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This week we have a review of Joe Satriani's latest CD as well as a list of the top jazz CD's of 2002 from musician and journalist Philip Booth. Philip writes about music and film for the St. Petersburg Times, Down Beat, Jazziz, Billboard, CMJ New Music Monthly, Miami New Times and other publications. He may be contacted at
Review of Joe Satriani's "Strange Beautiful Days" (Epic)
By Philip Booth
The jazzy jam bands, like Medeski Martin and Wood, Soulive and Charlie Hunter, aren’t the only folks making strange beautiful music without vocals. Joe Satriani, a guitar ripper who made his reputation during the ‘80s, is still holding his own as a purveyor of appealing, carefully crafted instrumental rock, as evidenced by this follow-up to Grammy-nominated "Engines of Creation," released two years ago. His eighth studio disc makes a fine salve for those pop/rock fans weary of mindless dance rhythms and the omnipresent hip-hop beat. He is six-string; hear him roar.
Tone manipulation remains Satriani’s forte (along with knockout technical prowess), and on the aptly titled "Strange Beautiful Music," he again elicits some astonishing sounds, beginning with the Middle Eastern textures of opening volley "Oriental Melody" and "Belly Dancer," the latter laced with tasty multi-guitar harmonies and capped with a freak-out jam driven by bassist Matt Bissonette and two drummers - Jeff Campitelli and Matt’s brother, Gregg. In case you don’t know by now: Satriani shreds from the get-go, and doesn’t let up.
Americana, oddly enough, pops up on the rambling "Starry Night," which has Satriani doubling on banjo, and the long shadow of Jimi Hendrix hangs over "Chords of Life." Surf meets old-school art rock on a pulsing version of chestnut "Sleepwalk," featuring King Crimson’s Robert Fripp on guitars of his own making. Heavy metal thunder, of the Led Zep variety, is at the heart of "New Last Jam" and other tracks, and the guitarist dives into an appealing bluesy funky workout on "Hill Groove."
It might be said that Satriani borrows from all the best sources. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it doesn’t exactly make for the most original instrumental disc of the year.
(This review originally appeared online at www.billboard.com)
Top 10 Jazz Discs of 2002
by Philip Booth
(in alphabetical order)
Brian Bromberg, "Jaco" (A440). The late Jaco Pastorius, acknowledged as a major electric-bass innovator, gets his props as a composer on this inventive salute, played on acoustic and fretless electric by an unsung virtuoso. Bromberg, recreating the black-and-white cover of Pastorius’s 1974 debut album, does right by Jaco, in the process coming up with something original.
Dirty Dozen Brass Band, "Medicated Magic" (Rope-A-Dope). The Dirty Dozen still pump out the authentic New Orleans street beat after all these years. This time, they tackle Crescent City familiarities, inviting Dr. John, singer Norah Jones, trumpeter-vocalist Olu Dara, pedal-steel wizard Robert Randolph, DJ Logic and Widespread Panic singer John Bell along for the party. It’s the NOLA audio souvenir of the year.
Charlie Haden, "American Dreams" (Verve). Haden offers his own reflects on life in America, post-911, through a somber, meditative recording that has a quartet, with tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker, pianist Brad Mehldau and drummer Brian Blade, joined by strings.
Dave Holland Big Band, What Goes Around (ECM). The estimable bassist’s wooly, rigorous sound and expansive musical vision are as fruitful in a large ensemble as in the context of his regular quintet, itself contained within this big band. The result: Fresh compositional strokes, smart section work and intriguing solos.
Charles Lloyd, "Lift Every Voice" (ECM). The tenor saxophonist continues his renaissance with a sprawling, double-disc collection mixing new originals with individualistic interpretations of R&B favorites, folk songs, spirituals and a Duke Ellington piece, "I’m Afraid." Lloyd’s approach is deeply spiritual, as evidenced by his work on "What’s Going On" and elsewhere, and he benefits from the thoughtful, inspired support of guitarist John Abercrombie, pianist Geri Allen, drummer Billy Hart and alternating bassists Marc Johnson and Larry Grenadier.
Medeski Martin and Wood, Uninvisible (Blue Note). MMW, the crème de la crème of inspired jam bands (as opposed to the mere noodlers), returns with a set that veers between sticky funk and forays into trippy, surreal sectors of deep space. That’s a good thing. The jazz-funk trio, too, shores up its connections with Beat mythology thanks to "Your Name is Snake Anthony," a cool-daddy spoken word offering from Col. Bruce Hampton.
Chris Potter, "Traveling Mercies" (Verve). Potter, the rising-star saxophonist of the moment, mixes electronic sounds with his mostly acoustic format for a collection of tunes dominated by his own compositions. Potter, on saxophones, flute and clarinet, creates intriguing textures with the able assistance of pianist Kevin Hays, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Bill Stewart, plus guest guitarist John Scofield.
Wayne Shorter, "Footprints Live!" (Verve). A Dream Team of jazz, with the veteran tenor and soprano saxophonist joined by pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and masterful young drummer Brian Blade, tackles Shorter’s celebrated tunes, live in Europe.
Tierney Sutton, "Something Cool" (Telarc). While the Norahs, Dianas and Janes of the female-jazz-vocalist world have been getting all the fawning attention, this SoCal singer has quietly developed a reputation as a real individualist. She’s accomplished that with a finely honed understanding of swing, an ability to load each well-sung phrase with meaning and a knack for matching her talents with the right material. All those attributes are well displayed on her fourth album.
Various Artists, "Bonnaroo" (Sanctuary). The jam-band tribe gathered in rural Tennessee over the summer for what was, by all accounts, an amazing three days of peace, love and world-beating groove music. This double-disc set is an appealing souvenir of the proceedings, with performances by Galactic, Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh, Soulive, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio, Primus singer-bassist Les Claypool, banjo man Bela Fleck, Ween, the North Mississippi Allstars, Gov’t Mule, Robert Randolph and others.
Honorable mention: Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette, "Always Let Me Go" (ECM); Norah Jones, "Come Away With Me" (Blue Note); Ray Brown, "Some of My Best Friends Are Guitarists"; Brad Mehldau, "Largo" (Warner Bros.); Patricia Barber, "Verse" (Blue Note); Cassandra Wilson, "Belly of the Sun" (Blue Note); Brian Bromberg, "Wood" (A440 Music); Jason Moran, "Modernistic" (Blue Note); Ben Allison, "Peace Pipe" (Palmetto); Dave Douglas, "Infinite" (RCA).
(Portions of this article were originally published online at www.billboard.com)
Philip Booth, a musician and journalist based in Tampa, FL, writes about music and film for the St. Petersburg Times, Down Beat, Jazziz, Billboard, CMJ New Music Monthly, Miami New Times and other publications. He may be contacted at
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