"ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE"



"ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE"
Al Jarreau
(Verve)
ssssAfter "moonlighting" for too long in the pop/R & amp;B/smooth jazz field, Al Jarreau makes a welcome return to the rather thin ranks of top-flight male mainstream jazz singers. "Accentuate the Positive" is Jarreau's first straight-ahead jazz recording since the late '70s, and the acoustic small group setting creates lots of space to accentuate his masterful jazz vocal technique.
On this CD, Jarreau draws on some of the main influences that have helped shape his own vocal style. He is inspired by Jon Hendricks' vocalese on such up-tempo numbers as Eddie Harris' funky soul-jazz hit "Cold Duck," guaranteed to get the feet tapping. He uses his voice as an instrument & agrave; la Bobby McFerrin on the title track. On the slower ballad numbers, such as the delicate bossa nova version of "My Foolish Heart," his upper register singing evokes Johnny Mathis.
Jarreau benefits from Larry Williams' jazzy arrangements that add the right instrumental colorings, whether it is Larry Goldings' hot Hammond B3 organ accompaniment on Duke Ellington's "I'm Beginning to See the Light" or Tollak Ollestad's caressing harmonica on Lionel Hampton's "Midnight Sun." There is also a strong supporting cast of first-rate jazz players, including drummer Peter Erskine, bassist Christian McBride and guitarist Anthony Wilson.
This CD also showcases Jarreau's talent as a lyricist. He wrote five of the 11 tracks, including "Betty Bebop's Song," a tender tribute to the late jazz singer Betty Carter, and Don Grolnick's meditative "Lotus."
There are a lot of positives to accentuate about this CD. His sensual romantic renditions of such ballads as "The Nearness of You," "Midnight Sun" and "Waltz for Debby" that really make this session memorable.
"SCISSOR SISTERS"
Scissor Sisters
(Universal)
sssGrab a feather boa. Put on a pair of sparkly sunglasses and platform shoes. Turn up the music and dance. This much-anticipated, self-titled debut from the New York coed quintet Scissor Sisters requires it.
The Sisters manage a complete throwback to 1970s glam pop without sounding tired. They channel Elton John at his most flamboyant ("Take Your Mama") a Ziggy Stardust-esqe David Bowie ("Lovers in the Backseat") and the Bee Gees.
The disc's first single, "Take Your Mama," begs to be played over and over again with its catchy, "did-I-hear-him-right?" chorus: "Do it. Take your momma out all night. ... We'll get her jacked up on some cheap champagne. And we'll show her what it's all about."
But the most daring track is "Uncomfortably Numb." Yes, a Pink Floyd cover. Purists will be shocked at the nearly unrecognizable classic techno-pop track, complete with "Space Invaders" sound effects and Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" feel. It must be heard to be believed.
The only down side is when the Sisters slow it down. The sleepy ballad "Mary" is just plain boring.
"IT'S ABOUT TIME"
Christina Milan
(Island)
ssAn old man once thanked heaven for little girls, who get bigger every day. Breathy Cuban American Christina Milian, a former Disney fave, is getting really big, not only as an industry player who wrote for J.Lo, but also as a singer with a sex-charged take on digitally programmed R & amp;B.
Milian gets as good as she gives against tough male rappers, confronting Fabolous on the stormy "Dip It Low" and Joe Budden on the sassy '80s electro of "L.O.V.E."
Good thing she works out her tension on the dance floor. The only bedroom action most of her ballads inspire is yawning. (An exception is "Someday, One Day.") If you want friction, head to the tech-soul of "Peanut Butter and Jelly." Making a sandwich never sounded so naughty.
"RIDE THIS -- THE COVERS EP"
Los Lobos
(Hollywood/Mammoth)
ssssBarely three months ago, Los Lobos released "The Ride," a full-length album that featured contributions from a wide range of musicians near and dear to the East L.A. rockers' hearts, including Elvis Costello, Bobby Womack, Tom Waits and Richard Thompson. On "Ride This," a seven-track mini-album, Los Lobos returns the favor by covering songs written by many of the guests on "The Ride." The results are yet more proof that Los Lobos has reached a creative zenith in its 30th anniversary year.
The gritty versions of Elvis Costello's "Uncomplicated" and Richard Thompson's "Shoot Out the Lights" are impressive, but equally good are the delicate readings of Ruben Blades' "Patria" and '60s Latino R & amp;B band Thee Midniters' "It'll Never Be Over."
Rounding out "Ride This" are a soulful take of Bobby Womack's "More Than I Can Stand," a smoky, fully Latin-ized rendition of Tom Waits' surreal "Jockey Full of Bourbon" and a rollicking live version of the Blasters' "Marie Marie."
"SONGS BY RAVEL, SHOSTAKOVICH, RESPIGHI, SCHULHOFFAND BRITTEN"
Magdalene Kozena
(Deutsche Grammophon)
sssCzech mezzo-soprano Magdelena Kozena experienced a publicity firestorm recently when conductor Simon Rattle confirmed that she's his new, live-in companion. The union represents a potentially great musical partnership. Better known in Europe than in America, Kozena isn't just glamorous, but, like Rattle, smart and artistically ambitious.
In fact, her ambition leads to overreaching in this new disc. Though she's vocally alluring and an attentive interpreter, Kozena lacks the vocal cutting power for the intense moments of Ravel's "Chansons" madecasses and Shostakovich's "Satires Op. 109," and the linguistic versatility for such a range of repertoire. Even so, it's great to hear a star voice take on seldom-heard pieces such as Respighi's "Il tramonto" and Schulhoff's "Drei Stimmungbilder."
Compiled from wire dispatches

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