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Music reviews - 08.30.06 

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Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers
Live in ’58
Sanctuary

A few years back, when I watched Ken Burns’ Jazz, I was frustrated by the short clips of great jazz performances. I told anyone who would listen that Burns should have added another segment, showcasing entire performances. My wish has been fulfilled not by Burns but by a new series of DVDs, Jazz Icons. Filmed in glorious black and white, the performances feature a host of jazz greats: Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Quincy Jones, Thelonious Monk, and many others. Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers Live in ’58 was filmed in a Belgium theater. The elegant camera work is blissfully free of the fast-cut technique that now infects almost all concert footage. The camera lingers, allowing viewers to savor every wonderful moment. The sound is crystal clear and the excitement is tangible. When Art Blakey steps up to the microphone to introduce “Moanin’,” the then one-month-old Bobby Timmons tune, he knows he’s got something special. Timmons responds with an impossibly complicated but perfectly fitting piano solo. And every excursion by trumpeter Lee Morgan and saxophonist Benny Golson is a feast for the ear. Timmons wasn’t the only great composer in this band. Golson contributes two gorgeous ballads, “I Remember Clifford” and “Whisper Not.” Blakey is marvelous throughout, showing his powerhouse side on tunes like “It’s You, Or No One” and “A Night In Tunisia.” A vintage performance magnificently captured on film --- what more could a jazz fan want?

--- Ron Netsky

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Uncle Murda/DJ Green Lantern
Say Uncle...2 Hard for Hip Hop (Volume 01
Mix Unit

Here’s a quiz: who’s more despicable? A) Rappers that brag about killing people on record (and insist that they’ve really done it); B) Lazy listeners who get off on violent lyrics when they have no idea what real violence is like; C) Homicidal listeners who get amped-up by music and then go out and kill people for real; or D) Music writers who cheerlead all of the above? Sorry to pull your card, y’all, but this trigger-happy shit’s just getting old. Guns is wack, and getting shot in the face ain’t anybody’s idea of a good time. That said, within the permissive bounds of gangsta rap, Uncle Murda has undeniable flow. And Say Uncle (which is sequenced in the popular “mix tape” style) grabs your interest and keeps it with many fine moments (not the least of which is when Murda declares that “if the bitch look au-ight,” he might even fuck your mom). Much credit to Rochester native Green Lantern’s fine production. With a distinct, slurring technique that fully conveys atmosphere, Lantern is clearly a promising production voice on the rise. The album even allows for an extremely rare (for gangsta rap) instance of conscious introspection when special guest Akon asks, “So you I hear you wanna be a murderer? Are you sure that’s the road that you really wanna go? Do you know what it’s like to shoot a .44 at a man and watch his eyes close slow?”

--- Saby Reyes-Kulkarni

 

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The Minstrels
Our Cruel Demise
Klem North

Maximum atmosphere for maximum thrift is the name of the game on the captivating new full-length from this local acoustic guitar-driven trio. The album opens with something that sounds like a ghostly loon call that’s distant and quiet enough you nearly miss it. From there, nothing seems heavy-handed or over-emphasized. On the same song, for example, a simple snare beat is expertly played (and alternately left out) to escalate the urgency around a central arpeggio-and-vocal motif. It’s the first of many examples of the way the band casts foreboding in restraint for delightfully tense results. But you have to be paying attention: many of the accompanying instruments --- light percussion, vocals processed to sound otherworldly, musical saw, accordion --- come together in a sonic field that’s inspiringly blended from a production-values standpoint. If you’re goaded into missing the subtle menace in lines like “I’ll be the only existing man left for you to call,” it’s because the Minstrels have hands as supple as they are skilled. 

--- Saby Reyes-Kulkarni

The Lordz Of Brooklyn
The Brooklyn Way
Warner Brothers

Live at this year’s Warped Tour, The Lordz Of Brooklyn were pretty heavy on the hip-hop. There was no wanna-be-gangsta posturing and the guitar rang in heavy, so the band easily rose above groups that splice hip-hop and rock but come off phony (311, Papa Roach, etc). The Lordz are genuine…and fun. The band’s new platter, The Brooklyn Way, is even more diverse than what I’d seen live. These cats are all about hometown pride with bravado bigger than that of the drunkest Texan.

The album expertly blends rock and hip-hop with deep dives into either genre that still work well as a whole. Rancid’s Tim Armstrong guests on the cut “Outlaw” that, well, sounds like a Rancid tune. And if there was ever any doubt, once I heard The Lordz cover Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died,” they won my heart and a spot on the CD rack.

--- Frank De Blase

 

 

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