Thursday, May 15, 2008

Casual Listening 5-16-08 Jeff's Reviews

Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino

May 16, 2008

! Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra – Harriet Tubman (jazz)

An ambitious and profound jazz opus, in a category with Gershwin and Ellington in its appeal to both classical and jazz sensibilities. Labeled a “jazz oratorio,” Shelby combines a big band with a chorus, and draws material across the jazz tradition from basic blues to oblique chords to tell the story of the great Underground Railroad conductor. This is one for the ages.

* Emmanuel Jal – Warchild (rap)

If you haven’t caught the news that rap is a global music, this album will bring you current. Jal is a former child soldier from Sudan, and his message reflects the weight of the war he’s been through. African musical influences show prominently here, with choral singing and drums heavy in the mix. Jal’s lyrics manage to be righteous without being self-righteous. On one track, he delivers the strongest insult in the nicest possible way: “50 Cent, I ain’t hatin’ on you/ But still I think it’s my civic duty to warn you/ you’re being played by the man.”

Babylon Circus – Dances of Resistance (world)

A tasty cultural stew strong in reggae, ska, and Eastern European folk music. Sharp political lyrics alternate between English and French.

Stein Brothers Quintet – Quixotic (jazz)

Great bebop-inspired originals and some standards from a strong double-saxophone ensemble. This is the second release this year that’s reassured me about the next generation of jazz. The Stein Brothers have talent that will continue to grow in years to come.

Vetiver – Thing of the Past (folk)

An album of unearthed treasures written by 60’s and 70’s folk troubadors, recorded by these darlings of the indie folk underground. The sound comes closest to the Grateful Dead’s “American Beauty” – broad harmonies and easygoing melodies, colored with banjo and 12-string guitar.

The Bellrays – Hard Sweet & Sticky (rock)

Classic-style guitar rockers rule this album. Lisa Kekaula’s vocals drive the Bellrays right up to the edge without losing control of the vehicle.

* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

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