REVIEW: The Kevin Hays Trio’s “You’ve Got A Friend”

Pianist Kevin Hays wears his heart on his sleeve, or in this case his music as he demonstrates on his new album, You’ve Got A Friend (Jazz Eyes). He, along with Bill Stewart (drums) and Doug Weiss demonstrate how you can combine jazz and pop to create something that is neither too weak for the jazz elite or too soft to where it would go into smooth jazz rotation. Although considering how much airplay smooth jazz gets, this may fit along very well, but it depends on what you want and demand from the music.

I would say that Hays closesly resembles the vibe and moods of Ramsey Lewis, who has always been a fantastic interpreter of other people’s music, be it from his cherished days on Chess to the awesome albums he did on Columbia in the 70’s. Hays isn’t just a play-by-numbers guy either, he arranges and when he plays he catches a groove and allows himself to move within until he gets back into the theme of the song. His eight minute rendition of Carole King‘s “You’ve Got A Friend” sounds neither like her or the hit version recorded by James Taylor, this is one of those songs where when it’s over, you want to stand in front of your stereo and just clap. Do not do this when you are driving, just pull over to the side, stop, get out of your car, and just give a random standing ovation that no one on the highway will understand. But you will, heh heh.

His playing is something you’ll want to hear, because as you hear him play you know he has knowledge of the roots of not only what he’s playing, but how he’s playing. Then you have the rhythm section of Weiss and Stewart, who know how to compliment the band leader in this situation, and each other. Other great songs on here include covers of The Beatles‘ “(The) Fool On The Hill”, Simon & Garfunkel‘s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, and Charlie Parker‘s “Cheryl”. For someone as moving as Hays, he makes each of these eight covers his, a true testament to his playing, and I am sure his own compositions are just as good.

The recording itself was engineered by Michael Brorby and mastered by Katsuhiko Naito, so jazzophiles will love the depth of Weiss’ bass notes plucked one by one in “Bridge Over Troubled Water” or the gentle drum strokes in Monk‘s “Think Of One”, but it’s just a great sounding album all around, from all aspects. Buy this immediately.

Free MP3 Download: Lyrics Born says “pho shua” with new mix tape

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Lyrics Born has some new music out, but not a new proper album, that will be due out later in the year (perhaps alongside Joyo Velarde‘s new one. Until then, he is making available a free digital-only mix tape called The Lyrics Born Variety Show: Season Pho (4!), which you can download now by going to LyricsBorn.com.

The cover for the “mix tape” is cool, especially the “Pho Cue” reference.
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Need a hit from LB’s full length? Inhale:

SOME STUFFS: These United States want you to touch them

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There are only a small handful of bands with the words “United States” in them, and they tend to be ugly. Here’s another. They are called These United States. No, perhaps they’re not ugly but in the American Idol era it seems it’s about looks and fashion more than the music. Do these guys fit the mold? Hell, one of the guys is bolo head!

In truth, they are a rock band who like to tie in current events with their solid sound, but don’t lump them into the “socially conscious” box just yet. However, they’re willing to prove that they are worthy of those bands whose music have become timeless through their musical efforts, and fans will be able to find out why on September 1st with the release of Everybody Touches Everything (United Interests). Don’t want to wait that long? You can listen to the first single from the album, called “I Want You To Keep Everything” (5.71mb).

Moved? The band are currently on tour this summer as they head towards their release date, check them out if you can:

07/09 Los Angeles, CA Echoplex $
07/11 St. Louis, MO The Luminary – Center for the Arts
07/12 Louisville, KY Forecastle Festival
07/23 Bridgeport, CT Gathering of the Vibes Festival
07/24 New York, NY Bowery Ballroom %
07/25 Scranton, PA Phoenix Cuts (Early, all ages)
07/25 Scranton, PA The Bog (late)
07/26 Baltimore, MD Golden West
08/13 Cincinnati, OH The Southgate House Parlour
08/14 Indianapolis, IN Vollrath
08/15 Chicago, IL Subterranean*
08/16 Chicago, IL Green Music Festival*#
08/18 Milwaukee, WI Club Garibaldi
08/19 Cleveland, OH Beachland Tavern
08/20 Maumee, OH Village Idiot
08/21 Pittsburgh, PA Brillobox
08/22 Rochester, NY Bug Jar
08/23 Boston, MA TT The Bear’s
08/24 Portsmouth, NH Red Door
08/25 Providence, RI Club Hell
08/26 Philadelphia, PA The M Room
08/27 New York, NY Mercury Lounge
08/28 Brooklyn, NY Union Hall (2 Shows, early and late)
08/29 Washington, DC Black Cat
09/12 Morrison, CO Monolith Festival
09/23 Boise, ID Downtown Summer Series
10/21 – 10/23 New York, NY CMJ

* = w/ Lucero
# = w/ Murder by Death
$ = w/ Dusty Rhodes
% = w/ Deer Tick

VIDEO: Talib & Hi-Tek united as Reflection Eternal once again for new album

Talib Kweli + Hi Tek-Reflection Eternal -Back Again-Vid Premiere

Reflection Eternal are back with a new album called Revolutions Per Minute, and while the hip-hop world eagerly awaits something new from Black Star, it seems Talib isn’t about to wait around for Mos Def to rest so he’s joining with DJ Hi-Tek for an album that many fans have been waiting years to see come to reality.

The above video is a hint of what’s to come, with the album’s first single, “Back Again”

VIDEO: Diamond D is back with “I”ll Be Alright”

If you know what D.I.T.C. means, then you damn well should know who Diamond D is. This is from Diamond’s new album on Babygrande, The Huge Hefner Chronicles and it features Novel handling the vocals. It’s nice, check it.

The Huge Hefner Chronicles is available through CD Universe.

REVIEWS: Reggae Gold 2009/Soca Gold 2009

Image and video hosting by TinyPic VP Records has released two brand new compilation CD’s highlighting the latest in reggae and soca, each one featuring a DVD as well so if you’re into the music of the Caribbean, you have a choice to pick up either or, or both.

Reggae Gold 2009 is surprisingly the weaker of the two as most of it is very pop-flavored R&B, not exactly reggae or dancehall in a traditional sense. But what you do have on here are some decent tracks by Jazmine Sullivan, Elephant Man, Mavado, Queen Ifrica, and I Wayne, and T.O.K.‘s “Couple Up” isn’t a bad song either.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic For a good pumping time, I was surprised that I liked Soca Gold 2009 more than the reggae comp because I’ve always been into reggae and dancehall, and this album sounded a bit more lively and fresh. Most of the album is in the tempo of some of the hits that have become American sensations, but the first four tracks are that fast soca that people go nuts over, including Skinny Fabulous‘ “Head Bad (On The Spot)”, Edwin Yeargood‘s “Handle Ya Bizniz”, Roy Cape‘s “Tusty”, and a song I wish would get more American exposure, the super fun “Bacchanal” by Destra Garcia. The beats are furious, the energy is spot-on, and it’s all about moving to the beat if you can keep up with the rhythms, bass-heavy when necessary and full of Latin influences that are also directed to the heart of Africa through the wonders of the Caribbean.

Both albums make good summer music, especially Soca Gold 2009. i think Reggae Gold 2009 would be better if it was called Jamaican Pop/R&B 2009 since that it consists of and while Jamaican pop and R&B isn’t a bad thing, some of the songs aren’t as strong as they could be. I’ll wait for 2010, but if I wait I’ll miss the heap of Jamaican songs that will become classics when next year rolls around.

Reggae Gold 2009
Soca Gold 2009