Abloom’s Day 

The future of heaviness

Thursday, Jan 15 2004
Photo by Wild Don Lewis

ABLOOM at the Whisky, December 23

Dumb, dumb fucks. Blinkered, ’70s-dwelling, laminate-waving, trend-tracking sycophants. When will the major record labels wake from their after-party, plus-one paralysis, escape their herding instinct, shed their clone-crammed rosters and smell the likes of Abloom, an L.A. quintet who may coax hard rock from its corporate slumber?

Abloom’s pedigree, as members of slam-dive staples Soulfly and OneSideZero, is drawing crowds for these early shows (tonight was only their eighth), but their previous acts only hint at what they’ve currently concocted. Equal parts System of a Down, Journey and Led Zeppelin, Abloom are accessible yet ambitious, of-the-people yet arcane, commercially viable but artistically pure. Abloom’s engine of adventure is ex–Ozzy Osbourne/Dave Navarro drummer Roy Mayorga, who explores his expansive kit with both seasoned expertise and youthful wonder, visiting global tattoos of such variety that, when he returns to trusty rock grooves, they too sound exotic. Guitarist Levon Sultanian peels off tasteful trails of ethnic evocation, arpeggiating the upper registers to mimic traditional instruments of the Caucasus and indulging in Thin Lizzy–esque twin-ax Celtic harmonizing with partner Mike Doling. All these worldly references might amount to but prog-rock pud-pulling without the epic incantations and hunching anguish of vocalist Jason Radford, whose rich roar and hearty vibrato resonate on multiple levels, at once sensitive, wounded, empowered and enraged. Radford and Doling break the spell with incongruous cliché-cluttered banter, but it’s this collision of familiar and far-fetched, grounded and grandiose, that makes Abloom so enticing.

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Abloom are the future of high-street heaviness: intriguing enough for the critics, yet dangling sufficient hooks to reel in even casual listeners; multifaceted, cultured and diverse arrangements never compromise passion, muscle and melody. Tonight the Whisky was only reasonably full, but for every soul who witnessed this there’ll be plenty who’ll pretend they were here two years from now.

CHARLES LLOYD QUARTET at Catalina Bar & Grill, January 9 and 11

Reasons you should connect with Charles Lloyd whenever he visits: He embodies all the best of jazz — the conception, the technique, the communication, the spirit. He always ignites a world-class band, here pianist Geri Allen, drummer Eric Harland and five-string bassist Robert Hurst, together a year and playing like one human. And he taps vast resources of material, never photocopying, and giving everything every time.

Like Jacques Brel’s “Ne Me Quitte Pas,” Lloyd’s tribute to Nina Simone. On Friday it was a Spanish funeral march — but proud, lance held high. On Sunday, after he’d labored in the recording studio all day, he did it as a first-set encore, breathing out the heart-torn melody with infinite feeling and simplicity before staggering under the weight of mortality, allowing musical sobs to escape his tenor till he simply could not go on. Lloyd’s expression on alto flute is especially thrilling right now; its penetrating/soothing wholeness wove like a silver rope through the funkback “Little Peace,” wherein Harland (sloshy New Orleans ease), Allen (jabbing between) and Hurst (if he’s too quiet, why do I keep picking up his variations?) put on a master clinic in suggestible interlocution. And Friday’s moody, sexy take on “Cape to Cairo Suite” exuded black magic, with Allen’s elf boots riding the sustain pedal on a water-flow solo as Lloyd, cradling his sax, squinted and waved occult gestures in the air.

This edition of Catalina, though in occasional sound-quirk transition, is a much more comfortable bunker where you can stretch out and listen. And that’s what the audience did. L.A. jazz fans may not be proportionally numerous, but their attendance, their attention and their rave-on enthusiasm show they damn well have ears. (Greg Burk)

DANIEL HUNT at the Echo, January 9

Los Angeles must be a world-class city, because everyone is fashionably late. This being the Echo, however, everything is superduper late, and Ladytronic beatmeister Daniel Hunt must have been on Liverpool time. That’s not a bad thing when you’ve got in-house turntable talent like Steve Pross — the Emperor Norton honcho doing takes from the upcoming Felix Da Housecat release — and Plastique’s Dave Sleaze, whose no-school punk/alt-/new-wave selections were the perfect mood builders for the imminent arrival of electroclash royalty.

Trouble with this much-maligned scene is that if a DJ gets too adventurous it’s wasted on Saturday-night thrill seekers. That’s where Hunt — low-pro in trucker hat, sipping a Corona — and his business acumen come into play. By releasing Softcore Jukebox (a comp of the band’s favorites) ahead of his tour, he gave the left-field eclecticism a context. Give ’em a blueprint and they’ll dance, or so goes the logic, even when the tracks are as unclubby as My Bloody Valentine, the Shocking Blue and Nancy Sinatra– Lee Hazlewood. Nevertheless, Hunt’s set was disappointingly straight-ahead, playing nostalgia-card numbers like “Seventeen,” verbatim selections from Softcore and — in that cheapest of cheap shots — Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” It was about as spontaneous as hooking up an iPod to the PA and letting ’er rip.

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