all five songs.

PETER HOLSAPPLE – “Don’t Mention the War” 45

Hawthorne Curve  / http://halfpearblog.blogspot.com/

The Upshot: Against richly melodic backdrops, the dB’s member offers up character studies of poetic intent. Oh, and by the way: Support the home team, folks.

Despite being one of North Carolina’s most prolific and respected songwriters, Winston-Salem ex-pat (and current Durham resident) Peter Holsapple actually hasn’t released that much under his own name. There was early 45 “Big Black Truck,” a primal slab of psychobilly punk garage, released in 1978 at the tail end of his stint with the H-Bombs and serving as a segue into his lengthy tenure with the dB’s; a limited edition Australian-only cassette titled Live Melbourne 1989, which documented a solo radio station session; 1997’s gorgeous Out Of My Way CD; and let us not overlook his 1991 collaboration with dB’s songwriting foil, Chris Stamey, nicely titled Angels, and the an accompanying handful of Stamey-Holsapple singles.

Longtime Holsapple watchers, of course, know simply to scour record credits if they want to unearth a wealth of Holsapple material, from the dB’s albums and EPs (include, in this tally, the Chris Stamey & Friends Christmas Time album) and his work with the Continental Drifters, to the very early Rittenhouse Square album and the (possibly apocryphal) Great Lost H-Bombs Double EP 10”—not to mention a number of online-only tracks he’s slipped into the digital realm on occasion.

All of which is to say, a new Peter Holsapple record makes for a special event, one which we fans don’t take lightly. The fact that the new item is a mere two-songer potentially allows each track the kind of proper consideration that might’ve been elusive if placed in the context of a full album. The A-side, “Don’t Mention the War,” finds Holsapple joined by Mark Simonson from the Old Ceremony on drums and acoustic guitar and James Wallace (Phil Cook’s band) on piano and drums, plus tuba textures courtesy Mark Daumen. Holsapple handles guitars and organ while spinning a 6 ½ minute tale in which the narrator observes and comments upon a beloved uncle’s return home and subsequent battle with PTSD (“he sweats and he shouts and he turns white as a sheet… he opens his eyes, he’s still seeing the dead… he hasn’t picked up a guitar in nearly three years, I can scarcely recognize the same man”). Midway through the song the drum pattern turns overtly martial, underscoring the implicit tension in what’s otherwise a richly melodic, midtempo slice of pure pop; the tune’s subtly contrasting sonic elements help lend gravitas to the unsettling lyrical character study.

Meanwhile, “Cinderella Style” has a gentle, nocturnal vibe primarily wrought by Holsapple’s acoustic guitar, bass, and organ, with Simonson adding delicate touches of vibraphone and Skylar Gudasz contributing flute flourishes. “Love can mend a dress,” he sings, going on to describe the creation of a physical garment of calico, gabardine, satin, silk, and velveteen while hinting at the metaphorical implications of the act. The tune is relatively brief, deliberately restrained, and perfectly poetic in its imagery.

Holsapple recently told me that he opted for doing a single because he wasn’t quite sure he should thrust a full album’s worth of new material into the market, given music consumers’ relatively short attention spans and tendency to favor tracks over albums nowadays. Fair enough. I think he’s underselling himself, however. All that music mentioned at the top of this review (not to mention his contributions to other artists’ work, such as R.E.M. and Hootie & the Blowfish) comes stamped with the Tarheel TMOQ, so I have no doubt whatsoever that we fellow North Carolinians would be first in line for a Kickstarter-type campaign and any resulting record store product. People vote with their wallets, after all.

And while I’m loathe to invoke any electoral notions considering what we’ve all gone through recently… could I nominate Peter Holsapple for Minister of Music? Poobah of Power Pop? Raconteur of Rock? Hmmm…. why the hell not?

THE YOUNG SINCLAIRS – You Know Where to Find Me 7” EP

Planting Seeds / www.plantingseedsrecords.com

The Upshot: Jangle pop as timeless and classy as it comes

Though this 4-songer came out a few years ago, I’m only just now discovering the Virginia Beach/Roanoke area band. And it’s well worth backtracking to hear the record—it may be long gone by now, but you can year it at their Bandcamp page—particularly since this is the kind of timeless and classy jangle pop we aficionados live for.

All four songs are stellar, in particular the title song, which could be a Shake Some Action-era Flamin’ Groovies outtake. “Ear to the Ground” is another must-hear, a slice of British Invasion thump with a sleek, tremolo-powered guitar riff to die for.

