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Skip Heller
Jazz From Hell(er)

Jazz From Hell(er) (AIM Recording Co.) is the latest release from musical workaholic and guitarist Skip Heller. At 36, Heller has already compiled a musical resume befitting someone twice his age. As a producer and musician, he has previously worked on projects with exotica great Robert Drasnin, rockabilly icon Ray Campi, Yma Sumac, Dave Alvin, The Blue Dahlia, John Gilmore, and Big Jay McNeely, among others. Heller even had a stint as a score librarian for big band legend Les Baxter.

With his new album, the prolific artist reminds us that jazz is supposed to be entertaining, a feeling he believes Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman were trying to accomplish through the 1930s jazz that predated bebop and the less structured styles that followed. To this end, Heller delivers 14 tracks, including eight originals, with a variety of tempos, from the upbeat "Savoy Trifle" to the softer, smoother "Don't Go To Strangers." (Robert Drasin's clarinet and Mike Bolger's trumpet on the former number will make you feel like you're out on the town in 1930s Harlem, whereas the lovely vocals of Polly Geller on the latter will have you swaying in your lover's arms.)

Heller has a tremendous sense of music that enables him to put the most out of place song into a relevant context. He presents a funky jazz rendition of L.L. Cool J's "Goin' Back To Cali," with vocals delivered in a style reminiscent of the '70s punk group The Flying Lizards. Even the Allman Brothers' hit "Whipping Post" is made more interesting by a slower arrangement and Katy Moffatt's bluesy vocals. "Vamos A Baliar" is a hopping live recording featuring Lalo Guerrero, who helped popularize a blend of swing and Chicano music. And the classy, fast-paced jazz number "Echoes of Primitive Philadelphia" highlights Heller's own fine guitarwork, sweetly accented by Mike Rocke on piano.

Heller's recordings at times lean to the classic cartoon arrangements of Raymond Scott (think "Powerhouse" and Bugs Bunny). In fact, you can hear more of Heller's work on The Cartoon Network, in the upcoming Flintstones On The Rocks animated release and the series Dexter's Laboratory. But Jazz From Hell(er) is not wackiness via jazz; rather, it is an expression of entertaining jazz that flows from intriguing to soulful in the tradition of the great bandleaders of yore.

—Smilin' Buddha Joe

Visit the band at www.skipheller.com

 



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