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Reviews: Drummer Sanchez leads a talented team on 'New Life'

| Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 6:42 p.m.
'New Life' by Antonio Sanchez
'New Life' by Antonio Sanchez
Grace Kelly's 'Life at Scullers'
Grace Kelly's 'Life at Scullers'
Richard Thompson's 'Electric'
Richard Thompson's 'Electric'
Nick Cave's 'Push the Sky Away'
Nick Cave's 'Push the Sky Away'

‘New Life'

Antonio Sanchez (CamJazz/Sunnyside)

It is no wonder “New Life” is such a good album. Under the lead of drummer Antonio Sanchez, the album also features Dave Binney and Donny McCaslin, two of the most steadily developing saxophonists in jazz. The album is made up of originals by Sanchez that are structured largely around the work of altoist Binney and McCaslin on tenor. Together, they provide a full sound that belies them as only two players. Binney's alto is distinctly crisp and blends well with the lighter tenor style of McCaslin. Both offer great solos in addition to good ensemble work. The style of the songs moves from a John Coltrane-ish “Uprisings and Revolutions” through a neo-bop “The Real McDaddy” to the title track, which has a Pat Metheny feel with a wordless vocal by Thana Alexa. Sanchez's work with Metheny makes the nature of that song no surprise. The drummer showed he was capable of a great deal in his Metheny work and proves he is growing as a leader on this album. It is available Tuesday.

— Bob Karlovits

‘Live at Scullers'

Grace Kelly (Pazz)

Alto saxophonist Grace Kelly creates her own sound on “Live at Scullers.” She has moved away from the bebop that made her a striking talent as a teenager. At 20, she still is a wonderful alto player, but on this album, she has taken on the role of a singer, which she does well. But, wildly contrasting to her Asian heritage, she does this in a style that sounds like Alison Krauss doing jazz. Recorded live at Scullers Jazz Club in Boston, the album features a sextet of instrumentalists and two backup singers doing eight Kelly originals. Two of the Kelly originals, along with “The Way You Look Tonight” and “Summertime,” are instrumentals. But the heart of the album is her vocal work, which goes from the jazz-oriented “Eggshells” to the country-tinted “Falling” and “Please Don't Box Me In.” She has a bright soprano that handles the material well. It also gives her a clearer identity.

— Bob Karlovits

‘Electric'

Richard Thompson (New West)

True, Richard Thompson's 14th solo album does contain more expansive lead guitar work than fans of the 63-year-old fretboard fiend have heard in quite some time. Credit that in part to producer Buddy Miller, a like-minded Nashville cat who's a perfect fit for the acerbic Brit. Still, “Electric” is somewhat misleadingly titled, since it's rife not only with plugged-in rockers such as “Stony Ground” and “Good Things Happen to Bad People,” but also deftly picked acoustic ballads and brooding bummers like “Salford Sunday” and “Another Small Thing in Her Favour,” not to mention the closing “Saving the Good Stuff for You,” as tender a love song as the former Fairport Convention folkie has written. Still consistently excellent, after all these years.

— The Philadelphia Inquirer

‘Push the Sky Away'

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (Bad Seeds Ltd.)

In December 2011, Nick Cave claimed to have disbanded Grinderman, his noisy, raunchy reconfiguration of his longstanding band, the Bad Seeds. But his libidinous thoughts live on in “Push the Sky Away,” Cave's 15th album with the Bad Seeds (and, it turns out, Grinderman lives on, too: They will reconvene for this spring's Coachella festival). This is an album of quiet tension and fatalistic resignation, with Cave in darkly poetic mode singing about seductive sirens and the men who long for them. The songs cross metaphoric and mythic overtones with 21st-century details. Cave mentions Wikipedia, Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus. He titles one song “Higgs Boson Blues.” He describes iPod-wearing “city girls / with white strings flowing from their ears.” The music is thoughtful and restrained, full of sustained minor chords; slow, deliberate rhythms; and ominous, subtle beauty. “And some people say it's just rock and roll / Oh but it gets you right down to your soul,” he sings in the title track. He's right.

— The Philadelphia Inquirer

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