Bentley’s Bandstand: Soul Jazz Orchestra, Marley’s Ghost, Re-Delux

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billbentley110BY BILL BENTLEY

Soul Jazz Orchestra, Rising Sun, Strut Recordssouljazzorch_

When groups work like crazy, playing live shows constantly, rehearsing because they love the joy of creating and camaraderie combined, writing original songs that sometimes seem to come from the air itself, listening to music for the sheer love of sound: all these things merge into a sonic force field which will not be stopped. That field radiates out into the world in a way that ultimately builds to a wave that must be heard. And that is the world of the Soul Jazz Orchestra now. Their new album, Rising Sun, is a stunner of the first order. It begins in full burn and does not let up. The music this young aggregation creates has the gift of life inside it, like they have found a mojo key to unlock the power of the groove. There is simply no way to resist it. The band has been moving skyward for a while. Now, though, it feels like all that inspired effort has kicked into a whole new realm, allowing all the members to float together while their instruments take on a life of their own. For sheer soul-dacity, it is going to be hard to beat this release for righteous inspiration in 2010. When the music of the spheres decides to make an Earthly visit, it doesn’t have to knock. All it has to do is walk on in. The only thing we can say is amen.

Marley’s Ghost, Ghost Town, Sage Arts Recordsmarleysghost

If you want to go to the source and get down to the real nitty gritty quick, do what Marley’s Ghost does on their mesmerizing new album: hire producer Cowboy Jack Clement to run the show. Best known for his seminal work with Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis at Sun Records, among many, many illustrious credits, Clement has an unerring ability to nail a great song. Not only can he hear one, he is also able to do some knob twiddling and make sure it gets recorded right. Fortunately for us, Marley’s Ghost isn’t lacking in the song department. The ones they don’t write they root out from the classicists: Emmylou Harris, Willis Alan Ramsey, Warren Zevon, John Hartford and others. Best of all, the band blends their instruments as only people who have been playing together 20 years can. It’s almost alchemy how five members can come together as one and make the music go bang, as Clement describes it. On Ghost Town, you will hear such a variety of styles it really is slightly supernatural. So much is being made of how the music business is melting, but an album this good restores faith in the sound so many have chased for close to a century. When Cowboy Jack Clement calls his studio a hotel and recording spa, it’s obvious that once you check in there would be absolutely no reason to ever check out. Bellman!

Re-Delux, Re-Delux, Redelux Musicre-delux2

At a time when it’s getting harder and harder to make rhythm & blues sound fresh and with enough gutter on it to smell real, Re-Delux comes out of nowhere with a sound to make the boys in the alley do the Stroll. Every player on this album has enough credentials to get a degree in Grooveology, and the way they fit together is something that cannot be learned. It just has to be. Producer David Kalish most likely put this crew together, with the core being Jason Yates, Juan Nelson and Herman Matthews. The way they gel has that magical illusion of being loose and tight at the same time. That’s key to everything else that follows. In this case, it’s guests like Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica, saxophonist Steve Berlin, drummer Pete Thomas and guitarist David Hidalgo along with a bus full of others, and what a mighty mess they make. Hidalgo and all the other guitarists play as if they’ve been set free, with no stylistic limitations or tricked-out production ideas. Most likely they were just told to tear the place up. Musselwhite’s harp is as moving as it’s been since he first wrapped his big hands around one, and on vocals he still sounds like someone who learned the blues the hard way, but did not let them take him down. Rather, he built himself up, high enough to grab the sky. That’s just for starters, too. The rest of the musicians and the nine songs will make new believers of those doubting how the modern world could still allow so much soul on one release. Pick any track: “Rumble,” “Father to Father,” “Curse the Day,” “People in the World” or any other. Each will stir something inside you that makes life feel new and all things possible. Just what rhythm & blues was made to do.

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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