Jeff Beck

Emotion & Commotion


beck“In lieu of trying to outgroove groove … (I thought I’d) try to go the other way (to classical),” says Beck in a promotional video for his new CD. His inner child, however, wanted to “blow down buildings with loud noise.”

So the guitarist planned a double CD — one orchestral, the other shred/techno — but couldn’t come up with enough material, instead whittling it down to one wildly eclectic disc ultimately containing classical elements to some degree in every number.

More emotion than commotion and eminently listenable, the album ended up containing only real rock track: “Hammerhead,” spun off from a Jan Hammer-inspired tweak to Beck’s 1967 single “Hi Ho Silver Lining” dreamed up for a live performance by David Gilmour last summer.

“Corpus Christi Carol” and “Lilac Wine” were inspired by versions on Jeff Buckley’s “Grace” (the former a 16th-century English hymn, the latter a 1950 torch song). Both were recorded for “Emotion” as instrumentals, before Beck decided “Lilac Wine” would sound better with vocals by rockabilly/blues chanteuse Imelda May.

Soul singer Joss Stone also was recruited, for Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You” and “There’s No Other Me,” one of four tunes written/co-written by jazz pianist Jason Rebello.

The last of the album’s guest vocalists, classical soprano Olivia Safe, contributes wordless vocals to two cuts: “Serene,” on which Beck uses the TimeBlender computer plug-in to create a surreal double-lead effect vaguely reminiscent of a late-’70s Allman Brothers Band instrumental; and “Elegy for Dunkirk,” from the 2007 film “Atonement.” But Safe’s contribution to both is so subtle, they’re basically instrumentals.

In fact, it’s “Emotion’s” instrumentals that shine brightest, especially the 64-piece-orchestra pieces “Corpus,” “Elegy,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and quintessential tenor aria “Nessun Dorma.”gnm_end_bug

1. Corpus Christi Carol

2. Hammerhead

3. Never Alone

4. Somewhere Over The Rainbow

5. I Put A Spell On You (featuring Joss Stone)

6. Serene (featuring Olivia Safe)

7. Lilac Wine (featuring Imelda May)

8. Nessun Dorma

9. There’s No Other Me (featuring Joss Stone)

10. Elegy For Dunkirk (featuring Olivia Safe)

Total time: 40:19

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Waitiki 7

Adventures in Paradise

Pass Out

waitiki7The Waitiki 7 are not a revivalist group like Don Tiki — which W7 drummer Abe Lagrimas Jr. was a member of before he and longtime friend/fellow Hawaiian Randy Wong co-founded the original Waitiki quartet — but rather an exotica jam band. The septet updates the genre by augmenting the requisite vibraphone with plenty of sax and violin and often employing dead-serious jazz improvisation.

The disc begins with a lone bird call by Lopaka Colon, son of Martin Denny percussionist/bird caller Augie Colon. As the other players gradually climb aboard and start taking their solos, their interpretation of Les Baxter’s “Coronation” (from his genre-forming 10-inch 1951 debut, “Le Sacre du Sauvage”) leaves no doubt this tiki train is at full steam and bound for paradise.

The vibraphone, piano, trombone and sax solos on “Totem Pole” make it known in no uncertain terms that the band also claims jazz as its forte, in a deft rendition of Lee Morgan’s classic from his 1963 “The Sidewinder” LP.

Another of the album’s half-dozen covers is Baxter’s “The Left Arm of Buddha,” originally a two-minute 1956 single. Here it is stretched out to more than four minutes, featuring an animated vibraphone jam and intoxicating violin flourishes.

“Ouanalao” is a prime example of the group’s original, modernized exotica. W7 saxophonist Tim Mayer’s composition is part avant garde, part smooth jazz and 100% uptempo, nicely set off by a repeating pattern of three descending, extended violin notes.

Classical elements surface on “L’ours Chinois,” a concerto written by musical director/bassist Wong. It begins with a slow solo by Wong’s wife, violinist Helen Liu, but then switches to a traditional Chinese sound before expanding the oriental motif through alternating Quintette du Hot Club de France- and Maurice Ravel-inspired movements.

Other in-house compositional contributions include Jim Benoit’s xylophone workout, “Ned’s Redemption,” which would be well-suited as accompaniment to a Keystone Cops reel; and Zaccai Curtis’ piano work on his Latinesque “Craving,” which leaves the listener doing just that for more.

The album’s denouement is the title track, an instrumental version of Lionel Newman’s theme to James Michener’s “Adventures in Paradise,” the 1959-62 ABC series about a sea captain who roves the South Pacific on a schooner named (what else?) Tiki III. Arthur Lyman, the Ventures, Henry Mancini and even the Mermen have recorded this amazing song, and W7 are worthy of their company.

In true jam-band spirit, the website for W7’s parent collective,, streams live tracks from last summer’s Wassermusik Festival in Berlin at the House of World Cultures (pictured on “Paradise’s” cover). Here’s hoping it continues to add live tracks as the band tours. Better yet, it could encourage audience taping and allow performances to be posted at’s Live Music Archive and/or throw fans a bone by posting a soundboard recording to LMA directly.gnm_end_bug

1. Coronation
2. Totem Pole
3. Manila
4. Craving
5. Left Arm Of Buddha
6. Her Majesty’s Pearl
7. Ouanalao
8. L’ours Chinois
9. Ned’s Redemption
10. Sacha-Cha
11. Octopus Menagerie
12. Mood Indigo
13. Adventures In Paradise

Total time: 1:01:59

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Michael Perlowin

Spanish Steel


The journey off pedal steel guitar’s beaten path continues with Perlowin’s third release: First he proved the instrument capable of rendering classical standards with unspeakable beauty on “Firebird Suite”; then he tackled Leonard Bernstein’s multicultural “West Side Story” with such aplomb it was like hearing the masterwork anew; now he takes listeners on an auditory voyage to the Mediterranean and unearths some sublimely exotic “Spanish Steel.”

