Been pretty bad about keeping up with CD reviews around here. No way I could cram in a review of everything I've listened to in the last few months, but thought I'd throw out 3 that you've likely missed and I'll put together some year-end lists in the next couple of weeks (because I love lists!).
Also nice, because I can kind of tie them all together under the heading of context. It's always preferable when an album can stand on its own merits -- the music is good plain and simple. It's better when it can do that and it's got a little something extra. For these three CD's, a little extra background info makes great music go down even better.
Erik Friedlander -- Block Ice and Propane
Whether you know it or not, Friedlander is a giant. It takes someone of that stature to make me even consider buying a solo cello album. I mean, how much oomph can even the greatest get out of a singular cello. Well, EF answers that one for you with this masterpiece. The music is beautiful, engaging, even swinging at times... it tells a story, it draws you in, it absorbs. The extra bonus that comes with context on this one is that Friedlander isn't just making music. He's replaying a major portion of his childhood for us. When he was younger, Erik's father, Lee, a professional photographer, would pile the family into a makeshift camper and the family would spend the summers criss-crossing the country while he did the shutterbug thing. Somehow this album -- one guy sitting with his cello -- captures the essence of cross-country travel, the little knickknacks of the American road, Americana itself... as well as the memories of youth, family and adventure. It's all there, you can hear it. The music stands alone, but with the backstory, it fleshes out into a true American classic: Aaron Copland and Bill Monroe, but pure Erik Friedlander.
Bob Brozman Orchestra -- Lumiere
Listen to any track on this one and you'll be amazed at the fluent, perfectly flowing lines of reverberating guitar. All types of steel, resonator and acoustic guitars mesh together in ear-pleasing fashion. That's quite an orchestra you've got there, Mr. Brozman! But take a closer look at the cover to this CD and check the liner notes... the orchestra is a one-man affair. The music stands alone -- it is as good as you'll hear on an instrumental effort this year. But when you've got the full story on how this was made, it'll blow your mind. Apparently Brozman started off with a single improvisation, then layered another improv in reaction to the first and then another and then another. Is there a more perfect way to make music? The results are impressive and singular, the fingerprint of a man and his insane talents.
Groundtruther -- Altitude
The backstory here is that this is the third of three in a series of often mindblowing work from Groundtruther: Bobby Previte and Charlie Hunter. But this ain't no Return of the Jedi, more like Return of the King. Those who have heard the previous two efforts (Latitude and Longitude (w/ Greg Osby and DJ Logic respectively)) know that these paint Hunter in a darker, nastier light, displaying a heavier guitar sound than his usually organesque 8-string gives him. On this effort, the duo is joined by Jon Medeski, so how can it not be bigger and better than ever? This is a two disc set with one acoustic(!) -- filled with little trifles of sound, music at its basics, fluttering pieces of tissue paper for sometimes barely a minute. The electric stuff is electric, though and finds the trio digging deep: pulsing rhythmic energy, dark grooves and fantastic interplay. Taken on its own this is a fantastic album. Taken as part of the Groundtruther trilogy, you have something very special.
19 December 2007