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Bentley's Bandstand: V.M. Bhatt & Matt Malley, Stone River Boys, Trombone Shorty

Posted By Karen Young On May 6, 2010 @ 1:03 am In Arts & Culture,Music,spotlight | No Comments

billbentley110BY BILL BENTLEY

www.sonicboomers.com

V.M. Bhatt & Matt Malley, Sleepless Nights, World Village Records

It may have been said many years ago, but it is still true: music is the healing force. There is nothing like it for moving through our lives and bringing a tranquility to quiet the noise and turn on the lovelight. For some reason, the music of India has always had a direct line on that feeling. Maybe it’s because of the innate spirituality present in so much of life in that country, but the sounds from there inhabit the soul with zero resistance. Instead, they go straight inside us and flood the heart. V.M. Bhatt, who modified a slide guitar and named it a Mohan Veena, is a being from another sphere. On a whole series of albums featuring special guests galore–including Ry Cooder, Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo and a slew of other eclectic players–Bhatt has tuned his soul to receive transmissions from the spirit world. His playing of the Mohan Veena is capable of near-human tones, each string resonating with the hum of the universe. It is like V.M. Bhatt has stumbled across an ancient wisdom and is now translating it into a language we can all understand. Collaborator Matt Malley is co-founder of Counting Crows, and fell under the spell of Vishna Mohan Bhatt several years ago. He left the Crows in 2004 and began studying in Jaipur with Bhatt. Malley adds bass and keyboards to the flow, always with utmost taste, helping to push the songs to a higher plane. Subhen Chatterjee plays tabla and percussion, and the trio, though small in number, is large in accomplishment. From halfway around the world, they express themselves in ways that could be from right next door. Whether it’s the sound of millions of ants chasing each other on amplified linoleum or a steady rain falling on a bright tin roof, Sleepless Nights never sounded so sweet.

Stone River Boys, Love On The Dial, Cow Island Music

If Southern California had a MVP in the guitar department, it should be Dave Gonzalez. He has been playing circles around the golden sun there for decades, in bands like the Paladins for an action-packed run during the ’80s and after that with the Hacienda Brothers, featuring the late Chris Gaffney. Everything Gonzalez touched sounded like there was an extra sense of depth, and even with that douvle dip, Gonzalez never tried to steal the spotlight. He just loved to play. Finding a new compadre like Mike Barfield after Gaffney got ill must have felt like fate, and the Stone River Boys were born. They run the Western soul sound, proud and hard, and came across this new style called country funk naturally by bringing in Barfield’s easeful ability to funk things up with plenty of sassy moves. Love On The Dial is an irresistible mix of guitar-fueled rockers, a Tyrone Davis classic and several other delights. Running away with the choice cover award is the band’s heartbusting version of Gerry Goffin-Carole King’s “Take a Giant Step,” where the lead guitar-pedal steer interplay is nothing short of mesmerizing, right down to the sizzle cymbal. It is a new anthem of hopeful emotion, promising a better day for everyone. Follow the Stone River Boys to the end of the dial and beyond, because you haven’t heard anything quite like it.

Trombone Shorty, Backatown, Verve-Forecast Records

The real bomb ton roulet. Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews comes from the Treme, New Orleans’ oldest African-American neighborhood. There is a direct line back to the origins of jazz and a whole lot of other cutting up, and this young man is now leading the parade into the musical future. Trombone Shorty began playing drums and trumpet when he was only three, which is one of the ways they roll in the Crescent City, with elementary schools sporting full orchestras. Shorty had the touch, and was soon playing in Jackson Square and anywhere else they’d let him. A lot of music has poured from Andrews these past 20 years, leading to the kind of sounds that make the streets in the French Quarter feel like they’re paved with a dance floor, and the air thick with melodies and magic. And good for Trombone Shorty he has tapped into a roiling mix of uptown and downtown grooves, whether they’re inspired by the city’s brass bands, straight-ahead jazz, righteous rhythm & blues or anything else that fits into the roux. From the first beats and notes of “Hurricane Season” through “Suburbia” and on to “928 Horn Jam,” Trombone Shorty plays funky and free, like sleight of hand goes with the territory. For full-time credit, hometown hero Allen Toussaint weighs in on his own “On Your Way Down” before things wander further afield with Lenny Kravitz. The beauty of Backatown is how no matter how many elements Trombone Shorty brings to the front; the spirit of discovery never stops. It’s why New Orleans is always in a swirl, pushing at the edges of where others have gone and moving deeper and deeper into the soup. There is nothing you could say about the Big Easy that wouldn’t be true, thank goodness, and as long as creators like Trombone Shorty are playing music, be ready for surprises galore. He’s just getting started, too. Believe it.

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