By Willard Manus
So many CDs, so little space.
Todd Sickafoose not plays half a dozen instruments, but writes and produces music. His various talents are on display in TINY RESISTORS, his latest CD on the Cryptogramophone label. Aided by ten bandmates he dives deep into a world of his own making: eleven original compositions shimmering with strange, mysterious yet beautiful sounds that defy categorization. With titles like Future Flora, Bye Bye Bees and Whistle, and his crew employing such instruments as bassoon, celeste, accordion through a Leslie, and an electric ukelele, the CD is truly, as the press notes say, "a postcard from the bent edges of jazz."
Cryptogramophone, who from its Venice, Ca. base has become a leader in
gutsy, avant-garde jazz, is THE JEFF GAUTHIER GOATETTE--HOUSE OF RETURN.
Gauthier not only plays violin, electric violin and percussion but has
written two of the seven tunes on the release. The others were composed
by some of his bandmates, plus Eric von Essen. Again, the music these
kindred souls have created is unusual, complex and introspective, yet
manages to swing as well. As with TINY RESISTORS, the CD requires repeated
hearings for complete understanding. (Crypto.tv)
To celebrate its 55th anniversary, Chicago-based Delmark has released two samplers culled from its enviable backlist--55 YEARS OF BLUES and 55 YEARS OF JAZZ (each one of which comes with a DVD). The former kicks off with Junior Wells singing his 1975 hit, Little By Little. Songs by Sleepy John Estes, Detroit Jr. and Big Joe Williams follow, with lots more to come. In all, there are 17 cuts on this generous and pleasurable anthology.
55 YEARS OF JAZZ has thirteen cuts, but that's nothing to complain about, considering that some of them are by Coleman Hawkins, Sun Ra, Art Hodes and King Curtis. (The latter blows the roof off with his 1956 rendition of Dynamite at Midnight). Another nostalgic favorite of mine is George Lewis and Friends (back in 1953) beating out a version of Doctor Jazz. How nice it is to come across a little upbeat, joyous "Dixieland" music in these parlous times.
Also from Delmark is a CD dedicated to keeping alive 40s big band music: JOHN BURNETT SWING ORCHESTRA--WEST OF STATE STREET/EAST OF HARLEM. Burnett, who hosts a jazz show on Chicago's WDCB, leads a 20-piece group that romps through such classics as Struttin With Some Barbecue, Night in Tunisia and April in Paris, plus such lesser-known tunes as Flight of the Foo Birds and Anytime, Anyday, Anywhere. Handling the vocals (on two cuts) is Frieda Lee. Heading the five-man trumpet section is the virtuosic Randy Sandke. (Bluesjazz@delmark.com)
From Resonance comes an outpouring of romantic jazz by violinist Christian Howes. Don't think, though, that HEARTFELT is gushy or sentimental. Howes plays with fidelity and lyricism throughout, showing off his jazz chops on all ten cuts. He is strongly aided by Roger Kellaway on piano; Andrea Oberg, guitar; Bob Magnusson, bass; and Nathan Wood, drums. Together these kindred souls make lots of warm, pretty sounds--topped off by some redhot swinging on Bernie's Tune.
Brazilian guitarist Toninho Horta has put together a tribute album to his idol, Antonio Carlos Jobim, the man whose name is synonymous with bossa nova. With Horta fronting a large orchestra comprised of Brazilian and American musicians, TO JOBIM WITH LOVE offers such familiar Jobim compositions as Agua de Beber, Modinha, The Girl From Ipanema and Desafinado. Horta, aided by singer Gal Costa, puts his own spin on these and also contributes four compositions of his own. Actually, all thirteen cuts on this Resonance release celebrate the 50th anniversary of bossa nova with style and love. Normally, I'm not a big fan of bossa nova--there's a certain sameness and tameness to the music--but this time around I gotta admit I liked what I heard. (Resonancerecords.org)