After a long, grueling winter, you must be as ready as I am to usher in spring -- to throw open the windows, breathe deeply, and welcome the warmth of a sunbeam on your brow as you shake off any latent hibernation blues. Here’s some fresh new music to help.
Mehmet Ali Sanlikol’s Whatsnext? is just the thing for the return of spring. The jazz pianist and scholar’s compositions blend diverse influences from his roots in Turkey and Greece, to his jazz training at Berklee College of Music in the US. To realize his vision for this album, Sanlikol gathered a big band of 15 horn players, four drummers, electric bass and guitar, and, on some tracks, a second piano player and composer. “Palindrome” is a ten-minute-long musical tale in which eastern and western themes are woven into a sonic magic carpet. “Gone Crazy: A Noir Fantasy” is full of intrigue and theatrical nuance, with a swinging groove at a frenzied pace. The album is also available in a limited edition of hand-pressed vinyl in a beautiful sleeve of blue cloth, and includes the CD as well. Whatsnext? is a fitting title for this beautiful recording -- as soon as it ends, you’re left asking just that.
Keeping in the jazz vein, crooner Curtis Stigers’s late-April release, Hooray for Love, is a selection of smooth, romantic renderings of Great American Songbook standards and new originals. In “You Make Me Feel So Young,” Stigers duets with French chanteuse Cyrille Aimée in a playful take on the song made famous by Frank Sinatra. The title song, co-written by Stigers and trumpeter John Sneider, is jubilant and jaunty, with clean, crisp lines. Two Jerome Kern classics are covered: “The Way You Look Tonight,” from the 1936 film Swing Time; and “If I Were a Bell,” from Guys and Dolls. Like the first sweet scent of flowers in spring, Hooray for Love is lighthearted and lovely.
Jazz is great for easing into the season, but if you’re ready to bust loose with something a little more raucous, you can’t go wrong with rockabilly royalty. The Dex Romweber Duo -- consisting of himself on guitar and his sister, Sara, on drums -- packs a serious punch of Americana punk on their latest Bloodshot Records release, Images 13. Romweber headed the Flat Duo Jets in the 1990s, and has been cited as an influence on artists ranging from Jack White and Neko Case to Cat Power and the Black Keys. His sparse arrangements and lack of pretense have a refreshingly clean sound. “Roll On” rolls the album out of the gate with intense, driving force, and with a ’60s surf-rock vibe that’s audible in many other tracks, such as “Blue Surf” and “Blackout!” Despite having made original, inspired music for four decades now, Dexter Romweber remains an inexplicably underground alt icon. I can only shrug and say, “Keep it coming, Dex!”
. . . Shannon Holliday