Thursday, June 28, 2012

CDs of Note - Short Takes

Taking a closer look at new CDs from La Lucha, The Black Butterflies and The ABC & D of Boogie Woogie....
La Lucha, La Lucha (self-produced) How do you help make jazz appealing to general, non-jazz audiences? Try covering material that young people are familiar with. That’s the approach of the St. Petersburg FL-based trio La Lucha is taking with its second CD. The trio members – pianist John O’Leary, bassist Alejandro Arenas and drummer Mark Feinman – are joined on select tracks by singer Jun Bustamante and saxophonist Austin Vickrey. The band's CD release concert is this Saturday in St. Petersburg. 

The covers include The Beatles’ B-side tune “I’m so tired,” the punk band No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak” by Gwen Stefani, Brian Wilson’s “Don’t Talk,” Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi,” the Norwegian pop group A-ha’s “Take On Me” and the Britney Spears hit “Oops… I Did It Again.” There’s also a standard jazz fare cover here: “Stella By Starlight,” as well as two originals. The latter are the Arenas-Feinman collaboration “La Migra,” and Arenas’ composition “Troublesome.” Bustamante adds her dark vocals to the Lennon/McCartney opener and the Brian Wilson and A-ha tunes. Vickrey shines on “La Migra” and “Stella,” which is a strong jazz romp for the band in this CD, a follow-up to 2009’s A Cup of Fuzzy Water.

La Lucha may be onto something with its bridges from pop to jazz and Latin jazz. St. Pete’s American Stage Theatre Company commissioned the trio to arrange the music of The Rocky Horror Show for jazz trio and vocals for local performances this year.

The Black Butterflies, Black Butterflies: Rainbows for Ramon (self-produced)
Saxophonist Mercedes Figueras is the driving force behind The Black Buttterflies, and drive she does. The band and its resulting music are an eclectic blend of jazz, Latin jazz, world music and the avant garde with an energy that would settle in comfortably on the jam band scene as well. The band features Figueras, a New York-based native of Argentina, and Tony Larokko on saxophones, Nick Gianni on acoustic bass, Levi Bancourt on piano, Bopa “King” Carre on bongos, Fred Berryhill and Kelly Wollesen on percussion and Karl Berger on vibes and melodica. The Berger connection is not surprising, since Figueras also plays in the composer’s orchestra. The most intriguing tracks here are Berger’s “Together,” the title track, which Figueras wrote for her young son, and an exotic take on the old warhorse “Summertime.” There’s also a wild run through Pharoah Sanders’ “Lumkili.”

The ABC & D of Boogie Woogie, Live in Paris (Eagle)
If you hear boogie woogie anymore, it generally is from solo piano practitioners. But this modern take, recorded at Duc Des Lombardes jazz club in Paris in September 2010. The ABCD in the band title refers to the first names of the band members, not the alphabet. The two-piano quartet includes Axel Zwingenberger and Ben Waters on keyboards, Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts and bassist Dave Green. The 14 tunes here include some blues, some standards, some originals and the aforementioned boogie woogie (such as “Bonsoir Boogie!,” “Duc De Woogie Boogie,”  and “Roll ‘Em Pete.” The rollicking boogie woogie style is always in the thick of their approach to the tunes, even on “(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66.” There is a lot of fun here, and that week in Paris must have been a ball. Bob Seeley, who is regarded as America's finest solo boogie-woogie player, sat in with the band this past week as part of Lincoln Center's Midnight Summer Swing series and at  the Iridium jazz club in New York. Singer Lila Ammons, grandaughter of late jazz saxophonist Gene Ammons, also guested at Iridium.

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