TRUTH, LIBERTY & SOUL—LIVE IN NYC
Released on Record Store Day, one year after the release of the soundtrack to Robert Trujillo’s excellent film, JACO, this package is a gem among gems. It captures the complete 130-minute Kool Jazz Festival concert by Jaco’s Word Of Mouth Big Band at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City, on June 27, 1982. That means over 40 minutes of never-before-heard material, and everyone involved considers this to be the band’s best version—and performance—due to the contributions of Gotham’s finest horn players.
First, a word about the extensive liner notes, a great read rife with revelatory information and anecdotes. They include thoughts from the project producers, original and remix engineer Paul Blakemore, Trujillo, Victor Wooten, and Wayne Shorter; a concert overview from Jaco biographer Bill Milkowski; and riveting reflections on both the concert and Jaco from Peter Erskine, Bob Mintzer, Randy Brecker, Othello Molineaux, John Pastorius, Bob Bobbing, Larry Warilow, Ron McClure, Jimmy Haslip, and others.
Now to the music, brought to vivid new heights by Blakemore’s superb remix. The crackling opener, “Invitation,” plus “Three Views of a Secret,” “Liberty City,” “Reza/Giant Steps,” “Okonkole Y Trompa,” “Bass and Drum Improv/Amerika” (with Jaco’s looping and Hendrix quotes), and the closing “Fannie Mae” remain the powerhouses they were when first introduced to us on Jaco’s 1983 album, Invitation, and/or the 2008-released Twins I & II (both recorded live in Japan, in January 1982). The differences are much better sound, a more active Jaco in support, and some slightly faster tempos. Elsewhere, the free-form big band improv “Twins” is a tonal treat, as is a killer version of Bob Mintzer’s swinging “Mr. Fonebone,” one of Jaco’s underrated but best covers. Newer to the ears is a Molineaux-featuring cover of “I Shot the Sheriff” that maybe wanders a bit; a stellar “Sophisticated Lady” that lacks the big band orchestration of previous versions, but more than makes up for it with Toots Thieleman’s ever-amazing harmonica flights and Jaco’s eye-opening use of false-harmonics chordal arpeggios; and a cover of Thieleman’s classic jazz waltz, “Bluesette,” done with more of a 6/8 tropical feel. Finally, “Donna Lee” gets a masterful reworking, starting with Dave Bargeron’s striking, overtone-rich, rubato tuba solo, into a unison melody reading, and then oodles of Jaco’s unique walking feel behind the soloists, complete with spontaneous reharmonizations and ear-grabbing step-aways. Whether you were there that night (as yours truly was) or not, here’s a chance to experience Jaco at his peak powers.
You might expect an album of just vocals and bass to be empty, but a soulfully booming voice and intricate bass lines are more than enough for recent Berklee grad Shaun Munday. On his debut album, Munday proves that he’s going to be a bass heavyweight, as his flawless slap work and his melodically challenging lines are only ever outshined by his buttery crooning.
Amid the welcome return of Brand X, Percy Jones releases a gritty quartet record (with guitarist Dave Phelps, drummer Chris Bacas, and saxophonist Stephen Moses), reminding us that no one coaxes more tones and moods out of a fretless bass than the legendary Welsh low-ender. Percy’s propulsive groove side drives the opener, “Call 911,” via a relentless broken-16th pattern, while his solo rubato starts to “Bad American Dream” and “Wow Signal” capture the clean-tone, upright-like growl of his Ibanez 5-string, thanks to his piezo pickup preference. Throw in delay and filtering, and Percy pulls out all the stops on “Talk Time,” with thunderous octaves, bombastic slides, and exploding clusters of harmonics. Throughout, Jones and his mates strike the ideal balance between written passages and like-minded improvisational excursions.
A Nashville resident since 2015, Brit art-pop iconoclast Robyn Hitchcock refers to his latest album as residing in “the portal between psychedelia and country,” and with a posse of session aces behind him that includes bassist Jon Estes, he makes good on the promise. Estes, for his part, brings a wide-angle versatility to the role, from the pillowy-sounding melodic runs of the trippy “Sayonara Judge” and the stately, late-’60s Floyd-ish mood of “Autumn Sunglasses” to the thick, floor-hugging lines that drive the barroom brawler “I Pray When I’m Drunk.”
JOHN BROWN’S BODY
Dan Africano and Nate Edgar lay down the kinetic grooves that make your body move on this ten-track disc of “Future Roots Music.” Their deep, hypnotic bass lines epitomize the age-old-adage that the notes you don’t play are as important as the ones you do. From “Who Paid Them Off” through “Mash Them Down,” their infectious playing will have you dashing for the dance floor.
On Warpaint’s third studio album, Jenny Lee Lindberg displays how much she’s come into her own as a player with more developed and creative lines than ever before. Coming fresh off her first solo release (2015’s Right On!), Lindberg has honed her Rickenbacker-driven sound, which now boasts even more of a low presence along with a myriad of pedal-induced tones. Driving tracks like “So Good,” “The Stall,” and “Heads Up” show how much power Lindberg contributes to each song.
THE BLACK ANGELS
Austin’s resident psych-rock gurus are back after a four-year absence, and their timing couldn’t be better. Rippling with darkness and foreboding, Death Song finds the band returning to its hard-edged roots, with Kyle Hunt laying into the low end with groove-inspired abandon, especially on cuts like the head-nodding “I’d Kill for Her,” the McCartney-esque “Grab As Much (As You Can),” and the marauding “Hunt Me Down,” where he plays high up on the neck with a gruff, dry-sounding riff that seems to ooze from the innards of his ’72 Fender Jazz.
Pete Bremy channels the late-’60s vibe of vintage Tim Bogert while adding his own personality to this re-vamped version of the band once dubbed “America’s Led Zeppelin.” Check out his solo on “Dynamite,” or the John Paul Jones-inspired bass lines in “Another Way or Another” and “C-70 Blues,” for the kind of adventurous bass playing that once defined an era.
Nick Shendzielos’ debut with thrash metal outfit Havok kicks off with a bang, as he opens with a full-out slap assault that doesn’t relent until the album’s conclusion. Equipped with Warwick basses and impressive dexterity and technique, Shendzielos takes command on “Hang ’Em High,” “Dog-maniacal,” and “Masterplan,” where he alternates between blazing-fast finger work and a jackhammer thumb. Even listeners who don’t fancy metal will be able to appreciate Shendzielos’ talent and showmanship.