Introducing the Danzon (1/24/2003)
Pepesito Reyes, Pepesito Reyes (Narada World 2002) - Cuban piano player, Pepesito Reyes, now age 85, has released an intriguing collection focused on the danzon. The danzon is the elegant dance music that swept the 1920s Cuban music scene from Havana to New York.
For the last 20 years, Pepesito has lived in Palma Soriano, a little town in eastern Cuba. While Pepesito has deep roots in the Cuban music scene, he spent ten years during the 1940s in New York City's café metropolis, where he became one of the brightest stars in the Big Apple, and performed with such talents as Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington and Tito Puente (who hired him to add a Cuban touch). Pepesito later performed in France, Italy, Holland and Japan before returning to Cuba.
While the album has a retro flare, the performances and arrangements are all contemporary. On tracks like "Begin the Beguine" and "Noche Explendorsa," Pepesito works with a piano-based arrangement. Yet there are plenty of south-of-the-border horns on "El Manisero" and "Bodas De Oro."
Showing his broad talents, Pepesito blends in strings on "Almandra," while effortlessly working on a big band style "Mami Mi Gusto."
My favorite tracks are two featuring a haunting female vocalist. "Como arrullo de Palmas" is performed in Spanish by Beatriz Márquez, while "My Baby Just Cares for Me" is in English by Sandra Booker. Both have impeccable jazz stylings, showing that good music transcends genres.
Pepesito may know the danzon, but he has an ability to flourish in a variety of styles. Expect the unexpected.
The Flatlanders, Now Again (New West 2002) - The Texas combo known as the Flatlanders -sometimes more myth than reality - have emerged with their second album in thirty years. For authentic Texas roots-rock, Now Again can't be beat.
The core members of The Flatlanders are Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock. All are renowned singer-songwriters in their own right. Their paring, as long recognized by fans of Texas music, is special.
The original Flatlanders release was laughed out of Nashville, only to find new life on eight-track, then an English release on the Charlie label, and finally on Rounder Records as More a Legend Than a Band.
Comments Ely, "We never made a penny but we had a lot of fun. We played more porches than stages. But we all lived in the same house together, and every day we would get up and play music together. It was about all we did."
While Gilmore and Ely have made their own names as session hands and songwriters, Butch Hancock has followed a separate path, releasing albums on his own independent label, and winding up as a river guide/balladeer in far west Texas. For Ely and Gilmore, the commute to record the album was easy. For the more individualistic Hancock, who resides in the ghost town of Terlingua, it was a different story.
The harmonies are not perfect, but perfectly complement each other. Says Joe Ely, "It was fun to learn we could still sing harmonies." The album was principally recorded at Ely's studio, where the musicians spent upwards of 3,000 hours assembling the album tracks.
According to Ely, the recording sessions that lead to Now Again were not constrained. "We said, let's not put any limits on this thing. It freed us up a lot. We had to resist the urge to write a 10-word song. Every line became important. We had to think about the structure of the songs as a whole."
Other musicians include Steve Wesson on vocals and saw, Tony Pearson on vocals, Robby Gjersoe on acoustic/electric/slide guitars, slide banjo, and dobro, Gary Herman on bass guitar, Raphael Gayol and Chris Searles on percussion, and Joel Guzman on accordion.
While you'll get some Texas swing flavor on "My Wildest Dreams Grow Wilder Every Day," the trio isn't afraid to lay down an outlaw rock beat on "I Thought the Wreck Was Over." My favorite tracks are the bouncy, "You Make It Look Easy," and "The Barbed Wire Kisses of Julia."
You won't find a more authentic bunch then The Flatlanders. Americana fans will rejoice with Now Again.
Motorbaby, Rides (10 Wings Music) - Motorbaby is the brainchild of Cleveland-born model Sharon Middendorf. Through fourteen tracks, Rides shows a pop/indie sense, highlighted by plenty of guitars and Sharon's voice.
Sharon has been kicking around music circles for more than a decade, with a career that also includes a venture into modeling. After jumping the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards, Sharon caught the eye of Rick Rubin, who cast her as the star of the Beastie Boy's video, "She's On It" and Cheap Trick's "Tonight It's You."
By 1995, Sharon had formed Motorbaby, and was signed to Mercury Records. Then came the wicked label shuffle at Mercury, which had a negative fallout on many talented bands. Recalls Sharon, "We had a hit single on our hands, and Mercury dropped the ball. It was a very hard time, but looking back I'm glad for that experience."
Sharon provided vocals and guitars, and is joined by bass player Ron Mancuso, formerly of Beggars & Thieves and drummer Lez Warner, of The Cult.
Rides brings to mind Blondie and Shirley Manson, as the album opens with a strong rocker, "You Can't Download Me." The title track is more of a pop ballad, and "So Surprised" shows the influence of Kathy Valentine of the Go-Gos, who co-wrote the song.
Also making a guest appearance is Tony Visconti who provides bass, guitar, and keyboards on the opening track and Amanda Kapousouz who contributes violin to "I Can't Wait."
Sharon says she has been working on this batch of songs for five years, and it shows - Sharon's voice fills up the synth pop of "She Said" and the dance beat of "Pretty Idiot." Sharon has plenty of chops.
For more information, contact
Ten Wings Music
P.O. Box 99
New York, NY 10276
- Randy Krbechek © 2003
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