Personnel changes again, but Yellowjackets remain sharp
‘A Rise in the Road'
The Yellowjackets (Mack Avenue)
Musicians have drifted in and out over the 32 years the Yellowjackets have been around, but it hasn't hurt the group at all. Jimmy Haslip, one of the most overlooked bassists in jazz, is the latest departure, but he has been replaced by Felix Pastorius, son of the famed star of the '70s, Jaco. In “A Rise in the Road,” the bassist never quite rises to the Haslip level, but he sets good pattern for this collection of original material. Once again, the 'Jackets show off a sense of contemporary sound and phrasing, but still allow plenty of room for improvising. The work of saxophonist Bob Mintzer continues to be first-rate in tone and melodic concept. Sitting in with him on three tracks is trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, who stands out on “An Amber Shade of Blue.” In a nod to their new bassist, the band does bright “I Knew His Father.” The ‘Jackets will be at Hartwood Acres county park for a free concert Aug. 4.
— Bob Karlovits
‘Duke at the Roadhouse'
Eddie Daniels and Roger Kellaway (IPO)
Eddie Daniels and Roger Kellaway didn't need to show they could top their previous two duet albums, but let's be glad they did. “Duke at the Roadhouse” is a collection of Duke Ellington and Ellington-related songs recorded at a concert in Santa Fe. The album includes such great Ellington numbers as “Creole Love Call,” “In a Mellow Tone,” “Mood Indigo” and “It Don't Mean a Thing,” all fueled by the marvelous playing of the duo. Kellaway is an impeccable pianist in solos or support, and Daniels is perhaps the true King of the Black Stick. The album also has Daniels' title cut tribute to the Duke and Kellaway's “Duke in Ojai,” both of which fit the mood and nature of the true Ellingtonia. The album features visits by cellist James Holland, who guests on “Duke in Ojai,” “In a Sentimental Mood” and “Perdido,” adding an element of richness to the sound. Daniels also plays “Sophisticated Lady” on his tenor saxophone, the horn with which he made himself known on in the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra. The album accomplishes much with its small crew.
— Bob Karlovits
‘Ghost Brothers of Darkland County'
Various artists (Concord)
As you can gather from the title, the Stephen King-John Mellencamp stage musical “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County” is not exactly “The Sound of Music.” And the Mellencamp-penned songs on this soundtrack, produced by T Bone Burnett and performed by a collection of stars and cult favorites, grippingly reflect the haunting, gothic nature of the show while being able to stand on their own apart from the book. Blues and folk, elemental and evocative, underpin the music here, from Elvis Costello's oozing charm and menace as a devil figure in “That's Me” to the slide-guitar bite of Ryan Bingham and Will Dailey's “Brotherly Love,” the swamp groove of “And Your Days Are Gone” with Sheryl Crow and Phil and Dave Alvin, and the gospel-flavored fervor of Taj Mahal's “Tear This Cabin Down.” Neko Case offers a dose of attitude with “That's Who I Am,” while Rosanne Cash betrays matriarchal melancholy on “You Don't Know Me” and Kris Kristofferson, with his seriously weathered voice, is a natural as the tortured patriarch on “How Many Days.” Mellencamp himself appears only at the end, to sum it all up with “Truth,” and cap what proves to be a successful new career move.
— The Philadelphia Inquirer
‘Once I Was an Eagle'
Laura Marling (Ribbon Music)
Laura Marling already sounded like an old soul when she released her haunting debut, “Alas, I Cannot Swim,” in 2008, when she was 18. On her fourth album, the 23-year-old British songwriter (and former Marcus Mumford dater) sets herself even further apart from her peers with a pretty-much-peerless collection of folk songs. “Once I Was an Eagle” is so confidently conceived it seems neither precocious nor haughty. She quotes Bob Dylan's “It Ain't Me Babe” in “Master Hunter,” the centerpiece of an interconnected seven-song suite about love, pain and loss that begins the album. On her first three records, she moved from ultra-spare to a fuller band sound. But working here with producer Ethan Johns — who also produced Tom Jones' impressive new “Spirit in the Room” — Marlin pares her approach back down. She often relies on just her guitar and voice to put across songs with a mythic quality that are at once timeless in their connection to British and American folk traditions, and utterly personal.
— The Philadelphia Inquirer
‘Sound the Alarm'
Booker T. (Stax)
The recent reactivation of Stax Records has brought organist-producer Booker T. Jones back to the label that featured his sound on so many great recordings of the 1960s and '70s, including those by Otis Redding and Sam & Dave as well as his own albums, fronting Booker T. & the MG's.
This album, produced chiefly by Jones and the Avila Brothers, has the hallmarks of those great Memphis sessions of yore — sultry organ work, a lithe rhythm section and lots of meaty horn accents — with touches that bring it comfortably into the 21st century.
Jones draws several guests into the spotlight — singers Estelle, Anthony Hamilton, Mayer Hawthorne, Luke James, Jay James and instrumentalists Gary Clark Jr., Raphael Saadiq, Sheila E. and the retro rock-R&B band Vintage Trouble.
“66 Impala,” which features a guest turn from Sheila E., lets Jones explore the Latin-rock corner of the R&B universe, while “Your Love Is No Love” is the closest thing to a lost Redding track on the album, a potently insistent gospel-soul track. The instrumentals “Fun,” “Feel Good,” “Austin City Blues” and, spotlighting Jones' guitar-wielding son Ted, “Father-Son Blues” mark a welcome return to the timeless sound of the MG's.
— Los Angeles Times