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REVIEW: Diesto’s “High As The Sun”

Photobucket While Seattle has had a reputation for offering some of the best heavy music in the last 25 years, at times it has overshadowed the sounds that have come out of Portland. If you take a look at what Portland is currently offering, nothing more than a continuation of what has been a part of the city’s diverse music scene, you’ll see that Portland is now doing its share of overshadowing. Or if anything, it’s adding to the demonic powers of the Pacific Northwest as a whole, and Diesto are sprinkling their raunchy smelling salts with their brand new album High As The Sun (Seventh Rule).

The self-proclaimed “heaviest band in Portland” have been doing their sonic duty for much of the 00′s and enter the 10′s with a 6-song album that runs just under an hour in length. You may see the word “progressive” mentioned with the band, and that involves the group adding in different tempos, bass and guitar textures and effects in the song’s arrangements. They do get heavy in a Melvins sense, at times getting deep into the Kyuss nugget and every now and then you’ll hear double tracked vocal harmonies that may sound out of place, but let it gel into your mind. All you’ll need to hear is one extra guitar crunch or the drums smacking you as the cymbals create plodding doom, and those harmonies offer a contradictory lightness to the band’s gloomy and doomy sound.

The shortest song is the 6-minute title track, and as it is positioned around the center point, it allows the listener to shake off the syrupy glass drink the group want you to consume. It almost comes off like their “radio hit”, but not radio friendly. In other words, these guys have no problem in making their songs go anywhere between 8 to 10 minutes, so hearing a song like “High As The Sun” go for 6:43 almost serves as a pit stop for the next three songs, a half hour dive into Diesto’s deep journey into the unknown.

As the album hits “The Longest Day”, it will definitely feel like that but the melodic twin guitar solo changes the mood for a few seconds. The only part that slowed down the album just a bit were certain vocal sections that seem to drag on longer than I wanted, at least upon the first listen. After a second listen, I was aware what was coming and now I understand the song and why it was done that way a bit more. At one point I thought of Godflesh even though these guys are far from having their electronic distortion, but the sinister sound they were known for is captured here as well. Upon looking at their bio, it made a Godflesh reference so at least I’m not alone in hearing what I heard.

I enjoy hearing a band that gets promoted for being heavy, sludgy and stony, and yet they reveal influences that are unique to them, what gives them their sound. It could be Iron Maiden, it could be Southern rock, it could be Sleep for all I know, but in this case it’s Diesto, and you will not want to be interrupted when you’re locked in listening mood with these guys.

REVIEW: Herbie Hancock’s “The Imagine Project”

Photobucket When it comes to the music of Herbie Hancock, you can’t help but just listen and enjoy pure beauty. So is the case with The Imagine Project (Hancock), an album where Hancock dips into the pop world and collaborates with a wide range of artists that help bring forth the last lines in the chorus of John Lennon‘s “Imagine”: “I hope some day you will join us, and the world will live as one”. Can one imagine a world without boundaries? That’s what Hancock attempts to do with this album, which features Anoushka Shankar, Los Lobos, Dave Matthews (whose approach to The Beatles‘ “Tomorrow Never Knows” sounds a lot like Peter Gabriel), India.Arie, P!nk, Juanes, and Chaka Khan among many others.

Don’t expect for every song to be completely mindblowing, you can put on your elitist hat for a few songs or two but then allow yourself to open up and hear the album for what it is: a musical journey where artists, sounds, influences, and cultural divides come together for the sake of doing so, without thought of exploitation clauses in recording contracts. Hancock continues to show why he is a musician with a need to play and move people with his music, but as this is a pop-oriented album, there are times when the music is bigger than Hancock. Sure, I would’ve loved for him to freak the fuck out and get into Mwandishi mode with Dave Matthews as they turned “Tomorrow Never Knows” inside out, but what you hear is a more mainstream approach to the freak out, a lighter dose of the psychedelic haze that through Hancock makes the listener realize it’s all a mind game with no chemical enhancements whatsoever.

The Imagine Project fits in with what Hancock has done in the last ten years, and with luck,fans of the collaborating artists will move them to explore Hancock’s catalog, currently six decades deep.

