Lovano provides energetic jazz explorations on 'Cross Culture'
Joe Lovano (Blue Note)
“Cross Culture” is an album that requires several listenings before a judgment is passed. It is a lean exploration of jazz that is not eased by pretty melodies or rich arrangements. Instead, it is a display of the broad range of talents of saxophonist Joe Lovano. With his two-drummer band, Us Five, he explores 10 originals and a look at Billy Strayhorn's “Star-Crossed Lovers.” Us Five usually has more than that number, and its personnel changes, mostly in the bass chair shared by Esperanza Spalding and Peter Slavov. Just as the band changes, so does its style. “Royal Roost,” for instance, is the more-straight-ahead piece of the album. But “Myths and Legends” opens in a ballad-like fashion before moving into a quicker, polyrhythmic direction. That rhythmic strength is steadily created by drummers Otis Brown III and Francisco Mela. Throughout the album, Lovano plays on tenor and G mezzo-soprano saxes in addition to the new autochrome. He even adds some percussion on “Drum Chant,” a showpiece for Brown and Mela. “Cross Culture” is an album that is relentless in its energy.
— Bob Karlovits
‘Toot Suite Revisited'
Sean Jones and the Pappert Players (Duquesne University)
As many jazz fans will tell you, Sean Jones can do it all. He shows another remarkable side of his talent on “Toot Suite Revisited,” a reprise of the 1981 concert work by Claude Bolling that featured brass star Maurice Andre. The album is put together as a fundraiser for Duquesne University's Mary Pappert School of Music and features a cast of the school's faculty and clinicians: Jones, pianist David Cutler, bassist Bill Purse and drummer Billy Kuhn. While all the members do a fine job, Jones stands out. His speed, tone and range in this suite of six pieces for trumpet are as impressive as they are on the jazz bandstand. “Marche,” in particular, is stunning. Bolling may have made a big mistake by not ending this work on that can't-be-topped movement. Besides the suite, the album includes recordings of Jones doing four solo pieces recorded at Epiphany Church, Downtown. They include his version of “Amazing Grace,” which rivals the color and tone of memorable bagpipe versions but in a jazz flavor. The album is $15 plus $2 for handling and is available at 412-396-6080 or www.duq.edu/music.
— Bob Karlovits
‘Buddy and Jim'
Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale (New West)
Based on their respective bodies of work, you'd have to think this was a dream pairing even before you heard a note. And that's indeed what it turns out to be.
Buddy Miller is an in-demand guitarist and producer who's perhaps best known for his work with Emmylou Harris, Robert Plant and others, while Jim Lauderdale is an exceedingly prolific songwriter who excels at country and bluegrass. They begin in a country and folk vein, with Lauderdale taking the lead on their “I Lost My Job of Loving You” and a recharged version of the traditional “The Train That Took My Gal From Town.” But they don't stay there. Miller steps up on the sublime, soul-tinged ballad “That's Not Even Why I Love You,” written by the duo and Miller's wife, Julie, and Lauderdale charges through the rock-fueled atmospherics of “Vampire Girl” before the set concludes with a couple of R&B chestnuts.
Nothing underscores the duo's compatibility quite like their vocal harmonies, which are showcased throughout the album but, perhaps, to no better effect than on the penultimate number, a strutting take on Joe Tex's “I Want to Do Everything for You.”
— The Philadelphia Inquirer