Option One: Think of Toufic Farroukh as the Ennio Morricone of Lebanese film. Like Morricone, whose music stands (and often stands quite tall) apart from the films for which it has been composed, Farroukh’s needs no visual analogue to work its wonders. Option Two: Think of Farroukh as a Middle Eastern Duke Ellington, skillfully interweaving multicultural musical traditions into something that may as well be called “jazz” because it’s close enough for it and obviously nothing else. That it’s executed primarily with trumpet, trombone, sousaphone, and tuba helps.
Disregard the album-cover hairstyle (a perm?): Benny Green is the real deal. Heretofore known mainly to jazz insiders for his piano work with Betty Carter, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Ray Brown, and Oscar Peterson, Green’s first album of all-original compositions ricochets with the history of not only his first-hand apprenticeships but of Thelonius Monk and other first-generation “hard bop” pianists. That’s “hard” as in “crisp,” by the way, which goes for the bass and drums as well.
Compare the 1967 version of “Orbits” that Shorter composed (and played tenor sax on) for Miles Davis’ Miles Smiles with the one that leads off this live album (recorded mostly on the Shorter Quartet’s 2011 tour). Less a remake than an extension, it begins with the pianist Danilo Pérez stoking the latter’s concluding embers until Shorter (on alto sax this time) and combo inflame it to the full. Only then might you be ready for the riches the Quartet discovers in Fred Astaire’s 1933 “Flying Down to Rio.”
The Master, the film that inspired this Radiohead member’s latest solo music, got up the noses of Scientologists last year, thus making Greenwood’s soundtrack worth checking out if only for sociological reasons. Is it jazz? The inclusion of such Big Band Era favorites as “Get Thee Behind Me Satan” (Ella Fitzgerald), “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” (Madisen Beaty), “No Other Love” (Jo Stafford), and “Changing Partners” (Helen Forrest) suggests as much. What unites them, though, is orchestral soundtrack wizardry. Is it enjoyable? Was L. Ron Hubbard nuts?
When Capitol released Best of Bond … James Bond: 50 Years—50 Tracks last October, the definitive statement on Hollywood’s most iconic spy-thriller music seemed to have been made. Besides including every famous Bond song, it also included them in their original versions, thus making strange but euphonious bedfellows of the likes of Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Carly Simon, Tina Turner, Scott Walker, and Sheena Easton.
Judging from Bonded: A Salute to the Music of James Bond, however, neither the gospel-voiced jazz vocalist Jaimee Paul nor her longtime-CCM-identified co-producer Michael Omartian got the memo about the Bond canon’s closing, a canon to which they add interesting twists. While Paul merely holds her own on the female-identified classics, the changes she brings to songs minted by men (Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die,” Duran Duran’s “A View to a Kill,” Matt Munro’s “From Russia with Love”) augur that they’ll live another day.