James and Troy Andrews
12 and Shorty
The new album from trumpeter James Andrews and trombonist Troy Andrews, 12 and Shorty deftly mixes the traditional and contemporary jazz and funk of the Crescent City. The brothers' recording combines the best of a polished "Uptown sound" with the "downtown street" feel. It's in everything from the sassy-brassy "Bourbon Street Parade" with its down-home scatting (featuring James Andrews' raspy vocals) through a very funky "Liza Jane" with guests Dr. John and Cyril Neville contributing verses, tambourine and Fender Rhodes piano, and up to the bouncy "Georgia" with its breezy solos.
One of the album's pleasures is how well the Andrews brothers play together. Troy's trombone melodies behind James' voice, and their jointly improvised lines, complement each other like musical brothers should. Their playing recalls the way Louis Armstrong and Kid Ory weaved their lines on the Hot 7 and Hot 5 recordings, but without the frantic energy and with the benefit of good, modern sound.
Finally, this recording contains another great Mardi Gras song, "Zulu King." This cut embodies the vibe of Mardi Gras Day with Donald Harrison's snake-like saxophone sneaking behind Big Chief Monk Boudreaux's Indian chants about the Zulu King's adventures. Troy's riffing on the brass instruments here is controlled, but only just enough. The track sounds like a pot of water about to boil. This song as well as the entire CD is a great addition to the canon of New Orleans music, and it exhibits the growing talents of both brothers. -- David Kunian
Legendary producer (and musician) Jerry Teel, whose street creed springs from work with Dan Melchior, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Boss Hog, recently moved his Funhouse Studios to New Orleans. Lucky us. Also lucky him that his first project was this full-length debut. Over the past couple of years, the trio has filled the opening slot for acts including Quintron and the Fall with high-intensity rock 'n' roll. The hard-and-fast chaos that makes a brilliant rock show often translates poorly in the studio, and it's here that Teel's touch works some magic. Static Vision is clean without being sterile and retains the live intensity without sounding sloppy.
Though the group has been occasionally lumped under the garage-rock umbrella, (drummer Keith Herrera once supplied beats for Albuquerque rockers, the Drags) it's a harder sound to put a finger on than that. "Ray Man" is all trashy blues swagger, but rhythm guitarist John Henry's Telecaster hybrid bass/guitar device adds a more futuristic, glam-punk sound on tunes like "#1 Hit," and Julian Fried (both formerly of the local Rock Antagonist Sex Hunter) can be accused of channeling a little bit of damaged, danceable Johnny Thunders action.
All in all, it's a grown-up record from a band with the attitude of a teenage street gang. Good production, solid band chemistry and simple but essential touches like local belter Marcy Hesseling's rich backing vocals make it tight, but the most important ingredient is the genuine, audible commitment to keeping rock 'n' roll dangerous. -- Alison Fensterstock
The Beat Suite
Steve Lacy, who died June 4 at age 69, was best known as the first modern practitioner of the soprano saxophone, the sole bridge between Sidney Bechet and John Coltrane -- and as the greatest exponent of Thelonious Monk's catalog, an honor bestowed by Monk himself.
Lacy's greatest accomplishments may well have been in the tricky multi-media world of combining music with other art forms including sculpture, but most particularly text. He and his wife, vocalist Irene Aebi, collaborated on a number of unique word/sound pieces over the years, including texts by Lao Tzu, Samuel Beckett, Buckminister Fuller, Herman Melville, Kurt Schwitters and Taslima Nasrin. With more than 300 recordings to his credit and many unreleased performances still lurking somewhere out there, it's unlikely that we've heard the last of Lacy, but his final fully developed studio project, The Beat Suite, is a fitting epitaph to this relentlessly creative artist's career.
Lacy fashioned music to the words of beat icons Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Gregory Corso and several others, and the choices are significant in that one or the other knew each of the poets personally. Aebi designed ingenious articulations that maximized the incantatory effect of the words' new melodies. Her operatic range enables her to mimic the occult combination of chromatic surprise and stark simplicity in Lacy's soprano playing, which shares the sense of gravity-defying construction that characterized Monk's work. Listen closely as she awakens each word with new life. You can imagine Aebi bringing their joint vision forward just as her partner husbanded Monk's when she sings Ginsberg's line "the weight we carry / is love." -- John Swenson