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Music Review: Quickies! Bruce Eisenbeil Sextet, Josh Roseman, Machan, Blackfield

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Does this ever happen to you: as soon as I listen to a record I acquired for the first time, I'm writing a review in my head. Sometimes there's so much to say, I've written what feels like War And Peace by the time it's all done. Other times, all I want to say about an album can be fully expressed in just a few sentences (or already fully expressed the way I view it by someone else).

Anyway, there's a backlog of new release CD's sitting here that I don't want to slip through the cracks of my consciousness as I move on to new listening adventures before I say a word or two about them, so Ol' Pico here is going to introduce a handy little mechanism designed to solve that problem: it's called, ta-da, "Quickies."

Think of this as sort of the opposite of "One Track Mind;" instead of a whole article devoted to one song, "Quickies" have only a couple of paragraphs devoted to an entire album. Sometimes, brevity is bliss.

The maiden version of Quickies runs from ear confection to ear infection (but blissed infection, natch). Let's get this series in — ahem — motion:

Machan Motion Of Love
Singer/songwriter Machan's resume reads like Cheryl Crow's before 1994; an in-demand backup singer for heavies like Sting, Pink Floyd, George Benson, Govt Mule, Pat Benatar and Hiroshima. And now, like Crow did back in '93, she seems to be making an earnest attempt at a solo career with her own material and at the front of the stage. How earnest, you ask? When you bring in guys like John Scofield, John Medeski, Randy Brecker and Steely Dan hired guns to make a record, you must mean business.

Machan's style of music can best be described as jazz-pop with a light Brazilian feel and the melodies are consistently catchy and intelligent, although the lyrics sometimes get a little cliché laden. Her voice isn't going to win an audition to The Manhattan Transfer, but it's quite soothing and sweet-sounding; most importantly her songs fit her singing style well. It remains to be seen if Machan's career ends up anything approaching Crow's, post-1994, but I can definitely find myself in the mood for this record more than most of Cheryl's. Basia left her fans stranded a dozen years ago; Machan's ship has arrived to pick up some of the survivors.

Mark Saleski's take on this CD is worth a read, if you are in need of a second opinion.

Blackfield Blackfield II
A lot of hay has been made of Porcupine Tree's 2007 release Fear Of A Blank Planet, and yes, I've joined in the fray. It's a solid effort from a band that hadn't stumbled much to begin with. But PT's leader Steve Wilson is just too talented to stand pat with Fear being his only contribution for this year. For the second time in about as many years, he's gotten together with Israeli singer/songwriter Aviv Geffen to collaborate on a more mellow, mainstream sounding album than Wilson's prog rock alter ego.blackfield1

The incredible thing is that "more mainstream" didn't mean any real drop off in artistic quality. The songs have distinguishable melodic lines that contains just enough turns and surprises to keep you continuously engaged. The production is meticulously Pink Floydian, the vocals are superb and the choruses just soar. It's really as close to a flawless mainline rock record you will find that's come out this year.

For a fuller review of Blackfield II, go get the whole story from Glen Boyd's well-written article on this fine release.

Josh Roseman New Constellations
I remember trombone player Josh Roseman from his notable appearance on my favorite Charlie Hunter album. He had a certain sass in his sound that stood out and made me think he wasn't content with being a run-of-the-mill bone player. But that thought never got much further until I got a chance to check out Roseman's own newest release.

It's a live recording of a bone player-led band mixing up jazz with high-tech electronic tricks and mish-mashing other kinds of music (here, it's reggae, avante garde and live dub). Sound familiar? Think of an island-oriented take on Robin Eubanks' excellent Live, Vol. 1. A wonderfully abstract "Olsen Twins Subpoena" and two mixes of a cover of the Beatles' "I Should Have Known Better" turned on its head are among many highlights.

Like Eubanks' latest offering, it's one of the more creatively different jazz records I've heard recently. Did someone decide 2007 was going to be the Year of the Trombone? It sure seems like it.

Bruce Eisenbeil Sextet Inner Constellation, Volume 1
Evidently, the word "constellation" in your CD title means you're gonna stretch people's ears. But while Roseman does it with trippy reggae-jazz, Eisenbeil gets it done with good old fashioned free (read: whack) jazz. Eisenbell is clearly influenced by that godfather of free form guitar, Derek Bailey, but avoids the clone label by actually scoring his music ahead of time and having the players "create" the music itself as it unfolds in the recording of it. A former member of Cecil Taylor's band, he adapted Taylor's late '70s sextet concept using his guitar as the leading instrument instead of piano.

The violin, trumpet, bass, alto sax and drums all take turns to improvise after a new theme in the extended composition is announced The main composition itself is arbitrarily divided up into 27 tracks, presumably at points where the listening can quickly get to critical points of the song. Three, softer "wind-down" tunes finish out the set. This band is probably doing a lot more than what I'm able to pick up with my own ears, but it is fresh, spontaneous and purposeful. Well, at least as purposeful as free jazz gets.

"Quickies" are mini-record reviews of new or upcoming releases. Some albums are just that much more fun to listen to than to write about.

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  • love that Eisenbeil…what a strange guitar sound.