REVIEW: Jazz Folk’s “Jazz In The Stone Age”

Photobucket The name Jazz Folk is not meant to be a description of their music, it’s not a mixture of jazz with folk. Instead, the Folk in question are the members of the group and the fans who love their music. Peter Scherr (bass), Simon Barker (drums), and Matt McMahon (piano) take on a journey that brings some of their favorite songs into the jazz realm, including three tracks by Beck (“Tropicalian Shadows”, “Cold Brains”, and “Nobody’s Fault But My Own”), two tracks by Lou Reed (“Pale Blue Eyes” and Velvet Underground‘s “”All Tomorrow’s Parties”), and a number of songs that you may end up preferring in the hands of Jazz Folk. Jazz In The Stone Age (1 Hr. Music) may, at least through the album cover artwork and graphics, make people believe it’s music that is meant to represent what jazz may have been like in prehistoric times, but perhaps if you read between the lines, maybe the Stone Age in question is modern times, and what they’re creating is hopefully a sound archive of what future jazz researchers will be hearing to describe us, the people of pre- end times. Some of the music sounds like lounge jazz, what you’d hear in a dusty and smoky nightclub at 3am as the janitor picks up prostitute remnants, but other times it’s just a coolness that comes from simply listening to a music that just feels and sounds right.

This may be Jazz In The Stone Age, but what an age to be alive.

REVIEW: John L. Holmes’ “The Holmes Stretch”

Photobucket As I am writing this review, it is approaching the middle of November in the Northern Hemisphere, and it is cold. I want to head to a place where it’s a warm, sunny morning, afternoon, or evening, head to the beach, kick back and get myself polluted with the best local liquor there is. The opening track to John L. HolmesThe Holmes Stretch (self-released), “La Vita Loquita”, will take you to that kind of locale, but once the glasses are empty and a slight chill is in the air, Holmes and friends (the album is credited to John L. Holmes y los amigos) heat things up with the kind of laid back jazz that go back to a time when jazz guitar was king, and you could create the kind of momentum that only jazz guitarists can create. “Mommentito” has the feel of jazz that I grew up listening to with my uncle in the late 70′s/early 80′s, where the electricity is turned up just at the right level, and Holmes just plays until his heart’s content, while saxophonist Mike Agidius gets the listener to “coast” a bit as everyone loosens up and creates pure sonic butter.

Holmes is originally from nearby Walla Walla, and his love of jazz motivated him to get out into the world and find the music for himself. He could easily come back home and help benefit a winery or two, but his music shouldn’t be limited to the showrooms of Eastern Washington. At times he has that gentle George Benson finger stroke touch that made him world famous, at other times he’s getting intense and finding joy through the power of hesitation. It makes sense when you hear it, he could easily rip it John McLaughlin style but he doesn’t, although you may hear occasional similarities between them too.

Love jazz guitar that’s casually mellow in an ECM sense? Pick up The Holmes Stretch.

REVIEW: Charmaine Clamor’s “Something Good”

Photobucket Charmaine Clamor has returned with an album that, if it doesn’t prove that she is one of the best vocalists of this generation, listen again.

Something Good (FreeHam) continues to show the talent of Clamor and what she’s able to do with her voice and the songs she presents to the world. This album shows how developed she has become not only with how she sings, but the arrangements throughout, done with a number of people but Clamor herself had a hand in arranging the title track, along with Abe Lagrimas, Eli Brueggermann, and Gary Wicks. If there’s one thing that holds up about this album, there is a deeper backbone, and not that her music didn’t have it before but Something Good comes off like a strong and balanced album, one with depth and meaning, designed in a fashion that shows how well she does in a jazz context. It’s not a concept album, but rather Something Good is a collection that has a distinct beginning, a carefully executed adventure, and a solid closer, all while Clamor continues to share her love of the music with who she is as a person. Her DNA is a focal point but at this point in her career it’s almost a given, one that is known and casually hangs out in the background but one that is very much a part of who she is. At this point she is able to say that she is Pinay, now let me welcome you to what I enjoy. Of course, if you’re enjoying Clamor and her music by now, then you’ve already found the couch. Kick back and hear something quite good.

