Tue, Jun 05, 2012 - Page 16 News List

CD reviews

From Day 1, by Travis Porter; Carrera, by Guillermo Klein and Los Guachos ; Internal Logic, by Grass Widow; The Absence, by Melody Gardot

NY Times News Service

From Day 1, by Travis Porter

From Day 1

Travis Porter

Teatro Carlo Felice, Genoa

Porter House/RCA

There’s beauty in diversity, sure, but there can be beauty in single-mindedness, too. Over the past few years the three men of the Atlanta hip-hop group Travis Porter — Quez, Ali and Strap — have become auteurs of the strip club, making buoyant, electrifying soundtrack music for late nights full of tossed-in-the-air dollar bills. What Too Short was to 1980s corner walkers, this group is to the modern-day pole dancer.

The apotheosis of the style was Make It Rain, originally released in 2010 and one of the great hip-hop anthems of recent years. A thumping, swerving, punchy number, it was salacious and comic in equal measure, a genuine triumph.

That song closes out From Day 1, the long-in-the-cooker major-label debut from this group, and it sets the tone as well. From Pop a Rubber Band to Wobble to songs with unprintable titles, these men know their milieu; they never met a stripper they didn’t want to rap about. This is an exuberantly raunchy album but also an intuitively musical one. Quez in particular has a mature gift for melody — he’s lighthearted in tone, adding a sense of fun to the proceedings. Ali can sound testy and saucy and Strap, with his rich accent, often sounds like he’s swallowing his words.

Songs like Ballin’, with their ostentatious swoops and turns in vocal delivery, recall rappers like Nelly and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Midwesterners who bent hip-hop into new shapes. And songs like Ayy Ladies offer more relaxed flirtation, away from the pole.

Only a pair of songs near the end of the album, Party Time and That Feeling, appear to be reaching for a broader idea, trading strip-club throbbing for pop-ear breeze. But here, the rappers sound loose, almost uncomfortable. They want to go back to the club.

— JON CARAMANICA, NY Times News Service


Guillermo Klein and Los Guachos


Guillermo Klein, the Argentine composer, arranger, pianist and bandleader, has long squared his art against a system of rhythmic convolution, cerebral and multi-layered but also bodily engaged. He hasn’t always had comparable use for strong, evocative melody, but his priorities seem to have shifted recently. Carrera, his captivating new album, contains some of his most tuneful work, without backtracking on any previous polymetric advances. The adjustment feels distinctly personal.

And maybe it is. Carrera largely consists of themes composed just before and after Klein’s return to Buenos Aires after a long stint in Barcelona, Spain. So on some level this is his homecoming album. It also follows his deep inquiry into the Argentine folklorist Cuchi Leguizamon, in performance and on the 2010 album Domador de Huellas. Melody was a core concern on that album, however Klein chose to reframe it.

His exacting, elastic band, Los Guachos, knows how to respond to even his most nuanced signals. But while some compositions here employ sly rhythmic subversions like the floating opener, Burrito Hill, and an arrangement of Alberto Ginastera’s Piano Sonata Op. 22 the band finds greater traction in lyricism.

So the tricky pulse of a ballad called Mariana, with its implication of five against four, all but dissolves in the face of an essay by Chris Cheek on tenor saxophone. Something analogous happens with another tenor, Bill McHenry, on a circuitous tune called ArteSano, and with the alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon on a flowing but urgent art song, Moreira, also featuring Klein on vocals.

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