Culture Queer, Nightmare Band (self-released)
This Cincinnati 4-piece comprises a couple of filmmakers, a chick drummer and a lot of chain-yanking, not to Weird Al levels but on the border, like if The Darkness were trying to be the Beatles, or if OK Go were trying to edge out Scissor Sisters for a residency at the gay club. The good news is that they’re able to pull off good recordings, the not-so-good news is that although there’s a lot of upbeat crashy-surfy jangling, that sound doesn’t automatically produce hooks for anyone, even if the artist is as optimistic and confident as these guys. And thus the things that stick in your head from this record are unwanted, ditties and sounds that are style with little substance. That’s not to say it’s a chore to listen to; it’s not, but I get the distinct impression that the live versions of these songs are something only the most stoned kid at Bonnaroo would tap his foot to.
Grade: B- [Release Date: 10/16/2012]
Nadje Noordhuis, Nadje Noordhuis (Little Mystery Records)
This isn’t my cup of tea, but rest assured it’s a rich, brisk, flavorful blend, so do read further, as my taste has oft been considered to be in my feet. New York trumpet/flugelhorn player Noordhuis has a lot of melodies floating around in her head, not the simple dinner-chill I prefer but highly theatrical material, some of it extremely complicated. In the abrupt coda of “Mayfair” I’m definitely hearing a Celtic Woman sort of thing going on, a rolling, high-concept, widescreen jig marking the middle. But that’s just one aspect of her range — “Water Crossing” evokes Andrew Lloyd Webber, not just in sound and passion but technicality as well, and later on comes the Miles-style balladry of “Magnolia.” While all this is going on, violinist Sara Caswell is absolutely blowing doors, glistening with brilliance — so what’s my problem? Too brooding for me, most of it, but if you enjoy immersion in things that tend to lean more toward the minor, drop what you’re doing right now and grab this.
Grade: A [Release Date: 10/9/2012]
Graph Rabbit, Snowblind (Butterscotch Records)
For your pensive, quirky ringtone pleasure, here’s a pair of Brooklynites led up by filmmaker Austin Donohue, the touchstone bullet point here being the mastering job of mastered by Valgeir SigurÃ°sson, who’s done BjÃ¶rk and, more to the point, Sigur RÃ³s, whose heart and sleepy pulse permeates every note on here, though not to the point that there’s much variation song-to-song. Which is part of the point, I see, as it’s a pensive, quirky conceptual journey involving some guy walking around in the snow, occasionally sleeping, then exploring snow some more. The Thom Yorke falsetto used in every song does go nicely with the frozen arpeggios and synth fractals, I’ll be the first to admit it, but once you grok the Where’s Waldo sleighbells popping up every few minutes or so, there are no curveballs, nothing out of place in the stillness. But that’s a positive, really; Kate Bush tried something vaguely similar last year with 50 Words for Snow, which became annoying when it harshed the listener’s mellow with nonsense. This is just soft, fluffy chill-alt for contemplating your snowman’s navel.
Grade: B [Release Date: 10/9/2012]
Beka Gochiashvili, Beka Gochiashvili (Exitus Entertainment)
When you think of the prototypical piano prodigy from a weird little country, you most likely imagine some sort of musical Rain Man pounding away at classical pieces no one else has the guts to take a shot at. In his debut LP, Gochiashvili, a 16-year-old from Tbilisi in Georgia, isn’t a freaky sideshow at all, unless you find it impossible to wrap your head around complicated, highly technical runs being thrown into familiar formats, such as the subdued dinner-jazz in “Un Gran Abrazo” (the opener here) and the department-store-overhead ambiance of “For Keith.” But we need to stop right here and note that Stanley Clarke is the acoustic bassist here, as is his Return To Forever rhythm-section battery-mate, drummer Lenny White; Clarke’s gone on record stating that this kid is the biggest new jazz fixture since Miles Davis. You can really see why he’d say such a thing — again, the technicality is mind-blowing, as is the curveball, “Herio Bichebo,” wherein White all but reinvents the brushing technique underneath the melancholy Kit Kat Klub vocal of Natalia Kutateladze.
Grade: A+ [Release Date: 9/25/2012]
Clifton Anderson, And So We Carry On (Daywood Drive Records)
Definitely some jazz history afoot here: Anderson received his first trombone as a gift from his uncle, Sonny Rollins. And Rollins-ness itself is afoot as well: Anderson’s trombone runs, particularly when he’s rattling off deeply ingrained traditional melodies like the ones from “Tomorrow” from Annie, are breezy, carefree and off-the-cuff, more rhetorical than showoff-ish. This LP — Anderson’s 3rd as a leader — comprises a gathering of friends rather than hired hands, Warren Wolf’s vibraphone getting a lot of room to lend an air of oldschool-ness to the sound, Monty Alexander doing pretty much the same with his piano. Nothing new here — the originals are right in line with the three covers — but no backward steps by the same token; with little effort, Anderson has put together a formidable go-to record for unhurried background bliss.
Grade: A- [Release Date: 9/25/2012]
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