By Jef With One F
By Rocks Off
By Chris Lane
By Angelica Leicht
By Corey Deiterman
By Angelica Leicht
By Corey Deiterman
But just in case you don't have the cash to fork over for this sort of earthy extravagance, or if you just so happen to be one of those folks who doesn't appreciate men who sing like women, I've rounded up a few other oddities for your consideration. Take your pick.
One's from right close to home, by a band that's been more or less talked into the ground around these parts for years. They're from Austin, called Pocket Fishrmen, and the band's latest on Sector II Records is called Future Gods of Rock in homage to all those cheap-o Mexican compilations of everyone's stingy record-buying youth. The evocation makes sense, because to these ears it sounds like 18 tracks of drunk goofs trying to play the entire series by ear through the filter of a dozen years and a weed-stunted memory. Which isn't at all bad, if you've got an ear for such things, and it helps that singer Brant Bingamon -- who spends most of this outing sounding like Ozzy Osbourne sitting in with KISS -- and company don't take any of this at all seriously. The presumably purposefully amateurish recording helps, too, giving a suitably off-the-cuff sound to off-the-cuff tunes like "Intellectuals Rocking for Women," "Big Ass on Fire" and "We Kill Evil."
Of course there's a reason why hardly anybody makes comedy albums anymore, and the reason is that comedy's not nearly so funny in your living room as it is in a hall full of real live patrons splitting their sides, and for that reason I've got to suspect that Future Gods of Rock serves better as a primer to the real live deal than it does as a self-contained album. But saying that an album just makes me want to see the band live isn't much of a complaint (*** 1/2).
Moving on from former kids stepping amusingly backward to honest-to-God children making leaps and bounds, I stumbled across a precious little opus in the racks called Big Music, Little Musicians! (Retro) that's sub-billed as "Compositions and Improvisations by Oakland Elementary School Children." And while the liner notes outline the predictable do-goodism of the project, the music itself is surprisingly listenable, and on more than a few occasions, just plain pretty. Project organizer Randy Porter took music classes at three Oakland-area elementary schools under his wing and let them have a go at 44 cuts -- some, like Sun Ra's "Planet Earth," composed and conducted, others mere snippets of improvisation built around various combinations of instruments.
Given Porter's focus on the improvisational talents of the youngsters, the disc carries an emphasis on jazz-oriented sounds, and while there are more than a few squealing and grating moments of musical ineptitude on display, it's probably not any harsher than what you might find at the Knitting Factory on a slow night. I guess it was Jackson Pollack more than Charlie Parker who inspired a generation of Philistines to chant, "Hey, my kid could do this," but what emerges on Big Music is the fact that, yes, indeed they can. And what's more, it's worth a listen (***).
Listening to amateur jazz, though, will sooner or later get you amped up to hear the real thing, and if there's a jazz combo working today more audacious than New York's Medeski, Martin and Wood, it must be hiding under a rock somewhere. After the superlatively promising Notes From the Underground and It's a Jungle in Here, MM&W takes another shot with Friday Afternoon in the Universe (Gramavision), which title-wise may sound like a Douglas Adams book, but is in truth the closest thing to a true jazz/pop crossover since rap ran out of James Brown records and started sampling Donald Byrd solos. Not that any of the organ/bass/drums tunes here are structured pop-wise -- actually, the new album is geared more toward the establishment of a jamming groove with free-jazz interludes interspersed and eclectic embellishments laid on top -- but the incorporation of funk, reggae and blues into the jazz trio format brings the players' oddball virtuosity into realms where not-particularly-into-jazz patrons can appreciate the nuance. Organist John Medeski, especially, puts his Hammond B-3 through a soulful workout that only the heartless could fail to appreciate. One of my favorite things (****).