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Culture: CD REVIEWS.

Byline: Reviewed by Peter Bacon

Jazz CD of the week Jazz CD of the Week

Dave Burrell Full-Blown Trio - Expansion (High Two, distrib Harmonia Mundi HT 001)

Well, here's an octopus of an album, each of its seven legs armed with tentacles to ensnare the listener, but each coming from a different and unexpected direction.

The title track finds pianist Burrell, bassist William Parker and drummer Andrew Cyrille in confrontational mood, with heavy beats, slammed down chords and a Monkish limping gait.

Track two is even further out, with Burrell like a more gentle Cecil Taylor, Parker keeping the high strings buzzing and fruity, while Cyrille sticks to his toms, the three in a 'let's all talk at once' conversation.

Track three, 1Cryin' Out Loud, finds Parker doing literally that, his bowed high bass near to a crying human voice.

It's all been pretty free in spirit, as well as melodically and rhythmically, so it comes as something of a shock to reach the fourth cut and the pianist's relatively conventional solo reading of Irving Berlin's They Say It's Wonderful, with a rocking stride feel to the rhythm and some leaned-on, crunchy left-hand work.

We're back to the original compositions for the last three tracks and In The Balance is a particular beauty with Parker switching to kora, Cyrille doing cymbal cascades and Burrell tinkling away like a Japanese water feature.

If Burrell has some influences they are as much Fats Waller and Errol Garner as Taylor and Muhal Richard Abrams.

After doing such sterling work in the band of saxophonist David Murray, with whom it seems he has learnt the art of encompassing the history of jazz in a single solo, it is great to hear Dave Burrell out there at the top of the billing. HHHH Stian Carstensen - Backwards Into The Backwoods (Winter & Winter 910 087-2)

More interesting noises from the Norwegian accordionist who leads the genre-busting band Farmer's Market and recently made a duo album with Iain Ballamy. This time Carstensen plays prepared banjo, electric and acoustic guitars, violin and something called a kaval as well as the squeezy thing, and he has some of Europe's finest musicians to help him, including his compatriots trumpeter Arve Henriksen and drummer Jarle Vespestad, as well as Dutch cellist Ernst Reijseger.

The music ranges from gentle Arctic Circle bluegrass to bizarre prog-rock extravagance. There are loads of dance references, usually along the lines of titles like One Legged Cow's New Age Square Dance.

Sometimes it's just too eccentric for its own good; at others there are flashes of pure beauty. Certainly a man who doesn't stand still. Try Death Of A Neutered Choirboy to see if you like it.

HHH

Spring Heel Jack - The Sweetness Of The Water (Thirsty Ear THI 57146.2)) El-P - High Water (Thirsty Ear THI 57143.2)

Two more ground-breaking recordings in what

this record company calls The Blue Series. I always thought that pianist Matthew Shipp was the common factor here, but he is absent from the Spring Heel Jack disc, the line-up of which is heavyweight indeed.

Joining the Jacks - John Coxon and Ashley Wales on various instruments - are Wadada Leo Smith on trumpet, Evan Parker on saxophone, John Edwards on bass and Mark Sanders on drums.

It's free, it has space, it has spontaneous invention and loads of interesting tonal colours and conflicting rhythms. One for intense concentration.

El-P is a little funkier. It starts with trumpeter Roy Campbell and pianist Shipp finding their way through a ballad which sounds elusively like many standards all referred to in passing.

This quickly segues into Sunrise Over Bklyn, which saxophonist Daniel Carter threatens to turn into Autumn Leaves, before building real gutbucket power and an almost 1960s spirit of groovy adventure.

The skirting of the familiar while sounding wholly new continues throughout the first Blue Series album I've found tolerable. All credit to El-P, indie hip-hop producer, for sending the musicians in the right direction. HHH for Spring Heel Jack and HHHH for El-P World CD of the Week World CD of the week

Erik Marchand et les Balkaniks - Pruna (Le Chant du Monde, distrib Harmonia Mundi 274 1260)

Breton singer Erik Marchand teams up Romanian band Caransebes Taraf and other musicians from Serbia, Turkey and Moldova for a wonderfully warm and crazily paced disc of songs and dances.

These Balkans seem to have a natural amphetamine coursing through their veins - how else could they play at such insane, breakneck speeds. The different musical traditions coalesce to become one and a rich one it is too.

Majestic melodies, tales of heartbreak and jubilation, complex in its structures yet direct in its communication, both contemporary and dripping with historical resonance.

Fruity trumpet and saxophone against accordions and cymbalum giving that fast percussive drive. If this is the music of the new expanding Europe, then let's embrace it with enthusiasm. HHHHFunk CD of the week Funk CD of the Week

Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen - Pin Your Spin (Basin Street Records BSR 0902-2)

As you will have gathered if you're a regular reader of this column, I get through a fair number of new CDs every week, and I like a good few of them.

Inevitably, though, the ears get a little weary, and the cynicism that lurks in the shadows becomes more difficult to hold at bay.

And then a disc with a dull cover and about which I know absolutely zero slips into the CD player and the world leaps into Technicolor, the ears are revitalised, and the body twitches not only back into life but into extravagant dancing (in the privacy of my own living room, naturally).

Jon Cleary, I have since learnt, is a British-born New Orleans-based keyboardist and singer who recently toured in Bonnie Raitt's band, which means you lucky people who were at her Birmingham gig have seen and heard him in the flesh.

But back to the man's own music - he just happens to lead a band to rival the Big Easy's previous best, The Meters.

There's that same irresistible groove that The Meters did so well, guitars, bass and drums locking into a holding pattern that just won't let you sit still. The vocals are gorgeous, funky and sweet, Cleary sounding a little like Boz Scaggs at times, and the band's acapella number, Best Aint Good Enuff, is certainly good enuff for this listener.

There's blues here, funk, jazzy tones, rock structures, a soulful tune or two, and it all has a broad smile on its face. That New Orleans shuffle drumming is always a winner, but this boy can also add a Cuban feel which further invigorates it. One of my favourites of the year, after only two plays. HHHHH

CAPTION(S):

Two of the Heels ready to Spring into action - space and invention being two of the keywords
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 24, 2004
Words:1143
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