Dan Pratt, “Hymn for the Happy Man” (Same Island).
For some thoroughly unaccountable reason, Christian McBride’s Big Band seldom engages me as much as smaller groups made out of its musicians. That includes the organ-tenor groups led by Dan Pratt and now this new music tenor-piano jazz quartet led by Pratt and comprised of members of McBride’s Orchestra: Pratt on tenor and alto, pianist Mike Eckroth, drummer Gregory Hutchinson and McBride himself on bass. It’s Pratt’s first piano quartet record. “I felt I needed to explore an instrumentation that is such an essential strand of jazz’s DNA.” The compositions are mostly Pratt’s own but it all ends with Kurt Weill’s “Speak Low” which, says Pratt, “starts out like any other standard arrangement of ‘Speak Low’ in a count-it-off-at-a-jam-session kind of way” but soon opens up “opportunities for the unexpected to appear.” The best thing about Pratt is that he really doesn’t quite sound like anyone else, but in an odd way EVERYONE else. He’s a kind of modern mainstream professional omni-saxophonist on both tenor and alto.
Three stars out of four. (Jeff Simon)
The Cadillac Three, “Bury Me In My Boots (Big Machine)
“Bury me in my boots and don’t forget the whiskey/ Light a cigarette girl, lean on in and kiss me/Send me on my way with some black roses/ This is the path I’ve chosen and you can’t go with me.” Yes that’s the actual chorus of the title song of this well-traveled band that describes itself as “three long-haired dudes with a loud sound and a love of country music and storytelling.” Try this one: “Check my wallet, nothin’s in it, best friend’s grinnin’; said we rented a boat/No joke/ I was mad until I saw it next to the dock....We ain’t fishin/we ain’t tubin’. we’re just kickin’ it back/We got tequila and a cooler full of cold one to crack/ Got a little Bimmy Juffet (cq) on them radio waves/I’m gettin’ sunburned and shipfaced.” (cq). Before this record is done messing around, the boys have performed “Soundtrack to a Six Pack,” “White Lightning” (no, not the old Big Bopper/George Jones song), “Peace, Love and Dixie” “Hot Damn” and this declaration “You can take a lot of things from a man’Leave him beat/Broken hearted and bent/But you ain’t never gonna take this accent/ Well, it’s got a little dirt, it’s got a little rasp/ Yeah them Marlboro Reds, well they’ll all do that.” Jaren Johnson isn’t the greatest lead singer you’ll ever hear (he always sounds like he’s half-kidding) but this keep-on, keepin’-on Southern rock roadhouse bunch of road warriors writes songs full of juicy lyrics, all to be sung to aggressive Honky Tonk noise. They’re never going to be massively famous; they’re unlikely to make it to truly great too. They’ll never be less than winning, though, nevertheless. Think of them as the happy country cousins of Z.Z. Top. Three out of four stars. (Jeff Simon)