The aforementioned Bandcamp page would suggest that the Young Sinclairs are incredibly prolific, and they’ve been particularly fond of the 7” format. Fellow collectors, your course is clear…

HEATHER WOODS BRODERICK & BENJAMIN SWETT – Home Winds (Book + 7” 45)

Planthouse Gallery / www.planthouse.net

The Upshot: An environmental elegy, and an extended meditation session—relaxing and soothing to the soul, but with its own elements of intense focus, and revelation. 

While it’s a given that more than a few culture vultures have hopped onto the #vinylresurgence bandwagon (Taylor Swift, anyone?), eschewing relevance for trendiness, and the accompanying misguided “cool” factor, some entries have come along that not only defy that assumption, they transcend it so beautifully that you almost assume they were beamed down from another dimension or era.

Such is the case with the printed/recorded artifact at hand. Home Winds is, on the one hand, a 7” vinyl single by songwriter Heather Woods Broderick, offering up a haunting environmental elegy, a shimmery, pulsing song for the trees. “Do I truly recall your face from when it was young,” sings Broderick, in a hushed, partly quivering voice, recalling at times Sandy Denny, adding gospel touches on the chorus, and musing upon a permanent image of a tree, as if it were a beloved family member, possibly no longer with us. “Or from a photo I’ve seen, on the wall on which it was hung,” she adds, acknowledging that memories are tricky, and how they can somehow be replaced, due to the passing of time, by a photograph that survives and reinforces itself via repeated viewings. (The B-side, “Shoreline,” is similarly low-key, its lilt no less engaging and ethereal.)

She’s joined, visually, by photographer Benjamin Swett, who set out to document Gladstone, New Jersey’s Home Winds Farm, a parcel that has been protected via the New Jersey Farmland Protection Program, for its owners, who also operate Planthouse Gallery. Swett’s mandate here is to create permanent portraits of the many trees—many of them huge or otherwise so broad and expansive that they can dominate an entire two-page spread in a book such as this—dotting the farm. Pink-blossomed spring arbors alternate with snow-spackled wintry residents, as well as the sturdy green boys of summer, and the yellow, orange, and crimson citizens of autumn. The result is a permanent record of nature as it cycles through its annual beauty.

Contributing to the project is journalist Elleree Erdos, who provides historical context as well as an insightful analysis of the nuances that Swett’s images bring to the fore. Ultimately, Home Winds is like an extended meditation session—relaxing and soothing to the soul, but with its own elements of intense focus and revelation.

That the participants opted to present the music not on CD or a mere link to a digital file, but a 45rpm record housed in a lovely full-color, thick cardboard picture sleeve—yes, adorned with Swett’s trees—additionally speaks to the care taken in the presentation of Home Winds. It’s a subtle, personal touch that counts for a lot in certain quarters (such as mine).

Additional note: Go to Planthouse.net to view a video for Home Winds, created by Jeffrey Rowles. Below, watch the promo video for the book/45, followed by a live clip of Broderick from late last year. The exhibition dates at Planthouse Gallery will be April 28 through June 20, with the reception being held on April 28 from 6PM to 8PM.

 BONUS BEATS: A FEW OLDER REVIEWS

Deniz Tek – “Crossroads” b/w “Oh Well” 7″ (2014)

Career/ www.careerrecords.com

No, not that “Crossroads,” although l’il Robby Johnson would still approve; instead, it’s an original from the Radio Birdman geetarzan, and a smokin’ slab of straight up garage slop it be. But yes, that “Oh Well”—specifically, the hi-nrg raveup Pt. 1 of the Peter Green/Fleetwood Mac classic, and I’d reckon that it puts to shame pretty much every other version of you’ve heard over the years with the exception of the original. Pressed on lurid purple wax, and hats off to the Career label (co-helmed by Tek and his buddy Ron Sanchez, of Donovan’s Brain) for their subtle appropriation of the old Atlantic Records promo logo for their label art.

Freak Motif – “Killin’ Me” b/w “Killin’ Me (instrumental)” 7″ (2014)
KEPT / www.kept-records.com

The latest in Kept’s so-far-unblemished series of funk-centric wax finds eight-piece Canadian combo Freak Motif getting’ gritty with a slice of JB’s-inspired fonk, heavy on the trancelike groove while a blazing horn section takes everything to the bank. Or the bridge, if you insist. The instro version of “Killin’ Me” has swagger a-plenty, but when guest vocalist Lady C takes the mic on the A-side things get saucier and sexier by the bar. Hell yeah.

