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CD reviews: Song CD jazzes up traditional, folk tunes

| Sunday, Nov. 29, 2009

'Far From Home: A Tribute to European Song'

Beat Kaestli (B+B)

From the first moments of the first song on "Far From Home," it is clear this is not an ordinary album. Singer Beat Kaestli puts together a jazz version of Georges Bizet's "La Habanera" that cruises along beneath the trumpet of Kenny Rampton like some scene from "Carmen" done in a bar. The album is not only a tribute to European song, it also is an homage to Swiss native Kaestli's mild tenor. The songs range from well-known Continental songs such as "What Are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life" and "September Song" to the lesser known "Sunday Morn" and his own "Silence of My Heart." Oddly in the middle is "Guggisberg Lied," a Swiss folk song, he gives a bluesy touch over an arrangement featuring bowed bass in a traditional trio. The album also features the fine violin of Christian Howes and harmonica of Gregoire Maret.

— Bob Karlovits

'Spirit'

Cyrus Chestnut (JLP)

'Endurance'

Heath Brothers (JLP)

'Eloquence'

Steve Davis (JLP)

These are three albums that are part of a mission. Bassist John Lee has put together Jazz Legacy Productions as a way of providing a musical home for artists he doesn't think are out there enough. In his first batch of releases, he illustrates the validity of his point with albums by performers whose quality is inarguable. None of the albums is earth-shaking in its originality or conception, but each features wonderful playing.The solo-piano gospel versions of songs on Cyrus Chestnut's "Spirit" are particularly strong, raging from Horace Silver's "Peace" to "Lean on Me." On "Eloquence," trombonist Steve Davis, one of the most underrated members of the slide school, ventures into Charlie Parker nimbleness and then into J.J. Johnson mournfulness. The Heath Brothers do songs that are mostly products of sax star Jimmy Heath on "Endurance." Lee has his mind set on quality, and that is what he offers.

— Bob Karlovits

'The Circle'

Bon Jovi (Island/Universal)

Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora have, within the decade, done the pop-infused album ("Have a Nice Day") and the country-tinged thing ("Lost Highway"). They've gone in and out of anthem-crafting ("It's My Life," "Who Says You Can't Go Home") and gossip headline-making and football team-owning. Wouldn't it be nice if they made a brash, manly rocker worthy of the stadiums they play• That seems to be the goal of "The Circle," what with its raging guitars, everyman lyrics, and rousing choruses. Go back to the days of "New Jersey," only this time without the Aqua Net. Cool. Bon Jovi's arena-rocking ideal may be unclear from what might be the shrillest single in recent memory, "We Weren't Born to Follow." Jon's woeful words to "Work for the Working Man" are so heavy-handed, there's a stain where that blue collar settled in. "When We Were Beautiful" can hardly live from all its dying ("The world is cracked/the sky is torn.") Yet every other "Circle" track, from swelling, rawking mini-symphonies ("Fast Cars," "Love's the Only Rule") to its giddy take on the male condition ("Superman Tonight") ladles memorable choruses upon bridges so high, it's dizzying. Exemplary, even if it sounds a wee bit dated. So, go home already.

— The Philadelphia Inquirer

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