Good to My Earhole, January 22-29: Serenades to a Cuckoo

Highlights of my week’s listening, scored on an ethereal 10-point scale. By the way, besides sharing good stuff I have actually been listening to, I am trying innocently and with benevolent intent to put some possibly soon-to-be-forgotten goodies/things you’d never otherwise try in your eyeline:

James Carter/CARIBBEAN RHAPSODY – 9.0 – Carter weaves jubilantly in and around, over and under orchestrations by Puerto Rican American composer Roberto Sierra. I was digging it the most back in ’11 when it came out, then I read a review dissing it. Afraid there was something I didn’t understand about orchestration, I shelved it. Stupid reviewers. Stupid me. When you hear and feel jubilant weaving happening, trust yourself. And check JC out live if you never have.

HAUNTED MELODIES: SONGS OF RAHSAAN ROLAND KIRK (“All Three-Sided Dreams in Audio Color!”) (1998) – 9.0 – Some serious fans gather to p(l)ay tribute to the Rah–among the last names, Byard, Lovano, Spaulding, and Harrison should ring bells for jazz buffs. The tunes, played straighter and with more consistent levity than Kirk would ever be accused of, make a great case for the man’s composing skills: so many of the selections sound completely repertoire-ready. A very deep, loving bow to one who left too soon, and who would have been a wonderful octogenarian jazzman. I think there’s somethin’ in my eye….

Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys/LA TOUSSAINT – 8.8 – Riley caught my eye when Quintron covered the Playboys’ relentless “Chatterbox”; he caught my ear after I tracked down the original to Riley’s movin’ and moving GRAND ISLE (8.7, case you’re wondering); he convinced me with this All Saints Day-inspired set–when a Cajun musician is honoring dead relatives, you best pay attention, or as Clifton Chenier would say, “Ay toi!” Speaking of Chenier, he’s covered twice here, along with legendary Cajun fiddler Canray Fontenot, which points to the sweet spot between zydeco and Cajun music Riley aims for and so often hits. Y’know–I think the young folks have updated their music better than the newer generation of country artists have theirs. By the way, Riley’s excitingly aggressive on accordian, and sings his heart out.

Steve Turre/THE SPIRITS UP ABOVE (2004) – 8.5 – What? ANOTHER‪#‎RahsaanRolandKirk‬ tribute album? Usually one is more than enough for a deceased or disabled artist. Let me pull your coat on this, though: 1) Again, a nice case made for the Kirk composer: just one Turre tune, and only one overlap (“Serenade for a Cuckoo,” and why not?) with HAUNTED MELODIES; 2) Turre was Kirk’s late-period trombone wing man, so it’s a labor of love, and you can hear it; 3) This takes more chances, and is more uneven than its predecessor, but that’s almost compensated for by the tenor sax assault James Carter unleashes on the ever-more-relevant “Volunteered Slavery.” The world awaits Carter’s own RRK tribute album–as inevitable a joy as the sun coming up.

STOMP DOWN ZYDECO – 9 – I’m recommending this multi-artist sampler as a next step deeper into more zydeco for the fan who knows only Clifton Chenier. It features Chenier’s fellow royalty (Buckwheat, Boozoo, and Nathan), classic tunes that will never die (“Hot Tamale Baby,” “Everything on the Hog (is Good),” “Sugar Bee”), and, to my mind and ear, the most underrated man in the genre, Lynn August, exercising his special magic: making old things new (with two trad tunes) and adapting jumpin’ r&b Louisiana style (Louis Jordan’s “Choo-Choo-Ch-Boogie”). Not to mention that it’s anchored John Delafose of the zydeco Delafoses, with sons Tony and Geno in the engine room!

Tom Ze/ESTUDANDO O PAGODE – 9.5 – An maculist opera? That’s two ways I’d normally never go. Ze is an crafty old miracle worker, though, and, from the thrilling, unpredictable, oddly high-register jumpiness that is his music’s ID to a heavy-breathing track that ranks with Chakachas’ “Jungle Fever” to the surprise, wonderfully-timed appearance of a braying donkey, this “study in three parts” is a triumph. No one this old or older currently makes music this alive.