Record Report (#15): November 9, 2006

Carneyball Johnson (Akron Cracker): Even when they were young, Akron new wavers Tin Huey realized they'd have to get the parts to rule the world. Failing that, Chris Butler tried his hand as a feminist impersonator in the Waitresses, while Ralph Carney eeked out a career playing sax for Tom Waits and others. They he met the useful names of guitarist Kimo Ball and drummer Scott Johnson, not to mention the useless name of bassist Allen Whitman, and formed Rubber City's answer to the New York's Lounge Lizards. The likeness is clear when they take toons like Cream's "White Room" or Desmond Dekker's "Intensified" and bend them into aural origami. The difference is that they bounce more, and tango less. A- [jazz]

Barry Manilow: One Voice (1979, Arista/Legacy): They say critics listen to lousy records so you don't have to. So here's my report on Manilow's first seven opuses: I and II reveal an uncertain rocker who failed Elton John 101 but thought he found magic in Chopin; he refined that idea into his only consistently decent album, This One's for You (1976), which I make to be a B-; he repeated that idea until it was totally devoid of feeling and interest, resulting in this nadir; along the way he paraded his TV ditties on Live (1976) album, which was almost as bad, only partly redeemed by sheer tackiness. D- [none]

Houston Person/Bill Charlap: You Taught My Heart to Sing (High Note): Two masters, but perhaps too modest to appear in such naked duets, and too gentlemanly to nose in on the other's turf. Charlap is as erudite as any mainstream pianist working these days. And Person's tenor saxophone sounds fabulous, as usual, Still, I keep wishing a bass would enter and scurry them along a bit. B+ [jazz]

Les Primitifs du Futur: World Musette (Sunnyside): Knowing that R. Crumb is involved in this project -- the cover art, of course, but also mandolin and banjo -- makes it all the easier to imagine this as what happens when the Cheap Suit Serenaders go to seed in Paris. Guitarist Dominique Cravic is the leader and principal songwriter. Daniel Huck sings scat, and a cast of dozens play instruments my French isn't good enough to translate. Starts out sounding old-timey, but before long the accordions overwhelm the ukuleles and the musette takes over -- still old-timey, but European, even when they fake a Chinese waltz. A- [world]

Saborit: Que Linda Es Mi Cuba (Tumi Music): I suppose it's pure coincidence that the guitars in this East Cuban group remind me of nothing so much as Guitar Paradise of East Africa. Cuba's Oriente is typically less Afro and more Spanish than the urban jungle of Havana, but for country music this builds on pretty complex riddims. Modestly named for guaracha legend Eduardo Saborit, they've played together for twenty-plus years before piling onto a tractor and heading cross-country for their first studio date. That may make them hicks, but they were right to take the chance. A- [world, latin]

Stephen Stubbs: Teatro Lirico (ECM New Series): Sonatas and dances from 17th century Italy and Slovakia form the base for these improvisations by the leader on baroque guitar and chitarrone, with period strings and harps for accompaniment. Not really my thing, but exceptionally haunting. B+ [classical]

Aaron Weinstein: A Handful of Stars (Arbors): There's a recent vogue for teenagers playing jazz -- mostly pianists like Matt Savage and Eldar Djangirov -- but there's nothing fashionable about this 19-year-old fiddler. While I doubt that he's really as mature as folks say, his music points straight back to Joe Venuti, and his band picks -- Bucky Pizzarelli, Houston Person, Joe Ascione -- prove that he's done his homework. If he turns out to be the next Johnny Frigo, I'll be delighted. B+ [jazz]