Among the many obscure British prog rock albums of the early '70s, Second Hand's Death May Be Your Santa Claus has to be one of the strangest, though not necessarily one of the best. While it's the kind of record likely to fire up genre enthusiasts, it's equally likely to inspire scorn from more general rock listeners unlikely to take a shine to its over the top frivolous absurdity…
By 1999, Crash Test Dummies probably figured they would never be hip in America, so they made partial concessions on Give Yourself a Hand. If you have trouble getting past Brad Roberts' awkward singing and writing, then maybe innovative breakbeats and arrangements might obscure them. The results are exactly what you'd expect – an instrumentally progressive pop album, completely neutralized by embarrassing lyrics and vocals. Give Yourself a Hand redefines the Dummies sound with lightly applied techno strokes, not far off from Everything But the Girl's classic Walking Wounded.
At first, it sounds like the jazz soundtrack to either your favorite noir film or a Doris Day film from 1962. Then you realize that it isn't quite jazz at all but the orchestrated sound of six accomplished jazz musicians playing an eclectic mix of original songs and re-arranged iconic pop tunes that go back to the '50's that all sound unmistakably Chaise Lounge. On stage, the band looks as polished as it sounds. And the show, with Charlie Barnett and Marilyn Older's between song banter and the hysterical interplay between trombonist John Jensen and reedman, Gary Gregg is old-school , laugh out-loud entertainment…
2013 marks the 20th anniversary of Us3’s multi-million selling debut album “Hand On The Torch”. In honour of that, the new Us3 album “The Third Way (Hand On The Torch Vol II)” marks a return to the classic Us3 sound, with 5 of the 14 tracks containing interpolations of a number of well-known jazz standards, including Dizzy Gillespie’s “Manteca”, Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing”, and Lee Morgan’s “The Sidewinder”.
MC duties are taken by 3 former Us3 collaborators; Akil Dasan (“Schizophonic” & “Say What!?”), KCB (“Broadway & 52nd”), and Tukka (“Hand On The Torch”). A video for the lead track “Never Go Back” can be seen on the Us3videos channel on YouTube (from September 16th).
Mulgrew Miller, a talented McCoy Tyner-influenced pianist, leads an all-star septet on much of this date. The main stars, however, are Miller's nine diverse originals which range from modal to Monkish. With tenor-saxophonist Joe Henderson appearing on five selections, trumpeter Eddie Henderson on six and altoist Kenny Garrett heard throughout the full CD, Miller has a perfect frontline to interpret his tricky but logical originals.
Originally formed in 1967 as Picadilly Line by Rod Edwards and Roger Hand, English psychedelic pop group Edwards Hand released three albums before disbanding in the mid-'70s (1968's The Huge World of Emily Small [as Picadilly Line] featured the talents of Danny Thompson, Alan Hawkshaw, Jan Barber, Herbie Flowers, and Harold McNair). The group's highly collectible eponymous debut was produced by George Martin, who worked with very few pop acts outside of the Beatles. The record received its share of critical acclaim, earning comparisons to the Bee Gees, as well as the aforementioned Fab Four. Stranded (1970) and Rainshine (1973) were also produced by Martin.
As one-third of the composer-collective Bang on a Can, David Lang is something of a genial father figure of the indie-classical scene. Talk to any of the world's main players and you're likely to hear them tell you about their life-changing stint in Bang on a Can's summer festival, which has acted as a sort of feeder school and incubator for the group's try-anything mentality. Lang's music has undergone many stylistic shifts over the years: In the 80s, he wrote bristlier stuff, but in the last decade or so, he's shifted quietly into a more pensive register. The Little Match Girl Passion, his 2008 work that won him a Pulitzer, was written for only four voices and some hand bells. This Was Written By Hand, his most recent recording, is a collection of short solo piano works played by the British pianist Andrew Zolinsky. The album holds the same, sustained melancholy mood: thoughtful, searching, elegiac, minimalist. Lang's way with repetitive phrasing doesn't feel like that of minimalists like Glass or Reich's, though.