Great American Taxi summer festival blitz continues

Listen carefully to Reckless Habits, the second album from Great American Taxi, and you’ll hear a political edge to some of the music created by one of the best country-, rock- and bluegrass-influenced Americana bands in the land.  And the band is entirely comfortable bringing its danceable albeit politically-tinged songs to summer festivals.

“Woodie Guthrie was a huge influence for us and we truly believe in the power of song,” said Taxi front man Vince Herman in a recent interview.  Songs about hard luck times tend to “hold a man up and make him feel stronger than he is — and they make him feel good about his community. We want to address the issues appropriate to our times, while making music that gets people up and moving.”

Great American Taxi is at ease when it comes to touching upon a serious subject in a song. The New Millennium Blues, a track from the band’s latest album, Reckless Habits, is about the sad state of the U.S. economy.  “It’s about how we can’t afford our pickup trucks and how our jobs are all gone overseas,” said Herman.

But no one can accuse Taxi of crying the blues. Even Great American Taxi protest songs are generally up-beat, containing Cajun, calypso, and bluegrass melodies and a retro, ’70s feel — think the Grateful Dead, Wilco, and the Byrds.

“We like to get as much dancing going as possible,” said Herman, who enjoys experimenting with traditional Southern boogie and swampy blues-rock sounds.  Herman says of festival crowds, “People are at their best at festivals — maybe because they can get away from the rest of the world and feel like they’re on holiday.”

Taxi’s latest CD release Reckless Habits climbed to # 3 and remains in the top ten for spins on both the Jambands.com radio chart and the Colorado radio chart, complemented by two months in the top 25 on the Americana radio chart.

Great American Taxi’s latest video for the track “American Beauty” is here.

The band’s also recently donated a track, “Appalachian Soul” to raise awareness of the coal miners’ relief fund.


GREAT AMERICAN TAXI ON THE ROAD, 2010


Sat., Aug. 7  WILLITS, CA Dead on the Creek

Sun., Aug. 8 NEVADA CITY, NV Cooper’s Ale Works

Wed., Aug. 11  SEATTLE WA Tractor Tavern

Fri., Aug. 13  RED DEER, AB CANADA Central Music Festival

Sat., Aug. 14 WHITEFISH, MT Stumptown Summer Hoedown – Armory Fields

Fri., Aug.  20  ALMA, CO THC Fest – Alma’s Only Bistro

Sat., Aug. 21 WELLSTON, MI Hoxeyville Festival

Sun., Aug. 22  FORT COLLINS, CO Bohemian Nights @ New West Fest

Sat., Aug. 28, 2:30 p.m.  NEDERLAND, CO Nedfest

Sat., Aug. 28, 10 p.m. FORT COLLINS, CO Hodi’s Half Note

Sun., Sept. 5  DENVER, CO Electric Avenue Music and Arts Festival

Mon., Sept. 6  BOULDER, CO Boulder Hometown Fair

Wed., Sept. 8 DES MOINES, IA People’s Bar

Thurs., Sept. 9 CHICAGO, IL Martyr’s

Fri., Sept. 10 HARRODSBURG, KY Terrapin Hill Harvest Festival

Sat., Sept. 11  ELDRIDGE, MO Green Mountain Eco Fest – Main Stage <http://www.greenmountainecofest.com/>

Thurs., Sept. 16  RALEIGH, NC Berkeley Café

Fri., Sept. 17  BRISTOL, TN Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion

Ryan Montbleau Band's Martin Sexton-produced album out September 21

“Time hangs heavy on the vine/Let’s make wine,” Ryan Montbleau sings in the lulling, sensual verse that gives his group’s new album its title. Ryan Montbleau Band has been tending its own musical vineyard for a few years, on the patient cusp of a breakthrough. Their distinctive, long-fermenting blend of neo-folk, classic soul, and kick-out-the-jams Americana finally comes to full fruition in Heavy on the Vine, due out September 21, 2010 on indie Blue’s Mountain Records. It’s an album that represents the product of — and further promise of — a very good year.

It’s been a good year already. The group spent much of it both as opening act and backing band for Martin Sexton, including a round of dates with the Dave Matthews Band. Sexton in turn produced Heavy on the Vine. “I used to dream about getting to meet Martin Sexton,” says Ryan, “and now we’re getting hired as his backing band and he’s producing our record.

“He may not be a household name but to me and so many others, he’s a legend,” Montbleau adds. “But one thing he made clear from the start was that he didn’t want his fingerprints on this record. He wanted us to just play and be us.”

As a songwriter, Ryan recently contributed the single “Something Beautiful” to Trombone Shorty’s recent major-label debut album Backatown. Shorty turned to no less than Lenny Kravitz to contribute vocals and a guitar solo to the track, to help bring across the song’s soulful vibe. Ryan also co-wrote the Backatown track “One Night Only,” the tune Shorty and his band performed on their Late Night with David Letterman debut in June.