 

Peter Buck- Opium Drivel EP  7″ (2014)
Mississippi / www.mississippirecords.com

Following up his latest solo album (as well as last year’s Planet Of The Apes single, that-guy-who-useta-be-in-some-famous-band teams up, once again, with Scott McCaughey and several partners-in-crime for a 4-songer. Just the pounding Charlie Pickett & the Eggs cover alone (“If This Is Love…”) is worth the price of admission, but you also don’t wanna miss the fuzz-garagey “Portrait Of A Sorry Man” for the series of inside-joke lyrical bon mots (among them: “I’m sorry I invented indie rock… the whole thing started out so well, how was I to know?”). A pair of uncharacteristic acoustic aces on the flip, notably the strummy/jangly “Welcome to the Party,” join the aforementioned joker and king, giving Mr. Buck a pretty strong hand in this game.

 

Graham Day & the Forefathers – “Love Me Lies” b/w “30-60-90” 7″ (2013)
State/Sandgate Sound /  www.staterecs.com

This garage-shocking power trio comprises gents who’ve served time in The Prisoners, the Prime Movers, the Solarflares, the James Taylor Quartet and Billy Childish’s Buff Medways, so with that kind of collective resume you’d be right in presuming some jams will be kicked out. “Love Me Lies” revisits an old Prisoners tune in glorious metal hues lined with careening riffs and wah-wah squiggles. Even better is the organ/guitar powered hi-octane R&B instro flip hailing from the pen of one Willie Mitchell (who originally wrote it for the Get Carter soundtrack). (—Fred Mills)

 

Insurgence DC – “True to Life” b/w “Man in Black” 7″ (2013)
Crooked Beat /  www.crookedbeat.com

Based in the nation’s capitol and with Triangle (N.C.) roots, Insurgence plays old school punk with the kind of vim ‘n’ vigor long associated with the punk scenes of those two locales. Indeed, bassist Bill Daly’s lead vocal on the blazing “True to Life” has the type of rabble-rousing anthemism (“Get it out/ Stir it up/ Shout it out now!”) that we’re sorely missing these days (the Occupy movement could’ve used an adrenalin shot of Insurgence). Meanwhile, “Man in Black” marries a rebel-rock message to a twangy riff and a cowpunk thump; you’d be hard pressed not to put your pogo boots on and get to scootin’ when this tune cues up. Available on both black and super-limited yellow vinyl, wax fans.

THE BLURT JAZZ DESK: 6 New Releases

For our latest installment, Prof. Kopp takes a look at titles from Motéma Music, Mack Avenue, Hot Club, Intuition, One Note and Challenge. [Go HERE for previous installments of the Jazz Desk.]

BY BILL KOPP

Gerald Clayton – Tributary Tales (Motéma Music)

Clayton (album cover pictured above) has an impressive family pedigree in music, but his own career deserves serious attention. As Musical director of the Monterey Jazz Festival, Clayton rubs elbows with some of the biggest names in jazz. But the pianist’s work holds up – and quite often towers above – that of many of his contemporaries. Tributary Tales is his fourth album as bandleader, and his first for hip label Motéma. Folding in influences from well outside jazz, on Tributary Tales Clayton creates modern jazz for the 21st century. Walking a fine line between ear candy and abstract, Clayton manages to have it both ways: he is music is adventurous and accessible at once. (Music is here.)

Kevin Eubanks – East West Time Line (Mack Avenue)

Eubanks’ 15-year tenure as Music Director of the house band for the Tonight Show with Jay Leno was a two-edged sword: one one hand, it raised the guitarist’s profile unusually high in the mainstream world for a jazz musician, and afforded him untold opportunities to interact with his musical peers (and lesser musicians) in front of a large and varied audience. But it also gave him at least a bit of a whiff of commercialism, a quality that is often fatal in the rarefied and somewhat insular world of jazz. On East West Time Line, Eubanks embraces that reality, crafting an album divided into two pieces (which can be thought of as A- and B- sides, he readily acknowledges). The first is a set of tasty original tracks cut in New York City; listen for Dave Holland on bass. The second is a set of standards (covers, favorites, whatever) recorded in California. Both build upon his Wes Montgomery influences, and both extend beyond those into something that’s – happily, as he’s earned it – Eubanks’ own bag. (Music is here.)

