Scott Neumann Neu3 Trio, Blessed (Origin Records)
Neumann’s drummed for the Woody Herman Orchestra and Jack McDuff, and dabbled in fusion with his Osage County project, but here he’s committed to stripped-down sideways swing, with compatriot and ex-Lounge Lizard saxist Michael Blake adding a touch of r&b scream to the leader’s nine originals and one gutbucket Roswell Rudd cover. Both drummer and bassist Mark Helias take their solo bows, but it’s Blake who’s all over this joint, whooping and hollering around his mouthpiece like Rahsaan Roland Kirk on Rudd’s “Keep Your Heart Right” or fluttering his soprano over the flowing bass and rippling groove of “Ama Dablam”. The melodica-enhanced minor key of “Garbanzo” and soft exploration of “Brothers” means it’s a somewhat slow finish. So good thing the trio ends with the joyous “The Syracusian,” Blake channelling Dewey Redman/Archie Shepp while Neumann drinks deep from the “Yes We Can Can” well.
Christian McBride Trio, Out Here (Mack Avenue)
This trio date starts off a bit muted, rather trad. in a Red Garland / Oscar Peterson vein, although pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. aren’t playing cocktail jazz. There’s plenty of blues and gospel, including a strutting opener entitled “Ham Hocks and Cabbage” credited to the leader even if it sounds like something Ramsey Lewis might have tossed off back in the mid-60s. But while those soul jazz flourishes help spice up a too-slow first half (the Wayne Shorter bossa nova of “I Guess I’ll Have To Forget” excepted), a solid five-track finish is heralded by the surprise arrival of a tempo-bursting “My Favorite Things,” with Sands deserving credit for avoiding McCoy Tyner-isms without strain. Then, two more warhorses, “Cherokee” (alternating between speed bop and waltz time) and the love song of Lun Tha and Tuptim (a cello-heavy “I Have Dreamed”), before slamming it home with noted jazz composer Johnnie Taylor’s “Who’s Making Love”. In the final moments, McBride allows himself a “shake your booty” or two, intoned as one with his own bass groove. It’s quite the set closer.
Barney Wilen, Moshi Too (Sonorama)
French bebopper, biggest break was playing with Miles Davis on Ascenseur pour l’échafaud in 1957, much later grew hip to Pharoah Sanders even while keeping an ear on electric revolutions. These tapes were taken from an abortive 1969/70 trip to Africa, in which a plan to finance a film project on pygmy culture turned into Wilen jamming with friends and making field recordings of the locals. Some excerpts found their way onto 1973’s Moshi, a now-deleted slice of global jazz, but this, we’re told in the liner notes, is the motherlode. And it’s ok - groovy world beat in that specifically heady late-60s way. Wilen and co. sometimes smoke like Live/Evil, from the loping funk of “Wah Wah” to the Victor Uwaifo-soundalike guitarist on “Leave Before The Gospel” to the utterly sui generis “Zombizar Reloaded,” which sounds like Coltrane-flavored garage/psych complete with kalimba and girl chorus. And some of it is goop, especially the sax/synth “Serenade For Africa,” which weaves its solemn kitsch for an endless thirteen minutes.
Bill Callahan, Dream River (Drag City)
In which the man who was once Smog emotes “I’ve got limitations / Like Marvin Gaye”. It’s true, though - the best joke here starts out “Some people find the taste of pilgrim guts to be too strong”. Wait, you don’t wanna hear the punchline?
Colours Of Funk Vol. 2: More From The German Sound Library of Golden Ring & Happy Records 1975-1982 (Sonorama)
How freaking hard up for the funk do you need to be to spring for a second volume of German television and radio production music? If Frank Pleyer or Klaus Weiss might be your Clyde Stubblefield, by all means sample these “17 unreleased signature sounds in a wicked jazz-funk-cosmic-latin-boogie style.” But that’s a whole lotta words for what is essentially James Last with wah-wah. And sometimes there isn’t even any wah-wah.