Weekly Wire
Tucson Weekly Rhythm and Views

MAY 17, 1999: 

VINCE MENDOZA AND THE LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, Epiphany (Zebra Acoustic)

MENDOZA IS THE rare jazz composer/arranger who creates heavy string arrangements that avoid clashing with the jazz instrumentalists or sounding gooey. Here, guitarist John Abercrombie, saxophonists Joe Lovano and Michael Brecker, and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler improvise over his impressionistic compositions that, though romantic throughout, are far too complex for categorization as fireside pop jazz. Mendoza is as comfortable with classical music as he is with jazz, and few have shown themselves to be any better at melding the two. There's so much to hear in Mendoza's meaty composing that repeated play will uncover far more to digest than you can remember from the last listen. Epiphany shows how far, thanks to Mendoza and his influences, jazz orchestration has advanced since Charlie Parker coupled with a string section.

--Dave McElfresh


IMPALA, R&B Favorites (Estrus Records)

MUSICALLY SPEAKING, all roads lead to the sinful city of Memphis. And when in Memphis, see garage kings Impala, whose hooch 'n' skronk has been known to incite all manner of lascivious, kinky, and just plain immoral behavior. Musically speaking, the band's forte lies in how it erases the barrier between original instrumentals--a surfin' in the desert stomper ("Taos Pueblo") and a sleazy, shuddering sax-stained blooze number ("Hell Of A Woman")--and their ultra-vintage covers.

Here, Link Wray's "Vendetta" is as resolute as a Mexican divorce, while a pair of classic surf tunes (the Belairs' jittery "Squad Car" and the Challengers' groovy dance craze "The Scratch," also resurrected in recent memory by Morphine), betrays none the ravages of time. Even better, Impala brings subcultural nuance to the foreground by welding twang king Duane Eddy's "Stalkin'" and Lee Hazelwood's demented Mancini theme "Experiment In Terror." Seamless, and brilliant. Like Flat Duo Jets, also no strangers to the powers of the devil's music, these guys understand. Judging by the number of amateur strippers who regularly turn out for Impala gigs, the girls do, too.

--Fred Mills


LOWER EAST SIDE STITCHES, STAJA98L.E.S. (Ng)

NOT TO BE confused with the California group of the same moniker, the 1977-style pogo punk of the L.E.S. Stitches summons the perfect marriage of the almost-forgotten sing-along choruses of the Radicts and the riff-heavy glam-meets-street punk of veteran hooligans D-Generation. If both bands battled over bragging rights as to who truly ruled the squatters' turf wars on St. Mark's Place over the past five years, L.E.S. Stitches would emerge triumphant as the millennial meltdown approaches. Led by guitarist Curt Gove (formerly of early-'90s Misfits-wannabes the Radicts), L.E.S. Stitches maintains the fine Clash-inspired punk tradition of that defunct band with forceful sing-along harmonies, bone jarring riffs and bitter lyrics tackling social injustice, political intolerance and the general misery of living in the Rotten Apple. L.E.S. Stitches is also clearly influenced by the Dead Boys, New York Dolls and even (gulp) Rancid. They gruesomely approximate the full-throttle Dead Boys lyrical dismemberment on "NYC Is Dead," with Mick Brown's hyena-like, phlegm-strangled vocals bashing Mayor Rudy Guiliani and his Big Brother-like approach to civic improvement. Produced to a tasty metallic crunch by the Ramones' favorite knob-twirling guitar hotshot, Daniel Rey, STAJA98L.E.S. also rekindles fond memories of brawny '70s street punk legends the Dictators, from back when New York was still a fun, wild and crazy place to live.

--Ron Bally


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