Rating: 3 stars
You can’t say singer/pianist/songwriter Patricia Barber can do no wrong. No jazz singer has ever been more inappropriate for a disc of songs by and for Cole Porter than the singer whose neo-Kerouac, post-Waitsian lyrics and sonic explorations occupy a pop jazz stream of consciousness all her own. But it was such a huge mistake – such a total misunderstanding of her own gifts – that it was almost endearing, especially indicating so much ambition.
Her mature voice has a lot more vibrato and presence than it used to. If, in fact, you felt the necessity of comparing someone to Joni Mitchell or Ricki Lee Jones, Barber, on a much lower level, is probably closer than most.
Try “The Wind Song:” “Time may suddenly slip/the present may disappear/like the wake of a ship/the thing itself no longer here/ somehow sweetly alive/these ghosts that I inhale/the moon and I survive/ while the dearly dead prevail.”
Ambition, she’s got. Would you believe using a fellowship to write a song cycle based on Ovid’s “Metamorophosis?” This, then, is her least ambitious disc in a while and all the better for being so. (Even so, prepare yourself for a tossed-off reference to Werner Heisenberg.) In her own territory – not Porter’s or Ovid’s – she’s often rather stunning.
– Jeff Simon
Rating: 4 stars
Boston’s Dopapod is a road animal – a band that exists to play live, to tour and to grow collectively through constant performance. Bands like this – OK, most people call them jam-bands, which just plain doesn’t quite cover it, but whatever – don’t always excel in the recording studio, where the vibe that can make a live show transcendent is often very difficult to summon. Dopapod happily shatters such a notion with this new studio album, “Redivider,” follow-up to 2011’s excellent “Drawn Onward.” Like peers Umphrey’s McGee did with last year’s “Death by Stereo,” Dopapod has managed to distill its onstage awesomeness in the recording studio this time around.
Unquestionably, Dopapod boasts significant musical virtuosity. The four musicians are all serious players in their own right, and their ability to coalesce around supple grooves and build them into often staggering ensemble improvisations places the relatively young band among the best of the best. Those capabilities are certainly present throughout “Redivider,” but in this case, it’s the power of the compositions – whether they be a prog-pop opus like “Braindead,” or a more esoteric multimovement burner a la “My Elephant Vs. Your Elephant” – that oversees the heavy lifting.
At first blush, it’s guitarist Rob Compa who is intent on stealing the show here. His playing is thrilling and highly original, at times suggesting some sort of cross-hybrid culled from the styles of Larry Carlton with Steely Dan and Alex Lifeson with Rush. Compa’s playing on “Braindead” and “Bubble Brain” alone is enough to earn him the accolades of six-string fetishists like yours truly, so confident is its approach and eloquent its note choice.
That said, repeated listenings to “Redivider” reveal the true depth of Dopapod’s rhythm section – a frankly funky two-headed, four-armed beast comprised of bassist Chuck Jones and drummer Neil Evans. These guys keep things danceable, even when they’re excitably messing with the time signature and bending the collective dynamic to their (apparently considerable) will.
And then there’s keyboardist Eli Winderman, a multi-idiomatic powerhouse of a player who can blast out organ solos like a Blue Note veteran or get good and weird on the micro-synth with equal facility and conviction.
Here, all the pieces add up to something incredibly special. Dopapod is one of the most exciting live acts extant; Happily, “Redivider” more than lives up to that in-concert reputation. Grab this – the MP3 version is available for free download via Dopapod.com, where you can also purchase a hard copy of higher resolution recordings with artwork for $10 – and then head to Nietzsche’s on Feb. 9, where the band will be performing this material live.
Rock Candy Funk Party
We Want Groove
Rating: 3½ stars
From its cover art – an homage to Miles Davis’ classic funk-jazz double LP “We Want Miles” – to its hour-plus of burning funk grooves and solos set to interstellar overdrive position, the virtuoso supergroup Rock Candy Funk Party’s “We Want Groove” is a pure delight.
The brainchild of drummer, producer and Joe Zawinul alum Tal Bergman, RCFP also boasts the abundant skills of guitarist Joe Bonamossa, guitarist Ron DeJesus, bassist Mike Merrit and keyboardist Renato Neto, whose combined resume includes time served with the likes of Prince, Levon Helm, Tito Puente, Scott Henderson, Joe Pass and Black Country Communion.
“We Want Groove” is the sound of these magnificent musicians having a blast – subverting their seemingly limitless chops to the strength of the groove, leaving space for each other, listening closely and engaging in musical dialog, and then going for absolute broke when it’s time for them to solo. This is classic funk – think Herbie Hancock’s “Thrust,” with a dash of the Funky Meters, the first Earth Wind & Fire album, Bootsy Collins, the HeadHunters, and sure, even a subtle nod or two toward Prince.
With the lines between funk, jazz and the jam-band genre being so delightfully blurred at present, RCFP arrives at an opportune moment.
– Jeff Miers
Rating: 3 stars
Matt Herskowitz plays solo piano at a Montreal place called the Jazz Bar and Grill, which judging from what he plays is kind of upscale. Can’t he dress up a little? He’s pictured in this wrinkly shirt with an open collar.
Luckily his music has more style than his look. Dave Brubeck’s “Dziekuje,” ethereal and meditative, isn’t something you hear that often. Herskowitz explains that Brubeck wrote it as a homage to Chopin, and agrees that all pianists, no matter what their genre, owe Chopin big. Michel Petrucciani’s “Cantabile” has a quiet, infectious boogie beat that made me think of Vince Guaraldi.
Herskowitz plays a few originals. One song, a pretty ballad, comes from a musical he wrote based on the life and loves of artist Marc Chagall. Another is “Waltz in Moscow,” a dirge-like dance written when he was a contestant in the Tchaikovsky Competition.
Speaking of that competition, he clearly has classical chops. And good taste: A performance he gives of Schumann’s famous “Traumerei” isn’t as offensive as I worried it would be. Arrangements of Gershwin’s “But Not For Me” and “I’ve Got Rhythm” are inventive and bittersweet. I like how if you listen closely you can hear clinking glasses in the background.
– Mary Kunz Goldman