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Harmonica player's disc offers broad range of jazz

| Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, 6:51 p.m.

‘Alone (and) Together'

Enrico Granafei (CAP)

In variously sized groups with a range of sidemen, harmonica player Enrico Granafei takes an appropriately broad look at jazz. From “Estate,” a Italian tune made popular by Brazil's Joao Gilberto, to Thelonious Monk's “'Round Midnight,” Granafei offers convincing and lively interpretations. He is a creative soloist and approaches this group of well-known works with freshness and a clean, lively style. He works in settings from solo to quintets, doing some dual work on the solo tracks. On Jimmy Rowles' “The Peacocks,” for example, he accompanies himself on guitar. He also does that on a medley of “Stablemates,” “Giant Steps” and “Cherokee.” But he has plenty of good people to work with, including pianist Amina Figarova, guitarists Vic Juris and Dave Stryker and even trumpeter Wallace Roney. Violinist Vitali Imereli sits in with a quintet setting that offers such pieces as “Yardbird Suite” and “Body and Soul.”

— Bob Karlovits

‘Inspire Me!'

Tim Warfield (HHM)

Tenor saxophonist Tim Warfield finds the source of inspiration in the traditions of jazz. That discovery makes “Inspire Me!” an album rooted in sincerity and solid play — even if it is not terribly innovative. With songs like the blues-rooted “NY Daze NY Knights” and a mid-tempo “Robert Earl,” the album sounds at times like a Blue Note classic of the '60s. Warfield's play and that of trumpeter Antoine Drye give it strength. Warfield's style is straight-ahead, with a rich, clear tone. His improvisation never strays too far, but he cannot be accused of having too little imagination, either. Producer Herb Harris adds another tenor sax voice on the album, which enriches the harmonic sound. Harris also sings a little less successfully on two songs.

— Bob Karlovits

‘Inside Llewyn Davis' original soundtrack recording

Various artists (Nonesuch)

Should he want it, a career in folk singing awaits Oscar Isaac, the actor who brings soulful depth to the sad-sack-jerk title character of “Inside Llewyn Davis,” the Coen brothers' riff on the Greenwich Village folk scene of the early 1960s. As in the movie, Isaac more than holds his own with professional singing types like Justin Timberlake, who plays a blandly likable folkie, and Broadway actor Stark Sands. Isaac brings conviction to traditional tunes performed solo or accompanied by Marcus Mumford or the Punch Brothers. When he's not on the mic, the soundtrack is a mishmash, with the too-cute novelty tune “Please Mr. Kennedy” not worthy of repeat listenings, and the odd cut by Bob Dylan and Dave Van Ronk, on whom Davis is partially based, adding to the jumble.

— The Philadelphia Inquirer

‘Songs for Slim: Rockin' Here Tonight'

Various artists (New West)

“Songs for Slim” is a benefit compilation for Bob “Slim” Dunlap, lead guitarist of the Replacements in the post-Bob Stinson years. In February 2012, he suffered a stroke and is partially paralyzed. Starting in January, a monthly series of benefit singles of covers of his songs (mainly from his two solo albums) were sold by auction to raise money for the full-time care he needs, and this set compiles 18 of those cuts plus a bonus CD of 10 additional tracks.

It features an A-list of Dunlap's peers, including the Replacements themselves, former Replacement Chris Mars, Tommy Keene, Soul Asylum and X's John Doe. It also includes alt-country greats such as Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams (one of the few women on the set), Drive By Truckers' Patterson Hood, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Lucero. Dunlap wrote great songs, too: Almost everything is straight-up rock 'n' roll, with roots in the Stones, Bo Diddley and, not surprisingly, the Replacements. This collection would be worthy even if it weren't for a worthwhile cause.

— The Philadelphia Inquirer

‘The Music of ‘Nashville' Original Soundtrack, Season 2, Vol. 1'

Various artists (Big Machine)

Midway through its second season, “Nashville,” the ABC melodrama about country stars and hopefuls, continues to get the music right. That's no surprise, since Buddy Miller, a great Americana artist himself, is in charge of it, after sharing duties in the first season with T Bone Burnett. And once again, he has top writers and players at his disposal to support the singing actors, who are no slouches themselves.

That means even the more radio-friendly material, like the swaggering country rock of “What If I Was Willing,” sung by Chris Carmack, and Hayden Panettiere's “Trouble Is,” sound better than a lot of the stuff coming out of Music Row. Jonathan Jackson's ballad “How You Learn to Live Alone,” is on the fey side, but everything else has plenty of rootsy character, from the sisterly harmonies of Lennon and Maisy on “A Life That's Good” to the bluesy bite of Connie Britton and Will Chase's “Ball and Chain” and Charles Esten's “Playin' Tricks.” Those and more help make this the strongest “Nashville” collection yet.

— The Philadelphia Inquirer

‘And I'll Scratch Yours'

Peter Gabriel (Real World)

In 2010, Peter Gabriel released an album of covers called “Scratch My Back,” featuring his take on songs by Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, Lou Reed and others, and intended to follow it with an album of those artists covering his songs. Well, it took nearly four years to gather what he needed to keep his promise, but much of “And I'll Scratch Yours” is certainly worth the wait.

Paul Simon's version of “Biko” is more tender than Gabriel's original. Joseph Arthur's reworking of “Shock the Monkey” is haunting and desperate. Reed turns the wistful “Solsbury Hill” into a stomping, snarling piece, filled with guitar roar.

It's that combination of a new artist's work and Gabriel's original ideas that makes “And I'll Scratch Yours” so interesting.

— Newsday

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