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Simon's energy keeps music fresh, powerful

| Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012, 8:58 p.m.
Paul Simon's 'Live in New York City'
Paul Simon's 'Live in New York City'
Rez Abbasi's 'Continuous Beat'
Rez Abbasi's 'Continuous Beat'
Jason Aldean's 'Night Train'
Jason Aldean's 'Night Train'


‘Live in New York City'

Paul Simon (Concord)

Paul Simon's music never gets old. Perhaps it is the energy he uses to perform it. Or, perhaps it is his knowledge that well-known songs can be done in different ways. Both of those reasons make “Live in New York City” an enjoyable release.

The two-CD album with a concert DVD features lively versions of Simon hits from “Kodachrome” to “Hearts and Bones.” While many of them are done in the original-hit fashion, others get fresh looks. The a cappella opening of “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” has an almost gospel sound before drifting into its African reality.

The 20 songs were recorded at a show in New York City's Webster Hall. Simon is part of a nine-piece band whose members double and triple on instruments, creating a sound that goes from the urban mellow of “Still Crazy After All These Years” to the Graceland rhythms of “Gumboots.”

The DVD is a well-done effort, using a number of cameras that highlight soloists as much as the star. It is cool to see how the five final songs are part of an encore rather than simply the end of the CD.

— Bob Karlovits

‘Continuous Beat'

Rez Abbasi (Enja)

It takes minutes before guitarist Rez Abbasi gives his listeners a hint that he is working at Thelonious Monk's “Off Minor” on his album “Continuous Beat.”

That level of creativity is at the heart of this release by the Abbasi trio that includes bassist John Hebert and drummer Satoshi Takeishi. This adventurous work is built around five originals by the guitarist, the Monk classic, Keith Jarrett's “The Cure,” Gary Peacock's “Major Major” and a version of “The Star Spangled Banner” that shows more of an understanding of the song than Jimi Hendrix's fury did.

Abbasi's shapeless “Introduction” is perhaps unnecessary, but all the others are strong examinations of his aggressive, restless style and improvisation.

Abbasi's forward-looking play will not sit well with those looking for a relaxing outing, which is probably because he never relaxes either.

— Bob Karlovits

‘Glad Rag Doll'

Diana Krall (Verve)

Diana Krall's last album, 2009's “Quiet Nights,” was quintessential Krall: a tasteful, careful, and artfully easygoing set of bossa-nova tunes. “Glad Rag Doll” is an anomaly: It's a lively, loose, and swinging bunch of old pop nuggets, mainly culled from Krall's father's collection of 78s of songs from the '20s and '30s.

T Bone Burnett produced, and he assembled some of his favorite players — guitarist Marc Ribot, drummer Jay Bellarose, bassist Dennis Crouch, with a few guest turns from Krall's husband, Elvis Costello — to accompany Krall's sexy, sometimes bluesy, singing and her surprisingly forceful piano.

While not exactly Krall's rock record, “Glad Rag Doll” fits with Burnett-produced albums by Sam Phillips and Robert Plant and Alison Krauss: It's earthy and precise, with moments of edgy friction (often courtesy of a delicious Ribot solo), and Krall sounds like she's having fun, whether on ancient songs such as “There Ain't No Sweet Man That's Worth the Salt of My Tears” or comparatively recent ones, such as Doc Pomus' “Lonely Avenue.”

— The Philadelphia Inquirer

‘Night Train'

Jason Aldean (Broken Bow)

The most memorable moment on Jason Aldean's fifth album, “Night Train,” comes in “1994” where the Georgia native starts chanting, “Hey! Joe! Joe! Joe Diffie!” like he was doing House of Pain's “Jump Around.” It's a cool image, name-dropping a classic country artist as a way to show how fully Aldean has embraced hip-hop in some of his music. The importance of classic rock, especially guitar solos, to Aldean is even more pronounced on this album.

However, that doesn't take away from his country appeal, seen best in the touching, well-crafted ballads “I Don't Do Lonely Well” and “Drink One for Me.” In many ways, the variety he creates enhances it.

The rock influence — along with the mouthful-of-syllables chorus Aldean spits out in a way usually reserved for R&B singers — is a big part of “When She Says Baby.” Before he starts singing on “Feel That Again,” the guitar riffs could have signaled a song from anyone from Bon Jovi to Smashing Pumpkins to Daughtry, while the middle of the new single “Take a Little Ride” stomps like a number of Southern rockers.

The combination is an important way to show that country isn't isolating itself from the rest of pop culture anymore. Aldean, who is much more than his recent TMZ-generated notoriety would suggest, has taken that mix the farthest among country's elite singers and “Night Train” shows no sign of slowing him down.

— Newsday

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