“I’m not one of these people who’s like, ‘Oh, we can’t be pigeonholed.’ I honestly wish we could, just so I could describe it quickly to people,” Montbleau says. “This record has folk songs, funk songs, country tunes, a reggae tune . . . and the end is almost like prog-rock. It’s all over the map, but it’s all us, and we always do it wholeheartedly. We’ve sort of come up in the jam scene, and that’s where our hearts have been in a lot of ways. But we don’t go off on 15-minute epics. We’re actually trying to make the songs shorter as we go. So I would lean more toward the Americana thing than the jam thing. But more than anything, we’re definitely about the song.”

The “us”-ness of the band comes through in Heavy on the Vine in vivid, funny, touching, and hummable spades. The opening “Slippery Road” playfully examines the fine line of moderation between inebriation and sobriety, a subject familiar to most of Montbleau’s contemporaries and more than a few non-musicians. “Carry,” the purest love song Montbleau has written, is in demand as a wedding song by some romantics who’ve heard it being road-tested. “Fix Your Wings” deals with damage and healing in relationships, with tight gospel harmonies adding to the surprisingly sprightly feel. Both the rocking “Here at All” and the ’20s-styled “Stay” address the itinerant musician’s thwarted impulse to settle in one place for more than one night at a time. An admirer of Paul Simon, Montbleau reaches some of his greatest lyrical heights in “Straw in the Wind,” which asks, “Wouldn’t it be nice . . . if you could reconcile the smile you want to feel with the one that you show?”

“For the song ‘More and More and More’ we had done another weirder version in the studio with a strange old synthesizer. But Martin said, ‘We need to try a Rolling-Stones-in-Nashville country version of this,’ with an untuned piano they had in the studio. And it turned out great.”

The Peabody, Mass. native got his first guitar at age nine but didn’t get the bug to become a serious player until he was attending Villanova University. He spent many years as an acoustic solo artist. His first album, Begin (2002), was followed by the live Stages. The first Montbleau Band recording was One Fine Color (2006). And by the time 2007’s Patience on Friday was released, Ryan Montbleau Band (Montbleau, guitar, lead vocals; Laurence Scudder, viola, vocals; Jason Cohen, keyboards; James Cohen, drums; Matt Giannaros, bass, vocals; and Yahuba, percussion, vocals) were hometown heroes.

The band’s unusual makeup was somewhat accidental, as the leader tells it; he never had it in mind, for instance, that he needed a full-time viola player. “It just evolved over the years, because I really didn’t have a sound that I was going for,” he says, before qualifying that claim. “Well, I knew I wanted an upright bass, I guess. And I knew I wanted the drummer in some ways to be more of a jazz drummer than a straight-ahead rock drummer. But that was all I knew. I’ve personally always loved the B3 organ, but the keyboard approach really comes from Jason (Cohen), who’s a vintage gear nut and tone junkie who loves old Rhodes, organs, Wurlitzers, Moogs, etc.”

Abject realism and a sense of limitless possibility coexist in Montbleau’s ever-ripening mind. “For the last 10 years, I’ve had this insane desire to just go out there and do this. And I face the realities that, okay, I’m 33 and I’m not selling out stadiums yet. I get more realistic as I go and I also get more appreciative of just being able to do this at all. My goal for a few years when I was starting out was to make a living off playing music, and now I’ve been doing that for seven years or so, and the goals change as you go. Now the goal is to spend more time practicing and writing and creating, and a little less time doing all the business stuff.”

Tempted as Montbleau might be to look toward the big picture, not losing sight of the small one is why the band has maintained such a loyal and evangelistically inclined base. “I still go back to my original philosophy of just one person at a time,” he says. “I never even told people ‘Bring your friends to the show’ at the beginning, because it wasn’t about them bringing their friends, it was about them bringing themselves. I’m trying to focus on the one person, because if they come and like it, they are going to bring their friends. We’re still grass roots in that way.” No surprise, then, that those well-tended roots have sprung up into such pregnant vines.

My Morning Jacket's Carl Broemel to Release Solo Album

“It takes a lot of time to know your mind.”  Its a simple statement, yet earnest and profound in its offering.  Sometimes it’s the spaces in between, the subtleties and ambiguities that provide us with the most meaning.
 All Birds Say (ATO Records) is an intimate collection of musings on life from My Morning Jacket guitarist, Carl Broemel.

 Broemel reflects on things as they are with Zen-like contentment, making no judgment on how they should be...he gives pause for introspection but stops short of preaching. The songs are firmly planted between past and present.  It’s in these little fractured moments that the listener bears witness to thoughtful contemplation that give rise to epiphanies on larger themes.

Broemel could’ve taken the easy road and penned a lyrical triptych to the remarkable journey he’s experienced over the past several years, but instead All Birds Say is an incredibly honest and sincere insight into the artist’s inner-most thoughts as he attempts to reconcile his role in life.
 “Where do you start?  Or where do you stop?  And how do you reconcile the things you do versus the things you don’t?  It’s something I’m constantly thinking about.  I think there’s a lot of trying to be aware of what you’re doing now versus dwelling on things or worrying about what’s gonna happen later.  A lot of the songs are really just me talking to myself, trying to make sense of things in my head.”

