Review: Supercharged from Down to the Bone

Supercharged by Down to the BoneDown to the Bone has the perfect summer soundtrack with their fun and funky new release Supercharged. True to the title, this release is a pumped-up, constant jam that won’t let your body remain idle. It needs a warning label – “Product contains powerful horns (props to Shilts and the D.C. Horns), percolating bass, mean guitar by Tony Remy, and relentless energy – may leave you exhausted after play!”

Supercharged sounds like it should be listened to in the sunshine, preferably driving down the highway with the top down. It conjures up summer imagery, especially on two of my favorite tracks. “Parkside Shuffle” is a nice, sweet tune, reminiscent of a walk in the park, that builds into an unbelievably infectious melody around the two-minute mark. Hil St. Soul adds a strong vocal effort to the uplifting “Smile to Shine.” A flavorful bass line and welcome trumpet and trombone solos at the end only make a great song better.

Maybe I’m not looking hard enough, but it’s rare to hear this kind of music released and receiving mass distribution in the States. Buy this release when it comes out on June 18. Not only will you get music you’ll enjoy all season/year long but maybe enough copies will sell to justify more funky soulful jazz recordings.

Review: Spirit of the Season from Hiroshima

Spirit of the Season from HiroshimaEven though Hiroshima had songs on a couple of Windham Hill holiday compilations, Spirit of the Season is the first full holiday release from the band. After listening to this 11-song collection, I’m ready for the sequel. This is an excellent holiday recording and makes me wonder why they haven’t done it before. June Kuramoto’s koto again is the highlight. The distinctiveness of the koto sound makes many of the traditional holiday songs sound like new. June’s expressiveness on “White Christmas” and playfulness on “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” demonstrate her mastery of the instrument. The latter song is the best rendition I’ve heard of that song in a long time. Also notable, and appropriate given Hiroshima’s east-meets-west sound, is the use of taiko drums on “Little Drummer Boy.” Two new instrumentals also add to the fun: the atmospheric “Listen (To the Falling Snow)” and the uplifting “Peace On Earth.” The group’s classic “Thousand Cranes” is revisited and is enhanced with a gospel choir.

Overall, Spirit of the Season succeeds in evoking that special feeling of the holiday. It’s perfect for every holiday occasion – decorating your tree, dinner party, or just listening on your own. Even better, tell your friends!

In Praise of Liquid Soul

I saw Liquid Soul in concert at the Kansas City Blues and Jazz Festival three years ago. I had never heard of the band before. My wife and I were sitting on the lawn enjoying the day of music when the group hit the stage around 6 p.m. I wasn’t sitting after about 30 seconds. The sheer power of the sound this funk ensemble put forth was unbelievable. Brassy horns, deep bass, jazz guitar, DJ – this was a tight group and knew how to lay out a groove and work the crowd. Two minutes into the show, I gave my wife some money and asked her to buy every Liquid Soul thing she could find. It remains one of the top concerts that I have ever seen.

Liquid Soul - EvolutionThough there’s nothing like seeing them live, the band’s new CD, Evolution doesn’t hold anything back. You’ll hear it from the start, with the punchy “Action Jackson”. You’ll be dancing to “I Was Meant To Be Rich.” You’ll be jumping around the room when James “Squeeze” Taylor hands off his rap to the horns on “Soul.” The band keeps the music moving, rarely slowing down (it sounds like an attempt at a slower tempo was made on “Bossa Interlude” but that’s scratched at under a minute). The only problem is that I can’t listen to the CD at work since I end up spinning around in my chair and unable to focus on my projects.

Do yourself a favor and see Liquid Soul live. They’ll be in Iowa, Colorado, Utah, and their home state of Illinois (the band hails from Chicago) the rest of this month and the tour continues through next month.

Joshua Redman Quote

I read a quote from Joshua Redman in a recent Borders magazine. I thought it was appropriate for the first entry at this site.

“Jazz is going in all different directions now, and most are wonderful. There are great musicians with really original things to say. The music is in a really wonderful, creative time. Jazz is mixing with other forms of music, but there is no one next step.

We have to stop seeing the development of jazz – or the development of any art – in this kind of linear progression. Each step is a little bit higher than the one before. There’s always a next obvious step, which represents obvious progress and linear evolution from what came before. That’s a very modernist conception and it’s worked for a long time. But I think this is more of a postmodern age. It’s less about the next big thing or the next logical extension of what’s happening. It’s more about all these different possible creative avenues that are being explored.”
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