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Index of SEMJA reviews


Recent Recordings by Area Musicians


Hot Club of DetrotThe Hot Club of Detroit has just released its third album, which demonstrates the continuing progress of this unique group. On It's About that Time (Mack Avenue Records, MAC 1051) the personnel is Evan Perri: electric guitar, Paul Brady: steel & nylon string rhythm guitar, Julien Labro: accordion, accordina, bandeon, Andrew Kratzat: bass, and Carl Cafagna: clarinet, tenor & soprano saxophone. New bassist Kratzat undoubtedly contributes to the growing musical maturity of the drumless quintet, but the development is clearly a group process.

Although this started out as a Django Reinhardt tribute band, it quickly became much more than that; here once again they pay homage to their idol, but modernize his message in a very personal manner. The rhythms vary from tune to tune, and the Django sound recedes somewhat into the background. There are only a handful of compositions by the maestro, and these are relatively obscure ones at that. The rest are from the pens of the members of the Hot Club as well as by unexpected composers such as Frederic Chopin, Joe Zawinul, or Charles Mingus.

The main soloists are Perry, Labro, and Cafagna. The founder's guitar lines have less and less Django in them, Cafagna uses all his horns well, especially his sweet-voiced soprano sax, and Labro continues to amaze. He brings a modern harmonic sophistication to traditional heart-on-your sleeve accordion/bandeon stylings, without losing the emotional impact of the tradition. The Hot Club creates many different sounds without sacrificing group identity, use a well-chosen variety of compositions, and most important, they swing like mad without overwhelming the listener.

ATradition Continuesnother Detroit-based group, In The Tradition, has likewise released its third recording, The Tradition Continues! (AFJ 1903), featuring, as its collective personnel: Charles Hopkins, trumpet, flugelhorn, and mellophone; Olujimi Tafataona, soprano, alto, tenor, baritone saxophones, and alto flute; Vicki Alexander, baritone Saxophone; Mark Berger, baritone Saxophone; Melanie White, trombone; Brad Shearer, piano; Greg Cook, bass; Bobby Welch, drums; Kefentse Chike, djembe, and congas; Imari Jendayi, vocal effects and vocals; and Aurora Harris, spoken word.

Eight of the ten tracks were composed by the leader of the group Tafataona, and the remaining two are well-known standards "A Beautiful Friendship," featuring Hopkins' mellophone, as well as solos by the rhythm section, and "Alone Together." Both are played in the standard modern jazz idiom; the remainder has more of a lilting soul jazz feel with elements of African and Afro-Cuban percussion, while "Yurugu" features a strong recitation by Aurora Harris. The soloists all acquit themselves well on this recital; in a group that can count up to four baritone saxophones, it is sad to realize that this was Vicki Alexander's last recording.

TGlobal Jazz Projecthe Global Jazz Trio has morphed into the Global Jazz Project and has released two new recordings, Tour of the Planet and Global Visions, featuring leader Mark Hershberger on tenor and soprano saxophones, Andy Szadyr, piano and keyboards, Richard Harding Smith, electric & acoustic bass, electro-sintir, vocals, Maruga Booker, percussion, and on the second CD Michael Colone, guitar.

The dominant voice in this group belongs to the leader, whose muscular and expressive tenor saxophone colors most tracks. The sound reminds one of Pharaoh Sanders with elements of Archie Shepp; expressive, hard edged but romantic at times. The group has developed a style out of disparate elements, from funk and pop-jazz to Coltrane-inspired modern anthems, embracing a wide range of rhythms and moods, sometimes within the same piece.

The second CD consists almost entirely of the leader's compositions and is in effect a suite of sorts, apparently inspired by wild animals. If so, it is a somewhat melancholy meditation on the fragility of our world, but many moments of contemplative beauty. The first CD is quite different, featuring tunes like "Cousin Mary" or "A Night in Tunisia", the latter featuring a typically magnificent Booker percussion outing.

AYeyinother spiritually laden suite is presented on Yèyí: A Wordless Psalm of Prototypical Vibrations (META 012 – 2010) by the duet of Adam Rudolph and Ralph Jones. A listing of the instruments involved provides some inkling of what to expect here; Adam Rudolph utilizes handrum set (kongos, djembe, tarija, zabumba), frame drum, thumb pianos, cup gongs, kongo slit drum, glockenspiel, percussion, sintir, melodica, berber reed horn, overtone horn, and mulitphonic singing. Ralph Jones switches between alto & c flutes, bass clarinet, tenor & soprano saxophones, ney, hichiriki, hulusi, umtshingo, bamboo flutes, bamboo sticks, and shakers.

The music of this "psalm" draws upon many sources, African, European, Asian, American, brought together into an organic whole rather than into a pan-ethnic mix. The various instruments are used for contrast and color, serving melody and development, but without any technically flashy explorations. Jones and Rudolph have played with each other for years and their musical and emotional empathy leads them to build careful and serene creations without any unnecessary rush or hurry.

The recital begins with melodies stated by flutes, and when Jones switches to bass clarinet, he maintains a slow, deliberate pace until the very end of the fourth track, when he utters a multiphonic cry that is taken up in the next piece, leading to a Middle Eastern-like chant. The suite has many such moments of patient building of contrasts between timbres, rhythms, and styles, offering classic examples of tension and relief, and needs to be listened to in one sitting rather than in pieces. The psalm ends with a romp through "Thankfulness and Joy," featuring an avant-jazzy circular-breathing soprano saxophone solo, whose virtuosity only serves to underscore the meditative, sparse, and spiritual essence of much of what had transpired earlier.

MPlanet D Nonetoving back in time, if not in space we mention here two short CDs by the Planet D Nonet, co-led by drummer RJ Spangler and trumpeter James O'Donnell. This large combo is dedicated to preserving the music of the twenties through the fifties and on these recordings several instrumentalists and singers augment the group.

The first release, Ballads, Blues & Beyond, features music by Ellington, Strayhorn, as well as the Motor City's own King Porter and Sun Ra! This is driving, exciting, unpretentious music; the solos are short and to the point and the accent is on swinging.

The second one, Blowin' Away the Blues, lives up to its name, complete with vocals by Charles "Buddy" Smith, Alberta Adams, and Mario Rodriquez. From the opening bars of the "Honneydripper" you know this is joyful party music. Both are available from www.cdbaby.com/Artist/PlanetDNonet.


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