By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Following the death of John Lee Hooker, Ike Turner is one of the very few veterans left with any legitimate bite and drive, so Here and Now, a throbbing return to the pure R&B style Turner first made his name with in the early 1950s, comes along at just the right moment. Opener “Tore Up,” a boozy grinder he originally cut for Federal in ‘56 with vocalist Billy Gayle, sets the tone with a little down-home anguish and an atmosphere of world-weary funk that pervades the entire album. Ike throws in some deliciously flipped-out, whammy-hammering guitar solos, calls for breaks with “Rumble!” and “Get nasty now,” and sings with admirably grizzled authority. Featuring guest turns from Little Milton (whom Ike recorded with at Sun circa ‘53), the album also grooves through a fistful of instrumental gassers.
While Here and Now’s not exactly perfect (why dredge up “Rocket 88” again?), it’s Turner’s piano pounding that elevates the set. After years of flashy guitar work (an instrument he took up as a concession to public taste, but plays with unrivaled mastery), his long-overdue return to the keys signals a sort of rebirth for Turner — a romping version of Albert Ammons’ “Swanee River Boogie” showcases a natural power far too long buried. Even with a few misses, this record is as potent a mess of fresh-cut blues as we’re likely to get in this lifetime. (Jonny Whiteside)
ORI KAPLAN PERCUSSION ENSEMBLE Gongol (Knitting Factory)Listen to Ori Kaplan Percussion Ensemble: Real Audio Format Slow Boat Gongol
Ori Kaplan has invented a whole new way to play music. This saxist from Israel has great helpers, but he picked ’em. The Filipino-descended Susie Ibarra served an impressive stint as New York bassmentalist William Parker’s percussive colorist. Geoff Mann is one of those ridiculously versatile musicians (here on drums, mandolin and djun-djun) who can make intuitive leaps from C&W to avant jazz. And pianist Andrew Bemkey, out of Trane bassist Reggie Workman’s band among other places, wields classical chops without restricting his universal mind.
Kaplan’s compositions often hang on the simple lines of his dark, sandy alto; what’s different is the way he supports the melodies — not with chord structures and tap-yer-foot rhythms, but with confluences of texture. “Slow Boat” mixes Ellingtonian African-Asianisms with indefinable metallic fleshiness and Bemkey’s dramatic sprays. “Prayer for Ramón” starts out plucky and folky (mandolin and sax), then layers all kinds of cymbals and piano rumbles till it’s really surfing through your head — but ultimately it’s the emotional tunefulness of the thing (think Gato Barbieri) that keeps you listening. “Shadow” is the ultimate in spatial design. And “Crisis Dream” sounds like Kaplan told everybody to listen to his line and then to each other, in series, so it’s both logical and individual; like some other pieces, it also stops suddenly, like a snapshot, putting all previous moments in perspective.
If this sounds too conceptual and weird, believe me when I tell you Gongol is very listenable and often even hummable. It’s a sin to tell a lie. (Greg Burk)
MARK EITZEL The Invisible Man (Matador)
As front man for American Music Club and more recently under his own name, Mark Eitzel has been rock’s reigning singer-songwriter maudit, a six-string-toting Baudelaire with the Mission District as his Montmartre. Ending a three-year recording gap, The Invisible Man follows the career arc of other ex-acoustic artists (David Gray, Everything but the Girl), supplementing the trad production values of his previous solo work with digital editing and prominent drum loops.
This move comes too late to be fashion-forward, but while one senses that, no, he wouldn’t mind a hit (who would?), it’s not entirely cynical either. Eitzel uses the new technologies as a cloaking device, not as a clown mask, and he’s gone to the trouble of learning Pro Tools himself rather than relying entirely on outside producers. (One song credits him with “staring at a screen.”) The elegiac “To the Sea” and one or two others are based around fairly stock samples, but most songs are more inventive: “The Boy With the Hammer” wraps its gay-culture lyrical references (Midnight Cowboy, no less) in competing, out-of-sync percussion tracks — one evokes jungle, the other jackboots. The effects-laden guitars and overall air of disorientation on “Christian Science Reading Room” (in which the narrator and his cat become disciples of Mary Baker Eddy) and elsewhere is, if anything, closer to the stumbling-drunk haze of midperiod AMC than it is to Eitzel’s two sonically safer Warner Bros. records. (Ex-AMC guitarist Vudi’s presence helps as well.)
One thing the computer hasn’t changed, fortunately, is Eitzel’s writing. The title refers to his choice of Halloween costume (in “Shine”), and much of the disc revisits pet themes: loss, the desire to disappear, self-awareness edging into self-loathing (“In bed, I was just a sweet nothing”). The single “Proclaim Your Joy,” a taxonomy of the human zoo (“Some keep bunnies, some pump tummies, and some court disaster”) with an intentionally no-brainer hook, is too tossed-off to dispel the gloom, but the combination of compassion and vengefulness driving “Seeing Eye Dog” (“I’m your . . .”) and “The Global Sweep of Human History” is far more convincing. Eitzel’s written with genuine warmth before, but it’s been several albums since he’s backed it with sounds that stand on their own this well. (Franklin Bruno)