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Regina Carter Brings “Southern Comfort” to Santa Cruz


By Eric Berg | KUSP News
(Regina Carter debuts her new album “Southern Comfort” for 2 shows Monday, April 21st at Kuumbwa Jazz.)

CarterJazz Violinist Regina Carter’s excellent new album is “Southern Comfort”. This is not a jazz record per se, but a contemporary crossover exploration of Carter’s musical roots inspired by her journey up and down the family tree.  Continuing the theme of her previous two albums – one of which was nod to her mother’s jazz favorites, “Southern Comfort” focuses this time on what Carter imagines what the dad side of her family might have listened to or appreciated both old and new. Her band’s novel arrangement of Hank Williams’ venerable  “”Honky Tonkin’” is a point in case.

“Southern Comfort”, Carter’s first album for the Sony Masterworks label, is an engaging exploration of 11 songs ranging from the traditional “Miner’s Child” to Gram Parson’s contemporary “Hickory Wind”. It’s what they call a crossover record aimed at appreciative folks who listen to Americana but aren’t necessarily dyed in the wool jazz fans.

Different Arrangements

Each track is arranged by a different member of Carter’s backing band, which includes her husband, drummer Alvester Garnett.  The result is an instant satisfying grab bag of musical genres ranging from Appalachian string music to guitar rock, country swing, old timey blues and exotic accordion jazz with a little gospel and spoken word tossed in.  When it works, it’s sweet and will melt your heart like Carter’s solo in the middle of the traditional chestnut, “I’m Going Home” arranged by guest guitarist Adam Rogers.Regina

My only small but very whiny complaint is Marvin Sewell’s over the top, Van Halen style guitar solo vs. Carter’s violin on singer Lucas Madrazo’s contemporary redo of the old timey blues standard, “I Moaned and I Moaned”.  It almost takes me back to the day of violin driven early 70’s fusion bands like The Flock and so on.  However, all is forgiven once the t beautiful gospel fadeout commences.

Musical Journey

“Southern Comfort” is the third in a series of albums recorded by Carter as she digs up her family’s American folk music roots.  It’s a musical journey that up to now was made possible in part by a sizable “genius grant” this gifted jazz violinist received from the MacArthur Fellowship Program in 2006.

Regina Carter’s has reinvented herself with “Southern Comfort”.  It’s an inspired journey by this the violinist as she imagines traditional American folk music both old and new that her paternal grandfather, an Alabama coal miner might have liked then as well as now. Highly recommended. -Eric Berg

Nat King Cole Trio – From Film Jukebox Era

Nat 'King' Cole Trio publicity photo. Courtesy kalamu.com/ via: riverwalk.stanford.edu

Nat ‘King’ Cole Trio publicity photo. Courtesy kalamu.com/ via: riverwalk.stanford.edu

From Mike Lambert | KUSP’s In the Groove

Soundies were three-minute musical films which were displayed on a “Panoram,” a coin-operated film jukebox, in nightclubs, bars, restaurants, factory lounges, and amusement centers.

I’ve hunted up a number of swell rare ‘soundies’ and other clips of the Nat King Cole Trio from the 40′s.

We listen to the trio on the show this week–plus selections by Jacky TerrassonRené Marie (Kuumbwa Jazz this Monday), the late Frank Wess, Johnny Hodges, George Benson, and by Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.

There will be a selection by Billy Taylor, the pianist/educator, and by Billy Taylor, the bassist, as well.


Monterey Jazz Festival Lineup: Where To Start?


The Monterey Jazz Festival organizers have delivered a real one-two punch to music lovers in the area: on the heels of the exhilarating Next Generation Festival this past weekend (28-30 March), showcasing the best young jazz musicians from across the country, the MJF this week announced the lineup for the September MJF, and it’s a particularly dazzling array.

The Roots. Photo: Danny Clinch

The Roots. Photo: Danny Clinch

Where to start? How about with The Roots! ?uestlove and Black Thought and all the cats in Philadelphia’s boundary-busting hybrid live hip hop band (which is also the house orchestra at the Tonight Show) will take the Main Stage Saturday night. This is an encouraging signal of MJF programmers’ eclectic tastes and forward-looking vision. The Roots’ presence at MJF will also provide an opportunity to reform the under-appreciated Philadelphia Experiment, a troupe that includes Roots’ drummer/leader Ahmir ?uestlove Thompson, pianist Uri Caine (of trumpeter Dave Douglas’s group, among other gigs) and super bassist and MJF favorite Christian McBride. Check out the Philadelphia Experiment’s self-titled 2001 album to whet your appetite.


Album Revisit: Delaney & Bonnie’s “Accept No Substitute”



By Eric Berg | KUSP -

In the late 60’s and early 1970’s, husband and wife duo, Delaney & Bonnie, were often credited for kicking off what became known as Southern Rock music. Well…quite possibly, but the real reason these two deserve a spot in rock history is that Delaney & Bonnie introduced blue eyed soul and gospel to post Righteous Brothers  70’s rock audiences who were just discovering blues and R&B, many for the first time. Their debut album is “Accept No Substitute” from 1969.


Paul Contos on the Next Generation 2014


Paul Contos is a musician, jazz educator and the Education Director of the Monterey Jazz Festival. He stopped by KUSP this week to speak with KUSP’s Jeff Dayton-Johnson about the workings of the Next Generation Jazz Festival. The weekend festival is a complex collection of performances &  workshops with some of the most talented jazz students in the country.

