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Saxophonist's debut album is a sly blend of sounds

Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

‘Akuma'

Sly5thAve (Truth Revolution)

With a mix of mainstream and contemporary sounds blended with bits of African-folk elements, saxophonist Sly5thAve offers a creative look at current jazz. The young — early 20s — musician, whose full name is Sylvester Uzoma Onyejiaka II, has put together a collection of songs that range from “Bach,” which sounds like a jazz take on a baroque melody, to his own three-piece “Suite for Ogbuefi.” The latter, the title cut and a deceptively simple “Security” all are bits of enjoyable music that allow great space for improvisation without being nihilistic in their freedom. Sly's work is steady with good tone and energy. Trumpeter Jay Jennings is featured on most of the cuts, but Phil Lassister is a little more aggressive on “Security.” The music is basically done with a sextet, but six other players and a singer make appearances on nine of the 12 tracks, changing the nature of a band a bit. “Akuma” is a solid first-time effort from this young Texas native who has toured with Prince and others.

— Bob Karlovits

‘Live at the Bistro'

The Wee Trio (Bionic)

Vibraphones and pianos often accomplish similar musical tasks. Their chordal strength can make them ensemble backbones. The Wee Trio uses that similarity in creating a band that approaches music in the manner of a piano-drum-bass unit, but substituting James Westfall's vibes for the keyboard. “Live at the Bistro,” recorded at Jazz at the Bistro in St. Louis, consists mostly of original material by the group that includes drummer Jared Schonig and bassist Dan Loomis. Also part of the package, though, are clever versions of “Cherokee,” which opens with a subtle version of an Atlanta Braves-like warpath rhythm, and a mid-tempo “There Is No Greater Love.” But the heart of the album is original material such as the driving “Sabotage,” the mildly funky “White Trash Blues” and the rhythmically sizzling “Space Jugglers.” Westfall is no Gary Burton in virtuosity, but has a fresh look at vibes that gives this group an aggressive sound. At times, he deadens the vibrating quality of his instrument so much, he sounds like he's playing marimba. Schonig and Loomis play with the same spirit, making this band more exciting than most three-piece units.

— Bob Karlovits

‘Foreverly'

Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones (Reprise)

“Songs Our Daddy Taught Us” was a surprise move from Phil and Don Everly in 1958. After a string of pop-rock hits such as “Bye Bye Love” and “Wake Up Little Susie,” the brothers chose to release a set of traditional country tunes for their second album. “Foreverly” is similarly surprising: It finds Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong harmonizing with Norah Jones on a set of covers of “Songs Our Daddy Taught Us.”

Although we've heard Jones sing country in the Little Willies, it's a revelation to hear Armstrong so at ease crooning, without a trace of his pop-punk sneer, on tunes such as “Long Time Gone” and “Rockin' Alone (in an Old Rockin' Chair).” He takes most of the leads, with Jones singing Phil's high harmonies, and the arrangements rely on acoustic guitars, brushed drums and the occasional harmonica, piano or pedal steel. “Foreverly” is loose, fun and totally sincere. Coincidentally, this is the third set of Everly Brothers covers this year, following a creaky charmer from Bonnie “Prince” Billy & Dawn McCarthy and a beautifully somber one from the Chapin Sisters.

— The Philadelphia Inquirer

‘Midnight Memories'

One Direction (Columbia)

“Midnight Memories” isn't exactly One Direction's rock album — an ebullient rock influence always has distinguished the British quintet from lesser boy bands — but it's definitely more guitar-based than the two previous albums.

“Midnight” uses classic rock as a color, the way last year's “Take Me Home” used electronic dance music. It's not just the way “Best Song Ever” cheerfully cops The Who's “Baba O'Riley”; parents of the group's core fan base may hear echoes of Bryan Adams and Steve Miller, as well. The band also pulls in elements of power pop in the shouted choruses of the riffy title track and the trebly guitar chords of “Little Black Dress.”

Many boy bands, by their third albums, have started to show the cracks in their artifice. Yet, One Direction still appears to be developing, with some members — notably, Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne — emerging as solid songwriters. The best songs here, such as current single “Story of My Life,” suggest the group's finest memories may still lie ahead.

— USA Today

 

 
 


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