The historic meeting of two truly influential and individual composers, arrangers, and instrumentalists on The Long March. The album appeared in 1979 on Swiss label Hat Hut. This date pairs Max Roach and Archie Shepp playing both solo and as a duo for one night in 1979 at the Willisau Jazz Festival. Roach's truly astonishing solo "J.C. Moses" is a tribute to Detroit jazz great J.C. Heard. The kinds of rimshots, trap stops and starts, and continuous rolling thunder take the breath away and make the listener wonder if this is really only one drummer. Next up is Shepp's solo tenor reading of Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady," where he coaxes all the ballad's idiosyncrasies and fluidly combines them with his new jazz flourishes, without once disrespecting the integrity of the original.
At times on Dirty Deal, it's virtually a Little Feat reunion, with five members from the classic lineup helping out on "Three Sides to Every Story," giving it a wonderful, funky momentum. Coco Montoya himself is definitely a better-than-average guitarist and singer when it comes to the R&B/blues axis, although he's at his best on tracks like "How Do You Sleep at Night?" where he has the chance to pull more emotion from his instrument; in this case, more than a touch of bitterness. He's cut from the same cloth as Robert Cray, but without the same soulful subtlety. Montoya is more a shot and a beer than a smooth cocktail. You come away from this with the sense that he holds nothing back, and even a performance in the studio would be sweaty; there's that amount of commitment. And while he may not be one of the guitar gods, when he unleashes a flurry of notes (as on "It Takes Time") he's still a powerhouse. Perhaps the biggest problem is that, although he cranks in all departments, there's very little to really distinguish his music from many others mining the same seam.
Since John Hiatt and the major labels decided to go their separate ways around the turn of the century, his approach to record making has been direct and organic; most of his albums have sounded as if Hiatt and his sidemen put them together without a lot of fuss, placing the emphasis squarely on Hiatt's dependably strong material and tough, flinty vocal style. But 2011's Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns is a more polished and ambitious affair than Hiatt has delivered in years. The sessions were produced by Kevin Shirley, who has previously worked with Aerosmith, the Black Crowes, Dream Theater, and Journey, and though his approach isn't especially intrusive, the sound of this record is certainly more luxurious, with the guitars sounding bigger, the drums booming a bit louder, and strings and keyboards decorating several tracks and the arrangements, gaining a greater sense of drama along the way.