Valentine's Gift Guide: Jazzy Albums for Him and Her With Wine Pairings, Part One
We've been accused of a lot of things here at the Grind. We've been accused of loving Lil Wayne too much, worrying excessively about dance crazes nobody has ever heard of or cares about, celebrating birthdays of musicians who don't know we're alive... in short, grievances have been made against us as a company and as individuals.
I was recently accosted by a reader and questioned as to why we've abandoned certain forms of coverage within our pages, digital and print. Well, I think this lady meant, why haven't I written about jazz in a while. Since I surely aim to please our readership and this little holiday is sneaking up, here's my Valentine to her.
What follows are a couple of records that flew below our radars. They're by musicians who are either from South Florida or have visited recently, complete with relationship advice and wine suggestions. I hope she finds it in her heart to forgive me.
Rhapsody in Blue
Bill O'Connell has been ranking hard with jazz heavies since his coming of age in the late '70s. He worked in the company of masters like salsa great Mongo Santamaria and legends Chet Baker and Sonny Rollins. Joining him on piano on this venture are bass men Luques Curtis and David Finck, drummer Steve Berrios, percussionist Richie Flores, trombonist Conrad Herwig and vibraphonist Dave Samuels.
To say that his Latin influences creep up in weird but subtle moments wouldn't be too off-mark. As a matter of fact, it's the casual strength of this album overall, even in the Gershwin-penned title track; it is what makes it vibrant, fun, and fresh. But there's also a certain kind of respect, I'd imagine, O'Connell has gained and greater insight from his years on the road. You can see this tip of the hat in the opener "Monk's Cha-Cha" and in the baker's dozen of "Off-Center" and "Two Worlds." This album commands numerous listens, as each one reveals new layers of artistry.
Get yourself a date with a fun guy who is relaxed in social settings and at the same time not a hopeless, nonparticipating boor. You'd be looking for someone of average height, slightly overweight, and preferably bald. A confident man, if you will.
Serve him French Merlot and he'll be worth his weight in gold. That is, if he abstains from cheesy Sideways quotes and appreciates the glass for its soft perfumes and earthen nuances. Don't eat too much; you're gonna want to fuck him.
Santi Debriano might be one of New York City's finest bass men in any circuit right now. While most people, especially guitarists, want their rhythm section to basically shut the hell up and do their steady and often-thankless job, Debriano's bass is one you want to hear above all else.
In these six tracks, his notoriety as an excellent soloist shines through and in no better form than the closer, "Dorian," where the percussive elements of the instrument are explored.
In "Milonga for Miami," Debriano veers from the expected good-time feature and delves into a rather dark and quasiparanoiac industrial ditty that has "sci-fi film score" written all over it. "Little Spring" is whimsical and fun, and believe it or not, it reminded me of parts in Hawkwind's Warrior on the Edge of Time album. Seriously. The next time Debriano graces South Florida, make it a point to see him live.
This Valentine's Day is particularly bittersweet because a girl you dated for years turned out to be some heartless bitch. That's OK, as long as you don't turn into some asshole and pull some revenge stunt on some nice and unsuspecting gilly.
You're going to be a nice guy, and you'll want a level-headed girl with a better job than yours who enjoys walks in the park, and since she will not coddle you or go out of her way to make your life better, she'll certainly enjoy the night and the crisp refreshment of a nicely chilled Torrontés.
(Half Note Records)
Will Calhoun might be without question one of the greatest drummers of all time. This I say fully aware of the company that puts him in, and I mean one of greatest drummers across the genres.
Most fans might know him from his incredibly progressive work with hard-rock outfit Living Colour. He provided the anchor to Vernon Reid's hallmark guitar work and cemented that outfit's success. Outside of the world of rock 'n' roll, Calhoun's a much-sought-after drummer in the jazz and world music worlds. This is aside from his prowess on the instrument but also because of his scholarly understanding of drums and percussion and his continued innovations in the art form.
If your buddy hooks up a guitar pedal to his drum kit, he might get a bolt of electricity that'll land him in the hospital; if Calhoun does it, your jaw is gonna drop. On these 15 tracks, he surrounds himself with some recognizable names like Mos Def (they duo on "East," and Def's piano is solid) and Kevin Eubanks and Pharoah Sanders on "Pyramids."
His use of electronic applications throughout is expertly done so as to blur the organic and the digital. But Calhoun's mastery of his kit and his compositions do not make him a staunch fuddy-duddy. On the contrary, he lets it all go out in a 20-odd-second recorded blast of his then-2-year-old son, Tateich, rocking "Ancient One First Born" on Daddy's album. The kid's got a future in music.
You've shed the "I want a bad boy" syndrome and while not entirely ready to settle down and hear some dude snore the rest of your life, you have a feeling that this Valentine's Day is going to be pretty good and this date your friend lined you up with might work out.
He can name three of the five or six who drummed on Davis' Bitches Brew and sports a Hüsker Dü tattoo on his shoulder blade. He'll enjoy something wickedly sweet like a nice Gewürztraminer or something retardedly bad like a white Zinfandel, because he hasn't entirely forgotten his Stroh's and Schlitz past, but he's willing to learn. This date could go either way depending on how you teach.
Made in Habana
Bofill's been a smoothly unrepentant troubadour since he first cut his teeth recording in Cuba in the late '80s. To say his rise to fame has been meteoric since would be a lie. It's a shame, for his rise should've been meteoric.
His understanding of traditional forms and innate grasp of the subject matter is sung with a true exiled heart, and it is this emotional quality that allows him some nice intonations and incantations to covers and original works.
Since he's been a resident of South Florida for a while now, it is in this album, Made in Habana, that he carefully sheds some of his Cuban roots in favor of the local flavors. While this is a straight-up party, you can feel elements of Colombia and other Caribbean spices in the mix. This is a good record, but Bofill's even better live, where his gleaming bald head rocks back and forth, sometimes in pain, sometimes in ecstasy.
Line up a saucy Latina for the evening, the thicker the accent, the better. Valentine's Day is one of the crappiest holidays on the planet, but you're gonna have fun.
You're gonna rock this night light a drunken, uninvited guest at a quinces. You're gonna dance all night with this girl and her mother. You might get slapped up the good way. Regardless, everything will end much later in the evening and with a nice sherry to wash it all down. Yum!
Happy Valentine's Day!
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