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Listening Post: Vintage blues by Professor Longhair; microtonal jazz by David Fiuczynski and Rudresh Mahanthappa


Professor Longhair, “Live in Chicago” (Orleans). Professor Longhair is a cornerstone of blues piano in America (the one labeled Gumbo piano). That’s why if you find any vintage “Fess” records where he plays and sings solo, you’re on to something precious. This live group recording from a folk festival in Chicago in 1976 is slightly less so. The trouble with the quintet he leads is that he’s the only Professor Longhair in it and the others aren’t quite on his level but are, rather, professional R&B musicians. It is, then, a domestication of the essence of a hugely distinguished and creative blues master from 1976. Professional and even appealing, of course but less than it ought to have been. Still, it’s Professor Longhair. That’s enough to know. Two and a half stars. (Jeff Simon)

Avant-garde jazz

David Fiuczynskiu, “Flam! Blam!: Hommage a J Dilla et. Olivier Messiaen” (Rare Noise). The music of microtonalist David Fiuczynski is one of the more advanced places that intrepid avant-jazz guitarists are going these days. He was once the founder of the band Screaming Headless Torso but has for a while occupied a musical place distinguished by microtones and all manner of Oriental musical adaptation. One subtitle of this record is “Pan-Asian Microjam.” Another is “Hommage a D Jilla et. Olivier Messiaen.” To discover where the much-revered hip-hop record producer J Dilla and the mystic maximalist composer and lover of bird calls Olivier Messiaen meet, you’ll just have to hear the record. When you do, you’ll discover the amazing Amer/Indian jazz saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa on the three tracks of the suite which close out the record. Mahanthappa’s own music which captivated Buffalo audiences recently (as he was in the past in a group co-led with Vijay Iyer) is completely at home in Fiuczynski’s “microjam” universe which, it seems to me, says wonderful things about both the saxophonist AND the guitarist. Three stars. (Jeff Simon)

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