[JPL] Soaring Saxophones and American Gothic

r durfee rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Thu Dec 27 10:14:01 EST 2007


December 23, 2007
Music
Soaring Saxophones and American Gothic 
By BEN RATLIFF
1. JOSHUA REDMAN: ‘BACK EAST’ (Nonesuch). A tenor
saxophone-bass-drums trio in jazz means a rugged
structural challenge, and possibly an exercise in
nostalgia, as it was more or less trademarked and
sewed up by Sonny Rollins 50 years ago. But when it’s
done this well, you can forget about all the other
things jazz could or should be doing. Here Mr. Redman
compresses his goals, leaves distractions behind and
makes the most agile and personal record of his
career. 

2. GILBERTO GIL: ‘GIL LUMINOSO’ (DRG). This is the
album I have listened to most: a master Brazilian
singer-songwriter, alone with guitar, sanding down old
and new songs to the core. Few records are as
beautiful.

3. ROBERT PLANT AND ALISON KRAUSS: ‘RAISING SAND’
(Rounder). Both doing something quite different from
what they’re known for — Mr. Plant singing quietly and
in harmony, Ms. Krauss singing blues — these two can
make sense of, and even melt themselves into, the
foggy gothic-Americana atmosphere of T Bone Burnett’s
production. 

4. BILL MCHENRY: ‘ROSES’ (Sunnyside). Jazz at its best
is always both old-fashioned and modern, and the
saxophonist Bill McHenry is a good example. He plays
with unabashed enthusiasm for melody: no mazes of
harmony or time signature here; the warm, sweet lines
ripely tumble out, dictating the band’s rhythm as they
go.

5. NO AGE: ‘WEIRDO RIPPERS’ (Fat Cat). A sneaky and
suspect band: what are these two Los Angeles art-punks
up to, with their ground-level competence,
low-fidelity smears, whiny vocals, song after song of
twinkly, echoey noise-into-song? They’re confusing
you, with charisma. 

6. FEIST: ‘THE REMINDER’ (Cherry Tree/Interscope).
Leslie Feist is a pop singer, but plenty of jazz
singers would have loved to make a record this good.
It’s well-arranged, generous, strong in melody,
charismatic, genuine and judicious almost to the point
of frugality. What’s not to like? 

7. SAM YAHEL TRIO: ‘TRUTH AND BEAUTY’ (Origin). Here’s
Joshua Redman again, on tenor saxophone, in a
sporadic, long-running jazz trio led by the organist
Sam Yahel, with Brian Blade on drums. This record
overcomes old organ-and-tenor jazz clichés so easily
that you hardly think of them. The music is fluid,
flexible, all parts running together, the groove
overwhelming. 

8. KARTET: ‘THE BAY WINDOW’ (Songlines). The idea of
the mind-body split is old nonsense, but if you’ve
ever thought you feel or enjoy jazz through the
intellect, you’ve got to hear this French quartet.
There are older-jazz echoes here — Thelonious Monk,
Lee Konitz — but three of these four musicians are
composers, and this quiet record is loaded with
new-sounding purpose. The music is tense, detailed and
well practiced.

9. ALICIA KEYS: ‘AS I AM’ (J Records). This is new R&B
as new R&B, with no deeper guiding philosophy. But
these cagey, obsessive songs on the good old themes of
innocence and experience can grow on you wickedly, and
some of the grooves, whether electronic or live band,
are deep enough to roast a pig in. 

10. NINA NASTASIA AND JIM WHITE: ‘YOU FOLLOW ME’ (Fat
Cat). The American Ms. Nastasia writes songs about
love, doubt and fear and sings them with acoustic
guitar; the Australian Mr. White plays drums in
sketchy, painterly phrases. It’s a concise, mysterious
record.

Top Songs

RIHANNA “Umbrella” (Def Jam)

VON SüDENFED “The Rhinohead” (Domino)

SPANISH HARLEM ORCHESTRA “Sácala Bailar” (Six Degrees)

CAFé TACUBA “Volver a Comenzar” (Universal Latino)

JESU “Conqueror” (Hydra Head)


http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/23/arts/music/23ratliff.html?ref=music

Roy Durfee
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com


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