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Folk, Vibes, Sax & Ladies

by Bob Powers

G21 Music Writer

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Back in the 50s, folk music emerged as the 500 pound gorilla of the industry. New wave groups such as Peter, Paul and Mary and the Kingston Trio came to prominence with concert audiences and through records. And old-timers (even then) such as Pete Seeger could draw thousands to college campus venues. Even with the fast approach of rock 'n' roll, folksters enjoyed a revival of immense proportions.

As always happens, what goes up, etc. Today folk music maintains a sturdy presence, although the fracturing into strict categories has been harmful. Gadfly Records promotes the hell out of folk music, to its everlasting credit. The tiny company which operates from a post office box in Burlington, Vt. consistently produces wise, witty, weird and wonderful examples of today's folk music.

Book of Survival cover.Deborah Holland once was lead singer and songwriter of Animal Logic, a trio founded by ex-Police drummer Stewart Copeland and jazz bassist Stanley Clarke. With Animal Logic, Holland recorded two albums that won critical respect with the group's eccentric mix of pop, folk, rock, country and jazz.

Holland has been a solo act since 1994, when she released "Freudian Slip." Three years later, Gadfly released her album, "The Panic is On: Songs from the Great Depression."

Her new album consists of original material. "The Book of Survival" (Gadfly Records). Holland owns a clear voice that precisely enunciates each and every syllable, although you're not particularly aware of the eloquence of her voice.

By choosing her own songs, she has done herself a major favor. The baker's dozen of compositions is without a loser. Possessed of a delightful sense of humor, Holland does wicked things with the charming "Pinochet and Margaret Thatcher," which depicts the former leaders sitting down for tea to discuss what might have been.

"I'm Sorry Now" closes with these lines,

I am striving for perfection
everybody's gonna love me
I could kiss my own reflection
there's a halo right above me
for any face I may have slapped
for balls I busted kicked right down the drain
my words and deeds were all controlled
by a chemical misfiring in my brain...

Or, take this, from the albums final song:

Happy Birthday, youre turning 40
you're discovering it feels different than 30
you've been makin' mental checklists
of things you meant to do and see
its the same list that you had at 23...

Good Vibes

Matthew Lupri's second album, "Shadow of the Vibe" (Chartmaker Records) shows that the jazz vibraphonist hasn't hesitated in prowling the deeper waters of jazz. The album has been carefully thought out, its charts chosen with care and contemplation.

After 15 years as a drummer at home with rock, blues and country, Lupri made the decision to concentrate solely on jazz, enrolling in Boston's prestigious Berklee College. There he worked with Gary Burton, Ed Saindon and Victor Mendoza in finding his own voice. At Berklee he met fellow student Sebastiaan de Krom, who now is a member of the quartet playing drums. The album also features George Garzone on saxes, and John Lockwood on bass.

Obviously well rehearsed, the quartet ventures into several avenues in jazz. Some of the charts are almost ethereal and will bring thoughts of lazy rivers and fog-clouded mornings. Other tracks establish the fact that the group can flat out roar.

Another album will be welcome news. I hope it happens soon.

Solid Sax Licks

No new avenues are explored by tenor saxophonist Jeff Hackworth in his debut, "What a Wonderful World" (DaCapo Records). This is merely a trio performing in the old and hip way of similar trios a quarter century ago.

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With Bobby Jones on the magnificent Hammond B-3 organ and Kent Leech on drums, Hackworth rolls through a solid hour of music, including such winners as "The Breeze and I," "Love Letters," and a number of originals.

As leader, Hackworth gets the majority of the solo space. Currently on the road with Chubby Checker, Hackworth seems very comfortable with not creating any new roads. He's happy to travel down that well-worn asphalt highway carved out many years by such wailers as King Curtis, Houston Person, and Gene Ammons.

On the softer side, Hackworth will put you in mind of Stanley Turentine.

By not attempting to build a new box, Hackworth shows the satisfaction to be extracted from the tried and true.

By the Ladies

All-girl groups had their heyday in the 40s. Ina Ray Hutton, a beautiful blonde, led a large dance band that achieved respect, drew crowds to ballrooms around the country, and even showed up in a couple of Hollywood films.

Those days are gone, principally because of the costs involved in hauling 15 to 20 musicians across the U.S. But the quintet called Five Play has been on the road of late and now has an excellent new album to sell between sets at those concerts.

Led by drummer Sherry Maricle, Five Play boasts thoughtful arrangements and excellent solos. At times the band sounds like a much bigger group, quite an achievement in itself.

"On the Brink" (Arbors Jazz) contains 13 tracks, which offer a pretty good idea of what this group can do. Karoline Strassmayer and Laura Dreyer both play alto saxophones and flutes, and they're very fine on their solo opportunities. Lorraine Demarais is one of those pianists who believes that the instrument was created with the intention of having both hands applied. Nicki Parrotts bass has been miked so that her contribution comes through clearly.

Finally, Maricles drumming has nothing of the daintiness that used to be required of "real ladies."

One last note: the all-woman band is not part of our past. Maricle, when not touring with Five Play, is leader of a big band called Diva. The bands 1998 album, "I Believe in You" was released by Arbors Jazz.

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Record companies are invited to send new releases for review to Bob Powers by e-mailing him at rpowers@ee.net. Jazz, folk and blues are preferred, but I'll give your CD a close listen.

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