Listening Notes, Ultra-Brief (Pt. 112)



Lobi Traoré, Bamako Nights: Live at Bar Bozo 1995     (Glitterbeat Records)

Before his death from heart failure at the age of 49, this Malian guitarist split his studio time between blues-drenched electric sets and solo acoustic exercises in austerity. Live, he was nearly always plugged in and backed by a tight rhythm section, as he is here in a recently unearthed appearance at his beloved Bar Bozo. The notes identify two newsworthy details - Traoré had recently purchased a flanger pedal, while Bar Bozo would be shut down by the authorities mere weeks after this set went to tape. And while there’s no suggestion the events were related, Traoré certainly raises a glorious racket. Introducing himself via a 9-minute solo electric number while the enthusiastic crowd hangs on his every word, things take off once his peerless bassist and multiple drummers glide into a Sly & Robbie groove on “Banani,” drop down into the slow stoner crawl of “Dunuya,” or bounce across the skipping tempo of “Dibi”. If you’ve already memorized every riff and boogie chillen stomp off Traoré’s other live recording, Bwati Kono “In the Club,” you may wonder how many more minutes of John Lee Hooker/Jimi Hendrix/Angus Young West African electric slop you need. You need more.

Rhys Chatham, Harmonie du soir     (Northern Spy)

One quick glance at the instrumentation behind these three extended works suggests little in the way of departure from the winning formula this guitar orchestrator made his name with decades ago - two features for electric guitar ensembles, plus one setting for horns. Yet on the horn front, Chatham’s clearly moved on from the wobbly minimalism of 1986’s “Waterloo, Number 2,” here firmly inserting a club-footed backbeat to slowly propel the massed trumpets, trombones, and flutes as they spiral off into rippling chordal voices, droning like bagpipes when they’re not simulating pipe organs. The 22-minute title track may incorporate both the repetitious layering of 1977’s “Guitar Trio” and the shimmering glissandi of Chatham’s epic hundred-guitar symphonies, but here the relatively lithe six-guitar team is encouraged to dart between speakers, coax sitar and banjo tones from alternate tunings, and at times sound like nothing other than Roger McGuinn caught in a perpetual run-out groove. And the revisitation of 1982’s “Drastic Classicism” is pure No Wave noise, complete with drummer going apeshit and periodic trumpet blasts serving as a hat tip to primeval white boy skronk cut “L.A. Blues”. Who needs new sounds when these are your old sounds?


Thelonious Monk, Paris 1969     (Blue Note)

Although this concert appearance was positively triumphant in comparison to the pianist’s previous Parisian visit - the disastrous 1954 debut in which a terrified and drunk headliner was practically booed offstage by bemused skeptics - this is not the Monk of legend. Columbia had no idea what to do with him, long-time saxophonist Charlie Rouse was sleepwalking his way through the changes, and both bassist Larry Gales and drummer Ben Riley had been swapped out in favor of teenaged replacements for a whirlwind Euro tour. Monk no longer twirled around the keyboard or dug his elbows into the ivory. As a songwriter, he was almost completely dried up. So don’t come looking for madcap genius. This is a decently recorded document of a fading master still tucking into his solos and proud of his back catalog, with a rapturous audience ready to applaud every old number and familiar intro. When friend and ex-pat Philly Joe Jones takes the stage to lend sticks to “Nutty,” you can still hear the old magic.


Billie Joe + Norah, Foreverly     (Reprise)   

The Green Day guy is mostly unrecognizable excepting the one time he staggers out from beneath his singing partner’s blessed harmonies (the first few verses of “Barbara Allen”). And those harmonies really are a treat, especially for anybody familiar with the 1958 Everly Brothers album this project copies note-for-note. But Phil and Don had genetics on their side - Billie Joe + Norah must need suffice with a few agency-arranged studio sessions. The Everlys also had the audacity to cover Bradley Kincaid and Gene Autry at the height of teen-pop stardom, whereas Billie Joe + Norah lack the gumption to even kick up the tempos or mess much with instrumentation. “Silver Haired Daddy Of Mine” and “Kentucky” do move along at a nice enough clip. Charming, sometimes lovely, and completely inessential.

Boogarins, As Plantas Que Curam     (Other Music)

Because this teenaged basement project hails from Goiania, which is a city in Brazil, you hear a lot of comparisons being made to Gilberto Gil, Tom Zé, and/or Caetano Veloso, since those three performers are also Brazilians. Sightly more informed researchers make reference to outfits like Tame Impala. But given this duo’s level of ineptitude and lo-fi fetishization, only ungainly hybrids seem appropriate - how about The Olivia Tremor Control meets Sentridoh?