Album Review: Spiritual Jazz 14: Private (2023, Jazzman Records)

Posted on by Gary in Albums | Leave a comment

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Where do the fans go when the FTPs and ICQ of yester-years have long since gone dark? Wherever do we find satisfaction now that Spotify supplies the pressure to an infinite variety of musical firehoses without the tiniest speck of care and regard for us on the other end, slaking (or I gather, just subsisting) like patients on feeding tubes? Well, if it is to be anything and everything, then I might as well insist it be more analog, more time-consuming, and more work. All of which I enjoy. Just as I do wasting your time in this intro paragraph.

Which brings me to the object of this review – Spiritual Jazz 14, the latest compilation of found-jazz recordings issued by the London-based outfit Jazzman Records, on this occasion my gurus. And because it is so much better to listen to a sound system than Bandcamp’s compression over shitty computer speakers, I now have the liner notes and anal bum cover to peruse (see above).

The theme of this compilation is private-pressings only, which means the artist/manager paid the record manufacturer to produce a short run of custom pressing, inadvertently leaving behind something that scratches my indie hipster esoterica in the right places 50 years later. I confess not to know what spiritual jazz is, really. Is it just generally inoffensive set-piece passages riffing about the eternal struggle of darkness and light in life, decorated with instrumental solos, and destined to be background of intellectual debates in Boston cafes? I don’t even know what jazz is, if that level of meta-ness does not compute.

But this is clearly brilliant listening. How do I review 14 different artists? Will I spare you the liner notes regurgitation? To me, listening to the album roughly recapitulates a day. It opens with pensive pieces that develop into surprises that were decent enough to never telegraph themselves, just like a morning withholding the rest of the day. The only vocal numbers in the collection follow, and Radam Schwartz and Mary Lou Williams deliver two crisp statements like true professionals. Then we wade into the after tea/coffee hours in which we examine the casual, shared DNA between Cullen Knight’s “A’keem” and Black is —-‘s “Variations.”

Don Menza’s “Spanish Boots” is the sumptuous dinner of the bunch – not only substantial, but clearly on-pointe and recognizably (rowdy big band) Jazz. The desserts that follow are lighter and more inquisitive. Andrew McPherson’s “Delilah” is a cover of Clifford Brown that is more centered around the opening theme than the 1954 original ever was. The atmosphere finally gets smoky and sleepy toward the end of the album. You get to see a vivid dream with Bobby Jackson’s “Desiree Song” and then you are ready to hit the wake up to another morning when Compass plays. Is this some naturally subconscious organization of a compilation or over-analysis on my part? While I’ve breezed through the numbers, nothing on here is filler. Perhaps because they were privately pressed, one can sense value and weight in the music, whether or not they were the same as that held by the musicians at the time.

Ever wonder how your favorite saying/sentence would morph in accent, enunciation, phrasing when you repeat it 256 times? It might give you discovery, introspection, appreciation, all-that-jazz. Or it might just be a waste of time.

Song of the Day: Craig Wedren – Fingers On My Face

Posted on by Paul in Song of the Day | Leave a comment

“Fingers On My Face” is the latest single from Craig Wedren (ex-Shudder To Think), taken off his upcoming fifth album The Dream Dreaming, out January 26 on Tough Lover Records. Check it out.

Concert Review: Bell Witch, October 22, Trinity St. Paul’s

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | Leave a comment

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It may seem odd and maybe even a little wrong to see a metal band called Bell Witch play a show at a church, but it many ways, it was a fitting pairing of band and venue. On Sunday night, Bell Witch put on a performance that was heavy, beautiful, and cinematic, with a sound that seemed somehow appropriate for a venue that regularly plays host to classical music concerts. Though not quite in the same ballpark musically speaking, Bell Witch’s performance set a mood not entirely unlike to what I’d imagine one might find at those classical performances.

Touring behind their latest, the recently released Future’s Shadow Part 1: The Clandestine Gate, the Seattle-based doom metal duo put on a compelling performance of the album at Trinity St. Paul’s. That album is made up of a single album-length track and their performance for each show of this tour consists entirely of that one single track, which on this occasion lasted for roughly an hour and 15 minutes, give or take a few minutes.

One nice thing about going to see a band touring behind an album that’s just one epic song is that you know going in exactly what you’ll be hearing. And what we heard this evening was fantastic – an epic, slowly unfolding piece which approached a kind of transcendence at times.

Concert Review: Gruff Rhys, This Is The Kit, October 17, Drake Underground

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | Leave a comment

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Towards the end of his set at the Drake Underground on Tuesday night, Gruff Rhys announced that he was about to go into “dangerous territory” by playing a request, more specifically a request he did not foresee.

Like most performers, Gruff Rhys has a setlist that he works from, and so deviating from that setlist could indeed be dangerous territory. But if he was in any way daunted by the addition of an extra song, Rhys certainly didn’t show it, other than him taking a brief minute to decide if he wanted to slip the song in before his planned set closer “Gyrru Gyrru Gyrru” or not. He opted to end things off with that request, “Colonise The Moon,” and the song made for a solid end to a set that also included such highlights as “Celestial Candyfloss,” “Iolo” and “Bad Friend.”

Following Rhys, This Is The Kit took to the stage. The English folk rock band, fronted by Kate Stables, put on a memorable show, with the bulk of the songs taken from their latest album, the Gruff Rhys-produced Careful of Your Keepers.

A few songs into their set, Stables announced midway through “Inside Outside” that it was a special show as it was bassist Rozi Plain’s birthday and followed that announcement by firing off a tiny confetti cannon onstage. It was a memorable moment, followed shortly thereafter by a quip from Stables as she took a moment to tune: “I used up all my smooth on the birthday announcement and now it’s just going to be 45 minutes of tuning.”

Another humourous moment came after the band played “Slider” and Stables pointed out that in Bristol, a children’s slide is referred to as a slider. This led to an audience member volunteering the information that a mini burger is also referred to as a slider, which in turn led to someone else adding that a kid on a slide could also reasonably be referred to as a slider.

I could have contributed further to this conversation, but decided not to mention anything about the old Jerry O’Connoll TV series Sliders as that would have been far too much of an ordeal to explain if she wasn’t familiar. Though that didn’t stop another concertgoer from bringing up an Evel Knievel documentary when Stables later mentioned that it was the legendary motorcycle daredevil’s birthday that day as well, so maybe I should have taken my chance to talk up the ’90s sci-fi series.

This Is The Kit continue on their North American tour into early November before heading back across the pond to play a series of shows across the UK and Ireland. Check them out if you get the chance.