Gerald Veasley, “Electric Mingus Project” (CD review),

(reviewed for Jazz Times; direct link)

Gerald Veasley, “Electric Mingus Project”

Given six-string electric bassist Gerald Veasley’s rep as a smooth-jazz exponent and, through his radio show, advocate for the genre, it’s easy to forget his multiyear stint with the late Joe Zawinul and his work backing such artists as McCoy Tyner. And while Veasley is a certified ripper, it’s somewhat surprising to see his name attached to a project built around the concept of “reimagining” the music of Charles Mingus.

And yet the ambitious acoustic-electric fusion of Veasley’s Electric Mingus Project stands as an admirable tribute, thanks to his creative arrangements of Mingus music and top-shelf performances by the leader and supporting players, including Chris Farr on saxophones and EWI, John Swana on trumpet and EVI, vibraphonist Tony Miceli and drummer Harry “Butch” Reed. There are provocative original tunes here, too: “Blues for Mingus,” with its loping-to-crawling rhythms and rangy start-stop melody, and the funk-edged “Eighteen Sixty-Three.”

Veasley effectively uses Mingus’ own words, read dramatically by Kevin Wayns, on three tracks: “Interlude—Let My Children Hear Music,” which segues into a rambunctious take on “Haitian Fight Song”; “Interlude—Sounds,” which slides into a haunting “Canon,” its lonely melody initially voiced by Farr and later expanded on by Veasley; and the droning “Interlude—Color and Slavery.” Miles’ “All Blues” is referenced on “Better Get Hit in Your Soul,” in part a showcase for Miceli, and the set closes with Veasley leading a thundering version of “Boogie Stop Shuffle,” bolstered by Farr’s tenor workout.

Rebirth Brass Band, “Rebirth of New Orleans” (CD review)

(reviewed for Jazz Times; direct link)

Rebirth Brass Band, “Rebirth of New Orleans” (Basin Street Records)

When hearing the tumbling, staggered horns and propulsive, jagged drumming of a New Orleans brass band, anyone with affection for the Crescent City’s music is liable to book the next available flight. By that measure, Rebirth of New Orleans does what it ought to do.

Rebirth, Tuesday-night regulars at the venerable Maple Leaf Bar in the group’s hometown, has created an impressive body of work and become an internationally known entity, touring the globe, collaborating with high-profile artists and launching several members, including Kermit Ruffins, into successful careers beyond Rebirth. The group, organized in 1983 by Ruffins and brothers Philip and Keith Frazier, sounds newly invigorated on its latest, its first for Basin Street and a break from the hard-edged rap and raunch of such efforts as 2001’s Hot Venom.

Like Rebirth’s spontaneous-feeling shows, the CD, produced by Tracey Freeman (Ruffins, Harry Connick Jr.) is a little all over the place, and that’s mostly a good thing. The band jumps from the vintage good-time vibe of “Exactly Like You,” a Dorothy Fields/Jimmy McHugh chestnut sung here by trombonist Stafford Agee, to the punchy syncopations and naughty lyrics of the Philip Frazier-Glen Andrews original “I Like It Like That.”

The first single, “Do It Again,” is a rambunctious rallying cry for the New Orleans Saints, underscored by tenor saxophonist Vincent Broussard’s soloing. Mardi Gras Indian Chief Black Feather (Lionel Delpit) takes the mic for the Wild Magnolias’ “Let’s Go Get ’Em,” and the band sings the praises of a local delicacy on Dave Bartholomew’s Latin-tinged “Shrimp and Gumbo.” Throw in several more originals and a Jermaine Jackson cover, “Feelin’ Free,” and you’ve got a Rebirth sampler. Enjoy.