Kim Prevost and Bill Solley
Just in Time
On a version of "Them There Eyes" from Kim Prevost and Bill Solley's handsomely packaged new CD, Just in Time, Solley is at his athletic finest. Playing his trademark seven-string guitar, he not only sounds like a full band, but he does it without sacrificing his soloing function. He mixes fleet single-note runs and quick, smart chords, all the while backing himself by thumb-popping the bass string. Prevost doesn't try to follow Billie Holiday's lead, starting with a scat vocal over the opening bars. She treats her voice as an instrument, functioning much like a saxophone, then phrases certain lines with a warmth and sensitivity that recalls Anita Baker.
Nothing else on Just in Time is as showy as that track, but it encapsulates the charms of this husband-and-wife jazz duo. Prevost slides effortlessly between elegant, formal jazz vocalizing and soulful R&B singing. Solley emulates a band without getting lost in the technique. Quibblers could take issue with the album dwelling on the standards songbook as much it does -- the Beatles' "Hard Day's Night" is the most outre cover -- but the standards have become standards for many reasons, their durability being just one of them. Prevost and Solley bring a warm idiosyncrasy to their versions, more than justifying another pass through the classic songbooks.
More than that, though, Just in Time is the sound of a couple playing and singing together not just to make music, but simply to have fun together. -- Alex Rawls
The Other Planets
The Other Planets' song "Hector Detector" may become the anthem of every New Orleans musician who doesn't play funk, jazz or lead a brass band. Pinging electronic percussion kicks off the track, then a crunchy bass saxophone creates a seesaw groove that even a head banger could appreciate. Anthony Cuccia, the leader of the group, sings the progressive musician's blues: "Frenchmen Street and nobody cares / The Dragon's Den has got such excellent players / They play a million notes and everybody just stares."
Discrete Manipulations is an unexpected mix of electronic beats, pop melodies, saxophones and samples. While there is nothing radio-friendly about the Other Planets, the group's music sounds more hyperactive than dissonant. "Will You Adhere?" is almost a sing-along, except that the lyrics are barely intelligible. "How's McFatter Doing?" might be the background music at a swank lounge in the next century. The first few bars of "Living in Harmony" start with a buzz-saw funk riff, but the song quickly exchanges the surging beat for spacey atmospheric noise. The unusual instrumentation -- synthesizers, guitars, drums, bass saxophone and vibraphone -- lets the Other Planets jump between genres without ever getting stuck in a single one.
Experimental groups often sound self-indulgent. A healthy dose of humor, however, keeps Discrete Manipulations from ever feeling like a chore. While lamenting the fate of New Orleans musicians, Cuccia raps, "To sell a record here you have to dance a f--king jig." The Other Planets won't be dancing for their fans, but this strange album certainly deserves some buyers. -- Todd A. Price
Randy Sandke and the Inside Out Band
About five years ago, there was a stir in the trad jazz world: hitherto unknown -- and rather unusual -- Jelly Roll Morton scores from musician/biographer William Russell's collection had been excavated and performed by, among others, a band led by New Orleanian Don Vappie.
Now the most interesting of the pieces, "Ganjam," has been released commercially for the first time by New York trumpeter/composer Randy Sandke and his Inside Out Band. Morton wrote it to compete with the big bands of the day, and on this level the music does not succeed. Compared to contemporary charts by Ellington, Goodman and the other swing-era masters, it's a thin bit of orientalia. And yet, it's so unlike anything else Jelly Roll Morton did that it's fascinating. Every Morton lover needs to hear this.
Morton's "Ganjam" and Sandke's updated arrangement of the same piece open and close the CD. In between you have an abundance of humor. He uses odd sonic qualities such as Theremin, and employs gurgling bass saxes and outrageously pyrotechnical trombone playing, all for songs with titles such as "Ornette Chop Suey" and "Mobius Trip."
Sandke and his high-class company (including Ray Anderson, Ken Peplowski, Wycliffe Gordon and Uri Caine) can cover a lot of jazz repertory, but they stay at the modern end of their spectrum here. This is challenging music, but the comedy leavens the severity. With composing and playing like this, Sandke should be a household name among jazzers. -- Tom McDermott