Fever (Golden Hind)
in the age of sail often was a miserable and dangerous business
that nonetheless has given us some of the most enduring songs
in the traditional-music catalogue. British-born John Roberts,
a Schenectady resident who has been singing Anglo-Scots ballads
and the like at major folk festivals and venues since the
late 1960s, both solo and with longtime collaborator Tony
Barrand, has devoted most of his latest CD to maritime material
both old and new, and frequently in lesser-known versions.
The 64-year-old baritone has never sounded better than he
When he’s not singing a cappella on these 15 whaling songs,
sea chanties and ballads, Roberts usually accompanies himself
on concertina; he’s joined by Lisa Preston on Celtic harp,
Mary Lea on violin and viola, and Ray Wall on tin whistle.
As this well-produced recording eschews any vigorously strummed
acoustic guitar parts, the backing here sounds more serene
than what you might expect.
Folk music, in the traditional sense, spans the longest time
period of all genres, and the selections here accordingly
range from the 1993 song “The Boatman’s Cure,” by local bard
George Ward, back to “Sir Patrick Spens,” a Child ballad about
the 13th-century loss at sea of a Scottish vessel carrying
a knight on a mission to Norway for King Alexander III. Other
goodies are “The Weeping Willow Tree,” a Vermont variant of
the famous “The Golden Vanity,” and the rousing “The Campañero,”
a tale of the rough-and-tumble life of a deckhand. Roberts
does jump ship, though, long enough to play clawhammer-style
banjo on “Sally in the Garden,” a melancholy old-time fiddle
With Roberts’ resonant, full-throated vocals and his expert
pick of songs, folkies will welcome Sea Fever.
(Music Starts From Silence)
The half-dozen pieces on the de- but release from this percussion
duo embrace both improvisation and composition. Thomas Kozumplik
and Lorne Watson make this apparent in grand style from the
outset: “Son of Odin” opens the disc and mixes passages of
organic quiet with robust, clockwork-like interplay. The duo
sound at times like twice as many players as they are, a testament
to their well-developed sense of interplay. They move easily
from call-and-response to sounding like one many-limbed player.
Melodic components are judiciously utilized as well, with
assorted mallet instruments, gongs, bells and temple bowls
employed. That this set was recorded direct to tape in a radio
studio is further testament both to the pair’s sensitivity
to the moment and to their formidable performance skills.
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey
Tae Rides Again (Hyena)
Most jazz groups buckle down for an evening or two, track
a couple new tunes and a standard, then call it an album.
Not so for the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, whose name alone is
a Spinal Tap to the jazz status quo. Having grappled for a
year with electronic producer Tae Meyulks’ sleep- deprivation
methods and propensity to disappear to a farm in West Kansas,
the band fashioned a rubber-band-ball’s worth of ideas into
their latest release. Owing as much to Brian Eno as to Thelonious
Monk, Lil’ Tae Rides Again gives Bill Frisell, Amon
Tobin, and Mogwai an equal run for their money. Vast architectural
assemblages of bass, guitar, and keyboard tracks frame cubist
drum patterns, often in support of minimalist melodies, but
always to the end of headphone origami. The disc is avant
less in the term’s preference for atonality and more for its
spatial voyaging, away from jazz, electronica, and the whole
of post-rock. Hepcats, be forewarned: This is what happened
to jazz while you were busy listening to Wynton Marsalis.