Pin It

CD Reviews 

Terence Blanchard Quintet and Orchestra

A Tale of God's Will: Requiem For Katrina

(Blue Note)

For almost two decades, Terence Blanchard has both recorded and toured with his jazz group and composed film scores for Hollywood movies. His new release, A Tale of God's Will: Requiem For Katrina, draws on both endeavors -- taking themes he wrote for Spike Lee's When the Levees Broke and Inside Man and putting them in a jazz context with his current band. The result is a sweeping, emotional work that shows off both his band and his and their compositions. This work is somewhat heavier and more complex than the previous albums Bounce and Flow. Its antecedent seems to be Blanchard's Malcolm X Jazz Suite, which drew from his soundtrack to the movie Malcolm X. God's Will has several slower, serious tunes referring to water such as "Wading" and "The Water." Both have an ominous yet beckoning pulse before the distinctive, plaintive tone of Blanchard's trumpet adds to the atmosphere. "The Water" almost has the same effect as the memorable cadence of the movie Jaws, but much less blatantly. Tunes like "Ashe" start out with the orchestra's violins, brass and woodwinds in classic soundtrack mode before giving way to both Blanchard's searching trumpet and composer Aaron Parks' piano. Saxophonist Brice Winston also puts in some nice solos in his song "In Time of Need," where his multi-note runs and noir-ish sound fit beautifully over the more relaxed pace of the rhythm section. Between these more contemplative tracks, shorter cuts such as "Ghost of Congo Square," "Ghost of Betsy" and "Ghost of 1927" are New Orleans-oriented pieces where Blanchard sounds vaguely like a traditional jazz player in his slurs and piercing high notes. Also, the rhythm sections moves more, especially with Kendrick Scott's use of the entire drum kit on the opening track "Ghost of Congo Square." These devices come to the forefront near the end of the record with Scott's quiet, martial drumming and Blanchard's trumpet peals in "Funeral Dirge." God's Will is an excellent, moving album that shows why Blanchard's work ranks with the best in the history of jazz. -- David Kunian

the subdudes

Street Symphony

(Back Porch/Manhattan)

This seventh studio release from the now almost 20-year-old New Orleans outfit is its third since re-forming after a long late-'90s hiatus, and its first since Katrina. The dozen tracks that make up Street Symphony have an unhurried ease; rich, complex grooves slide effortlessly together in a way that belies the group's longstanding creative partnership. It's a blend of sweetly ripe soul and California-style folk, with vocal harmonies that take equal influence from Crosby, Stills and Nash and the Temptations, for a sound that's at the same time comfortingly familiar and just quirky enough to stay fresh and engaging. Katrina hangs heavy over the lyrics, but the ever-lowercase subdudes hit the issue in an understated way, cutting subtly and close to the bone with narratives that tell individual stories to expose the larger picture. The countrified-ballad montage "Poor Man's Paradise" is a prime example -- the song is a camera panning lazily over Louisiana, zooming in on the wrenching losses and hard-kept joys of life after the storm. Producer George Massenburg has also worked with many artists from the '70s California folk-rock scene, including James Taylor, Little Feat and Randy Newman, who all blended R&B grooves with rootsy sounds; the result here is a record as smooth and shimmering as a country lake on a late summer's day, and just as deep. -- Alison Fensterstock

The Red Stick Ramblers

Made in the Shade

(Sugar Hill Records)

Nattily dressed Lafayette five-piece the Red Stick Ramblers has turned out a fourth deliciously eclectic jambalaya of stomp and swing that even further corroborates its rep as one of the finest purveyors of classic Cajun-influenced rhythms. The band mixes gypsy jazz, Western swing and honky-tonk and aims it at the dance floor. On Made in the Shade, the Ramblers have cannily blended influences and available talent. Members of the Pine Leaf Boys and Feufollet appear on the version of Belton Richard's classic "Laisse Les Cajuns Danser," which shares obvious roots with Fats Domino's "Let The Four Winds Blow." Elsewhere, the band draws from Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong and Clifton Chenier for covers. The disc runs the emotional gamut with tracks like the original mountain blues song "Katrina," which wrings bucketloads of energy and emotion out of banjo and fiddle. In contrast, the ambling track "The Cowboy Song" is as sweet and comforting as the gentle Willie Nelson country ballads it evokes. Made in the Shade hits streets Sept. 11. Previews of the Ramblers' masterful, mellow takes on Count Basie's classic swinging blues on "Evenin'" and the Bob Wills two-step "Don't Cry, Baby" are up on www.myspace.com/theredstickramblers. -- Fensterstock

click to enlarge cd-reviews-16000.jpeg
click to enlarge cd-reviews-16000.jpeg
click to enlarge cd-reviews-16000.jpeg
Pin It

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Submit an event

Latest in Album Reviews

Spotlight Events

© 2014 Gambit
Powered by Foundation