Avishai Cohen- Seven Seas (Blue Note; 2011)
Israeli jazz guru Avishai Cohen returns with his unique brand of “heavy metal jazz” on Seven Seas, which is a follow-up to 2009’s Aurora. The Cohen, Mark Guiliana and Shai Maestro trio – who play bass, drums and piano respectively – have never before disappointed fans, and the same holds true for the new album. The addition of vocals, an electric guitar, a Turkish oud and a horn section have greatly filled out the band’s sound. The effect is a sound that is rich, nuanced and groove-heavy. Tracks like “Halah” and “Ani Aff” showcase the trio’s virtuosity and ability to create complex polyrhythms, all the while maintaining their penchant for melody and counterpoint. At times, the vocals evoke the sound of an Israeli lounge bar, but the dynamic between the keyboard, drums and bass shines throughout Seven Seas, enough to keep your head bobbing well beyond its 52-minute run time.
Trial Track: “Seven Seas”
8.0 / 10 — Jesse Polowin
Texas instrumetalists Scale The Summit have started 2011 in heavy fashion with the release of their third album, The Collective. Their latest work lives up to their 2009 release, Carving Desert Canyons, and then some. With a trademark dual-guitar sound that puts melody ahead of speed, quick odd-time flickers and a mix that gives no one instrument precedent over the other, The Collective has a lot to offer prog-metal fans – even though there is not a single vocal to be heard on the record. With a touch of dissonance, the record sounds like Cynic meets Between the Buried and Me with a bit of Dream Theater added in. Overall, The Collective is a mature, intelligent and complex record that shows a wealth of songwriting ability as well as an appreciation for plain old good music.
Trial Track: “Colossal”
7.0 / 10 — Jesse Polowin
Saxophonist Colin Stetson demonstrates an inclination for jazz, noise and the oh-so elusive avant-garde. By virtue of his idiosyncratic tendencies, Stetson has come to work with the likes of Tom Waits, Arcade Fire and David Byrne. Out of this impressive repertoire comes New History Warfare, Vol. 2: Judges – a collection of two-minute tracks that briefly but thoroughly explore what one could imagine may be going on inside of Stetson’s brain.
Almost taking the lead as the longest track on the record, “Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes” awkwardly stands out as a classically composed love song, while the rest of the record conveys a panic-stricken tale featuring ranging falsettos, cries of feedback, howls of French horn and ever-pulsating clarinet screeches. Guest vocals provided by Laurie Anderson and Shara Worden help Stetson construct the soundtrack for a potentially fascinating psychological thriller.
Trial Track: “Richard II”
7.0 / 10 — Sruti Islam
With songs like “Under the Bridge,” “Funky Monk” and “Blood Sugar Sex Magik,” the album is heavily influenced by funk music, but it nonetheless possesses a very diverse and well-built track list.
Blood Sugar Sex Magik sold over 17 million copies, making it the band’s second most popular album after Californication. Having put aside many of the heavy metal riffs that were more common in their precedent albums, the band was able to enlarge and diversify its audience. Released in 1991 as their fifth album, it brings together guitarist John Frusciante and Michael “Flea” Balzary’s energetic funk riffs with colourful and suggestive poetry-style lyrics. The album’s immense success forced Frusciante to temporarily quit the band in 1992 in the middle of a promising world tour. The album is considered one of the most influential albums to emerge out of the ‘90s alternative rock scene. It embraces genres and styles that can appeal to most listeners while keeping an original and stimulating sound.
Trial Track: “Give It Away”
— Kim McPherson