Happy Talk (Basin Street)
Look out Wynton Marsalis, there’s a new public face of American jazz, and he’s a charismatic trumpeter, too. A founder of New Orleans’s legendary Rebirth Brass Band, Kermit Ruffins has made something of a splash, playing himself, on David Simon’s HBO series, Treme. Here, Ruffins leads his current band, the Barbecue Swingers, through a spirited set of timeless tunes augmented by two originals. A big-hearted showman, Ruffins evokes Louis Armstrong on “If I Only Had a Brain,” “High Hopes,” and the title track, using hometown mojo and sheer bravado to overcome his vocal limitations. It’s a loose and lively affair, but I’ll bet Ruffins doesn’t get invited to Marsalis’s Jazz at Lincoln Center anytime soon.
Infinite Love (Thrill Jockey)
I had an iPod and a bunch of CDs for a recent drive to Pittsburgh, but I could easily have listened to Infinite Love all the way there. And back. Wong plays guitar with the local spazz-rock outfit Ponytail, and that band’s recordings—though great in their own right—don’t hint at this sort of virtuosity. As a solo artist, he crafts jaunty and meandering electric guitar lines that coil, tighten, unspool, and stretch for lofty heights usually reserved for the likes of guitarist Robert Fripp or composer Steve Reich. With a hint of Duane Allman in the mix, Wong uses his head and heart, injecting bursts of playfulness and unfettered joy into a single 40-minute piece that rewards high volume listening—preferably with a foot on the accelerator, windows down, and a rush of windswept scenery whipping past. A bonus disc comprised of a slightly modified version of Wong’s epic tune downshifts briefly without sacrificing any of the joyful noise.
The Un-Genre (self-released)
A Sudanese native and member of local house music group t3N, mOsno unplugs very nicely, as this acoustic set demonstrates. A few tunes begin as typical singer/songwriter fare but get more distinctive when he climbs into falsetto range, lays subtle Middle Eastern rhythms beneath all the guitar strumming, and threatens to transcend the genre altogether. mOsno’s Myspace page notes that he’s shared a stage with Curtis Mayfield’s son. If he works that falsetto and continues evolving and pushing the envelope, he might end up sounding like Mayfield’s offspring, too—but with a Sudanese twist. That would be truly transcendent.
mOsno and t3N play An die Musik on October 10. mOsno will also host an evening of acoustic music—featuring sahffi, Jason Ager, and Nelson Emokpae—at Teavolve on October 29.