Jewels and Binoculars takes its name from a line in one of Bob Dylan's songs, and the irony is it's the lyrics that tend to undermine the interpretations offered up by bassist Lindsey Horner, percussionist Michael Vatcher and reed player Michael Moore on Ships with Tattooed Sails
. This is the third outing for this leaderless trio, so the case for Dylan the melodist has been made. And while it may be true that the compositions are becoming less familiar, particularly to the non-Dylanist, "If You See Her Say Hello and "It's All Right Ma, in particular, suffer from the lyrical association the instrumentation can't avoid.
It's the performances that stray the farthest from the vocal cadences, however, that are the most original and the band is at its most trenchant when dealing with the blues. "Cold Irons Bound, which oozed desperation on Time Out of Mind
(Columbia, 1997), swings here on a loose rhythm laid down by Horner and Vatcher, and floats along on the forward momentum of Moore's clarinet. A version of the traditional tune "Jack-a- Roe, again propelled by Moore's clarinet, is ominous, and when Bill Frisell joins in on "Blind Willie McTell he's right at home, contributing ephemeral guitar lines to the stately tempo.
The final third of the disc leads off with Frisell and Moore's alto digging in for a bluesy "Gates of Eden, flows into the relatively unfamiliar "Senor and presages a revelatory "One More Cup of Coffee, with Moore on bass clarinet. Concluding with a short, straightforward take on "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue, the cut serves as a lovely coda to a CD that is a primer in conception, taste and execution.
Track Listing: If You See Her, Say Hello; Blind Willie McTell; Father of Night; I Believe In You; Cold Irons Bound; It
Personnel: Michael Vatcher: drums, percussion; Lindsey Horner: bass; Michael Moore: alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet, melodica; Bill Frisell: guitar (2, 6, 9).
Year Released: 2007
| Record Label: Upshot Records
| Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream