Wayne Kramer (Industrial Amusement)
It's been 14 years since Wayne Kramer released an album, and the former MC5 guitarist says he expects fans of his work with that seminal punk-metal band might be annoyed with his journey into improv jazz in Lexington.
Baffled might have been a better word choice, but those who stick around until the end will be pleasantly surprised — and rewarded.
Kramer, who in recent years has been busy scoring films such as Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, began his migration toward jazz while doing the music for The Narcotic Farm, a 2008 PBS documentary about the federal prison in Lexington, Ky., where he served two years in the 1970s for dealing cocaine.
With help from an eight-piece ensemble that includes a horn section led by trumpeter Charles Moore, he makes that migration complete in the eight instrumental tracks contained here.
And while the loud, screaming chords that once defined his signature work on albums such as Kick Out the Jams are nowhere in sight, Kramer's own deft use of quieter guitar runs played in counterpoint to piano and trumpet, show that at age 65 he's lost none of the skill that led Rolling Stone magazine to declare him among rock music's 100 greatest guitarists.
Listen closely, particularly to Chasing a Fire Engine and Spectrum Suite, which open and close the recording, and old fans will even discover some of the sonic distortion they once embraced.
— JOHN ROGERS,
G. Love & Special Sauce (Brushfire Records)
It's been 20 years and G. Love & Special Sauce are still grooving with their blues-meets-hip-hop sound.
G. Love (born Garrett Dutton), Jimi "Jazz" Prescott, and Jeffrey "Houseman" Clemens made the band's self-titled debut album in 1994, winning over fans with G. Love's harmonica and guitar, Jimi Jazz's stand-up bass, and Houseman's drums.
The trio are back together on Sugar, with their signature mix of bluesy tracks and songs with more mainstream appeal.
As the name suggests, Weekend Dance will get you up off your feet while Saturday Night, Cheating Heart, and the title track keep with G. Love's long-time themes of good times and getting over heartbreak.
Sugar, G. Love's first album since 2011's Fixin' to Die, features appearances from Ben Harper, Marc Broussard, and New Orleans horn player Shamarr Allen. One track not to miss: One Night Romance pairs G. Love with gospel and soul singer Merry Clayton.
Sugar should give G. Love plenty of material for a summer tour that starts in July.
— CARYN ROUSSEAU,
Tim Hegarty (Miles High Records)
Tim Hegarty is a fine, straight-ahead jazz saxophonist who isn't paying tribute to a single individual on this album, but rather eight who have served as teachers, mentors, or inspirations during his career. They include one of Ohio's greatest jazz saxophonists, the late Joe Henderson of Lima.
The disc is a combination of lush and light instrumentals, augmented by the talents of gifted pianist Kenny Barron, who delivered one of the Toledo area's Art Tatum memorial concerts in years past. Hegarty has been a fixture on the New York jazz scene for 25 years and, through a combination of standards and originals, offers a disc that is cool, smooth, and effortless in how it flows and hits a groove that can vary between robust, breezy, and introspective. Joining him and Barron are Mark Sherman on vibraphone, Rufus Reid on bass, and Carl Allen on drums.
— TOM HENRY