Hot Club of San Francisco – John Paul George & Django (Hot Club)

Prewar jazz manouche is not this reviewer’s favored substyle in the genre; too often its modern-day exponents betray a lack of imagination; despite opportunities for improvisation, in the hands of far too many current artists relies on rote licks. Against that backdrop, John Paul George & Django stands out like the brightest star. Not only is the basic concept a solid one – it builds upon the old saw that a great song is a great song no matter how it’s recast – but Hot Club reinvent the music of the Beatles in clever ways. If the goal of a jazz reading of someone else’s song is to make it one’s own, to take it where it hasn’t already gone, then this album is an unqualified success. Some of the songs are nearly unrecognizable – Abbey Road‘s “Because,” for example – but that’s fine. Hot Club is both true to the inner light (so to speak) of the originals while embossing the songs with their own brand of originality. Bravo. And bonus points for both the decision to release on vinyl and for commissioning some very clever cover art. (Music is here.)

Günter Baby Sommer – Le Piccole Cose (Intuition)

In the right circumstances, jazz can indeed rock. And it needn’t be fusion to do so. Case in point is Sommer’s latest album. The 73-year-old German drummer swings as he leads a quartet through seven songs that evoke the uptempo, boundary-pushing yet traditional vibe of Art Blakey and His Jazz Messengers. There’s a very playful mindset at work here, as evidenced by the off vocalisms which Sommer employs throughout “Inside Outside Shout”: the tune has as much in common with late 1960s Frank Zappa (Lumpy Gravy and Uncle Meat era) as it does with more conventional jazz traditions. Even the subtler tracks (the aptly-titled “Mellow Mood,” for example) have an adventurous spirit that rewards close listening. The band’s makeup (drums, alto sax and clarinet, trumpet and flugelhorn, bass) is just unusual enough to be interesting on its own; the music takes things to another level. (Music is here.)

Melvin Sparks – Live at Nectar’s (One Note Records)

This one’s not so much jazz as it is soul/r&b/boogaloo. Modern-day fans of bands like The New Mastersounds, Soulive and other current purveyors of the timeless style owe it to themselves to seek out this tasty live date featuring veteran rhythm guitarist Sparks with a stellar band. The guitarist cedes the soloing to his band mates, but he shows can be done within the context of so-called “rhythm” guitar playing. Live at Nectar’s is greasy, sweaty, emotion-filled, high octane instrumental music of the highest order. And the recording also represents one of the last performances by Sparks before his untimely death at age 64 in 2011. (Speaking of New Mastersounds, Eddie Roberts produced and mixed the sessions for release.) (Music is here.)

Trichotomy – Known-Unknown (Challenge Records)

The disc’s cover art may suggest that Known-Unknown is going to be a collection of outré progressive jazz, full of atonalities and skronk. Alas, no: Trichotomy is a relatively straightforward piano/bass/drums trio, albeit one that incorporates electronics into its sonic palette. At least that’s what the back cover tells us. In practice, electronics are far from the defining characteristic of this album. It’s a fine collection of impressionistic and evocative jazz instrumentals, but the trio’s use of electronics is fairly subdued; were one not to read otherwise, one might come away form a listen to Known-Unknown thinking it’s a wholly acoustic album. And while there’s not a thing in the world wrong with that – especially when it’s done as well as it is here – the electronics angle is more than a bit oversold. (Listen to the band live here.)

 

Fred Mills: Misogyny Mea Culpa in a Trumpian New Order

This is one man’s brain on offensive stereotypes, patriarchal entitlement, and reflexive ignorance. Time to make amends, and a pledge. Any questions?

By Fred Mills

Ed. note: The graphic I selected, above, is not intended to be humorous or ironic, so please don’t regard it that way. It was a bit difficult to arrive at an illustration that I felt was appropriate to the dialogue that follows, so I hope it will at least be viewed as relevant. If you agree, pass it along.

 No excuses: I fucked up supremely a week and a half ago, and I deeply regret it. I made an off-hand “joke” on Twitter that relied on a misogynist trope. The comment I made – since deleted; I announced I had done so in the interest of transparency – equated women with prizes to be won by men instead of full human beings in their own right. I know better. At least I thought I did. What I said was deeply offensive in any context, and for that I want to apologize to every woman, not simply to those I know (who rightfully asked WTF I was I thinking). I also want to apologize to men for perpetrating this stereotype amongst ourselves, because we have clearly reached a point where trying to pass off comments like that as “just” guy talk or locker room talk is not only ignorant, it is offensive in and of itself. And I want to apologize to LGBTQ and non-binary people because I see you and you matter; my joke erased your humanity too.

There’s no way to rationalize it or excuse my way out of it. I can see now, as some have pointed out, that my initial apologies were made from a place of defensiveness and woefully inadequate. (There’s an earlier post of mine, from the other weekend on the BLURT Facebook page, where you can read those comments and the subsequent responses.) I’m going to own my mistake.

