Feel myself unable to relax as I get ready to make a transfer between jobs. Thankfully, though, the next four days are Bayram, the end of Ramadan (or as the Turks say, “Ramazan”). Had made plans to leave Istanbul for a few days though they fell through, which is fine enough anyway considering we’d be leaving a packed city for a packed vacation spot. Not exactly my idea of relaxing. So we’ll spend a few days here and a few days at the summer house. I imagine I’ll be able to get some listening and writing done in the meanwhile.
FEMI KUTI – No Place for My Dream (Knitting Factory): Fela’s eldest son, lots of instrumental Afrobeat as backdrop for lead sax jazz and Hammond organ flares. Sometimes English, sometimes not, with lots of talk about fighting for rights, sacrifice, and the prospect of freedom, a common theme in Nigerian music since established independence in 1960, troubles with now-defunct Biafra, and a slew of military juntas and coups. But he speaks for more than his corner of Africa, calling up remembrances of disasters in Haiti and Japan and the ongoing oppression and suffering in Somalia. Completely unfamiliar with Jr.’s catalog, so unsure how this might measure up against his previous work. B PLUS
MELT YOURSELF DOWN – Melt Yourself Down (The Leaf Label): British sextet call themselves punk-jazz. Punk I understand—plenty of lightning-fueled, high octane performances that don’t echo anarchic audial idealism but intimate the no-verse/chorus-chorus-chorus sentiment. But jazz? What with saxophonist/frontman Pete Wareham’s barrage of North African/Middle Eastern gypsy brass walks, south of the border sprinklings of Afrobeat percussion on, explosive punk anthem “We Are Enough,” and Kushal Gaya’s reedy Creole ‘n French recitations when he’s not shouting nonsense, there’s room for little else. But despite talk of glorious, unmitigated raucousness, these songs-not-compositions are highly structured, timed perfectly akin to Ellington orchestras or Kuti collectives. Case and point: “Free Walk,” wherein Skinner (drums) and Singh (percussion) roll over each other in a Congo beat, Wareham and Hutchings (saxophone) chugging along one line at a time. So they’ve certainly got the rhythm for jazz, throw in enough polyphonically pleasing surprises to merit the title. MYD saith, “Let there be punk-jazz.” And there was punk-jazz. And it was good. A