Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery: “The Further Adventures of Jimmy and Wes”
The organ trio (B3 organ, guitar and drums) is one of my favorite jazz combo formats, and Jimmy Smith set the standard for a very long time. This record sounds lounge-y at first but is loaded with sneaky jazz chops. The Smith / Montgomery take on Petula Clark’s “Call Me” really gets into a funky little groove and is worth the price of the record all by itself.
Warren Zevon – “Excitable Boy”
This album contains the two Warren Zevon songs (“Werewolves of London” and “Lawyers Guns and Money”) that have rightly become staples of classic rock radio. Unfortunately, it also includes seven other songs.
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: “Here We Rest”
There’s a reason this album was the consensus choice for the best Americana release of 2011. Isbell is a strong songwriter, and there’s not a weak one in the bunch (“Alabama Pines,” “Codeine” and “Daisy Mae” stand out). His slightly raspy, slightly pudgy-sounding voice infuses every one of them with a mix of naive sadness and the sort of world-weariness that is earned through tough experience. If this record doesn’t make you feel something, well, you may be incapable of experiencing human emotion.
The Dave Brubeck Quartet – “Jazz Impressions of Japan”
Let’s get something out of the way up front: this album sounds like Dave Brubeck, and if you’re at all familiar with his work you know exactly what I mean by that. I’m more interested in asking the question, what should we expect a jazz impression of Japan to sound like? There’s not a lot of overt eastern influence in the melodies (though you can hear some, here and there). Rather, the overall sound of the album is urban, energetic, sophisticated and modern … which is probably not a bad guess at how Japan in 1964 actually sounded.
Loose and swinging, this is one of my favorite records in one of my favorite jazz subgenres (soul jazz). Donaldson surrounds himself with stellar players (Blue Mitchell, George Benson, Lonnie Smith, Leo Morris) and they deliver. The second cut in particular (“Love Power”) is notable for its lively organ playing and sounds like it was pulled straight from church – Donaldson and the band seem to positively revel in the gospel rhythm of it. This record may well be the best sixty cents I ever spent (dollar bin record + employee discount).