The Angelica Sanchez Trio: Float The Edge [Album Review] 0 359

The Angelica Sanchez Trio: Float The Edge [Album Review] 0 360

The Angelica Sanchez Trio
Float The Edge
Clean Feed Records [2017]







Fire Note Says: The Angelica Sanchez Trio’s 2017 release should not be missed.

Album Review: If there is a downside to the abundance of incredible musicians currently working and recording in jazz and improvised music, it’s that it can be hard to keep up. In a textbook example, your correspondent nearly missed the Angelica Sanchez Trio’s Float the Edge, which was released in March 2017. More embarrassingly, he had limited familiarity with Ms. Sanchez’s work, having only heard her contributions to Kris Davis’s terrific 2016 album Duopoly (Pyroclastic Records), in which pianist Kris Davis recorded two duets each with two guitarists (Bill Frisell and Julien Lage), two pianists (Ms. Sanchez and Craig Taborn), two drummers (Billy Drummond and Marcus Gilmore) and two horn players (Tim Berne on alto saxophone and Don Byron on clarinet). Upon recently coming across Float the Edge, it only took a glance at the virtuoso rhythm section of Tyshawn Sorey (drums) and Michael Formanek (bass) to understand that this was a piano trio worth checking out.

Ms. Sanchez and Co. do not disappoint, with a strong album of original compositions and free improvisations. This is lovely and sophisticated music. Ms. Sanchez has a deeply lyrical style, even during more “free” or atonal passages. Opener “Shapsico” sets the tone, with an adventurous but always melodic approach, and Ms. Sanchez’s block chords in the latter half of the tune recalling McCoy Tyner. Her composition “Pyramid” is not to be mistaken with the Modern Jazz Quartet tune of the same name, but its simple, understated melody recalls the elegance and restraint of John Lewis. This track also features an outstanding arco solo by Michael Formanek. “Sowf (Substance of We Feeling)”, one of the longest tracks on the album at just over 10 minutes, begins with a pizzicato intro from Mr. Formanek before the rest of the trio joins, with Mr. Sorey setting up a gentle groove underneath the main theme that dissolves into a free middle section, which in turn resolves into a section of 4/4 swing before returning to the theme. Free improvised piece Hypnagogic begins with the rhythm section creating a rumbling, creaking, wheezing field of sound. When the piano enters Ms. Sanchez’ phrasing feels both unexpected and inevitable.

The album closes on a high note with “Black Flutter”, the longest piece on the record. The name of the tune seems related to the avian theme of another song on the record, “What the Birds Tell Me”, but it might also call to mind the Andrew Hill album Black Fire from 1964. In any event, listeners searching for a point of reference for Ms. Sanchez’s musical approach might look to Andrew Hill or Paul Bley, two earlier pianists who did a lot of work near the line separating “free” music from more conventional jazz. There is great dynamic range in “Black Flutter”, from pianissimo piano phrases to a muscular drum solo from Mr. Sorey. In this tune and elsewhere throughout the album, Ms. Sanchez will sometimes linger over a repeated phrase or gesture, sounding out a variety of expressive possibilities before moving on to a new idea. It seems to be a strategy for letting the music breathe, and if so, it works. There is a lot of space in this music, and the performers work together so sensitively that the trio sometimes seems like a living organism. One hopes that the Angelica Sanchez trio will be recording together for years to come.

Key Tracks: “Shapsico” / “Hypnagogic” / “Black Flutter”

Artists With Similar Fire: Craig Taborn / Myra Melford / Andrew Hill / Paul Bley

The Angelica Sanchez Trio Website
Angelica Sanchez Facebook
Clean Feed Records

– Reviewed by Everett Wallace

Everett Wallace

Everett Wallace

Everett Wallace loves music of many types, but he has a particular fondness for jazz and related improvised/creative music. He freely admits to having no qualifications whatsoever as a critic or commentator, other than many years of listening.
Everett Wallace
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Ruby Boots: Don’t Talk About It [Album Review] 0 469

Ruby Boots
Don’t Talk About It
Bloodshot Records [2018]







Fire Note Says: Aussie country rocker with promise debuts States-side for Bloodshot Records.

Album Review: The second album from Ruby Boots roars out of the gate with “It’s So Cruel,” a cow-punk rocker that recalls the energy of Jason & The Scorchers. But before you get your hopes up, producer Beau Bedford (of The Texas Gentlemen), perhaps eager to display the singer/songwriter’s versatility, offers her up in the big doo-wop wall of sound of “Believe In Heaven,” nostalgic for the early days when Phil Spector was producing girl groups as rock & roll was first finding it’s way into the mainstream. “Don’t Talk About It,” the album’s title track, follows. It’s another ballad with orchestration that draws inspiration from that old school retro-sound.

Ruby Boots (real name, Bex Chilcott) comes from Australia via Nashville and had one previous album on an Aussie imprint before this debut on Bloodshot Records, a journey made by Kasey Chambers and others. Following the first three big production numbers, Boots sounds more at home on “Easy Way Out,” with a chord progression borrowed from the Tom Petty songbook, and the country weeper “Don’t Break My Heart Twice.”


