Tuesday, August 15, 2017

3 from 1981: SIMON and BARD, ROBERT GORDON, GARLAND JEFFERYS

Musaic - Simon and Bard (Flying Fish) 

Fred Simon and Michael Bard, a pianist and multiple reedman respectively who ve been around the jazz scene virtually unknown the past few years, here emerge from relative obscurity with their first record Musaic, an effort that strikes me as an example of  playing-it-safe: the melodies are pleasant and draw on a number of recognizable sources, the rhythm section does its chores competently, and the solos display the requisite knowledge of technique. But, the music never takes chances.  Admittedly the skill level is high,  but Simon and Bard s insist on tilling styles that have been farmed  too long to less bountiful yields: their sources sound like an overly-familiar crossbreeding of Paul Winter, Oregon and Bruebeck: with a dash of Ellington thrown in for good measure - makes the stuff on Musaic merely run of the mill. Even Larry Coryell's appearance on the funk jam "Fancy Frog" fails to liven things up. The usually idiosyncratic guitarist sounds more than happy to merely cruise along with the flow of things, content to only dish out cliche blues licks and occasional fast runs instead of really pushing himself or anyone for that matter. Bear in mind, the music is not atrocious. It's nice and would make the ideal backdrop for when your mother was over for dinner. Otherwise, your time would be better spent catching up on your sleep, or staying up all night watching black and white movies highlighting big lizards devastating Japanese coastal cities. 

Are You Gonna Be The One--Robert Gordon

Image result for are you going to be the one robert gordonFor a number of years Robert Gordon has, in his own way, been trying to revive the spirit of rockabilly music. For all the sweat that's soaked his satin shirts because of his efforts, he's hardly scratched the surface of authenticity, let alone come close to the essence of , grease. The problem isn't Gordon's lack of vocal apparatus - his voice is impressively clear and demonstrates a better-than-average range - but rather that he too obviously relishes the. cliches of his chosen form. The title tune "Are You Gonna Be the One" has him affecting a low voice called from one of those baritone backup singers, and "She's Not Mine" is a ballad wherein he offers a fragile Presley-like falsetto (something in Elvis's singing that I never liked, all corn pone and no guts). Obviously the The Guardian list of syllogistic borrowings goes on, and throughout the album, Gordon sounds too exacting, with each phrase sounding as though he's practiced them through a tape recorder so he'd capture the right nuance; he never allows himself to truly mess with the format or defile the expectations of the potential audience. This leaves little to talk about, praise or condemn , really, and makes this more about his skill as an impostor than an artist who can revive styles from decades before his own.This is not the duty of an interpreter of a style. Though the comparison is tenuous, early rock and roll, like jazz, did have an element of spontaneity, and the magic of the best rockabilly was a kind of barely-contained craziness that was reflected both through the singer's voice and the near-anarchism of the band. Gordon comes across like a stand-up comic impressionist: a ' soon a the shock of recognition ion fades, Robert Gordon it's readily apparent that he's not the real thing. Gordon, however, does show promise in another style. "Standing on the Outside of Her Door" is a change of pace. a country and western ballad in the most maudlin sense. Gordon's voice sound comfortable for once, resonating, low and caressing as he milk every bit of tear-in-the-beer pathos from the lyrics, which are 0 sentimentally sticky they drip down on you like stereophonic tapioca. Not exactly my cup of tea - I would like to hear someone do some rockabilly that didn 't 'SOund like a rusty door hinge - but I might suggest t that Gordon shed his rolled up t- 13 shirt and buy an outfit from Nudies.

Escape Artist - Garland Jeffreys 
(Epic) 
Image result for escape artist garland jeffreysYou'd think that Garland Jeffreys' multiple-racial identity - strains of Puerto Rican and Afro-American twined with a strong immersion in the White culture of the Bronx - would enable him to devise a cross-cultural rock and roll fusion that would unify the variegated elements of the Big Beat into an exhilarating, cogent synthesis. Things being as they are, however, Jeffreys' never attained the heights critics have long predicted for him, nor the high water mark
aspirations he 's set for himself. Instead, he is a rather likable sort who can deliver, now and again, with a great song and remains naught but an interesting minor talent. Escape Artist, his most recent release, suffers less from Jeffreys' seemingly habitual confusing of identities. His cover of the Question Mark and the Mysterians oldie "96 Tears," is a delightfully tacky clone of the original version, with his voice sounding expressively sleazy against the farfisa organ. "Modern Romance " and "Christine" are straight forward as he deals with the problems of boy ·girl relationship. Some of the other rockers su~est the influences of Spnngsteen and Costello. Jeffreys, though, does again stumble .on his bad habits in his reggae numbers which sound as limp and washed out as they've ever been. His stabs at clarifying profundity, as in "Miami Beach," only tread the obvious polemics. What Jeffreys needs is a sense of irony, a demonstrations of some kind of street- sharpened wit that would reinforce his particular world view. Presently he seems like someone who tries a little too hard with the options in front of him. A little loosening of the music could make Jeffreys more comfortable with himself as a performer, and to us as listeners. B minus.


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