February 2004

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Damaged in Transit
Steve Swallow w/Chris Potter and Adam Nussbaum
The way Swallow describes this project in his liner notes, the recording of this live disc proceeded directly from the compositions to the rehearsals to the performance. As you listen, however, you can sense the effort expended by each of the three players, even on the quietest, prettiest tunes, as they interact with each other in mastering the material as well as uncoiling their imaginations.

Blazing Horns-Tenor in Roots
Tommy McCook
(Blood and Fire)
Roots music at its most elemental, this is a mesmerizing combination of R&B sax, alternately sultry and silken over a reggae groove that grows deeper with each successive cut. It’s as hypnotic as the best dub, but even more affecting since the interaction of the players gives the sound warmth and a sense of play missing from that genre.

Robert Randolph & The Family Band
(Warner Bros.)
Besides being unconventional with a vengeance—try to remember when you last heard a pedal steel used this way—this disc could be used as a musicological primer in the connection between blues and gospel music. You’d be hard pressed to find music in any genre more uplifting than this.

Coast to Coast
Red Holloway
A seeming effortless collaboration of similarly talented veteran jazz players, this CD is satisfying in direct proportion to the ease with which the tradeoffs occur between musicians. As with most sessions on which Holloway appears, either as leader or sideman, this recording is proof positive that you don’t have to attempt the complicated to produce satisfying jazz.

Wide Angles
Michael Brecker Quindectet
Grammy-winner Brecker has alternated straight jazz projects with lighter fare over the last couple years, and here with the big group he has the versatility to effectively combine the two approaches. Hard core jazzers may find fault with the lush interludes dominated by strings, but there’s no denying the dynamic contrast between those passages and the more vigorous improvisational segments highlighted by brisk percussion.

Cobb’s Groove
Jimmy Cobb’s Mob
The name of Jimmy Cobb alone gives pedigree to this band and its CD, since he was the drummer for Miles Davis during the Kind of Blue period. But the distinction extends to the individual musicians here, especially Peter Bernstein’s sparkling guitar. Nevertheless, he and the rest of the Mob, plus special guest Eric Alexander on saxophone, pivot around Cobb’s insistent rhythms making the title of the album all that much more appropriate

Universal Syncopations
Miroslav Vitous
There’s a tangible sense of play, not to mention a hearty sense of humor among these musicians—including Jan Garbarek, John Mclaughlin, Jack Dejohnnette, Chick Corea and Vitous himself—that belies this CD’s austere graphics. It begs repeated listening for those reasons alone, but also for the collective sense of discovering the compositions as well as rediscovering each other’s playing.

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