Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Classical Nude Music

Theo Alexander - Broken Access, album review

Minimalist Beauty

Looped and electronics and 'straight' piano music, merged and separated, classical and modern [to simplify the poles], certainly atmospheric and most often quite beautiful, hypnotic in its repetitions and shifting layers.

At eleven minutes, opener Palliative is just that, and it soothes across that expanse with what I have described. Hammer Frenzy reminds of Riley, probably obvious, and this is a gorgeous mantra. Matter of Balance has some drone and over-amped piano hits that resonate, but again this is done within a repeating and gently sweet melody. Fortuité is like a stream flowing over rounded stones, and closer Aspects Withdrawn plays on that empty large-room piano sound, a hint of off-key echoing, and a light static bedding beneath.

Into the Distance Music 76

Monday, 21 May 2018

Bret Higgins' Atlas Revolt - Illusion Machine, album review

Finely Played Modes and Atmospheres

The percussion of Juan Carlos Medrano sets the compulsive pace for opener Shadowboxing, with Tom Juhas on some fine fuzzed guitar, little Balkan modes peeking through, supplied mainly by Alexsandar Gajic on violin. Bret Higgins on bass layers this and what follows with an understated but equally rhythmic playing, on next Hunter supporting more guitar lead, this and violin setting off on the melodic line before that latter goes solo, wonderfully.

Last Man Standing takes on more of the marriage between South American and Balkan musical atmospheres, though here Robbie Grunwald on keys injects more western notes, Juhas more cowboy Western on his guitar twang – it is a multi-faceted sound. Joshua Van Tassel on drums is a steady underscore of the sustained rhythmic drives, and on this song Higgins solos. Next, Euculipsa slows the pace so far, the guitar twang here a balladic echoing, and the violin with organ is a plaintive accompaniment – quiet beautiful. There is more of this sweet violin on the album’s title track, and other continuing, fine all-round musicianship.

Lovely instrumental album. Listen to/get it here.

Steering Wheel Music 13

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Atomic Rooster - On Air Live At The BBC And Other Transmissions, album review

Hello Sailors

I think this is a great live collection, Atomic Rooster a truly heavy prog-rock band, the Hammond organ of Vince Crane providing the dynamic, pulsing core around which the generally thundering riffs swirled and rose. There’s plenty of wah-wah too, and if heavy rock clichés are your thing, this is it. I do like it best when Chris Farlowe was lead vocalist, his voluminous growl and power a greatest part of the completest power of the band, though classic numbers like Tomorrow Night, here from Live at Beat Club, 1971, sans Farlowe and one of the all-time far-out riffs, does still pack its memorable punch.

Chris Farlowe is his funny self [read here] introducing Stand by Me, Live at the BBC, 1972, with what seems an hilariously dated right on; out of sight; blow your mind, but then comically bathetic – if it can be after those hippie chestnuts – hello sailors!


Eye Music 25

Friday, 18 May 2018

Nat Steele at The Blue Vanguard Jazz Club, Exeter, 17th May, 2018

From Nat's web site - too far back to get a pic last night

Jazz Education

I feel like I am running out of ways to vary but sustain the high praise for the Blue Vanguard Jazz Club house band of Craig Milverton – Keys, Al Swainger – Bass, and Coach York – Drums, and their monthly guests – last night, vibraphone player Nat Steele – though simply excellent every time should suffice.

That said, never one to give up the search for a reviewer’s inroad/ruse: as a GCSE English Literature senior examiner I will be attending my standardising meeting imminently where we review and agree grades to set the standard for all examiners. It struck me that the band and guest last night, playing all jazz standards, undertake their own similar process – theirs the intuition of feel and expertise when getting together without rehearsals to play brilliantly as if a long-standing group, setting the highest standards of un-standardising the music in improvised solos and a tightness of interchange that is seamlessly superb.

Do you see what I did?

Like a freight train, was it?

Excellent every time it is then. And it was last night, again enjoyed by a full house. I will be honest in declaring I have never been a vibes fan in particular, for no clear reason, and lean to saxophone and horn as obvious instruments of choice, but Nat Steele quite genuinely introduced me to its merits, perhaps a mellower though nonetheless lively instrument, especially played in his talented hands. Though that talent was quite enough to convince, it helped that he came across as such a warm and humble person, clearly steeped in jazz knowledge and appreciation, not least his deep love of jazz standards and the finesse with which he brings his vibes to interpret this.

Those standards were [most, but I didn’t get all] and played in this order: April in Paris, Vernon Duke; It’s You or No One, Cahn/Styne; No One Else But Me, Jerome Kerne [‘all the harmonic tricks’]; Stablemates, Benny Golson [read my Golson reviews here]; Autumn in New York, Vernon Duke, a sweet ballad; Poor Butterfly, Raymond Hubbell; Bird Feathers, Charlie Parker; Woody ‘N’ You, Dizzy Gillespie; The Cylinder, Milt Jackson, a beautiful bluesy vibes number with descending notes, and So Do It, Wes Montgomery.

Because of Nat’s fine playing, and as a closing aside, I am as I write listening to Sandra’s Blues by Milt Jackson playing with Coleman Hawkins, swung to the beauty of the vibraphone and furthering my jazz educations so ably and entertainingly delivered each month at The Blue Vanguard Jazz Club.