"With the title track, Ben Sidran delivers one of the most insightful songs in a career full of them; in it, he rearranges the paradigm to suggest how we might buck up against situations that seem hopeless. His timing couldn't be better. His stylistic mentor, the late Mose Allison, would be proud." - Neil Tesser, Grammy winning author and Host of the syndicated program 'Jazz With Neil Tesser'. PICTURE HIM HAPPY is a response to the saying that our music is made by and for people who have chosen to feel good in spite of conditions: you often can’t affect what happens but you can determine how you respond to it. It’s a record that’s right on time.
Mose Allison, who was a musical institution long before 1987, had not run out of creative juices after 30 years of major league performances. This set finds him introducing such ironically truthful songs as "Ever Since The World Ended," "Top Forty," "I Looked In The Mirror" and "What's Your Movie." The many guest artists (including altoist Arthur Blythe, tenor-saxophonist Bennie Wallace, Bob Malach on both alto and tenor and guitarist Kenny Burrell) are unnecessary frivolities but Allison's trio (with bassist Dennis Irwin and drummer Tom Whaley) is tight and ably backs the unique singer-pianist.
Coming off an intense and emotionally rough period that surrounded the recording and release of 2013's No Morphine No Lilies, drummer Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom is in upbeat, adventurous form on 2016's Otis Was a Polar Bear. Which isn't to say that she and her bandmates weren't game for adventure on No Morphine No Lilies. On the contrary, the group found its footing on that album born out of a tumultuous year that included Miller taking care of her sick girlfriend, two of her bandmates having babies, and Miller drawing attention, some unfairly negative, for a Huffington Post article she wrote about being a lesbian feminist in the jazz world.
Brett Dean is not shy about revealing what his music is ‘about’. Whether inspired by certain individuals (as in Epitaphs), or by an ecological or human disaster (as in his String Quartet No. 1, on the now all too topical plight of refugees), Dean’s works are usually – perhaps invariably – driven by extra-musical narratives. Rather than tease out any innate structural puzzles or tensions, his music typically falls into short little dramatic narratives – no movement on this disc lasts as long as eight minutes, many of them rather less than five. The most obviously successful work here is Quartet No. 2, ‘And once I played Ophelia’, effectively a dramatic scena. Its soprano soloist is no mere extra voice (as in Schoenberg’s Second Quartet) but the leading protagonist. Allison Bell’s genuinely affecting performance is backed by the Doric Quartet’s expressionist scampering and sustained harmonies, the strings occasionally coming to the fore in the manner of a Schumann-style song postlude.