Guitarete Gear Schmear #1— 2019 Brooklyn Stompbox Exhibit

At the June 8th and 9th 2019 Brooklyn Stompbox Exhibit, musicians of all types who are pedal enthusiasts found a cornucopia of fun signal-bending technology ready to be played by anyone so inclined. What a kick it was to see the huge enthusiasm that a display of pedals generated! The exhibit, which was held at Lytehouse Studio, included the products of at least 50 pedal makers. Delicious Audio, a blog that was involved in organizing the event, reported a total of nearly 2,000 attendees.

A few big rooms, tons of music gear, and a seeming gazillion pretty closely packed people—“Well, that’ll give you a headache,” a cynic might think. But, actually, no, not at all.

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Allan Holdsworth—Warsaw Summer Jazz Days ‘98

Don’t let the wAcka-jaWaKa lettering on the cover throw you off! Warsaw Summer Jazz Days ’98 (Manifesto, 2019) is a well-recorded documenting of Allan Holdsworth digging deep into his muse in a trio that also showcased the chordally sympathetic six-string bassist Dave Carpenter and drummer Gary Novak. Needless to say, another reminder of the vital and singular sound of Allan Holdsworth will always be more than welcome!

Featuring a quartet of tunes that later appeared on Holdsworth’s  2000 release, The Sixteen Men of Tain, this gig also includes several pieces from the late master’s fertile early 80s period, plus “Proto-Cosmos,” from his tenure with drummer Tony Williams.

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GToD #3–Gilad Hekselman—“Stumble,” from Ask for Chaos (2018)

In under one year, New York-based jazz guitarist Gilad Hekselman has released two strong collections as the primary artist: Ask for Chaos (September 2018) and Further Chaos (May 2019). Each features tracks by two ensembles that Hekselman leads. His GHex Trio consists of Helselman’s guitar, accompanied by stand-up bass and drums. In ZuperOctave, Hekselman takes charge of both of guitar and bass in a setting that also includes keyboardist Aaron Parks and drummer/percussionist Kush Abadey. With Hekselman making liberal and dramatic use of effects and his bandmates also embracing electronics, ZuperOctave finds startling and original sonic territory. It’s electronically-touched organic music that is, above all, jazz. More specifically, it’s sonically exploratory, harmonically adventurous jazz that doesn’t sound to me like what is usually called “fusion,” for the lack of rock-oriented beats. The track “Stumble,” from Ask for Chaos, is one among many ZuperOctave highlights.

“Stumble” arrested me immediately with its memorable opening melodic figure and a lush sound so whole it’s sometimes hard to tease apart Parks’s keyboards from Hekselman’s guitar.

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GToD #2: Baroness– “Seasons,” from Gold & Grey (2019)

The music of Baroness centers on guitarist/vocalist/songwriter/visual artist John Baizley, who is one of those people who can smile and still radiate heaviness. While the tracks released ahead of the June 14 release of Gold & Grey bear his unmistakable stamp, the band’s current lineup offers power and flexibility not heard even on its high-water mark album, 2012’s Yellow & Green or its acclaimed follow-up, Purple.

A case in point is “Seasons.”

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GToD #1: Stray Cats–
“Rock This Town,” from Built for Speed (1982)

The Stray Cats breakout track and video hit may well be the defining track of the first wave of retro rock. It’s now a classic in its own right. Brian Setzer masterfully accompanies his throwback-cool vocals with clean-toned, slapback-echoed guitar moves that include jazzy sliding chords; rockabilly triads extended with sixths; and two tight, confident solos—not to mention a motor of a main riff. Released decades after the peak of rockabilly, “Rock This Town” might have seemed, at first, like the product of one more group of costumed MTV opportunists, but Setzer, along with bassist Lee Rocker and drummer Slim Jim Phantom, showed confidence that rockabilly was as enduring and vital as a lovingly cared-for 1950s hot rod with a tank full of fuel.

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Typical Sisters — Hungry Ghost

On Hungry Ghost, released March 2019, Typical Sisters explores avenues for creating urgency beyond of the borders of well-defined genres. The more I listen to Hungry Ghost, the more I hear jazz in a generalized way and the less I hear anything like a bebop line.  If one has to categorize this album, it probably makes most sense to call it jazz, but it’s jazz in the sense of connecting to jazz tradition and not in the sense of sounding like traditional jazz. That insufficient characterization shouldn’t suggest that Hungry Ghost is generic. Typical Sisters sophomore album is an expansive, challenging, and rewarding collection that reveals progressively deeper charms through repeated listening.

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Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival returns in 2019!

A look back at some of Clapton’s past Crossroads performances . . .

With the announcement that Eric Clapton is again firing up the Crossroads Guitar Festival in 2019, it’s worth taking a look back at some of his previous Crossroads performances. 2019 will bring the fifth incarnation of Clapton’s festival, which benefits the Crossroads Centre, a substance-abuse treatment facility he founded in the late 90s. Earlier Crossroads Festivals were held in 2004, 2007, 2010, and 2013. The festival always includes a variety of top-notch guitar talent, of course, but I’m choosing to focus on Clapton himself in the link selections below.

Here’s a thought I’ve been having for a while about Clapton’s live performances:

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Play It Loud @ the Met! 4/8/2019 to 10/1/2019

Exhibit to feature 130 historic instruments

Happily and unsurprisingly, there will be plenty on display to fascinate and inspire guitarists and fellow travelers at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s soon-to-open exhibit, Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll. The exhibit opens April 8, 2019 and runs through October 1, 2019.

The Met, of course, is stunning at all times. With this exhibit, it will enter realms of awesomeness it has explored little, if at all. Nowhere else will you be able to see this:

and this:

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Afro-Polka All-Stars—55 Bar, December 30, 2018

Featuring guitarists Sheryl Bailey and Anders Nilsson

From left to right, Jerome Harris, Anders Nilsson, and Sheryl Bailey.

Drummer/composer/world-music explorer Maciek Schejbal’s Afro-Polka project is based on the inspired, if unlikely, idea that polka, elements of African pop, and jazz guitar improvisation can be fused into a complementary whole. On the penultimate night of 2018, Schejbal, bassist Jerome Harris, and the potent guitar team of Sheryl Bailey and Anders Nilsson realized Schejbal’s thesis.  Throughout three sets in front of a Sunday night, early-show, standing-room-only crowd, the Afro-Polka All-Stars explored the landscape of a new musical moon—one that offers frequent surprises, while also maintaining contact with the ears of ordinary Earthlings.

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Oz Noy Quartet – 55 Bar, December 25, 2018

The Oz Noy Quartet at the 55 Bar, December 25, 2018. From the right, Oz Noy, Omer Avital, David Kikoski, and Anthony Pinciotti (obscured by cymbal).

Oz Noy has said of his music, “It’s jazz, it just doesn’t sound like it.” On his recent quartet gig at the 55 Bar, it could be argued that Oz’s music sounded a step or two closer to what most ears accept as jazz. Accompanied by Omer Avital on stand-up bass, Anthony Pinciotti on drums, and David Kikoski on electric piano, Oz explored a range of jazz standards, plus a classic R & B tune, hitting a couple more jazz signifiers than usual, and extending the range of his boundary-pushing-yet-accessible style.

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