This Week’s Hit Parade: The Live Album Edition

“Blowin’ it Out”
(Self-released, 2011)
If the late Bread & Jam Café is remembered for only one thing, this electrifying live disc should be it. Joe Barna sets the full house on fire with an all-originals set that recalls jazz’s past, but doesn’t bow to it. The front line is seriously heavyweight, featuring Vanguard Jazz Orchestra alums Joe Magnarelli and Jon Gordon: “Joey Mags” injects muscle-car power into whatever he plays, while Gordon’s soprano on “Ivory Romance” is some of the best you’ll hear. Local hero Dave Solazzo’s usual lyrical piano matches Gordon on “Ivory”, but Solazzo also punches up Blowin’ with a funky aggression that gets B&J howling. This drops March 17, and it’s a must-have. Joe Barna & Sketches of Influence celebrate the release of “Blowin’ It Out” in concert at the College of Saint Rose’s Massry Center in Albany at 7:30pm on Thursday, March 17. Tix are $15.

“Together Again: Live at the Egg”
(ARC, 2011)
They say good comes out of bad, and one of the good things that came out of Lee Shaw’s time in Florida was teaching a 13-year old kid named John Medeski. Over thirty years later, Teacher and Student come together as peers. The improvisational opener “Lizards” is a textbook example of how compelling it can be when four musicians really listen to each other. Medeski makes Shaw’s compositions “Prairie Child” and “Blues 11” brighter and wider, while Shaw gets her blues thing going on Medeski’s “Wiggly’s Way.” MMW fans won’t be surprised at Medeski’s brilliance, but with any luck, people outside Albany will discover the vibrant performer that is Lee Shaw. Medeski re-teams with Lee Shaw for a concert at Skidmore College’s Zankel Music Center at 8pm on Friday, April 1.

“Live on the Queen Mary”
(One Way Records, 1993 re-release)
Paul McCartney hired the New Orleans piano legend to play the Wings Over America wrap party, and the apocryphal story is this set was recorded by McCartney himself on a 4-track reel-to-reel. That might explain the sound quality (which can be politely described as “advanced bootleg”), but that just makes the set all the more real. Prof. Longhair – who was experiencing a renaissance after being off the scene for almost a decade – is in great form, ripping off classics like “Tipitina”, “Mardi Gras in New Orleans” and “Stagger Lee” with the kind of swagger Dr. John would like to match. This is as raw as the oysters on Bourbon Street, and just as tasty.

“Rain or Shine”
(Everfine/Atlantic, 2010)
Andrzej Pilarczyk turned me on to this one. “What is Mine” was playing when I came to pick Andrzej up at his house, and it made me go absolutely stock still, utterly mesmerized by the band’s blinding energy and undeniable passion. You could compare O.A.R. to the Dave Matthews Band before Matthews got devoured by the success machine, but that’s too easy, and it’s unfair to O.A.R.’s own songwriting abilities, which get lost in comparison to the band’s monumental live show. “Rain or Shine” is a 4-disc set that only lacks a box and a book, but like Coltrane said, “It took that long to get it all in.” Plus it makes you smile, and that’s what matters.

“Aretha Live at Fillmore West”
(Atlantic/Rhino, 1971 original release)
It’s best known as the home of San Francisco giants like the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, but the First Lady of Soul took over Fillmore West for three nights and simply knocked people out. She had King Curtis and Billy Preston backing her up on hits like “Respect” and “Dr. Feelgood”, but she also reaches out to “the hippie crowd” with outstanding covers of Stephen Stills’ “Love the One You’re With”, Bread’s “Make It With You” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” Then Ray Charles comes out and joins her on “Spirit in the Dark” and… Well, you get the idea. This is Aretha Franklin at her height, and it’s like nothing else.

Reviews by J Hunter

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