Sunday, August 21, 2011
Album Reviews: Laura Chalk, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and River Cow Orchestra
Laura Chalk- All the Things You Are
I don't care for Laura Chalk's voice. Yet I've discovered I can appreciate her new album All the Things You Are if I think of it as a Danny Embrey project. The guitarist's low-key brilliance is consistently astonishing. The reassuring presence of Kansas City mainstream jazz stalwarts Paul Smith, Bob Bowman, Tim Cambron and Steve Hall also make the session worthwhile. Young saxophonist Matt Chalk, the son of the vocalist, appears on three tracks. Not everyone shares my particular bias. Read a very favorable review of All the Things You Are here.
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey- Race Riot Suite
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey was formed in Tulsa in 1994 and has issued over twenty albums. The band's extensive history makes the suggestion that Race Riot Suite is an important, career-defining album seem entirely daft. Yet the ambitious project will doubtless inspire lots of breathless hyperbole from advocates of the sprawling sound associated with Charles Mingus and Henry Threadgill when it's released on August 30.
The wildly entertaining suite was written and arranged by pedal steel player Chris Combs, but its most distinctive sonic characteristic is the all-star horn section of Peter Apfelbaum (baritone saxophone), Steven Bernstein (trumpet, slide trumpet), Jeff Coffin (tenor saxophone), Matt Leland (trombone) and Mark Southerland (tenor saxophone, homemade horns). A recent live performance of "Black Wall Street" encapsulates the project's sensibility. Kansas City-based bassist Jeff Harshbarger solos at the 9:10 mark.
Race Riot Suite isn't merely a serious contender for album-of-the-year. It's one of the most compelling jazz-based albums of the new millennium.
(Plastic Sax interviewed JFJO's Brian Haas in 2009.)
River Cow Orchestra- Go Wake the Rooster
A quick inspection of ReverbNation's "Top Jazz Artists" chart for Kansas City reveals an anomaly. River Cow Orchestra is the number one act, a distinction it's held for a long time. River Cow Orchestra's ability to game the system doesn't faze me. The fact that it markets itself as a jazz act, however, is misleading.
Primarily an instrumental, improvisational-based band, River Cow Orchestra is more inspired by Ummagumma-era Pink Floyd than Charlie Parker. Even though its members have clearly studied the electric work of Miles Davis, River Cow Orchestra doesn't swing.
Its occasional melding of Santana and Lonnie Liston Smith along with its affinity for absurdism makes the new album Go Wake the Rooster ideal music for a hookah bar. Here's one of 537 videos the band has uploaded to YouTube.
I've never agreed with the sentiment behind "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)." River Cow Orchestra is really good at what it does. But what it does isn't jazz.
(Original image by Plastic Sax.)