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This week's music reviews

Submitted by admin on Saturday, 13 November 2010No Comment

 This week's music reviews

Reviewed: Scott Tinkler, John Rodgers, Ken Edie and Marc Hannaford; Ian Munro, piano; Caitlin Rose; Mavis Staples; Glenn Richards

JAZZNTRPDNScott Tinkler, John Rodgers,Ken Edie and Marc HannafordIndependent4 starsTHIS album expands on a genre that emerged in the 1950s, then grew in performances during the 60s and into the 70s, but declined during the following 20 years. Somewhat ambiguously it was titled free jazz — in one sense, all improvisation is free — and to date, although the style has seen a resurgence from the 90s onwards, no more suitable term has appeared. The approach is one of improvisation not based on a harmonic structure. It may be in a particular key or it may not, it may be rhythmic or without a pulse, there may or may not be a composed theme, and non-Western influences may be used. Its pioneers included Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler, Eric Dolphy and others who placed emphasis on unstructured collective improvisation. many audiences, then and now, failed to appreciate the new music but it should be remembered that without talented exploration there is no innovation or evolution in the arts. The challenge for practitioners is to take audiences with them, and the danger is that spectators may feel like outsiders watching players absorbed in their own closed-circuit creativity. all of this brings us to NTRPDN, a follow-up to 2008’s Funcall by the same quartet, the Antripodeans, featuring trumpeter Scott Tinkler, violinist John Rodgers, pianist Marc Hannaford and Ken Edie on drums. The obscure title may be Antripodean minus the vowels. there are only two tracks, each of just longer than 30 minutes, and both move through a diversity of out-of-tempo moods and characteristics, often indistinguishable from free-form avant-garde classical music. The drum kit, freed from time-keeping, is used for melodic embellishment and punctuation, while the other instruments range in abstraction either collectively or solo, with pizzicato or bowed violin working especially well with the piano. almost no chords are used, giving the music a linear continuum. The trumpet role varies from lengthy, occasionally slightly garbled held notes, high-frequency excursions and fast moving expressive passages. this is experimental music for reverie, introspection and transcendental tripping, but not without tension of an unpredictable kind, sometimes achieved by gaps and silences. It won’t please everyone and the genre may not continue to flourish but it is presently increasing in performances. perhaps its ultimate legacy will be to enrich existing, diverse jazz languages and to supplement the vocabulary of many other musicians. John McBeath

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CLASSICALAndrew Ford: The Waltz BookIan Munro, pianoTall Poppies4 starsWHAT began as a commission from pianist Ian Munro for a large-scale piano work ended up as a series of 60 waltzes, each lasting only a minute. Andrew Ford’s Waltz Book is a charming and surprisingly eclectic collection of miniatures; quirky, moody, enchanting and full of vitality, they provide a fascinating insight into Ford’s extraordinarily wide-ranging musical palette. Central to the variety within this collection is the extreme contrast between the simpler, melodically driven, often folksy waltzes and the grittier, modernist representations of the form. Ford’s craftsmanship is impressively consistent across this broad canvas of musical styles and while the pieces are all in triple time (of course) this is not always apparent to the listener. The waltzes are grouped in such a way as to bring a sense of internal organisation to the set. in some cases, several waltzes based on the same material give the effect of a miniature set of variations within the whole. in this way, listening to a shorter selection can also be a satisfying experience, although the material works extremely well when heard in its entirety. Munro is a flawless interpreter, his playing full of imaginative colour and supple elegance. Ford is, of course, a well-known broadcaster and writer and his program notes are also very entertaining. a second CD includes an interview with the composer as well as PDFs of 10 of the simpler waltzes, giving the opportunity to print and play some of this delightful music.Mark Coughlan

