CD reviews: Keith Jarrett, Bob James and David Sanborn, The National
Keith Jarrett Trio (ECM)
Even when he is playing well-known music, pianist Keith Jarrett give it a new dimension. He opens his new album, “Somewhere,” with a look at Miles Davis' famous “Solar,” but introduces it with his “Deep Space” in which he drifts through the ozone to that glowing orb. After doing a beautiful rendition of the title song, he then adds his 13-minute “Everywhere,” one of his classic examinations of ostinato theme and variation. Of course, Jarrett is always creative and gives the other songs on the album — “Stars Fell on Alabama,” “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” “Tonight” and “I Thought About You” — new life. Drummer Jack DeJohnette, as usual, adds his excellent playing throughout, creating that form of percussion that seems to be rooted in the melodies. Bassist Gary Peacock also offers tasteful work that is refined in its restraint.
— Bob Karlovits
Bob James and David Sanborn (Okeh)
Twenty-seven years ago, keyboardist Bob James and saxophonist David Sanborn recorded the album “Double Vision,” which was a platinum seller for the two popular jazz stars. They never toured, though, in those hit days, and it has taken them decades to do a sequel. The wait was worth it. Joined by drummer Steve Gadd and bassist James Genus, Sanborn and James have created a mellow, acoustic gem, “Quartette Humaine.” It features mostly original material, but also includes a look at “My Old Flame” and a gentle “Geste Humain.” They never move into the pop-jazz field that has made them famous, rather staying in a pure form of jazz that their fans often long to hear them do more. Sanborn's trademark style is the sound that dominates the album, and he has great freedom in songs such as the rhythmic “Another Time, Another Place” and lively “Follow Me.” James is a steady machine in his support behind Sanborn, but also emerges for tasteful, restrained work on tunes such as his “Follow Me.” Under it all is the driving work of Gadd and Genus. The quartet will perform Oct. 25 at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on the North Side.
— Bob Karlovits
‘Trouble Will Find Me'
The National (4AD)
“High Violet,” The National's breakout fifth album from 2010, sometimes bore the weight of a band striving. “Trouble Will Find Me,” on the other hand, demonstrates an easy confidence, a self-deprecating humor, and an unguarded sincerity. Matt Berninger makes everything he sings seem portentous, although that's deceptive. His baritone sounds thoughtful and casual, whether he's addressing adult relationships (in “I Should Live in Salt”) or using his mordant wit to catalog failures (in “Demons”). The music is deeply textured, with complex layers of guitars from twins Aaron and Bryce Dessner, a consistent pulse from the rhythm section of brothers Scott and Bryan Devendorf. And it's just as effective when it blossoms into a propulsive anthem on “Sea of Love” as when it dials back for the stately ballads of “Heavenfaced” or “Slipped.”
— The Philadelphia Inquirer
Agnetha Fältskog (Verve)
As one of the two golden female voices of Abba, Agnetha Fältskog represents not just the slickest of Euro songcraft but the purest of voices, period. She is queenly beyond a “Dancing Queen.” She's made few solo albums since the Swedish mega-act dissolved in 1983, and it's easy to see why: She's her own hardest act to follow. With the help of producer-writer Jörgen Elofsson (famous for early Britney Spears and Kelly Clarkson hits), Fältskog sounds as clear and cool in 2013 as she did on “Fernando” of 1976. Fältskog has a musical language gloriously frozen in time. Though she can't reach the high notes of yore, Fältskog the singer is full-blooded and icily passionate on the disco-phonic “Dance Your Pain Away” and the sleek MOR pop of “Back on Your Radio.” The main focus of “A,” though, is ballads, be they grand and slow or slight and bright. While the mid-tempo “The One Who Loves You Now” presents Fältskog at her key-changing trickiest, the sadly romantic “When You Really Loved Someone” and “Perfume in the Breeze” are simple, pristine and gorgeously rendered.
— The Philadelphia Inquirer
‘Side Effects of You'
Fantasia (19 Recordings/RCA)
As “American Idol” loses a little more luster (and ratings) each week, it's good to know its most soulful winner is going strong. Fantasia Barrino won the 2004 “Idol” competition and from there became the first artist in Billboard's Hot 100 chart history to debut at No. 1, which she did with “I Believe.” Fantasia's sassy fourth album, “Side Effects of You,” debuted atop Billboard's R&B Albums chart and at No. 2 in the Top 200 Albums. Say what you want about “Idol,” but it can produce hitmakers. Fantasia co-wrote most of “Side Effects.” She shows command of audience expectations and control over her highly personal sound. The curt reggae-blues of “Ain't All Bad,” the dramatic “Without Me” (with Missy Elliot and Kelly Rowland), and the elegant “End of Me” are stirring. She's a strong singer, but no howler, preferring a simmering reserve. She manages some clever sampling on “Lose to Win” and “Change Your Mind,” selecting bits from the Commodores and Whitney Houston while making them her own.
— The Philadelphia Inquirer
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