Deft in its presentation, the songs on the album unfold in a dream-like stream of consciousness with lush and elegant arrangements.  The album’s brilliance is displayed in Broemel’s effortless delivery.  It’s the perfect amalgamation of lazy sophistication…whimsical poise and grace.  The instrumentation serves as the ideal complement to Broemel’s well crafted set of modern-folk standards; complete with pedal steel, dobro, strings, autoharp, clarinet, bassoon, vibraphone, and baritone sax, among others.  Think Ron Sexsmith, Neko Case, Neal Casal, Andrew Bird, Mose Allison, and early Boz Scaggs singing an orchestrated chorus of breezy ballads and waltzes.

The guitar figure of the instrumental title track that opens the album serves as a natural introduction to “Life Leftover,” an introspective meditation on the importance of being more present in life that’s at the heart of All Birds Say.  The album also afforded him the chance to collaborate with his own father, a former member of the Indianapolis Symphony who provides rich color and depth to the music with clarinet, baritone sax, and bassoon.

“To me, making records is like alchemy.  It’s something that no one can ever perfect, but you have an insatiable desire to keep doing it and get better at it.  I really believe that everything we experience contributes to what we do next, so this album is really a result of all the records and tours I’ve done so far.“

The best records always seem to be the ones that slowly reveal themselves like a pleasant surprise and allow the listener to peel through deeper layers upon repeated listen…the kind of records that you grow with and can go back to months later and hear something then that resonates with you in a way that wouldn’t have otherwise.  It’s an interactive process between the listener and the artist, and one to be thankful for.  This is the kind of album that epitomizes the vinyl experience; an instant classic that is sure to stand the test of time.

Listen to Bromel's 'Heaven Knows'

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Lucky Peterson interprets Tom Waits, Lucinda Williams, Ray LaMontagne, Robert Johnson & Blind Willie McTell

Lucky Peterson was discovered by blues legend Willie Dixon when he was three years old, released his first record at five and soon after appeared on The Tonight Show. Trained by keyboardists Bill Doggett and Jimmy Smith, Peterson went on to play behind Little Milton, Bobby “Blue” Bland and Kenny Neal. On return from the “Young Blues Giants” tour of Europe, he signed first with Alligator, then Verve, Blue Thumb and Birdology/Dreyfus, where he recorded what Amazon.com called “his finest album,” Black Midnight Sun, in 2003. The New Yorker called him “a master of the guitar, organ and microphone.”

But Lucky’s journey was not a smooth one, and Peterson spent the next few years in transition, working to free himself of drug troubles that had affected his health, family life and professional life. He spent time in treatment, making one-off records for small European labels, but never a proper follow-up to Black Midnight Sun.

But you can always turn around. These words took on special meaning for the 45-year-old Peterson, which is why the first album since his rehabilitation is titled You Can Always Turn Around. It is an uplifting collection of songs that speak of struggles and salvation, using the gritty clarity of acoustic roots-blues (with modern touches) as its main musical vehicle.

The album, scheduled for September 28, 2010 release on Dreyfus Records, was made in the Catskills with master Woodstock musicians Larry Campbell, guitar (Bob Dylan, Levon Helm); Scott Petito, bass (The Fugs, Mercury Rev, Rick Danko Band); and Gary Burke, drums (Joe Jackson, Shania Twain). Peterson as usual plays a mix of instruments: duolian resonator, piano and acoustic and electric guitars. Also prevalent is the acoustic piano on which Lucky sounds like a bluesy Elton John. “He’s something of a genius — his piano playing reminds me of Aretha Franklin,” says drummer Burke, who has played behind Franklin on the road.

But it’s Peterson’s vocal instrument that some might find most arresting. Peterson wraps his voice around an eclectic selection of blues-based materials including songs by original Delta bluesmen Robert Johnson, Rev. Gary Davis and Blind Willie McTell up through the music of today’s top songwriters including Lucinda Williams, Tom Waits and Ray LaMontagne. The album closes with a version of Curtis Mayfield’s “Think.”

“This album is very different for me — it’s more from the heart,” says Peterson.  “The songs were picked by (co-producer) Doug Yoel, and he knew my heart. I feel like all these songs were for me.”  The album would be the last co-production of Francis Dreyfus, who passed away on June 24, before the album’s release.

One standout on the album is the civil-rights era anthem “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free,” written by Billy Taylor and popularized by Nina Simone. The new recording introduces Tamara Peterson, Lucky’s wife, a worthy blues singer in her own right. The chemistry between Lucky and Tamara on that session was so exciting that Larry Campbell was prompted to invite the pair to appear with the Levon Helm Band at the Midnight Ramble concert the following night.

Peterson creates something brand new on “Trampled Rose,” turning a wordless hook into a seductive Arabian-flavored line. The band responded to and fed the creativity of the newly awakened Lucky Peterson, and the results are truly special.

Peterson continues to tour, doing dates big and small. This new album should increase awareness of and demand for this one-of-a-kind musician.

And when off the road, he’ll be at his church in Dallas, Texas with his family, holding on, and playing for one very lucky congregation.

