Quickies: Pat Metheny, Eivind Aarset, Neil Larsen, Maceo Parker

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by S. Victor Aaron

The first Quickies of 2008 is all that jazz. More precisely, it’s all jazz. Or variants of jazz. That is, if you don’t count the last entry, which is soul-funk. Got it? Good, let’s get started…

Pat Metheny Trio Day Trip
Today is supposed to be the day of Metheny’s first release under the guitar/acoustic bass/drums format since Trio Live from 2000. But this time, the Trio’s rhythm section is overhauled: Larry Granadier and Bill Stewart have been replaced by Christian McBride and Pat Metheny Group drummer Antonio Sanchéz.

The music hasn’t changed at all, though. It’s still the same kind of trio record you already know from Question And Answer and 99>00 with Pat revealing his Jim Hall and Kenny Burrell influences more than at other times and leaving the sound plenty wide open enough to allow him and his cohorts to stretch out. If you remember “The Red One” from the Metheny/Scofield collaboration I Can See Your House From Here and hear the same song as played by the Trio, you’ll get a good idea of how this format can turn songs inside out.

Day Trip isn’t blow-you-away good, but I don’t think Metheny is aiming to make any grand statements here, either. It’s just good, clean fun for three top-drawer players. And who wouldn’t want to see this crew play live?

Eivind Aarset Sonic Codex
Heavy metal is not one of those kinds of music I can typically dig on its own but throw in some sort of jazz element into the mix and I’m there. That’s why headbangers and I can come together at Caspar Brötzmann. The same goes for electronica. And when it comes to blending electronics and jazz, the Scandinavians seem to be the dominant players in this sub-genre. There’s even a term for this hybrid: nu jazz.

So, you know beforehand what you’re going to get from this blue-eyed, blonde guitarist from Oslo. Ambient sounds, programmed African rhythms, hints of melodic pop lines alternating with white noise. But most vitally, somewhere in the mix, actual instruments are being played. It sounds like a cross between Nils Petter Molvaer (with whom Aarset has worked with) and instrumental Porcupine Tree with some atmospherics thrown in here and there. Aarset is a fine guitarist but he doesn’t hot dog it on his axe; he’s more into creating textures, moods and grooves. Some might be tempted to call Sonic Codex an On The Corner updated for the 21st century. Nah, it’s too listenable to describe it that way, but the debt is clearly owed.

Neil Larsen Orbit
Neil Larsen isn’t a household name, but he’s been around greatness a lot for someone who isn’t widely known outside of musician circles. That’s because when greatness has needed a session kayboard player, they often reach out to him: George Harrison, Dan Fogelberg, Rickie Lee Jones and Kenny Loggins are just a handful of big names who’ve hired him out at one time or another. Maybe staying gainfully employed as a keyboard-for-hire so consistently is why Larsen hadn’t felt a need to put out his own records that often.

My first exposure to his solo material was the High Gear LP I picked up in the cutout bin around 1983, which was already some four years old at the time. It was some competent stuff and occasionally rose up to more than just competent, but the record didn’t make me want to rush out and get the two or three other Larsen records I was missing, either. Well, until now. Orbit is really a “Best Of” type of record with the songs remade live in the studio. All of which makes it his first record that makes a perfect introduction into his music and probably the only Larsen you’ll ever need.

And what kind of music is that, you ask? It’s organ-driven soul-jazz with a bit of rock and sometimes funk and swing thrown in. What elevates this record among the large pack of anonymous fusion of this ilk are the Larsen originals that are a little better than average (especially “Demonette,” which I remember as the standout track from my cutout LP) and a much better than average band that includes Robben Ford, his old Blue Line drummer Tom Brechtlein and Yellowjackets bass extraordinaire Jimmy Haslip. Produced by classic Crusaders producer Stewart Levine, this set sounds a lot like what crossover jazz was before it lost much of it’s soul and morphed itself into smooth jazz.

Maceo Parker Roots & Grooves
James Brown’s saxophone sensation Maceo Parker has been as much an evangelist for traditional soul and funk as Wynton Marsalis is for traditional jazz. On the live 2 CD Roots & Grooves, he makes that mission crystal clear, devoting one disc to covers of Ray Charles classics and another disc renditions of his more popular funk tunes (including the crowd favorite “Pass The Peas”). Maceo is backed by a pretty large band that’s playing air tight grooves, which tells you how serious Parker is about this project.

My blog buddy Nick Deriso will be providing the whole lowdown on this upcoming release, so I won’t delve any further here. But don’t wait until he gives his spiel before pre-ordering; just do it now. You can read about what a great purchase you made later.

“Quickies” are mini-record reviews of new or upcoming releases. Some albums are just that much more fun to listen to than to write about.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron

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