Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Your Friend Gumption Domino 2016

Your Friend Gumption Domino 2016 CAT# WIGLP342

Taryn Miller, a Lawrence, KS resident originally from Winfield, Kansas, is Your Friend. Her first offering on Domino was the re-released EP Jekyll/Hyde which was filled with accessible experimentation and served as highlight for local artists. The EP's style is best summarized in a quote from a Kansas City paper Miller provided early this year at the eve of this album's release;  "I stopped overthinking it, I was like, 'Do it for your own sake. Just enjoy it'"

The quote speaks volumes to the Jekyll/Hyde release. Those songs explored soundscapes without getting pretentious. However, Gumption, her debut LP, seems to be reaching and indeed, overthinking things. It's 8 songs, with each track nearing the 5 minute mark. Its songs find space and never come back. Tracks get stuck with Miller's big voice surrounded by drowning electronic sounds and sparse drums, which is pleasant, but it doesn't always feel like a song. There's good bits to be sure and of course, she doesn't have to write songs, Miller can be as punk rock as she wants. She could be saying, fuck songs and go Glenn Branca on everyone, she'd still be cool, but it still won't mean the album is any good.

Hopefully, this release serves to calm Miller down and help her return with a more focused effort. And sure, people will like Gumption's constantly meandering song structures, the whole LP messes around as much as most a Deerhoof album does (and people love that shit). But, Deerhoof's saving grace is they give you at least a few obvious hits for every 30 minutes of noodling around.

Gumption Video

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Max Groove Center of Gravity Optimism Incorporated 1987

Max Groove Center of Gravity Optimism Incorporated 1987 CAT #OP-3108

Max Groove is a Kansas City jazz pianist/keyboard player, who over the years put out around dozen albums and is still active today. He has worked with a host of musicians locally and from around the US and started early on the smooth jazz scene, the claim being he is a pioneer in the genre.

Center of Gravity from 1987 is typical of what he is about. Highly polished jazz and an 80's smoothness that can sound dated today. However, back then, this was highly sophisticated production. It sounds a lot like elevator music, but some people are into that. Some of the robotic sounds are interesting, but nothing terribly off the wall. The players are all very talented and Max Groove pens much of his work, so its impressive in that regard.

Live Performance in St. Joe, MO

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Sherry Jones Mike Ning Quintet Blame it on the Music Ning Dynasty 1988

Sherry Jones Mike Ning Quintet Blame it on the Music Ning Dynasty 1988 CAT # 003

This LP is more of the 80's KC jazz scene players trying to bring back a legitimate KC jazz scene instead of trying to hang onto a memory. There's a number of these LPs floating around all featuring a combination of many of the same players featured here.

Pulling this one out just recently, what struck me is that the longtime KU professor, Chuck Berg, played tenor on it. Berg just passed recently at the end of July, but he was a well known/loved film and music professor at KU. A good friend of mine took a Jazz in Cinema course from Berg. During one of the classes, Berg mentioned how he was once in a rock n' roll band to which my friend asked the name and was told Spider and the Traps. Constantly digging, my friend then asked if there were any Spider and the Traps records released, to which Berg advised him there were not. Undeterred, my buddy tracked down a 7" by Spider and the Traps (there were at least two released) and confronted him with it. Berg still held that he wasn't on it as he was unaware the band released anything. Maybe he wasn't on it, but, maybe he just didn't want to admit to recording with a juvenile frat rock band.

He never mentioned this record to my friend. He was a jazz snob, maybe he would've proudly proclaimed this LP as something he was part of. It's decent, although the Quintet's name, Sherry Jones Mike Ning Quintet, is a bit fractured. For 80's jazz, these players never sounded too 80's. It's still pretty slick, but it's not smothered by smooth jazz and quiet storm sounds, they try to keep a bit more traditional.

Ron Curtis Plays the Sounds of Love Private Unknown Year

Ron Curtis Plays the Sounds of Love Private Unknown Year CAT# VAR-110

This LP looked pretty promising, the caricature of Ron Curtis looks like a man who isn't messing around. However, it's pretty unexciting gospel numbers arranged and played by Ron Curtis at his piano.

The backside will notify you that Curtis was born in Kansas City, Kansas way back in 1937. However, it makes pretty clear that he became a native Californian at some point as he became well-known in gospel music circles in the state. His bio also describes a guy who flirted around with non-secular music up until 1961, playing country music in night clubs. He then began a long career in gospel music, playing with numerous acts and as a solo pianist.

Again, nothing too exciting, just a guy running through some gospel tunes on a piano. There's a bit of accompaniment, but it's primaraly Curtis.