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July 08


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Killer Strayhorn
Long Story Short
City Light Entertainment

My long-time gripe with Kansas City jazz musicians has been though they do a great job in connecting with the established fan base here, the safe road most take does little to expand that base. Much of the first cut on Long Story Short seem to enforce that view, though trumpeter Bob Harvey makes a lively transition early on in “Black Narcissus” to pick things up; still, he seems to be noticeably behind the rhythm section of Chris Lewis on piano, Dave Luvin bass and drummer Todd Crookston. Things smooth out as the intensity level rises on the next cut of Oliver Nelson’s “Stolen Moments” with James Isaac laying out some nice work on the sax, ditto with Harvey on trumpet, after the piano intro by Lewis. The CD really starts to stoke now.

The long 9-minute cut “Hear My Plea Morning/Noon/Night” is an innovative and provocative piece, and shows Killer Strayhorn can reach a creative level beyond jazz nostalgia. A lot of things are happening here, the music invoking the right mix of complexity that doesn’t over-stimulate the listener. It’s, in my opinion, the best cut on Long Story Short.

“Mine/Or” and “Rooster Altercation” also deliver tasty interplays between Isaac on flute, Luvin’s bass and Lewis on piano. That recipe continues with “Rooster” as Isaac ramps up on the sax, the sharpness of Harvey’s trumpeter cuts through and Crookston breaks it open on the drums. Only “Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love” lacks in comparison to the rest of the CD as David Basse’s vocal demonstrates a lackluster output in range and level of emotion.

Still, Long Story Short is one of the best jazz albums by Kansas City artists to come out in quite a while. — Bruce Rodgers (posted 07/25/08)

Charlie Barnard
Ivory Serpents & The Starving Tree
Skyeyesea Records

Having recently left London’s Nazca Plain, Charlie Barnard has come out with his third solo album self-labeled as “anti-folk,” which is a little odd because it sounds pretty much like, well, folk music — at least at first.

Starting with only his voice and guitar (the voice being a narrow, nasal-twanged tone that has working-class English written all over it), the first track, “Through August into Autumn,” does little more than wet the whistle (What, exactly, do you need to wet on a whistle anyway…always wondered, that’s all.). It seems like a rather standard folky song that does little to grab the standard listener.

However, things kick up through that next few tracks, adding a twisty, creepy side that begins to use Charlie’s vocals to an appreciative, even evocative effect.

With additional guitar from Nick Mellon, John Swain on bass, David Gillespie on the very rare drum lick and Dan Freiss on some exceptionally weird and cool organ bits, Ivory Serpents & The Starving Tree really hits its mark with that self-same titled track, evoking a darker side of folk that might even actually be called anti-folk.

On the later songs, like “Jesus Sleeps on this Side” with Barnard’s voice working for him instead of against, the result is creepily like the late Nick Drake in both tenor and execution. In fact, the last song “Protest Song Book” (normally this reviewer would rather go hunting with a blind-folded Dick Cheney than listen to a song with that uber-hippie title…) is one of the strongest, reverting to the simplicity that seemed to fail on the first track with an almost triumphant tone.

Strange and at times off-putting, Ivory Serpents & The Starving Tree is not for everyone, but for those who are perhaps tired of Fall Out Boy and the Jonas Brothers, and would rather seek some farther musical shores, then go to CDBaby and order a copy — hey, even East London boys gotta eat, right? — Brandon Whitehead (posted 07/25/08)

Rev. Bubba D Liverance & The Cornhole Prophets
Let My Peoples Dance

Upon seeing the distinctive name of Alabama’s own RBDL & TCP (ok, maybe acronyms don’t always work…) this reviewer felt a little quiver go down his critical little spine. Band names can run the gambit from pompous (U2) to goofy (Flock of Seagulls…what was that about, anyway?) to legendary (AC freakin’ DC!), but some names just take the proverbial cake and the Rev. has done that in spades. Just having a T-shirt with this group’s name would make the trip to see them live worth it.

Not only that…the music is pretty damn good as well. Bubba channels a slick Dr. John/Springsteen vocals combo, belting out his profound lyrics in an upbeat country/bluegrass style. All the songs are good, but if standouts like “My Baby’s a Seafood Platter” don’t make your feet start tapping…well, then you are dead.

A funky fusion of ‘70s rock and roll with a hefty sense of humor and plenty of classic melodies, the Reverend’s first album has brought some deliverance to all who prefer a yard-beer to a martini (or in this case some good old American rock and roll). Still not quite sure who all his “prophets” are, other than fine musicians; but who cares as long as they don’t get to carried away with the “Cornhole” thingy…

Being that the Rev. seems to tour far from our little Cowtown, your best bet is to grab this through his website (most of the songs are available for .99 cents each, if you’ve got an iPod). Send him some love, and maybe he will come for a visit. That would be the first preacher worth listening to in a looong time. — Brandon Whitehead (posted 07/18/08)

Brandon Whitehead can be contacted at kinginyellow@juno.com.

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