This unassuming and delightful little album visits a time when jazz and blues were still directly entwined, drawing on the ghosts of guitarists like Charlie Christian, Eddie Durham, Bill Jennings, Tiny Grimes, Barney Kessel, and Kenny Burrell, guitarists who used the blues to enrich the jazz pieces they played on, a kind of ensemble contribution that is all too frequently missing on the contemporary blues scene. Duke Robillard, Jay Geils, and Gerry Beaudoin are all gifted guitar players, each with his own career, but as a trio working three-part harmony lines around each other, they bring a stately ensemble grace to the tracks on New Guitar Summit (the trio also appears under that name when they do live shows)…
In the jazz world, Vienna is about as far from New York's Lincoln Center as you can get. It follows that Mathias Rüegg's Vienna Art Orchestra has about as much in common with Wynton Marsalis' Lincoln Center big band as a Sacher torte has with a Hostess Cup Cake; while they share some ingredients, the Austrian product satisfies on a more profound level. By the turn of the century, the Lincoln Center paradigm defined the jazz big band as a finished concept – locked into the past, serving mostly as a repertory ensemble. The VAO, on the other hand, while hardly ignoring traditional jazz verities, lives in the present and looks to the future.
One might think this disc would focus on the more romantic side of the Ellington-Strayhorn catalog. But don't let the title fool you. Mathias Ruegg's large band gives tunes like "Red Garter" and "Smada" a playful, blasting treatment. Particularly noteworthy is the transformation of "Mood Indigo" into something of a drunkard's lament, with a deep, wobbling trombone line. It's a labor of love that some Ellington purists might find a bit appalling, but it deserves kudos for its new approach.
Tiger and the Duke is the debut album by the experimental rock band The Sound of Animals Fighting. Four songs from this album were released in demo form on a 2004 EP of the same title. It is a concept album revolving around the title character, Duke, and the Captain who runs the ship they are sailing. The cargo of the ship are crazy animals who howl and fight below the deck. Eventually the Captain's sons start a mutiny in which the Captain jumps off the ship. The album was reissued via Equal Vision Records on June 26, 2007. The reissue features all tracks remixed, with new interludes, and new artwork by Drew Roulette of dredg and Dark Heavens and packaging along with eight remixes from Lover, The Lord Has Left Us… The album peaked at 35 on the Billboard Top Heatseekers chart.
The Bay Area band Oxbow have been putting out noisy, experimental rock music and putting on intense and confrontational live shows since 1989; frontman Eugene Robinson probably still holds the informal “toughest man in underground rock” championship. But it’s been a solid decade now since the band put out their last album, 2007’s The Narcotic Story. So it’s very cool to learn that Oxbow will return this spring with a new LP called Thin Black Duke. Just like Oxbow’s other records, this one promises to be equally influenced by classical music and mash-your-face hardcore.
Jazz pianist Beegie Adair's series of "romantic songs" songbook albums, devoted to the major songwriters of the interwar era (there are also titles for George Gershwin, Hoagy Carmichael, Irving Berlin, and Richard Rodgers), tend to have photographs of affectionate couples on the covers, as does this one, featuring the music of Duke Ellington. That's a signal that the recordings are intended to accompany the listeners on their own romantic adventures, as much as express the feelings of the songwriters.