Album Review – Willie Waldman Project “Total Improv”

Willie Waldman Project - Total Improv
Willie Waldman Project – Total Improv

Album Review – Willie Waldman Project  “Total Improv” 

When I saw this pop up as a new release on Bandcamp about a month ago I was happy for two reasons:  one being that I have heard Willie and his assorted musicians in the past and loved it, and also…improv is a great way to experience music.  I have been listening to it for about a month now and offer my thoughts here:) 

First off, I like the cover art – there is something whimsical about, simple even but it still really portrays the idea of improv in an abstract way…if you ask me anyway!

The album kicks off with “Exodus” and hits you early on with some great guitar work and a simple but complimentary back beat.  It is an enjoyable song to listen to although it has an underlying nervous energy.  Right near the mid-point the music plays around with soaring toward the great heights of openness and then crashing back into a valley of horns and guitar.  Also some parts of it sound to me like a very loud, obnoxious train departing for some far-off land… and I mean that in a good way!

A great counter-point follows, with “Misty Night” coming across much more softly and lending you some cool down time after the charging sounds of “Exodus”.  There is some really great trumpet playing here also along with a catchy drum sound that I always think of as a “club beat.”  Listening to it evokes a scene of walking along a river in some urban setting, maybe a few water taxis rolling by as the bars close up around 3 am…the night is winding down and it’s been good one.   Even though “Exodus” is a close second-place, this song is my favorite on this album.  

Arriving next is “Carnival”, for me the only so-so song on this release.  It feels more all-over-the-place than it needs to (even for improv) and also is the longest song.  That may be a contributing factor in my opinion because some parts of it I really liked, such as the guitar that comes in around 2:40, but overall it just went on too long for me. 

The next song, “Lightspeed” has some extremely effective clarinet at the beginning that lends a throaty vibe to the music.  You can really pick out the separate instruments on this selection and I particularly liked the Tabula peeking through the background of the sound.  It is a chill tune, good for pondering or exploring the universe.   Even when it picks up the pace in some sections (starting around the two minute mark) it still maintains an underlying calmness from the bass guitar notes.  Groovy party music for the lounge after the warp drive is engaged 🙂 

Speaking of the Tabula, welcome it warmly at the opening of “Firestorm” as it lends a distinct Middle Eastern vibe that carries through the entire first half of this song.  About midway through the tone changes to something more experimental although the Tabula remains in place.  And then, with about two minute remaining, along comes a great collection of sounds and notes colliding to provide a dramatic, if somewhat unsettling section prior to a smooth exit on the trumpet. 

The final two pieces on this record are “The Loon,” and “Wood”.  While the first of these is light and airy, the final song is a very classic jam and a fitting end-piece to this fine release.  Every time I listen to “Wood” I can picture myself sitting around in a comfortable, familiar place with friends and collaborating in the way that these musicians do.  We might not hit is as well as these talented people…but it would be great fun!

I also want to note that throughout this record there is some really great bass guitar work that lends a solid foundation to the tracks.  It also takes a more prominent role on some songs (a fine example being “Wood”) and delivers great grooves.  “Total Improv” is an overall solid listen  that gave me (so far) a month of enjoyment with very regular listening.  The compositions are expansive and I found myself discovering nuances each time I played it.  I encourage you to check it out!

You can visit their Bandcamp page at https://williewaldmanproject.bandcamp.com to listen to this record and find out more about the band.  

Please remember to support your local musicians and artists, during these challenging times and always.  Community is powerful 🙂 

Album Review – The Tellways “Out To The Cosmos”

The Tellways - Out To The Cosmos
The Tellways – Out To The Cosmos

As I was casting about for new music this week I ended up looking toward Michigan and came upon the recent release by Detroit’s The Tellways which is titled Out To The Cosmos.  I gave it a listen and came away impressed by the composition of the music and the nice way that they weave Motown and R&B influences in with island sounds.   Soul and reggae music have always had a subtle equivalency to me and those parallels are evident within the music on this record.  

The lead-off track is “Anxious” and it is a good listen with a slightly (and appropriately) nervous undertone, simple yet poignant message and some very nice horns 🙂 

The next song is “Keepin’ Me Up” and you can definitely hear those Motown influences within the music.  That call-back to soul and R&B was evident within the first minute and yet was still subtle enough to blend in well with the Caribbean rhythms.   

“Believe Them The First Time” has a slow, soothing flow to it and delivers a direct and simple message.  I really liked how the horns were woven in here also and the way they provided accents to the other instrumentation on this song.  I have listened several times and this remains my favorite on this album.

