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Notable CDs

Notable CDs | Five new jazz releases

Issue: "De-coding Morsi," July 28, 2012

Bending Bridges

Clever album title. A bridge is part of a guitar, Halvorson is a guitarist, and "bending" is certainly one way to describe her quintet's approach on these nine original compositions. Or maybe the "bridges" are those linking Halvorson and Co. to other jazz traditions, and what's "bent" are the routes by which listeners can trace a song such as "Hemorrhaging Smiles," say, to Ornette Coleman. Free jazz has sounded freer. But not since musicians started confusing bending bridges with burning them has freedom often sounded this jazzy.

Got to be Real

Koorax is Brazilian, so her enunciation of English lyrics is sometimes just "close enough for jazz." There's no faulting her taste, however, and she slows down artists from the soundtrack of her youth and uses them as vehicles for holding high notes. The 5th Dimension, Jackson Five, Cheryl Lynn-she has obviously been savoring the sultry, "tropical" potential latent in their songs for some time. Then come eight more, which, except for maybe "Vesti Azul," belong, if anywhere, on another album.

The Ocean: Music by Led Zeppelin

The brainchild of the Swedish musician Peter Danemo, LED takes Led Zeppelin songs, strips them of vocals, and re-imagines them for trumpet, sax, clarinet, trombone, flute, tuba, and (Danemo's main instrument) drums-turns Led Zeppelin into a mini-marching band, in other words. "Misty Mountain Hop" and "Kashmir" sound the best, almost as if they were meant for such treatment. And because there's no "Stairway to Heaven" and/or words, no one will be tempted to waste time playing these songs backward in search of Satanic intent.

Double Exposure

It's hard to tell what's more enjoyable, that, even at 52, Pizzarelli sings with the insouciance of a young Chet Baker or that his rhythm section makes swinging intuitively sound like the world's second-easiest task. The first-easiest is relishing the inventiveness of Pizzarelli's arrangements of hits and "deep" album cuts by guitar-strumming singer-songwriters and concluding therefrom that he still has a bright future-that is, if he has more tricks like making a silk ascot out of a Seals & Crofts hit up his sleeve.

Spotlight

The new album by the nylon-string guitarist Ken Navarro is called The Test of Time (Positive Music) and for good reason: Its melodies have stood that test. Admittedly, only Bach's approximately 270-year-old "BWV 998" (aka "Prelude, Fugue, and Allegro in E-flat Major") has really stood it. But "When You Wish upon a Star" and "The Days of Wine and Roses," which turn 72 and 50 this year, aren't exactly spring chickens.

And, let's face it, to today's youth, the John Lennon, Bob Dylan (an imaginative medley of "Just like a Woman" and "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands"), the Police, Beatles, Beach Boys, Pat Metheny, Santana, and Jimmy Webb are hoary artifacts too. But you'd never know it from the way Navarro plays them. Virtuosically plucking their every nuance for all its worth without making their wholes seem less than their parts, he simultaneously fortifies their durability and lets us hear them afresh.

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