Coming off an intense and emotionally rough period that surrounded the recording and release of 2013's No Morphine No Lilies, drummer Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom is in upbeat, adventurous form on 2016's Otis Was a Polar Bear. Which isn't to say that she and her bandmates weren't game for adventure on No Morphine No Lilies. On the contrary, the group found its footing on that album born out of a tumultuous year that included Miller taking care of her sick girlfriend, two of her bandmates having babies, and Miller drawing attention, some unfairly negative, for a Huffington Post article she wrote about being a lesbian feminist in the jazz world.
Brett Dean is not shy about revealing what his music is ‘about’. Whether inspired by certain individuals (as in Epitaphs), or by an ecological or human disaster (as in his String Quartet No. 1, on the now all too topical plight of refugees), Dean’s works are usually – perhaps invariably – driven by extra-musical narratives. Rather than tease out any innate structural puzzles or tensions, his music typically falls into short little dramatic narratives – no movement on this disc lasts as long as eight minutes, many of them rather less than five. The most obviously successful work here is Quartet No. 2, ‘And once I played Ophelia’, effectively a dramatic scena. Its soprano soloist is no mere extra voice (as in Schoenberg’s Second Quartet) but the leading protagonist. Allison Bell’s genuinely affecting performance is backed by the Doric Quartet’s expressionist scampering and sustained harmonies, the strings occasionally coming to the fore in the manner of a Schumann-style song postlude.
The Mose Allison installment in Atlantic's Jazz Anthology series of 1970 is superior to most in that line simply on the grounds of time. Since Allison's songs were usually brief, Atlantic was able to fit 12 of them onto a single LP and thus provide a wider selection of his output, unlike others in that series that included only five or six tracks, making it serve as a pretty good capsule introduction to one of American music's most idiosyncratic individualists. Many of his most famous songs are here – "Your Mind Is on Vacation," "New Parchman," "I'm the Wild Man," "I Don't Worry About a Thing," and "Your Molecular Structure," along with covers like "Rollin' Stone" and a rushed live remake of his biggest "hit," Willie Dixon's "Seventh Son".
Mose Alliso R.I.P. Influential blues and jazz pianist Mose Allison, whose songs were covered by an array of rock veterans, died Tuesday at the age of 89 of natural causes. Although Mose Allison is perhaps best known for his enjoyably idiosyncratic vocal style, he is first and foremost a marvelous piano player with a unique style pitched somewhere between a New Orleans bordello and the rhythmic and harmonic experimentation of Thelonious Monk or Sun Ra. This well-chosen 1966 compilation (released after Allison had split for Atlantic Records) pulls together ten of his best instrumentals from four of his six Prestige albums, and it makes a strong case for Allison as one of the most inventive piano players and composers of his generation.