Tedeschi Trucks Band, “Made Up Mind” (Sony). It should surprise no one that this particular marriage – between his generation’s finest rock/blues guitarist, Derek Trucks, and fiery blues vocalist/guitarist Susan Tedeschi – would yield such a powerful musical meeting of the minds. Trucks and Tedeschi have assembled a dream team of contemporary players from the jam-band, blues and jazz domains in service of their bold fusion of blues, soul, R&B, gospel, folk and rock.
What might surprise some is the fact that “Made Up Mind,” the group’s second offering, is far less about the strength of the individual players than it is about the depth of the ensemble interplay and the quality of the songs.
Tedeschi is a powerhouse as a vocalist – she’s got the power of a Beth Hart and the range and nuance of a Bonnie Raitt – and Trucks works his agile slide guitar lines and finger-picked blues motifs in and around his wife’s snaky vocal melodies throughout this strong collection.
The tunes are bold and assertive, both in terms of lyrical content and band performance, and there’s not a dud among the bunch, though there are a few standouts – the brisk shuffle of the title tune, the gorgeous melodic underpinnings of the acoustic-based “Idle Wind,” the funky raunch of “Misunderstood,” and the defiant strut of “Whiskey Legs” among them.
One small quibble – the more overtly jazz elements and the Eastern/Indian modal leanings that informed Trucks playing in the Derek Trucks Band are pretty much absent from the Tedeschi Trucks Band sound. That’s a huge loss. But Trucks is an incredibly prolific artist, one with many outlets for his creativity, so surely, these “John Coltrane on slide guitar” elements will arise again somewhere down the line. ΩΩΩ½ (Jeff Miers)
Attacca Quartet, Fellow Traveler, The Complete String Quartet Works of John Adams (Azica Records). The Attacca Quartet has a big Buffalo connection. Its first violinist, Amy Schroeder, is from our town. (Her dad, Richard Schroeder, used to be a financial writer for The Buffalo News.) The word was out about Schroeder’s gifts before she left town for Juilliard, And over the last 10 years, the Attacca Quartet, which she and three schoolmates formed at Juilliard in 2003, has made a splash. The quartet is on the Buffalo Chamber Music Society series this season. They’ll be here Oct. 8.
“Attacca” means, in music, to attack something, with verve and gusto. The quartet certainly does that with “John’s Book of Alleged Dances,” a tongue-in-cheek set of 10 short dance pieces for an eggheaded audience that spotlight Adams’ sense of humor and creativity. Their endings are sharp and sculpted and each dance has its own distinct atmosphere. The first one, “Rag the Bone,” grabs you with its built-in percussion, giving it a sound like a rustic medieval dance. “Hammer and Chisel” sounds like a hammer and chisel. A few of these short pieces are on the group’s Buffalo program.
The two-movement String Quartet written in 2008 has a kind of minimalist, sawing, Philip Glass thing going on. It’s not as much fun as the “Alleged Dances,” but it’s a pleasure to hear the Attacca’s virtuosity, which shows in the music’s varied, carefully coordinated dynamics. I liked the breathless “Fellow Traveler,” which the Attacca premiered at the Kennedy Center in 2011. It has a breathless, jarring excitement, like the chase scene from a movie. ΩΩΩ½ (Mary Kunz Goldman)
Washed Out, “Paracosm” (Sub Pop). Paracosm is a term from psychology for a detailed fantasy world often created as a coping mechanism. In appropriating the word as the title of the second Washed Out album, Ernest Greene (a musician who, as a band, goes by the name of Washed Out) identifies one of the functions of his music: it’s escapist, daydreamy, abstract but vivid.
“Paracosm” is warmer and more inviting than 2011’s “Within and Without,” the album that helped define the chill-wave micro-genre. Greene expands his palette by using a live rhythm section and incorporating naturalistic details (birdsong, often) to flesh out the core of vintage synthesizers and electronics. His vocals are still gauzy and restrained, but the melodies are more assertive, especially on the tropical single “It All Feels Right” and the M83-like “All I Know.”
Some songs, like the aptly titled “Weightless,” slowly drift, but that’s a plus: they help make “Paracosm” an insular, pleasurable distraction. ΩΩΩ (Steve Klinge, the Philadelphia Inquirer)