'Jubilee' is the title of an intriguing new CD from the exquisite pairing of Harry Manx and Kevin Breit, two quintessential "out-of-the-box" players.
Two prior releases by Harry Manx have already taken the breath away from many a reviewer (including yours truly), and even drawn comparisons to such icons as Ry Cooder and Kelly Joe Phelps. Rarified company indeed, but talent pours out of Manx like water from a tap.
The other half of this blessed union is Kevin Breit who has earned a fearsome local reputation with Sisters Euclid as an adventurous and oftentimes unpredictable player possessing a seemingly inexhaustible storehouse of ideas at his fingertips. He also tours with Cassandra Wilson and Norah Jones. Any fear that the spiritual relaxed vibe of Manx approach might get overshadowed by the assertiveness of Breit gets laid to rest within moments of hearing 'Jubilee.' Each complemented the other, and brought out the best in the other. The fruition of a 5-day "jamming session", 'Jubilee' is an extravaganza of impeccable taste and a goody jar of fully realized inspirational delights. It all comes off sounding so spontaneous and so spicy that one couldn't hope for anything better.
Executive producer Michael Wrycraft wisely left them to their own devices (or as Manx put it: to await spontaneous combustion). The guys brought their armada of stringed instruments to the studio and availed them to give birth to eight cool edgy instrumentals tracks, and six blues-drenched vocals--three of which Harry has already incorporated into his live show: "Diving Duck Blues", "Take This Hammer", and "Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues." They've gone over big with audiences, so it was a wise choice to finally get them recorded.
In addition to being a master of the East/West hybrid approach, Manx is rapidly becoming one of the most convincing interpreters of Hendrix material, as he ably demonstrates on "Voodoo Child" (nb. another Hendrix piece, "Foxy Lady", showed up on the 'Wise and Otherwise' CD).
Yet the Breit/Manx originals manage to eclipse the covers, no mean feat given the quality of the above selections. The new ones tug at the heartstrings in very convincing ways. Special mention goes to "Unmoved by Love", an achingly beautiful melody that blends together the twin themes of love and bitterness. The 7 minutes plus of "Weary and You Run" is flowing testimony to the creative juices of this tandem, while completing the triangle is "Funny Business", a wonderfully whimsical piece that sticks in your head with its compulsive hummability.
The word "whimsical" also describes the bent of the instrumental interludes throughout 'Jubilee'. Thanks in large part to Breit's brilliance, the instrumentals may be the real revelation here. "No Particular Place To Be/Itchy Knees and Elbows" is a snazzy number that will have you strutting like a peacock. Though barely one minute long, "When Abbott Met Costello" is a case study in how inventiveness and brevity need not be mutually exclusive. Classical guitar enthusiasts are bound to fixate on Breit's "Curly Ray and his Brother", while "Raga Gujari-Todi" is a steamy dish of Indian exotica.
I loved how the guys totally transformed the Doobie Brothers' "Taking It To The Streets"; not merely by re-inventing it as an instrumental, but also by turning it into something radically different from its origins as a piece of hook-driven pop. It really defies categorization, but maybe "Hindu Hillbilly Jazz" will do.
There is just so much to soak up here. As a reviewer, I know that repeated listens remain the truest barometer for gauging the depth of a CD, and 'Jubilee' hasn't been off my CD turntable since I first got it.
Fred Litwin, owner of NorthernBlues, deserves a world of credit, not just for his label's contributions to the Canadian music scene but also for his vision in recognizing, promoting, and then producing artists deserving of far greater recognition---especially Harry and Kevin. Without in any way diminishing the very fine releases on his label to date, 'Jubilee' may indeed be Fred's moment of ultimate pride.
Website #2: http://www.povertyplaylist.com/home.html
Northern Blues Owner: Fred Litwin
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