Of course, no one expected that this band would sound all that different without Bill Wyman--except maybe Bill Wyman, that is. And it doesn't: Clearly, the Stones that remain have decided that they're better off doing what they've done since time immemorial. Hence, Mick Jagger and company spend Voodoo Lounge doing some very familiar things. "Love Is Strong," the lead track, features nasty harmonica blowing from Jagger (who on his most recent solo albums seemed to be blowing nothing other than his career). That's followed by "You Got Me Rocking," which sports some fairly aggressive guitar wrangling between Keith Richards and Ron Wood, and "Sparks Will Fly," highlighted by the same drum pattern Charlie Watts has been using for three decades. After that (with a few notable exceptions), things slow down. "The Worst" is the Stones' obligatory country song, "New Faces" is built upon Chuck Leavell's "Lady Jane"-style harpsichord and, well, you get the idea. If you feel compelled to buy this, you won't hate yourself as much as you did after ponying up for such snoozes as Emotional Rescue, Dirty Work or Steel Wheels; it's reassuring and it rocks. Neither, however, will you like it as much as Let It Bleed or Exile on Main Street. But you didn't expect to, did you?--Michael Roberts
Jazz in the Present Tense
Two years ago, before the urban sound of acid jazz hit the mainstream, bassist Jez Colin and percussionist Willie McNeil joined forces with other players on the Los Angeles underground music scene to form the Solsonics. Now, with its Chrysalis debut, the band appears to be on the cutting edge of jazz. That's not quite the case, though: This act, as well as Digable Planets and Us3, isn't an innovator. Rather, it's adept at taking influences, samples and sounds drawn from reggae, bebop, Latin pop, hip hop, funk and soul and combining them until they resemble "a nu thang." The likable, groovable, not exactly new result can be heard throughout Jazz in the Present Tense, which includes eleven originals and a rendition of Freddie Hubbard's famous "Red Clay." On the latter cut and others, the performers produce Seventies-era George Benson scat riffs that ride atop Cu-bop rhythms and walking bass lines. This approach works better live than on tape, but that hardly matters. Given the current state of commercial jazz, I'd take this over Kenny G any day.--Linda Gruno
Yikes! She's back! Run for your lives!--Roberts
Adam Makowicz/George Mraz
Adam Makowicz/George Mraz, Concord Duo Series, Vol. 5
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This pairing of pianist Makowicz and bassist Mraz, two Czech-born jazz musicians trained in the European classical tradition, documents their unusual musical compatibility. The recording covers about an hour's worth of a May 1993 concert in Berkeley, California, and unlike many duo projects, it contains few dry moments. Eleven compositions are featured, with Gershwin's "I Loves You, Porgy," Cole Porter's "Anything Goes" and several of Makowicz's original works sandwiched between the opening number, Kern/ Hammerstein's "Don't Ever Leave Me," and a driving rendition of the finale, Ray Nobles's "Cherokee." It's likely that the artists included so many recognizable songs in the program because they felt the tunes would hold the audience's attention, but it is on the Makowicz compositions that they achieve the most inspiration. They play simply, fully--and thanks to some great sound engineering, listeners can hear every nuance of the performance. Mraz is definitely the star of this presentation, but he's not a miracle worker: He and Makowicz give Lionel Bart's "Where Is Love?"--a truly awful show tune from hell--a modicum of dignity as they prove that even the finest players can't do much with bad material.--Gruno
MC 900 Ft. Jesus
One Step Ahead of the Spider
Having told the world about his Jim Thompson fixation on his last album, Mark Griffin (aka Jesus) is eager to let the killer inside him out for another jaunt. On "New Moon," Our Hero is an omnipotent narrator watching as a woman flies through a windshield to her death; throughout "Tiptoe Through the Inferno," he portrays a compulsive liar eager to prove that everyone on the planet besides him is insane; during "New Year's Eve," he observes Bill, a human sloth sitting in front of his television mocking anyone and everyone who has a life. The music, made by a crack crew supplemented by guitarist Vernon Reid on "Stare and Stare," is creepy jazz and ugly rap that Griffin makes creepier and uglier simply by his presence. Neat trick.--Roberts