Listen to the full interview, above.

Go to KUSP Jazz Festival blog.

Paul Cantos stopped by KUSP studios for an interview with Jeff Dayton-Johnson

Paul Contos during an interview with Jeff Dayton-Johnson at KUSP. Photo: Stephen Laufer / KUSP

John Németh and the Bo-Keys Bring ‘Memphis Soul’ to Moe’s Alley


By Eric Berg | KUSP – Need a dose of some finger licking good Memphis soul and blues to wind up this coming weekend? Look no further than the Bo-Keys with singer and harmonica man, John Németh, who will be bringing it home to Santa Cruz this Sunday afternoon, March 16th at Moe’s Alley. All fedoras welcome.

Photo by Nathan Black

The Bo-Keys. Photo by Nathan Black

Nothing gets more funky and the feet a movin’ than Memphis soul band, The Bo-Keys when they stretch out and get some down and dirty grooves going like they do with James Brown’s “Doing it To Death” off their “Royal Sessions” album from 2004, back when they were focused more on instrumental covers. The current Bo-Keys just finished backing up former Oakland resident, soul-blues singer Németh on his brand new album “Memphis Grease”.


Album Review: Annie Clark Makes a Breakthrough With “St. Vincent”


st-vincent-album-cover-600x600Dallas native Annie Clark is better known as the singer St. Vincent. Last year she took a naked stroll out in the back 40 on a friend’s ranch.  Alone and miles away from help, she was supremely startled by a rattlesnake and took off running, frightened as hell, sure that the snake was right behind her. That experience kicks off her delightfully quirky, self titled new album, “St Vincent”. And of course the song is called “Rattlesnake” and before long you almost feel like you’re running alongside her and “sweating, sweating” to the chorus. For some reason the song’s style and adrenaline rhythm track remind me of the “Run, Lola Run” soundtrack.


Flaco Jiménez And The Legacy Of Conjunto


Flaco Jiménez and Max Baca. Photo: Tom Pich/Courtesy of the artist

Flaco Jiménez is in his seventh decade as a performer. He’s played with Ry Cooder, Dwight Yoakam, and even The Rolling Stones. Jiménez’s newest album, Legends & Legacies, is a collection of songs that illustrate the legacy of the Latin music style for which he is so well known: conjunto.


Albums Revisited: “Supersnazz” and “Teenage Head” by The Flamin’ Groovie

"Supersnazz" classic cover art by Bob Zoell

“Supersnazz” classic cover art by Bob Zoell

Of all the bands that came out of the 60’s San Francisco music scene, nobody was cooler or rocked harder than the Flamin’ Groovies whose just the right amount of early Stones rock n roll sleaze and over the top goofiness led them to any measurable amount of commercial success beyond the Bay Area.  During their 1969-1971 heyday, the band recorded several albums two of which are absolutely essential to one’s rock n roll collection. The first being their debut “Supersnazz”.

1969 Debut

The Flamin’ Groovies first got together in 1965 and made a string of self produced EP’s, but it wasn’t until ‘69 that they released their first full fledged major label debut  “Supersnazz” for Epic Records.  

Guitarist John Abercombie Takes ’39 Steps’ to Santa Cruz



The John Abercrombie Quartet plays Kuumbwa Jazz in Santa Cruz, Monday Feb. 10, 2014

By Eric Berg | KUSP BergAlert

After almost fifty years of playing both traditional and progressive jazz and appearing on at least that many albums, guitarist John Abercrombie’s resume of the recordings he’s made and the people he’s played with has got to be a s thick an issue of DownBeat Magazine.   His latest is called  “39 Steps”.  It’s Abercrombie’s 32nd album leading his own group.

The guitarist has revamped his previous quartet so this album features longtime buds, pianist Marc Copland, Drew Gress bass and long time drummer Joey Baron .  Of the 10 tracks, all are original songs by Abercrombie and band members with the exception of their take on “Melancholy Baby”.

Exploring Dreams

When Abercrombie was a 60’s Boston teenager and the Berkelee School of music student, he  listened to a lot of post bop jazz guitarists, in particular, Jim Hall who was a major source of inspiration. At the beginning of the 70’s rock bands started messing with jazz and jazz musicians messed with rock, so Abercrombie joined the funk-horn band Dreams who mined the same vein as Chicago and Blood Sweat & Tears. They made two albums before disbanding in 1972 but the band served as a fusion incubator not only for Abercrombie but also for The Becker Brothers, drummer Billy Cobham, bassist Will Lee, and many others who did stints with Dreams and are now well known including the guitarist’s current pianist, Copland.  Here’s Abercrombie playing on lead on “Devil Lady” from Dream’s self titled first album.

After Dreams fell apart and became a nightmare,  Abercrombie signed with ECM Records and started exploring fusion and progressive jazz making a long series of memorable albums one of which is a favorite of mine,  “Sargasso Sea” with Ralph Towner from 1976.

Brilliant Playing by Band Members.

On his current release, “39 Steps” Abercrombie has come almost full circle with a return to a more traditional and softer contemporary set of jazz originals that fit nicely with the contributions from his stellar bandmates. Only one track gets slightly “out there”.  Perhaps Abercrombie is mellowing with age, but on this album his guitar is overshadowed by the brilliant playing of his fellow cohorts – especially pianist Mark Copland – who are doing most of the climbing on these “39 Steps”.  – Eric Berg