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Arts & Entertainment Preview - October 2000
B Y B O B B L U M E N T H A
L & C H A R L E S M.
Y O U N G
A Rhyming Good Time
The first and last thing to understand about
Trent Summar & the New Row Mob is that they play with wildly contagious enthusiasm. Fast or slow or in between, they are having fun, and you will too. Formerly with Hank Flamingo, another contagiously enthusiastic band, Summar falls squarely in the Chuck Berry/George Jones school of songwriting: stuff a short story into two and a half minutes, make it rhyme, make it funny, and don't make it abstract. In the group's debut album (VFR) Summar's nonabstractions range from the role of anima inspiration in dirt-track car racing ("I'll tell you what I'm gonna do/ I'm gonna paint your name in purple on the side of the door/ Drive around and 'round for you") to odder material, like painful nostalgia for a beautiful old apartment building in Nashville that was torn down and replaced
with a Walgreens drugstore. The band careens between country and rock-and-roll -- think Buck Owens and His Buckaroos crossed with the Sex Pistols. They can play their instruments and they can roar; you don't have to get suspicious that they're concealing incompetence with guitar wash. Even when they dirty up their sound, they remain remarkably clean with no sacrifice of intensity. And Summar's lyrics are proof that Chuck Berry and George Jones didn't already write all the good rhymes. If The Beverly Hillbillies ever gets remade for television, "New Money" should be the theme song. --C.M.Y.
| The honky-tonk rocker|
A Contemplative Quintet
Since his success in the late 1960s in bringing acoustic jazz to rock crowds
at the Fillmore, the tenor saxophonist Charles Lloyd has possessed an uncanny
ability to merge the urgency of John Coltrane with a more muted,
almost clandestine delivery. Lloyd spent much of the decade following his popular success meditating rather than performing, and his sound grew even more ethereal. On The Water Is Wide (ECM), Lloyd's latest work, pristine cries and almost-swallowed arpeggios often seem to emerge from a fog. The lean, reflective aesthetic carries surprising weight, thanks in part to the supporting voices in Lloyd's studio quintet. Pianist Brad Mehldau and bassist Larry Grenadier set aside the stormy romanticism they practice in Mehldau's trio for contributions of a more lyrical nature; John Abercrombie's terse, spectral guitar recalls Gabor Szabo, one of Lloyd's early partners; and Billy Higgins makes the beat dance with finely calibrated patterns. The overall mood is contemplative, with lovely ballad readings of "Georgia" and Billy Strayhorn's "Lotus Blossom"; but Lloyd also generates subtle drama within his ascetic approach, bringing the music to peaks in "The Monk and the Mermaid," his complex duet with Mehldau, and in his conversation with Higgins in "There Is a Balm in Gilead." In a fall tour with Abercrombie and Higgins, Lloyd visits twelve U.S. cities, including Washington, D.C. (October 3-4); New York (October 5-7); and Los Angeles (October 12). For full tour details call 805-969-2882. --B.B.
|The meditative Charles Lloyd |
Long Time Coming
In this age of hypersexualized schmaltz pop and witless shock rock,
the introspective singer-songwriter hasn't been much of a presence
on the charts. Musical archetypes never die, though; what goes around
comes around again in the next generation. Now, for fans of James Taylor
and Jackson Browne, Teddy Thompson is coming around with his eponymous
debut album (Virgin). Son of Richard and Linda Thompson, one of the greatest
folk acts ever to come out of England, Thompson brings to music only slightly
less ancestral baggage than Prince William brings toward the Crown. He does
not sound a lot like his father, however. Thompson the elder sings mostly
about love after it has gone bad, rarely getting more positive than bittersweet
and often remaining just bitter. Teddy sings sweetly about the infatuation
stage of love, exploring the manic-depressive state of praying that someone
you're attracted to will turn out to be someone you actually like. The
dominant emotion is longing -- and why not? Teddy is twenty-four years old;
when he longs, you feel like you're twenty-four too. The only sign of
genetic bitterness comes in "Thanks a Lot," a complaint about critics
that recalls Roy Scheider throwing chum off the boat in Jaws (don't summon the beast unless you're in a position to kill it). The best songs are "Wake Up" (it's the morning after and he's still in love) and "Days in the Park" (a plea to remember the good times before breaking up). Nobody has longed
this well since Crowded House in the mid-eighties. --C.M.Y.
| The next generation:|
Bob Blumenthal is a jazz critic for The Boston Globe.
Charles M. Young reviews music for Playboy and
other publications and for Allmusic.com.
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Photo Credits -- Trent Summar: David McClister. Charles Lloyd: D. Darr. Teddy Thompson: Justin Stevens.
Copyright © 2000 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All rights reserved.