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  Listen Up! 10/8/02 Listen Up!

Tuesday, Oct. 8

Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach, “Money Jungle,” Blue Note Records. Surely I’ve mentioned from time that this is one of the greatest jazz records ever made. Ellington sounds both relaxed and challenged. He knows he’s the leader, he knows these guys grew up loving his stuff, yet he feels the need to show them what he can, to prove he’s down with the new thing. The three of them play like a percussion ensemble. Everything is rhythmic, but that doesn’t mean the melodies are ignored. It just means they’re zipping the rhythms around, keeping us aware of what they can do.

Grieg, “Lyric Pieces” performed by Leif Ove Andsnes, EMI Classics. Hey, it’s performed on Grieg’s own piano at the composer’s villa in Troldhaugen. If that means anything, I don’t know. These pieces are definitely lyric, little contemplative bits of melody, almost careless but not quite. You can almost feel the thought process, like the composer was feeling for the next note, and then decided to write it down to be played in the same time it took him to come up with it. That explains the slower pieces, anyway. The uptempo ones are still not exactly vibrant, just faster versions of the same kind of tunes Grieg wrote for the slow ones.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken Vol. III,” Capitol Records. Every fifteen years or so, like clockwork, there’s a new volume of this series. Nothing will ever be as thrilling as the first one, which basically bridged the generation gap between the old school traditionalists and the young rocking country artists in ways that nobody will ever have to do again. So, now, it’s just about the guest stars, and how good they sound singing old songs. This time around, you can hear Del McCoury, Doc Watson, Iris Dement, June Carter Cash, Earl Scruggs, Sam Bush, Dwigh Yoakam, Willie Nelson, Tom Petty, Emmylou Harris,Johnny Cash, Taj Mahal, Jimmy Martin, Alison Krauss, Vice Gill, Jerry Douglas, Taj Mahal, and a few others. It’s a cool line-up, if you ask me.

Sugarman 3 & Col, “Pure Cane Sugar,” Daptone Records. Apparently, everybody else in the office knows about this Daptone Records label, but I haven’t heard of it before. This is some real deal funk, with the model being the early 70s, some sort of cross between James Brown’s band of the time and the west coast jazzbo funkateers. It’s got rhythmic vitality to spare, recycling riffs and licks that powered all sorts of dance music 30 years ago. Nothing original, and the restriction of refusing to allow the musicians to innovate and search for something original seems destined to lead to burnout eventually, but for right now, this stuff sounds pretty damn good.

--Steve Pick



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