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Good group play highlights trumpet player's 'Reality'

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Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013, 6:00 p.m.

‘From Reality and Back'

Alex Sipiagin (5Passion)

Good players make good groups, so it is no shock the music of “From Reality and Back” is first-rate. Russian-born trumpeter Alex Sipiagin is joined by bassist Dave Holland, pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, drummer Antonio Sanchez and saxophonist Seamus Blake in a collection of all-original material. The pieces are forward-looking, but have a pleasant ensemble nature, as well, allowing great room for solo statements. Sipiagin and Blake create a consistently strong front line, particularly on “End of ...” and “Here and Now” in which their horns seem to challenge each other. But the album also shows the steady support of the three members of the rhythm section, each of whom can stand out. Sipiagin wrote seven of the eight songs, with the other being a new piece by guitarist Pat Metheny. Overall, this album is strong example of the varying roles and degrees of talent.

— Bob Karlovits

‘Pop-Culture Blues'

Michael Treni Big Band (Bell Productions)

Trombonist-arranger Michael Treni thankfully puts more effort to his music than he does his words. “Pop-Culture Blues” is a 10-part suite of works that are credited to the inspirations of such jazz greats as Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Gerry Mulligan and Herbie Hancock. Those simple explanations should have been the entirety of the work's liner notes. Treni, however, insists on wordy, intellectually stiff descriptions that need to be avoided. So, skip them, and simply listen to the Mulligan-like ”More Than 12 Blues” or “Smokin' Blues,” dedicated to McCoy Tyner. The solid play of the band makes the album an enjoyable, fresh bit of big-band work. The band is dominated by the fine work of saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi and pianist Charles Blenzig, but its tight ensemble work also stands out. Sometimes, music should simply be heard and not discussed.

— Bob Karlovits

‘Blurred Lines'

Robin Thicke (Star Track/Interscope)

The low-rent Justin Timberlake has taken his revenge with “Blurred Lines,” the irresistibly lecherous hit featuring Pharrell Williams that probably would have spent the summer at the top of the pop charts even if it didn't come with a video full of topless models. “Blurred Lines,” the album, is the Canadian blue-eyed-soul singer's sixth, and it largely follows the lighthearted lover-man-on-the-make blueprint. The results never quite measure up to the lead single, and Thicke's propensity for thickheadedness (“What rhymes with hug me?”) reappears, especially in the ham-handed “Go stupid 4 U.” But for the most part, the breezy, unpretentious move away from boudoir R&B to brazenly commercial pop pays off, with catchy, club-ready tunes that make it easy to ignore the lyric sheet.

— The Philadelphia Inquirer

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