Bassist Eastwood's new disc might make your day
‘The View From Here'
Kyle Eastwood (Jazz Village)
Like his father, Kyle Eastwood seems to be getting better with age. While his prior releases were not disappointing, “The View From Here” is such a solid effort, it deserves comment. Clint's boy leads a quintet through 11 originals, all but one by the bassist and a combination of members of the band. The other is a nicely rhythmic “Mistral” by trumpeter Graeme Flowers. Eastwood offers good work on acoustic and electric bass throughout, but the sound on the quintet is dominated by the horns of Flowers and saxophonist Graeme Blevins. Flowers has a good tone, particularly on flugelhorn, where he roams to the lower level of upper range tastefully. The tunes range from a pretty ballad, “The Promise,” to the shuffle-like “For M.E.” The selections are probably too restrained for some, but they all fall into such a nice groove and tone, it is hard not to like them.
— Bob Karlovits
Three Pittsburgh jazz families are moving into a new generation in the band Elevations. West End bassist Anton DeFade, nephew of saxophonist Eric DeFade; trumpeter Benny Benack III, like-named grandson of the Dixieland cornetist; and George Heid III, son the Aspinwall recording producer, are at the heart of this band. Once known as the Center of Life Jazz Band, the group also features Hampton keyboardist Brett Williams and Philadelphia sax player Michael Stephenson. The album is virtually all originals except for Williams' arrangement of the hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Generally, the band plays in a post-hard-bop, straight-ahead manner, but sometimes gets into a slightly more contemporary groove. While it displays a good sense of teamwork as well as solo ability, it sometimes strays from its strengths. The electronic keyboards on “Unparalleled Parallel,” for instance, cheapen the sound. The album features some guest spots, including three vocals by Carolyn Perteete, who teaches in Wilkinsburg.
— Bob Karlovits
‘What About Now'
Bon Jovi (Island)
Few teams can write an anthem like Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora. The pair may work with additional songwriters to achieve rocking, paean-like status, but whether delivering a hair-metal hymn (“Bad Medicine”) or a motivational canticle (“It's My Life”), this duo knows how to rouse and rouse big. That's why “What About Now” is frustrating. After the country cool of 2007's “Lost Highway” and the somber blue-collar pop of 2009's “The Circle,” Bon Jovi's songwriters are still busy saving the world while its players (including drummer Tico Torres and keyboardist David Bryan) want to rock it. Often, that results in monster-truck, fist-raising moments such as the buoyant “Because We Can” — but not quite often enough, slowed as the album is by weighty concerns (with no answers) and a musical palette colored in soft Coldplay-ish tones. This doesn't mean Bon Jovi has to go loud to get anthemic. The tender acoustic “The Fighter” is bracingly heart-palpitating and quietly chilled out. Something is subduing these Jersey boys. Less swelling ambience and more punch would solve this problem. At a time when its tresses are trimmed and its membership has matured, Bon Jovi needs to let its hair down.
— Philadelphia Inquirer
Boz Scaggs (429 Records)
For his first album in five years, Boz Scaggs traveled to the Royal Recording Studio in Memphis. Sure enough, the singer-guitarist begins by channeling the studio's most famous artist, Al Green, with his own sublime “Gone Baby Gone” before segueing into Green's “Good to Be Here,” with a string arrangement by Green's late producer and the studio's owner, Willie Mitchell. Backed by a stellar cast that includes producer-drummer Steve Jordan, guitarist Ray Parker Jr., and keyboardist Spooner Oldham, Scaggs further mines this silky vein of R&B — as he has done going back to his '70s hitmaking days — with superb takes on Tony Joe White's “Rainy Night in Georgia” and Sylvia Robinson's “Love on a Two-Way Street.” Memphis, of course, is also known for rootsier and grittier strains, and Scaggs is equally adept at delivering them. He works his way there with numbers like Willy DeVille's “Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl” and Donald Fagen and Walter Becker's “Pearl of the Quarter,” and he dives right in with the swamp-infused juke-joint jump of Moon Martin's “Cadillac Walk” and the raw blues of the Meters' “Dry Spell” (with Keb' Mo' on Dobro and Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica) and Jimmy Reed's “You Got Me Cryin'.” He brings things full circle at the finish, in mood and musical style, with his own elegant ballad, “Sunny Gone.”
— Philadelphia Inquirer