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CD reviews: Drummer's 'Free' flows between jazz forms

| Sunday, June 27, 2010

'Free at Last'

Tobias Gebb & Unit 7 (Yummy House)

Drummer Tobias Gebb leads his Unit 7 on quite a trip on "Free at Last." The band sounds like a group of post-bop advocates on the first track, "Blues for Drazen." But by the time it gets to the last tune of the disc, Neel Murgai is sitting in with a sitar and the band is doing its version of the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows." In between, the band takes on different forms as it rolls through pieces that range from the calypso "Bop Be Dop" to a gentle "You Don't Know What Love Is." It does a thoughtful title song and has the wisdom to see "Softly As in a Morning Sunrise" doesn't have to be uptempo. In doing that, Gebb mixes it a little with McCoy Tyner's "Contemplation" and renames it "Softly As in a Morning Contemplation." Among the featured players are saxophonists Bobby Watson and Joel Frahm.

— Bob Karlovits

'Portraits'

Matt Slocum (Chandra)

'Paul Meyers Quartet'

Meyers and Frank Wess (Miles High)

Neither of these albums features "Straight No Chaser," and perhaps both should, simply because of the name. "Portraits" and "Frank Meyers Quartet" are well played, no-fooling looks at mainstream jazz. There is probably not enough energy or originality on either to satisfy many listeners. But both albums are so well performed it is difficult to dislike them. Both greatly feature a saxophone quartet lineup with singer Andy Bey joining in on "Lazy Afternoon" on the Meyers album while the Slocum album uses two saxes on one tune. Drummer Slocum wrote eight of the tunes on his album, with the only non-original being his version of Billy Strayhorn's "Daydream." The album by guitarist Meyers features two of his originals, but is loaded heavily with familiar pieces such as "I Cover the Waterfront" and "Just One of Those Things." That makes it a little safe in its presentation, but again the work of Meyers and reed player Frank Wess elevate it beyond the ordinary,

— Bob Karlovits

'Recovery'

Eminem (Aftermath/Interscope)

When Eminem returned from the hip-hop wilderness with last year's "Relapse," his first album since 2004, he made clear his technical skills as a motor-mouthed MC were undiminished. But while "Relapse" proved Slim Shady could still act like a deranged maniac, and add more twisted chapters to the ongoing psychodrama with his mother, it chickened out when it came to honestly addressing Em's addiction issues or grief over the 2006 death of his longtime hype man and best friend, Proof. "Recovery," which features production input from longtime Em mentor Dr. Dre and a new team of lesser-knowns, rectifies those issues. It's as if, with any concerns put to rest that he might have gone soft, the rapper born Marshall Mathers can now get down to what's really on his mind. As a result, "Recovery" is executed with a musical and lyrical ingenuity and confidence missing since 2002's "The Eminem Show." Confidence shines in the confessional single "Not Afraid," the unafraid-to-be-vulnerable "Talkin' To Myself," in which he raps about how threatened he was/is by Kanye West and Lil Wayne, and the lightning-quick "No Love," in which he pairs with Wayne and makes amusing use of Haddaway's 1993 club hit "What Is Love?"

— The Philadelphia Inquirer

'The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)'

Various artists (Chop Shop/Atlantic)

Abs and cheekbones aside, the "Twilight" movie franchise, now in its third installment, might not appeal to anyone born before 1993. But its soundtracks sure do, boosted by well-respected indie acts and modern-rock heavyweights. For "Eclipse," that formula gets a wonderfully dark polish. The guest list is still random and in sharp contrast -- from the Black Keys and Dead Weather to the Bravery and Metric -- and the melodrama may be dialed back, but there's a sense that everyone found the same page, tapping into their inner goth. They're not worrying about the movie's ongoing story line -- vampires, werewolves, and a messy high school love triangle. "Eclipse" resembles "The Crow," showing unexpected maturity when things go especially right, as they do on Cee-Lo's galloping "What Part of Forever." It's a soundtrack that may not overshadow the movie, but keeps a life of its own.

— The Philadelphia Inquirer

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