Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber

  • Blood on the Leaf: Opus No. 1 [Trugroid, 2001] A-
  • Black Sex Yall Liberation & Bloody Random Violets [Trugroid, 2004] ***
  • Angels Over Oakanda [CDBaby, 2021] A

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Blood on the Leaf: Opus No. 1 [Trugroid, 2001]
Like most major writers, Greg Tate--the young Ironman turned older-than-that-now Ionman--pursues music at his peril. When I've heard him play guitar in public, I've only wished he'd go finish his novel--or, better still, write more about music. So call this dimly mastered Black Rock Coalition spinoff living criticism. It's electric Miles with soul, "Maggot Brain" with a Ph.D., the Hendrix-Evans band of dreams, the underwater funk some hear in A.R. Kane. With due respect to badmuthashutyo guitarist Morgan Michael, Mandarinsprechen banshee guitarist Rene Akhan, and unstemmed crimson tide guitarist Kirk Douglass, the standout player is piano virtuoso Vijay Iyer, and let us now praise Human Switchboard and Freedy Johnston stalwart Jared Michael Nickerson, though Tate hisself wrote the basslines. But the ensemble is all, and the opus subsumes its parts. A-

Black Sex Yall Liberation & Bloody Random Violets [Trugroid, 2004]
wish Tate edited his music like he edits his copy (which doesn't mean perfectly, believe me) ("Funky Rich Medina," "No Direction Home I"). ***

Angels Over Oakanda [CDBaby, 2021]
It was only when I witnessed Greg Tate deploying more brains and heart than any of the other star commentators who render the Miles Davis documentary Birth of the Cool such food for thought that I realized I'd been flummoxed by his 20-year-old band's latest release because it honored '70s Miles, on sheer electricity always a key influence but never before adduced with such revisionist reverence. Here be two tracks of free and two of vamp, neither loud much less abrasive, in a 39-minute gambol we might as well call an Agartha offshoot that aspires to the listenability of In a Silent Way. Tate may have had nothing of the sort in mind, but he won't mind if you do. The only trumpet is Lewis "Flip" Barnes's in the opener. Miles didn't play that much trumpet back then himself. A