If the 10 years these Texas guitarists have spent as a team exploring the world bar by bar has been "research," what they've learned is how to please a crowd. The formula's simple: no-frills songs about women and working for a livin', set to meat-and-potatoes arrangements that leave plenty of room for their guitars to roam. Kubek's six-string snarls the loudest, hitting Albert Collins-style sustains and grinding out beefy chords. King skirts around the fringes with his sweet-toned, jazz-informed fills or works at groove-level, anchoring things with his basic, chopping, R&B-style chording. King's vocals are really his trump card. They're smooth and slinky when he's romancing in "Make It Right" or gravelly as Kubek's fluid guitar when he's a driven man in numbers like "Runnin' Blind." The album ends with the kind of guitar grand finale that sets a crowd on fire just after last call. The tune, "Standing in My Door," lets both six-stringers sting.
Smokin' Joe Kubek and Bnois King's albums are dependable affairs that stick close to good old barroom Texas blues. The lyrics won't win any Pulitzer Prizes, and while Kubek is an amazing guitar player with a huge tone, he isn't exactly reinventing the instrument, and likewise King, although he is a distinctive and pleasant vocalist, isn't going to be mistaken for Marvin Gaye anytime soon. Not much has changed on their second release on the Blind Pig label, and Show Me the Money delivers another dose of straight-ahead roadhouse blues. If there are any concessions here, it is that all the songs pull in at a radio-friendly length, and at least one, the infectious "My Heart's in Texas," would fit effortlessly on "new country" play lists. The first two tracks, "I Saw It Coming" and "Burnin' to the Ground," pretty much lead the charge here, and King's easy, subtle singing pairs nicely with Kubek's gutbucket guitar tone, but there are no real surprises waiting in the grass, and certainly nothing that will shake the roots of the music industry – just solid blues-rock. Somebody's gotta do it, and Kubek and King do it so well.
Viva Caruso is easily one of tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano's most ambitious and enjoyable recordings. Much like Terence Blanchard's Jazz in Film or Uri Caine's Urlicht/Primal Light, Viva Caruso finds the reedman adapting orchestral melodies and harmonies to a jazz format. Inspired after reading a biography about Italian tenor and opera legend Enrico Caruso, Lovano spent most of 2000 through 2001 researching Caruso's music and developing this project. There is a progressive, third stream appeal to Viva Caruso, with the various instruments laying down intricate counter-melodies and liquid, pulsating rhythms. For example, "Vesto La Giubba" from Pagliacci is slowed down here into a kind of folk-jazz meditation, not unlike something Dave Douglas' Tiny Bell Trio might do. Likewise, "Campane a Sera" features a pretty flute introduction to a very mid-'50s, Stan Kenton-style arrangement, and Gerald Wilson could very easily have scored "Soltano a Te" with its characteristically West Coast, neo-phonic horn sounds.
Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang cut different figures. Joe was combative, a joker and man about town. Eddie was quiet, considerate and careful with money. They were born in Philadephia - Eddie in 1902, Joe in 1903 - to Italian immigrant parents. Both studied the violin. Their partnership began in their mid teens when Eddie joined Joe's newly-formed band as a guitarist. Soon they were performing as a duo. Eddie made the early running. In 1919 he joined Charlie Kerr's Orchestra as a violinist, switching to banjo.
Fine set presenting vintage barrelhouse piano and stomping blues by Big Joe Duskin, one of the last true stylists in both genres. Duskin's album was released with no fanfare and didn't attract the widespread notice it deserved.
A fantastically hip performance from trumpeter Kenny Dorham – a never-heard live set, recorded for radio at a time when he was really stretching out! The group is as compelling as the performance – and features the excellent Sonny Red on alto, hitting some of those incredibly edgey notes he'd play with Donald Byrd – plus a young Cedar Walton on piano, John Ore on bass, and Hugh Walker on drums – the latter an overlooked genius on the kit, who gave us some great work with John Patton and Harold Mabern! This group is featured in a 1966 performance that takes up most of the CD – with long performances of the titles "Jung Fu", "Spring Is Here", "Somewhere In The Night", "Straight Ahead", and "The Shadow Of Your Smile" – with a few interview snippets by announcer Alan Grant. Grant also presents the remaining three tracks on the set – material from a 1962 date that is equally great, but also shows just how much Dorham had evolved in the four years that led up to the later recording. Kenny blows trumpet with Joe Farrell on tenor, Walter Bishop Jr on piano, Larry Gales on bass, and Stu Martin on drums – on "Woody N You", "If I Should Lose You", and an incomplete performance of "Au Privave".