'FOR MY FATHER'
(Justin Time) ssss
'THE GREAT JAZZ TRIO AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD'
(Test of Time) ssss
'THE GREAT JAZZ TRIO AT THE VILLAGE VANGUARD VOL. 2'
(Test of Time) sss
'THE GREAT JAZZ TRIO: COLLABORATION'
(441 Records) ss
'ONE MORE: MUSIC OF THAD JONES'
Pianist Hank Jones is a poet whose playing exists in a timeless reverie of beauty and expressive depth. Jones, who turns 87 on July 31, has sacrificed very little of his supple technique to age, and none of his intellect and wit. A flood of new CDs and reissues proves the point. He is, as Duke Ellington would say, beyond category.
Jones is the eldest of the three legendary brothers from Pontiac, Mich., and the sole survivor; drummer Elvin died in 2004 and trumpeter-composer Thad in 1986. Complex lives kept them from recording together often, but Elvin did join his brother one last time in 2002.
"Someday My Prince Will Come" (Columbia) and "Autumn Leaves" (441 Records) were previously issued from these sessions under the Great Jazz Trio umbrella. "Collaboration" gives us alternate takes of the standards on the earlier CDs. While Elvin's muscularity surges coyly beneath his brother's refined elegance, the trio sounds much less focused than on the master takes, and bassist Richard Davis is a quirky presence. Still, a stunning solo piano version of "Memories of You" is a Valentine to Hank's departed brothers.
"One More: Music of Thad Jones" finds Jones among an octet of sterling veterans assembled to play his brother's hip, idiosyncratic tunes. Michael Patterson's arrangements give them a smooth buggy ride echoing Thad's Basie roots. However, I longed for more heft, heat and bite. Jones gets the last word with an exquisite "Monk's Mood" (one of Thad's favorites by Thelonious Monk).
"For My Father" features Jones' current trio with bassist George Mraz and drummer Dennis Mackrel and ranks with his finest recent CDs. The trio strikes a deeply swinging but subtle groove, and Jones' touch is as suave as ever, his melodic and harmonic ideas full of extemporaneous wizardry. The savvy repertoire includes seductive contemporary pieces by Al Foster and Tom Harrell as well as Ellington-Strayhorn classics.
The Great Jazz Trio first assembled in the mid '70s. The kick was the generational mix -- Jones in his late 50s, bassist Ron Carter in his late 30s and the propulsive Tony Williams, barely into his 30s and deep into volcanic fusion at the time. However, the chemistry was all joy and magic. "At The Village Vanguard" (reissued by Test of Time/441 Records) was one of the great LPs of the '70s. The trio bebops through "Moose the Mooche" before Jones stretches out in the more modern idiom of Coltrane's "Naima."
A second volume includes a similar bop-to-post-bop repertoire. (A third CD is slated for August.) The drag is that Vols. 1 and 2 each clock in at 38 and 37 minutes and could have fit on one CD. Subtract a star for miserliness.
"THE WAR OF THE WORLDS"
In 1978, Jeff Wayne, a commercial jingle writer, arranger and record producer who had hits with David Essex, recruited Essex, the Moody Blues' Justin Hayward, late Thin Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott and various others to sing roles in a musical adaptation of H.G. Wells' science fiction classic "The War of the Worlds," with narrated links by Richard Burton.
Though it had much success in Europe (it even spawned an early remix version), it was widely ignored on this side of the pond. It gets a second chance with this reissue, timed to ride the coattails of Steven Spielberg's movie, and given an ultra-deluxe launch: Originally issued on 2 LPs, it arrives on CD remastered for both Super Audio stereo and 5.1 Surround, which maximizes its prog-rock pomposity. Additionally, for the true fan of the book -- to which this is far more faithful than either of the film versions -- or of heavily produced bombast, it's also released in a deluxe 7-disc edition that includes outtakes, alternate versions of many songs, an entire disc devoted to various remixes, and a DVD that includes a making-of documentary and an early look at a computer-animated film Wayne hopes to release theatrically. OK, we give up, the planet is yours.
"ANOTHER DAY ON EARTH"
Eno's importance as both a musician and producer is hard to overstate. A founding member of the essential art-rock band Roxy Music, a pioneer of the ambient music genre, and producer of some of the finest work by David Bowie, Talking Heads and U2, he's gone pretty far for a self-described "non-musician."
"Another Day On Earth" is Eno's pleasant but somewhat underwhelming return to song-based material, his first solo effort in this area since 1977's immeasurably better "Before And After Science." Of course when we're talking song-based, we're not talking about anything terribly conventional, it just means Eno (or the occasional guest) does vocals throughout the album.
The man still knows how to do atmosphere. On track after track, Eno's detached, otherworldly singing is supported by vaporous, gauzy production effects and dreamy, mostly electronically generated melodies and rhythms. "How Many Worlds" is a standout, with a striking, nursery-rhyme feel to the lyrics and luminous violin playing by Neil Catchpole. What's disappointing is that most of the album doesn't add up to much more than one of Eno's many instrumental, ambient recordings. It's calming background music, for sure, but not much more engaging than that.
"SOMEWHERE DOWN IN TEXAS"
Leadoff single "You'll Be There," with its faintly gospel chorus and moving but never maudlin lyrics, is the clear standout on the latest album from the enduring Strait. (It's his 33rd .) However, there's plenty more here to quicken the hearts and nourish the souls of longtime fans: "If the World Was a Honky Tonk" and lazy waltz "Oh, What a Perfect Day" recall the glorious early years of the singer's career, and the mellow title song will leave you longing for citizenship in the Lone Star State.
Less appealing is Strait's much-ballyhooed duet with Lee Ann Womack on "Good News, Bad News," a love-gone-wrong song that falls flat despite affecting vocals by both artists. (Blame this one on uninspired songwriting.) If it's a good breakup song you're looking for, check out the plainspoken "Ready for the End of the World," which finds Gentleman George arming himself with "a case of Jack and a box set of Merle" amid fears that he's about to be dumped.
"THE ART OF VIRTUE"
Adrienne Young & amp; Little Sadie
Young's new album is even more tuneful and engaging than last year's well-received "Plow to the End of the Row," and if it weren't for the occasional politicized line touting peace, brotherhood and Earth stewardship, much of her material would be easy to mistake for tunes carried three centuries ago from the glens and dales of the British Isles to the remote hollows of Kentucky and Tennessee.
Homespun melodies ("My Sin Is Pride") and lyrics about rustic characters ("Pretty Ella Arkansas") are far removed from the blandness and tedious introspection that plague much contemporary folk music, and, in the disc's closing moments, Young demonstrates just how broad her musical vision is: A bluegrass-tinged version of the gospel standard "Farther Along" is followed by a cover of the Grateful Dead's "Brokedown Palace."