Jimi Hendrix: "Both Sides of the Sky"

April 2018

Experience Hendrix/Legacy
Format: CD

Musical Performance
***

Sound Quality
***

Overall Enjoyment
****

Sometime in the mid-’70s, one of Rolling Stone’s waggish music critics began a review of one of the pastiche post-mortem recordings that surfaced in the decade after Jimi Hendrix’s death on September 18, 1970, with the words “Scrape, scrape.”

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Stephane Wrembel: "The Django Experiment III"

March 2018

Water Is Life 13
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

For an artist with a wholly individual technique and a career that spanned only 25 years, guitarist Django Reinhardt’s posthumous influence on popular music is challenged only by that of Jimi Hendrix and Charlie Parker. Sixty-five years after his death, at the age of 43, Reinhardt’s melodic fluency, harmonic sophistication, and rhythmic flow not only set the bar for jazz guitarists but gave birth to an informal school of followers that flourishes worldwide.

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Joe Satriani: "What Happens Next"

February 2018

Legacy 19075802312
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
***

Overall Enjoyment
****

All hail the riff. From the elemental, slow-motion growl of Link Wray’s “Rumble” through Keith Richards’s just-woke-from-my-coma fuzzy progression of “Satisfaction” onward, guitar-based rock has lived or died on memorable note choices. As advanced as amplification, electronic effects, and recording technology have become, it still comes down to how you make that joyful noise on your six strings.

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Mavis Staples: "If All I Was Was Black"

January 2018

Anti- 87557
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

As a child in Chicago, Mavis Staples idolized Mahalia Jackson, a towering figure in gospel music who attained such stature that she was invited to perform at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961. Young Mavis got first-hand exposure to Jackson through the established performer’s friendship with Roebuck “Pops” Staples, the patriarch of the Staple Singers and an important -- though often overlooked -- link between the seminal Mississippi Delta guitarists and the urban gospel-soul of artists like Curtis Mayfield, Sly Stone, and Marvin Gaye.

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ECV: "Sticks and Stones"

December 2017

Kwimu Music
Format: CD

Musical Performance
*****

Sound Quality
*****

Overall Enjoyment
*****

When you’ve heard someone play music as often as I’ve heard Ottawa-based guitarist Roddy Ellias over the past 40 years, it’s easy to overlook some of the things you hear; not to say that you ever actually take their musicianship for granted. With the 68-year-old Ellias, who has been more than a passing acquaintance for much of those four decades, it’s not so much familiarity or ubiquity that contributes to that state as his quiet self-deprecation. He’s so low key that it’s easy to forget that he’s both a world-class player and composer.

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Living Colour: "Shade"

November 2017

Megaforce
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Outrageously overlooked in the annals of recent rock history in favor of other mid-’80s bands like Metallica and Guns N’ Roses, Living Colour is back, and sounding tougher than ever. The quartet’s sixth album -- its first since 2009 -- is an extended meditation on the blues that is stuffed full of slamming guitar hooks and uncompromising social commentary.

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Gregg Allman: "Southern Blood"

October 2017

Rounder 1166100054
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
*****

The first music review I had published examined an album by Gregg Allman. By then, 1977, I’d already been hearing his voice for seven years. So I approach his final recording with both sadness and a wealth of historical context. Although I met Allman only once -- very briefly on a beach in Macon, Georgia, in 1979 -- I feel like I’m saying farewell to an old friend.

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Vijay Iyer Sextet: "Far from Over"

September 2017

ECM 2581
Format: CD

Musical Performance
*****

Sound Quality
*****

Overall Enjoyment
*****

There’s a common refrain in the wider jazz community that there are few stars left, and that those who still remain -- Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Sonny Rollins are those most often cited -- are well into their senior years. The people who repeat this refrain like a mantra mourn the days when, as my colleague Howard Mandel wrote, “giants walked the earth.” The typical roll call of giants includes Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and select others of their generation.

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Randall Bramblett: "Juke Joint at the Edge of the World"

August 2017

New West 6398
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
****

Beck’s idiosyncratic mashups generally defy cover versions, let alone by veteran southern jazz-rock artists. So finding a credible version of “Devils Haircut,” one of the core tracks of Beck’s breakthrough Odelay, on the 14th album by Randall Bramblett is a surprise.

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Steve Coleman's Natal Eclipse: "Morphogenesis"

July 2017

Pi 69
Format: CD

Musical Performance
*****

Sound Quality
****

Overall Enjoyment
*****

Alto saxophonists Ornette and Steve Coleman share more than their instrument of choice and surnames; the younger Coleman was the first major bandleader since his namesake to make music that moved mind and body in equal measure.

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