Rotation 23

Eric Allison and Jack Keller
Live at Ziegfield's
(Wonderland Jazz)

Just reeds and piano. Those are the only instruments you'll hear on this disc from tenor-alto-flute-clarinetman Allison and pianist Keller, though at times you'll swear there's a full band cranking. As on "Jumpin' at the Woodside," the swinging Basie staple that opens this live set, originally recorded in April 1985. Keller nails the rolling left-hand intro, the signature of that big Kansas City sound that was Basie's trademark, creating hair-trigger tension and a promise of the boogie to follow. And when Allison leaps in with some amazing stutter-sax riffs, you'll swear you're listening to Lester leading a sixteen-piece ensemble at the Savoy.

Originally released on vinyl, Live at Ziegfield's is remastered for CD, but thankfully retains all the crowd noise. (There's so much clinking of glasses, tinkling of silverware, and even the whir of a blender in the background of one tune, that the first time I heard it, I thought someone was breaking into my apartment.) Rather than being bothersome, though, it adds to the spontaneous feel that runs throughout what was probably a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Keller and Allison are at ease with one another (as proven in their reunion at the Riverside earlier this year), and the dialogue between their two instruments ranges from the whimsical (stride classics such as Fats Domino-Dave Bartholomew's "I'm Walkin'" and Fats Waller's "Crazy 'Bout My Baby") to the sublime (Rodgers and Hart's lush "There's a Small Hotel"). Allison also displays a light and lyrical tone on flute, breathing new life into the Lane-Harburg show tune "Old Devil Moon."

The musicianship here is a notch above topnotch, with two masters of tuneful improvisation doing what they do best: swingin' hard. Wonderland Jazz, 7860 SW 86th St, #27, Miami, FL 33143.

-- By Bob Weinberg

The Jesus & Mary Chain
Stoned & Dethroned
(American)

God forgives you if, like me, you were prepared to utter a solemn novena for the Mary Chain. After ten years,

four full-length albums of new material (from '85's Psychocandy to '92's Honey's Dead), plus an EP, B-sides collection, and greatest-hits package, the attitudinally challenged Reid brothers' Velvets/Spector/surf/hip-hop hybrid figured to hit its resonant frequency and vibrate into aural entropy -- which is to say, they'd really start to suck. Not so.

Although Stoned & Dethroned's seventeen tracks include a half dozen songs better left on the cutting-room floor, much of the rest, particularly Jim's hookful "She" and William's strummily uplifting "Between Us" and propulsive "Girlfriend," coldcocks the pop verities. Not surprisingly the Reids still steal as brazenly and unabashedly as Bonnie and Clyde: In the past they've winkingly pilfered from the Beach Boys, Ronettes, Velvet Underground, the Troggs, and others; here, in addition to the requisite salaams to the Velvets ("Wish I Could," "She," "God Help Me," "Feeling Lucky"), the Ronettes ("Bullet Lovers"), and a Velvets-Ronettes pastiche ("You've Been a Friend"), they gnaw on the slow-burn dramatics recently sent top of the alternapops by Smashing Pumpkins ("Dirty Water," "Never Saw It Coming"). Former Pogues guy Shane MacGowan sleepwalks through lead vocals on "God Help Me," sounding remarkably Reidlike, while Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval stops by to trade cute she-says/he-says lines with Jim on "Sometimes Always" (on which Jim uncorks his signature "Aw, honey").

As always the Reids make the most of their see-Spot-run love-stuff lyrics, although the overriding drugs-ain't-necessary-cool subtext is hard to ignore. "Junk the junk and love the love," William sings on "Till It Shines." Well, of course.

-- By Michael Yockel

Laurie Anderson
Bright Red
(Warner Bros.)

Click. Blade Runner is the Late Late Movie on channel 494. Click. The MCI girl is talking about how there isn't any "there" any more. Click. Home shopping. Click. Hard Copy. Click. A blank screen and Laurie Anderson's voice. She's asking, "Is time long or is it wide?" She's talking about seedy rooms where "they're havin' virtual sex, and they're eatin' virtual food." Only, her voice is male through the vocoder, and she's singing. She's dug a foxhole in the mud of the media wasteland, and she's telling stories from inside it. Brian Eno is playing keyboards.

This is the sum vibe of Bright Red, Anderson's latest collection of performances (it's hard to call her work "songs" A more like poems set to music). It's as if the world blew up and someone left this album in the rubble to explain why it happened, in case there were any stray survivors. Anderson's voice rings like a glass bell A it has a translucent quality, simultaneously innocent and authoritative. Her diction is precise and so are her images of rusting cars, burning letters, nursery-rhyme animals, and missile flares. "And, oh, it's so beautiful," she muses. "It's like the Fourth of July. It's like a Christmas tree. It's like fireflies on a summer's night." The Gulf War, that is. On the banks of the Mississippi, "Mud is everywhere, fish are swimming in the fields." This is the Old Testament by way of David Lynch and William Gibson. "Plague" is track nine.

Ever heard a jeremiad in a 500-channel universe?
You will.
-- By J.C. Herz

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