REVIEW: Roger Davidson Quintet’s “Brazillian Love Song”

Photobucket Jazz and bossa nova have had a torrid love affair for many years, it seemed they enjoyed each other’s musky aroma and found time to explore each other’s sonic cavities as if it meant everything in the world to them. It should. Brazilian Love Song (Soundbrush) is not only a great jazz album with love song featuring a Brazilian motif, but it is also Roger Davidson‘s way of affirming that torrid love affair with a pianist kiss.

The 18 songs here go back and forth from solo piano pieces to track with a band that feature Paulo Braga (drums), David Finck (bass), Marivaldo Dos Santos (percussion), and Aaron Heick (saxophone). The quintet join forces to color the picture many have only imagined but a select few have seen and experienced for themselves. They are songs about love and romance: physical, sensual, and emotional, all done without ever going overboard. An example of this is “Ritmo das Flores”, where Davidson sounds as if he’s having a conversation with his musicians while flirting with the beauty of the land he speaks of.

This music is very smooth, like a Brazilian, and you will want to explore that smoothness until the first proof of hair comes through.

REVIEW: Fernandez & Wright’s “Unsung”

Photobucket Fernandez & Wright are a duo from Australia who call jazz their primary genre of music, but the music and vocal strength of these two go far beyond the limitations they’ve created as a means for classification, as shown beautifully on their album Unsung (New Market Music).

If calling yourself “jazz” is a means of showing talent and grace, then Fernandez & Wright have this in abundance. Outside of great playing and singing, the songwriting on this is the kind that used to be in abundance as well, but has been hidden as a specialty item in today’s musical menu. The songs range from deep passionate feelings of love and loss to questioning the world and their place in it, but within it is the kind of emotion and power that made me want to play these songs (and the album) repeatedly. There’s jazz here of course, but you’ll also hear hints of pop, Latin salsa, blues, and soul from someone who brings her personal experiences into their mix. Wright guitar work, both acoustic and electric, add the perfect aura to Fernandez’s voice, and having a great band behind them will make the light bulbs flicker in the mind to make the listener say “yes, this is perfect, or the closest thing to it.” Had Soulstice or Gina Rene branched out into a more jazzier vibe, it may have sounded like the music created by Fernandez & Wright.

FROM THE BOX: Martika’s listening apparatus

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I did not save this photo for Martika. I knew of Marta Merrero when my sister watched KIDS Incorporated, anda few years later she became Martika with “More Than You Know” and of course “Toy Soldiers”. After that, you never really heard from her again until Eminem sampled her.

Taken from the June 15, 1989 issue of Rolling Stone, it’s an article called Stereos Of The Stars which looks at the way artists listened to music. Some of it was in proper listening rooms, while others, like Martika, seemed like an advertising opportunity. The caption states she was a pop princess at the end of spring 1989, although that was far from the truth. Nonetheless, she did have one of the biggest pop hits of the year, only for Columbia Records to put a halt on the single in the hopes that more people would buy the album. Her career never went any higher than “Toy Soldiers”, and her crown was taken away and placed in a non-existent storage facility.

Martika is no longer a music artist, and now acts under the name Vida Edit.

REVIEW: Electric Wire Hustle’s “Chaser” (single)

Photobucket Electric Wire Hustle have been getting a nice buzz for their combination of soul-meets-electronic beats to create a post-modern, futuristic reminiscing vibe that will be very familiar to fans of hip-hop who love their music with a soulful and funky touch. Chaser (BBE) is their latest single, and the title track kind of tills the void that D’Angelo has neglected to fill in the last ten years. The Scratch 22 remix of “Again” could have easily been something Phonte Coleman and Amy Winehouse could’ve felt at home with as a duet, but here you just hear a sweet soulful vocal with delicate echoes of the past with a much-needed funk embrace of today.

(The Chaser single will be available on November 22nd as MP3 or WAV file downloads directly from Barely Breaking Even, or from your favorite digital merchants.)