CHRISTIAN McBRIDE BIG BAND
Christian McBride’s superb second big-band record finds him expanding his arranging chops while bringing new colors to the idiom. Witness the opener, “Getting’ to It,” merging his passion for syncopated James Brown grooves with layered horn shouts, and his big-toned bowed melody on “In the Wee Small Hours,” which Christian cast in B major to challenge himself. With his arranger’s hat on, other highpoints arrive, such as interjecting a formal, flute-led interlude in the middle of his bluesy solo on “Youthful Bliss,” his casting of “I Thought About You” over a single pedal tone (a nod to Maria Schneider), and his reshaping of “Mr. Bojangles” into a swinging 4/4 sung by his wife, Melissa Walker. Fertile covers of “Thermo” (Freddie Hubbard), “Sahara” (McCoy Tyner), and “Full House” (Wes Montgomery) cement McBride’s tradition-in-transition approach—the same one he has mastered on bass.
OK COMPUTER OKNOTOK 1997 2017
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Radiohead’s legacy-defining album OK Computer, the band has released a remastered version along with eight B-sides and three previously unreleased tracks. While the enhancements to the original analog tapes give a clearer vantage point of Colin Greenwood’s succinct and impactful playing, the unreleased material offers a better understanding of his development in that era. His expansive riffs on “Lull,” and his grooves on the instrumental “Meeting in the Aisle,” reveal much of his style to come.
WHERE THE GODS ARE IN PEACE
It’s been five years since Brooklyn’s hottest Afrobeat combo came out with a full-length record, but Nikhil Yerawadekar has been busy with his own group, Low Mentality, which released its acclaimed funk, dub, and highlife-fueled debut last year. His earthy tone has become a signature of the Antibalas sound since he took over the low end in 2010, but where he really makes his presence felt is in the rhythm, whether it’s punchy and relentless (“Hook & Crook”) or loping and spare (in the three-part “Tombstown”). Fans of Fela’s longtime Africa 70 bassist Nweke Atifoh, take note.
Atlanta’s fast-flowing rhyme guru Big Boi is back with his third solo album in the post-Outkast era. Boomiverse features a laundry list of collaborators and guest appearances, but our favorite happens to be longtime Outkast bassman Preston Crump (Citizen Cope, Raphael Saadiq), who lays down some dirty lines, namely on the album’s single, “Kill Jill.” Stepping up to the plate with a punchy, gain-fueled tone, Crump puts the exclamation point on a great album’s best track.
L.A.-born, New York-based vocalist/upright player Katie Thiroux delivers a solid, swinging sophomore effort in a quintet setting. Thiroux displays her considerable vocal gifts scatting through Ray Brown’s “Ray’s Idea” and owning the ballad “Why Did I Choose You?” On the bottom, she finesses the title track and offers an expressive solo on “Brotherhood of Man.” Best of all is the sly dialoguing between her voice and bass on a solo reading of “Willow Weep for Me.”
HAWAIIAN NOIR: VOLUME ONE
When she’s not on the road with Maren Morris, Sugarland, or Amos Lee, Annie Clements is lulling her upright bass and softly crooning with her Nashville trio Hula Hi-Fi, which puts Hawaiian spins on beloved songs. Their debut album features 12 covers that range from Nirvana’s “In Bloom” to Bjork’s “Human Behavior” to tracks from Radiohead, Air, Chris Isaak, Tears For Fears, and others. Clements’ solid playing, earthy tone, and sweet voice create enchanting island vibes perfect for summer.
He’s not 18 anymore, but Alice Cooper still loves to rock, and his 27th studio outing is chock-full of head-bangers. Of course it helps to have Dennis Dunaway along for the ride; as a key member of the classic ’70s lineup that reunited in 2015, he brings a sawtoothed swagger to “Fireball” and two more songs with the full band, “Genuine American Girl” and “You and All of Your Friends.” Meanwhile, none other than Deep Purple’s Roger Glover anchors the rousing title track (with U2’s Larry Mullen on drums), and Jimmie Lee Sloas, a longtime collaborator with producer Bob Ezrin, holds down the meat of the album, “Dead Flies” being a tasty standout.
REMEMBER THE STORY
Ex-Kyuss bassist Scott Reeder makes a strong impact on his debut with hard rockers Fireball Ministry, bringing his brute tone and rolling lines to the table on this steadily charging album. Whether he’s meandering from or barreling alongside big guitar riffs, Reeder supplies a burly foundation with his custom Warwick 8-string. Stellar bass moments can be found on the bridge of “Weavers Dawn,” throughout the chorus of “Back on Earth,” and during his verse onslaught of “Stop Talking.”
THE ISLEY BROTHERS & SANTANA
POWER OF PEACE
With more than 20 years under his belt as Santana’s fulltime bassist, Benny Rietveld has established a pocket that rightfully puts him in the same conversation as Doug Rauch, David Brown, Alphonso Johnson, and other Santana stalwarts. His deep background in funk and soul serves him well on this covers confab with Ronnie and Ernie Isley, especially on the true-to-Electric Mud version of Muddy Waters’ “I Just Want to Make Love to You” and the Caribbean-style send-up of Curtis Mayfield’s “Gypsy Woman.” With Cindy Blackman on drums, how can you go wrong?
REVOLUTION COME … REVOLUTION GO
Stirred by last year’s election and sociopolitical strife worldwide, Gov’t Mule comes out blazing on the quartet’s excellent latest effort, which rides the broad brushstrokes of Jorgen Carlsson. Carlsson sets the stage on the opener, “Stone Cold Rage,” anchoring the funky main unison riff and leading the B section with a nasty-toned neck-spanning figure. Jorgen’s lyrical side emerges on the ethereal “Thorns of Life” via flowing, melodic fills in all registers. Elsewhere, he’s the hollow-toned countervoice to Warren Haynes’ vocal on the Hall & Oates-nodding “Sarah, Surrender,” and he contributes a dirty, Delta-meets-Zeppelin arrangement of Blind Willie Johnson’s “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground.” Most prominent, though, is his snarling sub-hook and wonky walking line on the title track.