Thursday, September 20, 2007
BRUCE HORNSBY | Camp Meeting | Sony Legacy
Bruce Hornsby’s music has always had more musical elements buried within it than pop mindsets can usually handle. Bringing them to the fore, Hornsby teams with veteran jazz drummer Jack DeJohnette and bassist Christen McBride to create his first all-jazz instrumental recording.
On Camp Meeting Hornsby’s unique vision travels through a set of 11 different tunes. From Ornette Coleman’s highly disjointed “Questions And Answers” to Bud Powell’s “Celia,” the pianist proves to be an adept tactician. His use of well-placed accents and dynamically expressive lines, crafted from jazz’s tradition, show him to be more than a dabbler. Hornsby’s improvisational concepts demonstrate strong elements of study and respect for the genre’s history. The solid support of his fellow rhythm mates allows exquisite phrases and flourishes that effortlessly sweep across the piano. McBride expertly intersects them with prodding bass lines demanding a likewise response. Together the two make a cunning pair.
Highlights include a reworking of Miles Davis’ “Solar.” The tempestuous quasi-Latin beat never fully settles and DeJohnette’s bright backbeats set up a pair of solos by his accomplices that work atonal embellishments into the landscape.
Originals like “Stacked Mary Possum” are reminiscent of the rocker’s rural folksy spirit. DeJohnette’s slow boiling fire, however, which never fades or wanes, doesn’t allow for complacency. The result is as solid a first jazz disc as any artist could desire. – Thomas Erdmann
RAUL MALO | After Hours | New Door Records
With the release of his first solo album Today in 2001, Raul Malo, former singer for the country band The Mavericks, gained critical acclaim as the man with the silver voice. He followed it up with You’re Only Lonely in 2006, covering everything from Willie Nelson to The Bee Gees, and mastering them all.
With his newest release After Hours, Malo takes classic country music and breathes new life into it. The album opens with Malo’s version of Eddy Arnold’s “Welcome To My World.” The beautiful adaptation lends itself perfectly to Malo’s captivating vocals. He follows it up with an upbeat rendition of Hank Snow’s “(Now And Then There’s) A Fool Such As I.” Malo also does exceptional covers of such greats as Roger Miller’s “Husbands And Wives,” Buck Owens’ “Crying Time” and Dwight Yoakam’s “It Only Hurts Me When I Cry.” He takes Hank Williams’ ballad “Cold, Cold Heart” and turns it upside down into a swinging song that you nearly can’t help but dance to. – Linda Maceira
BLACK FRANCIS | Bluefinger | Cooking Vinyl
With the pioneering late ‘80s and early ‘90s alt-rock band the Pixies, bandleader Black Francis was known for mixing catchy sugar rush pop songs with lacerating riffs and androgynous shouting. After the demise of the group in 1992, Black Francis adopted a new moniker, Frank Black, and embarked on a solo career that has more recently taken him down dirt roads towards a rootsy country rock sound.
With Bluefinger, the artist returns to his previous stage name and more electrified material. The album’s opener “Captain Pasty” is faster and punkier than anything the songwriter has done in years, but it is the next song “Threshold Apprehension,” where Francis evokes the raw energy of his previous band. Sounding like something off the Pixies’ Trompe le Monde, “Threshold Apprehension” is a blast of guitar rock with Francis ranting about Grand Marnier and speed.
The rest of Bluefinger – with catchy nuggets including “She Took All the Money” and throwaways like “Tight Black Rubber” – sounds similar to a middle of the road Frank Black album that’s spruced up by more electric guitar. – Stuart Thornton