This lengthy post is my attempt at a proper, more complete apology and my promise to be (and to do) better moving forward. I’m not here to make the conversation about me. But since women don’t have the option of avoiding misogyny, I can’t either. Especially when I’m guilty of perpetrating it.

That’s the truly frightening thing: how blithely I made the original Twitter post and in the process invoked a sexist idea and used misogynist term — in short: I didn’t even think about it. It was so reflexive, such a common shorthand, the fact that it is offensive didn’t even occur to me. And in that moment I confirmed my membership in this giant sprawling frathouse. Guys, think about how often you “don’t even think about it.” It might prove scary to you as well.

With that single, decidedly unfunny joke, I placed myself in league with a pervasive mindset I have previously claimed to hate, and I did so at a moment in time (post-November 8th) when sexists have been given a renewed license to roam and offend, and when women are marginalized and rightly enraged at this inequity of power. I didn’t think before I tweeted. But since then, I’ve discussed this with a lot of people, and it’s given me an opportunity to think and to get some genuine insight into how others – on both sides of the equation – think, and what goes into that thinking.

There have been some tough realizations, not the least of which involves confronting the fact that I didn’t know better. It never occurred to me that I might be part of this systemic patriarchy problem. I’ve always considered myself an egalitarian, one of the good guys who could be depended upon to know and to do the right thing – “doing the right thing,” even if swims against the tide I’m in, is how I was raised and how I’m trying to raise my own son. But in this instance I instead became “one of the good ol’ boys”.

I realize that talk is cheap, and apologies are just words, meaningless unless backed up by action. My challenge is not just to pledge to never let something like this happen again and to set a good example — for my son, my male peers, the readers, and more. It’s also to teach myself to recognize this toxic patriarchal mindset when I see it; to actively challenge it and call folks out on it rather than just coast along and accept it as “the way things are”; and to provide my unconditional support for everyone who find themselves being… I’m not quite sure what word I’m reaching for here… hurt, offended, repressed, patronized, abused, maybe? Those all work, somewhat, but I need to find a term more holistic and all-encompassing. My inability to express it properly here tells me that there’s a lot of growing up that’s gotta happen first. It’s the duty of those of us who are privileged to remove our own blinders.

I’ve spent a lot of time this week listening to the criticism I received for my poorly chosen words, and as I said, talking to friends about what lessons I can learn, and contemplating how to do better, and I want to share two observations in particular that struck a nerve.

The other day, after a lengthy exchange with a friend about all this, I was in my car while listening to a weekend repeat of “Fresh Air” on NPR. Terry Gross’ guest this episode was female lexicographer Kory Stamper and she was talking about the immense power of words, both positive and negative. What timing. This hit home, and hard. I’m a writer, I’m supposed to know that. I thought I did know that. But my actions had just proven otherwise. That’s a personal standard that I let fall by the wayside. In the future I will keep reminding myself of the importance of choosing my words carefully, and appropriately for the context — not to mention knowing when not to say anything in the first place.

Secondly, this past week I have also reflected a great deal on the recent Women’s March and the feelings of pride and inspiration the resistance it launched has evoked in me. The Women’s March stirred up the same passions that I felt decades ago as a young man attending Vietnam War protests. I was empowered and righteous fighting for change, fighting to make my voice heard, fighting to stand up for what’s right. I’m still committed to standing up for what’s right and I want to be the change, as they say.

There is a new intersectional resistance movement taking place in our culture right now, led by women, POC, and those less privileged than me. They insist on being heard and they are righteous. Once again, I’m reminded of what it felt like, during the Vietnam era, to be part of a resistance movement. Moving forward, I want to do my part amplify their voices rather than echo the sexist tropes of times past. I’m going to think before I speak. Sometimes I’m just going to listen instead of speaking.

I am on the side of equality and progress, but the devil is in the details. It’s one thing to believe these things; it’s altogether another thing to execute them in my daily interactions, to monitor what I say and do and not perpetuate or feed the mindset discussed above.

I might not always get it right, but systemic change starts with individual change – that’s a notion that my parents also instilled in me that I intend to pass on to the next generation. I intend to pull my weight, do my part to make things improve, and not just sit on the sidelines silently cheering the resistance on (another trap that, having blinders on, is very easy to fall into). To any of the men who read this, I’m sharing all the foregoing not simply to apologize, but to encourage you to do the same – I invite them to join me.

Fred Mills is the editor of BLURT magazine and Blurtonline.com.