A Consumer Guide to the Trailing Edge: March, 2011

Recycled Goods (#83)

by Tom Hull

I made a pitch a few weeks back to move this column to a more respectable venue -- at least more respectable than my own blog. There's always been two big trade-offs. One is the time the column takes, versus whatever else I may want to do with the time. Jazz Prospecting is the most obvious time-killer, and I'm always torn over that, but there are other things I want to write, and other things that are just plain life. The other is that it takes clout to get hold of the things one really wants to write about -- either that or a lot of money, which is perhaps a cleaner, less political form of clout. I figure that from 2003-07 I did a pretty good job of finding and covering interesting recycled music, and would have done even better if my home base at Static Multimedia had more, well, clout.

Since then I've only occasionally done interesting things, like when I tackled all of New West's Live in Austin TX series, or digested all of Verve's Originals, or finally caught up with Ravi Shankar. But mostly months come and go and I find myself with semi-random assortments like, well, this month's. On the other hand, for the first time in several years I have a fair sense of the lay of the land -- last year's reissues metafile gives me a lot of ideas on things to cover -- lot of black print in that file -- and I know for certain that it only scratches the surface. Seems like that could be fun again. We'll see how it pans out.

The Lou Grassi Po Band with Marshall Allen: Live at the Knitting Factory Volume 1 (2000 [2010], Porter): Allen was Sun Ra's longtime alto saxophonist, who for the first fifty years of his career left virtually no discography under his own name, but now that he's 86 he seems to be popping up everywhere. With three more horns -- Paul Smoker, Steve Swell, and Perry Robinson -- and Wilber Morris on bass, Allen mostly adds muscle to the noise, which is what turns the drummer-leader on the most. B+(**)

George Jones: The Great Lost Hits (1965-72 [2010], Time Life, 2CD): Not so great, and not so lost unless you're a Sony accountant, in which case you may wonder why songs like the opener, "Walk Through This World With Me," are a little off -- it's because some like that are non-hit versions. Everything here comes from Pappy Dailey's Musicor label, Jones' least consistent period although such hokum as "Love Bug" and "I'm a People" are classic, the Melba Montgomery duets are notable, and he never really disappoints. B+(**) [R]

Tabu Ley Rochereau: The Voice of Lightness Vol. 2: Congo Classics 1977-1993 (1977-93 [2010], Sterns, 2CD): The first 2-CD set covered 1961-1977, and this carries the Congo's greatest pop singer up to 1993, when he moved to exile in Los Angeles -- I'm not totally sure, but I don't think he's recorded much since, so I count this as a career summary; no doubt specialists can find more, as with Franco's comparable Francophonic 2-times-2-CD set, but even the most fleeting generalists will regret settling for less. A

The Sound of Siam: Leftfield Luk Thung, Jazz & Molam in Thailand 1964-1975 (1964-75 [2010], Soundway): One of the few third world countries never to have been knuckled under by European imperialists, Thailand should by all rights have its own sound and traditions, and it does -- split between the classical of the elites and the folk of the countryside, but also note the timespan, a decade when Bangkok was the American soldier's favorite r↦r retreat from the wretched war in Vietnam, so factor some surf music and jazz in, and don't make it too strange to foreign ears. B+(**) [R]

Briefly Noted

Natalia Bernal/Mike Eckroth/Jason Ennis: La Voz de Tres (2010, Jota Sete): Striking Chilean vocalist singing Andean folk tunes and prim and proper bossa nova, tightly backed by pianist Eckroth and guitarist Ennis, filed as jazz not world because the one English language cover, "Tenderly," signifies so strongly. B+(*)

Alpha Blondy & the Solar System: Grand Bassam Zion Rock (1996 [2011], VP): Rastaman from Côte d'Ivoire, b. Seydou Koné in 1953, released some spotty albums on Shanachie in the 1980s which reduced to a very fine The Best of Alpha Blondy (1984-89 [1990], Shanachie); I noticed this later record among seven reissues picked up by VP; more français than I recall from his early albums, which in the end turns into a distinction. B+(*) [R]

Dadi: Bem Aqui (2009 [2010], Sunnyside): A studio pro who's penned tunes for major Brazilian stars, I imagine his up front turn is like Billy Joe Shaver's, a songwriter so deeply appealing that even he can sing his own songs; everything catchy, the quirks engaging, the flow irresistible. A-

Kenny Dorham: The Flamboyan, Queens, NY, 1963 (1963 [2010], Uptown): Live radio shot of the trumpeter's hard bop quintet, with Joe Henderson on tenor sax and Ronnie Mathews on piano, not long before Dorham's health started to fail, leading to his death in 1972; two originals ("Straight Ahead" of course, and "Una Mas" showing his Latin flare), a couple of Gershwin standards, a lot of hot trumpet on the opener, three interruptions by MC Alan Grant. B+(***) [R]

D.O. Misiani and Shirati Jazz: The King of History (1973-79 [2010], Sterns): A Luo from Tanzania romping through East Africa's "guitar paradise," previously known from Hannibal's Benga Beat (attributed to Shirati Jazz) and Earthworks' Benga Blast! (full name Daniel Owino Misiani), fine later records that we now know didn't dig deep enough. A

Palenque Palenque! Champeta Criolla & Afro Roots in Colombia 1975-91 (1975-91 [2010], Soundway): In Spanish, presumably, as dance pop in Colombia must be, although Palenquero is a Spanish-Bantu creole language still spoken thereabouts, a link to African roots that separates this from the cumbia-salsa norms -- sounds more like ska or calypso, although denser rhythmically. A- [R]

Charanjit Singh: Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat (1982 [2010], Bombay Connection): Bollywood session musician hits the synths, may be working in raga form but doesn't slouch on the disco beats. B+(***) [R]

Joan Soriano: El Duque de la Bachata (2010, IASO, CD+DVD): Supposedly the rougher, cruder country version of merengue, fit for small-time royalty, the 7th of 15 children with scant education, just a fine sense of how to keep a guitar rhythm rolling, with a seductive voice; DVD gives you more personal sense, less music. B+(***)

Sidi Touré & Friends: Sahel Folk (2009 [2011], Thrill Jockey): Malian guitarist, cut an album in 1996 admired for its idiosyncratic drones, returns with a second where he and his friends keep a lid on their desert blues groove, offset by chant vocals, a narrow range that proves enchanting nonetheless. B+(***)

Vagrants: I Can't Make a Friend 1965-1968 (1965-68 [2011], Light in the Attic): Long Island group, had a typical 1960s garage guitar sound, best known alumni Leslie West, cut a few singles which Arista in 1987 tried to pass off as The Great Lost Vagrants Album, recycled in 1996 and again now; I hear faint echoes of the Hollies and the Move, but nothing stands out. B [R]

Legend: B+ records are divided into three levels, where more * is better. [R] indicates record was reviewed using a stream from Rhapsody. The biggest caveat there is that the packaging and documentation hasn't been inspected or considered, and documentation is especially important for reissues. But also my exposure to streamed records is briefer and more limited, so I'm more prone to snap judgments.

For this column and the previous 82, see the archive.

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Copyright © 2011 Tom Hull.