TRACK LIST:

1. I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom (Robert Johnson)
2. I'm New Here (Bill Callahan)
3. Statesboro Blues (Blind Willie McTell)
4. Trouble (Ray LaMontagne)
5. Trampled Rose (Tom Waits / Kathleen Brennan)
6. Atonement (Lucinda Williams)
7. Why Are People Like That (Bobby Charles)
8. Four Little Boys (James Peterson / Judge Peterson)
9. Death Don't Have No Mercy (Rev. Gary Davis)
10. I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (Billy Taylor and Dick Dallas)
11. Think (Curtis Mayfield)

Independent Radio Takes Center Stage as Toyota Free Yr Radio Launches Fourth Annual Tour

Toyota’s Free Yr Radio is back, taking its mission to draw attention and support to independent, non-commercial radio on the road across the U.S. with appearances at the nation’s best music festivals, including Siren Fest, Lollapalooza, Mile High, Outside Lands, Bumbershoot, the Voodoo Experience, and CMJ.  Toyota launched Free Yr Radio four years ago to celebrate independent radio as a vital cultural resource.

Rhythm Devils ft. Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann announce Part Two of Summer Tour

Just as summer moves in to full swing and the Rhythm Devils pack up to hit the road, the band announces a hefty number of new dates for late summer. The Rhythm Devils – Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, the polyrhythmic engine that drove the Grateful Dead for nearly three decades – will make stops throughout the Midwest and Northeast covering some of the territory they’ll miss when out west for their earlier summer shows.

Joining Hart and Kreutzmann in the Rhythm Devils for part two of the tour will be Nigerian talking drum master Sikiru Adepoju, returning from the last RD tour in 2006, Back Door Slam’s Davy Knowles (guitar, vocals) and Andy Hess (bass). The Mother Hips' Tim Bluhm (guitar, vocals) extends his first run as a Devil.

The Rhythm Devils name has its origins in the late ’70s. As Hart explains, “I remember Jerry looking at Bill and I one time. He shook his head and just said, ‘You guys are Rhythm Devils.’”

But the 2010 incarnation of the Rhythm Devils is guaranteed to be unlike anything that’s come before—the dynamic mix of the musicians’ individual but complementary styles and approaches is sure to lead to some serious sparks. “The music is quite different,” says Kreutzmann. “It’s real groove-based. It has lots of percussion and electronics. It’s very danceable. It’s gonna be quite a mix up there.”

“It’s a great combination,” says Hart. “You have the deep trance music from Nigeria and West Africa that Sikiru brings to us and there’s Davy who at any moment just might rip the sky apart with his guitar and Andy Hess is a real gem of a bass player. We’re also excited to have Tim Bluhm, who will bring his ferocious California guitar style and beautiful vocals to the mix.”

While both Hart and Kreutzmann promise that the music will be percussion-driven, another factor contributing to the Rhythm Devils’ special mojo is the troupe’s repertoire: Not only will they be reconstituting some familiar Grateful Dead tunes in their unique way, but the Devils will also be performing numerous tunes written exclusively for them by Robert Hunter, the legendary songwriter whose collaborations with the late Jerry Garcia provided the Dead with their most beloved and durable material.

“Robert Hunter is a major force in all of this. He has written his heart out in these new songs,” says Hart. “There will also be enormous, exciting electronic sections of pulsing, throbbing, beautiful zones. There are places and sounds still unknown and unborn that we will no doubt visit.”

Kreutzmann and Hart have been inextricably entwined as partners since they first met in 1967, two years after the formation of the Grateful Dead with Kreutzmann the sole drummer. On that first night, they literally “played the city,” walking around San Francisco with drumsticks banging on everything in sight. Hart joined them immediately and except for a brief hiatus in the ’70s, the pair remained with the Dead until 1995, when Garcia’s death signaled the end of an era. Since then, Kreutzmann and Hart have continued to make music both together (most recently in The Dead) and apart, but they both agree that a special chemistry takes place when their percussive minds are in sync.

“When we get together and we’re in the groove it’s a tractor beam,” says Hart. “Anyone around that will be drawn in. But we always thought of the Grateful Dead, and anything that we did together, as a work in progress. This too is a work in progress and that’s the best thing you could say. We’re looking to the future with this kind of music. In the Grateful Dead we created a body of work that we’ll not leave behind. But we also have an identity as the Rhythm Devils, and that’s who we’ll be.”

