Record Report (#19): December 7, 2006

Ignacio Berroa: Codes (Blue Note): Like Chano Pozo in 1947, trap drummer Berroa moved to New York in 1980 and found a job in Dizzy Gillespie's band. But his Afro-Cuban roots were attenuated -- he blames Castro for suppressing Yoruba religion and restricting his schooling to the Euroclassics. Even here, the most archetypal Afro-Cuban rhythms come not from the usual percussion instruments but from Gonzalo Rubalcaba's piano and Felipe LaMoglia's saxophones. Nonetheless, Berroa codifies a remarkable pan-American synthesis. A- [jazz]

Wayne Horvitz Gravitas Quartet: Way Out East (Songlines): The Seattle-based pianist has been gravitating toward classical music for some time. This swingless chamber music comes close, but is far more interesting than his string quartets like the recent Whispers, Hymns and a Murmur (Tzadik), mostly because the instrumentation is so unusual: bassoon for the bottom, trumpet for the top, cello for the meat, piano for the dressing, electronics for the hell of it. B+ [jazz]

Kekele: Kinavana (Stern's Africa): The African heritage of Cuban music has been preserved at least to the regional level, where Yoruba and Congo are still distinct. This affinity allowed Cuban music to flow back to Africa where, for instance, the Congo has adopted Cuban rumba as its own. The superstars from Kinshasa give the screw another turn here by recording an album of Cuban classics penned by Guillermo Portables, adding a few new lyrics in Lingala, and a dash of Manu Dibango sax. So while the rhythm and coro remind you of Cuba, the Papa Noel guitar is uncommonly sweet. A- [world]

The Klezmatics: Woody Guthrie's Happy Joyous Hanukkah (JMG): The lyrics, some didactic and some delirious, all date from 1949, when the Okie folksinger made his home in Jewish Brooklyn. As on the marvelous Wonder Wheel, the Klezmatics give Guthrie's unscored lyrics happy, joyous new music. And to fill it out, they slip in a few instrumentals -- "(Do the) Latke Flip" is one even non-believers can get behind. B+ [world]

Buck Owens: 21 #1 Hits: The Ultimate Collection (1963-88, Rhino): An Okie who didn't move to Bakersfield until he was 21, Owens' cornball mix of western swing fiddle and honky tonk domestic woes put his adopted hom town on the country music as the pre-Austin alt to Nashville. "Act Naturally" made him a star long before Ringo Starr trumped him by affecting even more surprise. Hosting Hee Haw made him even more famous, but his chart toppers dried up before the TV show aired -- the two exceptions here are the 1972 "Made in Japan" and a much later Dwight Yoakam duet. A- [country]

Thirsty Ear Blue Series Sampler (Thirsty Ear): Matthew Shipp's series built a bridge from avant-jazz to DJ culture so successfully that of late most of the traffic has come from the rock-rap-DJ side looking to break new ground. This is their third series sampler, with tracks from 15 of 47 albums -- a bargain at $2.98 list, not just to explore but because it actually flows. Still, it doesn't measure up to the best records in the series, which I make to be: Shipp's Nu-Bop and Harmony and Abyss, William Parker's Raining on the Moon and Scrapbook, David S. Ware's Live in This World, and in a more hip-hop vein, the Yohimbe Brothers' The Tao of Yo. B+ [jazz]

Big Joe Williams: The Sonet Blues Story (1972, Verve): An old-time Delta denizen, working solo, playing his distinctive 9-string guitar -- three of six strings doubled like a 12-string, which gives the him a nasty Leadbelly vibe. Vocally he's on the Son House side of Muddy Waters, a guy who can bray and growl, the sound of a cantankerous cuss who's been around, doesn't like what he's seen, but doesn't let it stop him short either. A- [blues]