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Music Reviews 5.10.06


Estate Sale

With the familiar, downtempo strum-strum-strum that opens Estate Sale, it appears as if Hinkley leader and principle songwriter Will Veeder is about to lead the band down the same melancholy path it explored with such lustrous results on the band’s 2004 release, Frail and Poker Faced. Anyone familiar with Veeder’s previous work in Hinkley and the now-defunct Muler can attest to Veeder’s unparalleled gift for wresting beauty from sadness. This time, as if sensing that lightning might not strike in the same spot twice, Veeder devotes about half the album to Muler-styled upbeat pop. The band --- a veritable all-star lineup of local talent --- switches gears between trademark Hinkley Americana and British mod rock with rubbery grace. One piece even delves into abstract jazz in a loose jam that nonetheless demonstrates the band’s cohesion. Honorable mentions go to recurring guests Stacey Ackerman on vocals and Darren Dewispelaere on trumpet.
--- Saby Reyes-Kulkarni


Houdini Live… A History of Gluttony and Lust
Ipecac Recordings

The Melvins originally hail from Aberdeen , Washington , the same logging camp that birthed Metal Church and Nirvana. And though they reportedly inspired Messrs. Cobain and Novoselic to form that doomed little trio, the Melvins might have more in common with their heavier ancestors than their poppier descendants. With booming Sabbath-esque riffs that veer between whiplash punk and sludgy trudge, the Melvins’ major-label debut, 1993’s Houdini, sounded like mainstream contemporaries Soundgarden minus the operatic preening and Jesus Christ posing (and with tongue firmly in cheek). Houdini Live is a front-to-back re-recording of Houdini, arguably one of the best albums of the ‘90s. Whether it’s the thrashy “Honey Bucket,” the surprisingly melodic “Set Me Straight,” or the bombastic Kiss cover “Goin’ Blind,” the Melvins stay exceptionally faithful to their source material. The rhythm section, bolstered by Fantomas bassist Trevor Dunn, sounds especially rich, and King Buzzo’s vocals have a rumbling simplicity not found in the polish of a studio. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But do feel free to make another one.


Jumping the Creek

To jazz aficionados the name Charles Lloyd may conjure up a time in the late-1960s when a post-Coltrane saxophone player managed to fill rock halls with his celestial solos. Lloyd wasn’t just playing the musical mystic; for much of the next decade his jazz took a back seat to his teaching of transcendental meditation. In more recent decades Lloyd has re-emerged, recording some of his strongest work. His latest album, Jumping the Creek is among the freshest sounding albums of the year.

Most of the excellent cuts are Lloyd’s compositions, but the album begins with perhaps its best track, a powerful interpretation of Jacques Brel’s “Ne Me Quitte Pas.” So haunting is Lloyd’s playing on the B section, you may feel like you are hearing the tune for the first time. He is also capable of an exotic Middle Eastern wail on “The Sufi’s Tears.”

No small part of this album’s allure can be attributed to Lloyd’s selection of musicians. His quartet boasts the great Geri Allen contributing magnificently impressionistic piano runs on tunes like Lloyd’s “Georgia Bright Suite.” Bassist Robert Hurst and percussionist Eric Harland provide a foundation that never loses its edge.

--- Ron Netsky


The Word is Out
Heads Up

When the Jaco Pastorius Big Band released its first album last year, it could have served as a one-time tribute, honoring the titular late jazz great with elaborate arrangements of his compositions and tunes he made his own. With the release of The Word is Out, it’s clear: this phenomenal group is here to stay. Pastorius’ oeuvre is ripe for re-interpretation and the band --- through conductor Peter Graves and arrangers Bob Mintzer, Randy Bernsen, Larry Warrilow and Dan Bonsanti --- squeezes it for all it’s worth.

The world’s best bassists come forward to salute Pastorius. Jimmy Haslip is deliriously rhythmic on “Kuru/Speak Like a Child.” Richard Bona dances on the bottom of “Blackbird,” which morphs nicely into “Word of Mouth.” And Will Lee commands “River People.” Even Pastorius himself is featured on “Reza” through the magic of track extraction. Aside from the bassists, there is a wealth of top players featured on these tracks. The great Toots Thielemans tears into Pastorius’ “Las Olas” on his harmonica. And Mike Stern fills in so beautifully for Pat Metheny on “Sarabhorn” that you don’t miss Metheny, the tune’s composer, for a moment. This one cooks from start to finish.

--- Ron Netsky


The Boxing Mirror
Back Porch

After pining for nearly three decades and suffering a near-death experience, singer-songwriter Alejandro Escovedo finally got to be produced by his idol, Velvet Underground legend John Cale. At Cale’s insistence, Escovedo, who recently joked that he’d been “trying to rip [Cale] off for years” and “had to get the master in here to learn how to do it right,” sounds no worse for the wear on his new set of songs. In fact, The Boxing Mirror shows the well-traveled cow-punk innovator and critical/peer darling sounding seasoned, philosophical, and relaxed --- which is to be expected, perhaps, from someone who faced the very real possibility of never getting to play music again. Cale brings a touch of strings and electronica but leaves the songscapes dusty for Escovedo’s literate imagination to wander in the guise of fanciful, sometimes purely symbolic narrators. Without ghostly steel guitars wailing in the distance, The Boxing Mirror feels arid but also refreshingly immediate and alive.
--- Saby Reyes-Kulkarni


Murray’s Revenge
Record Collection

“Let the world know they’re still making real emcees!”

Yes, they are. And one of the notables goes by the name Murs. Together with producer 9th Wonder, this L.A. native is back out with Murray’s Revenge, the second collaborative effort by the pair. Revenge is a potent injection of raw hip-hop, uncut and straight to the aural bloodline.

Murs comes off as your homey from up the block who’s just kicking it with you on the ‘Shaw. While the sun sets over the City of Angels , conversation covers relationships (“Love & Appreciate” and “Silly Girl”), hometown love (“ L.A. ”), the local hangout (“Barbershop”), and the reason the duo should be respected (“Murs Day” and “ Murray ’s Law”).

Murs’ honesty is so candid he almost appears vulnerable, though his confidence keeps his flows believable. And with the precise sample-laden production of 9th Wonder, the man on the boards for North Cacalacka trio Little Brother, the LP makes for a skip-free 32 minutes. The highlights include “Yesterday & Today,” a pull-yourself-up-from-the-bootstraps inspirational joint that just makes you feel good, and “Dark Skinned White Girls,” which openly explores the identity issues certain women might face.

The only thing that pisses me off is that it’s so damn short, as each track offering is quite underweight. But it’s quality over quantity for these two, down to the last two and a half minutes, which features Murs shredding 9th’s dice job of an overused Bob James sample on the title cut. And if you’ve not already banged their collabo debut 3:16 : The 9th Edition , their latest will give you reason to find out why they’re seeking Revenge.

--- jaythreeoh