Summer Tour 2010 Leg One, with Keller Williams:

Friday, July 16 Arcata Theatre Arcata CA
Saturday, July 17 String Summit North Plains OR
Sunday, July 18 Britt Festival Jacksonville OR
Thursday, July 22 Ogden Theatre Denver CO
Friday, July 23 Steamboat Springs Concert Series Steamboat Springs CO
Saturday, July 24 Spud Drive In Driggs ID
Sunday, July 25 Red Butte Garden Salt Lake City UT
Tuesday, July 27 Orpheum Theatre Flagstaff AZ
Wednesday, July 28 Rialto Theatre Tucson AZ
Thursday, July 29 Soundwave San Diego CA
Saturday, July 31 Gathering of the Vibes Bridgeport CT

Summer Tour 2010 Leg Two, with Tim Bluhm
:

Saturday, August 21 Hoxeyville Festival Cadillac MI
Sunday, August 22 House of Blues - Chicago Chicago IL
Monday, August 23 Cedar Cultural Center Minneapolis MN
Tuesday, August 24 Pabst Theatre Milwaukee WI
Thursday, August 26 Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead Munhall PA
Friday, August 27 The Sherman Theatre Stroudsburg PA
Saturday, August 28 The Music Hall Theater Tarrytown NY
Wednesday, September 1 B.B. King Blues Club & Grill New York NY
Thursday, September 2 Northern Lights Clifton Park NY
Friday, September 3 Showcase Live Foxboro MA
Saturday, September 4 Hampton Beach Casino Room Hampton Beach NH
Monday, September 6 Nelson Ledges Quarry Park Garrettsville OH
Wednesday, September 8 The Stage Theatre State College PA
Thursday, September 9 Water Street Music Hall Rochester NY
Friday, September 10 The Bears Den @ Seneca Niagra Niagara Falls NY
Saturday, September 11 Higher Ground Ballroom South Burlington VT
Tuesday, January 4 - Sunday, January 9 Jam Cruise 9 Fort Lauderdale FL
Sunday, January 9 Revolution Hall Fort Lauderdale FL

John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and Sonny Roillins get 'Definitive'

Following up on the success of The Definitive Vince Guaraldi, Concord Music Group  has assembled three new titles in the Definitive series showcasing some of the most influential figures in modern jazz. The Definitive John Coltrane on Prestige and Riverside; The Definitive Thelonious Monk on Prestige and Riverside;The Definitive Sonny Rollins on Prestige, Riverside and Contemporary not only put the spotlight on the monumental work of three individual jazz players of the 1950s, but also provide an overview of the hard-bop period, one of the most significant chapters in the evolution of jazz. Each of the 2-CD collections is set for release on August 24, 2010.

The Definitive John Coltrane on Prestige and Riverside tracks Coltrane’s artistic development from his first Prestige recording session in November 1955 for Miles: The New Miles Davis Quintet to his last sessions for Prestige (for Bahia) in December 1958.

Trane’s career was marked by various shifts in style throughout the ’50s and ’60s, “but if you like straight-ahead, yet inventive, hard-bop playing, then this collection of recordings from the mid- to late ’50s is definitely one of the sweet spots,” says Nick Phillips, Concord Music Group’s Vice President of Jazz and Catalog A&R and the producer of the Definitive series. “And yet some of what you hear in these tracks gives hints about what was to come from this restlessly creative artist.”

Extensive liner notes by veteran music journalist and Coltrane biographer Ashley Kahn provide an in-depth look at the tracks and the circumstances surrounding their genesis. “The Definitive John Coltrane offers a best-of culled from these early recordings,” says Kahn, “offering an inspiring listening session that allows for much to be gleaned: Coltrane’s talent at recasting decades-old themes with a modern touch; a penchant for brooding, minor-key melodies; the uncanny rate of his personal development — building on his strengths, articulating a signature sound; an increased ability born in the one-take fire of three-hour recording dates to toss together timeless performances.”

The Definitive Thelonious Monk on Prestige and Riverside covers an even broader span of the ’50s, beginning with trio sessions in New York featuring bassist Gary Mapp and drummer Art Blakey in October 1952 and stretching to sextet dates in San Francisco with trumpeter Joe Gordon, tenor saxophonists Harold Land and Charlie Rouse, bassist John Ore and drummer Billy Higgins in April 1960.

“This is some of the most amazing Thelonious Monk on record,” says Phillips. “Whether he’s playing a standard or one of his own compositions, he sounds uniquely like Thelonious Monk and nobody else. All of the tunes in this collection that Monk wrote have become jazz standards. Conversely, he plays standard tunes like ‘Caravan’ and ‘Tea for Two’ with such distinctive genius that you’d swear he had written them himself.”

But Monk was no overnight sensation. He made “a long, slow climb from underground to mainstream adulation, and the ten-year period represented by this collection captures that ascent,” says Kahn in his liner notes. “The one constant — creatively, promotionally, and economically — was his recordings. First for Prestige Records from 1952 to ’54, then for the Riverside label from ’55 to ’61, Monk was afforded the chance to create new music and work with a number of significant jazz peers in a number of contexts — from solo piano, to trios, to quartets, even a big band . . . Most importantly, what Monk composed and recorded during the ’50s amount to the definitive versions of some of the most enduring, joyous melodies in modern jazz.”

The Definitive Sonny Rollins on Prestige, Riverside and Contemporary comes out a few weeks ahead of Rollins’ 80th birthday on September 7. Like the Thelonious Monk release, the Sonny Rollins set also covers almost an entire decade, from a December 1951 session in New York for Sonny Rollins with the Modern Jazz Quartet to an October 1958 session in Los Angeles for Sonny Rollins and the Contemporary Leaders.

