Reviews: New York Voices stay true to jazz
‘Live With the WDR Big Band Cologne'
New York Voices (Palmetto)
From the introduction of “Baby Driver,” when the New York Voices pretend they are the Woody Herman sax section, “Live With the WDR Big Band Cologne” shows this is the best vocal group in jazz. Unlike Manhattan Transfer, which has turned sadly to self-parody, the four singers of the Voices have found a way to stay true to group singing. The group is fine by itself, as seen in its a cappella “Almost Like Being in Love.” But the WDR Big Band, it is teamed with a group that works in an instrumental ensemble as good as their vocal one. On “Stolen Moments,” for instance, the singers riff gently behind Ludwig Muss' trombone solo, broadening the jazz range of the piece. The not-played-enough Oliver Nelson song is sung to Mark Murphy's lyrics and given a vocal arrangement by the Voices' Damon Meander. The live album also features fine versions of Paul Simon's “I Do It for Your Love” and “Darn That Dream,” often linked to the classic of Mel Torme. It is available March 5.
— Bob Karlovits
The music of pianist Hiromi defies easy categorization. Her breadth of play makes “Move” an album that requires some concentration, but if you give it that effort you will be satisfied at the results. Playing with drummer Simon Phillips and bassist Anthony Jackson, Hiromi would seem to be in a typical jazz trio. But the music that emerges in an eight-minute title track is more like a bit of serious concert music than a jazz trio offering. Her three-movement suite “Escapism” also has a recital style. Even though Jackson and Phillips create a driving rhythm, the melodic lines are not in an easy-going song form. A blend of force and delicacy give each movement a dramatic sound. Two of the album's pieces — “Endeavor” and “Margarita!” — clearly aim to be easier-going, and both abjectly fail. The work of the suite and “11:49,” a poem to the end of a day, shows she does not need to back off those kind of challenges. It is available March 5.
— Bob Karlovits
‘Old Yellow Moon'
Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell (Nonesuch)
Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell have collaborated for nearly 40 years, since Harris recorded Crowell's “Bluebird Wine” for her debut, but their gorgeous new duets album, “Old Yellow Moon,” is somehow their first together. They should have started earlier, considering how their voices blend so beautifully, whether they're tackling something up-tempo like Kris Kristofferson's “Chase the Feeling” or a wrenching ballad like Matraca Berg's aching “Back When We Were Beautiful.” The harmonies on “Open Season on My Heart” ensure that “Old Yellow Moon” will be one of country's most talked-about albums of the year.
— Los Angeles Times
‘Son of Rogues Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys'
Various artists (Anti-)
It goes without saying that the double disc “Son of Rogues Gallery,” a 36-song compendium featuring Keith Richards and Tom Waits, Patti Smith, Michael Stipe and Courtney Love, Johnny Depp, Macy Gray, Dr. John and many others, is a rambling, shambling affair. The sequel to 2006's “Rogues Galley,” the current seafaring collection once again has longtime “Saturday Night Live” musical director and professional eclecticist Hal Willner acting as the musical captain of the ship. And while the results are all over the place, they're also remarkably consistent and inspired, a collection of ghostly, doomy, yet full-of-life sing-alongs. Unexpected highlights include such only-in-Willnerworld oddities as Anjelica Huston and the Weisberg Strings' “Missus McGraw” and an Antony, Joseph Arthur and Foetus version of “Barnacle Bill the Sailor.” There also are standout tracks from Shane MacGowan, Iggy Pop and Marianne Faithfull with Kate and Anna McGarrigle.
— The Philadelphia Inquirer