Sinnett's drumming shows 'Change' is a good thing
‘Subject to Change'
Jae Sinnett (J-Nett)
Donora-native Jae Sinnett is one of those drummers whose work climbs its way over the band around him. Like Jeff “Tain” Watts, he constantly produces clever and aggressive thoughts with his drums that are hard to avoid once a listener is aware of them. “Subject to Change” brings that ability into view in a collection of seven originals by the drummer and a version of “Sunny” that gives the song more energy than it usually has. The band, usually a sextet with other members on some tracks, feature the reliable Steve Wilson on tenor and alto saxes, keyboardist Justin Kauflin and bassist Terry Burrell, the latter two members of Sinnett's usual trio. With three trumpeters in various roles, the band has a brassy quality that provides a crispness to the post-modern style of the charts. But, while it has great energy on pieces such as “What Goes Round,” featuring an electronic trumpet, it can pull back on the milder “Chocolate Soles.” Sinnett's work deserves more exposure.
Fred Hersch Trio (Palmetto)
Pianist Fred Hersch returns to familiar territory on “Floating,” and offers a performance that is far from the drifting nature the title might imply. Hersch is a creative and skilled pianist who is capable of leading a trio in a way that keeps it far from hotel-lobby cliches. Joined by the steady crew of bassist John Hebert and drummer Eric McPherson, Hersch recorded this album after a week at a New York City club, and that workout helps to create a strong recording. “You and the Night and the Music,” for instance, is taken in a Latin-flavored twist, ending with a long piano improvisation that has an almost classical feeling. Songs such as the title track and “Autumn Haze” have a gentle, easy-going nature, while “Home Fries” sizzles, just as the potatoes do. The album also roams from Thelonious Monk's “Let's Cool One” to a lovely and gentle version of “If Ever I Would Leave You.” Piano trios often stray into dullness, but Hersch makes sure it doesn't happen here.
‘1000 Forms of Fear'
Since Sia's last album, 2010's top-notch “We Are Born,” the performer has written songs for Beyonce, Rihanna and Katy Perry, co-starred on hits with David Guetta and Flo Rida, and achieved her first solo U.S. success with the Top-20 hit “Chandelier.”
America's finally caught on to the ultra-talented Sia, and the Australian singer-songwriter stretches her boundaries even further on her sixth release, “1000 Forms of Fear.”
Sia's album contains some of the eerie, but addictive, material she's known for. “Big Girls Cry” builds from a soft verse to a memorable chorus, and she repeats that song's refrain on the downtempo ballad, “Straight for the Knife,” another highlight. “Eye of the Needle” is just one more example of her musical prowess.
But the singer isn't also down: The anthemic “Chandelier” is one of the year's best pop songs, where Sia's scratchy and loud voice shines.
‘Thanks for Listening'
Colt Ford (Average Joe's)
Country music's pre-eminent singer-rapper Colt Ford is out with his fifth studio album, “Thanks for Listening,” a release thick with featured vocals from other artists and a keen ear toward the caricature of the country lifestyle.
This is mostly good-old-boy territory, with an occasional hip-hop backing beat thrown in for good measure. “The High Life,” featuring Chase Rice alongside Ford, says as much. There's football-watching, hard-drinking and late-night living to be had, and Ford's having it all at high speed.
“Cut Em All” also delivers a mean country swagger, replete with four-wheeling and hunting. It even has featured vocals from Willie Robertson of the hit TV series “Duck Dynasty.” It begins with a duck call and continues with a rapped laundry list of things that, for better or worse, define the American South. There's not much storytelling to it, but perhaps Ford fans don't require as much.
Ford's lyrics aren't always the meatiest, but his approach is not to dwell too deeply on the human condition. He's here to have fun and let us all know how he had it.
Mission accomplished, Colt Ford.
‘Redeemer of Souls'
Judas Priest (Epic)
It takes a lot for a band to make up for a “farewell tour” that ended up not being a farewell after all. But on its new studio album, Judas Priest has redeemed itself nicely.
Simply put, “Redeemer of Souls” is the best album this band has done in more than 20 years. Powerful, fierce, captivating and clever, this could be the hard rock/heavy metal album of the year.
It opens with a roar with “Dragonaut” and the melodic, but still rocking, title track. But things really get interesting on “Halls of Valhalla.” Priest's one concession to age is that Rob Halford's air-raid siren vocals have given way to mid-register singing.
“March of the Damned” has the same bottom-heavy groove as “Metal Gods”; it even has similar sound effects of heavy items bashing against each other and scraping on the floor.
So, if you thought Judas Priest was done — like the band briefly said it was — you've got another thing coming.