The jazz-funk side project now also includes vibraphonist/percussionist Mike Dillon, and it has just released its third album, Outre Mer (Telarc), that purports to be the soundtrack to an unseen French film by Klaus Tontine. The film may an elaborate conceit -- there are no references to Tontine or his movie online except for those in reviews of this record -- but the result is entertaining in any case. Hunter's guitar percolates, defining chord structure while providing a rippling undercurrent beneath Skerik's melodic sax lines. Dillon's vibes switch around, following Hunter in part of a track, then doubling Skerik's statement of a track's theme soon after. Moore's drums work in much the same way as Hunter's guitar, setting up a rolling groove that he subtly deviates from, but his parts are never showy.
Some tracks vary from this dynamic, most obviously on "Bear No Hair." Hunter's guitar recalls the theme to Peter Gunn, and the piece remains in that '50s crime jazz mode, complete with a lengthy, slow-burning solo by Skerik. It's one of the few occasions when any of the four steps out for a solo in so obvious a way; more often, they solo in brief bursts that are integrated into the composition.
One of the pleasant surprises of Outre Mer is that the bandmates put the project ahead of themselves. No part stands out because the pieces aren't solo or star-oriented. Skerik's sax often seems like the lead instrument, but that's more because of the nature of the horn than the nature of the pieces. If anything, the album could stand a little more selfishness and a couple of more solos to put the CD's cool grooves in a little more relief.
While you're watching the karaoke contest that is Rock Star: INXS, check out INXS's What You Need: The Video Hits Collection (Rhino DVD) and imagine if any of the jobbers that Brooke Burke comically refers to as "rockers" could star in these videos. Despite some woefully dated haircuts, the late Michael Hutchence was far more charismatic and interesting than any of these cover band refugees. If someone is looking for a drinking game, see who can survive drinking a shot every time Burke uses some variation on the word "rock" and the phrase "rock supergroup INXS."
Surrounded by a few hundred people, the Radiators' Ed Volker played a solo piano version of "Junko Partner," one he later said he recalled hearing Big Chief Jolly play. It was a radical revision of the song, giving the verse a "New York, New York" feel and almost abandoning the bass end of the keyboard. The abrupt bridge echoed '50s jazz theme music for crime movies before returning to the "New York, New York" mode. He segued from that into a very New Orleans take on Johnny Cash's "Delia's Gone," replacing Cash's forced starkness with a complex, elegiac tone.
The show wasn't at House of Blues or Tipitina's as you might expect. Instead, it was at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, which has been hosting Thursday happy-hour shows for more than a year now. Some highlights of the last year are now available on After Hours Live, Vol. 1 (Ogden), including performances by James and Troy Andrews, Little Freddie King, Theresa Andersson and Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, among others. Most artists played with stripped-down lineups to accommodate the acoustics of the Ogden's atrium, so the shows are often variations on the performances they play in clubs. James Singleton's "Where Where Is" is taken from an Ogden appearance that marked the debut of his trio.
The shows also include interviews with the artists (full disclosure: Gambit Weekly contributors Jason Berry, David Kunian, John Swenson and I are among the interviewers), and conversations range from Mark Mullins talking about the challenge that trombone players face trying to play in tune, to Little Freddie King telling tall tales about learning to play the blues in the Mississippi Delta. The CD also includes excerpts of interviews with Brown, Jonathan Freilich and Walter "Wolfman" Washington, among others. The catch? The CD is only available as a premium for joining the Ogden.
For reviews of CDs by Ray Charles, George Jones, Belle and Sebastian, Abdel Wright and more, see Opening Act 2 online.