November 16 - November 22, 1995

Quick Scans


Live At Sweet Basil
4 Stars
MCCOY TYNER IS the most masculine pianist in the history of jazz. He slaps keys like they were drum skins, continuing an interest in African music previously explored with saxophonist John Coltrane. Forget the composer credits--every tune ends up Tyner's tune. The keyboardist even turns the goofy, nursery-rhyme simplicity of Thelonious Monk's "Monk's Dream" into a wave of aggressive two-fisted chords pointed more toward nightmare terrain. Nobody is up to challenging McCoy Tyner, as evidenced by the absence of imitators of so major a player. Though several decades past his most popular recordings there has been no dilution of his defining power or creativity. The top pianists in jazz history can be counted on less than two hands, and Tyner is unquestionably one of them. No doubt the still-tough player on Sweet Basil would prefer to be represented by one of the middle fingers.
--Dave McElfresh


Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar Masters
Dancing Cat Records
3 Stars
THANKS TO DAVID Lindley, Ry Cooder and Henry Kaiser--guitarists who hunt down and record with the axe gods of other cultures--there exists a market for discs like this one. Much to our surprise, we discover that not every six-stringer has roots in Chuck Berry. And, as learned through this release, Hawaiian guitar doesn't bring to mind Don Ho or commercials for canned pineapple (John Fahey, maybe). This recording--a sampler of 11 slack key guitarists with albums on Dancing Cat--is a glimpse at a distinct, thriving guitar culture most of us didn't even know existed. And we thought we knew our American music. We can kiss that idea aloha.
--Dave McElfresh


Songs Of Our Fathers
Acoustic Disc
3 Stars
THE MANDOLIN HAS been seen as a bluegrass instrument from the time mandolinist Bill Monroe invented the form. Statman and Grisman began as bluegrass musicians but have since yanked the instrument out of musical confinement. A pinnacle in mandolin playing was reached on their unrehearsed, completely improvised 1980 collaboration, Mandolin Abstractions. Ironically, the experimentation resulting from their break with bluegrass tradition has resulted in an even more traditional recording: Their newest effort is a very engaging tribute to their Jewish heritage. Can't relate? Forget that undiluted ethnicity is the disc's overwhelming strength. The passion of the music milks the romantic potential of the mandolin's personality to the hilt, and will grab a lot of Southern Baptist bluegrassers who couldn't spell bar mitzvah.
--Dave McElfresh

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November 16 - November 22, 1995

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