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May & June Short Takes

The Tolga Quartet "I've Found a New Baby," 2007 Sometimes music is just too serious for its own good. When you hear The Tolga Quartet on "I've Found a New Baby," you realize why gypsy jazz had such a following in the Roaring 20's - it was just plain fun to listen, and dance, to. And these guys infuse it with all the pizzazz it needs! The band is the melding of cultures into one tight-knit mix, led by Dutch-Turkish lead guitarist Tolga During, who has obviously drunk at the well of Django Reinhardt (two of Django's classics - "Minor Swing" and "Daphne" are given the Tolga Quartet's special flavor). Englishman Marcin Wright accents the tunes with his clarinet, while Jowan Zoutendjir (a Dutch-Surinam mix) drives the rhythm with his guitar (laying it down fast and hot on "Maddy" especially). Bassist Pablo Millas Pages from Spain ushers us into the sultry "Nature Boy," and we feel the warm bodies pressed close together on the dance floor. All of these guys have honed their young chops in the European jazz scene. "Minor Swing" takes a slower tempo than the original but still finds that familiar groove. There's even a Tolga version of Billy Strayhorn's standard "Take the A-Train", where During's lead work shines, trading licks with Wright on clarinet. With the resurgence of gypsy jazz both in Europe and North America, the Tolga Quartet adds another fine voice swingin' with the best of them. © Kirk Albrecht

Eric Loy "Wackazoid," 2007 Ohioan Eric Loy plays a variety of steel- and nylon string guitars, electric and harp guitar on this CD, his sixth as a solo artist. Loy composed all of the music on the disc, including two performed with the Hipperoos, his power trio. He generates plenty of excitement with two-handed tapping, furious tempos and diverse influences such as trippy, Grateful Dead-inspired modalism (Zoo Rendezvous), mainstream jazz (Third Stream) and Van Halen (Catharsis). Journalist Elizabeth Wu likened the effect of Loy's music to "having a triple espresso stirred with heaping spoonfuls of sugar." I agree - it's that energetic and intense. The CD includes performance videos of Counterpunch and Catharsis, the latter performed with the Hipperoos. The videos are a plus, since they convey Loy's appeal better than audio alone. This CD should sell well at Loy's gigs and increase awareness of this manic avatar of the guitar. © Patrick Ragains

Tom & Emily "Pancake Mamma," 2007 Tom and Emily are a beauty and beast duo that makes delightful music. Tom Proutt -- principle songwriter, guitarist, and rough voiced harmony singer-brings to the table a great sense of melody manifested in unusual harmonies and solid playing on a dizzying variety of six strings. Tom also brings his twisted vision: defending white bread against the accusation that anything could be better, offering a whole new meaning for the term "trophy wife." Emily plays bass and sings in pure tones that make Tom's perfect complement. The highlight is "Icons of Faith," the most serious tune on a record brimming with humor. Starting from one of those impromptu highway shrines to an accident victim, Proutt makes a spiritual quest to religious shrines all over the world, then returns to the personal loss the speaker has suffered. It's a song as moving as it is beautiful. I've never heard anything else like it. © David Kleiner

Perfecto De Castro "A Journey Through 10 Strings," 2006 In this first solo release, Perfecto De Castro has offered his truly unique perspective on the classical guitar. As the album title suggests, this disc is recorded entirely on De Castro's instrument of choice: the 10 string guitar. What makes this recording extremely rare, however, is the fact that he uses this uncommon instrument to play classical guitar compositions predominantly from his home country of the Philippines. The various works draw their inspiration from several facets of Philippine culture. Through this recording, the listener is given the opportunity to explore the music of the northern tribes of the Philippines, arrangements of traditional Philippine songs inspired by their Spanish heritage, and the Muslim Kulintang which is a gong orchestra much like a Gamelan ensemble. For any classical guitarists looking to explore some new music, look no further than this recording. © Timothy Smith

Michael Young, "Live From Fort Collins," 2007 Public radio stations have been doing musicians great favors since the Internet explosion, carrying live programs from coast to coast across the U.S. Here, good but otherwise little-known -- and sometimes famous -- players get a chance to perform for another audience and gain some valuable exposure. So it was that guitarist Michael Young found himself in the studio at KRFR 88.9 FM in Ft. Collins in October, 2006, hosted by Philip Coggan. The Minneapolis native was on his way to Denver for a gig and got a chance to take an hour to play and introduce himself to some new listeners. He plays both six and twelve-string guitars, fingerstyle, with all original songs, except for Cripple Creek. Most of the songs are on the 12-string. "Clementine" has some Leo Kottke-esque charm with a slide. "No Smiling" is a dark and brooding piece of alternating minor chords and thumping bass lines, whereas "Caboose" comes back to a sunny side of life, almost rollicking and strutting as a preening game bird in the park. The 6-string "Indio" has a similar feel. Young plays 8 songs in all over the course of the hour; the music is young and not terribly developed, but he's been able to get his music out over the airwaves and onto CD without having to pay heavy costs in a recording studio, and that to a young musician trying to find his way is worth its weight in gold. © Kirk Albrecht

Hiding in Public, "What Lies Ahead," 2007 I found this CD to be an interesting lark, one that explores some Brit-rock territory that has not been mined in years. With Humble Pie panache, Pink Floyd attitude and Thin White Duke harmonies, Hiding in Public comes across as if unstuck in time, a strangely engaging anachronism. The tone is earnest. And yet there's a certain Spinal Tap element present. The project belongs to guitarist-songwriter David Holland and features guitarist (and now singer) Jamie Moss, whose credits include Queen, Mike and the Mechanics, and Bob Geldoff. The opener, "Satellite," features a Dire Straits tone and lyric. Moss' voice gets the Bowie thing going on the downtempo standout "Closing In." "Things Will Never Be The Same" and "I'll Save Myself" both are possessed of a Roger Waters sensibility. The strangest song on the CD is "As The Sirens Sang" with its unfortunate narrative of love-lost in the lives of the super-rich. Nonetheless, if some of the above influences turn your crank these guys will bring you back, way back, to "What Lies Ahead." © Steve Klingaman

Dave Nachmanoff, "Time Before the Fall," 2007 I've been a Nachmanoff fan for several years so prepare for some gushing. Anyone who's seen this guy live - whether doing his own show or backing Al Stewart - would likewise go on because he's one of those just-under-the-radar musicians who we muse, "Why isn't he famous?" Not only does he have excellent acoustic and electric guitar chops but he plays bass and piano in tasty arrangements on this folk rock release. Add top notch writing talents and a solid band, and you've got a CD that'll make you plunk your arse down and listen to it all the way through -- from the traditional English ballad style "Midnight Sea" to the folk-pop of "Lucky." There are just enough hooky guitar licks on these songs to make you smile but not so much that they distract from the wonderful stories and out of the ordinary characters. There's the guy who brightens a city corner with flowers in the upbeat "George's Corner" and a man who remorsefully reports his brother's activities to the authorities in "Judas Kiss." Al Stewart makes an appearance in "The Invader," a serious ballad with a sinister piano and wailing electric guitar that wonders if the evil doers we're worried about are the kind within. Highly recommended. © Jamie Anderson

Here's some other great music we received this month:

Mortimer Nelson - Well
Lawrence Blatt - Out of the Woodwork
Lenny Solomon Band - Maybe Today
The Red Button - She's About to Cross My Mind
Victor Saumarez - Swing Strings
Todd Snider - Peace, Love and Anarchy
Hide from Cleo - Coffee, Dreams & Acoustic Beans
Brian L. Hughes - Cool Fidelity
Johan Eliasson
Judd Starr - Luminescent
Dan Pokorni - Guitarscapes
Dave Patten - Too Close, Too Far
Chris Bruni - Watch Me Burn
Matt Tyler - Brilliant Disguise
Kevin McCarthy - Hiding in Plain Sight
The Tunes and Tones - The Rolling Stone Effect
Erin Sax Seymour - Good Girl

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