Monday, November 24, 2008

Widespread Panic: Live from Austin, TX

Written by Fumo Verde

If you can catch Austin City Limits, then do so for you may get a chance to see something like this. The band from Georgia plays an amazing show on a Halloween Night in 2000. This DVD will be a special one for the hardcore fans, for it features the late, great Michael Houser.

From what I’ve been told and have read, a Panic show is never the same nor do they play each song the same way, ever. Vic Chesnutt’s “Let’s Get Down to Business” starts out the show and gets everybody in the mood. This is followed by a Panic favorite “Ain’t Life Grand.” John Bell’s gruff voice fits Houser’s lyrics like a glove as the tempo quickens, such as life itself. “Space Wrangler” follows it, starting out with a Texas swing groove as the tale of child growing up is told. The beat of the tune turns into more of a rock jam for a bit then falls back into that tumbleweed groove it was showing in the beginning. Panic is known for doing this, taking the music and letting the tune find itself while the band comes along for the journey.

One of my favorites on this DVD was “Climb to Safety” with its energized guitar riffs. The bongo collaboration along with the drums gives this song a groove that had me tapping my feet. Add lyrics such as these: “Time will surely mold you/ into something you don’t like/ Get you runnin’ like a rabbit/ stick your finger in the dyke,” and I have found a new favorite song. This DVD also contains songs like “Casa Del Grillo,” J.J Cale’s “Travelin’ Light,” “Bear’s Gone Fishin’,” and “Porch Song.” This DVD contains eleven songs from a band that has no fear about trying new types of musical genres, even when they are on stage.

For someone who has only heard a few albums and would love to see Panic live, this is the closest I’ve come yet, and each time I hear them, I love their music more. My thanks to Austin City Limits for being one of the best live musical shows around that is still “Made in America,” and thanks from bringing us one of the most talented bands around, Widespread Panic.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Oscar Peterson - Live in '63, '64 & '65

Written by Fumo Verde

One of the most notable jazz trios of the ‘60s was the Oscar Peterson Trio. Elegance and professionalism accompany a friendship felt on stage. Peterson is one of jazz’s beloved artists and this DVD, Live in ’63, ’64, & ‘65, gives some insight as to why. Jazz Icons does it once again with a remarkable DVD that highlights three shows in the countries of Sweden, Denmark, and Finland where the weather might be cold, but the reception for the Peterson Trio was more than warm.

The first show was held in Stockholm, Sweden in April 1963. The film is clean and you can see the beads of sweat upon Peterson’s brow, though his work at the piano may seem effortless. He is playing passionately along with bassist and good friend Ray Brown and drummer Ed Thigpen. Both Brown and Thigpen are accomplished musicians themselves and it shows in the solos they play. The show starts off with “Reunion Blues” and as Peterson tickles the ivories Brown and Thigpen keep the beat, letting Peterson release his emotions. Yet, Peterson is also one for “ripping it up” like Rahsaan Roland Kirk or even Sonny Rollins. He plays it smoothly with a calmness that carries through his music. For the second set “Satin Doll” trumpeter Roy Eldridge steps in for a bit and gives the song soul. Both “But Not for Me” and “If Ain’t Necessarily So” are crowd-pleasers although the audience is never shown. “Chicago (That Toddling Town)” finishes off the set with Peterson playing hard on the keys while Brown and Thigpen feed off the energy Peterson is pumping out.

Holbaek, Denmark is where the second show takes place. In a little nightclub on May 2, 1964 Peterson and his band played to a full house in the round. Smoke fills the air as the lights beam down on the band. “On Green Dolphin Street” is on the set list and as I hear it, the song has a totally different feel to it than when played by Kirk or Rollins. Peterson’s version is slower and since the piano is the main player, the song has simpler feel to it. Peterson’s hands glide across the ivories as letting the notes take the crowd on a fantastic journey. His big intro opens the song with a whirlwind feel as Thigpen uses the cymbals adding an orchestral feel. The three men are positioned pretty close to each other making the group more intimate. By looking at one another, they can read each other and prepare for the changes, but you can also read the friendship they share with one another also, by the smirks and smiles each throws off. “Bags’ Groove” is the third song featured at this gig, and here is where Brown shows us what a bass player can do. He plays his stand-up with a passion most bass players wouldn’t reveal. Thigpen and Peterson get into his groove and the whole song makes the crowd go crazy when it’s over.

