A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)

A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Oct 08, 2015  |  0 comments
Now here’s a download to divide the jazz purists. On this album Sheppard’s Trio Libero set-up of bassist Michel Benita and Sebastian Rochford is joined by Elvind Aarest on ‘guitar and electronics’, suffusing much of the music here with underlying drones and washes of sound, in a kind of ‘jazz meets ambient’ mixture. It’s a tribute to both the (typically ECM) quality of the recording and the ability of all the musicians that this doesn’t just become a mush of sound, although those more used to hearing their traditional jazz combos crisp and clean may find the amalgam somewhat less than satisfying. That’s especially so on a track like ‘Aoidh, Na Dean Cadal Idir’, where the electronic layers often threaten to rise up and overwhelm the acoustic instruments, but to these ears the combination is both intriguing and highly effective.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Oct 08, 2015  |  0 comments
Hey, guess what? This sounds just as you’d expect from James Taylor – warm, charming, folksy in instrumentation, vocals and lyrics, and above all wistfully, reassuringly – well, James Taylor. As he sings on ‘You And I Again’, ‘I can’t escape this feeling/That we’ve been this way together, you and I’, anyone expecting something revolutionary will be sorely disappointed. But then this mix of fine performances and closely-observed recordings is the perfect milieu for what is both Taylor’s first new work for well over a decade and an unashamedly nostalgic look back over his life. Yes, he still has the ability to challenge, as he does on ‘Far Afghanistan’, but even this is hardly breaking new ground.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Sep 01, 2015  |  0 comments
Knopfler’s eighth solo album mixes rock, Celtic and country influences, and more than a measure of introspection, providing a ‘spot the reference’ game for the casual observer and fans alike. There’s more than a hint of Local Hero here and there – well, quite a lot actually – and his homage to Beryl Bainbridge is pure ‘Sultans Of Swing’, unlikely though that sounds. Inspired by his time touring with Bob Dylan – notably in ‘Silver Eagle’ – this is Knopfler as storyteller, from Bainbridge to poet Basil Bunting, whom he met when he was a copy boy on the Newcastle Evening Chronicle. Trouble is, Knopfler’s writing, scoring, and performance are so distinctive that it can sound like there’s not much new here, even though the sound quality of the stripped-down recording is gorgeous.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Sep 01, 2015  |  0 comments
If perchance you woke up this morning and thought to yourself ‘Y’know what? The one thing really missing from my music collection is a jazz bass solo cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”’, then here’s just the album for you. If not, then you’ll be pleased to know that track is one of very few misfires on this set by bassman Ben Williams – well, along with the over-rapped and insubstantial ‘Toy Soldiers’ immediately after it. Otherwise this is a tightly-recorded, fine-sounding package. It’s a bass-player’s album, which means the instrument is prominent in the clean, crisp mix, but fortunately Williams is a very fine, very expressive player, as is the band with which he’s surrounded himself here, whether on the harder-hitting cuts or the more lyrical tracks.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Sep 01, 2015  |  0 comments
The third album from 23-year-old British blues guitarist Jones opens with a bang, as the band slams into ‘What’s It Gonna Be’, and from there on in the pace doesn’t let up until the closer ‘Stop Moving The House’, taking in along the way a duet with Sandi Thom on the more reflective ‘Don’t Look Back’, and Jones’ labelmate Dana Fuchs deploying her considerable pipes on a cover of ‘Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love’. As a vocalist Jones is an excellent guitarist, and while this album isn’t the last word in subtlety, being more about slam, drive and soaring guitar solos, while the occasional downbeat track sounds rather too AOR, it does its job effectively enough. The rhythm section has real weight and drive, while Jones’ guitar powers out of the mix just as you might hope it would. But somehow I still can’t help hearing the opening of ‘Evil’ and thinking ‘Devil Gate Drive’… AE Sound Quality: 80% Hi-Fi News Lab Report Keen though I am to promote this album’s charitable association, the content itself is evidently compromised.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Aug 01, 2015  |  0 comments
94kHz/24-bit WAV, Linn Records AKD531 (supplied by www. linnrecords. com) This session came about by public demand – in between touring with her bands, Emily Barker was also playing solo acoustic shows of songs old and new, and kept being asked whether these versions of her catalogue were available to buy. As a result, she went into London’s Toerag Studios, known for its use of vintage equipment, along with producer Liam Watson, and recorded this live-to-tape, no edits set, accompanied only by her guitar and harmonica.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Aug 01, 2015  |  0 comments
Cassandra Wilson will need no introduction to most audiophiles as the singer is a demonstration-room favourite, and it’s not hard to hear why in this latest album – Wilson’s homage to Billie Holiday. Wilson’s voice is close-focused and centre-stage, and the instrumentation captured with every detail intact, from the sparse backing to ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’ to the cinematic orchestra on ‘Strange Fruit’. The roster of musicians is also pretty impressive: production is by Nick Launay, T Bone Burnett adds guitar, and Van Dyke Parks wrote the string arrangements. And yet there’s something oddly one-note here as too many of these standards sound slow and mournful, while the Bond-esque orchestra on ‘Strange Fruit’ is at odds with the subject matter.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Aug 01, 2015  |  0 comments
Like Cassandra Wilson’s Coming Forth By Day [reviewed here], this album marks the centenary of Billie Holiday’s birth – and while one might expect James’s voice to be less well suited to the music most associated with the singer than Wilson’s, in fact exactly the opposite is true. Whereas Wilson’s set sounds mannered and highly constructed, James’s has a more sincere feel to it, not least due to the relaxed interplay between his voice, Jason Moran’s piano, John Patitucci on bass and Eric Harland’s controlled, expressive drumming. The band sounds tight and intuitive – listen to the bluesy opening of ‘Fine And Mellow’ to appreciate that – and the perfect foil for James’s warm, rich voice. At the risk of labouring the point, this album’s gospelly, plaintive take on ‘Strange Fruit’ moves in a way Wilson’s widescreen epic reading entirely fails to.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jul 01, 2015  |  0 comments
See what they did with the album name? Hmmm – but obvious title aside, this is a striking set, combining the talents of guitarist Young with the piano of Marcin Wasilewski (whose trio also contributes bass and drums) and saxophonist Trygve Seim, to form a quintet clearly locked together and understanding each other’s every move. It works well, from the reflective opener, ‘I Lost My Heart to You’, through to the rather more upbeat ‘Bounce’, for which Young swaps acoustic for electric – and an electric with a lovely hollow-bodied tone – and the changing paces of 1970. The appeal is extended by a typically up close and personal ECM recording, though at times it does seem a little ‘hot’, with a bit too much sax breathiness and cymbal splash. However, it’s always interesting and involving, and the musicianship on offer here is peerless.
A. Everard (Music); P. Miller (Lab)  |  Jul 01, 2015  |  0 comments
I guess when you get to your 12th studio album you might be forgiven for running out of steam a bit, but this latest package from jazz diva Diana Krall has been received with somewhat mixed reviews, since its belated release due to the singer/pianist’s illness. It’s a bit of an oddity, comprising mainly of ’70s ballads by the likes of Randy Newman, The Carpenters and Elton John, and with not much sign of the piano fireworks Krall has brought to bear on some of her previous outings. It may be the familiarity of so much of the material, or that these new recordings don’t bring too much we didn’t already know, but this does seem something of an exercise in treading water. Even a new song by Paul McCartney doesn’t help much, a duet on Georgie Fame’s ‘Yeah Yeah’ is only 50% successful(!) and, while the sound is workmanlike, even that doesn’t really stand out.

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