Schofield turns 'Uberjam' sequel into rhythm-and-blues bash
John Scofield (Emarcy)
Even when he is doing a sequel, guitarist John Scofield manages to create something different. “Uberjam Deux,” a follow-up to his 2002 “Uberjam,” has the same electric feel of the first one. But instead of putting together a jam-band sound, Scofield and Co. turn to the music of a blues-based, rhythm-and-blues group. Some of the titles — such as “Al Green Song” — play to that role. (All that song is missing is Al Green's voice.) Other songs take greatly different routes, such as the enjoyably bluesy “Scotown” and “Torero,” which sounds like a simple, child's song played by craftier musicians. In some ways, its shape is mindful of Miles Davis' “Jean Pierre.” Besides Scofield's predictably excellent guitar work, the album is dominated by the great bass of Andy Hess and the keyboard work of guest John Medeski. Hess helps create the funk-heavy sound of the album and is the heart of songs such as “Dub Dub.” Medeski plays on organ and Mellotron, giving “Al Green Song” a nice touch of Hammond B-3 soulfulness. Avi Bortnick offers good backup guitar and sampled passages while Adam Deitch and Louis Cato split duties on drums.
— Bob Karlovits
‘To the Unknown'
Omer Klein (Plus Loin Music)
Pianist Omer Klein at times takes a recital approach to his music on “To the Unknown.” That comment is not to suggest he at times loses his sense of swing, but rather to say he can show such restraint, he creates a gentle sound. “Modesty,” for instance, is a pretty ballad that could have existed without the drums of Ziv Ravitz and bass of Haggai Cohen-Milo. Their presence, though, does not hurt. Similarly, “Inevitable” begins with a simple statement from Klein before his two compatriots lift its tempo. The three of them work in an expected manner on some of the faster numbers such as “Mr. Dream,” “Resistance” or “Bliss.” But the most impressive outings are on the laid-back “One for the Road” and “Fear of Heights,” which give the album a gentle nature while never robbing it of its quality as a jazz outing.
— Bob Karlovits
‘Watching Movies with the Sound Off'
Mac Miller (Rostrum)
When Mac Miller released 2011's “Blue Slide Park,” which debuted atop the Billboard 200 album chart, the Pittsburgh rapper did more than just rack up points for indie-label hip-hop. He rang the big bell for white-boy party rap, the very thing the Beasties fought for long before Miller and Asher Roth made for a stoner's delight. Old-school in the best way, Miller's lean, unadorned sound was perfect for his mad tales of beer, babes and bongs. Strange, then, that “Watching Movies” is a more experimental album than its predecessor. Not because someone with such success shouldn't alter his formula or fortune; rather because Miller never even hinted at anything outré, let alone ruminative, before this. There's still much simple sonics, dumb fun and even awkward misogyny. Yet, throughout, Miller plays well with other MCs (like Earl Sweatshirt), something that didn't happen on “Blue Slide.” Miller rides comfortably atop oddball rhythms and crabby atmospheres provided by avant-hop producers Flying Lotus (“S.D.S.”) and Diplo (“Goosebumpz”). Mainly, on tracks such as “Aquarium” and “Objects in the Mirror,” Miller looks inside himself — selflessly and selfishly — rather than looking for the next party.
— The Philadelphia Inquirer
‘One True Vine'
Mavis Staples (Anti-)
At 73, Mavis Staples remains a nonpareil vocalist who sounds able to blow a building down by simply exhaling. What's nice about “One True Vine,” the second Staples solo album produced by fellow Chicagoan Jeff Tweedy, is that it resists the temptation to put all that industrial-strength power to nonessential use. Instead, the 10-track set, which includes three songs by Tweedy, as well as songs by Low, Nick Lowe and George Clinton, takes a deeply relaxed, richly comforting approach in which the singer says as much with a whisper as a shout, and the band — which consists of Tweedy and his son Spencer — moves forward in an understated saunter. “I reached the point in time where I want to be real,” the gospel great sings, sounding utterly at ease on “I Like the Things About Me,” a song cowritten decades ago by her father Roebuck “Pops” Staples. Wonderful stuff.
— The Philadelphia Inquirer
Quinn Sullivan (SuperStar)
“Sitting in with B.B. King and Buddy, that stuff doesn't happen every day,” blues-guitar prodigy Quinn Sullivan marvels on “Things I Won't Forget.” Especially when you're just 14 years old, and not only have you traded licks with those two blues titans, but also Buddy Guy has declared that “players like him come once in a lifetime.” “Getting There” is aptly titled, as Sullivan's debut reveals a prodigious, but still developing, talent. He's fortunate to be working with a top-notch producer, writer and drummer in Tom Hambridge, who helps ensure that Sullivan's dazzling chops are used in the service of tight, solid songs. The recent middle-school graduate moves easily between authoritatively heavy blues-rock and material with a more melodic pop touch. Sullivan's voice, understandably, still has a youthful callowness. If or when it catches up to the depth and strength of his playing, then he will have fully arrived as a bluesman.
— The Philadelphia Inquirer
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