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COUNTRYOwn Side NowCaitlin RoseSpunk4 starsDESPITE the homophone of Joni Mitchell’s both Sides now in the title of her debut album, 21-year-old Nashville resident Caitlin Rose owes almost nothing to the confessional song poet. She likes Dylan, though. and Reba McEntire. and Patsy Cline. While gushing reviews have gilded the lily slightly by declaring the new young darling of the country music scene groundbreaking and innovative, Rose is in fact working a very old seam of country that matches plaintive vocals with pedal steel guitars and perky rhythms with witty lyrics. Produced in Nashville by Mark Nevers (Bonnie Prince Billy, Lambchop, Andrew Bird) Own Side now is nonetheless a formidable debut. The opener Learnin’ to Ride is endearing in a Melanie Safka kind of way, but apart from a cool idea about men being like horses, it lacks punch. Own Side, which follows, has an irresistible rhythm of slapped acoustic guitar strings, gorgeous harmonies, also by Rose, and a moving lead vocal with lyrics about the aftermath of a love affair. for the Rabbits adds blues shading, while Shanghai Cigarettes, a smokin’ duet with fellow Nashville aspirant Rayland Baxter, thumps along at rock pace. Things Change recalls the sultry stylings of K.D. Lang, while the wail of That’s Alright would have suited Cline perfectly.Ian Cuthbertson

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SOULYou Are not AloneMavis StaplesANTI4-1/2 starsPART of the historical significance of Barack Obama’s election in 2008 was that the first African-American president had been voted into office while there was still a generation who’d been present during the civil rights marches with Martin Luther King. Another of these living connections to what is arguably the most important time in US history is soul and gospel legend Mavis Staples. With patriarch Pops Staples at the helm, the Staple Singers provided the soundtrack to the civil rights movement, with songs such as Respect Yourself and when will we Get Paid. after Mavis Staples’s Ry Cooder-produced 2007 album We’ll never Turn Back, which featured protest songs of the civil rights movement, you Are not Alone could be seen as more of a throwback to the Staple Singers’ later Stax Records era. Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy produces, and the result is a heavenly and sympathetic summation of Staples’s career. Randy Newman’s Losing you has never sounded better and John Fogerty’s Wrote a Song for Everyone puts the revival back into Creedence Clearwater. Pops Staples is paid tribute to on you Don’t Knock and Downward Road, while little Milton’s We’re Gonna Make It could just have easily featured on the Staple Singers’ 1970 album We’ll Get over. The strongest affirmation on the album would have to be Reverend Gary Davis’s I Belong to the Band — Hallelujah. Amen to that.Tom Jellett

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FOLK-ROCKGlimjackGlenn RichardsSony Music4 starsTHE terms "eagerly awaited" and "much anticipated" will no doubt be stitched on to reviews of Augie March frontman Glenn Richards’s debut solo album, Glimjack. but they’re not phrases I’ll be applying because I’m still happily listening to Augie’s 2008 album, Watch Me Disappear, and its 10-year-old Sunset Studies, as if they were just released yesterday. That’s the appeal of Richards’s songwriting, which isn’t flippant or faddish but lush, layered, literary and seemingly timeless in sound and stories. now I’m playing Glimjack on endless rotation and the lazy swing of They Hate Us, with its indecipherable lyrics (worms on hooks? hard taste of heroin?), set on repeat. There’s not much difference in style or substance between solo Richards and Augie Richards except here he is joined by brother Chris on guitar, drummer Mike Noga, bassist Ben Bourke and the Drones’ Mike Noga and Dan Luscombe on drums and guitar respectively. Richards has a vintage-meets-folk aesthetic that conjures images of post-World War II dances and early 19th-century colonists. that feeling and sound is evident in other early favourites: Black Saturday ode South of Heaven, with its stirring surf guitar; and the banjo-lit Turn on you. Surprisingly, on Long Pigs, Richards’s soaring vocals and the band’s pacey work sound almost like a tribute to Jeff Buckley’s Sketches for my Sweetheart the Drunk.Jodie Minus

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