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June 2010 Archives

June 3, 2010

CD REVIEW: The Matt Ritvo Group

We here at the Beast don't usually do CD reviews (we overdosed on them in the Nineties and simply ran out of 10-cent adjectives) but we met guitarist/pianist Matt Ritvo at the old Pasadena Jazz Institute space and Mimi Melnick’s Jazz Salon (which, by the way, was just referenced in Rex Butter’s new AAJ profile of another gee-tar guy). Quite honestly, he was so soft-spoken we never would have guessed the guy had assembled a powerhouse L.A. sextet of elder statesmen for his debut CD: Rahmlee Michael Davis (trumpet), Bobby English (tenor sax), Michael Session (tenor sax), Roberto Miguel Miranda (bass) and Woodrow "Sonship" Theus (drums).

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The opener, “Dirty Murray,” sets the scene for this understated disc that's ocassionally spiked with spirited intensity. Ritvo's solo piano intro takes its time before unfolding a slo-drag blues shuffle with simple sax harmony. Ritvo’s busy piano runs meld melody and dissonance, spurred by the Coltranisms of Session’s tenor sax -- soon joined by English as their voices intertwine like a pair of morning glory vines. “Blues for Sonship," the CD’s centerpiece, is named after the gloriously eccentric percussionist, who at live shows would often break into possessed and riveting holy pronouncements from his drum seat that could go on for twenty minutes (the Beast actually witnessed this). The tune launches with Ritvo on crystalline guitar -- firmly ensconced in the Joe Pass-Wes Montgomery pantheon -- and features a “snapping” bass solo by Roberto Miranda. Davis’ trumpet recalls muted Miles, although quicker and more acrobatic, like an ornery hornet. There's some furious vamping by Session and English before Mr. Theus himself -- who's been playing deceptive possum throughout the tune -- explodes in a thunderous drum break that enables one to understand why, back in the day, people like Alex Cline argued over who would carry his traps.

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Matt Ritvo leads studio rehearsal with Roberto Miranda

With the exception of "Blues for Sonship," most of these tunes are bite-sized snippets (both "Queensberry Street" and its reprise clock in at barely more than a minute). "The Path" breathes like a funky film-noir soundtrack before ending in a horrified peal of dissonance. “396 Bellevue” carries an off-kilter melody that seems to backs up on itself, creating an aural illusion that almost sounds like you’re listening to it in reverse. Ritvo’s halting barrelhouse-inflected piano interlude brings the song down to concert-hall quiet softness before the tune fades out like smoke from a departing train.


The Matt Ritvo Group: "The Path"

All in all, a wonderfully under-the-radar release that will prove essential to any salt-worthy L.A. jazz snerd. You can pick up the CD here.


Matt Ritvo interviewed by Richard Blackwell

REST IN TEMPO
Francisco Aguabella
Fred Anderson
Stuart Cable
Roy Carrier
Larry Dale
Ronnie James Dio
Bill Dixon
Ernest Fleischmann
Paul Gray
Dennis Hopper
Lena Horne
Marvin Isley
Hank Jones
Jackson Kaujeua
Yvonne Loriod
Rammellzee
Rob McConnell
Kazuo Ohno
Pete Quaife
Rosa Rio
Anneliese Rothenberger
David Sanger
Gary Shider
Ali-Ollie Woodson

June 7, 2010

Adios, Amigos (UPDATED)

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Well, pards, it's been three exciting years here at the Beast, but we must be movin' on. We had an awesome time attempting to turn this blog from a de rigueur attempt at self-promotion to something. . .uh, a little bit more than that. Have we succeeded? We have no idea. Oftentimes, it feels like manning a Morse Code substation in the Arctic Circle: ".. ... - .... . .-. . .- -. -.-- -... --- -.. -.-- --- ..- - - .... . .-. . ..--..? .- -. -.-- -... --- -.. -.-- .- - .- .-.. .-.. ..--.. ..--.. ..--..?!?"

At any rate, yours truly is now walking out the door into a scary and frightening world of freelance chaos. I am in the process of (natch) starting my own blog which we be a continuation of my obsessions -- musical, medicinal and otherwise -- that have taken shape over my tenure here at Downbeast.

Anyhoo, we'll let you know when that starts up. In the meantime, much love, respect, and thanks to Cryptogramophone's Fearless Leader JEFF GAUTHIER for letting me go on (and on and on and on) with this lil' bloggy-wog. By far, he's the best boss I've never drawn obscene caricatures of on the bathroom wall. Another shout-out to all of the great musicians who have rolled through the Crypto Head Office and were quite gracious in answering all of my pestering questions. And thanks to y'all for reading!

(POSTSCRIPT: Our friend and L.A. jazz sage Steven L. Isoardi, has just published "The Return of Henry Grimes" his long-awaited account of the remarkable rehabilitation of the former Albert Ayler/Cecil Taylor bassist at the hands of two teeenage jazz enthusiasts. It's a terrific story, and one that has not been told in its entirety -- much less by someone who was actually there to witness it. Congrats, Steve!)

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