RON MCCLURE TRIO
HOPE AND KNOWLEDGE
Veteran doubler Ron McClure’s distinguished career has included stops with Buddy Rich, Charles Lloyd and Keith Jarrett, Wynton Kelly, Joe Henderson, the Pointer Sisters, and Blood, Sweat & Tears, where he introduced Jaco Pastorius to Bobby Colomby. His 16th solo side is a tight-knit trio effort with pianist Michael Eckroth and drummer Pete Zimmer. Highpoints include the angular “Mirror Image,” written for BS&T’s 1974 album of the same name; “New Autumn,” a hard-swinging, sideways take on “Autumn Leaves”; and the bass-led ballad “In His Name.”
PORTUGAL. THE MAN
Portugal. The Man entered the studio with a catalog full of tracks, but decided to shelf them and start over, which led to the band’s most retro and pop-friendly record yet. Zach Carothers lays down the steady pulse under dance hits like “Live in the Moment” and “Feel It Still,” which could easily take over as 2017’s feel-good, “Happy”-style anthem. The best part of the record comes from Carothers’ throwback tone, which fills out more than just the bottom.
THE CONCERT IN HYDE PARK
Paul Simon’s epic performance at the 2012 London Hard Rock Calling Festival was one to remember, which is why fans are happy that the energetic and eclectic concert was recorded and released. As always, Simon’s set list was full of hits that span his long career, and as always, Bakithi Kumalo was by his side laying down unthinkable grooves. The 27-song concert features standout Kumalo moments from “Kodachrome,” “Graceland,” and of course, “You Can Call Me Al,” which still sounds fresh after all these years.
Phoenix’s sixth studio album captures the mellower side of the French synth-rock outfit: Breezy guitar riffs, meandering synths, and laid-back vocals all live atop the steady bass foundation laid down by Deck d’Arcy, who gives the album its dance factor (and its “unleashed in a sleepy Mediterranean disco” feel) by locking in with drummer Thomas Hedlund. His alternating synth and electric bass work is at its best on “J Boy,” “Ti Amo,” and “Goodbye Soleil.”
Matt Freeman and Rancid have been keeping punk music alive and relevant for 24 years, and their ninth studio album shows that they’re still gaining momentum. Led by Freeman’s relentless piston of a picking arm, Rancid drops powerful hooks and thrashing riffs that only give way for the occasional ska number, which showcase Freeman’s playing even more. Somehow, these punks just keep getting better with age.
Producer/synth freak and lowend fan Gaudi was smart to raid the catalog of experimental label Rare Noise to get parts for his new album. Each song on Magnetic is built around a juicy, out-front bass line: by Porcupine Tree’s Colin Edwin (“30Hz Prelude,” “Die Ballade Vom Frosch”), John Zorn bassist/oud player Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz (“Opus 12, No. 7”), composer/producer Jamie Saft (“Memories in My Pentagram”), studio/King Crimson legend Tony Levin (“Modular Rondo”), or producer/bass magus Bill Laswell (“Nocturnal Sonata,” “Epilogue Leitmotif,” and “Electronic Impromptu in E-Flat Minor,” where he’s joined by Lorenzo Felicati). It’s no surprise, then, that Magnetic is a feast of fat bass tones, stellar performances, and fresh production.
SMOKE ON THIS…
It was only a matter of time before the man behind the vicious low end of Pantera, Down, and Kill Devil Hill released an album of his own. Written and recorded in Nashville, Smoke on This… finds Rex Brown playing the multi-instrumentalist role, but his intense playing and signature bass tone takes the cake. Although the album sways away from Brown’s legendary brand of metal, its heavy rock vibe will thrill even the most faithful headbanger.
THE BOY WHO SPOKE TO THE WIND
When skilled musicians join forces with talented MCs, great things happen. On The Boy, indie-rock rapper Lando Chill enlists low ender Chris Pierce to lay down seriously righteous bass lines, and Pierce’s deep grooves on “Break the Shackles,” “People Are Evil,” and “Falou Com o Vento” are the perfect vehicle for the album’s thematic vibe, which showcases both rhyme schemes and 4-string talent.
LAYERS OF THE CITY
Jazz ace Ben Allison’s latest album is appropriately titled, and not just as homage to his adopted hometown, New York City. The seven-song journey also takes you through the layers of Allison’s playing, including his usual rich tone and innovative writing. Some songs, including “Ghost Ship” and “The Detective’s Wife,” are beautifully patient and anticipatory, but we couldn’t stop hitting repeat on “Enter the Dragon,” which has one of the catchier riffs we’ve heard in a while.