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Jamal gives fans more of his trademark piano sound

| Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

‘Saturday Morning'

Ahmad Jamal (Jazzbook)

Pianist and Pittsburgh native Ahmad Jamal offers a clear look at his remarkable skills on “Saturday Morning.” He provides highly personal looks at “I'm in the Mood for Love” and “I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good,” which he approaches with his individual look at melody. It can be erratic. It can be a bit offputting, but it is always built around a look at a song that is his alone. A listener who knows his play generally awaits his interpretations with some delight. But the best moments on the album are the 10 minutes spent with the title track, which he says represents all of the enjoyable features of Saturday mornings. The song is a wonderful, easygoing piece that does bring to mind the spirit of that day, from early-morning coffee to shopping and lunch stops. He even includes a three-minute radio version on the album, but the longer one is where its heart is. The album is filled with other Jamal originals, from a driving “Back to the Future” to a more thoughtful “Edith's Cake.” Naturally, it features the usual good work of his quartet of bassist Reginald Veal, drummer Herlin Riley and percussionist Manolo Badrena. Good work always is expected from Jamal, and this album is better that most.

— Bob Karlovits

‘The Last Ship'

Sting (Cherry Tree/A&M)

From his days with the Police to the present, Sting consistently has created music that reflects his consistent encounter with life and its challenges. “The Last Ship” is a collection of new songs that create allegories for life, love, growth, rejection and alienation. The songs sometimes drift into a strong Celtic flavor but all have the recognizable shape and sound of his work. Orchestrated for a small group with fiddles, strings, pipes and a variety of keyboards, the songs include the title track, “August Winds” and “Ballad of the Great Eastern” that all deal with his upbringing in a ship-building town. But perhaps the best song on the album is “Practical Arrangement,” a look at a sensible plan for an domestic agreement. That song has such poetic beauty it almost demands a film or a play to go with it. In the liner notes, Sting bemoans his lack of writing in the past few years. If this album is the product of that layoff, he has done nothing wrong.

— Bob Karlovits

‘Days Are Gone'

Haim (Columbia Records)

Siblings Este, Danielle and Alana Haim have been steadily gaining momentum with tour support slots for Mumford & Sons, Rihanna and Florence + the Machine. Their audience is mostly comprised of young girls who just want to rock out without giving up on their pop just yet.

“Days Are Gone,” the trio's debut album, is slick and radio-friendly, thanks to producers Ariel Rechtshaid (Vampire Weekend, Usher) and James Ford (Florence + the Machine, Arctic Monkeys). The tracks are delivered with energy and confidence and catchy hooks are easy to come by. This album is instantly likable.

“Forever,” “Falling” and “Don't Save Me” are upbeat jams laced with 1980s synth guitars, while “My Song 5” is gritty with its Muse-esque dark guitar licks and R&B vibe. “Let Me Go” is full of attitude, with the group showing off their perfect harmonies.

The album's closing track, “Running If You Call My Name,” brings Haim's anthemic pop-rock effort to a close with vulnerable lyrics and punchy vocals. These L.A.-based sisters are newcomers, but they've made quite an impact with this stunning debut.

— Associated Press

‘Feels Like Home'

Sheryl Crow (Warner Nashville)

In this affecting and often authentic genre-jumper, Crow loads up on country music's most reliable staple: the sentimental story song. Among the poignant homilies: “Homecoming Queen” and “Waterproof Mascara” (lyric: “It won't run like his daddy did”). Crow even channels a little Dolly Parton for the catchy “Homesick.” The Chesneyian three-sheets waltz “Easy” has already scaled the country charts, and the Okie whomp “Shotgun” should also make the climb. Lovely and limpid, “Feels Like Home” won't rock your world, but that's sort of the point.

— Philadelphia Inquirer


Avicii (Island/Virgin)

Sweet, strange EDM artist/producer Tim Bergling — aka Swedish house music king Avicii — has had as much fun with social media as he's had fashioning freaky remixes (for the likes of Dizzee Rascal and Robyn) and crafting odd solo works such as the driving instrumental “Seek Bromance” and the trance-inducing “Le7els.” He's an electro-experimentalist and self-marketer who titled a 2012 single “2 Million” after winning that number of followers on Facebook (the crowd-sourced follow-up: “3 Million”) and made the title of “#TRUE,” his debut album as an artist, a hashtag — surely to encourage his legion of Twitter-ing fans.

In “#TRUE,” those fans will find a contemporary classic of banging dance-disco with Daft Punk-ish twists — for example, his Nile Rodgers-Adam Lambert collaboration “Lay Me Down.” Many are the delicious surprises. There's actually even a country ambience. “Addicted to You” is co-written with — whaaat?? — country-pop great Mac Davis, and sung with jazzy vocal touches by dust-bowl vocalist Audra Mae. There are acoustic hillbilly guitar flourishes (“Wake Me Up”), and hucklebuck house music, as in “Shame on Me,” in which you won't know whether to rage hard or do-si-do.

— Philadelphia Inquirer

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