Dr. Lonnie Smith: People Make The World Go Round

The Stylistics originally introduced the song “People Make the World Go Round” in 1972 and with lyrics like “Buses on strike want a raise in fare, so they can help pollute the air,” it was popular music with a message. Sung falsetto with a soulfully slow, voice-dominant Motown approach, it was a hit and it had a memorable melody. With a commanding grasp of the power and expression that the Hammond B3 can release when properly employed, Dr. Smith puts a unique and engaging spin on otherwise familiar song.

With Herlin Riley’s funky, syncopated beat, Dr. Smith takes the basic song structure and weaves it into a modern multi-dimensional piece. With a driving beat that is both disquieting and infectiously captivating, he retains the song’s familiarity but makes it a much more interesting vehicle of expression.

The soulful alto of Donald Harrison evokes memories of Maceo Parker. Harrison is allowed to bellow away in front of the full sound created by Smith, Riley and Shipp and wails with a funky, passionate cry. Berstein’s solo is more restrained. Time signatures vary and when it’s time for Smith to solo he remains undaunted in his grunt-accompanied B3 riff explorations fronting Riley’s droning drums and James Shipp’s steady cowbell. Midway the song takes on a modern almost modal feel. Smith is a master of building tension with his sustained notes, holding them just long enough before skillfully breaking them abruptly as he does in the finale. A nice remake of an old Motown favorite.

April 13, 2009 · 0 comments


John Cariddi: What's Going On

John Cariddi is an accomplished studio guitarist, teacher and composer, whose original music has graced film and TV scores. He has played behind an impressive list of singers from Patti Austin to Rickie Lee Jones. His technique is smooth, his chops tasteful and appropriate; the tone of his guitar is impeccable. It would have been nice to hear him with a real rhythm section, taking a few chances here and there.

Instead his debut album consists of pop-tune covers given jazzed-up arrangements, backed by Dennis Bell's ubiquitous multilayered synthesized keyboards. "What's Going On," Marvin Gaye's breakthrough politically charged 1971 hit, has been given the jazz treatment by artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Les Hooper and Frank Strozier, to name a few. Most artists covering this number have managed to convey the sense of desperation and irony that made it such a meaningful statement during the Vietnam War years. Here, the ambiance of a Caribbean cruise and conch fritters come to mind. No new musical ground is broken, and the multilayered synthesized arrangement clearly belongs on Aisle 5 ("Canned vegetables, condiments, claves").

Still, Cariddi's polished technique and considerable chops rise above the mundane and merit a listen. This fine guitarist plays with grace, sensitivity and economy. Next time out, he should drop the net and fly.

March 13, 2009 · 0 comments


Bill Frisell: I Heard It Through the Grapevine

Though he is known for the eclecticism of his music and the varying instrumentation of his many groups, guitarist Bill Frisell's talent is truly best displayed in a trio setting. Bassist Viktor Krauss and drummer Kenny Wolleson respond instinctively to every quirk in the guitarist's idiosyncratic style. Frisell's take on "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" is far from Marvin Gaye's Motown hit as the trio opts for a slow, blues-heavy groove that leaves ample space for the guitarist's sonic wizardry. His sparse rendering of the melody is filled out by finger-picked arpeggios and open-stringed, plucked chords, and his use of pedals—looping, delays, reverse attacks—is central to his sound as always. Frisell leaves his distinct fingerprints on every tune he touches, and through it all still finds a way to remain downhome and soulful.

August 06, 2008 · 0 comments


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