The third and final show is at the Cultural House in Helsinki, Finland played on March 23, 1965. The set list includes “Yours Is My Heart Alone,” “Mack The Knife,” and “Blues For Smedley.” Peterson opens with “Yours Is My Heart Alone” playing it at a much quicker tempo. This jolts Brown and Thigpen as they happily jump into his groove. The band is on a stage in front of the audience. Clark Terry comes out to play flugelhorn on “Mack The Knife” giving this jam its brass edge. He also plays trumpet on the next tune “Blues for Smedley,” adding that sweet brass pitch which has the crowd clapping for more. “Misty” and “Mumbles” round off the songs at the Cultural House and the crowd is screaming for more.

You can’t beat the DVDs that Jazz Icons brings to the table, and this one has to be one of my favorites so far. Again the liner notes are actually a small booklet giving the listener a background not usually talked about. A DVD like this is an open door to the history and magic that was the jazz scene in the ‘60s. For any lover of jazz this is a great disc and should be picked up as soon as possible.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Rahsaan Roland Kirk – Live in ’63 & ‘67

Written by Fumo Verde

I had no idea who Rahsaan Roland Kirk was and was curious as to why in the photo on the DVD cover this kat looked as if he had a whole brass band hanging around his neck. Well, it because he almost does. Kirk is one of those rare and talented individuals who mastered the art of playing a multitude of instruments, some he even created on his own.

This DVD showcases Kirk in three outstanding performances. Live in ‘63 & ‘67 starts out in Belgium and though it was recorded in the fall of 1963 for “Jazz Pour Tous,” it wasn’t broadcast until December of 1964. Kirk played within a quartet (and I call it that because I’m only counting bodies; if I were to count instruments, I would say that Kirk brought his orchestra) featuring bass player Guy Pendersen, drummer Daniel Humair, and Swiss- born pianist Georg Gruntz. The music seems to flow continuously with short, sharp quick edits from one band member to the next, highlighting the interaction between musicians.

Now, not only can Kirk play many instruments, he can play up to three at once. He isn’t the first artist to do this, but he is one of the masters. This kat hit every note with the sharpness of a samurai sword. It didn’t matter if he was playing his flute in “Yesterdays” or all three saxophones in “Three for the Festival” because his notes were right on and screaming. “Moon Song,” “Lover,” and “Milestones” ae also included in this set, which came on strong and ended in style.

The second of these three shows was my favorite. It was recorded for Rolando, a Dutch jazz show that took its name from one of Kirk’s compositions. The setting was a small smoky club in Amersfoort, Netherlands in October of 1963 giving the segment the feel of a live gig. You can see the patrons behind drummer Humair as the show opens from an upper balcony. Throughout the session, the video would cut to audience members during certain segments of solos or the whole band in a big full throttle jam, like in “Bag’s Groove” and “Three for the Festival.” The quartet is the same from the Belgium show and we can see why. Kirk feels comfortable these men in support. “Lover Man” and “There Will Never Be Another You” are also in this set. Once again Kirk impresses his listeners by his playing abilities.

The third show comes from the Kongsberg Jazz Festival in Norway during the summer of 1967, the Summer of Love. Here a different group backs Kirk: Ron Burton on piano, Alex Riel drums and Niels Henning Orsted-Pedersen on bass. The band is placed in front of the audience per the norm, and the camera work isn’t of the best quality, but the music is fantastic. Kirk picked “Blues for Alice,” a Charlie Parker song, to open up with and blew the crowd away. His soulful blasts of notes blended with the rhythm, giving way to a sweet jam that Bird himself would have loved.

