Don't mistake the music made by The Jazz Passengers as merely camp or burlesque send-ups. Sure, trombonist Curtis Fowlkes dons the persona of the infamous "Peaches," from the duo Peaches and Herb, for the 1970's hit, "Reunited." The irony dissolves underneath Roy Nathanson and Fowlkes' spoken/sung duet with Sam Bardfeld's pizzicato violin and Marc Ribot's now-patented guitar effects Marc Ribot. As they have done since 1987, the band filters popular music through its own bohemian downtown filter.
Reunited is The Jazz Passengers' first recording since Live In Spain (32 Jazz, 1997), and first studio session since Individually Twisted (32 Jazz, 1996). This homecoming for the band finds founding members Nathanson, Fowlkes, Ribot, E. J. Rodriguez, Brad Jones and Bill Ware hooking up with longtime member Bardfeld, and frequent collaborators Elvis Costello, and Deborah Harry (of Blondie fame).
Costello croons Nathanson's "Wind Walked By"a sort of update on Bing Crosby's Depression era hit. "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?" The dime is now a quarter, and today's Tom Joad "hedge tuxes gone back to seed"; the brilliant cultural observation, sung by Costello: "shit outta luck, the American way."
The adroit cultural references continue with "Button Up," a tower of horn- inflected R&B piece, written by Nathanson and Ware, but it could easily be mistaken for The Temptations. with its all-group vocals and rump-shaking groove. Same with "National Anthem," a pulse-throbbing platform over which Ribot and Bardfeld intersect and sizzle, above the orchestrated horn charge.
The disc closes with two bonus tracks recorded live back in 1995 with Debbie Harry. The circus opening of "Think Of Me" finds Harry calling matters to order, the Passengers diving into a hipster nightclub band, backing the familiar voice. Finally the group delivers the jazz bark to Blondie's hit, "One Way Or Another." CBGBs might be gone, but its spirit lives on with the whirled jazz edition of this new Tin Pan Alley.
Wind Walked By; Seven; Button Up; Reunited; The National Anthem; Tell Me; Spanish Harlem; Think Of Me; One Way Or Another.
Curtis Fowlkes: trombone, vocals; Roy Nathanson: alto and soprano saxophone, vocals; Bill Ware: vibes; Bradley Jones: bass, vocals; E.J. Rodriguez: drums (1-6, 8, 9); Sam Bardfeld: violin (1-7); Marc Ribot: guitar (1-6); Elvis Costello: lead vocal (1); Deborah Harry: vocals (8, 9); Susi Hyldgaard: lead vocal (7); Rob Thomas: violin (8, 9); Russ Johnson: trumpet (7); Tanya Kalmanovitch: viola (7); Ruben & Patricia Munne: intro dialogue (7).