“That was such a significant period in the development of jazz in general, and Sonny Rollins was at the heart of all that was going on during that decade,” says Phillips. “Just look at the Miles Davis session where he recorded ‘Airegin,’ ‘Doxy’ and ‘Oleo,’ for example. Those are all tunes that he penned, and all remain indelible jazz standards. That’s a whole lot of jazz history that was made on just a single day in the summer of 1954.”

Liner notes for The Definitive Sonny Rollins are provided by music journalist Bob Blumenthal, co-author with photographer John Abbott of the forthcoming book, Saxophone Colossus: A Portrait of Sonny Rollins.

“That the marks of [Rollins’] genius were fully apparent in the music he made over a half-century ago has been obvious to all who have followed the trajectory of his unprecedented career,” says Blumenthal. “As a contract artist with Prestige Records between 1951 and 1956, and through his work on various labels from 1957 until the beginning of an extended sabbatical two years later, Rollins laid the foundation for his status as a master improviser, saxophonist and composer; an influence far beyond his chosen instrument and idiom; and a living icon of affirmative creativity. Concord Music Group is the steward of many of the finest Rollins performances of the ’50s, and has culled them well in presenting this short course in what made Sonny Rollins Sonny Rollins.” released in October 2009.

The Sword Reveal Album Art, Plan Video Trilogy, and Open for Ozzy

Austin, TX’s metal luminaries The Sword are kicking it into high gear as the release of their highly anticipated third full-length Warp Riders (August 24th; Kemado Records) rapidly approaches.  The band has finally revealed the album’s artwork and will be releasing additional visual companions in the form of an upcoming picture disc and an epic video trilogy.

With a narrative arc that the band describes as “a psychedelic space opera that explores the temporal themes of death and rebirth,” it’s only fitting that the record’s cover art is equally mind melting.  Paying homage to authors that inspired the album’s lyrics, artist Dan McPharlin created an image in the tradition of classic science fiction book covers.  The Sword will also release a limited edition hexagon-shaped picture disc 12 inch single for “(The Night Sky Cried) Tears of Fire.”

Fans that are eagerly awaiting to hear the new material will have their thirst quenched on July 6th, when first single “Tres Brujas” will be let loose online.  The track is also the first part of a video trilogy helmed by former Sword collaborators Artificial Army, which will launch in August.  The second and third chapters of the saga will be for “Lawless Lands” and “Night City.”

The guys will also have the honor of being the sole opener for Ozzy Osbourne at the iTunes Roundhouse Festival in London on July 3rd.  Their set will be recorded and available on iTunes in early July.

Dark Star Orchestra Announces Jeff Mattson as Lead Guitarist

Dark Star Orchestra, the faithful interpreters of the music of the Grateful Dead, announced today that Jeff Mattson will be taking on Jerry Garcia role and welcomes him as a full time member of the group. The band’s statement reads:

“After months of touring and playing with Jeff, we have decided to offer him the full time gig, which he has gratefully accepted.  Jeff has blown us away with his energy, licks, and presence on stage. He is a great guy, an inspiring musician and so much fun to perform with, we cannot wait to get back out there and mix it up with him once again. We are having more fun than ever and are looking forward to seeing you all at the upcoming shows.”

A veteran of more than 30 years on the road, Jeff was a founding member of The Zen Tricksters and has performed in two bands of actual Grateful Dead members with Phil Lesh & Friends and the Donna Jean Godchaux Band. RELIX Magazine recently praised his “eerily on-point Garcia interpretations” and Jambase.com noted “Any doubts about new lead guitarist-singer Jeff Mattson were erased by a breathtaking "Eyes of the World" where Mattson continually proved a real prize in his new role, bringing all his years in The Zen Tricksters to bear and then upping the ante a bit more.”

Having joined Dark Star Orchestra for two nationwide tours, fans and critics have already weighed in with PopMatters.com marveling how “Mattson’s guitar playing matched every intricate moment,” and Hidden Track praising his “soulful vocals and dense solos to anchor the major suites, chipper, airy ones to flesh out the rockers… his improvisational style is intense but not ostentatious.”

A video clip of Jeff Mattson performing with Dark Star Orchestra doing a scorching version of "Viola Lee Blues" at The Klein in Bridgeport, CT can be viewed online here: http://www.vimeo.com/9585290.

