Curtis Salgado: Strong Satisfaction (Shanachie)
The best bluesinger on the West Coast got crushing news this week when doctors informed Curtis Salgado that he cancer has invaded his liver. While Curtis awaits a liver transplant in Eugene, its time to get reacquainted with his stunning body of work. There’s no better introduction to Salgado than "Strong Satisfaction", a deeply grooved blend of blues and soul, where Curtis does his Al Green thing and does it damn good, too. Godspeed, bro.
Rosie Ledet: It’s a Groove Thing! (Maison de Soul)
I made a cursory examination of the performers slated for JazzFest this year and couldn’t find the young zydeco phenom Rosie Ledet anywhere on the list. She probably got booted to make room for Springsteen and his brass band and all the other musical carpetbaggers descending on the ruins New Orleans. That’s okay. Most of the best music during JazzFest weekends is performed at the local clubs, such as the Rock’n’ Bowl, which is immortalized by Ledet in her stomping song "String Beans at the Rock’n’ Bowl." This is joyous music that infuses traditional zydeco with southern soul.
Nicholas Payton: Sonic Trance (Warner Brothers)
After his two sizzling tributes to Louis Armstrong, Gumbo Nouveau and Dear Louis, the hot young New Orleans trumpeter Nicholas Payton was written off by many jazz snobs as yet another W. Marsalis-like neo-traditionalist. Boy, did they miss the mark. Sonic Trance is jazz at its most surreal and riskiest, a challenging melange of electronica, hip-hop, reggae dubs (Fred Gardner please take note of "Cannabis Leaf Rag No. 1") and acid jazz. Payton proves here that could easily have won first trumpet chair in Sun Ra’s Archestra.
Earl Bostic: Flamingo (Proper Pairs)
These days the place you’re most likely to hear the great Earl Bostic is by tuning in the Mystery Channel and watching those sleazy Mike Hammer movies with the cokehead Stacey Keach, which uses as its theme song Bostic’s haunting cover of the Earl Haggen-penned "Harlem Nocturne". That’s too bad, because Bostic, born in Tulsa in 1913, was without question the most influential saxplayer in R&B. His fat and driving sax sound, which broke onto the scene with his bopping cover of Ellington’s "Flamingo", shaped the music of musicians as varied as Blood Sweat and Tears, James Brown, Clarence Clemons and the horn charts of the Rolling Stones. The Coltrane of early rock and roll.
John Prine: In Spite of Ourselves (Oh Boy)
Prine breathes new life into a long dead format: the country duet. He croaks out these pun-saturated honkey-tonk standards with a glamour roll of singers from Nashville’s past and present, from Connie Smith and Melba Montgomery to Patty Loveless and Trisha Yearwood. But the highlight of the set is Prine’s duet with Iris Dement on his own song, "In Spite of Ourselves." Dement and Prine may have the most recognizable and idiosyncratic voices in folk music and they collide here in a kind of comical collage. Perhaps only Iris Dement could get away with the following couplet: "He ain’t got laid in a month of Sundays. I caught him once sniffin’ my undies." One of my favorite records in the last decade.