This week—two new rock boxes, a compilation by a jazz arranger, a bluegrass beauty, one of the finest jazz albums of the year thus far, a powerful jazz pianist from Italy and a singer whose voice will remind you of Boz Scaggs and Jon Hendricks [portrait above by Rainer Magold]
What's interesting about the Allman Brothers Band is that they've always been as good on stage as they are in the studio. Best of all, they don't speed-up live, so their concert recordings tend to be solid, unhurried rock-blues adventures. That's certainly true of the newly released double-CD Play All Night: Live at the Beacon Theatre 1992 (Sony) and the DVD Live at Great Woods 1991. Recent news that two original band members called it quits and that the band will stop touring at the end of this year ends a four-decade run that introduced the blues to millions of rock-minded suburban teens. The Beacon Theatre in New York has always been a much-anticipated extended stay for the band, and the Allman Brothers sound muscular and full of snap on the live CD set. From Statesboro Blues and Jessica to You Don't Love Me and In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, the recording is as sassy as At Fillmore East (1971)—only better recorded. The DVD serves up the band's wailing sizzle in color during a Mansfield, Mass. concert.
Mike Bloomfield is a legendary rock-blues guitarist most people know from conversations rather than actual listening. With the release of the four-disc career-spanning box (three CDs and one DVD documentary) Michael Bloomfield: From His Head to His Heart to His Hands (Sony), we finally get a robust sense of Bloomfield's chops and contribution. Bloomfield died in 1981 of a drug overdose, but he was steps ahead of many of his white peers early on when it came to recognizing the Chicago blues' value to rock and integrating it neatly. Bloomfield backed Bob Dylan when he performed on electric guitar at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival and introduced Johnny Winter at the Fillmore East three years later. Unlike many of his blues-rock contemporaries, Bloomfield didn't embrace feedback for effect but instead played the electric blues straight up, a relief in retrospect. His early Columbia recordings are here as well as work with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Bob Dylan, Electric Flag, Janis Joplin, Al Kooper and others. Included are hugely informative liner notes.
Shortly after my post last month on arranger Johnny Carisi's unreleased Jazz Workshop album of 1956, Jordi Pujol of Fresh Sound emailed to let me know that he had just finished producing Israel: The Music of Johnny Carisi. The new CD is a survey of Carisi's work that includes all of the Jazz Workshop material and tracks with Al Cohn, Tony Scott, Urbie Green and Gerry Mulligan. Included are tracks from Gil Evans: Into the Hot from 1961, which was actually a Carisi album. The sound is terrific and the 20-page booklet features super notes and photos provided by the family.
Tony Trischka is an exceptional five-string bluegrass banjo player. His latest CD is Great Big World (New Rounder) and it's a work of sublime perfection. The list of musicians who appear with him on the album is extensive, and no two songs sound alike. What all of the songs have in common is rural spirit—the sound of walking barefoot along a wooded trail to a swimming hole or driving along a country road in the late afternoon, when everything looks sunny-lazy and lemonade-like. When I put on this CD, I couldn't take it off—it's that engaging and evocative of modern life catching its breath. Sample The Danny Thomas. If you want an extensive taste, go here.
Saxophonist Sly5thAve's first album Akuma (Truth Revolution) is a revelation. Peppered with the artist's Nigerian heritage and American soul-modernism, Akuma takes you on a journey through the instrumental brush and offers fresh cultural themes and references. Born in Texas and a graduate of the University of North Texas, Sly5thAve (Sylvester Uzoma Onyejiaka) has created a large colorful canvas brimming with lyrical funk-jazz intensity. Easily one of my favorite albums of the year thus far and one of the most promising new jazz artists I've encountered on disc. For more on Sly5thAve, go here. Remember, you heard about him here first.
Pianist Roberto Magris is out with a followup—One Night In With Hope and More Vol. 2 (J-Mood). Roberto is from Trieste, Italy, and plays like a strong cup of coffee. His takes on Herbie Nichols' Third World and Randy Weston's Little Susan are robust and rich, but he also can be dramatically tender—as on the standard Young and Foolish, his own Burbank Turnaround and Tadd Dameron's Whatever Possessed Me. Roberto is joined by bassist Elisa Pruett and Brian Steever and Albert "Tootie" Heath on drums.
Dig Boz Scaggs' jazzy, soulful vocal sound and Jon Hendricks' smooth hip tone? Push them together and you get vocalist Sean Sullivan. On his new album Hereafter (Megaforce), there are vocal shades of Scaggs on Sullivan's Don't Get Me Started and Hendricks on Gimme That Wine. The southern-born Sullivan lives in New York. His mother was born in West Virginia of French and Cherokee descent while her father was a Nazarene minister and her grandfather was a bible‐toting preacher. Long story short, Sullivan has plenty of earthiness in his background and fine jazz phrasing. His voice can ache like a soprano sax, but Sullivan also knows how to swing a tune. For more on the artist, go here.