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  Listen Up! 3/11/03 Listen Up!

Tuesday, Mar. 11

Babatunde Lea, “Soul Pools,” Motema Music. Some hot Latin-influenced jazz offered up by this drummer-led combo. Nothing earth-shattering, but the playing is solid, the tunes are pretty, and the grooves are hot.

James Blood Ulmer, “Music Speaks Louder Than Words,” Koch Jazz. This came out a few years ago, but I’ve never heard it before. Six out of the nine cuts here are Ornette Coleman compositions, which makes sense because few musicians have taken more from the master than Ulmer has. Ulmer’s guitar shoots out shards of melody, little snippets, clipped notes, thick chords, melodic runs, chipped phrases. It reminds me of the old Asteroids video game, all those shapes flying at you. It’s almost too much to absorb in one listen, but the pleasure factor is always there.

David Olney, “The Wheel,” Loudhouse Records. David Olney is aging not exactly gracefully, but with a claim to greatness. His records get better and better. This one rocks considerably harder than he’s done since his early career as a rock singer – not that I’ve ever heard his rock records, but I’ve read about them now and again. He’s an American Leonard Cohen in a lot of very obvious ways – simple folk-derived melodies (not to mention a love for waltz-time) and complexly metaphorical and poetic lyrics. But, he’s got his own voice, not to mention a lower cynicism threshold. Not that he’s an optimist, just not quite as bleak as Cohen. Anyway, lots of great songs on this album, with a bunch of cute little snippets dropped here and there to see if you’re paying attention.

--Steve Pick

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