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CD reviews: Pianist McCoy Tyner showcases strengths in 'Solo'

| Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2009

'Solo'

McCoy Tyner (Half Note)

Since his days with John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner has shown himself to be a wizard on the piano. "Solo" shows that as he rolls through his own material such as "African Village," "Blues for Jeff" and "Angelina" while also doing classics such as "In a Mellow Tone" and "Naima." His version of "I Should Care" in someways illustrates the strength of his playing. Early on, his right hand pecks away at the theme while the left pounds out rhythms and chords that dominate it. He gives 'Trane's "Lazy Bird" more life and variety than the easy-going song usually gets. The variety of the music changes greatly, from his lovely "Ballad for Aisha" to a dramatic and forceful "Just Feelin'." This album is a true showcase for his talent.

— Bob Karlovits

'Snow Road'

Thomas Barber's Janus Bloc (D Clef)

'Facing the Mirror'

Dave Rivello Ensemble (Allora)

'We Take No Prisoners'

Joris Teepe Big Band (Challenge)

Big bands do not have to sound like creatures of the 1940s. Thomas Barber, Dave Rivello and Joris Teepe show that clearly on "Snow Road," "Facing the Mirror" and "We Take No Prisoners." They do that by putting together arrangements and ensembles that work in a creative way. Barber's album does that particularly by using a string quartet almost as an instrument rather than a group. On the mid-tempo "Shatzaquotek," for example, the strings offer statements that a listener might expect from a horn. Rivello's ensemble is more traditionally shaped, but uses harmony and tonal quality in an unusual way. "Chorale," for instance, is just that in brass and reeds, but has a rhythm section background that lifts it out of the classics. Teepe's ensemble is more traditional, too, but always uses its horn voices in fresh ways, particularly on a swinging "It Is Peculiar" and a butt-kicking title tune. All three show just how much many big bands have missed.

— Bob Karlovits

'Echo'

Leona Lewis (J Records)

If you can get past the fact that Lewis is a Simon Cowell protege, you have to grant that she's an exciting talent. Her second album confirms that. The first single, "Happy," follows the winning formula of her big hit, "Bleeding Love": a quiet, churchy beginning exploding into a passionate, swelling chorus, slingshotted by kick drum. (Both songs were written with Ryan Tedder.) Though the British singer has cited Minnie Riperton as an influence, her voice suggests a more soulful version of Paula Cole, with whom she shares vocal inflections and harmonic tendencies. Lewis is less adept at pop songs such as "Love Letter." But on torch songs such as "Can't Breathe" and "My Hands," she's an absolute scorcher. "Echo" plays to her flaming strengths.

— The Philadelphia Inquirer

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