Khalifa's 'O.N.I.F.C.' hits some high points
Wiz Khalifa (Atlantic)
There's much to love about Wiz Khalifa. His stoner soliloquies are works of art, to say nothing of his cocky, loping flow. Yet, for all his communal weed-screeds, there's something lazily exclusionary about “O.N.I.F.C.” Set against a groggily hypnotic wall of sound, his raps seem half-baked, his clever wordplay on vacation. The sentiment of “Work Hard Play Hard” is solid, but its lyrics (“I got so much money/I should start a bank”) are dull. “The Plan” is so lyrically inert, it almost moves backwards. And Wiz, don't call a song “Fall Asleep” unless you're waking us up. Problems aside, “O.N.I.F.C.'s” winning moments are so stunning they nearly override its sloth. Wiz's duet with the Weeknd, “Remember You,” is moody, subtle and teasingly romantic. “It's Nothin'” (with 2Chainz) is vibrantly violent.
— The Philadelphia Inquirer
‘Song Song Song'
Baptiste Trotignon (Naïve)
Erik Jekabson (Jekab's Music)
Sitting on the edge in music can be dangerous, even when that spot is not too uncomfortable. But pianist Baptist Trotignon and trumpeter Erik Jekabson succeed in those risks on “Song Song Song” and “Anti-Mass,” respectively. Both are collections of inspirations. The Trotignon album is a look at the singability of music while the Jekabson album is a musical examination of thoughts brought by a visit to a San Francisco art museum. Trotignon easily could have cheated on his album and used material that is familiar and well liked. Instead, he uses songs that are not well known, from a variety of cultures in a number of languages. The album never becomes relaxing, but wins points for being a look at the elements of music. Similarly, Jekabson offers 11 musical versions of works at the museum. The striking element is they are done by Jekabson, saxophonist Dayna Stephens, bass, drums, violin and viola. The pieces tend to be rather short and defined, although three allow a good bit of room to stretch out. That sound and the structure of the pieces makes the album seem like jazz-oriented chamber music.
— Bob Karlovits
‘Along Came Mitch'
Jim Guerra (MHM Productions)
Any one of the songs on West Mifflin saxophonist Jim Guerra's “Along Came Mitch” could fit on the set of any jazz player anywhere. The problem is, they are so alike in construction, sound and style, packing this album with 15 of them creates a sound-alike yawner. After about five of them, the listener begins saying, “Didn't I hear this before?” The album is a good display of area talent, featuring performers such as trumpeter Sean Jones, pianist David Cutler, drummers Roger Humphries and Thomas Wendt, bassist Jeff Grubbs, and, of course, Guerra. Listening to the solos makes for a fine experience — if you forget about the tunes.
— Bob Karlovits
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