The second half of the album sticks closer to country/rock formulas, with “I’ll Make It Through,” co-written and with harmony vocals by Nikki Lane, “Somebody Else” and “Infatuation,” are set up by punchy rhythms, strong vocal hooks, and solid, rocking guitars and minimal twang. Okay Boots has some twang in her voice on “Infatuation.” On these three, and the closing angry, country kick you to the curb slow burner with bluesy guitar and honky-tonk piano/organ that is “Don’t Give a Damn,” Boots sounds a bit like a young Lucinda Williams as the song heats up like a Rolling Stones’ song.

It’s the nearly a capella, almost hymnic “I Am A Woman,” that exhibits Boots’ voice in all it’s unique purity, in a spiritual song that declares her feminine gifts and her internal strength of being, echoing strength alongside vulnerability. On the whole this is a solid, inviting outing, driven by good songs and equally solid performances. Ruby Boots will be one to watch.

Key Tracks: “It’s So Cruel” / “Easy Way Out” / “Infatution”

Artists With Similar Fire: Nikki Lane / Lone Justice / Lydia Loveless



Ruby Boots Website
Ruby Boots Facebook
Bloodshot Records

– Reviewed by Brian Q. Newcomb

Everett Wallace

Everett Wallace

Everett Wallace loves music of many types, but he has a particular fondness for jazz and related improvised/creative music. He freely admits to having no qualifications whatsoever as a critic or commentator, other than many years of listening.
Everett Wallace

Bill Mallonee & The Big Sky Ramblers: Forest Full Of Wolves [Album Review] 1 861

Bill Mallonee & The Big Sky Ramblers
Forest Full of Wolves
Self-Released [2018]







Fire Note Says: Bill Mallonee is one of those best-kept secrets you really want to share with the rest of the music loving world.

Album Review: No one is ever going to call singer/songwriter Bill Mallonee an under-achiever. His latest release, a 10 song full-length effort, Forest Full of Wolves is his 78th album by his own count. Mallonee spent the 1990s fronting the Athens, GA-band Vigilantes of Love, shuffling from one label to the next, driving a van from coast-to-coast playing every alternative rock/Americana friendly venue who would let them. Hometown friend, Peter Buck (R.E.M.) co-produced one of the band’s early more-acoustic albums, the Killing Floor. The band’s 1999 album, released on three different labels of the course of 18 months, Audible Sigh was produced by Nashville’s favorite side-man Buddy Miller, and includes a guest vocal by Emmylou Harris, as well as some of Mallonee’s best loved songs. Paste Magazine has named him one of the 100 greatest living songwriters.

A rough count, say there were 10 songs per release (usually there were more), puts Mallonee’s songwriting output at nearly 8000, and those are the one’s he’s recorded. Now basic logic would suggest that they can’t all be good, and surely not all of them are memorable, but Mallonee’s work, his actual raison d’’etre, has proven especially consistent over the decades, and in the 2010’s he’s delivered a solid album’s worth of tunes each year, with a noticeable uptick in production values starting with 2011’s The Power & The Glory. Last year’s excellent The Rags of Absence was a case in point, with Mallonee especially attentive to his lead guitar parts.

Forest Full of Wolves continues to chronicle the challenges to working class people and even songwriters, as if Mallonee is creating his own musical version of John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” for what he calls this “new dark age.” “Greed and fear (have) gained the upper hand,” he sings in “Changing of the Guard,” so he’s “grabbed a guitar & a notebook or two… became a phantom with some conjuring ‘neath the moon.”

Musically, Wolves takes the energy of Rags to the next level, with bigger, noiser guitar tones. Mallonee captures a Neil Young jamming with Crazy Horse in the garage vibe throughout, which is likely a lot harder to pull off since Mallonee’s playing all the instruments. Mid-tempo alternative country rock at it’s most earnest and relevant, and against all odds, Mallonee manages to offer a word of hope. “In the New Dark Age” he sings, borrowing the title from a different song that he recording on 2014’s The Winnowing, “the best thing you can do is fall in love.” Of course, “Love Is Always Risky Currency,” but it’s the best chance any of us have of surviving in this “Forest Full of Wolves.”

Like many artists scrambling to make art in the challenging digital marketplace and survive financially Mallonee has struggled to reach out and connect with Americana fans, break ground with new audiences, even though he’s stayed off the road in recent years. As a fan who first heard the singer songwriter live in the early 90’s, and many times over the years, Bill Mallonee is one of those best-kept secrets you really want to share with the rest of the music loving world. It’s artists who wear their passion on their sleeves, who keep pouring out their hearts in songs, that make the music that matters. (One reason to order the hard CD copy of this one, is the cover art produced by another singer songwriter, Chris Taylor, from San Antonio, TX.).

Key Tracks: “In the New Dark Age” / “Voodoo Ink” / “Trimmed & Burning”

Artists With Similar Fire: Neil Young / Bob Dylan / John Prine

Bill Mallonee Website
Bill Mallonee Facebook

– Reviewed by Brian Q. Newcomb

Everett Wallace

Everett Wallace

Everett Wallace loves music of many types, but he has a particular fondness for jazz and related improvised/creative music. He freely admits to having no qualifications whatsoever as a critic or commentator, other than many years of listening.
Everett Wallace

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