Sunday, July 10, 2016

Eric Hargett Trio - Steppin' Up (2016)

Source & Label: 
Genre: Hard-bop
GAB's Rating: ★★★★★

Steppin' Up features Eric Hargett and his baritone sax truly stepping out

There's certainly something about the baritone sax that gets your attention. The sounds are commanding; they grab and don't let go. They can throttle. They can lurk. They can dominate the soundscape. In the right hands, it's devastating. Eric Hargett has just those hands.

On Steppin' Up, Hargett's remarkable debut as a bandleader, the upstart leader manages to avoid opening night jitters, thanks to a diverse and tasty ten-spot of tunes and the incredible support of Joey DeFrancesco on the B3 and piano, and drummer Gerry Gibbs. Of course, when you've got that kind of seasoned experience behind you, one can only imagine how it'd soothe the nerves.

Right out of the gate, Hargett, DeFrancesco and Gibbs really bring it. There's the raw and sizzling funk of the title track that kicks things off. There's the hard bop of "Woody's Dream, " which starts in high gear and then shifts into overdrive, led by Hargett's charging bari, and the nifty interplay of his rhythm-mates lifting things to a higher elevation. "Baretta" is an homage to '70s TV theme song funk, with Hargett doing some seriously heavy lifting. There is even a handful of tunes—"West, " "Hackensack, " and "Pacific Voyage, " in particular—in which Hargett puts down the bari and picks up the tenor, with excellent results.

On the flip side (not literally), Hargett is not averse to taking it down a notch, smoothing the edges, as he does on his super-tender cover of "You Don't Know What Love Is, " with the B3 laying down a comfortable bed of chord changes and Gibbs urging Hargett with nothing more than sexy brushes. The result is heart-felt, deeply moving … and just the kind of break listeners need in order to jump back into the dirty bari that Hargett serves up for much of the session. The same poignance emerges on the lovely "Myra." Lucky girl, that Myra, to have such a sweet ode written to her. But lest you start thinking Hargett is hopelessly romantic, check out the closer, "Sunday Fog, " a nasty, virtuosic, locomotive of a piece that will leave you breathless and satisfied.

Hargett hails from Houston, got schooled in Austin, and has since moved to LA. He met up with Gibbs after an invite to play in his Thrasher Big Band back in 2006. Hargett later teamed up with Gibbs' father, the vibist and composer Terry Gibbs, in the master's own Terry Gibbs Dream Band. He has clearly gained some savvy and some sophistication along the way, and it shows up grandly on Steppin' Up. From ballads to burning funk, Hargett proves he can do it all, and this, his first real crack at leadership. He's had some good apprenticeships during his brief career thus far, and he's got A-list support to bring it all home, which is why Steppin' Up is an incredible step in the right direction.




Jeff Beck - Loud Hailer (2016)

Label: Deuce Music Ltd
Source: Something Else Reviews
Genre: Jeff Beck!
GAB's Rating: ★★★★★

Jeff Beck has a new CD out – his first for six years – and it is appropriately titled Loud Hailer. The title sends something of a message of intent, and the album does not disappoint.

Jeff Back says he wanted to make a statement about some of the nasty things he observed in the world and loved the idea of being at a rally, using a loud hailer to shout his viewpoint. Beck wrote the tracks with the aid of singer Rosie Bones and guitar player Carmen Vandenberg. They met via Queen’s drummer John Taylor, and worked together so well that the pieces came together pretty swiftly. The input of Rosie Bones’ and Vandenberg’s feisty, strong styles come through in spades here.

Producer Filippo Cimatti recruited drummer Davide Sollazzi and bass player Giovanni Pallotti and a mercuric mix ensued. This is confident, virtuoso music production from a veteran performer who loses not a jot of cutting edge, provocative style as time passes.

Loud Hailer begins with “The Revolution Will Be Televised,” a sumptuous opener with wild guitars throwing shapes, forms and sounds around an echoed vocalization. Jeff Beck’s guitar solo, as expected, is virtuoso and perfectly appropriate for the piece. “Live in the Dark” is a prog-rocky piece with clear, well-worked vocals over impressive fretwork and powerful lyrics. It, incidentally, is going to be released as a single. “Pull It” is a gorgeous instrumental interlude, heavy on the rock, easy on the ear – a superlative experience for the senses with guitar work that weaves, snakes and entwines the senses.

Just over two minutes passes in a flash before the next track “Thugs Club,” which opens with sonorous guitar into which the vocals insert a story about the various doings of various poor n’ere-do wells in the twilight life surrounding the making of riches for other men. There is a thunking guitar and drums intersection and a huge energy backing the drive right through this number, driven in no small measure by the power of the vocals.

“Scared for the Children” is a beautiful ballad, creating a place of calm and reflection among the power and force of the album. It tells a story of Billy, a child whose life takes shape surrounded by people and things which take his innocence away. The piece works its way up to a precocious guitar solo interlude where Jeff Beck shows his experience and understanding of melodic innovation to the full.

“Right Now” is a rock song, pure and simple. Guitars announce the theme, the propulsive vocals tell the tale of greed and the structure is rounded, explosive and angry. “Shame” opens like a country and western number, is sung like a blues and played like a rock song. Twangy, swingy guitar create the textures over which the vocals weave in and out with the story. “Edna” is one of the two signature instrumentals from Beck (the other being “Pull It”) and is short (quite), sweet (very) and good (extremely). “The Ballad of the Jersey Wives” has something to say and Jeff Beck may as well have his loud hailer to his lips – but he gives it this time to the vocals, who acquit the story of truth seeking in a powerful, gutsy delivery.

“O.I.L.” is funky and rolls back the veils to reveal pure, open rhythms and an essence of the beat delivered not only by the drums but by the finger-flicking fret working of Beck on his guitar and the entire structure of the piece. A great number and, again, supported by intense, powerful vocals. Sitting still listening to this is not an option. “Shrine,” a classy ballad, closes out Loud Hailer in style.

Here is an album which is enjoyable, fun and also delivering a personal statement of observations about the time we are living in. Jeff Beck innovates and continues to add different essences to guitar playing. He once said his aim was to make people forget he was a guitar player and, while you may understand what he means, there is little chance of that. But he is a guitar player who keeps delivering, bringing new sounds to the instrument, finding new doors to break through and never for an instant hitting inertia. The choice of compadres on Loud Hailer is sublime, with the vocals delivering more than a passing compliment to the music: At times, they make it what it is and the character behind them is engaging and very charismatic. Good music, excellent production and a combination of top-tier musicians combine to make this a quality, listenable and worthy album.
Beck is touring the U.S this summer with blues legend Buddy Guy. And in August the Hollywood Bowl will be the setting for a celebration of 50 years of music making with special guests and, of course, Jeff Beck at the helm. As he has twice been inaugurated into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, first with the Yardbirds and the second as a solo artist, won a total of eight Grammy Awards, has been included in Rolling Stone’s 100 greatest guitarists of all time and been a guest performer with Stevie Wonder, Buddy Guy, Tina Turner, Mick Jagger and countless others, it should be a night to remember.  Sammy Stein

 1  The Revolution Will Be Televised
2  Live in the Dark   
3  Pull It   
4  Thugs Club   
5  Scared for the Children   
6  Right Now   
7  Shame   
8  Edna   
9  The Ballad of the Jersey Wives
10 O.I.L. (Can't Get Enough of That Sticky)
11 Shrine

Jeff Beck - Guitar
Rosie Bones - vocals
Carmen Vandenberg - guitar
Davide Sollazzi - drums
Giovanni Pallotti - bass