Music reviews: Ian Carey Quintet; Mark Winkler; David Bowie; Shooter Jennings
‘Roads & Codes'
Ian Carey Quintet + 1 (Kabocha)
Trumpeter Ian Carey is almost as good a cartoonist as he is a musician. The horn man created a comic-book-like cover for his “Roads & Codes” that talks about the difficulty of selling jazz these days. Inside, cartoon depictions of the players in the band decorate his liner notes, set in the same typeface as the word balloons on the cover.
While all this cover material is impressive, the music — happy to say — is even better. The tunes are catchy and played by a sextet that, at times, sounds bigger, offering backup statements and horn harmonies that create a rich sound.
They also play gentle games with rhythms. “Wheels,” written for trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, is a waltz, yet is far from Vienna. “Andante,” meanwhile, starts somberly on a theme by Igor Stravinsky, before moving into a bright bit of soloing.
The band consists of Carey's trumpet and flugelhorn, the reeds of Evan Francis and Kasey Knudson, and pianist Adam Shulman, bassist Fred Randolph and drummer Jon Arkin. While the teamwork is impressive, Carey's tone and clean phrasing creates a sound that is even better than his comics.
— Bob Karlovits
‘The Laura Nyro Project'
Mark Winkler (Café Pacific)
“The Laura Nyro Project” is one of those hate-or-love albums. Singer Mark Winkler is a hipster baritone who takes a finger-snapping trip through 11 Nyro tunes, including classics such as “And When I Die” and “Stoned Soul Picnic.” His work is like something that would be a good opener for a Kerouac reading. It is helped along in its coolness by a small group and the saxophone of Bob Sheppard. He gives a convincing approach to some songs, such as “Time and Love” and “He's a Runner.” Others, though, such as “Save the Country,” venture toward parody. Winkler is one of many performers who have done interpretations of Nyro's folk-pop songs, but his so-cool style could send chills up some backs.
— Bob Karlovits
‘The Next Day'
David Bowie (ISO/Columbia)
David Bowie's “The Next Day” is the work of a master. His first album in a decade — first since a life-threatening heart attack in 2004 and widespread speculation of his retirement after disappearing from public life — is a stunning, emotional thrill from start to finish, playing more like a collection of future hits than an album wrapped around a particular theme or sonic approach.
The cover of “The Next Day,” which is actually the cover of his classic “Heroes” album with a sheet of paper over it, hints at his inspiration — looking at some of his career's most memorable periods through the lens of the artist and the person he has become. The biggest difference on “The Next Day” is in his lyrics, which have rarely been this introspective or direct. With the haunting ballad “Where Are We Now,” Bowie musically revisits his Berlin period, but lyrically confronts the fear of death and the future with the determination to move forward. Bowie returns to his interest of celebrity and “Fame” with “The Stars (Are Out Tonight),” which sonically sounds like a sequel to “China Girl,” and the strutting rocker “(You Will) Set the World on Fire.”
With “The Next Day,” Bowie shows that the years out of the spotlight haven't diminished him in any way. In fact, they made him better.
— Los Angeles Times
‘The Other Life'
Shooter Jennings (Black Country Rock/Entertainment One Nashville)
“The Other Life” is a showpiece for Shooter Jennings' familial knack for outlaw-country hell-raising. Note the Skynyrd-isms of “Mama, It's Just My Medicine” or “The White Trash Song,” a collaboration with Scott H. Biram that's less a duet than a drinking game. But it's balanced with ballads of fine, rough beauty. “Wild & Lonesome,” with Patty Griffin, owes its sweetness to Willie Nelson and its hoarseness to Jennings' dad, Waylon. The title track is spare waltz that puts Jennings' vocals and Erik Deutsch's bleary piano up front, and it comes pretty close to devastating. It's the moment you see why Jennings puts so much work into imagining other worlds — because there's a lot of heartbreak in this one.
Devendra Banhart (Nonesuch)
A Devendra Banhart album is akin to an art exhibit of miniatures, the rewards contingent on the viewer's/ listener's commitment to exploring each tiny detail in his microcosmic mise-en-scenes.
The indie folk darling's brand of Latin- and electronic-tinged pop yields a broad range of musical and sonic textures here. The lyrics range from snippets of ideas, such as the title track's brief rumination on acceptance of a missed opportunity to a slightly more elucidated homage to a musical hero (“Fur Hildegard von Bingen”) to a couple of essays on the ups and downs of romance.