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Pianist Rosenbloom finds the groove on 'the Ground'

| Saturday, May 11, 2013, 7:21 p.m.

‘Songs From the Ground'

Mara Rosenbloom Quartet (Fresh Sound New Talent)

Pianist Mara Rosenbloom creates a bit of a deception with her solo opening to “Songs from the Ground.” It hints a sound that suggests chamber jazz. But her quartet actually feels comfortable finding its way into a groove under her leadership and that of alto saxophonist Darius Jones. He has a deep tone on his alto, something like a husky mezzo, and it gives the band a soulful sound that is rooted in modern jazz, not rhythm and blues. Uptempo tunes such as “Unison” are built around the voice of his sax and the strong support of Rosenbloom, bassist Sean Conly and drummer Nick Anderson. Their work goes from the yearning of “Common Language” to a quickstep of “Whistle Stop.” In the middle is the gentle glide of the title track. This is a hard-working and productive group.

— Bob Karlovits

‘Sleeping Bee'

Heyday Maker (Upshot)

Bassist Lindsey Horner is as comfortable doing the music of Bob Dylan as he is doing that of Keith Jarrett. He also is comfortable giving that music an Appalachian twist. “Sleeping Bee” is a collection of music from Jarrett's “Spirits” to Dylan's “I Threw It All Away” with originals by Horner and guitarist Andy Goessling in between. Adding to the wide flavor is the Celtic “O'Carolan's Cup/O'Carolan's Draught” by Turlough O'Carolan. Besides bass, Horner also plays whistles on the album while Goessling offers outings on mandolin, bouzouki and dobro. They are joined at times by Randy Crafton on percussion to create an album that has more a sound of the Blue Ridge than the Blue Note, but also has hints of more modern phrasing. It would be hard to expect anything less imaginative from this bassist who was one of the most creative members of the Pittsburgh jazz scene when he lived here from 2000 to 2002.

— Bob Karlovits

‘The Low Highway'

Steve Earle and the Dukes (and Duchesses) (New West)

On “21st Century Blues,” Steve Earle sings about “lights out in the heart of America.” It's a theme that runs throughout “The Low Highway,” from the Guthrie-esque travelogue of hardship in the title song to the dead-end desperation of “Burnin' It Down” (look out, Walmart), and the plaintive resignation of “Invisible,” and the veteran troubadour/rocker writes about it as eloquently and powerfully as ever. In the face of all that, a spirit of hope and determination courses through the album. It starts with the richly varied music, which ranges from fiddle-inflected folk to raw and loud rock ‘n' roll. And it's there in numbers like the jaunty “Love's Gonna Blow My Way,” the moving “Remember Me” (addressed to Earle's new child), and even in “21st Century Blues,” when he declares that “maybe the future's just waiting on you and me.”

— The Philadelphia Inquirer


Phoenix (Glassnote)

Why would Phoenix want to change anything from its breakthrough album “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix”? The 2009 album was both a commercial and critical success, landing the band a string of modern rock hits, including “1901” and “Lisztomania,” and a Grammy Award for best alternative music album. And on “Bankrupt!”, the French band led by Thomas Mars doesn't vary much from the successful formula of sleek synth-pop with just enough guitars to keep modern rock radio happy. Yes, they do get slightly peppier on the first single, “Entertainment.” But for the rest of the album, the sonic palette is so similar, it will likely be difficult to tell which album spawned “Don't” or “Trying to Be Cool.” The main difference between “Bankrupt!” and “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” is the lyrical content, with Mars singing more about the downside of stardom, especially on “Drakkar Noir,” when he declares, “I wish I knew you from before.”

— Newsday

“To Be Loved”

Michael Bublé (Reprise)

Michael Bublé puts the power of positive thinking to work on his sixth studio album, “To Be Loved” (Reprise), with great results. It's not just the peppy breakup song “It's a Beautiful Day,” where Bublé's happiness shines through to make its mark, though it's certainly the most clever example. What makes “To Be Loved” so impressive is the way his own songs sound so right next to his reworking of the Bee Gees' “To Love Somebody” into an R&B ballad or where he shows off some surprising soul on the Jackson Five's “Who's Lovin' You.” The result is Bublé's best album yet — confident, stylish and, yes, upbeat.

— Newsday

‘Ready To Die'

Iggy & the Stooges

(Fat Possum)

The first time Iggy Pop reunited with the Stooges, the seminal hard-rock and proto-punk band he fronted from 1967 to 1974, was for 2007's uneven “The Weirdness.” In the interim, original guitarist Ron Asheton died in 2009, and James Williamson, who played on the 1973 classic “Raw Power” (which, like “Ready To Die,” was credited to Iggy & the Stooges), came back into the fold.

The second time around, the band comes closer to summoning the darkly comic, nihilistic roar they mastered in their heyday, with Williamson's guitar work particularly sharp. Iggy, 63 (born James Osterberg), still wields a commanding baritone. From the get-go, the taut, 10-song, 35-minute collection delivers a one-two punch, with the body slam “Burn” and the sax-and-handclap swagger of “Sex and Money.” Iggy has aged gracefully, in part by maintaining his sense of humor, and he offers particularly cutting political commentary on the funny and yet not funny “Gun,” while also mulling his own mortality on the Lou Reed-ish talking blues “Unfriendly World.” So is Iggy, who poses in a vest of dynamite on the album, really “Ready to Die”? Not a chance. There's still plenty of life left in that leathery carcass.

— The Philadelphia Inquirer

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