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Claytons show creativity, connection in new 'Parlor Series'

| Saturday, May 31, 2014, 6:10 p.m.

‘Parlor Series'

John and Gerald Clayton (ArtistShare)

Bassist John Clayton and his son, Gerald, do not settle back to idle parlor games on this album. Rather, “Parlor Series” is a collection of songs that display their individual creativity to music and their great understanding of each other. The eight songs include such standards as “Alone Together,” “Yesterdays” and “All the Things You Are,” but none is done in a tired sense. “Yesterdays,” for instance, is given a strong sense of pace and “Alone Together” gets a bit of quirky rhythm. The duo moves a different direction on Billy Joel's “And So It Goes,” which John opens with a bowed bass. Amid all these pieces is Gerald's “Sunny Day Go,” which is like a classical sonata stretching into 21st-century harmonies. The best part of the album is that it is impossible to tell who is responsible for any of these versions. They are played with that kind of cohesion and conception. Yet, if played the day after this recording was made, the versions probably would be completely different.

— Bob Karlovits

‘Me. I Am Mariah ... The Elusive Chanteuse'

Mariah Carey (Def Jam)

Mariah Carey's latest album kicks off in wonderful and typical Mariah form: She sings a song that immediately pulls you in, which has ranged from a killer club jam to a searing slow song in the past. “Cry,” a torching, emotional tune, is the song that does its job on “Me. I Am Mariah ... The Elusive Chanteuse.” You feel like you are about to experience musical bliss, and most of the time Carey has been able to hit it out of the park. But, like many veteran all-stars, there comes a time when singers make more errors and can't score a hit like they used to. Sadly, that is what is happening with Carey.

The batch of tracks on her 14th record are enjoyable, but they don't have the pizazz and spark of her past albums, including 2009's “Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel,” her worst-selling album, though musically it was one of the year's best works. “Elusive Chanteuse” borrows from Carey's earlier work — and while the powerful singer still has the vocal chops, her songs find her looking too much to the past. The downtempo ballad “You're Mine (Eternal)” is “We Belong Together” 2.0, while the bouncy “Thirsty” sounds like it was recorded a decade ago. Carey has been recording the album since 2011, and she's struggled with its singles, from “You're Mine” to “The Art of Letting Go” to “#Beautiful,” a mellow outtake featuring Miguel that was released a year ago and peaked in the Top 20. Throughout the struggle, she called megaproducer Jermaine Dupri to come onboard as her manager and executive producer to shape the album. The magical duo, who have collaborated on hits such as “Always Be My Baby,” “We Belong Together” and “Don't Forget About Us,” haven't completely lost their charm, but the thrill is somewhat gone.

— Associated Press

‘When Words Fail'

David Weiss (Motema)

David Weiss' approach to small-group jazz is mindful of that of the great Oliver Nelson. Like Nelson's famed “Blues and the Abstract Truth,” Weiss puts together arrangements for his septet that create a bigger sound. At the same time, though, “When Words Fail” has enough freedom that all of the players get enough space to solo — and to function actively in the background. For instance, on the title cut, saxophonist Myron Waldon and trumpeter Weiss both take good and passionate solos, but pianist Xavier Davis and drummer E.J. Strickland are working so hard in the background it is almost unfair to concentrate on the soloists. The album features a collection of original material, most by Weiss, including “Wayward,” an eight-minute piece that is part of a suite-like work he wrote for a jazz composer's project. All of the works are excellent post-modern jazz and feature excellent performances. Weiss has a trumpet sound that has power in the mid-register and doesn't need to soar upward to show its strength. While most of the eight tracks exist in mid-tempo, “Loss” and “Lullaby for a Lonely Child” are in a more somber nature without being ballads. It is an excellent and hard-working outing.

— Bob Karlovits

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