Tribute to Tommy
When Tommy McCook passed away in early 1998, so did the heart and soul of his seminal Jamaican ska band, the Skatalites. McCook was one of the premier jazz musicians in Jamaica during the Fifties, and in the early Sixties his tenor sax helped weld the disparate elements that formed the Skatalites. During a few short years, McCook and the group created one of the hippest, most upbeat styles of music ever invented. To judge its influence, consider the reggae universe that evolved from the ska supernova, or the succeeding waves of ska revivals that have kept youth hopping around the world, to this very minute.
Tribute to Tommy is lovingly constructed by intimates of the deceased, as all tributes should be. It collects eighteen recordings made in Jamaica between 1962 and 1965, all of which feature McCook solos. The organic links between ska and jazz, especially in McCook's work, are exemplified in the last two selections on the CD, "Jazz Walking" and "The Answer," two of McCook's more traditional compositions. "The Answer" stretches to nearly eight minutes, giving ample time for outstanding solos by McCook and several of his fellow ska pioneers, including trombone legend Don Drummond and the brilliant guitar ace Ernest Ranglin. Drummond's solos surface throughout the selections, and his great tune "Freedom Sounds" also is included.
Many of the best ska tunes were reworks of popular stateside jazz or soundtrack hits, like the ska-adaptation of Stan Kenton's "Peanut Vendor," itself a retooling of a Cuban standard. The opening track reprises the score to Exodus, giving it unsurpassed bounce and shine, while the ska rendition of "Goldfinger" is killer as well. The link to traditional Jamaican music is preserved on a handful of songs by the weaving strains of a violin, particularly on the mento-based "Wheel and Turn." Tribute to Tommy is more than just a heartfelt nod to McCook, though. It may be the best instrumental ska album ever produced. Every cut simply smokes. -- Robert Ambrose
Presents Project Logic
The act of manipulating two turntables and a mixer has evolved, as everyone now knows, from its genesis as a device for reproducing other people's music into something altogether different. And while there have been bright spots along the way that have pointed to the rise of the DJ as something approaching an instrumentalist, most of those behind the wheels of steel still are content to segue from one track to the next, or seemingly are bent on proving their worth with lightning-fast scratching displays that end up being the groove-music equivalent of Yngwie Malmsteen.
Lately DJing also has picked up what has to be one of the most cumbersome labels in music (can't anyone think of a better tag than "turntablism"?), but whatever you call it, the art form just got a major kick in the ass from DJ Logic. Logic, a.k.a. Jason Kibler, is a Bronx-born artist who's best known so far for his work with Medeski, Martin & Wood, and for the sonic bombardment he layered all over Vernon Reid's Mistaken Identity album. Logic's first solo disc, Presents Project Logic, an astonishing mix of live instrumentation and turntable wizardry, confirms the supreme musicality at which his guest appearances have only hinted. An intricately threaded tapestry built on Logic's rhythmic scratching and cross-fading, Project Logic features a list of collaborators that reads like a catalogue of the downtown New York new music scene: bassist Melvin Gibbs (who also co-produced); all three members of Medeski, Martin & Wood; guitarists Reid and Marc Ribot; cornetist Graham Haynes; and even Miles Davis's legendary producer, Teo Macero, who plays horn on "Abyss."
Logic uses his guests as foils for the barrage of effects he wrings out of his equipment, from bizarre snippets of spoken-word instructional LPs ("Shea's Groove") to cannon-shot hip-hop beats to the rhythmic scratching that anchors tunes like "Gig 1" and "Bag of Tricks." While an avant-jazz-flavor trip-hop is the order of the day, "Project Logic" gets into some interesting and varied places. The tabla-fueled "Mnemonics" flirts with drum and bass; "Eyes Open (But Dead)" features freestyling from Beans and Priest of the Anti-Pop Consortium; "Una Cosa Buena" shows what Logic can do with Afro-Cuban rhythms (a lot); and "Spider Dance," with Jennifer Charles's hushed vocals, sounds like an unreleased gem off a Garbage album.
Logic isn't, of course, the first to scratch records rhythmically or make new sounds out of existing vinyl grooves. But he is the first, with the help of his talented crew, to realize his vision so completely. -- Ezra Gale