Short Cuts Volume 4

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This month, Short Cuts features The Bad Plus, Telekinesis, Buke & Gass, Paul Manousos, Jimmy Smith, Ryan Montbleau Band, and Charlie Hunter. Short Cuts is a monthly spin on new releases that just can’t be overlooked. 

The Bad Plus : Don’t Stop

E1 Entertainment

The Bad Plus have spent the past 10 years turning on listeners from across the musical spectrum with a brand of jazz that is accessible,  enveloping, and often sprawling. Reid Anderson, Ethan Iverson and David King have explored their own compositions and interpreted contemporary songs from the likes of Tears for Fears and Nirvana with equal aplomb, from abstract to groove, any song in the hands of this trio is theirs and theirs alone. Don’t Stop is the Bad Plus’ eighth album, and its first to consist of all original compositions. From the loose playing that introduces “The Radio Tower has a Beating Heart” before coalescing into a sprightly groove, to the shifting grandeur of “My Friend Metatron,”The Bad Plus continue to make a mind-bending sound that far exceeds their stature as a mere jazz trio. 


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Telekinisis : Parallel Seismic Conspiracy

Merge Records

A brief book-end return from 2009’s self-titled debut, Parallel Seismic Conspiracy finds Michael Benjamin Lerner revisiting his own “Calling All Doctors,” offering new cuts including “Dirty Thing” and “Non Toxic,” and covering classics including Guided By Voices’ “Game of Pricks” and Warsaw’s“The Drawback.” Lerner is adept at subtle clarity, and this EP highlights his ability to craft a catchy tune that is intuitive, original, and shies from the pop-rock wasteland of modern radio. Rather, the four tracks on Parallel Seismic Conspiracy ripple like chill bumps on bare flesh, a source of sensation. While only a refresher between Telekinesis’ debut and a sophomore release slated for2011, it is superbly satisfying, yet fuels a hunger for more.

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Buke & Gass : Riposte

Brassland Records

Standard instruments aren’t enough to deliver the musical vision of Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez. Instead, the duo has taken it upon themselves to create instruments that are the buke (a self-modified, six-string former baritone ukulele) and the "gass" (a guitar-bass hybrid created by Sanchez). Playing under the appropriate moniker Buke & Gass, Dyer and Sanchez uncover a zany world of sound on their debut, Riposte. But this isn’t just the rattling and clanging of two unique instruments; it is a symbiotic melding of tin can repetition and Dyer’s beautifully ravaged vocals that add life to the junkyard compositions. This duo have tapped into something extremely unique; from the instrumentation to the delivery, Buke & Gass are something altogether different.

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Paul Manuosos : C’mon C’mon

Shock&Fall Recordings

Paul Manousos’ songwriting bristles with an Elvis Costello-like zeal that separates this Californian from his songwriting contemporaries. There is something a little geeky, but nonetheless real, that makes him a musician for the everyman. C’mon C’mon is his fifth – and arguably best – collection, boasting well-rounded, radio-friendly compositions that maintain an edgy cool throughout. Whether celebrating about his love for soul music with supple vocal backing on “Outside of Town,” or nodding to folk on “Big Walls,” Manousos covers a lot of ground both lyrically and stylistically. He isan impressive songwriter who is beginning to hit his stride.

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Jimmy Smith : Respect/Livin’It Up

Verve Records

Never heard of – or heard – Jimmy Smith? Chances are you have, whether you know it or not. The legendary jazz musician gained recognition in the 1950s for his masterful Hammond B-3 organ work, and his playing remains as relevant as ever on the vamp-heavy reissue of 1967’s Respect and 1968’s Livin’ It Up. Both releases capture Smith in his prime and interpreting some of the era’s hottest jams, including Otis Redding’s “Respect,” Joe Zawinul’s  “Mercy,Mercy, Mercy,” Alan Toussaint’s “Get Out of My Life,” Lalo Schifrin’s “Mission Impossible,” and Willie Dixon’s “Big Boss Man.” Although the B-3 has become commonplace in jazz, soul and rock collectives, Smith – who brought the instrument into the limelight – boasts a technique that remains as vital as it was during the master’s heyday.

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Ryan Montbleau Band: Heavy on the Vine

Blue’s Mountain 

Ryan Montbleau’s soulful approach isl drawn from a plethora of influences and incubated in the young body of this Northeastern songwriter. Clean lines, shifting genres, and clever wordplay enliven the 14 tracks on Heavy on the Vine, the Ryan Montbleau Band’s third studio album and first in three years. Montbleau and his cohorts dole out a pop rock amalgam that is suited for the college campus or the hipster nightclub. The music is infectious, yet it suffers occasionally due to the band’s embrace of ultra-appealing hooks. That’s not to say that the songs aren’t good; they are better than most, but they have such widespread appeal and thick polish that it’s hard not to wonder if the Ryan Montbleau Band are selling their soul for radio. Let’s hope not!

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Charlie Hunter : Public Domain

Spire Artist Media 

Innovating in a genre that is fueled by musical ingenuity is a tall order, but one that Charlie Hunter has embraced, not only with a deft understanding of jazz, but one thatis expressed to listeners through a modified seven-string guitar that allows the musician to handle both guitar and bass duties on his own. Public Domain is the instrumental impresario’s second solo album. That’s right, just Hunter, his seven string, and a batch of tunes from the public domain (published pre-1922),all selected by his 99-year-old grandfather and recorded in one day in The Bunker Studio in Brooklyn, New York. He slips, swings, and spins a unique stringed web on these early 20th century classics, from “Ain’t We Got Fun” to “St.Louis Blues.” Public Domain proves that even by himself, Charlie Hunter can add an innovative spin to well-worn music, adding relevance to these classic compositions.

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