Dark Star Orchestra will be performing at clubs and festivals across the nation this summer, all announced dates are listed below:

Rock My Soul Summer Tour

06/24    Minnesota Zoo Weesner Ampitheater | Apple Valley, MN

06/25    Simon Estes Ampitheater | Des Moines, IA

06/26    CEFCU Stage | Peoria, IL

06/27    Park West | Chicago, IL

06/29    Otto's | Dekalb, IL

06/30    Summerfest | Milwaukee, WI

07/02    Gratefulfest 11 | Garretsville, OH

07/03    Gratefulfest 11 | Garretsville, OH

07/04    Gratefulfest 11 | Garretsville, OH

07/07    Veteran's Park Ampitheater | Springfield, OH

07/08    All Good Music Festival Masontown, WV

07/10    State Theatre | State College, PA

07/11    Tags Summerstage | Big Flats, NY

07/29    Gathering Of The Vibes Bridgeport, CT

07/30    Saranac Brewery | Utica, NY

07/31    Town Ballroom | Buffalo, NY

08/01    Midland Theatre | Newark, OH

08/03    Harris River Front Park | Huntington, WV

08/05    Bottle and Cork Dewey Beach, DE

08/06    Hilton Atlantic City | Atlantic City, NJ

08/07    Bergen PAC Theatre | Englewood, NJ

08/09    Zoellner Arts Center | Bethlehem, PA

08/12    Party in the Park | Rochester, NY

08/13    Bears Picnic | Laurelton, PA

08/15    Lake Champlain Maritime Festival | Burlington, VT

A Slingshot On Mars Tour

09/09    The Valarium | Knoxville, TN

09/10    Minglewood Hall | Memphis, TN

09/11    Terrapin Hill Farm | Harrodsburg, KY

09/12    Orange Peel | Asheville, NC

09/15    Jefferson Theater | Charlottesville, VA

09/16    The Norva | Norfolk, VA

09/17    Rams Head Live! | Baltimore, MD

09/18    930 Club | Washington, DC

09/22    Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead | Munhall, PA

09/23    Grand Opera House | Wilmington, DE

09/24    Theatre of the Living Arts | Philadelphia, PA

09/25    Palace Theatre | Albany, NY

09/27    Toad's Place | New Haven, CT

09/28    Westcott Theater | Syracuse, NY

09/30    Calvin Theatre | Northhampton, MA

10/01    Lowell Memorial Auditorium | Lowell, MA

10/02    Nokia Theatre | New York, NY

Allan Sherman's Warner Bros. LPs reissued on Collectors' Choice

If Stan Freberg owned the ’50s when it came to song parodies, Alan Sherman owned the ’60s. His string of three #1 albums in a row (My Son, the Folk Singer; My Son, the Celebrity; and My Son, the Nut) remains unmatched by any comedian before or since. Yet in what would qualify as a fershlugginer state of affairs, those very same classic albums have never been released on CD in their original form — appearing only on a now out-of-print Rhino Handmade box set. Collectors’ Choice Music will reissue Sherman’s eight Warner Bros. Records albums from 1962-67 on September 7, 2010 — one day before Rosh Hashanah in the Hebrew calendar year 5771.

The digitally remastered albums include My Son, the Folk Singer; My Son, the Celebrity; My Son, the Nut; Allan in Wonderland; For Swingin’ Livers Only!; My Name Is Allan; Allan Sherman Live! (Hoping You Are the Same); and Togetherness and feature newly written liner notes by Barry “Dr. Demento” Hansen.

Sherman’s musical career started when his career as a television producer (“The Steve Allen Show,” “I’ve Got a Secret”) came to a close. He had recorded a handful of Borscht Belt song parodies in the ’50s for Jubilee Records in his native New York and decided to take up where he’d left off. Having relocated to Los Angeles, Sherman was signed to Warner Bros. Records by A&R man and arranger-conductor Lou Busch. The recording session for what would become My Son, the Folk Singer took place where his next six albums would be recorded — Radio Recorders on Hollywood’s McCadden Place, where he was joined by six musicians, six singers, and a live audience of 100, seated in folding chairs, who noshed and imbibed. “I wanted it to be like a party,” he later wrote in his autobiography. The crowd laughter became an essential part of the Allan Sherman sound. The eight Allan Sherman reissues on Collectors’ Choice Music are as follows:

• My Son, The Folk Singer: Sherman recorded his #1 debut album one night on August 6, 1962 with arranger Lou Busch at Hollywood’s Radio Recorders before a live audience of friends including Johnny Mercer, Theo Bikel and Pat Carroll. As reissue annotator Dr. Demento writes, “He had developed a style that somehow preserved the soul of Jewish humor but made it sound all-American.” The album contains such Sherman gems as “Sarah Jackman” (based on “Frère Jacques”), “My Zelda” (“Matilda”), “The Streets of Miami” (“The Streets of Laredo”), “Seltzer Boy” (“Water Boy”) and “Oh Boy” (“Chiapanecas”). The album sold so fast that when Warner Bros. ran out of album jackets, they continued to sell the vinyl alone.

• My Son, The Celebrity: At 37, Allan Sherman, the portly ex-TV producer, was suddenly famous. In the space of three sessions in late 1962, he and Busch again invited friends to the studio, supplying folding chairs, hors d’oeuvres and an open bar. The resulting album featured “Harvey & Sheila” (set to the tune of “Hava Nagila”), painting a portrait of the emerging suburban Jewish upper middle class (“They bought a house one day/Financed by FHA/It had a swimming pool/Full of H20/Traded their used MG/For a new XKE/Switched to the GOP/That’s the way things go”). The second album, which also reached #1, also included “Mexican Hat Dance,” “The Let’s All Call Up AT&T and Protest to the President March,” “Won’t You Come Home Disraeli” and “Barry Is the Baby’s Name/Horowitz/Get on the Garden Freeway.”