That is followed by “I Don’t Need To Tell You” and “Cool And Luke” which flow nicely within the album although I did not think they were especially notable other than the beginning to “Cool Hand Luke.”

When I read the title of the next track, “Space Force,” I was not sure what direction it was going to take…and I am still not 100% sure of its underlying intent.  Humor? Sarcasm? It remains a mystery to me but I did find the line, “we brought our own water,” to at least be quite funny.

“Tellway Stomp” is a feel good song celebrating the band’s sound and positive influence and is followed by “You’re Really Something (2020)”, another track where you can really hear the R&B vibes.  The next three songs (“Closer – 2020”, “Let Me In -2020” and “Friendly -2020”) are solid inclusions, with the middle track of the three being the standout.  It runs a close second-place for my favorite song on the album. 

The album closes out with “Bow To Your Sensei (2020)” which is a very good (mostly) instrumental track with solid composition that includes horns, and some great guitar and bass.  It feels a little heavy when listening but puts a nice finishing touch on “Out To The Cosmos” and sent me away feeling good 🙂 

Overall I really like this band and what they bring instrumentally and with their direct lyrics.  When you listen to this record is comes across mostly as a reggae / ska mix but you definitely find yourself with several pleasing,  “Wait, what was that?,” type moments.  And it will certainly get you feeling groovy and dancing! 

You can check out all of The Tellways music and info at their Bandcamp page https://thetellways.bandcamp.com

And please remember to support your local music scene, musicians and artists.  Community is powerful 🙂 

Album Review – The Arches “Abandoned”

The Arches just released  a new album called “Abandoned” – I checked it out and here are my thoughts 🙂 

First of all – that cover art is great and especially eye-catching to me as I am an “urban decay and abandoned industrial things” photographer myself.  Check out their Bandcamp page for a higher resolution photo – It is quite a stark image.  I also think there is a mysterious cat lurking in one of those upstairs portholes…or an extremely large rat…what you do think? 

anyway…

The set starts out with “Just Killing Time” which has a slight haunting quality to it, especially as the lyrical refrain “I know you’re no good, I know you’re no good for me,” floats over the music.  This is probably the most “pop” song on the album although I suspect The Arches may not be aiming for pop notoriety…it just struck me that way when I listened to it.  

There are some good drum beats on the next track “Rise UP” which gives it an “anthem you can dance to” feeling.  That song then bleeds over well into “Mikola.”  It is one of those great transitions that I always try to put into playlists I make…they just fit next to each other.  Now, I have no idea what that word means or what meaning it might have to the band…but do not look it up on Urban Dictionary if you are a PG-rated person! 

The next track, “Baby Face Assassin,” is a music-only number that really caught my attention.   It had me making up my own lyrics, albeit a simple “there’s a baby face assassin coming for me, and I think that it’s time to leave” as I closed my eyes and got a little lost in the composition.  

The next two songs were the toughest part of the record for me.  “Apocalypsing” really had me scratching my head a bit…although that usually means I missed the point so I suspect some of you out there will love it.  The following track “Stuck in a Loop” has a kind of eerie discordance inside of it running alongside a very pleasant keyboard melody.  It left me feeling just a little bit uneasy.

The album finishes up with “Time Will Tell’ (a dreamy atmospheric type song) and “Mikola Outro” which sends you on your way in a contemplative mood, possibly feeling slightly lost and thoughtful.  It had that effect on me anyway.    

Overall, this is an interesting record which delivers a variety of emotions as you listen to it.  It clocks in at a tight and well-composed twenty-one minutes.  On their Bandcamp site for this album The Arches comment that, “There is beauty in loss and abandonment, in everything.” These songs delivered a sense of that beauty while also leaving me just a little bit uneasy.  

You can check out more on The Arches and buy this album and other music at their Bandcamp page https://the-arches.bandcamp.com/music

Support your local music and artists  – community is powerful 🙂 

Slim Dunlap …good sounds here :)

Yes, I know that I am late to the news on this one but I just had the opportunity to listen to the recent release “Thank you, Dancers!” from the Slim Dunlap Band. This epic was recorded April 27, 2002 at the Turf Club (and as you folks know…I do love the Turf Club 🙂 and really presents a good feeling of what it was like to see Slim and the band in concert. A nice, easy familiar feeling that makes you feel good. Go somewhere and listen to this music – it’s on Bandcamp and I am certain other places also. If you want a place to start check out Breeder’s Cannonball or Busted Up.