The Allman Brothers Band: "Live from A&R Studios, New York, August 26, 1971"

June 2016

The Allman Brothers Band Recording Company 1116
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
***

Overall Enjoyment
****

Few rock bands had the stylistic scope or instrumental prowess of the original Allman Brothers Band: guitarists Duane Allman and Dickey Betts, organist/vocalist Gregg Allman, bassist Berry Oakley, and drummers Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny Johanson. From the spring of 1969 to October, 1971, the band grew steadily from an energetic-but-raw group of disparate forces to a highly disciplined-yet-uninhibited band of improvisers.

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Pat Metheny: "The Unity Sessions"

May 2016

Nonesuch 554569
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

While jazz has no shortage of solo performances, stemming from the European classical tradition of the virtuoso recital, it is primarily a collective music. Improvisation gains currency when one player takes inspiration from another, adding to what has already been played, while ensemble work is at the very core of what gives the music its power -- both in small groups and, most particularly, big bands.

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Wes Montgomery: "In the Beginning"

April 2016

Resonance Records HCD-2014
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***

Sound Quality
**

Overall Enjoyment
***

One of the few authentic things in Don Cheadle’s gangster-fantasy bio-pic of Miles Davis is the trumpeter’s insistence that jazz was, first and foremost, social music. In the years before, during and after World War II, in particular, jazz was the soundtrack of black American lives. Before the rise of urban blues and R&B in the ’50s, it was jazz that was played on commercial jukeboxes in bars, on record players at house parties, and by combos at live music venues. It was, quite literally, ubiquitous in the air, especially in the large, industrial centers. In Indianapolis, Wes Montgomery started strumming a four-string tenor guitar at the age of 12, and seven years later, in 1942 -- inspired by brilliant, young guitarist, Charlie Christian, who died around that time -- switched to a full-size electric guitar.

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Charles Lloyd & the Marvels: "I Long to See You"

March 2016

Blue Note Records B002427702
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
***

Overall Enjoyment
****

Veteran jazz saxophonist Charles Lloyd, who turns 78 on March 15, views himself as someone who stands at the crossroads of America’s folk musics: country, blues, R&B, and jazz. As quoted in California-based journalist Joe Woodard’s 2015 book, Charles Lloyd: A Wild, Blatant Truth, Lloyd believes that growing up in Memphis on the Mississippi River in the 1940s was “the right place, at the right time. There were great masters there.” Among those masters Lloyd played with were B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Johnny Ace, and contemporaries Phineas Newborn and Booker Little.

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David Bowie: "Blackstar"

February 2016

ISO/Columbia 88875173862
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
*****

Any artist’s sudden and unexpected death alters our view of his or her final work -- whether it be Jimi Hendrix’s The Cry Of Love, Janis Joplin’s Pearl, or John Lennon’s Double Fantasy. No matter how hard we try, we can never truly divorce that final recording from thoughts of what went before or projections of what might have been yet to come.

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John Abercrombie: "The First Quartet"

January 2016

ECM 2478
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Reissues of early recordings from an established artist’s career are almost always instructive, and sometimes revelatory. While it is not unusual to gain a fresh perspective on the development of the artist’s music, it is much rarer to get insights into what factors influenced the musician’s personal growth.

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Billy Gibbons and the BFGs: "Perfectamundo"

December 2015

Concord 37886
Format: CD

Musical Performance
**

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
**

Starting in the mid-1960s, blues-based guitarists began to supplant lead singers like Mick Jagger and Keith Relf as the dominant frontmen in rock music. Players like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page were suddenly thrust into the spotlight, and once Jimi Hendrix made the move from showy soul sideman to rock god there was no turning back. Even guitarists who could not sing -- Duane Allman comes to mind -- were promoted as solo artists.

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Keith Richards: "Crosseyed Heart"

November 2015

Mindless Records/Virgin EMI 2361502
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

To hear Keith Richards tell the story -- as he does in a new Netflix documentary called Keith Richards: Under the Influence -- Crosseyed Heart came about because he said something outlandish to Steve Jordan, the longtime drummer for Richards’s side project, the X-Pensive Winos. What on earth could Richards -- who, for more than 50 years, has set the bar high for outlandish behavior -- have said to create such a reaction? According to Jordan, Richards -- having now documented his turbulent past in an autobiography and with the Rolling Stones spending more time off the road than on it -- mused about retirement.

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Blue Buddha: "Blue Buddha"; Dave Douglas Quintet: "Brazen Heart"

Blue Buddha: Blue Buddha

Tzadik 4010
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Dave Douglas Quintet: Brazen Heart

Greenleaf Music 1044
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****1/2

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Jason Isbell: "Something More Than Free"

September 2015

Southeastern Records
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Few things resonate in America as well as redemption tales. Alabama-born singer-songwriter Jason Isbell has a fine one to tell, bouncing back from an alcohol habit so bad it got him fired from the hard-living Drive-By Truckers in 2007, when he was just 28. Isbell's crash was particularly disappointing because he seemed to be living out the kind of disastrous self-destruction portrayed in some of the Truckers' darkest songs while proving himself to be the most promising young writer to come out of the South since Steve Earle.

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