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Notable CDs

Notable CDs | Four recent jazz releases reviewed by Arsenio Orteza

Issue: "Profiles in effective compassion," April 24, 2010


O'o must be jazz because, after all, John Zorn (who doesn't play sax or otherwise perform on this album but gets top billing because he's its arranger, conductor, and producer) is a jazz musician. But jazz don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing, and these dozen sextet-generated songs have swing in only the broadest sense of the word-i.e., they don't (much). What they do have, thanks mainly to the interplay of Jamie Saft (piano, organ) and Kenny Wollesen (vibes): "sparkle," "ripple," "shimmer."

First Love

Possible reasons that Harp titled the first track of this funk-bottomed, occasionally too-smooth instrumental jazz album "The Council of Nicea": that as a member of a family of Baptist preachers he understands too much about the fundamental doctrines of Christianity not to pay them tribute in the "tongues" of his alto, soprano, and tenor saxes; that the album's title and title track allude to Revelation 2; that the tasty George Duke-composed "Soul Fries" is a concession to those whose flesh is weaker than their spirit is willing.

Kind of Brown

McBride proves adept at leading his combo through the kinds of virtuoso showcases that have long been standard among musicians of McBride's and Inside Straight's caliber, showcases that, whether fast, mid-tempo, or slow, allow each instrumentalist to solo impressively for a chorus or two, thus enriching a melody that was in many cases already quite rich. Most impressive of all, however, is Jimmy McHugh's "Where Are You?," 4:18 of nothing but Eric Scott Reed's after-hours piano and McBride's eloquently mournful bowed bass.

The Way Of The World

When an English and philosophy major like Allison calls a song "Modest Proposal" then sequences it midway through what might very well be the last album he ever makes, you know he intends it to be pivotal, from the way it echoes his earlier "Benediction" (aka "Thank God for Self Love") to the way it functions as an existential joke (in which the Supreme Being bestows reason upon Christians, Muslims, and Jews so that they'll take care of their own business and leave Him alone once in a while).


Cut over a five-day period last summer when Mose Allison was four months shy of his 82nd birthday, The Way Of The World (Anti) is not only Allison's first studio album of the 21st century but also a reminder that making an album needn't be any more complicated now than it was in 1957-the year that Allison released Back Country Suite, his first album of the blues-rooted, sardonically hipster jazz that has long made him the thinking music fan's misanthrope.

Despite the musical and thematic continuity that The Way Of The World establishes with the rest of the Allison catalog, there is one unmistakable sign of the passing of time-not his piano playing, which retains its playful, backwoods-bebop feel, but his singing. Finally, his seemingly ageless voice has begun to fray around the edges, a quality that will no doubt endear him more deeply to those who've been around the block too many times.


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