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Sax players show skills, create innovative sounds

| Saturday, June 7, 2014, 6:08 p.m.


Dave Liebman, Ravi Coltrane, Joe Lovano (ArtistShare)

“Visitation” is an album whose songs you won't walk away humming — or even remembering. It is a display of the remarkable talent of six musicians, but it seems like an effort to prove a point rather than necessarily communicate with a listener. Saxophonists Joe Lovano, Ravi Coltrane and Dave Liebman are joined by drummer Billy Hart, pianist Phil Markowitz and bassist Cecil McBee to play six songs, one by each of them. They are called on the cover “compositions that suggest open, rhythmic, harmonic and textural flows.” Notice how the adjective “melodic” is absent. Most of them consist of the three saxes playing over each other for a bit before some or all the members of that trio get a chance to solo. The saxophonists and the rhythm section never seem to be going in any specific direction. Coltrane, Liebman and Lovano, of course, show great speed and command of their horns, but they seem to have forgotten melody and its use. They do create innovative sounds with their instrument choices: besides tenor and soprano saxes, Lovano also spends time on soprano sax in G (rather than B-flat) and alto clarinet.

— Bob Karlovits

‘The Passion of Color'

Rob Garcia 4 (bjurecords)

Rob Garcia's hard work on drums certainly merits him being the namesake of his quartet. His efforts, however, should not take away anything from the tenor saxophone work of Noah Preminger on “The Passion of Color.” Garcia provides powerhouse and creative work steadily even if the voice of Preminger's sax tends to be the dominant sound of the album. His playing is distinctive in the lean melody of “Lines in Impressions” and also gives “Purple Brush” a hefty richness. The album also is a Garcia product because he wrote seven of the nine tunes, the others being a fresh version of Max Roach's “It's Time,” and an unlikely offering, Jimi Hendrix's “Little Wing” in a jazz setting. The titles of most of the songs have references to art and color, a link to Garcia's fascination with creativity in another genre.

— Bob Karlovits


Miranda Lambert (RCA Nashville)

Country star Miranda Lambert describes her fifth album “Platinum” as transitional: She wanted to show the maturity of an award-winning artist who has turned 30 and settled into marriage. But don't worry, she's still the wildest risk-taking Nashville singer roaring through the back roads. She frontloads the new 16-song collection with a saucily slurred lyric about the power of bleach jobs (“What doesn't kill you only makes you blonder” she cracks in “Platinum”) and another (“Little Red Wagon”) that rips a would-be Romeo with a string of putdowns delivered with punkish glee. Yes, Lambert continues to grow. But at her core, she continues to celebrate the colorful drama of working-class lives, punching them up with the freshest country-rock arrangements this side of Eric Church. The way she reflects modern women, complete with risque word play and edgy humor, is what makes Lambert a fully three-dimensional country star. “Platinum” only falters when Lambert leans on country cliches, as when she waxes nostalgic about a pre-digital world in her recent hit “Automatic” and on a one-dimensional tale (“Something Bad”) about wicked women that wastes a duet pairing with fellow superstar Carrie Underwood.

— Associated Press

‘Ghost Stories'

Coldplay (Atlantic)

Is this the breakup album — the residue of frontman Chris Martin's “conscious uncoupling” with Gwyneth Paltrow? How could you possibly tell? Coldplay's music always sounds so forlorn. Actually, with a few dreamy, layered exceptions (“Always in My Head,” “Midnight,” the final 80 seconds of “Oceans”), this is a more melodic, less atmospheric album than the group's previous two Brian Eno-produced efforts. But even when there is a pulse to Coldplay's music, as on “Magic,” it sounds stately. So much so that the kick-drum thrust Timbaland adds to “True Love” seems extraneous, almost obtrusive. The beauty of Coldplay's music is that of a pressed flower.

— The Philadelphia Inquirer

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