• My Son, The Nut: Sherman’s fan base now including President John F. Kennedy and Harpo Marx. The parodist once told Busch he wanted to record with a full orchestra, which Busch thought was indeed nuts, but agreed to add concert strings and brass to the mix for this 1963 album. Featured here is “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh,” sung from the vantage point of a malcontented kid at overnight camp. The Los Angeles Times called it “pure craft . . . Sherman clearly tapped not only his son’s experience that summer but the  . . . terror of a child separated from his parents.” Other tracks included “You Went the Wrong Way Old King Louie,” “Automation,” “I See Bones,” “Hungarian Goulash No. 5,” “Here’s to the Crabgrass,” “Rat Fink” and “Hail to Thee, Fat Person.” The album held the #1 spot for eight weeks.

• Allan in Wonderland: Sherman’s 1964 album didn’t reach #1 — the Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan three weeks after its release, thereby changing the pop charts forever — but Allan Sherman’s fourth album stood up well against its chart-topping forebears. In fact its humor might even have been a little more pointed, most notably “The Dropouts March,” which took a particularly cynical look at educators’ well-meaning efforts to keep kids in school. With psychiatry a popular topic for comedians in the early ’60s, Sherman provided “You Need an Analyst,” based on “I’ve Got a Little List” from The Mikado. The album maxed at #25 on the album chart.

• For Swingin’ Livers Only: The album title was an homage to Frank Sinatra’s famous 1956 album Songs For Swingin’ Lovers. And indeed Sherman made no bones about on which side of the popular music divide he stood with “Pop Hates the Beatles” (to the tune of “Pop Goes the Weasel”). Also included are “The Twelve Gifts of Christmas,” “Grow, Mrs. Goldfarb,” “Your Mother’s Here to Stay,” “Pills,” “Shine On Harvey Bloom,” ”Beautiful Teamsters” and “Bye Bye Blumberg.”  Although one of his most fertile periods for parody, the November 1964 release reached only #32 on the charts. Sherman kept himself in the public eye, appearing on the “Tonight Show” and authoring articles that year for Playboy, TV Guide, The Saturday Evening Post and New York Magazine.

• My Name is Allan: The fad nutrition book of 1965 was The Drinking Man’s Diet, which advanced the peculiar notion that consuming alcohol would ease the stress of dieting and therefore promote weight loss — a notion that Sherman ran with on this, his final charting album. Featured were “The Drinking Man’s Diet” (not a song parody buy rather an original penned by Sherman and arranger Neil Hefti, who also composed the “Batman” theme), “It’s a Most Unusual Play,” “Peyton Place, USA,” “The Laarge Daark Aardvark Song” and “The Painless Dentist.” The humor also extends to the album title and cover — being Jewish is about the only thing Allan Sherman and Barbara Streisand had in common. The album stalled at #88 on the Billboard chart, and was the last album recorded at a Hollywood studio with invited guests in folding chairs.

• Allan Sherman Live! (Hoping You Are the Same): Sparks, Nevada’s Nugget hotel/casino was not exactly Carnegie Hall. But after years of recording before invited guests at recording studios, this 1966 release was his first recorded in concert. This was not a rehash of greatest hits, however. Sherman premiered new material — much of it a minute or less in length — alongside a few of his best-loved songs. Included are “How Van Nuys Got Its Name,” “Smog Gets in Your Eyes,” “The Learner’s Brassiere,” “Mononucleosis,” “Scotch and/or Water,” “Sorry ’Bout That” and “In Which I Finally Admit That I Won World War II Single-Handed” and “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh — Nevada Style,” complete with a shout-out to the casino’s owner. Overall it was not a good year for Sherman; his 21-year marriage came to an end, and he’d added fame — which had begun to dissipate — to a list of addictions that included alcohol and carbohydrates. He relocated from Los Angeles to back New York, setting his sights on creating a Broadway musical.

• Togetherness: Allan Sherman’s last album, from 1967, was the only one he made without an audience of any kind, and he and musical director Peter Matz (who he’d met an overnight camp) took full advantage of the studio environment with such effects as singing in the shower. The album’s single was “Westchester Hadassah,” a parody of the New Vaudeville Band’s “Winchester Cathedral,” itself something of a novelty record. He sang it in what Dr. Demento describes as “somewhere between the quaintly nasal sound of the New Vaudeville Band and the nagging woman of a thousand Jewish comedy routines.” Many of the songs were written by Sherman and composer Albert Hague for their Broadway show Birth Is the Coward’s Way Out (retitled The Fig Leaves Are Falling). Sadly, the production lasted a total of two days on Broadway.

Sherman moved back to L.A. and began work on a book. By the time it was published in 1973, Sherman was in poor health, suffering from emphysema (after a lifetime of smoking) and increased weight. He died on November 20, 1973 at the age of 47.

Forty-plus years after his heyday, with the re-release of his catalog, Sherman proves that good comedic music can have timeless appeal.