Floratone (Blue Note)
A collaboration between guitarist Bill Frisell, drummer Matt Chamberlain, and producers Lee Townsend and Tucker Martine, Floratone deftly balances improvisation and studio wizardry. Frisell, a Baltimore native who's become a ubiquitous presence on the jazz and Americana scenes, filters the roots of jazz and blues through contemporary frequencies that are tonally bright and rhythmically deep. With Chamberlain shadowing his every move, Frisell creates melodic grooves the producers loop through futuristic soundscapes, dub reggae, and Miles-ish minimalism. It's an oddly compelling combination, one that hints at a myriad of possibilities for pairing Frisell with other producers.
The Bill Frisell Trio (with Greg Leisz on lap and pedal steel guitar and Jenny Scheinman on violin) appears at An die Musik Live! on October 30 and 31.
Kurt Cobain About a Son (Barsuk)
This soundtrack to a recent Kurt Cobain documentary reminds us that obscure artists and musicians can affect the course of popular culture. Cobain will forever be the patron saint of the grunge era, and during his lifetime, the Nirvana frontman championed many lesser-known bands. A few of them turn up on this CD, which includes tunes by the likes of Steve Fisk ("Overture"), Melvins ("Eye Flys"), Scratch Acid ("Owner's Lament"), The Vaselines ("Son of a Gun"), Bad Brains ("Banned In D.C."), and local favorites Half Japanese ("Put Some Sugar On It")—all artists that inspired Cobain on his way to rock immortality. Impressed by the D.I.Y. aesthetic of Half Japanese founders Jad and David Fair, Cobain touted the Westminster natives in various zines and recruited their band to open what turned out to be Nirvana's last U.S. tour. And when Half Japanese reformed, after a few years of down time, for a pair of shows in July—a club gig in D.C. and a small festival in Carroll County—the results were utterly exhilarating and inspiring. Cobain would be proud.
The Swingin' Swamis
Dancing Shoes (Lube)
The last time I saw the Swingin' Swamis, they were performing at a Democratic election event attended by Barbara Mikulski, Martin O'Malley, and other politicos in Dorchester County, where there may be more one-armed oystermen than registered Democrats. Democratic gatherings on the Shore can be somber affairs, but the Baltimore-based combo, known as one of this area's premier party bands, injected enough levity into the proceedings to make it truly fun. That party vibe permeates this disc, from its Perez Prado opener ("Sway") to the closing Wilson Pickett tune ("Mustang Sally"). Such tunes make a great calling card for the band, but it's the handful of original tunes, especially "No Foolin' Around" and "Premonition," that warrant closer attention. In fact, they suggest that the time has come for an entire CD of Swamis' songs.