Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Progdawg's Music Reviews - May 4th, 2016

Marc Tucker is a noted music reviewer, writer, paralegal, grammarian tutor, fellow artist, and friend who's been an extremely positive influence upon my life over the past year, even going as far as saving said life after I came into legal troubles in 2015, which I prefer not to go into in detail. All these fantastic accomplishments and talents should be noted, even if our current affiliation at the time of this writing is not exactly on ideal terms, something else I also care not to go into (mainly 'cause it's my fault).

However, I did make the promise to feature the (somewhat) more recent music reviews from his ongoing newsletter Veritas Vampirus, which is what this new feature, dubbed Progdawg's Music Reviews, will be based upon. Marc's informative critiques are extremely well written, to-the-point, and honest, which is actually uncommon for music reviewers these days, who virtually seem to repeat the music publishers' liner notes to a slightly bent 'T'.

Plus, as well known as Marc Tucker is among musicians and their respective labels, his actual name of 'Mark Tucker' is…despairingly common, or, as he puts it "Hell, my name is common as dirt, dammit!" And his writings could use more exposure beyond surprisingly archaic web-sites like FAME (Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange) and OpEd, which is another reason these articles are being dubbed Progdawg's Music Reviews ('Progdawg' as in 'Progressive Dog', a title both for his meta-anarchic Far Left politics and a former alliance within an anthropomorphic artists collective), until a better title is requested by the dawg in question.

One might argue the banal commonality of his name (especially if you share this same name and feel insulted by the point I've just made), but it's a problem that plagues A LOT of artists and writers these days, which of course led to my own created pen-name and chosen moniker of Enshohma, or Raf Enshohma, over my own equally despairingly common real name of Rafael Gonzalez.
I don't care what other more proud Hispanics or similarly ill-informed people from other ethnicities may say - Rafael Gonzalez is WAY TOO common a name to stand out in any crowd, even if I myself was a billion-eyed Titan straight from Mount Olympus!

And let's face it…this blog of mine needs more posts, including featuring the work of other people, which never hurts in both directions. I plan to continue this series.


MARIKA TAKEUCHI - Colors in the Diary
(no label cited)
Review written by Marc Tucker - 04/27/2016

Interestingly, pianist-composer-producer-arranger-copyist-educator (whew! that's a lot of hyphens!) Marika Takeuchi is synaesthesic, sees colors mentally when listening to music and literally hears musical notes when contemplating scenes of beauty. This trait can't help but imbue her work with a richness oft scamped in writers and players taken up with clustered chops, radically shifting velocities, convoluted compositions, and so forth. Much as I love those qualities, there's an entirely different experience contained in the measured approaches here, in the mindset of a spiritually-oriented existentialist rendering of tableaus sonically akin to well-considered still-lifes. In "Colors in the Diary", though, the still-lifes refuse to remain placid, to sit as though wax fruit, but instead take on vivacities wedding Satie to Glass, opening up vistas, or embodying intimate cloisters of deeply considered thought and reflection.

The 12 songs here were all written and arranged/orchestrated by Takeuchi, but that 'orchestraton' attribution is actually a matter of chamber symphonics in spare or lush manifestations, the celebrated Eugene Friesen, he of Paul Winters' past esteemed Living Music imprint and marvelous old Consort, on cello and Si-Jing Huang on violin. Sometimes the pairing results in a stripped-down mellifluous airy trio setting with Takeuchi, other times in a simul-synched many-handed ensemble backing the pianist. Will Ackerman produced the CD (co-pro'ed with Marika and Andreas Bjork), so you know without asking that this is Windham Hill quality. Nothing Ackerman touches has ever been less than that, to my knowledge.

Painter Leonid Afremov contributed an eye-fetching semi-abstract night street-scene bursting with color and light, the sort of thing Thomas Kincade wished he could've produced ('n, boy, that Kincade was a piece of work, wasn't he?), highly suggestive of a number of songs in Diary. Glints and shards of Debussy, Saint-Saens, Faure, Rachmaninoff and others rise and pass as Marika, who's Berklee trained, dances her works about in dignified pastorality and decorously restrained ardor, recalling days past within the always-now. My favorite track? Probably "Colorful Mind", a song ringing of Penguin Cafe Orchestra in a serious phase (hmmm, was PCO ever serious?), but, really, the entirety of Colors in the Diary is like sitting down with a book of cherished photographs, gliding through memories with a wistful smile, one's own history whispering seductively, entrancingly, half way between the sighs of Earth and the Paradise lurking just beneath.

RELATED LINK: Marika Takeuchi's Official Website

CARBE & DURAND - A Bridge Between
(Strangetree Productions)
Review written by Marc Tucker - 04/27/2016

Liza Carbe looks like a cross between Bonnie Raitt, Janis Joplin, and Maria Muldaur while JP Durand reminds me of James Musser (Underwater Traffic), but their CD isn't like any of those musicians' work, instead an almost classical affair…but with a difference: as far as I know, no classical recitations ever featured tracks by Ozzy Osbourne ("Crazy Train"), Tears for Fears ("Everybody Wants to Rule the World" [not me!]), the Stones ("Paint It Black"), and many others - Sting, Mason Williams, Jimmy Webb, etc. - as well as three cuts of their own crafting.

If you're familiar with the World fusion band Incendio, an top-caliber ensemble on a level with Ancient Future, not to mention a concert dynamo boasting a string of best-selling albums, then you already have a clue, as that's where Carbe & Durand hail from. Add to that the fact that Liza is a student of Jorge Strunz, one of two blindingly brilliant guitarists composing the untouchably virtuosic Strunz & Farah, and the icing goes straight on top of the luminescent cake. I more than once, however, was reminded of Peter Kraus and Mark Byrd and their Satie for Two Guitars (good luck trying to find that one!), a particularly cherished piece in my huge collection. Carbe and Durand are meticulous in their labors, intimate in their leads and comping. 

More than that, the two produced, recorded, and mixed the affair, catching every note and chord in full in a warm atmosphere making one feel as though listening right there in the studio. Do not for a moment, however, imagine any hint of metal or pop-charting here despite the eclectic selections, just heavily Spanish-inflected instrumentals that'd sit well amidst a high society soiree…if, that is, the attending bourgeoisie was hip, well read in modern rock, and would not be put off by such whirlwind treatments as "Paint It Black", cravats, spats, and lace catching fire. Likewise, don't let A Bridge Between near the louts who frequent bars and know the tunes from jukeboxes; you'll just wind up gritting your teeth and dumping saltpeter in their drinks. No, invite only sophisticated intimates and have a bottle of chardonnay to hand when you do. Better yet, two or three bottles, and put on some Yepes, some Tarrega, and the aforementioned Strunz & Farah on afterwards. Summer's coming, time to start getting used to hedonism again.

RELATED LINK: CarbĂ© and Durand Official Website

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