Sax player's quartet is liberated by dropping piano
Published: Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012, 8:56 p.m.
‘Live Work & Play'
Caroline Davis Quartet (Ears & Eyes)
“Live Work & Play' is a clear example of the advantages of not using a piano in jazz. Those words are not offered as an insult. But the recording by the Caroline Davis Quartet show the harmonic structure imposed by a piano can dominate the sound and structure of an ensemble so much it eliminates freedom. This quartet led by alto saxophonist Davis has a lighter feeling because the only chordal instrument is Mike Allemana's guitar. The band offers six originals by Davis, all of which are mainstream but new in their structure; one by Allemana; and two classics by Billy Strayhorn and Charlie Parker. A drum solo by Jeremy Cunningham rounds out the set. Davis's playing is crisp and tends to stay in the upper register, also adding to the bright feeling of the disc. Because of that sound, her look at Strayhorn's “Blood Count” avoids the song's somberness. One of the best songs is “The Academic Freedom Suite, Part 1,” which is full implied tension.
— Bob Karlovits
‘Deep in the Shed: A Blues Suite'
Marcus Roberts Nonet (J-Master)
With a largely different group of musicians, Marcus Roberts revises a 22-year-old composition on “Deep in the Shed: A Blues Suite.” Its worth as a composition stands out immediately: Although it is two decades old, the collection of blues tunes is still fresh and could have been written three weeks ago. On the notes, the pianist writes in serious analytical ways about the structure of the suite and how it isn't unusual for a composer to seriously revise a work. Don't let the talk be scary. While this is an ambitious work and pays attention to structure, it never gets too heavy. It is mostly a good bit of work with such players as trumpeter Marcus Printup, alto saxophonist Wess Anderson, trombonist Ron Westray and the two current members of Roberts' trio, bassist Rodney Jordan and drummer Jason Marsalis.
— Bob Karlovits
Bruno Mars (Atlantic)
Bruno Mars was no innocent when he dropped his 2010 debut, “Doo-Wops & Hooligans.” As a writer, Mars had cowritten hooks for hits by Flo Rida and such. As a Hooligan, though, he proposed marriage and willingly took grenades for l'amour; he had whiskey oozing from his pores. But on “Unorthodox Jukebox,” when Mars sings “Got a bottle full of liquor with a cocaine kicker / I'm feeling like I'm 30 feet tall” on the sly “Gorilla,” it's apparent he's toughened up.
Good. Mars' newfound grime gives the club-a-dub “Money Make Her Smile” its couch-dancing subtext, while a dark dance-hall vibe clings to “Show Me” like skin on bologna. Beyond Mars' revelation of nastiness — lyrically, sonically — “Unorthodox Jukebox” is, like its predecessor, a slab of pop perfection to be cherished as one would a Bacharach tune. There's a Burt-like cosmopolitan sensibility on the torchy “When I Was Your Man,” the smolderingly soulful “If I Knew,” and the doleful disco-fied “Treasure.” Still, this is slick 21st-century pop. Throughout “Unorthodox's” genre-shifting proceedings, Mars, the singer, finds the sweet spot every time.
— The Philadelphia Inquirer
Green Day (Reprise)
Not everyone believes this year's “¡Uno!,” “¡Dos!” and “¡Tre!” trilogy marks a comeback, but the Green Day now associated with Broadway musicals took a major hit in the pithy-lyric and clever- chord-change departments. The right-wing apocalypse “21st Century Breakdown” was unthinkably banal. Now, they've spent almost three hours just trying to show they can put likable, normal songs together again. But, over three discs, they proved only that they can sound like a convincing imitation of themselves. So it's the surprises on “¡Tre!” where the stale trio tries hardest: the gorgeous canned-soul opener “Brutal Love” and the six-minute Celtic-country pastiche “Dirty Rotten Bastards.” On the more Green Day-esque peaks, “Missing You” and “Kid,” they prove they can still make power pop — if they strain themselves.
— The Philadelphia Inquirer
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Trans-Siberian Orchestra goes full-tilt for outer edges
- Diane Schuur happy with the jazz company she keeps
- Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra saves Bruckner for year-ender
- Billy Joel plans Pittsburgh show on Feb. 21
- River City Brass unwraps ‘Christmas Overture’