First up is Manuel de Falla’s 1915 ballet “El Amor Brujo (Love, the Magician),” a 22-minute tour de force embellished by sitar and five-string banjo, the former bringing the composer’s use of Middle Eastern modalities even more to the fore. The steel-to-guitar ratio overall is down from Perlowin’s previous two albums, with multitracked guitars on some of “Brujo’s” movements rivaling Mike Oldfield’s groundbreaking work on “Tubular Bells.”

Next on the itinerary are three shorter pieces, led by “Asturias,” previously known as “Leyenda” or “legend.” Originally written in the early 1890s for piano, Isaak Albéniz’s composition arguably is the quintessential Spanish guitar piece. Andres Segovia began playing it in the 1920s, and the Doors used it to great effect half a century later as the intro to their “Spanish Caravan.”  

The third movement of Joaquín Rodrigo’s obscure 1967 “Concierto Andaluz for 4 Guitars” follows, with Perlowin using pedal steel solely to cover brass and woodwind parts. The result is his highest guitar quotient yet, a 50-50 blend.

“Spanish Steel’s” final shorter piece actually is Peruvian: “Fantasia Inca,” written by the great South American classical guitarist Julio Martínez Oyanguren and performed here entirely on multitracked pedal steel. Having scoured libraries coast to coast in vain for sheet music, Perlowin created his own arrangement, using a recording by flamenco legend Sabicas as his starting point. Those familiar with Peter Green’s exquisite instrumental “Oh Well (Part 2)” for Fleetwood Mac will be especially pleased.

Last but not least is the 15-minute “Capriccio Espagnol,” written in 1887 by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. A brilliant orchestral showpiece requiring considerable virtuosity on the part of each player, Perlowin is up to the task, making it a mammoth production requiring 109 tracks at one point.

1. El Amor Brujo
2. Asturias
3. Concierto Andaluz For 4 Guitars
4. Fantasia Inca
5. Capriccio Espagnol

Total time: 53:41

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George Gershwin

Complete Music for Piano & Orchestra


These symphonic reimaginings of Gershwin’s crossover compositions succeed in terms of performance as well as engineering: Anne-Marie McDermott superbly conveys the serious and playful side of the material; guest conductor Justin Brown moves the Dallas Symphony Orchestra along at just the right speed, balancing restraint with vigor; and the digital recording combines with the excellent Meyerson Symphony Center acoustics to provide optimal audio.

The composer wrote “Rhapsody in Blue” for solo piano and jazz band, performing it at its 1924 debut with Paul Whiteman and His Palais Royal Orchestra as orchestrated by Whiteman’s pianist, Ferde Grofé (“Grand Canyon Suite”). Here it is performed with a substantially larger ensemble, yet retains the original’s verve and avoids the bombast of later orchestrations.

“Second Rhapsody” is not a sequel to “Blue,” but an expansion of a six-minute sequence written for the 1931 Hollywood musical “Delicious,” to accompany a scene in which the heroine runs lost and frightened on the streets of New York. Not so well-received, Gershwin considered it among his best work.

The variations on “I Got Rhythm” are wildly varied: Among other techniques, the 1934 set emulated the sound of Chinese flutes, employed waltz time and paired the pianist’s right hand playing the melody normally with the left hand playing it upside down. The version here is the 1953 reworking for large orchestra by William Schoenfeld, which uses clarinets as well as saxophones and increases the other woodwinds.

The disc concludes with 1924’s “Piano Concerto in F,” whose three movements follow the traditional structure of fast, slow, fast, except that it’s also rhythm, blues, rhythm. Of course, the rhythm in those times was the Charleston.

1. Rhapsody In Blue
2. Second Rhapsody
3. “I Got Rhythm” Variations
4. Piano Concerto In F

Total time: 72:53

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Béla Fleck & Edgar Meyer

Music for Two

Sony Classical

The premise: an instrumental banjo-bass duo album, recorded live over the course of three tours. The compositions are split nearly evenly, between classical pieces by Bach and Eccles and original numbers by Fleck and/or Meyer, with a Miles Davis tune (“Solar,” from 1954’s “Walkin’”) thrown in for good measure.

It works beautifully. Fleck’s banjo and Meyer’s double bass sound better together than might be expected. Meyer switches between plucking and using a bow, sometimes in the same song.

Many of the original numbers were written for the tours, making them works in progress that were rehearsed on the road. But that doesn’t make them less than satisfactory. On the contrary, in this avant-garde duo’s masterful hands, those songs’ evolutionary nature allows for inspired improvisation.

The development of Meyer’s “Canon” is chronicled in the bonus DVD “Obstinato: Making ‘Music for Two.’” The 40-minute documentary was directed by Fleck’s brother, Sascha Paladino, who road-managed the second tour and brought along a videocamera. The DVD also includes two extra audio cuts: “Green Slime” and “Happy Drum Drum Monkey Girl.”

1. Bug Tussle
2. Invention No. 10
3. Pile-Up
4. Prelude No. 24
5. Solar
6. Blue Spruce
7. Canon
8. The One I Left Behind
9. Menuett I-II from ‘Partita No. 1’
10. Prelude No. 2
11. Palmyra
12. The Lake Effect
13. Largo from ‘Sonata’
14. Allegro Vivace from ‘Sonata’
15. Wrong Number
16. Woolly Mammoth
17. Wishful Thinking

Total time: 1.2 hours

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