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Henry Butler PiaNOLA Live

(Basin Street Records)

Pianist Henry Butler has issued roughly 10 albums in a 25-year recording career, including blazing jazz with Jack DeJohnette and Charlie Haden and whimsical blues-funk with Snooks Eaglin and Corey Harris. Up until now, his best album was Blues and More, Vol I, a solo studio recording made in 1992 for Dancing Cat. Butler has just topped that album with PiaNOLA Live, his first live solo album. Culled from shows over the last 20 years, it yells one thing loud and clear: The best way to hear Butler is alone at the keys. Like Art Tatum or Dave McKenna or James Booker, Butler is a one-man band and an often stupendous one. This album also was " not coincidentally " produced by Dancing Cat's George Winston, and every track is a winner. They show Butler's gift for extravagant polyrhythm, puckish humor, surprise at himself for the chances he's taking and heart-rending vocals. If you've ever been overwhelmed by a live Henry Butler performance (as almost everyone who has heard him has been), this album will bring back great memories. " Tom McDermott Irvin Mayfield and Ellis Marsalis Love Songs, Ballads and Standards

(Basin Street Records)

Love Songs, Ballads and Standards plays to both Irvin Mayfield and Ellis Marsalis' strengths, and their efforts are rewarded on this emotional yet restrained album. Their choice of songs has a great range from standards such as Ellington's 'In a Sentimental Mood" to underplayed compositions like Bill Lee's 'Mo' Better Blues" to pop tunes like Jessie Harris' hit for Norah Jones 'Don't Know Why" and Stevie Wonder's 'You And I." The arrangements are subtle yet swinging. Drummer Jaz Sawyer and bassist Neal Caine play in an understated fashion that meshes well with the two leaders. The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra contributes to a few songs without overwhelming them. Marsalis' piano work is tasteful and he expresses himself fully with well placed chords, impeccable solos and great use of space between the notes. Anyone who has heard Marsalis live knows that he can play standards as well as any pianist on the planet, and here his talents are on full display. Mayfield's trumpet playing is excellent. His tone is beautiful, and he states the melodies of each tune with grace, sometimes adding a well placed smeared note or high peal. Although Mayfield sometimes sacrifices emotion for technique, here he lets his technique serve the song, and the results are a pleasure. " David Kunian Bipolaroid E(i)ther Or

(Surreal But Kind)

Amid the local masses of hornblowers, washboard scratchers and swamp-pop stars, Ben Glover stands out like, well, the one guy making pastoral, British Invasion psych/rock in a southern jazz-and-zydeco province. His band Bipolaroid made a grand entrance with 2003's Transparent Make-believe, likely the most authentic Syd Barrett shrine ever to emerge from the muddy banks of the Mississippi. In the tumultuous years since, instead of area traditions, Glover has taken on frivolous threats (from the Polaroid corporation) and member attrition (producer and creative partner Ben Sumner departed in 2004). Reborn as a five-piece band, the group finally follows up its singular gem with an album whose mark remains the same but whose aim has shifted slightly. E(i)ther Or is an altogether messier, more chaotic affair " intentionally so, Glover might add. The songwriter sings in a blurry slur, with a sleepy, faux-English accent that frames vintage-sounding instruments and paisley melodies in a perfectly hazy Pink Floyd daydream. But his delivery renders the heavy use of echo effects redundant; often, as on the intoxicatingly drowsy 'Mouth of Lions," they fall into overuse and even abuse. Glover's a trippy tunesmith of the first order, however, and his gifts for lysergic mood-setting and clever musical phrasing shine through the mire. Opener 'Day in the Life of a Raincloud" sets an early galloping pace and high-water mark, and the bouncy 'Fell Right Out of Bed" obscures its playful beat with a cloudy, beatific bridge. It's still Louisiana roots rock " just with different roots. " Noah Bonaparte Pais

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