Live in ‘63 & ‘67 showcases Kirk who has a sound all his own. A master musician who not only plays many instruments, some at the same time, but plays them all incredibly well. Oh, and did I mention that he is also blind? This man should be a hero to any young, up-and-coming jazz artists for what he has accomplished and how he took the jazz in his mind and transferred it to our ears. This is one of those finds that will catch your attention and open you up into a new sound of what jazz can be.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Ice-T: Live In Montreux

Written by Fantasma el Rey

Ice-T is truly a household name today with his acting spots in movies and on television, not to mention his role as icon of rap music and street toughness. Live In Montreux turns back the clock to 1995 when Ice-T had two major music projects burning bright. He had his established rap career and his fledgling and very controversial heavy metal band Body Count which made headline new with its “Cop Killer” ditty. On this two-disc DVD set we get to see Ice-T in full effect as a rap hustler spitting fire and Ice as he runs down a list of some of his best-known rap tunes.

Ice-T has a sound all his own, being able to deliver his lyrics with an aggressive attack while DJ Evil E drops mellow, funky beats behind him. It’s a combination that works well and has become Ice-T’s distinct style. Ice can move and command a crowd with the best of them getting in the audience’s face at points and calling them on their lack of enthusiasm. All the while he gets his words and his point across demanding to be heard without having to say, “hey, motherfuckers, look at me.” And the word “motherfucker” is one of his often-used favorites.

The Montreux set consists of many tunes off the Power album, which has been a favorite of mine for years. Yes, the under-aged Fantasma learned a lot from the New Jersey-born, Los Angeles-bred, former gang member/ pimp/street hustler and U.S. Army soldier turned rap-world icon. I learned the art of commanding your curse words and how to use them best in certain situations. Ice-T runs through such “Power” tunes as “High Rollers,” “I’m Your Pusher,” the title track, and the always fun “Girls L.G.B.N.A.F.” “High Rollers” and “Pusher” find Evil E laying down solid beats filled with funky guitar, bass, and horns sampled from ‘60s and ‘70s funk/soul classic such as Curtis Mayfield’s “Pusherman” and “Theme From Superfly.” And if you don’t know what “Girls L.G.B.N.A.F.” means, I’m not going to tell you. You’ve go to hear for yourself.

Other songs performed include tales of street life like his first hit “6 N The Morning” and “Peel Their Caps Back,” a violent tune about retaliation and its pointlessness as well as the autobiographical “I Ain’t New Ta This” and “That’s How I’m Living.” “Living” is a true autobiography in rhyme as Ice sets to lyrics and beats the story of his birth, upbringing, street life, military stint, and finally his climb to the top of the rap ladder.

Interesting in Ice-T’s live show is a thing he likes to call “Virtual Reality,” a bit in the show where “one minute you’re watching, the next you’re part of it.” Here Ice brings up four lads and gives them a chance to rock the mic and get the crowd moving. If they can’t, well Ice throws them back into the mob. A couple of kats do all right but the “winner” winds up making an ass out of himself and somewhat pissing off Ice and gets tossed back into the crowd.

Ice also calls on the ladies to come up and shake their “thang.” Hilarious for the fact that Ice and crew bust a move with the “bitches” before confessing that they all suck and need to get the hell off the stage. Ice then closes the set with a medley of his best-known tunes, “Original Gangster;” “New Jack Hustler” from the film New Jack City which he had a part in; and Colors, the title track from the movie of the same name.

Amusing and entertaining indeed. For seventy minutes Ice-T has the crowd in the palm of his hand and closes the show with a hint at the second half of his set: a performance with his rock/metal unit Body Count. But alas, my fiends, it is not to be as there is no performance on this disc by said unit. What makes the letdown complete is disc two’s “bonus footage” of Body Count in action. “Dis” two is packed with home movies of B.C. on stage filmed from backstage with shitty sound and bumpy shots, rounded out by behind-the-scenes home movies of Ice and B.C. making music videos for B.C. songs and messing around at Ice’s pad shooting hoops.

I was pissed at this point. The majority of the bonus footage would have been interesting if we had been shown the B.C. half of the Montreux show. Instead we get bad footage of a B.C. set from somewhere around 2003. Seriously, what the fuck is this about? Is a Body Count set coming soon with Ice-T bonus footage? I’d love to have the second half of the Ice-T set with Body Count. The Body Count live DVD should have the extras given here and this should be a single disc release. So other than disc two’s letdown Ice-T’s Live In Montreux is a good single disc by a rap master at the height of his game. Fans of all ages will enjoy seeing Ice-T perform and raise hell.